I am not really much of a hunter. It’s not that I’m against it or anything, I just never really had the opportunity to get out there with someone who knew what they were doing. But I used to listen to lots of stories people brought back from the field.
One, in particular, stands out to me today. The story went that this guy was up in his tree stand waiting for a deer or elk to come along. His tree sat next to a sizable field and provided sight lines out a few hundred meters. While sitting in his chair, he was scanning the far tree-line with his binoculars when he saw another hunter on foot.
This other chap was also scanning the tree-line but used his riflescope instead. Inevitably, this other gentleman saw the motion and glassed it with his rifle scope, which also meant he pointed his hunting rifle at gentleman #1 in the tree.
Well, the story went on from there with lots of shouting, finger gestures, and other unpleasantness.
My takeaway from the whole ordeal, aside from the basic safety rules still applying in the field, was that I really needed to invest in some kind of spotting optic. I’ve been on the hunt for a good pair of binoculars for years, but I’ve yet to commit to anything. Quality always seems to cost more than I’ve got to spend in the moment.
Another option eventually came up, though. Rather than a set of binoculars, a monocular does a similar job for half the weight and much less cost.
Bottom Line Up Front
The Vortex Solo R/T 8×36 monocular is a handy piece of kit. It is lightweight, compact, and useful for daylight spotting. Its mil-hash reticle and silhouette-based ranging tools are an added bonus for competition and tactical shooters.
However, it’s ideally used for daylight. I’ve always had trouble with it at dusk and into the evening. As with most optics, that’s really where the lower price really starts to show through.
In all, it makes a great inexpensive gift for quick spotting and practicing your mil-ranging.
The Vortex Solo R/T 8×36
I don’t even remember how long ago I picked up my Vortex Solo. I want to say it was in the Spring of 2013. As part of my training to become a certified Air Education and Training Command instructor, I had to give a presentation that taught others how to do something. The subject was up to me, so I chose mil-ranging.
I had planned on using a Gen I Vortex PST 2.5-10×32 FFP scope, but the backorder for the then-new optic just kept getting more delayed. So I pivoted to something a little easier to get. The Solo was it.
Built to be carried as a standard piece of equipment and close-at-hand, the Solo® R/T Tactical Monocular gives a closer look when needed. Features the Vortex R/T Ranging Reticle with reticle focus for accurate range estimation and calling shots. And with the integral utility clip, it attaches to webbing or other flat-edged surfaces for quick external access. Fully multi-coated glass surfaces deliver bright images in a compact, lightweight, and easy to handle unit. Waterproof, fogproof and shockproof.– Vortex Optics
Marketing materials aside, this is a very easy gizmo to toss into a pack and forget about. These are the official specs:
|Objective Lens Diameter||36 mm|
|Eye Relief||18 mm|
|Exit Pupil||4.5 mm|
|Linear Field of View||393 feet/1000 yards|
|Angular Field of View||7.5 degrees|
|Close Focus||16.4 feet|
|Hand Grip Width||2 inches|
In daylight, I find the optics to be bright and clear. I’m not going to say it’s as bright and clear as my high-dollar rifle optics, but it’s certainly good enough to get a target idea and scan a little further into the distance.
I do notice some distortion at the edges, especially at dusk.
The Vortex Solo has two focus rings. One is for the reticle itself, and is more of a set-and-forget kind of thing. The other is for distance. The focus range itself is pretty wide, and I find that I tend to leave it on the same focus setting most of the time unless whatever I’m looking at is closer than “normal.”
The Vortex Solo R/T line sets itself apart from Vortex’s standard Solo line because it includes a mil-hash reticle with silhouette range finding system.
The system is simple enough. Since it’s a fixed 8x, there is no math to do based on different magnifications, nor is there any first focal plane or second focal plane items to be concerned with.
I took a few shots through the optic with my camera, but I’ll be honest- I’m hesitant to put them up. As it turns out, trying to stabilize two optics simultaneously is pretty tricky. Adding to that is the focus systems. I had a lot of trouble trying to get everything in sync.
So here’s what I’ll do, these two pictures represent two concepts that you need to overlay in your head. The first is what the view looks like peering through the optic. The second is how the reticle appears.
When using your eyes rather than a camera, both the image and the reticle are in focus at the same time. As I said, I had a lot of trouble trying to make that happen for you, the third photo comes the closest to what I actually see.
In all, I’d say the optic and reticle are serviceable. They’ll do what you need.
In the Hand
The real benefit to a monocular is that it’s compact and easy to carry. I’ve stuck this little thing in some pretty small pockets and pouches. It’s comfortable to hold, thanks to the rubber housing.
The Solo has a large-ish metal clip on the side, which makes for easy attachment to the side fo a pack or pocket.
The rubber eye cup has a flare to it that better blocks out peripheral light. It works, especially because these things have relatively short eye relief. That’s normal for binoculars and monoculars though, since you’re not dealing with recoil forces flinging it backwards towards your eye socket.
The whole thing is configured for the right hand, but the clip and eye cup appear reversible if you want to use it in the left.
I find the focus rings somewhat stiff to operate. It’s not a big problem, but it does disturb my image a lot as I try and fiddle with it.
One hazard of any optic the size of the Vortex Solo is that it’s a little difficult to stabilize. If you actually want to mil range a target, you’re going to have to brace yourself against something.
The Vortex Solo R/T 8×36 is small and lightweight enough that often toss it in a bag and take it with me as part of my EDC. If nothing else, I find opportunities to use it along with my mildot master and practice mil-ranging things in the distance.
I’m still on the hunt for a good set of binoculars. Ilya at Optics Thoughts pointed out the Hawke Frontier ED 8×43 a while back, and I’ve had them on my “buy list” ever since. But, until I actually commit the funds, the Vortex Solo keeps doing its job well.
If the day comes that I get out to another tactical training course like those at MVT, particularly with patrolling involved, I’m sure I’ll appreciate the little Solo unit quite a bit more.
You can pick one up at Brownell’s for a great price, but other retailers carry them as well.
Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He is former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He is a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture and competition.
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