No matter if you plan on using your rifle for hunting or target practice, finding the best rifle scope is a very big decision. If you are not able to clearly see what you are aiming at, you will be dead in the water before you ever pull the trigger. Not all scopes are created equal.
There are a wide variety of scopes available on the market, so it is important for you to determine what your shooting needs are going to be so you can find the best scope to accommodate them. There are also many rifle scope reviews to sift through.
The following buyer’s guide will discuss in detail all of the aspects of a rifle scope. You can then use this information to better understand rifle scopes reviews and make a more educated purchase.
Basic Rifle Scopes 101
1. What Do Rifle Scopes Do?
A rifle scope magnifies the object you are looking at. They also place your eye on the identical optic plane as the object you are looking at. An object is magnified by rays of light being bent by several lenses inside the scope. Shorter scopes contain smaller lenses. Therefore, they are not able to see as far as scopes that are longer and contain larger lenses. Rifle scopes come in many different magnification levels to be used for shooting targets from a wide range of distances.
2. The Basics of Long Range Rifle Scopes
a. Magnification levels
The vast majority of long range rifle scopes contain a certain amount of magnification. When the scope has a fixed power, there is an “x” placed after a number. For example, a scope that is “4x” is capable of enlarging the object to four times the size that it appears to the naked eye.There are also scopes that have variable powers. On these scopes, an “x” is placed after multiple numbers. For example, a scope that is 3-9x, 50mm is capable of magnifying the object between three and nine times what the naked eye can see, as well as all of the powers in between those numbers. 50mm refers to the diameter of the scope’s objective lens.
Having a scope with a variable power lens is ideal for people who are hunting for long periods of time in varying light conditions. Depending on the amount of light that is available to you, more or less magnification may be needed. One serious drawback to scopes containing variable power lenses is the fact they cost considerably more than scopes that are only fixed power.
However, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. A variable power scope will provide you with a much more accurate shooting experience.
b. Objective Lens and Tube Diameter
The objective lens is designed to collect all of the light that enters your scope. The diameter of this lens is a very critical element. When a scope contains a high magnification level, the diameter of the objective lens needs to be greater than lower magnification scopes. This is because the larger the diameter of the objective lens, the more light will be allowed to enter.The greater the light, the greater the range of the scope. If you plan on using a scope with a magnification between four and twelve, a 40mm objective lens will be satisfactory for your purposes.
However, an objective lens that is 50mm will not benefit you greatly when it comes to the level of light transmission it provides for lower power scopes when you take into account the higher price, greater weight and higher mount height that is needed when using a 50mm lens.
c. Light Transmission and Eye Relief
Contrary to popular belief, a rifle scope does not gather light. Although you may hear the term “light gathering ability” used frequently, the reality is that a scope transmits all of the light that is available through the lens and directs it towards your eye.
During this process, some of the available light is lost. Basically, transmitting 98 percent of the available light is the best that any rifle scope can hope to provide. To get this level of light transmission, the scope will need to be among the best and most expensive currently on the market.
A light transmission level of 95 percent is truly outstanding. The majority of scopes you will find transmit somewhere around 90 percent. It is important to note that you can not treat the light transmission figures provided by rifle scope manufacturers as the gospel. This is because all of them have their own methods of measuring light transmission.
As a way of increasing their light transmission statistics, manufacturers will occasionally measure light for certain wavelengths.The greater amount of magnification your scope provides, the less amount of light will be able to enter the scope’s eyepiece. Likewise, the bigger the objective lens is, the more light is allowed to enter the eyepiece.
The eyes of an older person may only have four millimeters of dilation.Young people may have seven or more millimeters of dilation. It is a waste to have an exit pupil that is too large for your eye to use. An exit pupil is the tiny light circle that you can see in the eyepiece when the rifle scope is held at arm’s length. The bigger the exit pupil is, the less important the position of your head is in relation to the scope.
Eye relief refers to the distance between the ocular lens and your eye that is required for you to obtain a clear and full picture of the object you are looking at. Scopes that have a low power contain a wider range of available distance to get a complete view.
Rifle scopes that have a high power are generally very precise regarding your eye being centered in the tube, and the distance between the ocular lens and your eye. Four inches is the biggest eye relief that is available at the present time for a rifle scope. This is an ideal amount of eye relief because it will prevent the scope from hitting your face during the recoil, assuming you are positioned properly.
d. Adjustments & Parallax
Every rifle scope is able to be adjusted for elevation (up and down), windage (left and right) and focus for the eye of the person using the rifle. It is common to find an adjustment for parallax on rifle scopes that are designed to be used to shoot at targets from long distances.
The adjustments for elevation and windage are both operated using knobs or dials that are found on the adjustment turret in the middle of the scope. The windage dial is found at three o’clock and the elevation dial is at 12 o’clock. These dials change the position of the crosshairs. Doing this will also change the location the bullet will hit on the target. The majority of rifle scopes claim that each click at 100 yards will change the bullet’s impact point by 1.4 inch.
However, this is not true in most cases. Scopes do whatever they please in terms of adjustments, no matter how much they cost.The parallax adjustment is used to focus rifle scopes that are used for long range shooting or to shoot at small targets. This adjustment is done manually by using either a dial located at nine o’clock on the turret or a calibrated objective lens bell. If you fail to set the parallax adjustment to the proper distance, the target will not appear to be where it actually is. This is known as parallax error.
e. Lenses – THE MOST IMPORTANT FEATURE
The standard rifle scope will be equipped with roughly eight lenses, including the two that are the most obvious. A lens’ quality is judged by the quality of the coating, the amount of care used to grind it into shape and the quality of the glass used to make the lenses.
Even for an amateur, it is very easy to tell the difference between an expensive scope and a cheap one simply by looking through them. The reason that rifle scope prices range so widely is because of the quality of images offered by the more expensive models versus the cheaper varieties.
Swarovski and Bushnell use a special lens coating that enables water to be dispersed into small droplets that will not get in the way of what you are looking at. Therefore, you can still see clearly in a heavy fog or a downpour.Coatings are designed to reduce loss of light caused by reflection, as well as glare. They enable sharper contrast and superior transmission of light. It is common for coatings to make the lens scratch resistant. A coated lens has a single layer on a minimum of one lens surface.
A fully coated lens has a single layer on every air to glass surface. A multicoated lens has multiple layers on a minimum of one lens surface. A fully multicoated lens has multiple layers on every air to glass surface.
f. Reticles and Bullet Drop Compensators (BDCs)
The Duplex crosshair, created by Leupold 50 years ago, has become the industry standard. It consists of four thick crosshairs that gradually become thin as they get closer to the middle of the lens. This causes your eye to be drawn to the middle of the scope, enabling you to aim faster and more precisely.
You will find heavy Duplex-style reticles on scopes designed for dangerous game and fine ones on scopes designed for tactical purposes or varmint shooting. Recently, LED lights have been added to reticles by various manufacturers. These lights increase aiming speed. There are also range-compensating reticles that show the user where they should hold for a specific distance.
g. Field of View
Field of view is measured by using feet at 100 yards. This is the amount a person is able to see through the scope at a distance from right to left. The field of view will decrease as the magnification goes up, and vice versa. The way the eyepiece is constructed will play a direct role in the field of view that it is capable of producing.
h. Turret Adjustments and Minute of Angle (MOA)
Minutes of Angle (MOA) are units of measurement for a circle. It is 1.0472 at 100 yards. Basically, it can be considered one inch at 100 yards. It will increase to two inches at 200 yards, and so forth. The adjustments for a scope are most frequently made in increments that are 1/4 inch at 100 yards.
Every time the windage or elevation turret is clicked, the point of impact is changed 1/4 inch at 100 yards. This impact point will be changed by 1.8 of an inch at 50 yards, or half an inch at 200 yards. You will also be able to find scopes that have clicks that are one inch or half an inch. Scopes will often come with adjustments that can be locked to prevent them from being accidentally moved.
The turrets are located in the middle of the scope in an area known as the turret housing. They can be made to adjust with your fingers or a coin. Target turrets provide clicks that can be felt and seen easily.
3. What Should You Spend? You Get What You Pay For!
At the end of the day, you get what you pay for as far as rifle scopes are concerned. You will be able to see an object much better through an expensive scope than you can through a cheaper model. A scope is something you should really spend a lot of money on. This is assuming you really care about your shooting accuracy.
When you are shopping around and making a rifle scope comparison, use all of the information in this buyer’s guide. It will help you to avoid being ripped off and allow you to get a scope that ideally suits the type of shooting you plan on using it for.