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How To Choose A Rifle Scope

Aug 17, 2007
It's late August, and believe it or not hunting season is just around the corner. Now is the time to get your equipment out and do some maintenance and start practicing your shooting.

While your going over the gear you have and what you need to buy new or to replace existing worn out, pay special attention to your scope. Are the lenses still in good shape? Are any threads stripped? Does it hold the zero after you sight in? If not, you may need another scope.

Also, consider if you are changing your shooting needs. If you are going to be hunting long range when you have been hunting close range, you may need another scope.

There's a ton of rifle scopes on the market, cheap to expensive, general to specialized. Here's some things to consider when looking for a scope:

Magnification:

What kind of shooting are you doing? Hunting big game, hunting small game, competitive target shooting, varmint hunting, plinking, they all require a different magnification. It's obvious that the longer the distance to intend to shoot the higher the magnification you need. A word of caution is not to get too high a magnification. Hunting whitetail deer in Maine does not require a 6-18x scope. You're just as likely to get a 20 yard shot as a 200 yard shot. A 3-9X is a much better choice in this instance.

Here's a general guide:

Squirrels: up to 4x
Varmints: 4-12x
Big game in dense woods: 1.5-4x or 2-7x
Big game in fairly open country: 3-9x or 2.5-10x
Big game in wide open country: 4-12x or 6-18x

Resolution:

Basically this is a measure of how much light that enters the scope actually gets to your eye. It's measured as a percentage, e.g. 95%, 87%, etc.. It is really a measure of optical quality. The better the resolution, the clearer the picture you see through the scope.

How good a resolution do you need? Well, it depends on your shooting. For close in work you can get away with a lower resolution. For long range shooting or shooting in low light conditions you'll want good (over 90%) resolution.

Scopes that are sealed, waterproof and shock proof:

A scope of even just decent quality should be sealed from air and water, and able to take the normal rigors of a handling during a hunting trip. This is one knock against real cheap scopes as they just won't hold up.

Reticles:

Reticles are also known as the cross hairs. There's all types of reticles available on the market these days. The most popular is the Duplex reticle made famous by Leupold. The duplex is similar to the standard cross hair, except the cross hair is thick for about 80% of it's length, thinning in the middle so you can see your target easily. Every manufacturer has a variation on the duplex. Some new reticles are ballistic reticles that are marked with graduations on a scale to help you compensate for distance and wind. There are also illuminated reticles, great for shooting in low light conditions.

Reticle choice is really a personal preference. If possible, test out several types and choose the one you like best.

How much should you spend?

For the most part, you get what you pay for. You can't expect a $75 scope to perform like a $600 scope. Cheaper scopes tend to have poor optics and loose their zero easily. You don't get out hunting that much, do you want your trip spoiled because your scope fails you?

You should expect to pay $200-$800 for a good scope. You can spend more for specialized scopes. A good piece of advice is get the best you can afford. You will never regret getting quality that is too good, but always kick yourself for not getting good enough.
About the Author
Scott Peters is an avid whitetail deer hunter and outfitter. For more information please visit www.TheRifleScopeStore.com.
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