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Choosing a Long Range Rifle Scope

Introduction

Choosing a long-range riflescope can be a huge challenge. For one, the options available in the market are just too many. In addition, each company is trying to promote its own product. As a result, they put out flashy advertisements to convince you to purchase their riflescope. 

In order to assist you to make the right decision, I will provide you with basic knowledge. This will help you make a decision that is both pocket-friendly and worth every penny you spend.

One of the important point you need to consider is the purpose of your scope. Unlike in the past years, riflescopes have been developed that are task specific. For instance, there are specs that would make a riflescope great to use for hunting. Furthermore, there are rifles, which are designed for use by law enforcement.

* We've listed the Best Long Range Scope for Beginners at 1000 yards, click here.

Zero

A long-range scope should be able to maintain zero. This is especially important for people who do not use the riflescope in matches. The rifle should be accurate to zero even after use for long. If you are planning to use a long range riflescope, that means you probably have to move around a lot. If the rifle constantly requires zeroing it will end up costing you a lot of precious time by which the target could have escaped. A number of factors determine a riflescope’s ability to maintain zero. For instance, the steadiness of the rifle will determine if your zero is accurate. Always ensure that you have a base that does not shift around when you are zeroing the rifle. Build quality also matters when you are trying to maintain zero. Low quality scopes cannot do this accurately.

Magnification

Riflescopes either have variable or fixed magnification. A fixed scope will only have one zoom level. This fixed magnification scope has its advantages. For one, you will not have to keep adjusting it each time you need to make a shot. In addition, such a riflescope will usually be extremely durable. This is usually because it has no moving parts that can be damaged. If you only plan to use the riflescope for a specified distance, this is the perfect riflescope for you.

However, a riflescope with adjustable magnification also has its advantages. For one, the scope will allow you to zoom in on distant targets and view close by targets clearly. This is a great riflescope if you plan to use it primarily for long ranges but you also need to see short-range targets. If your target is somewhere in between, you will be able to see it clearly.

If you purchase a riflescope that has 4x-9x 45mm designation for instance. That means the riflescope can move between 4x to 9x. If you are purchasing a long-range riflescope, the higher the magnification the better the riflescope will work. You will be able to view targets that are far away. However, you will notice that you have a smaller field of view with higher magnification.

Field of view refers to the area that is visible as you use the scope. It is usually measured in yards from left to right. A long-range riflescope will have a very narrow field of view. That means if you are hunting deer, you will only see as a small patch with a long-range riflescope when it is close to you.

Reticle Markings

This is one of the most important aspects when you are using a long-range rifle. The divisions need to be clearly marked both horizontally and vertically. The horizontal markings are essential for you to make accurate compensations for the different weather conditions especially wind. The greater the distance, the more likely it is that a bullet would miss if adjustments were not made. This is because the error of margin increases with distance. These markings help you to measure how far away the targets are and adjust the rifle accordingly. In addition, they assist you to compensate for bullet drop and wind conditions.

Estimating the wind speed and direction involves checking for a number of factors. For instance, you will check how far the trees and grass bend and to which direction. In addition, you can feel the wind as it brushes against you. The horizontal markings are used to compensate for wind changes. The vertical markings, on the other hand, help to make compensations for bullet drop. In order to make accurate adjustments, the markings that are placed on the turrets should match the ones that are on the reticle. This is an especially important feature for newbies. Trying to convert what one is seeing with turning the knob increases the likelihood of error.

Reticle Milling

The markings on the reticle need to be accurately spaced. The reason for this is that wind speed and direction changes almost all the time. As a result, one needs the spacing to be deadly accurate. If there is just a slight error, it could make the entire shot very hard. Sensing the wind speed and direction take some time to understand, however, with time you will become an expert at it. Accurate spacing will normally depend on reputation. Check on the reputation of the manufacturer before you make a purchase.

Objective lens

This lens is placed at the front of the scope. A bigger objective lens helps you to gather huge amounts of light. This can be quite important especially if you plan to use the rifle in low-light conditions. If you are going to be using a long range lens, that means you will probably be looking for targets in the early hours or late hours of the day.

However, you need to note that the bigger the objective lens, the heavier your riflescope will be. This will mean that the scope will have to be mounted higher. This can present a challenge, especially for newbies. A heavier scope makes it harder for you to handle the rifle, especially when you are aiming. If you are getting started, you will find yourself getting tired and losing sight of targets.

The quality of the Glass

Due to years of research, some extremely good quality lenses are available today. The best way to choose lens quality is through reputation. Some companies use patented designs that can only be found at their stores. You should visit a few forums and check which company delivers the best quality of lenses.

One problem that you might experience with a lens is build quality. That means that over time, the lens becomes so scratched it is rendered unusable. In addition, the lens might suffer from glare. In most riflescopes, the manufacturers install a sunshade, which eliminates the problem. In addition, if you purchase a scope, you can also buy a antireflective device for the objective lens.

Elevation Adjustment

A target will require more drop at the farthest distance. As a result, the scope should offer a higher degree of elevation adjustment for longer distances. You should ensure that the riflescope elevation adjustment meets all the requirements you have. In addition, you should remember that when you do extensive zeroing on the rifle, you lose almost half of the total MOA. In addition, it is not usually a good idea if the riflescope has to be adjusted towards the edges of its limits. The total elevation possible is predetermined by how the scope was engineered.

If you ever find yourself with a scope that has an inadequate adjustment, you can always remedy this problem by mounting the scope on an inclining base. In addition, you may use specific scope rings to get rid of this problem. One important point to note is that if a riflescope has a small tube diameter, then the elevation adjustment will be smaller.

Accuracy and Reliability

A riflescope is a precision piece of equipment. It adjustability takes place in the fractions of an angle. In order to be able to attain this precision accuracy, the engineering should be superb. In some rifles, you will find that the adjustability is not as stated by the manufacturer. In the short-range riflescopes, these differences are not very important. However, at the long ranges, this minuscule error can be multiplied many times over.

Another problem with rifles is that they may lose clicks when zeroing. This means that when you make corrections some of the turns do not register. In order to check for this problem, you should first zero your rifle and shoot at a target. The next step will be to turn the elevation turret fully to one side then to the other. You should then set it to the zero point and check if it shoots at your target. If the shot does not go to where you intended, that means there is a problem with the scope. If you purchase an expensive scope and you notice this problem, contact the manufacturer and have them give you another one. Most high-end manufacturers will gladly oblige.

Reticle position

A reticle can be either at the front or at the back. If the reticle is at the front, every time you zoom in, the reticle becomes bigger. As a result, the reticle can become quite thick when you zoom all in. This means that it might get in the way of you seeing the target. In addition, when you zoom to the lowest magnification, the reticle becomes very thin. This makes it hard for you to make accurate adjustments for the wind.

The main advantage of a front focal plane reticle is that they are always equal distance apart. This reduces the amount of checking you have to do before you have to take the shot. If the reticle is at the second focal plane, it means that it will always be the same size. This will mean that you have to check the zoom setting in order to get accurate readings. This will increase the amount of things that you have to check before you use the rifle. However, some people like it this way. This reduces the chance that the reticle will become too thick and obscure their shot.

Ammunition

This is another important aspect to check when purchasing a riflescope. If you match the wrong ammunition with your riflescope, you will not make any accurate shots. In most cases, if you are suing field grade ammunition, you will need a riflescope that allows for massive adjustment. This is because such rounds have high variability. On the other hand, people who use match grade ammunition should expect little variability in the rounds.

Duration of Use

This is an important consideration for when you are purchasing a riflescope. For most people, shooting is just a hobby that they engage in because someone asked them. However, some people take it seriously and intend to become sharpshooters.

If you plan to do it over the long run, you should purchase the most expensive piece of riflescope available. The chances are that you will get the best value for money with such a piece of equipment. On the other hand, if it were only a part time hobby, you would be well served with a cheaper option. Chances are that you will still be able to make your shots if you take time to make the right adjustments.

How to Select a Rifle Scope

Being an outdoorsy person who has an appreciation for guns and hunting, it was only a matter of time before I became infatuated with scoped rifles and scopes in general.This was back in the day, during the early 2000’s and looking back now, my initial reasons were rather silly. I wanted to feel like I was in the movies (Enemy at the Gates anyone?). Once I realized just how complex this whole process can be and how it is based on a large number of existing criteria, the whole notion of me getting a quality scope became a lot more serious.

Choosing your scope can be a straightforward process for you, but in my opinion in order to be sure that we are making the right decision, there are at least 5-6 different criteria that we have look into. The truth is that each models have certain strengths and (relative) weaknesses, and being able to choose the one that will be truly the best for us is really only possible once we have identified our very own set of standards. Once we did that, we can make the best decision based on those criteria and those criteria alone. Let’s see what those set standards could possibly be and how can they make the decision process less bumpy.

Your Average Shot Distance

Scoped rifles – and scopes in general – are awesome. I will not be the one who who’ll tell you otherwise. With that said, in my opinion a lot of hunters and gun enthusiasts make the mistake of trying to hit it out of the park. 

A powerful scope (like a 14 or even a 20 that people often choose these days) is not always the best choice because it can severely limit your accuracy in short distances. Actually, sometimes it will make it impossible for you to even line up a shot.

If you are after whitetail, even a moderate 3-9 scope could be enough. The high magnifications will actually take away from the exit pupil dimensions, not to mention they will limit the available light as well. By calculating (or taking an educated guess at) your average shot distance, you will be able to work out your very own criteria based on your actual needs. Let’s see how some of the more popular brands compare.

Eye Relief

While you can hear about “light gathering” when people talk about scoped guns, these accessories will not actually gather the light as much as they transit it. Let’s call this “light transmission”. It is important to note that no scope can ever achieve 100% transmission. 

The vast majority of scopes are around 90% and anything close to 95% or a little above will be amazing. The absolute best you could hope for is 98% but as far as I know, there are no such scopes currently on the market. Some companies will tell you otherwise but their measurement methods are not reliable because they use specific aspects to boost their results.

This is where the exit pupil measurements come into the picture and the good news is that you can calculate those for yourself. Exit pupil is the little circle light that you see in the scope when holding it at a distance. This is important because each and every one of us will have different optical capabilities. As you age your pupil won’t be able to dilate as much. What was once was seven or maybe eight millimeters could become three or four in a couple of decades.

You want to find a scope that will complement your natural abilities because if the exit pupil is considerably bigger compared to what your eyes can handle, you will not be able to line up shots very efficiently. Now back to our calculation, the formula looks like this.

Check the size of the objective lens and divide it (using millimeters as the unit of measurement) by the measure of the magnification. If you have a 4x20 scope for example, 20 divided by 4 will equal to 5 millimeters. The bigger the size of the exit pupil is, the less head position will matter. If you have a lower powered scope you will likely be able to see a full view even while scoping into the distance. The higher powered variants will offer much less room for error.

Objective Lens Size

The standard objective lens size is around 40 mm and these scopes are usually of the medium variable when it comes to power. There are much larger objective lenses available but their use should – at the very least – be sporadic.

Most people like the above mentioned size range and for a good reason: larger objective lenses have fairly limited use. I wouldn’t say they are completely useless but they really only work under very specific circumstances. There are 60 or even 70mm lenses that don’t really make sense unless you find yourself in the darkest of conditions with the scope set at its highest. Could happen? Sure. Is that a good choice for most people? In my opinion, it is not. Keep in mind that with those extremely big lenses on the scope the rifle will also be heavier and much tougher to wield. When you are trying to line up the perfect shot this is not what you usually have in mind.

Lens Coating

The vast majority of scope lenses come with basic protection against fog, and naturally they are all waterproof. These are the basics that most – if not all – manufacturers will provide but you don’t have to stop there. 

With the right coatings you can prepare for pretty much any terrain and special circumstances. In addition to shielding away your lenses from the weather’s potentially harmful effects, coating has various other uses.

  • They reduce glare: Imagine yourself lining up what promises to be a perfect shot, only to be robbed by a glare at the worst possible time. Coatings will significantly reduce the chances of that ever happening.
  • No more reflections: Much like the above mentioned function, less reflection will translate into more accurate shots by reducing the loss of light. I have already talked about light gathering and how important it is. Lenses, in general, are the soul of the scope.
  • Sharper contrast: Another positive advantage thanks to the better light-handling.
  • Water resistance: A hydrophilic coating will get rid of the water very quickly, decreasing the chances of a water drop messing up a shot by getting into your line of sight at the worst possible time.
  • Scratch prevention: If you are out there chasing game, chances are that your equipment’s quality will suffer in the long run. A scratched scope is one of the worst things that can happen to your apparatus because it will not only mess up light transparency for good, but can make it pretty much impossible to line up an accurate shot once the lens gets busted.

The following terms are usually referred to when it comes to coating:

  • Coated – the most basic type of coating usually involving only a single lens surface
  • Fully Coated – still a single layer but now on all lens surfaces
  • Multicoated – multiple layer of coating on one or more lens surfaces
  • Fully Multicoated – multiple layer of coating on all lens surfaces

Naturally, the more coating a scope comes with the higher its price will be.

Don’t believe the “Tactical” hype

This is more of a negative criteria if anything, but I would certainly stay away from products that come with the “tactical” moniker, especially if it is a scoped rifle or a scope itself. A construction like that usually comes with a large objective lens creating the illusion of a military rifle. Sure, it may look similar but in reality it will probably be anything but! Nothing can demonstrate this better than taking a look at an actual military rifle. Those things usually don’t have adjustable scopes mounted on them, rather they come with fixed, 10x variants most of the time.

This is the most ideal power that a combat scenario will require. Not to mention that the knowledge of a sniper – on average - will be vastly bigger compared to a gun enthusiast or even an experienced hunter. Mildot is seldom used in the military or in law enforcement agencies because they simply decrease the field of view. This is not only something that you want to avoid in a combat scenario but it will not help you while hunting either.

Repeatability

The best scopes will come with excellent repeatability. What does this mean? Let’s say that you set up somewhere and line up a shot. In an ideal scenario where you use a scope that has high repeatability, you will be able to move away, take another shot before coming back and finding yourself seeing the same point of impact while looking through the scope. 

Another clear-tell sign of dealing with a quality scope is adjustability. When you adjust a scope like that, you should be able to move the point of impact without having to take a couple of shots just to see where you are at.

A quality scope will follow every adjustment of yours which a lesser one will simply not be capable of, and that is when “settling in” comes into the picture. This means the need of taking a few shots to see where you are at. Needless to say that this only works when you are a shooting range. If you are a hunter, more often than not you will only have one shot at your target, but of course this is – among many other things – what makes hunting such a rewarding activity for most.

FOV

This is what you see through the scope. It really could not be more straightforward, could it? Well yes, and no. FOV, magnification and eye relief are basically the three most impactful aspects when it comes to your shot. As this video explains, FOV is important because it is directly correlated to the magnification of your scope. The more you decrease that value the higher your FOV will be. FOV is what you actually see from right to left when you look into the scope. Let’s say you have a 4-15x22 variant, which can be a pretty decent budget selection. In that case when you set the magnification to 4 which will mean that your field of view will be at its highest, you’ll be able to see a full 100 yards. When you turn the magnification to 15 your FOV will decrease significantly.

Best Rifle Brands Based on these Criteria

  • Leupold: The brand used by the United States Marine Corps. These scopes are well known for their adjustability and power.
  • Redfield: This company is now the property of Leupold & Stevens, but that doesn’t mean their technology isn’t being used still. As a result they remain one of the top manufacturers with a special offer, they grant lifetime warranty on all of their non-electronic products. This, of course, includes scopes as well.
  • Sightmark: A company founded back almost a decade ago (2007), Sightmark has been busy ever since they stepped onto the scene. Their Triple Duty, Ezekiel and Pinnacle models are some of the best and most popular scopes out there.
  • Burris: They are the specialists of the scope business manufacturing models that come with bigger-than-average lenses. Some of their products are used by professionals all around the globe.
  • Bushnell: One of the oldest and most popular manufacturers around. No company can enjoy 65 years of success without earning it. Their biggest advantage is offering reliable quality for affordable prices.
  • Barska: More than 40 countries distribute the products of this manufacturer, making it the most widely available scope brand in the world. In addition to their basic products, they sell customizable scopes as well.
  • Nikon: Being one of the most renowned Optics companies there ever was has its perks. Nikon is now well-known for their hunting products which includes the high-quality scopes that offer a perfect blend of innovation and quality.

Conclusion


One more point that will be essential in choosing a riflescope is the reticle illumination. This is an important aspect of any rifle, especially for professionals. Essentially, illumination allows you to use the rifle even in low light. Make sure that you get a manufacturer that has a reputation for illumination. This can play a big role if the rifle was for low light hunting and the electronics fail.

Moreover, always check for other terms such as warranty. Some riflescope manufacturers offer lifetime warranties. This is great reassurance for the trust they place in their riflescopes. You should also visit as many forums as possible. Hunting season is usually well known many months in advance. As a result, there is no need for you to rush through the process. Take your time and conducts months of research. This will help you come up with the best solution that is both pocket-friendly and reliable. With scopes, you can never go wrong with reputation.


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