Reader Luke writes:
I’ve been reading TTAG for awhile now and enjoy your posts on long range shooting for beginners, among others, and was looking for some advice. I inherited a Winchester model 70 xtr sporter chambered in .264 Winchester magnum. It’s a great rifle in good shape, but I would like to upgrade the scope from the old Bushnell 3-9×40 that’s on it. I’d like to start pushing the rifle beyond 100 yards and gain confidence to make a 300 yard shot, as everything I’ve read about the caliber says that it’s adequate for deer sized game out to 500 yards. Do you have any advice on what sort of scope I should look at and what kind of fundamentals I should practice in order to get to that point? Anything at all would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
The good news, Luke, is that I have some pretty good suggestions up my sleeves. The bad news is that you’re about to open a wallet sucking Pandora’s box…
There are three things I look for in a scope for my rifles. They are, in descending order of importance:
- The ability to hold zero. No matter how long I shoot, the scope won’t wiggle and the internal mechanics will not shift. Every round will be aimed the same as the last.
- Proper calibration. That the clicks equal whatever they claim to be, that the stadia on the reticle are known and exact.
- Optical clarity. That I can see my target, and preferably what’s beyond.
Doesn’t matter to me where the scope was made or who the manufacturer is, because if a scope has those qualities I’m a happy camper. Those are the qualities needed to make precise shots at distance. And thankfully, there’s a manufacturer that makes scopes that fit those criteria for cheap: Primary Arms.
No, I’m not pimping them because they buy ads on our site. I’m pimping them because they make great stuff. For $200ish, I bought a first focal plane mil-dot scope that has proven to be accurate, reliable, and well built enough to still function flawlessly after thousands of rounds of full power .308 Winchester. And by “function flawlessly” I mean enable me to hit the 1,000 yard steel gong at the end of the range.
That scope is my go-to recommendation for first time long distance shooters. It has all the bells and whistles you need, and at a price you can afford. The only reason it isn’t more expensive (besides the whole “Made in China” thing) is the optical clarity.
The best part about a scope like this one from Primary Arms is that it lets you dip your toe in the waters of long range shooting before you make a major investment. Good glass, like a Nightforce or Swarovski scope, is mindblowingly expensive. So when you finally decide to invest in a scope of theirs, you want to know that you have the right features and the right reticle, not to mention that you actually enjoy this long range stuff.
Primary Arms’ 4-14X44 Mil Dot FFP Scope gives you the “plain vanilla” of long range scopes and reticles, and gives you an idea of what you like and what you don’t like in a scope. And using that, you can base your next purchase on your own opinions instead of some guy on the internet. And you’re not out thousands of dollars on something you thought you’d love, but really don’t.
Everyone’s preferences are different. I can’t stand second focal plane scopes, but some people won’t use anything else. Some people like MILs, some like MoA. Its all a matter of personal preference. And until you have a frame of reference, you don’t know what yours are. That’s the biggest advantage of the Pirmary Arms scope, that it gives you that frame of reference without spending the cash. Plus, if it works for you as-is, your wallet will thank you.