You must be selective and do your research when choosing a scope for your precision rifle system.
When building a precision rifle system the selection of a scope is as critical, and sometimes as expensive as the rifle itself. The options and quality has increased exponentially in the last 10-15 years. If you don’t take the proper time and research you may end up with a scope that doesn’t perform to your expectations.
Since Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock and Major Jim Land pushed for the establishment of a permanent Scout Sniper School after the Vietnam War there has been much advancement in the scopes used by precision rifle shooters. The US Marine Corps adopted the fixed 10x Unertl USMC Sniper Scope with MilDot retical and BDC Elevation turrets in the 1980’s. For the longest time it, along with the Leupold Ultra M3A 10×42mm fixed-power scope used by the US Army, the fixed power scope with MilDot reticle was the standard for precision rifle shooters. With advancements in areas such as computerized machining capabilities and the use of laser etching on lenses that has all changed.
Experience has shown that precision rifle shooters in the military (Snipers) needed an optic that allowed them to engage faster and more accurately in multiple target rapid engagement situations. This lead to the development of scopes that had a variable powered magnification and gridded or dropdown reticles. These options have revolutionized and expanded the precision shooters scope options.
There are many things to consider when determining what type of scope to buy but the intended use is the most important. Scopes now are available for almost every shooting discipline from hunting, competitions, to military/law enforcement applications. Over the next few posts I will be sharing thoughts on things such as magnification, elevation & windage turrets, parallax adjustment, and more.
The rifle optics industry has grown so has the available optics that can be installed on a rifle. Just because they make it and it has some “cool” tactical name in front of it doesn’t mean it will serve the purpose you want the scope for.
Scopes are now made for personal defense, short range shooting, long range shooting, three gun & precision rifle competitions, and tactical applications in both MIL and LE. Some are classified as short range scopes and others are long range scopes. You will need to determine what you need and then you’ll begin to categorize the scopes for you.
Some options will overlap making it necessary to prioritize your needs. Magnification, Field of View, and Eye Relieve are important aspects of a scope and in determine the use. Scopes with low power (magnification) ranges or scopes with variable low power ranges, give the shooter a larger field of view and eye relief is at a premium. What this means is that your eye doesn’t have to be in the perfect center of the ocular lens to be able to see through it. So it is easier to throw the gun up fast and be able to acquire the target. Whether big bore dangerous game guns, AR-15’s or any rifle that is meant for use at short ranges. The low power scopes really stand out for these guns, allowing max field of view and quick engagements with a little more precision.
While hunting with a scope that has high power ranges, the ability to see more really opens up possibilities. Being able to see if that deer has a drop tine or not. The ability to really measure the horns while trophy hunting. The capability to scan terrain properly and not miss an animal bedded in the brush. Any of these points can be a make or break factor in your hunt and having enough magnification on your scope can set you apart from the rest, when it comes to having a successful hunt.
When shooting competitions, where target acquisition is paramount, low power optics serve this purpose well. They offer speed with an advantage of having “some” power range to magnify the target for more precise aiming and or the ability to have positive identification (PID). This is one point where 2nd focal plane scopes may have an advantage because the reticle in a second focal plane scope stays the same size in appearance no matter the power setting. When the scope is dial back to a lower power, the shooter can still see the reticle, where when using a 1st focal plane scope the reticle shrinks and grows with power ranges. Thus while at a low power setting, the shooter may have more trouble being able to see the reticle. This is the only advantage of 2nd focal plane scopes.
When target shooting, you need to be able to maximize the capability of your rifle. You are able to get the most out of your rifle when you have a scope with high quality glass that will let you do it. With low quality glass, you may have the best rifle available and never be able to see the quality due to poor scope selection.
Power range is one option that allows you to see more. If you can see better you can shoot better. The ability to be able to see mirage allows you to be able to read the wind better. Remember you can always turn the power down but you can never turn it up if you don’t have it to start with.
Variable power or fix, low power vs. high, small vs. large Field of View, and Eye Relief are options you will have to decide on. Fixed power scopes are an option, but the variable power scopes will give you more options and allow the use of the scope to have more variety. If you’re looking for an “all purpose” scope, look hard at variable power, 1st Focal Plane options.
Here is a list of the Best Long-Range Tactical Scopes used by the Precision Rifle Competition Pros: PrecisionRifleBlog.com