Top Shot Dustin: Can You Use a Scope Backwards?

Have you ever watched a movie and noticed that the Hollywood armorers made a mistake by putting an optic on a firearm—backwards? If so, you’re not the only one with a good eye for details. In the video below, Top Shot Dustin [YouTube channel] addresses that question by trying it out for himself.  

Top Shot Dustin with backward riflescope
There’s something wrong here… (Photo credit: Top Shot Dustin)

Admittedly, optics on guns can be a little confusing and a lot frustrating. Not only do you need to know which magnification level is best suited for what task, but you also need to choose from an array of reticles, brands, and styles. Then there’s the entire issue of becoming proficient at zeroing without burning through several boxes of ammunition. And if you’re like me, you’ve run across scopes that were mounted incorrectly on the gun—which begs the question, can you even run a scope if it’s backward?

Does it really matter which direction your optic is mounted?

Yes, it does. Basically, an optic is made to perform in one direction for a clear field of view and accurate shooting. You’ll know if it’s backward because everything will look like it’s down a tunnel with a black ring around it. Also, the controls for adjusting magnification and clarity are going to be found at the eye end, not the muzzle end of the scope.

Top Shot Dustin finds out if you can shoot well with a backward scope.
Top Shot Dustin finds out if you can shoot well with a backward scope. (Photo credit: Top Shot Dustin)

Can you use a scope backward?

That’s what Dustin wants to find out, so he does some detective work. 

view of targets through backward rifle scope
The view through a backward scope, at 8X, makes the targets look further away…the exact opposite of what the scope is supposed to do. (Photo credit: Top Shot Dustin)

The first thing he discovers is that adjusting the magnification helps the field of view problem somewhat, but it doesn’t fix it. He also has to deal with some parallax. He is able to hit a steel target from 50 yards, although the shots aren’t centered. As he moves farther out, it gets a lot worse.

Top Shot Dustin hittting steel, even with a backward target.
Top Shot Dustin hitting steel, even with a backward target. 

Watch the video below to see how it all works out:

A commenter with the handle TSG offers some insight into why Hollywood does what they do:

Just to add a bit, I’ve been on set where the armorer sets up things correctly, but the director insists it gets changed for the “visual” and so it “looks good for the camera”. Have you seen “Sniper: Special Ops”? I stopped about 20 mins into it. It’s not exclusive to firearms either, it can be with a lot of things. Arrogant director not relying on the experts on his team. But to your point, sometimes those “experts” are well, not. As a side note; make note of the Director, DP, and Editor and you will avoid a potential bad movie going forward. Or perhaps it will be good material to make a video about.

What movies and TV shows do you know have some odd gun moments, such as backward optics? Tell us in the comments below.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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