Tips for Buying a Riflescope

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Riflescopes come in many different brands, classifications, sizes, price ranges, etc. You can spend almost any amount of money for the purchase of, lets say a 3-9x40 scope, meaning the magnification option can be 3 times to 9 times the size of the object you are viewing depending upon where you set the dial, (usually located near the rear of the scope or eye lens) marked with the numbers 3, 4, 5...9. The numeral 40 means the size of the objective lens (the lens facing the target) in millimeters.

Relatively a small size, the 3-9x40 rifle scope is one of the most popular scopes on the market today because of the versatility the shooter has with the size of this scope and it's magnification options.

Magnification and lens coatings are key to allowing light to gather in a rifle scope. If you're a hunter you are usually hunting very early in the morning or late in the afternoon in low light conditions. You most probably are going to want very low magnification to allow as much light as possible to enter your optic so you can see what you are hunting at those times. The lower the magnification and the better the coatings the more light that will gather in a scope.

The most popular sizes in scope main tubes are 1 inch (26.5mm) and 30mm in diameter but, 34mm and 35mm tubes are now available. The larger the main tube the more windage and elevation travel or adjustments you will get which can be important for shooting long-range especially on the elevation side. Bullets drop greater at longer distances so more elevation compensation is neccessary which is facilitated by a larger main tube.

The lenses in all scopes are ground optical quality glass with or without lens coatings. Usually, depending upon the quality of the lens glass and the quality of the grind on the lenses you will see the clarity and the price jump substantially. For instance, a 3-9x40 scope with a 1" tube ranges in price from an opening price point of about $50.00 on the low end to a high end US or European scope with superior lens glass to sell in the $900.00 range.

Coatings applied to scope lenses usually correct the imperfections in the lens glass caused by grinding. Certain coatings are also used to turn humidity (dew or rain) on the outside of the scope lenses into microscopic dots so the humidity does not impair target viewing (or targeting) in inclimate weather. Different manufacturers will use different terms to distinguish their humidity dispersing coatings.

Just for reference some of the American and European scope manufacturers use the highest quality lense glass and grind their lenses so fine that two lenses put together will adhere to each other (create a vacuum) without the use of any adhesives. These scopes are usually at the upper end of the quality scale and considered the best you can buy.

In my opinion a very nice 3-9x40 scope with good light gathering capability can be purchased in the $175-250 retail range. Some people make the mistake of spending their rifle and optics budget mostly on the firearm instead of focusing more on the optic. This is a classic mistake that is usually discovered in the field when the hunter cannot see anything in low light and inclimate weather conditions.

Remember, just about any rifle you buy will shoot well enough to hit a deer size target at 150 yards, (which is about the average distance for a shot taken when hunting big game) but if you can't see your target you might as well have just stayed home that day.

Rifle scopes come in many different lengths, magnifications, and options and are made virtually all over the world by many manufacturers. When shopping for a rifle scope their are several things to consider:

1.) What rifle am I going to mount this scope on?

2.) What is the maximum effective range of this rifle?

3.) What is the distance between mounting surfaces on the rifle and are mounts available for this rifle and scope combination?

4.) What is the eye relief of this scope (distance between my eye and the beginning of the scope when shouldering the firearm where the scope is in full view)? Rifle scopes with short eye reliefs are harder to shoulder quickly and get a clear view without a lot of practice.

5.) Will I mount the scope on the rifle myself and be able to boresight it or will I take it to a Pro-Shop to have it mounted (I recommend that you have a professional mount the scope)? If you have a professional mount the scope on your rifle make sure you are present and they fit you for scope placement on the firearm. This can make a big difference in accuracy whether you are comfortable and relaxed or not when shouldering this firearm.

6.) Is the scope waterproof, shockproof, Nitrogen purged?

7.) Does the manufacturer of the scope have a good reputation for warranty work and turn around time should you have to send the scope back to them for work?

8.) If the scope has multi-magnification settings does the manufacturer guarantee the same "point of impact" of the round on all magnification settings?

As you can see their are several things to consider when you're in the market for a new rifle scope. I like name brands, scopes that look and feel well made, and finally when I look through the optic it's ultra clear with no lens distortion. Usually, looking through a scope from the objective lens backwards will show you any distortions in the lenses.


Your comments are welcome.

Thanks for reading the guide.






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