A couple of months ago I was sent a laser-rangefinding binocular to try out. It was in the medium price range, and I thought it was something the world was truly ready for. However, when I unpacked it and looked at the instruction booklet, alarm bells went off. The “booklet” was thicker than the instruction manual for an F-15, and was filled with the same sort of alpha-numeric gibberish that you see in flat-screen television manuals.

The reasons for this are a) it was written by engineers and b) the binocular was intended for both bow- and rifle hunters, and was designed to compute not only shots taken on the flat, but also angles. To get it to tell me the distance to the target in yards was more than I could do. Also, the LED display was so dim it could not be seen in daylight, and I was unable to crank it up to full power. The neck strap, even when shortened as much as possible, left the glasses swinging down around my belt buckle. Otherwise it was fine.

Just today I e-mailed a scope company that send me a laser-rangefinding (and compensating!) scope that was fine except the directions had only a vague resemblance to reality and I could not get the thing to program itself for the cartridge I was using. I admit I am a Luddite when it comes to electronics, but how do you go wrong pressing down two buttons simultaneously?

I’d like to talk to the people who put this stuff out and ask them what the problem is. Do they test it all? Do non-engineers ever try it out before it goes into production? Do they have anyone on their design staffs who actually hunts?

On second thought, skip it.