Rifle Scopes

Summer 2011

As hunting season approaches rapidly I find myself once again in the rifle scope maze.

I work with several distributors so just for the sake of it I searched some of them for scope options.

I simply searched for the phrase 3-9 as in 3-9x-whatever.

Distributor Search Results Low Price High Price
1 212 28.00 800.00
2 253 40.00 860.00
3 250 34.00 2700.00
4 135 29.00 1100.00

So which scopes should I stock? You think the options are perplexing from your side of the counter?

It reminds me of looking for new truck tires. Mud Terrain, Snow, Highway, All Terrain, Mud/Snow, a zillion designs, and nearly as many size options.

But if you actually stop and think about it, you can narrow your options to a few hundred choices and then go from there.

Sometimes I'm in the mud, sometimes I'm in the snow, a lot of times I'm on the highway. I only want the size recommended by the truck mfg. That's just me, but it eliminates some of the options and helps narrow the field considerably. So now I'm down to a couple hundred choices.

So then I start thinking, OK when or where would be the worst place to have a problem? For me that would be in the snow while coyote hunting. I don't play in the mud as much these days, only if I have to and not for the sport of it.

The last "mud tires" I had sucked in the snow.

My point here is if you stop and think about how you really hunt and how far you are likely to shoot you can shorten the list of scope options.

If your favorite time to hunt is the last part of daylight, you are going to want a scope that gathers ample light. If mid-day is your cup of tea then light may not be an issue for you.

If you don't shoot, have never shot or don't hunt where your shots are beyond 100 yards then there isn't much point in buying high powered scopes.

A lot of people do not understand scope numbers so I'll discuss them briefly.

If you look at a scope box or a newspaper ad you might see something like 3-9X40 or 4X32 and most of the time these numbers are also stamped somewhere on the scope but not always where it is easy to find.

Lets tear that apart right quick.

If there is only one number in front of the X then that is the power of the scope. In the above example 4X32, 4 is the power of the scope. In simple terms, your neighbors cat will appear 4 times larger in this scope.

If there are two numbers separated by a dash in front of the X then you are looking at a "Variable Power Scope". In the above example 3-9X40, 3 is the low power and 9 is the high power. So your neighbors cat will appear at least 3 times larger and if you turn the power ring all the way to 9 the cat would appear 9 times larger in this scope.

I hear this often, "I shake too much with a scope".

Power or magnification (interchangeable term here) is a funny thing. What you have to realize is scopes are not selective about what they magnify. The cat looks 9 times larger, the grass around the cat looks 9 times larger and the most important FACT - It appears that you are "shaking" 9 times more than you actually are.

And without going into a major thesis, RIGHT THERE IS THE PROBLEM

If you don't mind the shaking then it doesn't matter. In other words, if you ignore the minor movements that you notice in your scope it will make very little difference on your target.

And it really is that simple. If you allow your brain to make those minor movements an issue, you won't shoot worth a darn. If you trust that the magnification is making it look worse than it is, you will do a nice job shooting.

Benchrest shooters may read this and call foul. I'm not writing this for them and I'm not a benchrest shooter. I am writing this as a hunter for hunters.

What I like to call "see the hole" is a little brain game I play with myself when target practicing. Simply picture the hole in the target where you want the hole and squeeze the trigger. Ironically, 9 out of 10 times there will be a hole there in short order.

So, back to scope selection.

Too much power when you aren't likely to shoot beyond 100 yards can be a bad thing. Say for example you choose a 6-18X40 scope and crank it up to 18 power. Now not only does it appear that you are shaking 18 times more than you are, your actual field of view has shrunk down so much that it's hard to keep perspective on the target, we'll say a deer for instance. Now you've lost objects around the deer and it's harder to understand your proximity or the reality of where the deer actually is in relationship to where you are.

The number that follows the X in a scope description is the objective lens diameter in millimeters. The objective lens is the large lens closest to the muzzle.

3-9X40 is then - Low Power 3 - High Power 9 X or By 40MM.

The larger the objective lens the more light can be passed through the scope. But with that comes other problems. For example a 3-9X50 might be so large in diameter that you have to switch to taller rings on your rifle. So what's' the big deal, switch rings.

The big deal is that the anchor of your face touching the stock is reduced or eliminated. In otherwords, now your face may be off the stock and you have to hunt for the reticle. Furthermore you may not be centered directly behind the reticle distorting your view slightly and changing point of aim or point of impact.

Jim Carmicheal wrote an article years ago and discussed this. I can't even begin to quote it now but in a nutshell, your eye can only use so much light. Beyond that it's not only a waste but a hindrance.

You will see objective lenses from 15MM to 60MM. Around the 40MM range is the most popular and usually will keep your face anchored to the stock while providing ample light transmission under most circumstances.

Personally I prefer a 6-18X40 because my eyes aren't what they used to be and 9 power doesn't cut it for me beyond 100 yards.

Even more scribbling