A Dynamic Duo: Leupold’s BX-5 Santiam HD 10x42MM & 15x56MM

Two stellar binoculars that, when used together, make the finest glassing system I have ever used.

by Jace Bauserman

Most big-game seasons across the country are closed, and if you’re anything like me, you’re scrutinizing the success and failures of last season and taking a stern look at your gear arsenal. 

Let me give you this tip: If you know your arsenal needs to improve in the optic department, you must start there. Refrain from dealing with another year with moments of doubt and question, wondering if what you’re looking at is a bush or an antler, a quality muley, or an average one. Ah, and what about those midday glassing sessions where heat waves torture your eyes and bring pain to your eyes and brain? I’ve been there, but not anymore. Yes, I realize good optics are an investment, and a serious one. Still, in my opinion, they are the single most crucial piece of gear for the hunter, and rather than adding snake-oil products that won’t do you a bit of good come season, save your pennies and get a good pair of binos or better yet, two. 

For the past two seasons, Leupold’s BX-5 Santium HD 10x42MM binos have been tucked into my Leupold Pro Guide Binocular Harness, and when on deep-in-the-woods western adventures, the BX-5 Santium HD 15x56MM’s are in their soft case in my pack. I’ve used this duo from the Rockies to the sunlit plains to cedar-sprinkled canyons, and they continue to prove their worth. 

Let’s dive into the 10x42MM first. Not bulky or heavy, I love the way the binos ride on my chest, and better yet, I love the compact build and open-bridge design. Understand that an open-bridge design means the middle of the bions where the hinge points are have spacing between the tubes. A closed bridge, which I’m not a fan of, has no spacing. Combining the open bridge functionality with the slender chassis covered in rubberized, gridded armor, you get a great fit and feel no matter the weather conditions. I’m not too fond of bulk, especially when hunting the West, and these binos provide the opposite. They balance well in the hands, are tripod adaptable, and the design promotes maneuverability. These game-finders ensure all-day glassing comfort with a weight of 24.3 ounces and a mere 5.9 inches long. 

Next, I will touch on an overlooked feature of these under $1K optics: the twist-up eyepieces with an oversized design. Small potatoes, some may say, but when you’re glassing all day, comfort in the contact areas — where the eyepiece encompasses the eye and skin around it — is a must, and the flexible, rubberized cups direct the eyes into the glass while remaining extremely comfortable. 

As for the glass, you can’t beat it. There was a time when hunters would cry, “Why can’t Leupold make binoculars as good as their scopes?” I was one of those hunters, but I can say with complete confidence Leupold BX-5’s have provided me with the clearest, brightest, and most headache-free glassing sessions I’ve ever had, and yes, I’ve looked, a lot actually, through other glass makes from kingpin optic manufacturers. 

The beauty behind the BX-5’s is the optical system, which includes Diamond Coat 2 on exterior lens surfaces, fully multi-coated lenses, and high-definition calcium-fluoride lenses that promise remarkable clarity at all magnification levels. 

When you sit in an alpine basin during early morning or late evening, colors pop, making picking out animals much more effortless. You won’t believe how bright these binoculars are. The field of view is broad, and the optical system works together to gather every ounce of light that Mother Nature is putting out. As the sun rises and glare becomes an issue, I’ve noticed I can stay in my glass. I don’t have to step away, wipe my eyes, and pop four Ibuprofen. Why? Leupold calls it industry-leading glare reduction. What I know is that in August of 2020, when the temperature was over 80 degrees and the bighorn sheep I was hunting took sanctuary in the pines, I spotted a 170-plus-inch ram and 10 other lesser rams from over 700 yards away with my BX-5 Santium HD 10×42’s while leaning them on a pair of Primos Trigger Sticks. The band of rams was bedded in the shade, and the view across the canyon was:

  • Bright sunlight at the glassing point.
  • Shadows on the first hill.
  • Intense sun with heat waves on the next sage-covered hill.
  • Dense shade in the pines. 

This photo was taken with an iPhone through the right lens of Leupold’s BX-5 Santiam HD 10x42s after the sheep moved out of the timber and back on the sage-dappled hillside.

There was a pile of glass on the hill that day, and my Leupold’s found the ram I harvested later in the hunt. Of course, after locating him with the 10x42s, I set up my Leupold Alpine CF-425 tripod and put the 15s on him to further scrutinize trophy potential, but back to the 10s.

The rubberized focus wheel is grooved and turns buttery smooth, and the binos have a built-in 1/4-20 tripod adaptor port. Unscrew the port in front of the bridge and attach your favorite bino-to-tripod attachment. 

I’m also impressed with the ruggedness of these binoculars. Credit this to the great lengths Leupold went to prevent exterior lens damage. Guard-Ion is what it’s called, and again, I don’t pretend to know the science, but I will report to you that it works. A hydrophobic lens coating, the purpose of Guard-Ion is to repel dirt and water. Of course, as I’ve already penned, the rubberized housing is as durable as you’ll find. 

Another win of the 10x42s is that they’re the ideal glass for western big game hunting and glassing areas in the timber on a Midwest whitetail hunt. The 10-power magnification gives you a better look at the animal and allows you to slowly move through brushy bedding pockets, looking for hide and horn.

The BX-5 Santiam HD 15x56MM is the big dawg in the BX-5 lineup. During my 2021 archery bighorn sheep hunt and 2022 archery elk hunt, they helped me evaluate animal maturity and headgear remarkably well. Regarding their build, they mirror the 10x42s, so we don’t need to waste much time there. 

Naturally, the 15s are more extended (8.2 in.) and heavier (45 oz.), which is expected. For this reason, they stay in my pack in their included soft case until they need to be slapped on a tripod. These binoculars weren’t meant to be off-hand glassers. To maximize their full potential, use the built-in tripod adaptor port (exact location as the 10×42), get the glass balanced, and let its optical clarity shine. 

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