ARFCOM: How Do I Choose The Best Scope?

BY Herschel Smith
2 weeks, 5 days ago


Comments

  1. On April 28, 2021 at 10:16 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    Speaking as a former member of the retail FA & accessories business, chances are your local big-box sporting goods emporium will try to sell you more ‘glass’ than you need. If you live in the Eastern United States, chances are you don’t need a whole lot of magnification on that scoped deer rifle, maybe 4x to 6x at most…. if you need an optic at all. Long shots of greater than 100-150 yards being rare in many locations. And there are plenty of scope manufacturers able and willing to sell you a variable power 3-10×40 with a duplex reticle or the like.

    Anything more than that, and on max power, your field of view (FOV) will resemble looking through a soda straw, and you won’t be able to track that nice buck as he moves as well as you’d like. More magnification equals a smaller field of view, that’s the physics of the deal.

    However, the sales guy will try and sell you a fancy rig worth a grand or more, whether you need it or not. That Nightforce has been sitting there long-enough, and the G.M.wants it moved. Hey, if getting it makes you happy, go for it…. just be aware that it is way more than you actually need.

    Pareto’s Law applies and so does the law of diminishing returns. A generation ago, features now found on bargain-priced scopes were rare, and even high-end optics did not always perform up-to-snuff. It is no exaggeration to state that the typical budget-priced optic found in most sporting goods stores today is better than the Army and Marine Corps took into the field in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. Today’s scope is better-water-proofed, resists fogging better, tracks truer, and has better-quality glass installed in it. And most are more-durable, too, than their forebearers (although Unertl scopes were built like tanks, which is one reason the ‘Corps used them for so long).

    You can get a lot of scope these days for $300-400, and even more for $400-700. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit. The best European optics cost more because their glass is the finest money can buy. U.S. Optics and Leupold – which are both U.S. companies – have glass which is equally-as-good in their best products. It is an open secret in the optics industry that a few high-end firms make glass under sub-contracting arrangements, for a large number of other firms. Schott Glass Works, Zeiss, I.R. Valdala, and Leica are examples. There are also select U.S. and Japanese firms manufacturing to their standard.

    First-focal plane (FFP) scopes are designed such that their reticles change in size in proportion to the magnification power chosen. Meaning that they are “true” and correct at all magnifications. If your reticle has wind, holdover or other features, this may be important to you. Many tactical scopes are FFP. Also, front-focal plane scopes generally cost more than second-focal plane (SFP) designs.

    If you need the reticle to be true and correct at multiple magnifications, then FFP may be the best choice. However, if you rarely use your reticle’s features or seldom use anything but maximum power, then a SFP design may fill your needs.
    And in some reticle designs, such as a simple unadorned fine cross-hair, the difference between FFP and SFP may be virtually meaningless.

    In theory, what you are paying for when you plunk down $1500-2000 for a high-end scope from Nightforce, Swarovski, Zeiss or any of the other fine up-market optics makers is build-quality (quality of materials and workmanship), precision and reproducibility of elevation & windage tracking, and quality of glass. However, bear in mind that even very expensive scopes seldom track completely consistently across their entire adjustment range. Long-range and extreme long-range shooters are advised to do a tall-target test to determine the actual tracking of their scope, versus the advertised tracking.

    More money buys a better experience, usually but not always. I’ve had experience with a $1000 Zeiss which was a wonderful scope, but whose reticle broke before the warranty was up. The company took eight months to handle my service call, and then only by replacing it with another optic of the same kind but a newer version I did not like as much. And I have owned cheapo $250-350 optics (or less) which have performed like proverbial champs, and punched way above their weight.

    Since 2001, the Global War on Terror – which has been a “sniper’s war” for the military in many respects – has driven R&D for scopes/optics hard, thanks to loosened DOD/Pentagon purse strings and lots of contracts to be won. That knowledge filtered down to the average sportsman. Consequently, you can get a lot of optic for the money these days if you do your due diligence and spend wisely.

  2. On April 29, 2021 at 11:55 am, billrla said:

    Georgiaboy61:

    Thanks for your well informed insights. I’ve stayed in the $250-$750ish price range with four low power Leupold scopes on three different rifles for three different purposes, with some overlap, but, not much.

    When it comes to scopes, I am self-taught, and I learned that it is most important to focus on my intended uses and ambitions for the distances and types of environments in which I am most likely to be using a particular rifle.

    It’s important to be honest with oneself about one’s true needs and not to get romanced by slick advertising and misguided by fear of missing out on the latest and greatest new thing. Getting older also puts a damper on one’s tendency to overdo it.

  3. On April 29, 2021 at 12:40 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ billrla

    Re: “Getting older also puts a damper on one’s tendency to overdo it.”

    There’s a few compensations to getting on in years, to take some of the sting out of the aches-and-pains of advancing years. And one of them is figuring out what works for you, as opposed to what other folks think ought to work for you. At least that’s my take on it.

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You are currently reading "ARFCOM: How Do I Choose The Best Scope?", entry #27355 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) AR-15s and was published April 28th, 2021 by Herschel Smith.

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