Hunters, competition and PRS shooters, and military and law enforcement snipers from across the world rely on quality rifle scopes to drop long-distance targets with precision for a solid, clean kill. They’re crucial to spotting, tracking, and dropping targets, and they allow shooters to punch out to extreme distances beyond 1,000 yards. Scopes provide clarity where the naked eye only provides fuzz, and they’re adjustable to compensate for drift, drop, and other deviations.
What is a scope and how does it work?
On the surface, a scope is a device, similar to a telescope, that contains a series of lenses that magnify an object or objects, and features some type of reticle—an aiming instrument that indicates where a bullet will impact. One of the main uses of a riflescope is to magnify, or “zoom in” on your intended target for a clearer sight picture, allowing you to shoot more accurately at longer ranges. A scope can also give you more clarity in low-light conditions, as they maximize light transmission for more reliable performance. Simply put, rifle scopes allow you to take full advantage of the modern cartridges and rifles of today, reaching out to longer distances with more reliable accuracy and precision.
The most important components of a rifle scope are its lenses: the objective, erector, magnifying, and ocular lenses. The objective lens is the forward-positioned lens in the tube, furthest away from the user. This lens transmits light to the erector lens, which then flips the image and sends it to the magnifying lens, which as the name implies, magnifies the image. From there, light travels to the ocular lens, which is nearest the user’s eye, delivering a crisp, magnified image for spotting, identifying, tracking, and dropping a particular target. A majority of lenses are waterproof and fog-proof for reliable service in adverse shooting conditions.
The reticle, or crosshair, is made up of fine wires in cheaper scopes or etched into a glass plate in higher-end scopes. Different types of reticles include duplex, crosshair, mil-dot, special purpose reticle (SPR), bullet drop compensator (BDC), and others, with many tailored for specialized purposes or for use with specific ammunition calibers. The reticle is the aiming point and must be “zeroed” using a scope’s elevation and windage turrets. Turrets are either capped or exposed, and allow you to adjust the reticle in small “click” increments, moving the reticle up or down, and left or right.
Lastly, the eyepiece is what adjusts the “zoom” or magnification. As you turn the eyepiece, the magnification either increases or decreases to a certain magnification level (i.e. 3x, 5x, 7x, 10x), making the target appear 3, 5, 7, or 10 times closer, and so on.
How do I know which scope is right for me?
First and foremost, you need to know what you want to use it for, and at what range you’ll be using it. Are you hunting small- to medium-size game at mid-level ranges? Or, are you looking to drive out to ranges beyond 1,000 yards? Once you’ve determined what you’ll use the scope for, and what you’ll be mounting it to, pay close attention to the numbers associated with a scope.
In a 3-9x40 scope, the 3-9 means 3x-9x magnification or an image will appear 3 to 9 times (3x-9x) closer than it does with your naked eye. The second number (40, in this case) in a scope is the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters. The larger the number, the larger the lens. Large lenses offer a larger field of view and let in more light for a clearer image, especially in low-light environments, but they are often heavier and more cumbersome. The higher the magnification, the longer your range is, so be sure to purchase a scope with the appropriate magnification level for your intended ballistic profile and target. Most scopes sold today are variable power, such as the aforementioned 3-9x40. This allows greater versatility, allowing shooters to vary their chosen magnification from level A up to level B, with infinite values in between. There are, however, some scopes on the market that feature fixed magnification, or a magnification level that cannot be changed, though they are less common and less dependable than variable scopes.
In short, do your research. Know what you’ll be using it for, and in what environments you’ll be using it. Pay close attention to magnification type and range, as well as the lens coating types, tube construction, and reticle type. For the sake of brevity, however, we won’t go down those rabbit holes just yet.
How much should I spend on a rifle scope?
Too many shooters, new and experienced, make the mistake of opting for “affordable” scopes, commonly found at discount stores or big box sites like Amazon.com. While you might save a few pennies, you’ll also settle for, well, junk. Scopes are an investment. A great rule of thumb is to spend more on your scope than you did on your rifle.
Many professional shooters will argue—with merit—that the “glass” (the scope) should be of equal or greater quality and price point to that of your rifle. So, if you spend $300-$500 on a rifle, look at scopes in the $500-800+ price range. This is because the scope is ultimately the driving accuracy factor. If you put a junk-quality scope with poor clarity and a crooked reticle on an $800 rifle, you’ll garner junk-quality accuracy. On the inverse, if you put a $1,000 scope with multicoated lenses and a glass-etched reticle with holdover markings on a $500 rifle, you’ll garner more reliable accuracy at extended ranges.
Spend more, get more.
Regardless of your discipline or intended use, invest your time and money wisely. Purchase a quality scope that fits your needs as well as your budget. Not all scopes are created equal. Cheap scopes don’t always offer the best value, while on the other hand, expensive scopes don’t always perform the best in every environment. At GunMag Warehouse, we understand that choosing the right scope for you is a critical decision. That’s why we offer a wide selection of the best-selling scopes from Bushnell®, Vortex®, Leupold®, Burris®, and more. Whether you’re an experienced hunter, long-distance competition shooter, first-time gun owner, or aspiring marksman, we’re here for you. Shop our entire collection of rifle scopes, red dots, and other optics today!