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I've signed up for a paper map orientation course and one of the prerequisites is to purchase a compass. The course itself recommends multiple models such as MC-2 from Suunto. But if I check the Amazon reviews page for that compass there are numerous complaints over quality issues. The course page acknowledges this and recommends the following:

Their quality and usability varies, so keep any receipt. We have unfortunately seen many defective compasses in the past.

Is it possible to purchase a compass that is likely to work well out of the box? Maybe I should aim for a used compass manufactured in the 90s or some sort of a military model? Seems like a silly question for a product as simple as a compass but sounds like quality control has been going down lately due to low demand.

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  • I got mine on a second hand market and insisted to pay more than the advertized price. I paid one guilder for it, (€0.45) I can not guaranty you will find one for the same price.
    – Willeke
    Jul 15 at 21:11
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    Shopping advice is not well suited to the SE format. It becomes outdated quickly and has little lasting value.
    – user2169
    Jul 15 at 21:27
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    I didn't see anything in the Q about "price-shopping"...
    – Martin F
    Jul 23 at 5:43
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There's a lot of knockoffs. Plus compasses can be damaged (demagnetized) if shipped wrong. That's why you should buy your compass from a brick and mortar shop that receives them from official distributors. You can quickly see if they work well at the shop.

A compass is also a precision instrument and should be well handled. A lot of issues arise from mishandling.

In any case, the MC2 has an overall 5 star rating even on Amazon. It is the compass I use, and it works flawlessly.


Anecdotal rambling: I handled unpacking compasses when I worked retail; I sold a lot of them and also dealt with returns. We didn't find dead on arrival compasses often. I can count them on my fingers over 8 years, and it was mostly one batch. It probably happened during transport and the entire box was affected. Not that many returns too. Mostly it was demagnetized needles and bubbles. Bubbles can be from manufacturing defect but also from rough handling.

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  • This is your answer, don't buy military versions, they use mils or something strange. For a course make shure the compass is in degrees, has a sighting mirror and that it has adjustable declation. Those to things are probably why they gave you a list of recommendations. Jul 15 at 21:23
  • @wanna-beCanadianPilot - A sighting mirror helps but adds expense and is not required.
    – Martin F
    Jul 23 at 5:40
  • If your trying to navigate, I would argue its more important than almost anything else. Jul 23 at 8:09

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