Many novice riflemen are intimidated by the number of different riflescopes available on today's market.In this article we will explore some of the features commonly found in the scope market,so that we may make a more informed decision when we go for the wallet.
First of all,before we whip out the old trusty credit card,we need to determine what we are going to do with this scope.Will it be used for target shooting,hunting,long range shooting,or what?Also how much money can we afford to spend on this purchase?There is an old saying that it is better to have a $100 rifle with a $1000 scope than to have a $1000 rifle with a $100 scope.There is some truth to this,you will never be able to get the utmost accuracy out of your rifle if you have low grade optics sitting on top of it.Next we need to determine what features we need for our particular situation so that we can pick the best riflescope for our purpose.
While it may seem that the more magnification we have the better off we will be,this is not always the case.There are disadvantages with high magnification,after about 12X,mirage becomes a real problem,especially in warm weather.Instead of seeing the target,all you see is shimmering heat waves.Another problem with high magnification is the narrow field of view that accompanies it.This is an important consideration because if you need to shoot at close range,you probably wont be able to even find the target. On the other end of the spectrum,anything below 4X is probably not even worth messing with.This power is great for fairly close shooting,but if the target is further out than a couple hundred yards,you wont be able to pick out a precise aiming point to insure accuracy.
Fixed power versus Zoom power-
This is always a great controversy,which is better.One theory says that since a Zoom powered scope has more internal parts,it is more prone to failure.This makes sense,but realisticaly,I don't believe that this alone should influence our decision making.One advantage to using a variable magnification (Zoom) scope is that you can turn it down for close range engagements and then use it at higher magnification for shots at longer range.
Most riflescopes on the market utilize a 1 inch tube,and this is fine for most applications.Some designs use the larger 30mm tube.The advantages to a larger tube are two fold.First,a crisper image,and second a brighter view,which is due to more light being transferred down the larger tube.If you can afford it,the larger tube design should be considered.
Objective lens size-
The front objective lens is like a funnel,gathering light,and in theory,the bigger it is the better.This is great if the rest of the scope is a quality piece of equipment,but more and more "cheap" scope manufacturers are using large objective lenses just to sell their products.If the internal lenses of the scope are not quality made,the objective lense size will make no difference.Another advantage to having a large objective is that you will be able to see better early in the morning and later in the evening,due to the increase in light transmission.The downside to big objectives of course is their bulk and weight.It sometimes becomes awkward to carry that heavy barreled rifle with a scope featuring a 50mm objective,take this into consideration when choosing your scope.Most scopes today have a 40mm objective lens and this is fine for most applications.
Having an adjustable objective lens means that you can focus it,which means a sharper target image and also reduces or eliminates parallax.What is parallax?Parallax is the tendency for scope crosshairs to shift and change point of impact if the shooter moves his head.Not usually a problem with quality scopes of about 10X or less,but can be a problem above 10X unless the scope has an adjustable objective lens.Most scopes that have adjustable objectives use an adjustable ring on the objective lens,some use a knob on the left side of the tube.
Quality scopes have coated lenses.This reduces reflection and aids in the passage of light through the scope.The coating of lenses is not cheap,which is one reason why the best scopes cost so much more than the their counterparts.
Cheap and older scopes use friction plates for the adjustment of elevation and windage.Newer and better scopes use more precise adjustments that audibly "click"with each increment.This aids in repeatability,which means that if you go up 10 clicks and then go down 10 clicks,you end up right back where you started.
The minute of angle adjustment of a particular scope is an important thing to take into consideration.One M.O.A. at a hundred yards is one inch.If our scope has 1/2 M.O.A. adjustments,then each click of elevation or windage will move the point of impact 1/2 inch at a hundred yards,one inch at 200 yards etc.Most scopes intended for target shooting at close range have 1/8 M.O.A. adjustments.In contrast,most scopes intended for long range shooting have 1/2 M.O.A.adjustments.1/4 is the most common and is a good compromise.An important thing to remember is that all scopes have a limit on how much internal adjustment they can handle.If you get a scope with 1/8 minute clicks and try to shoot your .223 rifle at 1000 yards,you will probably run out of internal adjustment before you can put enough elevation clicks on the scope to get on target.
Range estimating capabilities-
Some scopes have provisions that let you estimate range.Some employ mil-dots and some like Redfield's "accu trac" use a seperate device inside the scope for estimating range.An important feature to have in some situations,take this into consideration when choosing your scope.
Bullet drop compensators(B.D.C.) and target knobs-
B.D.C.'s are great to have.Once you estimate the range to the target,you can simply turn the elevation knob to the correct range and hold dead on.This eliminates having to "hold over" or "hold under" and provides for more accurate shooting.Many come with "cams" which are suppose to be calibrated to certain calibers and bullet weights,but don't believe it,after you initially zero your rifle,you need to actually shoot at a variety of ranges to confirm how accurate the B.D.C. actually is.I haven't seen one yet that wasn't off by at least a click or two at most ranges.Target knobs are simply elevation and windage knobs that allow you to adjust them without having to remove the covers first.Good to have if you do a lot of adjusting for different ranges,wind conditions etc.
Lens covers or caps-
Most scopes come with some kind of lens covers.Many people like to purchase the "flip up" type that are made by Butler Creek and others.These are a lot faster to use and are more difficult to lose in the field.
Lots of choices here,from "matte" to "glossy" to "satin" etc.Personal preference,matte is usually preferred for tactical rifles as it reduces the chances of reflected light giving your position away.
This could be an article all by itself.Many options to choose from,from the plain crosshair,to the "duplex" type,which is the most popular.Duplex reticles start out thick and then become more fine towards the center area.Another option is the target dot.Good for some applications but many people complain that it is hard to aim precisely with the dot since it covers much of the target.Look at several different types of reticles and see which one is right for you.
Popular accessory for some military and police scopes.Basically just a screw in "sun shade" that prevents light from reflecting off the objective lens,giving your position away.If you like this option,make sure to get a scope that has a provision for it,not all scopes do.
Rings and bases-
Get good ones.It makes no sense to buy a $600 scope and mount it to the rifle with $20 rings and base.Some scopes come with rings,but most don't.
That's most of the features that you will have to consider when deciding which riflescope to buy.Once you decide what you plan to do with the scope and how much you have to spend,think about the other options and make your choice.An informed decision is always the best decision,hope this helps
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