As of 2020, it has been proven that approximately 40% of Americans live in a household with a gun. With the hot debate centered around guns, this year has seen a slight decline in gun ownership compared to prior years. However, this does deter gun enthusiasts both on the range and in the wild that use guns. More importantly, gun owners use rifles in these arenas and a large percentage of those rifle owners wish to enhance them with optical sighting. Therefore, we are here to help you tackle the hardest question of all; How to choose a rifle scope. We will break it down step by step for you and make the choice of which scope will best suit your needs an easy one.
Before heading out to acquire your scope, you will want to have a few things in your arsenal. First, it is good to research your options of reticles, and have those preferences in mind when you go shopping. Secondly, you should bring your rifle with you if possible, to ensure the scope will be a good fit. Make sure to check with the store beforehand. Finally, you will want to arm yourself with the steps listed below so that you can work with the salesperson to ensure you walk away with the best scope for your needs.
Step by Step: How To Choose A Rifle Scope
Step One: Determining Scope Purpose
There are many reasons to want to add a scope to your gun. Whether you are a new shooter that simply finds it easier to learn with, or an experienced one that simply wishes to up their game on the field or in the woods, there are many benefits to having a scope. Firstly, it allows for more accuracy to lead sights, and lets you see your targets with clarity. However, the choice of a scope comes down to three simple choices.
1) Are you using this rifle for target shooting?
2) Are you using this rifle for hunting?
3) Are you using this rifle for both?
Step Two: Determine Required Magnification
Next you should figure out how much magnification is required. You should consider things like how far away you are from your targets when shooting. When you look at scopes, you will see numbers like “3-9×50” on the scope. The range of numbers to the left of the “x” tell you how many times the image will be magnified.
If you are using a carbine rifle, a 3.5-9x would serve you well. Many hunters and recreational target shooters use these. If you are doing off-hand shooting, or shooting at moving targets, then you will want to choose a scope that is less than 10x magnification.
If you are using a large rifle in open spaces while making long shots, you will want a scope in the 12-20x range. Anything larger than this tends to just be too magnified and can actually lead to you messing up your shot.
Step Three: Cost vs Range
There are two types of scopes to choose from and we will further clarify how to choose a rifle scope by defining them. There are fixed and variable scopes. The difference between these is that a fixed scope only magnifies a certain amount. The most common and cost effective one you will see on many rifles is a 4x scope.
A variable scope allows you to adjust the range based on where you are shooting. This is a convenient feature but brings up the price tag by several hundred dollars. If you are only a recreational shooter, much of this range will be wasteful to you. However, if you are doing a blend of long and short range target or hunting shooting, this could be practical. Analyze your shooting habits before making this decision.
Step Four: Location, Location, Location
The next thing you will want to consider is just where you go to shoot. Factor for things like fog, rain, snow, humidity and other conditions. Check for the weather-proofing features of the scopes you consider and ensure to buy one that will suit your terrain. It is better to spend a bit more up front and not have a foggy lens when it’s time to shoot.
You will also want to physically check the scope if you can, and make sure that everything is tight where it should be. It would be disappointing to spend hundreds of dollars for those features and find one of them defunct due to a manufacturing error.
Step Five: Lighting
Earlier, we told you what the numbers to the left of the “x” mean. The numbers on the right of the “x” refer to the diameter of the objective lens, which is the widest part at the end of the scope’s body. This can be difficult to calculate, since a wider diameter allows more light into the scope for a clearer image. However, the more you magnify, the less light there is to give that clarity. The standard diameter is 30mm, but for scopes with 10x or higher zoom, a 50mm is optimal.
Step Six: Your Eyes
You will hear a term bandied about called “eye relief”. What this refers to is the distance between your eye and the lens of your scope. This is important because it prevents your gun from punching you in the face on the recoil. Getting this right is a trick of mounting the scope and adjusting the rings until you can sit in the stance you usually use and can see the full field through the scope with at least 4” of space. It is important that the image is clear up close and at a distance. This will allow you to physically rest your eye while seeking out targets in hunting, without the pressure of the scope against your eye.
Step Seven: The Reticle
The reticle refers to the crosshairs inside the scope. For a recreational shooter, you are fine just sticking to the standard crosshairs. However, for more advanced shooters, there are two types of reticles:
Mil-Dots: This is a dotted crosshair that will allow you to calculate the distance to your target, so long as you know its size.
Bullet Drop Compensator (BDC): This reticle has horizontal benchmark lines across the crosshairs. They allow you to calculate distance at longer ranges.
As a final thought on purchasing a scope, the key thing to note is that cheaper is almost never better. It is far wiser to spend more money, do research and buy the scope you need only once. While it can be tempting to go for a bargain, your accuracy will pay dearly for that choice.
We hope that you found this step by step guide on how to choose a rifle scope enlightening and useful. At the very least, it will help you make an informed decision when you head to your outfitter for your new scope. With some practice and getting used to using a scope, you will see drastic improvements in your range and hunting shots. You can then be a well outfitted gun enthusiast with the rest of the 40% of gun owners in America, and just maybe bring home that buck you’ve always dreamed of.