INTRODUCTION - The purpose of this guide is to explain scope terminology and give buyers some tips regarding the type of scope they should buy depending on how they intend to use the scope.
WHAT IS A SCOPE?
Scopes, or telescopic sights, use various combinations of lenses to give additional accuracy when aiming a gun at a target. Telescopic sights were invented in the 17th century, and are manufactured all over the world. Prior to the 1980's, the best scopes were manufactured in Europe, particularly Germany and Switzerland but technology has now spread and the quality of scopes manufactured in Japan, China and other Asian countries easily matches the quality of European manufacture.
HOW IS A SCOPE CLASSIFIED?
Scope are classified by the magnification and the diameter of the objective (front) lens. A scope that is classified as 4x32 magnifies an item 4 times and is 32 millimeters in diameter. If it is a variable scope in which you can adjust the amount of magnification, like a 3-9x40, the scope is classified with the range of magnification (3-9) and the diameter of the objective lens (40.)
WHAT IS THE RETICLE?
The reticle, or cross hairs, allows you to fix the point at which the bullet will hit the target, assuming that you take into account such factors as temperature, wind, and most of all, distance. Many modern reticles allow the user to compensate for these factors while aiming the scope, most of the higher-end manufacturers also offer illuminated reticles for low-light conditions. American hunters seem to favor reticles in which the cross hairs extend all the way across the objective, European hunters favor reticles that do not actually cross (the German reticle design.) Cross hairs can also be thick, medium or thin, the rule of thumb being the greater the distance to the target, the thinner cross hairs so that the target will not be obscured by the width of the hairs. Reticles used to be located either in the front or the rear lens of the scope; a rear-mounted reticle generally changes in size as the scope is adjusted, the front-mounted reticle generally remains the same size. Most American hunters prefer a reticle that does not change in size and virtually all scopes now sold in the U.S. have front-mounted reticles.
WHAT IS PARALLAX?
Parallax is a fancy word for the sighting plane between the reticle cross hairs and the objective. This can occur if your eye shifts from one point to another behind the scope. To compensate for this, scopes are offered either with an adjustable objective or a side parallax adjustment, the latter being easier to read but the former being somewhat more accurate to set.
WHAT IS FIELD OF VIEW?
Field of view is the width of the picture in your lens at 100 years or 100 meters. Generally speaking, the higher the objective, the narrower the field of view. So a scope that magnifies 9 times will probably have a maximum field of view in excess of 10 yards, while a scope that magnifies 20 times will probably have a maximum field of view less than 7 yards.
WHAT TYPE OF SCOPE DO I NEED?
There is no scope that can do everything or that can give optimum results in every different situation. But there are some general rules to follow in making your decision about what scope to buy.
1. Don't overscope. If you are hunting in areas where you probably won't get a shot at more than 100-150 yards (brush, woodlands) putting a long-distance scope on your gun is a mistake.
2. Don't underscope. If you are hunting in flat areas with long-range views and shots in excess of 200 yards, you'll need a scope with higher magnification.
Scope manufacturers offer many types of models with many different reticle and magnification options, but over the years they have found that most buyers prefer a scope that can be used in most situations, generally speaking with magnification between 3 and 10 times, a diameter of 40 millimeters and a standard reticle with cross hairs that meet in the middle of the objective.
Okay. So you're going to buy an "average" scope, or maybe a more specialized one. But there are some other, very important factors to consider:
1. Weight. A good scope will add at least a pound to the weight of your rifle and probably more. You have to lug the gun around. And the further you walk, the heavier the gun seems to get. Be careful, don't put a scope on your gun that makes the weapon ungainly to carry or difficult to get up to your shoulder for a quick shot.
2. Durability. Sooner or later every hunter drops his gun. And you can't set off a test shot in the woods to see if the scope is still functioning properly. So make sure the scope is durable.
3. Moisture-resistant. Funny how all those hunting shows on the Outdoor Channel always take place on beautiful, dry days. The truth is that most hunts take place in inclement weather. If the scope hasn't been treated for moisture resistance you may find yourself unable to use it even though it's still mounted on your gun.
MOUNTING & SIGHTING A SCOPE
Don't make the mistake of buying a three hundred dollar scope and mounting it with five dollar rings. Always purchase new rings and try, if possible to get rings made out of steel. Aluminum rings are easier to mount but they won't hold a scope in place, particularly if you are shooting a magnum gun.
Don't waste your time or money with bore sighting. Take the gun out, put a target at 10 yards and get on the paper. Then take the target out to 100 years and make your adjustments. Then move the target out further if you like or if you know that you will only have a long-range shot. Many hunters make the mistake of first sighting-in a scope at 100 years which basically means that you'll waste ammo doing what you should have done at 10 yards.
OKAY - SO WHAT SCOPE SHOULD I BUY?
There's a reason that we only sell Leupold, Nikon and Bushnell scopes. We have found that they are the best bet for the money. They work, they are accurate and they don't break. There are many other fine scopes on the market - Weaver, Burris, Simmons, just to name a few. But optics are like any other consumer item; generally speaking, you get what you pay for. You should expect to pay at least $200 for a good, adjustable, standard-size scope. The more bells and whistles, the more the price goes up. Don't take a chance on a scope just because "the price is right." Spend a few extra bucks and buy a quality item. You won't regret your choice.
.223 Tactical 3-9x40mm Red/Green Mil-Dot Scope w/Laser Sight, Picatinny, 5.56Bausch & Lomb BALVAR 8A Scope w/ Mountings
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