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Author Topic: Riflescope Selection Pointers & Tips  (Read 943 times)

Offline Dutch-Hunter

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Riflescope Selection Pointers & Tips
« on: March 06, 2013, 02:05:04 PM »
Select a Riflescope Carefully

I’m not talking brand either.  Just what you should look for and expect. The following information is to aid in your thought and decision process. This is at minimum equally as important as the decision you made when you bought the rifle. A poor decision here will make both investments, BAD! The advancements made in optics lead by the tactical shooters have been advantageous to sport shooters.

Introduction
For years the average deer rifle scope was a 3-9 scope, and for good reason. Three power is low enough, with enough light transmission and field of view for close shots in most applications, and nine power gives you plenty of magnification for longer shots. Some whitetail hunters now want to choose scopes with top magnifications of fourteen, or twenty, or even more.  This normally equates to lower power starting at five or higher. This is, more often than not, a mistake. Less is more.

Not only does higher magnification take away from your available light, the low end of a high magnification scope is much too high to take a very close shot. Your scope on a whitetail rifle should almost always be kept at its lowest power. If that power happens to be five or six, many times your deer, only yards away, appears as a hairy patch through your scope, or your field of view is so narrow you can't find him, or it's so dark you can't make him out.

In a 3-9X40 scope, the 3 means three power, or 3X. This means that the image you see through the scope appears three times (3X) closer than it does with your naked eye and the 9 means nine power or (9 X) closer than it appears with your naked eye. The forty (40) is the objective lens diameter in millimeters. This is a variable scope because you can vary the magnification of the scope from three to nine, stopping anywhere in between. You would describe this scope as a three to nine by forty (3-9X40). Be careful not to “over scope” your rifle (too much magnification). You can end up with the worst attributes so they buy a more expensive one thinking it will solve their problems.

Most scopes, especially in America have main tubes that are one inch in diameter. That means that they use one inch rings. Some scopes have thirty millimeter main tubes. Those scopes will use thirty millimeter rings. There are several main types of bases that are used to connect the rings to your firearm. You need to know what kind of base you have to find out the exact type and height of the one inch or thirty millimeter rings you will use for your specific scope.

For many hunters a riflescope is probably one of the bigger purchases that they’ll make when finishing a new rifle purchase or upgrading scopes. I’ve been there quite a few times myself and have experienced what the effect of having a lot of choices on hand can do to the decision making process. First things first let’s go through the criteria when looking for a new scope.
The criteria to use when selecting an optic are:
•   Intended Use
•   Reticle
•   MOA or MIL adjustment turrets
•   Budget
•   Reliability
•   Company Support
•   Accessory Availability and Compatibility
Intended Use
The first thing that has to be done when selecting a new optic is determine exactly what the shooter intends to do with the rifle that the scope will be attached to. When examining the intended use of the optic the shooter should take things into account such as the average size of the game or targets, the average distance, and the conditions that they’ll likely be shooting in. It’s these things that can help drive the other factors, such as the allowable budget and scope features, in order to select the right optic. For example, a rifle that will be used well within 200 yards 90% of the time will have different optics requirements compared to a similar rifle that will be used for targets that are in excess 500 yards 70% of the time. The average conditions that a shooter will use a scope in can also help to select the right one since they may not need one with all of the advanced features if it is only going to be taken out once a month on a pretty day to best their smallest group size.

Reticle (see attached PDF table)
The selection is vast and somewhat confusing. Find one that you are comfortable with and suits your needs.

MOA or Mil adjustment
Once again this is a personal preference. I always recommend you get what you are most comfortable with.
 
Budget
There is a considerable spread in optic prices; starting around $100 then upwards of $4000. It is very common to spend more on optics than the rifle it’s mounted on. After figuring out what the intended use for the riflescope is going to be, the next thing to determine is how much to spend on it. This is a big deciding factor for many people and it’s important to get the best riflescope that you can afford that has the features and qualities that you are looking for. In some cases that may mean making some compromises in regards to available features such as an illuminated reticle or zero stop features. However, there are some manufacturers that make different lines of scopes that can fit the needs and budgets of a wide variety of shooters that often provide similar features and performance.

Reliability
The next consideration is the reliability of the riflescope. When talking about the reliability of an optic it not only means its ability to withstand some abuse but also the accuracy and repeatability of its adjustments. More so than any other quality sought in a long range riflescope this is the most important, because if you cannot trust the click values and its ability to return to zero after dialing in a lot of elevation then it is practically useless. It’s always a good idea to test the repeatability of the elevation and windage adjustments no matter how much the scope cost or the reputation of the manufacturer.

Company Support
Another important factor in a selection for a new riflescope is to take a look at the company and their standing within the shooting community. While many overlook this aspect, the product is only as good as the company backing it, no matter how awesome the scope looks on paper. Having the newest FFP scope with the best glass and the newest zero stop system means nothing when it breaks and the customer service rep blows you off.
 
Accessories
When selecting a riflescope look at the availability and compatibility of accessories and other ancillary equipment. What I mean by that is are mounting solutions for the scope pretty common? Will a special base be needed? Are sunshades and flip caps easily available for the scope? Asking and obtaining the answers to these questions can make life a whole lot easier in the long run for the owner. Otherwise they may end up purchasing a scope that has an odd tube diameter, which only a couple of manufacturers make rings for and it still needs a special base in order to get the proper eye relief.
 
Scopes: How they work
Light Transmission; Scopes don't gather light, as most people think, although the term "light gathering ability" has become accepted jargon. Scopes transmit available light through the lenses to your eye, always losing a bit in the process. The best a scope can hope to offer in light transmission is theoretically 98%. Anything above 95% is considered great, and most scopes are around 90%. The more magnification you have, the less light you get to your eyepiece. The larger the objective lens, the more you get through your eyepiece. Here's an interesting experiment to help explain it. Take a variable scope, set it at its lowest power, and hold it at arm’s length. See the circle of light in the ocular lens? That is the exit pupil. The diameter of it in millimeters is the exit pupil size. Now turn the scope up to its highest power and try it again. See how much smaller it gets? The smaller circle means less light transmission. Imagine if you are using this scope setting during poor lighting conditions as common in hunting situations, like dawn or dusk.

Eye relief; The larger the exit pupil, the less critical the position of your head in relation to the scope is, also. The distance that your eye must be to the ocular lens to get a full, clear picture is called eye relief. Lower powered scopes will have a larger range of distance available for a full view. Higher powered scopes are sometimes very critical in relation to the centering of your eye through the middle of the tube, and the distance your eye must be from the ocular lens. Sometimes there is only a half inch closer or further you may be to see the whole available view. When mounting a scope, it should be at its highest power, and in a position that your head and neck are comfortable. Your head should be positioned on the stock in the position you will be shooting the most. For instance, if you sight in a gun while shooting off a bench rest, your head tends to sneak up on the stock a bit. If this gun is then used for deer in the woods, your eye relief might not be optimal, nor might your sight picture.

Riflescope Parallax; Parallax is hard for some people to understand. Example consider the following: Most riflescopes in a medium-high variable power range, say 10X or slightly higher, which often don't have external parallax adjustments, are parallax corrected at either 100 or 150 yards. If you take one of these scopes that is set at 100 yards and put it in a vise on high power, with the crosshairs centered on a bullseye on a target at say, 25 yards, and move your head slightly off center to the left and right or up or down, you'll see the crosshairs move off the bullseye, even though the scope has not moved. The scope's "eye" is not focused at the proper distance. This will also happen if the target is set at a much further distance, say 300 yards.
External parallax adjustments, called adjustable objectives, are generally on scopes of more than 10 power, or on scopes that are used at close distances. Parallax adjustments are made at the objective lens with a rotating dial marked in incremental distances. Recently it has become popular to install parallax adjustment dials on the left side of the turret housing, which is much more convenient and user friendly.

Objective Lens size and Tube Diameter
Let's talk about objective lens sizes. 40 to 44mm is pretty standard on a medium variable rifle scope. The large objective lenses of 50 and 56 are readily available. In most cases these are unwarranted. Although true; the large objective lenses will transmit more useable light than smaller ones if they are set at their highest power in the dimmest conditions. The detriment is comfort and ease of eye alignment. With a properly mounted scope, you should be able to close your eyes, shoulder your gun with a proper, repeatable stock weld (a stock weld is the firm but comfortable and repeatable position of your face on the gun stock), open your eyes, and look directly through the center of your scope every time. Large objective lenses prevent this from happening because of the ring height required to keep such a large lens off your gun barrel. Some scopes require such high mounting that only your chin touches the stock. These scopes are also heavier, clumsier, and unbalanced to carry. They can also be slower and less comfortable to shoot. These large diameter lenses are typically used for fixed shooting using custom built stocks with an elevated or adjustable cheek weld.
 
 
 
 

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Offline Puddle Jumper

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Re: Riflescope Selection Pointers & Tips
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2013, 02:31:28 PM »
DH,
It is like you were reading my mind.  I am looking a scope to put on my new toy, AR-15.  This helps a lot.

Thanks,
PJ
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Offline Split toe

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Re: Riflescope Selection Pointers & Tips
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2013, 12:35:58 PM »
Well done Dutch...great information!!!
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Offline Zos41

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Re: Riflescope Selection Pointers & Tips
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2013, 01:39:06 PM »
Great info DH, Thank You
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Re: Riflescope Selection Pointers & Tips
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2013, 07:02:44 PM »
Thanks, this is some good information here
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Offline russcat

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Riflescope Selection Pointers & Tips
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2013, 11:08:56 PM »
Just when I think I know something Dutch, PA, or Bo goes and writes something like this!  Good job and thank you Dutch once again.
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Offline Hunt Master

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Re: Riflescope Selection Pointers & Tips
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2013, 10:07:50 PM »
this will be a "Go To" article to read before I purchase any scope in the future. Thanks!
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Offline wvwhitetail

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Re: Riflescope Selection Pointers & Tips
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2013, 01:58:26 PM »
Good informative read as well. Thanks

 

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