How To Choose A Rifle Scope
August, and believe it or not hunting season is just around the
corner. Now is the time to get your equipment out and do some
maintenance and start practicing your shooting.
While your going over the gear you have and what you need to buy
new or to replace existing worn out, pay special attention to
your scope. Are the lenses still in good shape? Are any threads
stripped? Does it hold the zero after you sight in? If not, you
may need another scope.
Also, consider if you are changing your shooting needs. If you
are going to be hunting long range when you have been hunting
close range, you may need another scope.
There's a ton of rifle scopes on the market, cheap to expensive,
general to specialized. Here's some things to consider when
looking for a scope:
What kind of shooting are you doing? Hunting big game, hunting
small game, competitive target shooting, varmint hunting,
plinking, they all require a different magnification. It's
obvious that the longer the distance to intend to shoot the
higher the magnification you need. A word of caution is not to
get too high a magnification. Hunting whitetail deer in Maine
does not require a 6-18x scope. You're just as likely to get a
20 yard shot as a 200 yard shot. A 3-9X is a much better choice
in this instance.
Here's a general guide:
Squirrels: up to 4x
Big game in dense woods: 1.5-4x or 2-7x
Big game in fairly open country: 3-9x or 2.5-10x
Big game in wide open country: 4-12x or 6-18x
Basically this is a measure of how much light that enters the
scope actually gets to your eye. It's measured as a percentage,
e.g. 95%, 87%, etc.. It is really a measure of optical quality.
The better the resolution, the clearer the picture you see
through the scope.
How good a resolution do you need? Well, it depends on your
shooting. For close in work you can get away with a lower
resolution. For long range shooting or shooting in low light
conditions you'll want good (over 90%) resolution.
Scopes that are sealed, waterproof and shock proof:
A scope of even just decent quality should be sealed from air
and water, and able to take the normal rigors of a handling
during a hunting trip. This is one knock against real cheap
scopes as they just won't hold up.
Reticles are also known as the cross hairs. There's all types of
reticles available on the market these days. The most popular is
the Duplex reticle made famous by Leupold. The duplex is similar
to the standard cross hair, except the cross hair is thick for
about 80% of it's length, thinning in the middle so you can see
your target easily. Every manufacturer has a variation on the
duplex. Some new reticles are ballistic reticles that are marked
with graduations on a scale to help you compensate for distance
and wind. There are also illuminated reticles, great for
shooting in low light conditions.
Reticle choice is really a personal preference. If possible,
test out several types and choose the one you like best.
How much should you spend?
For the most part, you get what you pay for. You can't expect a
$75 scope to perform like a $600 scope. Cheaper scopes tend to
have poor optics and loose their zero easily. You don't get out
hunting that much, do you want your trip spoiled because your
scope fails you?
You should expect to pay $200-$800 for a good scope. You can
spend more for specialized scopes. A good piece of advice is get
the best you can afford. You will never regret getting quality
that is too good, but always kick yourself for not getting good
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Scott Peters is an avid whitetail deer
hunter and outfitter. For more information please visit