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May 13, 2004
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How to pick a scope for your rifle

By John Scarbrough, Tactical Response

First you need to ask yourself a question? Why do you want a scope? There are many reasons for having a scoped rifle. Helps to shoot more accurate, longer ranges, faster recovery, range estimation, and better target identification.

How many of us have played the holster game? We buy a cheap one before we knew any better. Then next thing you know we got one gun with two or three unused holsters and one that we wear all the time. If we would have known better in the beginning maybe we could have saved money, time and only bought one holster and spent the rest of the money on ammo. That is what this article is about just a little insight on scopes.

A few things to consider when buying a scope: price, durability, power setting, adjustments, reticle, low light capabilities, size of the objective, and accessories. Let''s look at each:

Price
There are tons of scopes out there anywhere from $100 to unlimited. But you will spend between $400 and $1200 for one depending which one you get. Some people say you should spend at least as much on your scope as you do your rifle. There are a lot of good products out there in each price range. You have to decide on what price range you want while looking at the rest of the features

Durability
If you have ever taken one of our classes I am sure you have seen a gun dropped, thrown, kicked, or even buried. It happens! Guns are tools we use for many excuses but only one reason, to shoot. If you feel you need to baby your gun you are looking at the wrong website. But if you except the fact that your gun might get dropped and when it does happen you reconfirm your zero and move on then you are in the right mindset. Whatever scope you buy you need to do some test with the adjustments. Make sure you can shoot a square with it. It doesn''t have to be perfect but shoot two shots then move it left ten clicks, shoot two more. Move it up ten clicks, shoot two more. Move it right ten clicks, shoot two more. Lastly, move it down ten clicks and shoot two more. Your last two shots should be close to your first two. If not do it again and see if it is consistent. If your scope will not do it think about sending it back. Always make sure all scope screws are tight at least once a month if not every time you go to the range. You should hear and feel a "click" when turning the adjustments knobs.

Power setting
How well do you need to see the target? Are you looking at a criminal with a black glove on or a gun? Are you shooting at a deer 100 yards away or Iraqis at 1,000 yards away? If you just need to see the target whatever the distance a power setting not more than 10-14x for closer distances will do. A variable with lower power would come in handy. But if you need to tell the difference between Buchie and Charlie before you put a bullet in him you might want a variable up to 20 power. It comes in handy for spotting and target identification. Plus the better you can see the target the more accurately you can place the crosshairs. For lower caliber rifles a 4 or 6 power might be the best bet due to shorter maximum effective range. Keep in mind the higher the power the more wind and mirage will distort the clarity. Also if shooting from an unstable position a lower power setting appears to not jump around as much.

Adjustments
There are scopes that you need to use tools to make your adjustments from one yard line to the next and ones that you can turn by hand. I am not talking about zeroing here. If it is going to be a tactical scope you must be able to turn it by hand. There are knobs that have covers and some that are open. Again as long as you make sure it is on the right setting before you shoot it is not a problem to have either.

There are 1/4 MOA* (see bottom), 1/2 MOA* and 1 MOA* increment adjustments then there are scopes that have bullet drop compensators. They will have bold numbers on them that once zeroed will act as a guide for which yard line equals what scope setting to use. They normally have a fine tuning of 1/4 or 1/2 MOA* for more accurate adjustments. If you have to put it on 5 for 500 yards and then shoot it is quicker and easier than remembering 14 minutes up from 0 and then did I go the right way or not? I personally prefer something with 1/4 MOA* increments for the fine tune accuracy.

Reticle
There are a lot of different reticles out there duplex, cross hairs, and mildot are some of the most common. To view more go to Leupold''s reticle page.

There is also Gen 2 Mildots which are better because they have a center 1/2 mil reading (more accurate) line. Premier Reticles makes the Gen 2 Mildot.

The Mildot reticle is growing and has been used by the military for years. They are useful for more than just range estimation. They are also good for holds in wind and elevation and can be used for leads on moving targets. If you never have any intention on needing mildots don''t waste your money. If it is strictly going to be a 100 yard target rifle you don''t need them. You can also get them added later by Premier Reticle.

To use the mildot reticle for Range Estimation use the following formula:

Height of the target in inches multiplied by 27.77. Then divided that by the number of mils read and that will equal the range in yards.

One mil is actually measured from the crosshair to the center of the first mil dot. You want to break that down into .10th''s. The round mildot is .20th of a mil If your target is half way between the cross hairs and the first mil dot the mil reading would be .5 mils. If it is from the crosshairs to the bottom edge of the first mil dot it is .9 mils. From the crosshairs to the top edge of the second mil dot would be 2.1 mils.

Low light capabilities
I am a big fan of Illuminated reticles. I know there are plenty of times we can see the target in our scopes due to house, vehicle, or street lights, illums, popups, sun or moon light. But the problem is we can''t see the crosshairs in low light. That is where illuminated reticles (ILR) come in. Different companies make them and some only light up the center with a dot or just the center + and some light up the entire reticle. Now If you have the money and it applies to you only one thing can beat illuminated reticles. That is night vision scopes. Or night vision attachments for your scope. Make sure if it is a day / night scope it still has an illuminated reticle. Night Vision Devices (NVD) tend to wash out when there is ambient light on or near the target. That''s when you would need to switch to the day scope and use the ILR. Of course if you are using a scope that uses batteries make sure you have extras with your rifle at all times. They will go out when you need them most.

Other than expensive scopes you can use a one inch chemlight taped up inside your ocular lens (The part toward the rear of the rifle that you look through) to illuminated the cross hairs. Tape most of it up so it is not as bright.

Can you see the light inside the scope at night? Yes, if you are at the muzzle end looking through the objective lens. Will it matter? Depends on your job but it is so minuet that most of the time it doesn''t.

Size of the objective lens
The larger objective lens you have the more light you will be able to gather into the scope. If it is getting dark the crosshairs inside a larger objective lens will be visible longer. It also is bigger so it raises the scope up above the barrel higher so you will need higher rings and a higher cheek piece. Which in turn gives you a higher silhouette. But again the difference is minuet. The larger the lens the more field of view you have as well as the lower power the larger field of view.

Accessories
Bases, rings, and scope covers are all part of the package of buying and choosing a scope. Bases come in one piece and two piece, tapered and flat. One piece bases are better. They keep the rifle and scope together better and what we want is consistency to shoot good tight groups. A one piece base flexes less than a two piece will. A tapered base is needed for adjustments at longer ranges. Some scopes run out of elevation adjustments around 600 yards. By having a base that has a 20 MOA taper it allows you to save more elevation for the longer ranges.

Rings from Badger, Leupold, and GG&G are all good. Something that will tighten properly and not strip out in case you need to change it. Hex head screws are better than allen screws.

Scope covers are a must. Why spend so much on a scope and not buy at least some Butler Creek Covers or a rubber $5.00 bikini cover from Walmart for your scope?

Data cards
For data cards, ballisticards are a good start. They use different ammo and rifle specs you set up at what ranges and what zero. It is a good starting point and I have found that most of them are very close to what my rifle shoots.

I hope this clears up any questions you might have had about scopes and what is out there. In the hierarchy of Survival the proper order is MINDSET, TACTICS, SKILL, and EQUIPMENT. Snipers, Sharpshooters, Designated Marksman, Marksman / Observers, and Precision Rifle Shooters all require different equipment than others. Buy it once, learn to use it, then continue to learn to use it better, faster, and more accurate. Happy hunting.


*MOA - Minute of Angle: For every 100 yards one minute of angle (MOA) equals one inch 1 MOA at 100 yards = 1 inch 1 MOA at 200 yards = 2 inches 1 MOA at 300 yards = 3 inches ect... 1/2 MOA at 100 yards = 1/2 inch 1/2 MOA at 200 yards = 1 inch 1/2 MOA at 300 yards = 1 1/2 inches ect... 2 MOA at 100 yards = 2 inches 2 MOA at 200 yards = 4 inches 2 MOA at 300 yards = 6 inches etc...

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