Bushnell Forge 10×42 Review | Best Binoculars Under $500

Looking for a great pair of binoculars but can’t afford something like the Swarovski SLCs? We got the chance to field-test the Bushnell Forge 10×42 binoculars for this Bushnell Forge 10×42 review this year and were pleasantly surprised by the performance, build and clarity. I’ve got to be honest here. Based on previous experiences with Bushnell optics, my expectations weren’t that high with these Bushnell Forge binoculars, especially with a price point under $500, but to my surprise, they performed well beyond my expectations and could be considered some of the best binoculars on a budget vs others in this same price range.

The Bushnell Forge binoculars come in a number of variations depending on your needs. You’ve got the options of a Bushnell Forge 10×30, the larger Bushnell Forge 8×42, the same size but higher magnification Bushnell Forge 10×42, and the larger Bushnell Forge 15×56 for those longer range glassing needs. I’m currently testing out the Bushnell Forge 15×56 binoculars as well, so make sure you are subscribed to catch that review too!

Bushnell Forge 10x42 Binoculars

Now to be clear, I’m certainly not saying these Bushnell Forge binoculars are as good as the Swarovski SLCs or the Meopta Meostars, but there are a number of areas where they rivaled their performance, which is very impressive give the price difference. We’ll go through the pros and cons of these Bushnell Forge 10×42 binoculars, the areas they excelled as well as the areas they did not.

If you are in the market for some of those top-notch binoculars, make sure to check out our review comparing the Swarovski SLC vs Meopta Meostar vs Vortex Razor HD binoculars. We dive deep into the performance differences of those three pairs of binoculars.

Read SLC vs Razor vs Meopta Review

Bushnell Forge 10×42 Review: The Specs

Bushnell Forge 10x42 Binoculars

The Bushnell Forge 10×42 binoculars are a bit heavier and a bit more bulky than other 10×42 binoculars I’ve tested but have a similar feel to the Meopta Meostar 10x42s I tested in the above article. They are similar in weight and work great especially for folks who have larger hands. Ergonomic thumb cutouts on the underside of the Forge Binos, along with the dual bridge design, make for a very comfortable feel. Here are the specs on the Bushnell Forge 10×42 binoculars.

Bushnell Forge 10×42 Review: Eye cups

Bushnell Forge 10x42 Binoculars

The eye cups on the Bushnell Forge 10×42 binoculars are an area where the Forge Binoculars excelled. They were very comfortable providing a nice, crisp, 4 position twist up adjustment, and didn’t unintentionally move on me. There was very minimal play in the eye cups as well. I’ve used binos where the eye cups constantly moved in my bino harness, which is extremely frustrating. But not the Bushnell Forge 10x42s. The eye cups stay in place and offer enough resistance so that you have to intentionally twist them before they’ll move on you.

Bushnell Forge 10×42 Review: Tripod Adaptability

Bushnell Forge 10x42 Binoculars

The Forge binoculars offer you the ability to put them on a tripod for stable glassing. I’m a huge fan of glassing from a tripod, and any pair of binoculars I use has to have the ability to attach to a tripod. The Bushnell Forge 10×42 binoculars have a place in the front of the bridge, closer to the objective lens, where you can screw in a bino adapter stud. This does an adequate job, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the location of this attachment point for a couple of reasons:

  1. With the weight of the binoculars pulling back on the stud (being that it was located ALL the way in the front of the binos), there was more flex. While they were still plenty steady, a stud location more centered on the binos would be an improvement here.
  2. The location of the stud made it protrude out from the front of the binos. When using a bino harness, it made the fit a bit odd, and I think eventually it would wear a hole through my bino harness.

I totally understand why Bushnell located the stud attachment point where they did, as there just isn’t room anywhere else to put it. They would have to do a total redesign of the barrels by carving out a portion of the inside of the barrels for the adapter to slide in there. This wasn’t a deal breaker for me, but it was inconvenient. If there was a way to put the binocular tripod adapter closer to the center of the binoculars, that would be an improvement.

Check Our Video Review of these 4 Great Tripod Adapters

Bushnell Forge 10×42 Review: Focus Mechanism

Bushnell Forge 10x42 Binoculars

The Bushnell Forge 10×42 features a silky smooth focus mechanism. It offers more resistance than the Swarovski SLCs I tested, which actually helped keep the focus point where I left it when riding in my bino harness. This is another one of the areas the the Forge binoculars far exceeded my expectations. I wasn’t expecting the focus mechanism to be as smooth and crisp as it was, which was a great surprise. The Bushnell Forge binos have a fast focus system, so you can quickly bring your object into focus.

I did find a little bit of play in the focus wheel of the Bushnell Forge binoculars. When switching directions focusing, there is a very small amount of play before it re-engages when switching directions with the wheel. I really didn’t notice it when using them in the field, but if I would intentionally look for the play, it was there. Functionally, and in the field, this “play” almost gives you a little buffer to fine-tune the focus, however, tightening up the play would be an improvement for the Bushnell Forge 10x42s.

Download Our FREE Backcountry Gear Worksheet!

Bushnell Forge 10×42 Review: Diopter Adjustment

Bushnell Forge 10x42 Binoculars

The diopter adjustment on the Bushnell Forge binoculars locks nicely into place. To set the diopter, simply pull the locking ring towards the eye cups, adjust it to the correct focus for your eyes, and push it back into place to lock it. I love the locking dipoter because this is an adjustment that should be a set-it-and-forget-it kind of deal.

Bushnell Forge 10×42 Review: Feel/Rubber Armor

Bushnell Forge 10x42 Binoculars

The Bushnell Forge 10×42 binoculars are protected by a rubber armor that have a great, non-slip feel to it. As I mentioned above, the Forge Binoculars have a very comfortable thumb cutout on the underside of the barrels making them feel really nice in your hands. Everything about their feel says they are well-built and sturdy. There is no play in the hinges, the eye cups are nice and crisp, but not too loose, the focus wheel offers the right amount of resistance, and they just feel beefy.

My first reaction when I picked them up was, Wow! These things feel really nice! Again not quite what I was expecting with the Bushnell Forge binoculars, but another win in my book.

Bushnell Forge 10×42 Review: Field of View

Bushnell Forge 10x42 Binoculars

The field of view of the Bushnell Forge 10×42 binoculars is another area that was a big surprise to me. As shown above in the specs chart, these Forge binoculars give you an impressive 340ft field of view at 1000yds. This is actually a LARGER field of view than that of the Swarovski SLC (330ft) and Meopta Meostar (331ft) binoculars, respectively. While the Bushnell Forge binoculars don’t offer the edge to edge clarity of those two binos, the field of view is impressive and noticeable.

Bushnell Forge 10×42 Review: Color and Clarity

The color and clarity of the Bushnell Forge binoculars was really, really impressive. I flat out wasn’t expecting them to be as clear and crisp as they were, and certainly wasn’t expecting them to have such rich color tones and color contrast, especially for a pair of binoculars under $500. Color tones are warm and very pleasant to view through the Forge binoculars.

The Bushnell Forge binoculars didn’t perform quite as well as the SLCs or Meostars in situations when looking directly into the sun as you might expect. They did, however, perform well beyond my expectations in that area as well.

Bushnell Forge 10×42 Review: Edge-to-Edge Clarity

Bushnell Forge 10x42 Binoculars

One of the trademark features of a really good pair of binoculars is how they perform in the edge-to-edge clarity department. While the Bushnell Forge 10×42 binoculars were amazing in a lot of areas, the edge-to-edge clarity was an area where they were noticeably worse than high dollar binoculars.

While the center of the image offers a nice, crisp, well-contrasted image, that image clarity suffers as your eyes move to the edge of the field of view. If I put a number to it, I’d say about 50% of the image (the center portion) offers you a nice crystal clear image. As you move to the edges of the image, you notice a reduction in clarity that progressively gets worse the farther away from the center you get. By the time you get to the outer 25% of the image, reduction in clarity is significant and very noticeable.

I certainly wasn’t expecting these Bushnell Forge binoculars to provide a crystal clear image in the edge to edge clarity department, and they were about on par with what I expected here. After all, you can’t expect the same performance out of a pair binoculars under $500 that you would out of a pair of binoculars two or three times as much.

Bushnell Forge 10×42 Review: Eye Strain

I also noticed a bit more eye strain while testing these out for this Bushnell Forge 10×42 review. Long periods of glassing is where you notice this the most. This is again an area where you’d expect high dollar binoculars to outperform the Forge binoculars, and that is the case.

Bushnell Forge 10×42 Review: What I liked

Bushnell Forge 10x42 Binoculars

There was A LOT to love about these Bushnell Forge 10×42 binoculars. They offer a great rubber armor coating, a durable, well-built housing, great ergonomic feel, super smooth focus wheel, tripod adaptability, crisp eye cups, and a clear image well beyond the price point.

Bushnell Forge 10×42 Review: What i didn’t like

Bushnell Forge 10x42 Binoculars

The Bushnell Forge 10×42 binoculars had a few things that left me wanting after field testing them. The tripod attachment point was odd and cumbersome (but still very functional), and the edge-to-edge clarity was lacking. The picture above is shown with the Bushnell Quick Release Binocular Adapter Stud installed. In all reality, if the edge-to-edge clarity was there with these Bushnell Forge binoculars, these things would be in a whole other class.

Bushnell Forge 10x42 Binoculars vs Swarovski SLC

The Bushnell Forge 10×42 binoculars are heavier and bulkier than others I’ve tested, and I definitely noticed that when carrying them. Not a huge deal as the weight seemed to help stability when glassing off hand, but I’m always trying to cut ounces where I can. You will want to be aware of the extra length of the Bushnell Forge binoculars when selecting a binocular harness to make sure they fit. I used them with my Blacks Creek Raptor Harness, and they fit just fine for me.

Bushnell Iron Clad Warranty

Bushnell recently started offering their “Bushnell Iron Clad Warranty” on many of their products. I have absolutely zero experience using this Iron Clad Warranty, but I suppose that’s a good thing. The best warranty is one you don’t have to use. If I do have any experiences with it, I’ll certainly update this review, but so far so good.

Bushnell Forge 10×42 Review Conclusion: Best Binoculars on a Budget

At the end of the day, not everyone can afford to drop big money on a high end pair of binoculars. If that’s the case for you, or you simply just want a great pair of binoculars at a great price, the Bushnell Forge 10×42 binoculars deserve a look. Overall their performance really impressed me, especially given the price point. I was wanting to test these out, and my Swarovski SLCs broke right before elk season- horrible timing!- so I got to really put these to the test while my SLCs were being repaired.

I came back from using these Bushnell Forge 10x42s in the field thinking, Dang! These things are pretty impressive! (And that’s coming from a long time Swarovski SLC user.) Are the Bushnell Forge 10×42 binoculars the best out there? Definitely not. Are they a fantastic value at their price point? Absolutely!

Subscribe to Backwoods Pursuit to get Your FREE Backcountry Gear Worksheet!!!

Dial in your gear list, calculate your pack weight, and lighten up your pack with this handy tool!

Leave a Comment