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Choosing a New Scope


Rifle hunters are a peculiar lot. We argue over certain calibers, certain brands, actions and optics. I have listened to many arguments among friends that are centered around calibers or optics. It seems when it comes to rifle hunters they are very passionate about their optics. Leopold, Nikon, Bushnell,  Zeiss, Burris, Tasco, etc, etc. Hunters are very passionate about their optics.

In the Carolina’s and southeast in general we really do not have the need for some of the more high end scopes designed for spotting and shooting at game out to extreme yardages. Most of the whitetails we kill are well inside of two hundred yards. That being said, I will open the proverbial can of worms and delve into my opinion of good, quality scopes for rifles.

I will start with magnification. There are two choices here, variable and fixed power. For ninety five percent of our applications, the common variable 3×9 is more than sufficient to handle all of our situations. I currently use this variable magnification and believe it to be excellent for most of my applications. I have tried the 2.5×10, and even have a 6×18 power scope for longer ranges, I find this too strong for all but extreme situations. The good ole 3×9 seems to handle them all. For most of the time, I leave it set at 6 power and very seldom move it from these setting unless the lighting is so that I need lower magnification or if the target exceeds two hundred yards.

For fixed power scopes, I really wish I could find a 5 power scope, this seems to me to be the best of all. It is good at close ranges and will work out to 150 yards also. But without this option, either a fixed 4x or 6x will work well. As stated above personally, I prefer the 6x, but this is largely a matter of preference. Fixed power scopes are better for carbines, short action or thick cover. I really like its use when still hunting with a short carbine lever action. This gives me quick target acquisition and allows for fast follow up shots if needed.

Asking a hunter about the brand of scope they prefer is like asking them what they drive. Again I will delve into the miry waters of discussion of brands. There are many excellent brands of scopes, all of the top brands work well. I have read many writers who have said, you should get the best scope you can afford. However being the frugal one that I am, I need a bit more explanation. For the life of me I cannot justify spending thousands of dollars for a hunting scope. I have shot guns that carry brands of scopes that cost more than the truck I currently drive and I cannot see that big of a difference. Let me explain it like this. There is a huge difference between cheap scopes and good scopes. But not a big difference between good scopes and excellent scopes. In other words, once you get to a certain level, you are paying for the name on the scope, not the optics inside the scope. Is there a six hundred dollar difference between a $50 scope and a $650 scope? You bet there is and it is remarkable the difference. But when the same questions is applied to the highest end scopes I am not so sure. So let’s ask, is there a fifteen hundred dollar difference between a $600 scope and a $2100? I cannot find one myself. Under the overwhelming majority of situations there just is not enough of a difference in my opinion. Having said that, there are a lot of options in the $400-$700 price range which is where the break seems to be occurring.

For my money, nothing beats the Bushnell offerings of scopes in this price range. The Legend, Legend HD and Elite all are excellent scopes that are durable, clear, fog and rain proof, and offer excellent target acquisition. You may prefer a Nikon, Zeiss, Tasco, or Burris. That is fine, I drive a Ford, and you drive a Chevy, they are both excellent. Suffice it to say, get a scope you have confidence in and you cannot go wrong.

Lastly, and this is far more important than it may seem at first.  A good scope is useless without a good set of bases and rings to hold it. Next post we will look at bases and rings and how to choose these for your scope.