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Choosing Quality Optics: The Testimony

Aug 17, 2007
I have written several articles about the importance of investing in quality optics for any hunt. This hunting season, I received more "scientific proof" of my assertion. Just to recap, I am a firm believer that optics are a prime example of getting what you pay for. I literally cringe at the mention of Tasco, BSA, and any other off brand scope, especially when its destination is the top of a high-powered hunting rifle. This gag-reflex has caused me to pull all low end scopes out of my store. I will not offer them nor will allow them to be mounted on merchandise we sell. When I first started High Mountain, I engrained the motto, "If we won't carry it in the Field, We won't carry it in the store". While this might have cost me sales to folks who believe in low end optics, I cannot stand against my principles.

Low end optics continually amaze me. A hunter or shooter is willing to spend hundreds of dollars to get the finest shooting rifle they can afford and the first thing they want to skimp on is the key to accurate and consistent shooting. Regardless of how well the gun shoots, if the scope cannot handle the recoil or the abuse of hunting, the shots will not be well placed.

This season, I have personal testament to such trials. I have been breaking in a new Tikka T3 in 270 which I adorned with a Leupold VX-II 3-9x40. It is a very simple scope and cost less than $300.00. While this may not seem expensive compared to Swarovski, Khales, or some of the upper end Leupolds, it is a far cry from the $69.99 Tasco special offered in the Sportsman's Guide.

I chose the VX-II for 2 reasons, simplicity and durability. The T3 replaced my old deer hunting rifle and would be filling the same application. Shots would be from 20 yards to 400 in various condition and terrain. Some shots may require fast acquisition while others would require delicate shot placement. I do not hunt lightly, covering many miles of terrain either on foot or horseback. The gun and the optics would have to cope with everything I would dish out to it.

This year's hunt proved to be the tell tale point. It was late in the evening on the 3rd day of the hunt and deer were scarce. It had been lightly raining all day. The ground was damp and weeds were wet which made stalking much easier. I was watching a big mule deer doe with 2 yearling fawns, hoping they would pick up a big buck as night fell. As they moved down the mountainside, I shadowed them. As they stepped out of the line of site i would quickly and quietly move from cover to cover to hide my presence. As I was progressing across a rocky part of the slope, I stepped on some lichen which had become slick from the rain and when down like a sack of potatoes thrown off a truck. The rifle and scope which was slung across my back in a shoulder to shoulder manner took the brunt of the fall. The result would have been catastrophic for a lesser grade optic.

After I caught my breath again, I surveyed for damage. The deer had obviously spotted me and my acrobatic display of ineptitude and had headed on down the mountain in a hurried, yet seemingly mocking pace. The gun was fine, but the scope had suffered major gouges on the edges of the eyepiece, objective, and body. I immediately assumed I had broken the optics, but to my surprise everything was intact when I look through the body tube.

I re-shouldered the rifle and limped back to camp with a sore butt, dented scope, and injured pride. The next morning was too rainy for hunting so the group decided to stay in camp until the weather let up. This was ideal for me as I would not feel comfortable going hunting until I had re-zeroed my scope. I set a small target up on the hill about 100 yards away and took aim. The first shot center punched the target; the second missed the center by about quarter of an inch. I shot three more shots with all five being within an inch of each other.

OUTSTANDING!!! Not only had the scope withstood the blow but it had held its zero. This is performance far beyond the capabilities of Simmons, BSA, or Tasco.

As hunters, we not only owe it to ourselves but to the game we hunt to always use optics and equipment which will stand up to the demands we place on them. Risking loosing an animal or worse wounding one due to poor equipment is not something I am willing to endorse, especially when a quality scope is only $300.00 away. Like I have said in my previous articles, Tasco, Simmons, BSA, and other lesser quality scopes may have their place, just not on any of my guns or the guns I would sell to my customers.
About the Author
Kelsey Hilderbrand is an avid shooter, hunter, collector, outdoor writer, and founder of High Mountain Hunting Supply
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