5 Things To Consider Before Buying A New Rifle Scope

how to choose a rifle scope

Captaindan at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Before you buy that new scope for your rifle or shotgun, you need to pump the brakes and make sure you’re getting one for the right reasons. A scope is a tool, and you need to know what task you’re going to ask the tool to do.

In fact, that’s the basic theme of this post. Some scopes are specialized tools (tactical or ultra-long range scopes, etc.) and others (the myriad 3-9x40mm variable scopes) are sort of jacks of all trades. Know what you’re going to do with the scope before you buy it; if you get a scope that’s well-made AND suited to the task at hand, you’ll like the results. If you don’t, well . . .

Before we get into it, you should bear in mind that the amount spent on a scope does not create an equal increase in marksmanship. Some mighty amazing feats of marksmanship were accomplished on scopes that would be considered pitiful by today’s standards, so keep in mind that your scope is a smaller part of the equation than you might think.

It’s like new sights for a pistol; while both make good marksmanship a little easier, neither replaces experience, hard work and sound fundamentals.

However, if you know for a fact that your scope needs replacing or upgrading (it’s broken, it fogs up so bad it belongs in a John Carpenter movie, you can’t see a damn thing through it, the scope is wrong for your intended use) then you should absolutely proceed.

So, what should you be aware of before laying down your hard-earned cash? Here are five things you need to think about before buying a new scope.

Public Domain, Link

Magnification

First, select the appropriate magnification level for the weapon platform and intended use. Some scopes are definitely best for some applications and some aren’t as good for others. In other words, know the range(s) at which you’ll use the rifle, shotgun or pistol at and what magnification level is appropriate.

A 4X fixed power scope is great for moderate distance applications where a wide field of view is required. Obviously, this makes them good for some hunting applications but not necessarily for ultra-long distance benchrest shooting.

An optic like, say, a Leupold Mark 8 3.5-25x56mm scope isn’t the best hunting scope as it’s expensive (over $4000) and heavy, at 2.3 lbs. It’s fantastic from the bench, but not going up and down mountains.

If you need a scope for hunting, what range do you typically shoot game at and in what kind of territory? Remember, the higher the magnification, the narrower the field of view.

If you’re taking a poke at Eastern whitetails across a 75-yard beanfield, a 3-9X scope is almost too much; a 4X fixed power or 2-7X variable power scope is perfect. Stalking amidst dense woods? A 2-7X or 4X fixed is great there too, and so are red dots.

Fixed power, low-magnification variable and red dot scopes are also great for turkey guns. In the plains or mixed timber/open areas of the inland and mountain West, the 3-9X, 4-10X and 4-12X variable scopes reign supreme.

Again, consider the application and make sure you’re choosing the right magnification level.

Reticle

Jellocube27 at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Make sure you’re getting the right reticle for how you’ll be using your scope.

There are many styles of reticles, which we’ve covered before. Consider again what your intended application is and make sure you’re getting the right tool, again, for the task.

Especially if you’ll be shooting and longer ranges, you’ll need to decide between scopes that use mils or MOA angular units of measure. They’re both equally useful, but most shooters stay with the system they’ve been taught.

Do you anticipate holding over for windage and drop at distance? Or will you be dialing your adjustments in?

Plain crosshairs are fine for moderate ranges where holdover isn’t required. If you’re going to reach out and touch something further out there, a mil-dot or MOA duplex reticle is a better choice.

Mounting

Warne Scope Rings. Credit: warnescopemounts.com

You’re going to have to mount your new scope on your rifle or shotgun. Most will use scope rings for a standard rifle optic. Various heights are available to accommodate the shooter and the size of the scope.

If you’re buying a scope for an AR platform rifle, you may want to consider a one-piece mount like this one:

Courtesy Warne

If you already have a scope installed, make sure that your tube is compatible with your rings. The good news is that it probably is, but make sure you check. If so, awesome. If not, you’ll need new rings and – if your rifle requires one – possibly a base.

Again, the good news is that most scopes on the market are 30mm (1 inch) tubes as are most scope rings and therefore don’t necessarily require new rings. Granted, not all are. Larger scopes for long-range applications like the Leupold Mark 8 mentioned above have larger tunes. Again, be sure to check before buying your scope rings or mount.

Features

betancourt from Doylestown, PA, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Fourth, make sure the scope you buy has the features you need for what you intend to do with it, in terms of windage and elevation adjustment, if it has a third turret for drop (calibrated for your caliber and load) and so on.

Granted, you should also consider what features you’ll actually need. Again, if the scope is going on a rifle that isn’t going to be fired at long range, then you just need windage and elevation to get zeroed. If you’re going to be punching steel plates at 1,500 yards, a standard two-turret scope probably isn’t good enough.

Price

Sportsmans Finest, Austin, Texas local gun store

Sportsman’s Finest, Austin, Texas (RF for TTAG)

Finally, the big one. There’s an old rule of thumb that you says you should spend more on your scope than you did on the rifle you’re mounting it on. It’s just a guideline, but not a bad one.

Some scopes are cheap and deservedly so, some scopes are inexpensive and perform incredibly well for the price. Some scopes will cost you late model used car money, and are barely any better than other optics with the same features at half the price. There are some truly excellent mid-shelf scopes as well.

This is where you’ll need to get out there and do your homework. Chances are you can find a great scope for your intended application that won’t bust the bank. Don’t be afraid to spend on quality, but you’d be surprised these days at how much quality you can get for a reasonable amount.

For a hunting rifle, spend an amount that gets you the scope you need, but keep in mind that stuff tends to break in the field. Part with an amount you can afford to replace.

Then again, if you’re building your dream rifle with your dream optic…live your dream and go crazy. In fact, tell us about it in the comments.

Again, the idea is that you’ll get a whole lot more use, more enjoyment and better results if you select a new quality scope that is suited to the task(s) for which you are getting it.

Anything else a shooter should know before buying a new scope? Have any horror stories of a scope you just HATED? Did you get some bargain basement glass that turned out to be a gem? How ’bout Dem Bo…just kidding; the Cowboys suck. Sound off in the comments.

comments

  1. avatar The Rookie says:

    Yeep, I had no idea that there were so many factors to consider.

    (I have almost zero experience with rifles, as you might imagine. All I know for sure is those Russian scopes confuse the hell out of me).

    1. avatar No one of consequence says:

      Spend some time, if possible, looking through other people’s scopes at a range, preferably 2-300 yards or longer so you get a feel for what different magnifications actually do for you and to the image.

      Most shooters won’t mind if you ask nicely, many will even encourage you to take a few shots.

      Ask them why they got the scope they did, what they like, what they don’t like, etc.

      1. avatar Geoff "Bah, Humbug!" PR says:

        And take notes!

  2. avatar Cooter E Lee says:

    It seems to me like I need greater magnification than most folks recommend. (For target, not hunting)

    How can I shoot MOA if I can’t see MOA? At 100 yards, I find I need at least a cheap 4-12x 40 on my AR to shoot 2-3 MOA although there are obviously many other factors. Anything less than 12x and I really can’t seem to see to focus on a 1/2” bullseye.

    Most of my scopes are cheap ~$50 to 200 but I do have a Burris XTR 8-40×50 Which is supposed to be good.

    I’ve resigned myself that scopes are like holsters, you pay to be educated.

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      If you go up ~$100 (less if you find a sale) and slap something like a Leupold VX-3i 2.5-8x32mm on an AR and it doesn’t shoot 1MOA, it’s probably the barrel on the rifle or barrel/ammo combination rather than the optic.

      I run the VX-3i on my competition rifle and it shoots sub-MOA all day. Better with a muffler on the gun but with a slight POI shift.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        ‘If… it doesn’t shoot 1MOA, it’s probably the barrel on the rifle or barrel/ammo combination…’

        Or the shooter. Not all of us put in the time and effort to hone those skills. It’s pretty easy to be a 2 MOA shooter though.

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          I was sort of assuming that the sight-in would be done with the rifle in a proper rest where all you have to do is flick the trigger and see where the bullet goes.

          Glass or irons I dial all my rifles locked in on a Lead Sled so if a shot doesn’t go where I want it to I know that I missed. I can’t blame anything or anyone else, I missed. Figure out why and correct it.

        2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          I should buy a lead sled so I could brag about my groups, but as it is I’m pretty confident that if I miss it’s me not the gun. I don’t practice nearly enough to be much better than OK. Give me a one MOA rifle and I can shoot 2 MOA groups (with an occasional flyer) all day long.

        3. avatar strych9 says:

          Groups off the sled don’t really “matter” IMHO. It’s just to check that everything is put together correctly and put my preferred zero on that particular gun with zero question as to “Was that me or is this off?”.

          It’s meant to eliminate variables and it does that quite well. People who shoot off a sled consistently confuse me.

      2. avatar Cooter E Lee says:

        ^
        |

        This. Lol.

        In my defense, I can shoot my weatherby 308 With a Nikon BDC 300 yards at a 8” steel plate with Tulammo and hit about 75%. But my pattern sucks even at 100 yards.

    2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      ‘How can I shoot MOA if I can’t see MOA?’

      I had the same mentality until I bought a .30-30 with the idea of honing my open sight shooting. The first thing I did was put 20 rounds in a 6″ circle at 100 yards with the bullseye right in the center. A quality high magnification scope would have cut that in half of course, but it did teach me that the muzzle doesn’t wobble any more without a scope than it does with one. Going from 12x or 16x to 0x seemed to be worth about 3 MOA. You do need a bigger bullseye than 1/2″ though. Anyway, I now look at it as a higher magnification is no substitute for quality glass.

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        A quality .30-30 should be able to cut a cigarette in half at 50 yards reliably. A decent shooter should be able to do it offhand. I’ve won a quite bit of money and caused quite a bit of cursing on that bet.

        It’s really all about the application. But the OP does have a point, at a certain distance with a thicker sight you’re guessing where the bullet’s going to go on the target. Aim small, miss small and all that. However, that said, YOUR point is quite valid. Low quality scopes just don’t do precision work regardless of their magnification power. So the question with them becomes are they good enough for the your desired application?

        Personally I’m a precisionist and a perfectionist so “good enough” tends to drive me nuts because in my mind there’s always “better”. OTOH money doesn’t grow on trees and sometimes you just have to admit that you’ve pushed that bottle cap out a bit too far for the platform you’ve got at hand.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          My assumption was that with my skill set (which is admittedly limited) the .30-30 (Marlin 336BL) would be in the 2-3″ group range (for 20 shots) at 100 yards with a proper scope. I’m sure the rifle itself is capable of better. It’s a lot like shooting with an aperture sight, your eye naturally puts the front sight in the center of the aperture. With open sights or a low magnification scope your eye naturally points the brass bead or cross hairs in the center of a larger circle. You’re not going to be quite as precise, but didn’t expect to be shooting MOA with an open sighted lever gun, so I was quite happy with both the gun and my innate ability to shoot it.

          Another thing to consider is that as with most things, if you want a 10% improvement you’re going to double the price. I wouldn’t advocate buying junk, but a lot of us would be better off with a $400-500 scope and $1500 in ammo than a $2000 scope and a 100 round of practice.

        2. avatar strych9 says:

          2-3″ at 100 with a Marlin is, IME, better than most people manage at that range. I usually use a 336W personally just because that’s the Marlin I have. I’m not super familiar with the differences within the 336 family to be honest.

          IME the rifle isn’t gonna be a tack-driver and neither is the round. I find the pattern .30-30 tends to start tight and then begin opening up ~70 yards (However I have not had good luck with Federal Power-Shok 150gr SP). In the most hands it’s a great rifle/round for <200 yards on Midwest deer-sized targets.

        3. avatar Geoff "Bah, Humbug!" PR says:

          “A quality .30-30 should be able to cut a cigarette in half at 50 yards reliably. A decent shooter should be able to do it offhand. I’ve won a quite bit of money and caused quite a bit of cursing on that bet.”

          {Makes mental note not bet on shooting with Strych…}

        4. avatar Charles Brannon says:

          There is exactly ZERO possibility that YOU could cut a cigarette in half, off-hand, at 50 yards, with either a 30-30 or anything else. Stating such really does make you look rather foolish to people who actually do know how to shoot. By the way, I know how to shoot and it would be “John Wayne” shot that I just might luck into on occasion.

      2. avatar Geoff "Bah, Humbug!" PR says:

        “… it did teach me that the muzzle doesn’t wobble any more without a scope than it does with one.”

        At least for me, that’s somewhat debatable.

        Through the scope, the apparent ‘wobble’ is greatly exaggerated (compared to the irons), and I can at least counteract for *some* of it. If anything, for me it helped ‘train out’ some of that wobble.

        (If that makes any sense…)

    3. avatar WARFAB says:

      On the flip side, there are service rifle competitors who shoot sub-moa with iron sights.

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        One of my favorite internet videos ever is some old guy who spends like 10 minutes talking up the Sharps. At the end he says that everyone’s probably thinking he’s just full of it.

        Puts on his glasses, loads, shoulders this thing and pops a 8″ steel target at 1000 yards with the irons on the first shot. Hot damn.

  3. avatar hoosier_grand_daddy says:

    One correction : 30 mm is not one inch as your paragraph on mounting implied. One inch equals approximately 25.4 mm. Also note one of the new scope trends is 34 mm tubes. All of these size differences require different sized rings. The rings must match the tube diameter.

    1. avatar Rad Man says:

      Beat me to it.

      1. avatar Dave G says:

        Me too.

  4. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    You should tinker around with a ballistic calculator before choosing between Mils and MOA. I found with my .260 that if it’s sighted in 2-1/2″ high at 100 yards I hit the mils (+/-1/10th mil) at 1 = 350yds, 2 = 450yds, 3 = 550yds, 4 = 650yds, 5 = 725yds, and 6 = 800yds. This was adjusted for a shorter (18-1/2″) barrel and the local elevation. It holds a =/-3″ zero out to around 265 yards. Most of the time the MOA numbers are too odd to remember and most of the ballistic drop reticles don’t work out quite right either. Make sure to match your reticle to your cartridge.

    1. avatar SAFEupstateFML says:

      From someone who has mostly used an issued red dot thank you. Took a little looking up on the mils but I see how that would work now.

  5. avatar Jim from LI says:

    I would love being able to follow that rifle$ = scope$ rule but the money simply isn’t there. So I buy cheap scopes. Since they’re only being used for a day at the range, where the maximum distance is 200 yards, I do just fine. No one’s life depends on my making my shot, and I’m certainly not going on a once in a lifetime hunt, so I can’t justify the expense. If the scope breaks in a few years, I’ll toss it in the can and buy another. By then China Inc. will have even better knockoffs.

    1. avatar Adam says:

      Not sure why would come here and support buying knock offs.

      1. avatar Xaun Loc says:

        Perhaps for one of three reasons:

        1. He understands that ALL scopes are basically knockoffs of previous scopes with either improvements or gimmicks added.

        or

        2. He understands that ALL the GOOD mid-priced and ALL low-priced scopes are knockoffs of more expensive scopes.

        or

        3. He accepts the fact of #2 and acknowledges that he knows the scopes he buys are based on designs of more expensive scopes — and he understands that those copies really do keep getting better (which is exactly what he said so it is probably the most reasonable explanation I can offer for the reading impaired).

      2. avatar Jim from LI says:

        Wasn’t aware that unless I supported top shelf, high price brands I wasn’t welcome here.

    2. avatar Cooter E Lee says:

      I like my $40 cvlife 2.5-10 scope on my diamondback AR for shooting standing/moving and not for precision. i have magpul backup sights so if the scope breaks, I can just loosen the screws and toss it. It seems to hold zero pretty well over 1000 rounds. Don’t be shamed by having cheap glass.

      There was a point where cheap glass was WORSE than no glass but I think those days are past.

  6. avatar Ken says:

    What about eye relief?

  7. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    For most hunting applications at 350 yards and under (point-blank zero ranges with many high powered rifles), you can hunt quite successfully with a 4 or 6X, fixed power scope.

    Fixed power scopes have much to recommend them:

    1. They’re simpler, with less to break or get knocked out of adjustment.
    2. As a result, they’re more reliable.
    3. As a result, they’re cheaper.
    4. As a result of their modest magnification, you have large exit pupil sizes with relatively small objective sizes. Eg, the Leupold 6×42 fixed power scope gives you a 7mm exit pupil, which means you’re gathering lots of light with that scope for shooting in early morning or late afternoon times.
    5. If you shoot enough in practice with them with even just a duplex reticle, you’ll figure out how to hold for range & wind pretty easily, and if the conditions are outside the hold-offs you use on a duplex scope, you should probably move closer anyway.

    There’a reason why so many target shooters also used to use fixed power scopes – eg, the fixed power Unertls in external adjustment mounting systems. Those Unertls were even more simple than today’s fixed power scopes – they were not only fixed power, they also had fixed crosshairs. There was no adjustment for windage or elevation inside the scope – that was done on the mounts for the scope.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Dyseptic Gunsmith brings up a crucial point for applications shooting in low light: exit pupil.

      Young eyes’ pupils will dilate to a maximum of about 7mm which gathers maximum light in low light conditions. Older eyes might only dilate to 5mm for maximum light gathering in low light. If your scope’s “exit pupil” is smaller than your eye’s actual pupils in low light, then your image will begin to darken through the scope. Thus, you want to match your scope’s worst-case exit pupil to your eyes.

      And how do you determine your scope’s exit pupil? Simple: divide the size of the objective lens of your scope by the magnification. If your objective lens is 40mm and your magnification (whether fixed or what you dialed with a variable power scope) is 6x, then your exit pupil is 40mm / 6 = 6.67mm.

      Thus, for hunting purposes in low light, you want to match maximum desired magnification with a minimum allowable objective lens to ensure that you do not darken the images in your scope.

      Here are some examples:
      32mm objective lens — maximum magnification = 5x
      40mm objective lens — maximum magnification = 6x
      50mm objective lens — maximum magnification = 7x

      While you can certainly use magnifications greater than those numbers for a given objective lens size, your images will start to darken in low light.

      Happy hunting and target shooting!

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        Just an observation but exit pupil seems to be a flawed measurement since the light gathering area of a lens doesn’t double when the diameter of the lens is doubled but quadruples. In your example, the total lens area of the 32mm objective is 804 square millimeters (radius squared times pi). Divide by 5 = 160.85. The 50mm objective on the other hand equals 1963sq/mm so (theoretically) a 12×50 scope would be a touch brighter than a 5×32.

        1. avatar Geoff "Bah, Humbug!" PR says:

          “light gathering area of a lens doesn’t double when the diameter of the lens is doubled but quadruples.”

          Quadruple the area of the lens doesn’t result in 4X the perceived brightness, human eyes register light on a logarithmic scale, if memory serves…

        2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Governor Le Petomane,

          It isn’t about the area of the objective lens. It is about the diameter of the image exiting the scope’s eyepiece. A tiny image (circle of light) exiting the eyepiece has to spread out over the entire area of your retina which decreases the amount of light per square mm. A relatively larger image (circle of light) exiting the eyepiece doesn’t have to spread out as much to illuminate your entire retina.

          Consider extremes. Imagine that the visual receptor area of your retina is 200 square mm. If the image exiting the eyepiece is only only 1mm in diameter, the optic system has to spread that tiny column of light onto all 200 square mm of your retina. On the other hand, if the image exiting the eyepiece is 6mm in diameter, the optic system doesn’t have to spread that column of light as much to illuminate all 200 square mm of your retina.

          Now keep in mind this is referring to relative brightness for a given objective lens size. Once magnification gets high enough where the exit pupil is smaller than your eyes’ pupils, the images will begin to darken as you further increase magnification for that objective lens size.

          As far as actual brightness, I believe that a scope with a huge objective lens and a small exit pupil (say 4mm) probably does produce brighter images than a scope with a tiny objective lens and a 6mm exit pupil.

        3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          ‘Once magnification gets high enough where the exit pupil is smaller than your eyes’ pupils…’

          You might be on to something here. I just made an observation with my Leupold 3-9×40 peering down a dark ally toward a house illuminated by a street light and both at 3x and 9x the scope seemed noticeably brighter than my naked eye. Perhaps extra objective diameter is wasted on our human eyes.

    2. avatar Mark N. says:

      I have a 4x fixed on my .22 with a duplex reticle. The only time I really disliked it was when I was shooting at a 3′ tall half torso at 250 yards, and the holdover to get there put me in the sky. It was impossible to be consistent, at least with my untrained skill set, because there was no aiming point, just guestimation. (Nonetheless, I was pretty happy, having never shot that far, to land at least half of my shots.) I have been looking for a replacement scope with a holdover reticle (either moa or mil, but not BDC) at a reasonable cost, but I swear you can spend hours on the net looking at scopes and not finding what you want. Almost all of the rimfire scopes are plain reticles or BDC.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        ‘…you can spend hours on the net looking at scopes and not finding what you want.’

        I’ve notice that too.

  8. avatar Tex300BLK says:

    The biggest thing I see is that people dont match their budget to the features they want on a given scope.

    If your budget is $500 or less you should be looking for something SFP with a 3:1 or 4:1 zoom range (ie. 1-4, 3-9, 4.5-14, 2.5-10, 4-16, 6-24 etc), wire reticle, capped turrets (or something very simple like the Leupold CDS). All of these compromises allow you to get the best possible glass and best internal components for the money spent.

    Things like first focal plane glass etched reticles, 5:1/6:1/8:1 zoom ranges, exposed tactical style turrets, etc. cost money, and when you put them in a budget minded package either glass quality or internal mechanical quality suffer. There’s no way around this. You get a scope that looks cool, but the turrets dont track or return to zero, or the glass quality suffers so much that you cant resolve targets out past 200yds or cant use it in the forst or last hour of the day. More often than not, both of these things suffer.

    You want those things? expect to pay more money.

    A good example of this I’ll tell a story about 2 scopes I have that I paid nearly the same price for:
    One is a Vortex PST Gen1 ffp 4-16×50. Its a great scope for the money, retailed around $900 and I was able to snag it for $500 at a clearance sale right before the Gen2 launched. Turrets tracked, still one of my favorite reticles to date (EBR-2C) decent resolution on deer sized game out to 400yds or so, reasonable low light performance, and enough clarity to shoot steel out to 1000 all the way up to dusk. It still left a lot to be desired in some circumstances but is still the absolute minimum I would recommend to someone looking to get their money’s worth from a budget long range rig. It works because it has the features I needed and conformed to the MSRP limits in the PRS “Production” class I was shooting in at the time.

    The second is a Leupold VX3i 4.5-14 CDS that I bought on sale for $400 for a lightweight hunting rig. The glass on that scope is impeccable, one time at the range just for grins I used it to spot trace from a friend shooting his 7mm Rem Mag at 750yds, I was able to clearly see this with no problem. The sacrifice for getting such great glass in such a cheap package is that it has a capped windage knob, no illumination, simple duplex wire reticle, and very modest 3:1 zoom range. The CDS is the only “feature” it has, but it holds zero, tracks well (I’ve used the CDS to take deer out to 375yds with it), has amazing clarity (can easily count antler points and identify legal vs non-legal deer at any range I hunt at with it) and is perfect for what I do with it. It’s now on the rifle I loan out to friends when we go hunting and does exactly what I need it to. My Vortex does well too, but the glass quality cant hold a candle to the Leupold that retails for half as much.

    I have since upgraded the Gen1 PST to a Razor HD AMG which absolutely smokes both of those scopes in features and quality… but I also paid out the nose for it. There’s no free lunches here.

  9. avatar DV sean says:

    I have 2 ffp scopes from Falcon that I haven’t had any issues with and these were the cheapest for scopes on the market when I purchased them. I could use more bottom end clicks on my LR setup but I make 1000yd hits easily. They dont boast the supreme quality of scopes over $1500 but it does get the job done.

  10. avatar former water walker says:

    For my senior citizen needs I got a red/green dot and a 3X magnifier. And it works fantastically well. Now I have groups! Albeit at 75 feet in a fairly dark Shoot Point Blank range. I’m quite open to a long range scope and may experiment with cheap crap from Cabelas. But I don’t have anywhere to shoot long range unless my idiot friend near the Bonfield(Kankakee),ILL NRA range lets me shoot with him. It may all change if I get bifocals😕

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      I have a cataract in my shooting eye that makes shooting at range a guessing game. I can hit the target, but no groups for me. I can’t wait for it to be replaced in a month and a half. The lens I am getting will even correct my astigmatism. For the first time in my life I will be able to shoot without glasses!

      1. avatar former water walker says:

        Good luck! Can they fix old?!?😯

        1. avatar Geoff "Bah, Humbug!" PR says:

          You don’t want the old ones, trust me.

          In about a month both of my cataracts are coming out as well, and it will be nice to drive at night with ease. Cataracts suck. Getting my myopia permanently cured as well will be *sweet*…

    2. avatar Ironhead says:

      Jasper pulaski in indiana has a 200 yard range. Good place to start and it’s free.

      1. avatar former water walker says:

        Thanks! I see it’s in Wheatfield. Very doable. Are Illinois residents OK there? Thanks again!

  11. avatar Gun Smoker says:

    Where are you coward James C from Dallas?

    1. avatar Manly Man says:

      I’ve got a gun you can smoke, ‘gun smoker’

      it’s long and hard, just how you like it, yeah

  12. avatar Red in CO says:

    Excellent article, thank you. I just purchased my first full power, precision bolt gun and the world of magnified optics is fairly new to me. I’m well versed in the use of iron sights and red dots but this is my first gun that will have a scope on it

  13. avatar SkorpionFan says:

    “Especially if you’ll be shooting and longer ranges, you’ll need to decide between scopes that use mils or MOA angular units of measure.”

    Or maybe you decide instead to use a reticle that has a reticle with rapid range finding and Bullet Drop Compensating (holdover) like the Shepherd Scopes. The reticle has a series of  circles in a vertical line. The size of each circle corresponds to target size at specific range (200 yards, 300 yards, etc) and the vertical location of the circle compensates for the holdover/bullet drop at that distance.

    You need to select the correct reticle for the target size (see chart below) and ballistics (bullet drop at distances) using info on Shepherd’s website. To use, just aim the rifle so the target is in the circle that best fits it, then fire. Range and bullet drop are taken care of without having to do the MOA or mil math, and it works on all the magnification settings, not just the highest magnification setting. Shepherd patented using the circles to do both ranging and bullet drop at the same time. Most articles have ranging finding and bullet drop/holdover as separate areas on the reticle and performed as separate steps. Shepherd reticle also has MOA marks along the top and right side for ranging if you want to use them.

    Example: Brisket area of a deer is about 18″. Adjust your aim (not the elevation knob on scope) to find the circle that best fits the deer. Fire. Range and holdover is taken care of.
    See graphic of reticle overlaid on deer at 500 yards at this website
    http://www.longrangescopes.com/Page3.html

    I’d like to see an article on TTAG comparing the different ranging and holdover calculating reticles available today. We can easily google the MOA vs. mils reticle systems, but please show what else is available with pros and cons. 

    Explanation from Shepherd.
    For quick range finding there are a series of circles in the first focal plane reticle that are a based on a target size at distances.  Reticles are available in 9”, 18”, and 24” stadia circle.  As long as you know the approximate size of the target you can use the circles to find its range.  Below are some common target sizes.

    COMMON TARGET SIZES:
    DEER 18″ FROM SHOULDER TO BRISKET
    ELK AND LARGE GAME 24” CHEST AREA – 18″ FROM NOSE TO BACK OF HEAD (OR USE THE CIRCLE THAT FILLS 3/4 OF ITS BODY MASS)
    COYOTE 9” FOR CHEST AREA – 18″ STANDING FROM GROUND TO TOP OF BACK
    PRAIRIE DOGAN ADULT IS 9″ LONG OR USE HALF OF AN 18” CIRCLE
    MILITARYSILHOUETTE TARGET IS 18” TO 20” ACROSS THE SHOULDERS

    As an example, let’s say there is a deer standing 500 yards away from a hunter.  Using the series of decreasingly smaller circles, match the chest area of the deer in the circle that fits. The number beside that circle is the range, in this case 5.  By using the center of the circles, the scope is automatically compensating for the bullet drop at that range.  Just Fit and Fire – it’s that simple!

  14. avatar former water walker says:

    Just a suggestion but there’s a multitude of scope videos on YouTube. Mrgunsngear is my favorite. Nutnfancy is good but his videos are twice as long as need be😩… way more dudes good and not so good.

  15. avatar Nanook says:

    There is no reason to buy a poor quality hunting scope, the prices are pretty reasonable for a basic good quality hunting scope. A fixed power or variable scope can be had for a couple hundred bucks that has good quality glass and is fog proof, I use Leupold and have had good hunting success. You can buy yourself critical low-light hunting time with a scope along with the ability to reach out a couple hundred yards when needed. This article fails to mention the need to place the scope in the proper position on the rifle for eye relief and height. Don’t buy a scope that won’t fit properly on your rifle. If it has to sit too high to clear, or too far away or too close for proper eye distance (relief)…You haven’t done yourself any favors putting the wrong scope on, you could also injure yourself by having your face too close to a scope…

  16. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    For hunting applications at ranges inside of 300 yards, I like quality scopes that are great values. I have never had any regrets with recent $250 Nikon scopes. They seem to provide sharp, bright, high-contrast images and they always seem to stay on target.

    And I have had similar results with other brands in that price range for hunting applications at modest ranges.

    1. avatar JoeV says:

      I have a Nikon Prostaff 3-9×40 BDC on a .270. Clear glass. Very bright. Inexpensive. Most of my shots at whitetail between 100 and 250 yards. Usually under $200. Good value for the money for what I’m doing.

  17. avatar Mark N. says:

    My only need is for target shooting at range with a .308. I bought a Primary Arms 4-14x44mm FFP Rifle Scope – Illuminated ACSS-HUD-DMR-308 on Saturday for $279. (Then they put their entire site on sale of 12% off on Sunday!!!) I think it will get me as far as any range around here will allow–and the one that will allow at least 600 yds and possibly 1000 yds is still waiting to get its final approvals to be built. the scope is well reviewed and has a range finding holdover reticle.

  18. avatar tommy haltom says:

    I like the last comment “Dallas sucks”, no doubt this is correct.

  19. avatar RGP says:

    No mention of eye relief.

    1. avatar Montesa_vr says:

      4″ is ideal, anything less than 3.5 might have you getting stitches in your eyebrow sooner or later (assuming you are shooting something with 30.06 recoil or worse).

      1. avatar RGP says:

        True, which is why the author shouldn’t have omitted it. Then again most people shoot mouse guns these days…

    2. avatar Southern Cross says:

      It’s why I like my Leupold VX III. Lots of eye relief. And the Leupold M8 has a huge amount of eye relief. No Weatherby eyebrows with that one.

  20. avatar skril says:

    1 inch = 25.4mm NOT 30mm. It is important to know the difference in tube size from 1 inch to 30 mm especially when choosing your mounts.
    30mm diameter rings/mounts won’t work on a scope with a 1 inch diameter tube and vice versa.

  21. avatar skril says:

    1 inch = 25.4mm NOT 30mm. It is important to know the difference between scopes. 30mm diameter rings / mounts will not work on scope with a 1 inch diameter tube and vice versa. This is very important to get correct in your article.

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      Just try putting a 30mm scope tube into 1″ rings. It may fit, after quite a few hits with the large hammer. But the scope may not be usable.

      1″ < 30mm.

  22. avatar Mack McKenzie says:

    Who proof reads your published material. Very poor. Numerous mistakes (grammatical) in the article.

  23. avatar Bill says:

    I don’t have lot of experience with scopes; I’m getting lots of good information here. I am thinking of buying a Ruger 10/22 with the bull barrel (model is called match target I believe); I plan on shooting out to 100 yards with it, no more. Any recommendations on a scope? I would like to spend around $100.00, maybe a bit more.
    I have a new AR with a red dot on it, but just saw a friend with an AR that had a Cabella’s scope, AR model with 1X6 magnification on it. It lists at Cabellas for $199.00. Has anyone used this scope before, and if you don’t like this what did you put on an AR that was worth the money? I plan on spending about $200.00.

    Thanks for any advice on this.

  24. avatar Wally1 says:

    I was so impressed with Leupold scout scopes that I have them on three rifles. Best part about a scout scope is getting on target very fast and light weight. . I don’t take 500 yard shots on anything. I hunt in heavy woods and most shots are 100 yards or less. Your mileage may vary.

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