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Choosing the Best Rifle Scope

Most game hunters know how to choose the best rifle scope but for those with little experience of the huge range available this article will be invaluable. It will come as no surprise when I tell you there is a mind boggling choice when it comes to scopes. The point of this article is to ensure that you have the right information to choose the best rifle scope for you.

I don’t know about you but whenever I think of scopes I have an image of the sniper; over active imagination that’s my problem!

scope cam

Rifle scopes are available in almost any configuration of size and power imaginable. The most common scope by far is the 3x-9x with a one-inch tube, with varying sizes of objective (front) lenses. Some are available with an adjustable objective (AO) option, which can help correct for parallax at various ranges. But we’re not going to deal with all of the technical aspects of scopes in this article – just the basics.

Why use a Scope

Hunters and target shooters use scopes for varied reasons. Due simply to their age, some shooters find their eyes simply can’t focus on iron sights as effectively as they used to, moving onto a scope is a way to combat the effect of deteriorating eyesight. Others choose scopes because their hunting requires them to get a closer view of their target; the magnification offered by a scope allows them to make sure that they are shooting the right animal. Others prefer scopes simply because they are so easy to use and often allow for more precise shot placement, not wanting the animal to suffer needlessly through misplaced shots that merely maim rather than kill instantly.

Speed vs Accuracy

Without a doubt sighting with the naked eye is much faster than using a scope, even an aperture (peep) scope; these are by far the most effective when hunting in close cover when the target is clearly visible. However a scope that has been set up correctly is very fast to use. There is no need for focusing, simply bring the cross hairs to bear and squeeze the trigger.

Many shooters forego a scope and have great success but some of them find that the time taken switching between binoculars, (used to identify the target), sighting and then getting a shot off is far too long. The scope combines these processes effortlessly into one simple action.

Choosing the Magnification

The real power of the scope is its ability to magnify. The traditional magnifications are 3x to 9x. What this means in reality is that at 3x magnification an object viewed will appear to be approximately three times the size it would appear when viewed by the naked eye. At 9x magnification the target appears nine times its actual size. Using a variable scope the shooter has the ability to choose any magnification between these points, making the scope an extremely powerful tool.

scope magnification comparison

Personally I prefer to have a wide field of view rather than have the target so inflated that I can only see part of the animal. I tend to keep the scope at its 3x setting for close work, only moving up through the magnification when the target is further away; no matter the magnification I still like to retain a decent field of view.

Of course you can get scopes that go beyond 9x magnification but the problem with doing so is that any movement, (shaking or trembling), is enhanced through the scope and can make the shot harder. This is exacerbated at greater distances where the target is smaller in the cross hairs.

To sum up this first article I would offer this advice when choosing a scope. A peep scope is fine if all you are after is speed but experience has shown me that a variable scope is better. Even the compact 1x – 3x scopes are limited in their effectiveness when it comes to close range shooting; with targets that are further away the limitations of their top end 3x magnification can make things tricky. My advice would be to go for a 3x – 9x scope from the start; as discussed earlier they are great for close work and also for long range targets but have the flexibility to adjust for anything in between.

In the next article I will discuss fixed and variable scopes together with the maxim ‘you get what you pay for’.


mark treverton.

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