A hot June day spent shooting on a dusty range in Alabama is a good way to test shooting optics. Rifles are shot a lot, usually under hot conditions. Ammunition is tested out to 300 yards or more. And hunting optics, spotting scopes, rifle scopes and binoculars, are subjected to lots of dust and if not dust and grit, then the occasional rainstorm. As I was working on this article I took part in a shooting competition on a dusty range and witnessed a lot of the expensive glass being ruined by the owners using dirty handkerchiefs, paper facial tissue and shirt tails to rub their optics glass to free it of dust. This is not reserved just for range shooters. It is a common occurrence on many hunts as well. The shooters usually took the time to clean their rifles but seldom did the optics obtain the same degree of care.
Hunting is a demanding sport that takes place under a wide variety of weather conditions and there are a lot of things that will damage good glass in hunting optics. Dust, shirttails, and water can do harm to even the best optics. Hunters can be rather picky about their choices of riflescopes, spotting scopes and binoculars. They may even spend more money on the rifle scope than on the firearm to which it’s mounted. But when it comes to taking care of hunting equipment, optics seldom gets the attention that assures it of a long life.
With proper care and cleaning, today’s quality optics can offer years of service. The procedures are simple to follow at home, on the range, or in the field.
Use the Lens Covers Provided by the Manufacturer
Prevention is the first step in optics care. New optics usually comes with lens covers to help keep dirt and water away from the lens surfaces. Keep the lens covers in place, especially under dusty or wet conditions, until the optics are needed. For several years in the early part of my hunting career I tossed away lens covers as a nuisance. It didn’t take me long to learn this is a big mistake. Water sitting in my rifle scope all night caused water spots that almost cost me the mule deer of a lifetime.
If you don’t have lens covers, you can find them at many sporting goods stores, outdoor catalog houses or order them directly from the optics manufacturer. For rifle scopes, be sure to get scope covers that have an elastic cord that will keep the covers snug or consider rifle scope covers that are attached to the scope permanently.
Correctly Cleaning Lenses
To improve the brightness of the image, optics companies apply microscopic coatings of anti-reflective magnesium fluoride to all glass-to-air lens surfaces. The coating may give the lenses a greenish or amber tint. This coating can be easily scratched. To safely clean lenses, first remove loose dust with canned air, such as Outers Grit Getter or Gas Duster, or brush it off with an uncut camel hair brush, available at most camera shops and available from some rifle scope manufactures. When fingerprints or greasy spots remain, lubricate the lens before cleaning. Use pharmaceutical-grade acetone or lens cleaner available from many optics companies. As a field method when none of the above is available, fog the lens with your breath. Dip a cotton, NOT synthetic, swab in the cleaning fluid. Starting in the center of the lens, wipe slowly in a circular motion, lifting off dirt. Don’t polish the lens. Gradually work to the outer edge, using a light touch. Take care not to disturb the sealant at the edge of the lens.
Perhaps most important is to avoid, especially when hunting, the temptation to use a handkerchief, tee-shirt or shirttail as a field lens cleaner. Wiping a lens with a cloth is like rubbing the coated glass with sandpaper. Also, don’t use facial tissues or toilet tissue as they are rough and contain damaging oils.
Other Lens Care Tips
If you’ll be hunting or shooting in particularly dusty conditions, spray your lenses with an anti-static liquid. When you’re hunting in rain or snow, don’t allow water to sit in the lens cup. Water may seep in around the lens sealant. Also, water spots can cause permanent stains if left on the lenses for long periods. If your binocular or scope does get wet, dry it thoroughly before putting it away, and don’t put it into a damp case.
Never lubricate the moving parts of your optics, as many solvent-based lubes will cut the factory sealants and open a path for water to enter, fogging the lenses inside. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to take a binocular or scope apart for cleaning. If the interior of your binocular or scope has any problem, return it to the manufacturer for cleaning or repair.
Remember the trophy of a lifetime may be the next thing that appears in your optics. Take good care of them so they can give you the service you expect.
#1. One way to clean hunting optics lens is to use a COTTON swab soaked in lens cleaning fluid and wipe lightly in a circular motion.
#2. Dust is not the only enemy of coated lens, rain and snow can damage lens if droplets of water on the lens are not cleaned off properly.
#3. Using a handkerchief, shirt tail, or tee-shirt to clean a lens is a guaranteed way to ruin your hunting optics.
#4. One of the best ways to clean dirty lens is to use a professional grade lens cleaning fluid and a lens cleaning cloth. Carry each in your day pack or hunting coat.
#5. Use the lens covers provided by manufacturers to protect your hunting optics when traveling in dusty conditions.
#6. A lend cleaning brush offers a safe quick and easy way to keep dust off coated lens when in the field.