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The Ultimate Rifle Scope Buying Guide

     When most modern shooters consider purchasing a new rifle, the concept of mating their new rifle with a new rifle scope is often a foregone conclusion and thus, many shooters automatically figure the cost of a new scope into the price of the rifle without really thinking about it. But, while modern hunters enjoy all of the advantages of high quality, precision ground, optical glass, lenses with proprietary lens coatings contained within a relatively compact, lightweight, scope tube, there was a time not too long ago when rifle scopes were primitive by today’s standards. In fact, the first rifle scopes were actually more akin to telescopes in that they employed extra long, excessively heavy, brass scope tubes with hand-ground lenses that provided only moderate, fixed power, magnification and provided far less clarity than the crystal clear images we see through today’s rifle scopes. Fortunately, modern advances in rifle scope technology have enabled scope manufacturers to produce a wide range of high quality rifle and handgun scopes in a wide range of prices to suit the needs of a wide range of modern hunters. But, simply taking a glance a single rifle scope manufacturer’s web site these days can lead to mind boggling confusion with all of the different models to choose from! Then, there are all of those technical specifications! So, how do you choose the best possible rifle scope for your particular purpose?


Rifle Scope Buyer’s Guide:

     The first step to understanding how to choose the best possible rifle scope for your intended purpose is understand rifle scope anatomy so that you understand what all the different parts of a rifle scope are, what function they perform, and how they affect the scope’s performance. For instance, if you are hunting at close range, in thick cover, with low ambient light, you might want a fixed power scope with a magnification of 1.5X to 4X with either a Duplex or a Target Dot Reticle. However, if you are hunting in open woods or large agricultural fields, then you would want a scope with a variable power range and either fine or medium crosshairs because the large majority of your shots are likely to be taken at ranges greater than 100 yards. Also, when hunting in low ambient light conditions, you would want a scope with a large Objective Lens so that it will collect the maximum amount of light possible for the brightest possible sight picture. However, it should be noted that for any given diameter Objective Lens, when you increase the magnification of a rifle scope, you also decrease the size of the Exit Pupil and thus, a rifle scope with a larger Objective Lens will provide a brighter sight picture at higher magnifications because it has a larger Exit Pupil. In addition, the type and number of coatings on the lenses are of significant importance because they will affect both the amount of light transmitted through the Scope Tube as well as the clarity of the Sight Picture. Thus, the more lenses that are coated and, the more coatings each lens has, the greater the clarity of the sight picture will be. In addition, you also need to choose a scope with the correct amount of eye relief for the caliber of the rifle you are shooting because the recoil generated when firing the rifle can cause the Eye Bell to impact your eye socket. Furthermore, if you are planning on consistently shooting at very long ranges, then you should consider a scope with high profile target/tactical turrets to enable you to quickly and easily make adjustments to your bullet’s point of impact due to changes in wind speed, elevation, and/or humidity. Also, you should consider purchasing a model with a Parallax Adjustment Ring so that you can quickly and easily adjust the amount of parallax in your scope for a clear sight picture at varying ranges. Last, you definitely want to purchase a scope that is designated as waterproof and fogproof and scopes filled with Argon/Krypton gas mixture are a better choice than scopes filled with Nitrogen gas because the Argon and Krypton atoms are significantly larger than the Nitrogen atom and thus, the Krypton and Argon atoms are less likely to migrate from the hypertonic atmosphere inside of the scope tube to the hypotonic atmosphere outside of the scope tube.


Rifle Scope Anatomy -

     So, now that you understand the basic criteria for purchasing a rifle scope, a more in depth examination of a rifle scope’s anatomy is in order to enable you to better understand what each term means and how it affects the performance of the scope.














     So, the answer to the question of how to choose the best possible rifle scope for your intended purpose is to first understand that some rifle scopes are best suited for short range shooting whereas, others are best suited for long range shooting. But, what makes a rifle scope better suited for one purpose than the other you might wonder? Well, because shooters sometimes engage targets at relatively close ranges, they need a rifle scope with a wide field of view and a low degree of magnification so that they can easily acquire their target. Therefore, rifle scopes designed for short range shooting will have a large objective lens and a large exit pupil with either a fixed or variable, but low, degree of magnification. However, because other shooters commonly engage targets at long ranges, they need a rifle scope with a more narrow field of view and a much higher degree of magnification so that they can clearly see their target over long distances. Next, there is the issue of fixed power versus variable power rifle scopes. While most shooters tend to prefer variable power rifle scopes, it should be noted that they do have more moving parts and they do require more internal lenses than fixed power rifle scopes and thus, some shooters feel that variable power scopes are more prone to failure and that they do not provide as clear a sight picture as a fixed power rifle scope. Plus, variable power rifle scopes are inevitably heavier than fixed power rifle scopes due to the greater number of lenses required to create variable magnification levels. Then, there is the matter of reticle design since there are several of them to choose from and, just like rifle scopes, some are better suited for one purpose than another. For instance, the standard Fine Crosshair Reticle is well suited for stationary close range targets as well as long range targets where the hunter has plenty of time to acquire the target in the scope’s sight picture but, it is not particularly well suited for moving targets; especially those at close ranges. Therefore, when hunting fast moving game species at close ranges, the Duplex Reticle or the Target Dot Reticle is a far better choice for most hunters. Then, there are several different types of range finding reticles which are favored by military and police personnel such as the Mil Dot Reticle, the Modern Range Finding Reticle and, the SVD Type reticle. Therefore, the basic criteria for choosing the best rifle scope for your intended purpose is to choose one with an appropriate level or range of magnification as well as the correct reticle. From there, choosing the right rifle scope becomes a matter of comparing technical specifications such as the size of the Objective Lens, the size of the Exit Pupil, the number and type of lens coatings is has and, how much you are willing to spend in order to obtain the level of performance you require.




Written by,


Bill Bernhardt

Outdoor Professional