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Sighting in on binocular sales.

The current hunting market has not enjoyed tremendous growth, although the sophistication level of the sportsman certainly has expanded. The number of dollars many hunters are willing to spend on their sport has increased.

The savvy sporting goods store owner has managed to capitalize on a slow or no-growth market base. One secret is the retailer being intimately familiar with his or her merchandise to offset the possibility of matching discount outlet prices and models. They know many hunters prefer sound advice, in-depth information on major purchases, and post-sale support that speciality sporting goods stores wisely provide over the saving of a few dimes.

The 80's was an explosion of high-tech hunting products, with optics leading the field. Range finders, riflescopes, quality sunglasses, binoculars and spotting scopes changed from luxury accessories" to "essentials." Quality and sophistication increased as did retail cost, along with the market share of major discount merchandise outlets.

Store owners can explain the ballistic characteristics of specific loads, or how to blow duck calls, but become lost when providing detailed information on optics. This is especially true when dealing with binoculars.

When a 1/4 inch hole is needed, you do not use a 3/8 or 5/16 inch drill bit. Modem tools are designed to efficiently perform specific tasks. The same concept applies to modem binoculars. Retailers able to fit the right binoculars into the buyers hands will increase their sales.

"First and foremost, retailers must know a customer's needs and how to fill them," said Micheal Wittmeyer, National Accounts Manager for Simmons Outdoor Corporation.

"Avoid wasting their money and time. Inquire how binoculars will be used. Point out the best types for meeting these needs. Of course, sales persons need a working knowledge of the numbers on binoculars and optics in general. Many sporting goods stores are weak here. This is why photographic speciality stores have considerable success selling binoculars, especially high end lines," said Wittmeyer, who said knowing the basics of binoculars and other hunting optics can put profit back in these lines.

Until a few years ago, the standard all-around hunting binocular was the 7x35, and it was uncommon to see anything else afield even though sportsmen had reservations concerning such binoculars. One criticism involved size and weight. Most models that featured desirable optical characteristics were relatively heavy and bulky (at least by today's standards). The other was the desire for just a bit more magnification power.

A quality 7x35 binocular in its trim, lightweight, modem form is still a pretty good choice. Both general purpose and special purpose binoculars have tremendously improved. Modem hunting optics are great, but there is more to "matching the glass to the task" than just judging relative magnification capabilities.

Many options are available. Sporting magazines have informed potential buyers how to determine their individual needs in respect to the needed magnification and resolution, construction properties, weight, the conditions and situations these instruments will be exposed to, and of course, their quality. Retailers must be at the very least equally informed.

Most hunters use their binoculars in inclement weather and in the field where kid glove' treatment is out of the question. Modern rubber-armored binoculars, which in many instances are also waterproof, are the answer. These often are available in camouflage finishes. Sales persons should emphasize the values of construction found in a quality pair of rubber-armored binoculars which can last a buyer a lifetime.

However, there is more to it than that. When choosing a binocular, a potential buyer should give some thought to his needs, not only in terms of toughness of construction, but magnification power, weight, size, brightness, field of view, ease and speed of use, durability, and of course overall quality.

When trying to decide which of today's binoculars to purchase, many buyers and store owners alike get lost in a haze of optic jargon. Ironically, becoming knowledgeable concerning binoculars and optical terms is not difficult.

As a rule, binoculars carry a double number designation denoting magnification (the first number) and the diameter of the objective (or front) lens expressed in millimeters. If a binocular is rated IX, it has no power and is the equivalent of unaided human eyesight. A binocular rated 7X, provides seven times more power, or magnification; that is, it transmits an image equivalent to seven times unaided human eyesight. For instance, if you were using 7x35 binoculars to view a deer at 700 yards away, the deer will appear as it would look to your unaided eye while standing only 100 yards away.

The second number in a binocular designation is also important because the size of the objective lens strongly affects a binocular's light-gathering ability, or brightness. The diameter of the objective, though, is not the only factor that influences brightness. Optical quality, lens coatings, prism quality and internal metal blackening also are important.

Binoculars designated "8x3O" means their magnification is 8X, or eight power magnification, and the objective lens' diameter is 30mm. The objective lens size also helps determine the diameter of the exit pupil, that is, the area of the image as seen through the eyepiece. The image is transmitted through the objective lens then reduced (via concave and convex lenses) to the exit pupil size at the eyepiece. A binocular's exit pupil is calculated by dividing the objective diameter by the magnification. Larger exit pupils, say those 4mm or larger are desirable, as the average human eye pupil is 2mm in bright sunlight and 7mm in low light.

The size of the objective lens greatly determines its light gathering power. The quality of optical glass, lens coatings and workmanship are key factors involved in a binocular's resolution ability and brightness. Resolution (sometimes known as resolving power) differs from magnification power. It is the degree to which objects are defined. while brightness is a lens' ability to relay an image without loss of lumination.

This is where the optically poor and superior binoculars part ways, as it makes no sense to make a buck in heavy brush appear seven times closer than it is, yet not be able to count the points on its rack. Clarity, as some term it, is essential if real worth is realized from a pair of hunting binoculars. Knowledgeable optics dealers can explain the relative brightness of binoculars.

Field of view, or the angle of view is the area between the two edges of the magnified field at a distance of 1,000 yards. Optics makers determine the 'apparent angle' of view by multiplying magnification power times the field of view. Any angle 65[deg.] or greater is considered 'wide angle'. Some binoculars may have the apparent angle of view stamped on their binocuhunters, but remember, high power has its drawbacks. It usually means heavier front lens which weigh more, and longer focal lengths add bulkiness. For proper use, high power binoculars also require steady hands. Zoom binoculars, which provide both wide angle and close range magnification, are a good

compromise for many hunters, although there is some loss in lens quality.

Focusing is another key factor to be considered. There was a time when virtually all binoculars were central focusing, meaning focusing on an object was accomplished by rotating a central wheel which extended or coneach ocular is individually focused. Those accustomed to central focusing binoculars often find these binoculars require getting used to. This simplistic system has significant advantages. One is the absence of the central focusing binocular's exposed mechanisms, which make individual focusing binoculars ideal for waterproof and rugged construction features. To meet specifications for toughness and waterproofing, all military binoculars are individual focusing.

Which is best? That depends on your customer's needs. Central focusing binoculars are quicker to use for fast paced jobs like identifying incoming flights of waterfowl. If toughness is a prime consideration, a pair of rubber-armored, waterproof individual focusing binoculars will surely suffice the rigors the hunt.

Knowledgeable buyers sometimes ask about binoculars' internal optics, particularly a model's prism style. Prisms are triangular, cut pieces of optical glass which refract, or bend light, and they're incorporated in the construction of all modem binoculars. Each binocular barrel contains two prisms which pass light without presenting a flat' image. They also compactly add distance between the objective lens and eyepiece. This is especially important since the distance between the two lenses relates to a pair of binocular's magnification power rating and bulk.

Almost everyone is familiar with old standard, European style binoculars with offset barrels and "Porro" Prisms, although this particular prism arrangement comes in other styles. Only a straight, single barrel is needed for the newer roof, or Dach prism binoculars. The roof prism's closely spaced dual arrangement keeps fight in a tighter path, and thus makes it possible to create the newly popular slim, lightweight binocular.

Optically, there is little difference in the two binocular prism styles, although their practical applications are a different matter. "Sub-compact" roof prism binoculars are so small, whenever I go outdoors a pair are stuffed in my shirt pocket. Power is largely on the side of the popular, yet often heavy Porro prism binoculars. However, more and more hunters are discovering that compact roof prism model binoculars best match their field needs.

When speaking "binocularese" one sometimes hears a collection of serious sounding names like chromatic and spherical aberration, astigmatisms which describe the various flaws found in inadequately made binocular lenses. Most customers do not worry about the technical aspects of optical theory. What is important to them is viewing the crisp image of an elk's rack, or knowing what waterfowl species is winging toward their blind. However, to get the most for your money, the ability to recognize quality lens coating is vital.

In recent years, coating optical lenses with layers of hard, metallic salts has become common. This procedure permits the glass to transmit an ultimate contrast, crisp image. To work properly, lens coatings must be applied evenly. Some binocular makers take shortcuts an market lenses with uneven coatings, while others are downright unscrupulous and coat only the outside of the objective and eyepiece.

There is no fool proof method for most of us to exactly determine the quality of lens coating, but it is possible for you to tell something by holding the lens at an angle toward light. Properly single level coated lenses have a purple or violet sheen. Quality, multi-coated lenses display green-violet lusters. Avoid bluish lenses, which indicates coatings that are too thick. Amber colored lenses should also put you on guard, because these are a dead give-away of lens coatings being too thin.

Pointing out lens coating levels to customers looking at top of the line binoculars immediately gets their attention and respect for the sales person. Many manufacturers offer assistance to retailers wishing to improve their knowledge of optics and binoculars. Jason's "Look Book" is one of the best available, and coupled with the catalogs of many of the major binocular makers will provide a well-rounded optics education.

Today's buyers know more and have more to invest in quality binoculars sold by knowledgeable sales people. With money now fight in a down-turned economy, buyers want dealers that are ready to answer questions and point them in the right direction. Don't miss out on a sale because you couldn't speak "BINOCULARESE"
Burris Company 401
Bushnell, of Bausch & Lomb 402
Celestron International 403
Europtik, Ltd. 404
Jason Empire 405
Kowa Optimed Inc. 406
Leica USA Inc. 407
Leupold & Stevens, Inc. 408
Mirador Optical Co. 409
Nichols Sport Optics 410
Nikon 411
Pentax Corp. 412
Ranging 413
Redfield Company 414
Simmons Outdoor Corp. 415
Steiner Binoculars 416
Swarovski Optik 417
Swift Instruments 418
Tasco Sales 419
United Binocular Co. 420
Carl Zeiss Optical 421
COPYRIGHT 1991 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:helping your customer select the right pair
Author:Rivers, Ed
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Previous Article:Lethal force and the dealer.
Next Article:Speaking with Alan Mossberg.

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