Rifle Scopes 101

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Nightforce makes good scopes
I want a scope that the graduations on the reticle and the adjustments on the knobs match. Mil/Mil or MOA/MOA if they are different you have to do more math to figure it out. The elevation knobs must have enough elevation in them to reach the distance you plan to shoot or you have to get a base with elevation built into it. Several good scopes only have 12 moa of elevation per revolution, while Leupold has 16. This does not matter unless you want to shoot past 800 yards. the knobs need to have positive clicks and numbers so you can tell when and how much it moves. I like 30mm or 34 mm tubes and at least a 50mm objective. Bushnell Tactical Elite is a good scope that comes with a mil-dot. They are also available with a HDMR reticle for $1600. Right in the same price range is a Leupold Mk4 with a TMR reticle which is an improvement over the standard mil-dot.
One thing I learned since writing this article is how to use the high quality quick release rings. You set up a expensive high quality scope with a good pictinny mount system and you will be able to switch the scope from gun to gun as long as you have good pictinny mount on both guns. Here is an example. I have a Rock river 308 with a Larue mount and a Leupold MK4 with the Horus H27 reticle. The scope is zeroed to this gun. I shoot it and gather data for all the distances and weather conditions I plan on shooting. This goes in the data book or in the shooting app I run. I have a Remington 308 bolt gun with the same rail on it; all I have to do is release the QD mount from the Rock River and place the scope on the bolt gun. Once mounted I zero at 200 yards. then collect all the data for the Remington. I keep that in the data book as well. Now when I need the scope back on the RR gas gun I just move it over and dial in the correct dope from the data I collected earlier. When I go back to the bolt gun I have the data on that as well. one key point is to zero the dials on the first gun and make all adjustments from there. Write every adjust down in the data book. Never change the zero on the dials or you loose ability to go back to the first gun. This will also work on different calibers and barrell lengths.
I need to add the Horus Reticle system makes this real easy since is is designed to hold over and not adjust the dials at each distance.

Thanks for posting this info. I found it very useful when I came to choose my first scope earlier this year. At your encouragement and that of others, I ended up springing for a scope one tier higher in quality than the one I previously intended to buy. I think it will serve me well into the future.

One question: what about final mounting? Could you post a 101 guide or link me to one on that topic? Once I finish sighting in my scope, I've heard you need to use thread-locking compound and get that sucker stuck in there for good. (I'm not planning to swap out scopes.) Thanks in advance!
One question: what about final mounting? Could you post a 101 guide or link me to one on that topic? Once I finish sighting in my scope, I've heard you need to use thread-locking compound and get that sucker stuck in there for good. (I'm not planning to swap out scopes.) Thanks in advance!
This simple. Simple to do right, and simple to mess up bad!

When you mount the bases, use BLUE LOCTITE. Just a tiny drop on each screw. Same with the rings.




Army training

I was in the army (before Vietnam) when it prided itself on the 'one shot-one kill' philosophy. Having grew up out in the country I was a good shot and had been a member of the Jr. NRA where we competed with 22 cal. heavy barrel target rifles. In the army I shot expert and once beat a rifle range trainer when I was in basic. I got a better group than he using an M1 but I was about 4" off center. That was the first time I had seen that rifle. Anyway, time passes and I had hardly shot a rifle for 30 years until I bought a like-new 30-06 for a steal. Got a good scope for it and went to the local range. Took me 12 shots to get it zero'd (long time since using a scope). Afterwards I got three 3-shot groups bench shooting at 100 yds with less than 1" total spread. That was last year when I was 72 yrs old. Last month I was able to repeat that group shooting at plywood out in the boonies. I wish now I had not missed so many years of shooting. Mike
Lots of useful information there! I'd simply like to add a little something reference "eye relief". On most all scopes sold new today, there is at least one measurement included in the specs reference that scope's eye relief or a range such as 3-4" included. On a variable scope the maximum eye relief is typically found at the lowest magnification (which will also have the largest field of view/FOV) and the shortest eye relief is found at the highest magnification.

I'd suggest most hunters setting the eye relief while the scope is set at it's lowest magnification, or at the magnification it will be at while the rifle is carried or while still hunting. This then allows for the quickest target acquisition and largest FOV if an animal is seen/jumped at short range, while also allowing for the shooter to adjust magnification and cheek weld when an animal is seen at longer ranges. For a rifle most often used at the range, it's more practical to set the eye relief at the magnification the scope is used at most often.

Eye relief for calibers known to produce significant recoil needs to be a bit longer than eye relief for calibers with little recoil. I prefer a minimum of 3.5-4" for my rifles that have a good amount of recoil and for my heaviest recoiling rifles I like 4+". On an older scope that you do not know the eye relief "specs" for and want to know if it should be adequate for a high recoiling caliber, there's a quick & easy way to check any scopes eye relief numbers. Lay the scope (mounted or unmounted) on it's side. Using a few common items; flashlight, 3x5 card (or similar) and a ruler it will take only a few moments.

Place the flashlight (turned on) up against the objective bell/lens. Then lay the ruler with "0" against the ocular bell (rear bell). Take the card and slowly begin from about 6-8" away to move it towards the ocular lens. You will see the light beam projected through the scope from the front bell begin to come into clear focus on the card. When the light beam comes into "perfect" focus, read the measurement that is shown on the ruler under the card. That is the eye relief at THAT POWER. It's prolly best to get two measurements; one at the lowest power (or very near there) and one at the highest power. Finding an eye relief that looks to be on the short side, like only 2.5-3" for a rifle in .300 or .338mag could help save you from a case of "scope eye" at the range.

Once you figure the scope suits the rifle, simply set the proper eye relief at the "best" power suited for carry or range work by mounting the rifle at that power and finding the best scope position for your comfortable cheek weld.


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Senior Member
I am trying of thinking of something smart to say other than I love my NXS but hate the MOAR reticle for hunting, but I love the reticle in my Leupold VX6 however as a brand new scope its already gone back to the factory for failing to dial correctly when shot only about 300 times on a 223. Variable Leupolds seem to go bad for no real good reason other than twisting the knobs, however I have dropped, abused and broken many others.

I don't shoot much however not more than 100 rounds per week or so, somethimes 200 or so...not much..

for those inclined towards having a rifle scope that holds its zero the SWFA scopes are where you need to look. I also like Meopta but some don't they do however work a bit longer and a bit better than variable Reupolds in my opinion.
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Excellent post! Particularly reading the instruction manual. So many times many headaches and frustrations can be avoided by reading the manual and getting to "know" the equipment long before heading to the range. Also, very well put on size and how sometimes bigger isnt always better. You gave an excellent summation that was unbiased and it was very informative