Inexpensive Scope

If you are looking for a low $ spotting scope, you may want to consider the Meade 60AZ-T Compact Refracting Telescope. Although “telescopes” are generally not acceptable as spotting scopes (because they reverse and/or invert the image depending on the type), the 45 degree viewer that came with this instrument corrects the view of the target to right-side up and left-to-right correct. The scope fits on the standard Hebard mount and into the standard GunHo 4-gun box I’m using. And it costs a whole lot less than a traditional spotting scope.

Here are the technical specifications:

  • Manufacturer: Meade
  • Model#: 60AZ-T
  • Aperture: 60 mm (2.4")
  • Focal length: 350 mm, f/5.8
  • Lense #1: 17.5 mm, 1.25" diameter (20X) [used at short and long lines]
  • Lense #2: 9 mm, 1.25" diameter (39X) [optional use at long line]
  • Barlow lense: 2X, 1.25" diameter [not used]
  • Mount: standard tripod
  • Tripod: Tabletop [not used]
  • Prism: Erecting 45 degree prism diagonal
  • Included: Soft carry bag [not used]
  • Price: I paid $38 (plus sales tax), on sale from the marked $49.99 price at Kit Camera, Fashion Square shopping mall, Scottsdale AZ, 03/10/2005

Yeah, I was astonished at the price and immediately thought, “This can’t work – it’s just too cheap.” I had been looking at Bushnells and so forth and was preparing to spend from $125 to $300 to get the 60 mm aperture and 45 degree eyepiece, and then wait for the UPS truck, when I happened across this one from Meade that was ready to be carried out of the store “now.”

Within an hour of the purchase, it was mounted on my (borrowed) range box using a standard Hebard scope mount. I had to remove the large “dew shield” from the 60 mm end to make it fit without being snug (the dew shield slips right off and can be replaced just as easily) but that was the only “adjustment” needed to adapt it from looking at stars to looking at targets.

Standing on the line with targets at 50 yards, the 20X magnification is sufficient for me to see 22LR holes and all of the paper in the B-6 standard target (and a little of the dirt mound behind). I tried the 38X eyepiece at that distance but didn’t really need the extra magnification, nor the extra jiggle transmitted through the shooting table. And at 25 yards, I can see all of the scoring area of the standard B-8. For my (not-so-occasional) “flyers” I only have to move my head around a little to see the edges of the target. Minimum focusing distance is stated as 30 feet so it should be fine for an indoor 50 foot range.

The 45 degree angle “roof prism” fits between the focus tube and the eyepiece and corrects the image as well as allowing the eyepiece to be turned for convenient viewing after each shot. I set the box and scope up so that when I stand in typical Bullseye fashion, release a round and then turn my head, I’m looking directly into the eyepiece – table height, gun box and body height permitting, of course.

Because of the large 60mm aperture (front lense diameter), the image is bright and clear. At the indoor range I sometimes use, the lighting is less than ideal but the target and my 22LR holes are still sharp and easy to see.

If you want to buy additional eyepieces, the 1.25" eyepiece diameter is the standard size for telescopes. You’ll have lots to choose from and some are quite expensive but there’s an enormous variety of magnifications and other features available. Meade, Celestron and Pentax are big-name eyepiece manufacturers but there are many smaller companies, many of which sell their wares at very reasonable prices and that competition is not lost on the big names. For example, Celestron has a 8-24mm (15-45X) Zoom eyepiece that is advertised by one retailer for $55.95 who, in March 2005, was taking “future orders” for this new apparently brand new eyepiece.

Depending on the eye of the beholder, however, there are some potential disadvantages to this ‘scope. For some, the problem will be appearance. It looks like a small telescope, not a spotting scope. Secondly, the focus knobs look like toy truck wheels with fancy chrome hubcaps. And third, many of the pieces are plastic and, undoubtedly, the unit is much less rough-and-tumble as compared to a mostly all-metal spotting scope. (See “Months Later …” below for a comment in this regard.)

Back on the plus side, the focus rail has almost no “slop” in spite of the toy-truck wheels and, when my granddaughter comes over to the house, we can look at the moon and stars (until she’s old enough to look at the bull and her shots).

And for $38, or even for the $49.99 price I saw, I can go through a couple of these before equaling the cost of what I would have paid for one of the traditional spotting scopes.

Now if I could just convince my wife to let me use the $250 I just saved toward that 1911 I’ve been drooling over on each visit to the gun store. What are the chances of that?
Months Later …

I’ve been using the scope a couple of times per week at various ranges and can only say that this little Meade telescope just continues to work great as my primary spotting scope. I’ve had no significant problems.

It’s true that it doesn’t look as good as the other scopes on the line, and yeah it occasionally hangs up on the gun box lip if I don’t position it correctly when closing the case. But for the money I saved, I can put up with those minor issues.

My earlier reservations about the plastic parts have been completely allayed by months of use and, in particular, an incident that happened around the first of August (2005). During an evening shooting league session, a dust and rain storm hit the range while we were down scoring targets. Before we could reach them, several gun boxes flipped over and some landed on their extended spotting scopes. Although mine didn’t fall, it did occur to me what I had at risk versus the exposure ($) of most of the other shooters. If smashed, I could replace my spotting scope for, at worst, a little over 50 bucks. I wonder what repairing one of the more expensive scopes would cost?

With this ‘scope I’ve got one of the best views of the target from the line and for a whole lot less than what others have spent.

And I got that 1911.

March 2006 Addendum

I saw two of these at a Radio Shack store on clearance sale for $39.95 each. (I continue to use mine. Works great!)

October 2012 Update

Mine is still working just fine as my primary spotting scope of my Bullseye gun box. On the net today, Ebay has a used one for $29, and a new one for $39. Amazon had a new one for $50. But call your local Radio Shack stores first - that’s where I’ve seen them in years past.

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