With all the new fangled features and scary technical terms, choosing a right long range rifle scope can be scary for someone unacquainted.
In this article I will be explaining the important components of a scope and what considerations a person might have when purchasing a scope.
There are a variety of shooting activities that a person might engage in which all have different needs but the key here is to be sure of your purpose and know which features you can compromise on.
Choosing a Long Range Rifle Scope
1. Optical Power
A scope’s name contains information on its Optical Power. For instance, the Bushnell Tactical 10×40 Rifle Scope tells us that it magnifies the image 10 times when looked through the scope compared to the naked eye.
We call this magnification ‘10 power’ and the scope would be called a ‘10 by 40 scope’. If the numbers were ‘10-20×40’ this tells us that the scope is variable power and the magnification can be adjusted from 10x to 20x. The ‘40’ at the end represents the objective lens diameter. More on that later. This is then called a ‘10 to 20 by 40’ scope.
The first consideration when picking a rifle scope will be it’s Optical Power.
Is the scope fixed power or variable? Should I opt for high power or low power?
Hunters will want to use a variable scope and compromise power for a longer field of vision. With greater power comes a narrower field of view. Hunting usually takes place up to 100 yards away from the target. Doing the math, a 3x scope will make the target seem 33 yards away from you while a 10x scope will make it seem 10 yards away.
This is a good range to consider as you will also have to search for the animal against deep foliage. As the animal might wander nearer and further away, a variable scope would prove adequate. By this logic, a 3-9×40 scope would be adequate for this specific situation.
A target shooter, on the other hand, might pick a higher magnification as they only need to be able to see the target card. Benchrest shooting at 100 yards can warrant a magnification between 10x to 20x.
This boils down more to the comfort of a shooter. Moreover, a fixed power scope is simpler to use, more consistent and easier to use. They can potentially be cheaper too and more befitting of a benchrest shooter.
2. Objective Lens
Earlier I mentioned the Objective Lens diameter. The main function of a Objective Lens is to let light into the rifle scope. A larger diameter will mean that more light is captured and improve the transmission of light.
This could be beneficial if you find yourself shooting in low light situations often. Scopes with high power will need more light coming in, which explains the correlation between objective diameter and power.
Of course, there is a trade off which is that scopes with larger objective diameters are heavier and bulkier. This poses problems with transporting the rifle and also makes it difficult to keep a good cheek weld when looking through scope. This could possibly be solved with a cheek riser. A larger objective lens will also require larger mounting rings.
With this trade off in mind, you will have to consider whether portability is important for you and whether you can bear that extra weight. 40mm is a fairly common specification and an objective lens larger than this is usually only warranted by magnifications of 15x or more.
The reticle, also know as a crosshair, is the point that point that you aim at in your field of view. There are tons of reticles for every shooting purpose and hunting condition. Leopold has a great catalog of all the possible crosshairs and what they look like. Some things to consider might include:
Type of Feature
Crosshairs come in all shapes and sizes – quite literally. There are dot reticles, german reticles and even christmas tree reticles. The most common are the Duplex reticle, the BDC (Ballistic Drop Compensator) reticle, and the Mildot. To quickly summarize, the first is the most common simplest, no-frills option. The second is has lines Which serve as points to aim at during holdover. The Mildot is are complex tactical lens that can be difficult to properly use but are still used for the military aesthetic. An illuminated crosshair can be used for night shoots.
Thickness of Crosshair
The thicker lines will increase the level of contrast between the background and the crosshair and how easy it is to see in low light conditions. The thinner the lens, the finer a distinction can be made hence can improve accuracy.
FFP (First Focal plane) or SFP (Second Focal Plane)
WIth FFP, it basically means that, with a variable power scope, the size of the reticle changes with the level of magnification. The substention – which refers to the amount of space covering the target by the crosshair – remains the same. The converse is true for SFP.
While these are the 3 most important factors in your purchase, other considerations might include:
- Terms of the Warranty
- Added features like sunshades
- How weatherproof the scope is
- Lens coatings
While considering so many features, choosing a long range rifle scope can be a terrifyingly daunting task.
An easy way to cut through all that complexity is to consider for what purpose you’re using the scope. Target shooting? Varmint hunting? Night shooting?
This can help you prioritize the features that are important to you can ignore the ones that aren’t, saving you money in the process.