If you’re looking for a scope to help make your much-anticipated hunting trips more successful, knowing what to look for can be the difference between buying a valuable tool to add to your arsenal and doing no more than lightening your wallet and weighing down your rifle.
In a nutshell, a scope works like a telescope to magnify far away objects and uses a reticle, or crosshair, to help you line up your best shot. Targets can typically be magnified 1 to 50 times. Magnification levels can be fixed or adjustable. If your usual range to target stays roughly the same, you may be able to save money buy going with a fixed magnification model. Some scopes are sold with mounting kits, but some are not. Make sure you know what type of mounting kit your scope and your rifle need or will accommodate before making your purchase. You can usually pay a professional gunsmith to mount your scope for you if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself.
If you know you’ll be hunting in snow or rain, be sure to look for a scope that is water resistant. There are even some waterproof models available.
If you want to take your scope’s abilities up a notch or two, consider buying a model with a built-in rangefinder. A rangefinder can calculate the distance to your target and help you compensate for ammunition, windage, and angle to target.
Rangefinders generally offer an advertised range of 50 to 1,500 feet. Again, the type of hunting you do will determine what range is best for you. Don’t let the advertised range fool you, though. Some models advertise long ranges, but don’t back up those ranges with good accuracy. Look for the model that combines the range you need with the highest possible accuracy.
If you hunt in a variety of light conditions, make sure to consider only those models that adapt well to changing or varied light conditions. A model with great range and accuracy in full regular daylight won’t be of much use if you like dusk or dawn expeditions or if you find yourself hunting in snowy near-whiteout conditions.
Clarity is another feature to consider carefully. How clearly outlined is your target at various ranges and in different light settings? Are you content to be sure there’s a deer there, or would you rather be able to see his features clearly enough to make sure your shot count?
Since it often happens that we are considerably higher or lower than our intended target, some rangefinders offer an angle-compensation feature that allows more accurate shooting based on both distance-to-target and angle-to-target calculations, further insuring a clean hit rather than a grazing shot or, worse still, a warning shot.
There are a few optional features that might interest you, though they will almost certainly drive your cost up to some degree. More advanced rangefinders offer ballistics settings to help compensate for the ammunition you’re using. Most do this by offering several settings, with each corresponding to multiple ammo types. If you expect to hunt in windy weather, you can find models that also compensate for wind speed and direction.
Quality scopes can be found for under $100. More advanced models, especially those with the most decked out rangefinders can go up to over $1,000, so be sure to have your budget in mind when shopping and don’t be fooled into thinking that the most expensive model you can buy is necessarily the best. Don’t feel compelled to spend extra money for features that you don’t need.
In short, if you’re a seasoned hunter looking for a little help, a basic scope might be your answer. If, on the other hand, you’re a rookie, or maybe a veteran tired of coming home dirty and empty-handed, a scope with a built-in rangefinder could be the leg up you need to bag the big one or hit your limit.
Remember, though, that basic safety procedures and a constant awareness of surroundings will always be a hunter’s best tools. The fanciest gear in the world can compensate for wind and ammo, but not for a lapse in judgement.
Keep in mind that it’s best to research on top rifle scope reviews, gun scopes, or sniper scope reviews online — don’t purchase the first scope you see just because it looks great, or because the price tag is on the affordable side.