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Discussions related to Guns and Firearms
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2006 8:20 am    Post subject: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

The question often comes up, fueled by large advertising budgets, no doubt, as to whether a large objective scope can enhance success in the field.

Many of the "cool" dudes' rifles sport optics that make it look like they are wearing a large pack, sort of like what the Himalayan Sherpas carry. IMHO, that looks terrible.

Example: a 50 mm adjustable objective 4-16X (with target turrets) on a 10-22. Or Leupold's new creation, the BIG objective scope with the built in woops to clear the barrel. At least it will help whoever mounts it keep the crosshairs square to the world.

What do we really need? First of all, Size DOES matter--to a point. A larger objective lens will transmit more light and detail than a smaller one. An 80 mm spotting scope will transmit more light and detail than a 65mm, just like any other telescppe.

That's why the 8X56 and 7X50 binocular (two telescoppes mounted side by side)"night glasses" are so good. They transmit all the light the human eye can USE, along with lots of detail! I have a pair of 7X35s that were passable night glases, before age took its toll.

Every glass surface light passes through takes its toll. The glass will absorb a percentage of the light transmitted. This is somewhat overcome by various coatings, which increase the transmission of the lenses, resulting in a brighter image.

The best snipers in the world--US Marine Corps IMHO-- generally use a 10 power Unertl scope with an objective size of 36mm. They have done for 20+ years. I think they know a thing or two about what works.

Here, we run into another optic thing--exit pupil. It's that small spot of light you see when you peer through a scope, holding it at arm's length.

Exit pupil is found by dividing the power of the scope into the objective lens(the big one on the front) diameter. 8 divided into 56mm, like in the Navy binocs= 7mm exit pupil. 7 divided into 50=7.142 mm exit pupil. 10 power divided into 36 mm= 3.6mm, 9X divided into 40mm=4.44mm, 4X into 40mm gives 10 mm exit pupil, all which are plenty sufficient for our needs as hunters/shooters. Your socpe is too "dim"? Turn it to a lower power. It won't stunt your growth.

The drawback? The human Mark I eyeball expands only to about 7-7.5mm, when the owner is young and indestructible, oh, say about 18-25. After that , it is all downhill. We lose about a millimeter for each decade of life, hopefully stopping somewhere short of 3mm. So, the eyeball cannot process more than a certain amount of light, no matter what. But, "too much" light is not a bad thing.

We cannot legally hunt after dark, so that eliminates the "need" for huge optics like the Europeans use. The largest cost of a scope is the lenses. Quality being equal, if objective lens diameter is increased from 40 mm to 50, and it will ~triple the cost of the scope.

Soooo, what do we NEED? A good 4X at 200 yards will give us the same sight picture as iron sights at 50 , and a 7X, the same at ~350 yds. How steady can we hold a 7 or even a 4 power scope offhand at 300 yards? Hmmmm?

I think that there are some marvelous scopes out there, that outperform the "legends" of 10-15 years ago, and don't have to cost a multiple of what the rifle did. There are adequate- to- good scopes, starting about $150, and between $2-300, quality scopes that are hard to surpass.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2006 12:26 pm    Post subject: Re: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

Perhaps the better question would be........instead of how much good of scope. I will take my excellent quality Leupold or Burris at 14x over a 24x BSA or Tasco........all day every day. Quality of optics more than make up for lack of magnification IMHO.

I shoot tons of pds and after several days of concentrating and staring thru scopes of all kinds you get a feel for what works best during the daylight hours. In those circumstances light transmission is less than the highest priority.

While hunting big game I rarely have found a need for anything more than 7x considering my 'self imposed limits' for distance. I can't stand the positioning required for most 50 mm objective scopes as I rarely shoot well with my head perched up on the stock. (don't care for high ring mounts).....a good quality 40mm-44mm is adequate for me.
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Joined: Apr 22, 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2006 7:18 am    Post subject: Re: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

It seems to me that the right scope is the scope that the buyer feels comfortable with.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2006 8:35 am    Post subject: Re: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

rrogacki has it right. All of your formula's are based on all else being equal. They seldom are. As I have aged, I find that a fifty mm objective helps me in the late afternoon when the light is fading. With the same amount of light in the morning, when the light is increasing, it doesn,t help as much. Use what works best for you. miles
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2006 12:05 pm    Post subject: Re: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

lets get right to the facts.

you should buy what priced scope you can AFFORD.

lets talk average hunter on a average hunt.

he gets up before dawn hunts as soon as he can see and hunts until either he gets his game, dayly close of season or its to dark to see anymore.

the average hunter uses a 500 dollar gun with a 200 dollar scope.

a 30 dollar scope on a 50 dollar gun will put food on the table as well as a 2000 dollar gun and a 1500 dollar scope.

we arent talking compatition target shooting. where the size of your bank account is what wins the contest.

most people DO NOT USE EXPENSIVE SCOPES OR RIFLES tjhey use what they can afford to buy probaly at walmart. 99 percent of the hunters i personally know use firearms and scopes handed down to them buy there fathers. and most dont have any scope at all.

the answe is buy the scope that you can reasonably afford that will do the job the longest before it needs replaced.


you should buy everything that is the newest biggest brightest untested in the field, most expensive dodad advertised so we poor average people can buy it brom you at a yard sale for a quarter.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2006 2:55 pm    Post subject: Re: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

The power of the scope sort of depends on the quarry. If you are after ground hogs at 300-400 yards, the better scope you have, the more successful you will be. If you are in the deer woods where shots will likely be under 100 yds, you don't need more than a 4X scope. I usually buy 3-9X variables so I can use the gun for a variety of hunting situations.

As these tired eyes of mine age, I find the bigger the objective lens, the better I can see through it and the quicker I can acquire the target. It's just that simple. I don't have to have a $1000 scope to do that. I have some very nice 50mm scopes that cost under $300. If I was 40 years younger and had the eyes I did then, I could probably use what those snipers use (and I did).

Also, on a side note, I find that for hunting, I prefer the heavier reticle these days. When I throw the gun up to my shoulder and look into the scope, I just have to look for my target.....the cross hairs jump out at me and I don't have to squint to put them where I want them. Like has been said and use what you can afford and have fun shooting.


Shoot straight and above all shoot SMART....and remember God is still in control !!!!
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2006 5:54 pm    Post subject: Re: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

Just to throw in an item as a point of interest. The US Army used the M-21 Sniper system in Vietnam and some are still in use. The M-21 was an accurized M-14 equiped with an ART scope. The scope in the ART system was a Redfield 3-9x40 and was used to engage targets out to 1000 meters and a little beyond.
This is just to make a point that a 3-9x40 is not just a close up deer scope but can be used at ranges much further out than 100 or 200 yards.
If you are varmint hunting for the small critters, prairie dogs etc. you would be better served with a scope in the 6-20x40 or 6-20x44 range. The larger varmints, like coyotes that move fast, are often taken in the 100 to 200 yard range and you would be able track them in a lower powered scope much better. That would put you back down in the 3-9 range of scope.

Safe shooting,
Chris Young, aka: popgun, Moderator
I don't know everything but I have made most of the mistakes already and lived through many of them.

Last edited by popgun on Mon Jul 17, 2006 12:39 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2006 11:13 pm    Post subject: Re: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

Sniper's post is a very good technical treatise regarding optics, a subject that is not fully understood by many hunters or optics buyers. One aspect of optics, however, is very subjective and that is the human eye. It has been my approach in selling scopes to encourage a buying decision based on the the buyer taking time to look through several scopes that are of interest. In the process it is fairly easy to upgrade the purchase by comparing scopes in different price ranges, but, not always; it gets back to that "human eye" issue. If someone can't appreciate the difference, why pay for more? Let's use several Leupold models as an example.

If the 2-7 variable is of interest, I'll show the Rifleman, the VX-1 and the VX-II to the customer and have them take the scopes outside where they can spend time evaluating them. Often a customer can see the optical difference and be willing to pay for the better scope or like the features of one over the other. If so, I'll then encourage a comparison with the 2.5-8 VX-III and let the scopes speak for themselves. In the majority of cases, the more expensive scope will be chosen which is fine if it is within the price range acceptable to the customer.

Optical quality has improved in moderately priced scopes and narrowed the difference with the higher priced ones. Likewise the endurance of today's scopes continues to improve with innovations like the Simmons' Master series. Unfortunately, there are a lot of scopes that have only price as their attraction and are prone to frequent failures and prolonged hassles to effect any warranty work.

Some scope brands have excellent models as well as less reliable models. Always check the country from where the scope was sourced. As a generalization, at this time, scopes made in the USA and Japan are often superior to scopes sourced from the Phillipines, Taiwan, Thailand or China. Some manufacturers (Burris, Nikon, Bushnell for example) source from several countries. A Japanese Nikon scope is notably better in optical quality than a Nikon made in the Phillipines and, not surprisingly, warranty claims will be less for the Japanese models. You get what you pay for.

At the store where I work, the trend is decidely toward higher grade optics. Big game tags are increasingly difficult to obtain and hunters want every advantage high grade optics offer. Distances for shots can be long and the terrain is rugged. While the majority of buyers opt for moderately priced rifles, the trend is toward upgraded optics as more hunters realize and appreicate the optical value and improved endurance of the more expensive scopes.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2006 9:49 am    Post subject: Re: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

Another issue to consider is eye relief. Especially on a hard kicking magnum. I bought a used 338 UM that had a low end nikon scope on it. You had to get your eye too close to the scope for comfort, in my opinion. So I replaced it with a Leupold. I'm not an expert but it has been my experience that many low end scopes have a shorter eye relief than the better quality ones. Must be less expensive to make 'em with a short eye relief.

If the Government doesn't trust us with our guns, why should we trust them with theirs?
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2006 9:22 am    Post subject: Re: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

rrogacki wrote:
It seems to me that the right scope is the scope that the buyer feels comfortable with.

Exactly. Whether it is a 32mm or 50++mm objective, or whether it costs $125, or $1250. If it FITS, go for it.

Of course, all those Marine and Army snipers are what? average age probably 20-26, right where the physical conditioning and eyesight are the best ever. But, I would say that the "average" hunter could be well served with at most, a 3X9X40. A 50 mm objective will transmit gobs more detail, how much depending upon coatings, glass quaity, and internal baffling. Again, you could win the optics lottery, but a lot of perceived excellence is in our minds. Photographers know morning light is the same as afternoon light, it just comes from the other coast.

Granted, varmint hunters, who shoot all day at little bitty targets can probably use a few diameters more of magnification.

The problem being , unlike Handloader, many sales reps. working at places that sell good stuff, whose average ages seem to be less than that of a garden variety sniper, cannot knowledgeably discuss the relative merits of their products. They probably own one Walmart scope.

Quality control costs money. Even with an inexpensive scope, the law of averages will say that a few, maybe even a majority, will be excellent. You could win the optics lottery. That's why it is important to compare several examples of what you wish to buy, and pick the one that "speaks" to you.

But a $1250 scope is not 10X better than the $125 one. You can get a real stinker in the high zoot scopes, too.

A good rule of thumb is if you figure about a 20% increase in quality for each doubling of price over ~$150-$200. I don't say I agree totally with that, but it is a useful guideline. With higher price, you get better optical glass, material, quality control, not to mention customer service.

Just like anthing else, optics are subject to "marketing". NEW and IMPROVED, etc, etc. Where is the Edsel today, or for that matter, 30 mm tube scopes? A few 30 mms are still with us, but not as many as there used to be. I takes a while for us to figure what is hype and what is not.

I guess what IS important, is to figure out what works to our personal level of satisfaction. When I was looking for binoculars, I tried a pair of Leicas, which were beautiful, and I would love to own a pair. For $!,000+, they had better be! But for my eyes, the difference between them and ones half the price didn't appear to be more than about 20%. I mentioned that to the salesman, and he allowed that was about right, but people are willing to pay for the added 20%.

I would love to be able to afford that 20%, but am satisfied with the binocs I bought.

A guideline might be: Dollars spent vs. satisfaction.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 4:38 pm    Post subject: Re: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

I'm no optics expert by any stretch of the imagination, but it seems to me that low fixed power scopes in the 2.5X, 3X, or 4X size are stronger than higher power variables and provide as much light with their 32mm lenses as a high powered scope is likely to do with a 50mm. I don't mean to say that I'd want a 2.5X scope to shoot in target competition, but for hunting they seem to work well for me. Mine are mostly older Leupold M8 scopes, but I've never had one break.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 7:57 pm    Post subject: Re: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

There's a lot of good info in this thread, but, after all the years of scope buying, I've narrowed it down to just a few thoughts when I go to buy one: eye relief; light transmission; quality in optics. For most of my needs, a quality 4X with good eye relief that runs around $100 to $200 works great. Variables no more than 12X under $400 works for me.

I've been working at keeping both eyes open when taking aim, based on a discussion we had in another post, so, what I've stated above works whith the two eye's open concept.
Keep it coming...
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2006 4:23 pm    Post subject: Re: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

The rule of thumb that I try to use is:

Buy all the scope you can afford with as little magnification as you need (NEED) to have.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2006 4:55 pm    Post subject: Re: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

george20042007 wrote:

I've been working at keeping both eyes open when taking aim, based on a discussion we had in another post, so, what I've stated above works whith the two eye's open concept.
Keep it coming...

I've tried shooting with both eyes open and it just doesn't work for me. I have a dominant left eye, but shoot right handed. The left eye always dominates the focus and instead of looking through the scope I end up looking around it. That's one reason the scout scope setups don't work for me, no matter how much I wish they would.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2006 6:53 pm    Post subject: Re: HOW MUCH SCOPE?? Reply with quote

What do you think of the Alaskan Guide Scopes from Cabela's ?? Confused

Eversince I played Cabela's Big Game Hunter on my Xbox it has interested me Laughing


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