These binos aren’t particularly collectible, nor are they very expensive, but they are a nice pair of WWII 7×50 US Navy BuAer Mark 21 binoculars.
I liked them because they have flip out amber filters and shaped rubber eyecups. Despite my own advice to never buy binos off ebay again, I bought them off ebay. The seller is same fellow from whom I bought my 1960s/70s Binos Prismatic No2Mk3 6×30 binoculars a week or so ago. I was very impressed with those binoculars and I was not disappointed with these ones.
This pattern of 7×50 binoculars is quite different to the British No.5 series used as the standard for artillery and air spotting by British Empire nations during WWII. These ones appear to have been designed by Bausch & Lomb and they were made by several contractors, including SARD (the Square D Company of Flushing, New York). Incidentally, REL in Canada made 7x50s to the exact same pattern for British, Canadian and Australian forces from 1944 onward, so to the casual observer, these naval aviation Mark 21 binos look just like the Canadian REL 7x50s.
The BUAER (US Navy BUreau of AERonautics) Mark 21 7×50 binos were used in maritime patrol aircraft for anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue and general maritime reconnaissance. They had fitted rubber eyecups to stop windblast affecting the observer’s eyes in an open cockpit or PBY Catalina blister. They had flip out amber lenses designed to help pierce through mist, light cloud and sea haze. Unlike the US Army version, the M16 or the Canadian REL copy, these Naval aviation binos lacked a ranging reticle. The Mi6 and the RELs didn’t have the flip out amber filters and usually came with plain bakelite eyecups.
For collectors, the SARD Mark 21’s aren’t really anything special. The Bausch & Lomb version of the same binos is considered a far better pair of binos with better optics and better fit and finish, and they have a price tag to match. SARD also made the Mark 41 which looks very similar but has a much wider field of view than the Mark 21s I have. Consequently, the Mark 21s are seen as pretty run-of-the-mill so you won’t expect to pay all that much for them. I paid around A$150 posted for mine. I could have scored a pair much cheaper if I was prepared to roll the dice. I wasn’t.
Mine didn’t come with a case, so I have fitted them with the folding canvas Australian No. 2 Jungle Binoculars Case and bought a leather storage case online which will fit – it’s the one from the Canadian REL 7x50s so should fit nicely. The case needs the closure strap repaired, but I have a suitable leather strap in the spares box which will fit nicely.
Although the jungle case fits, it doesn’t fit well, being designed I think for the differently shaped British No. 5 binos. In Australian service, these would have been used with REL Binos, so the jungle case is serviceable.
Here’s some pics.
So what do I need to do with these binos to bring them up to scratch? Not much. They are completely serviceable as is but I’ll give them a good clean and polish the lenses, eyepieces and filters. I’ll probably also hit the rubber eyecups lightly with a protectant such as Armor-All so they last another 75-odd years.