Telescopic sights or “scopes” have been available to hunters and shooters since the early 19th century. Early on, scopes were expensive and rare. Today the number of manufacturers is almost endless with new companies emerging almost monthly, giving shooters options for every need and every budget. Here’s a quick look at some of the basics for buying a scope.
When purchasing a scope, one needs to answer a few questions. Is the scope for hunting or target shooting and at what distances? What is the terrain like; open country or heavy forests? Fixed or variable magnification? How much can one afford to spend? Other factors such as reticle type and size, scope weight, and mounting systems also come into play. We immediately see that a scope purchase can become quite complicated. I suggest one follow the old saw, “Keep it simple, stupid!”
When buying a scope, the adage, “you get what you pay for,” is very appropriate. Good glass and coatings cost more. Higher magnifications require better materials and, thus, a higher cost for a scope that is clear and bright. Variable power scopes cost more than fixed power scopes. Parallax or focus adjustable scopes also add to the cost and the weight of the unit but for precision target shooters, they are a must have.
I used a Redfield® fixed 4X scope on a Remington® Model 700 for about 40 years. This combination worked well for me, especially in the forested mountains of western Montana. I traded the rifle off a few years ago, but I still have that scope mounted on one of my rimfire rifles and it works great on that gun. Today, my go to big game rifle is a Winchester® Model 70 chambered in .300 WSM. I first used a Burris® 3-9 x 40 with a duplex reticle. Recently I replaced that scope with a Leopold® VX3 CDS 3.5-10 with a duplex reticle. The CDS stands for “custom dial system.” In a past post I described the hunting handload I developed for this gun. Leopold® then made a dial for the elevation turret. With the gun zeroed at one hundred yards, I simply have to range the target, turn the dial to the yardage, aim and fire. Believe me, it really works.
If you are hunting in heavily forested areas, than a simple fixed power scope might be what you need. 4 power for shots out to 250 to 300 yards is more than adequate and focus won’t usually be a problem. One can find a decent scope for around $100.00. A 3-9X variable will cost a little more, for instance Redfield® has American made scopes starting about $150.00. I’ve shot a few rifles with these scopes and find them a good value for the hunter who wants a little more than a fixed power scope. There are always deals this time of year, shop around, but be sure to look carefully through any scope before you buy. Every individual’s vision is unique and I have found that my eyes prefer some brands over others. I suggest you ask to take the scope outside the store and see how it performs in natural light. You might be really surprised at what difference natural light makes. Better the surprise comes before you buy the scope.
Next column we’ll take a closer look at reticles, magnification, and mounting systems.
Be safe and good shooting.