I’m sure you’ve heard this gem a time or two from whoever taught you how to shoot a gun: “The only things a good gun owner will ever need to purchase is ammunition. There’s no need for extra bells and whistles!” This statement reflects a fairly common belief held by some of the more old-fashioned gun enthusiasts out there. These rifle virtuosos have handled firearms since their youth, tinkering here and there with very few other guns than the one that their father or grandfather gave them as a rite of passage into manhood. Such hunters and professional target shooters know their rifle like the back of their hand, needing only the built-in sight to make their highly accurate shots! My father is someone who fits this description well and is the one responsible for the quote above.
But he’s very much wrong, ladies and gentlemen.
While it’s true that any gun can enjoy a long and fulfilling life so long as its owner takes care of it, utilizing the built-in sight alone will only get you so far when it comes to hunting. This fact becomes even more glaring when you consider your hunting style. Not everyone wants to get up close to the action, and not everyone wants to rely on camouflage to attract their prey. Some hunters prefer taking the long distance approach, as it allows them a bit more breathing room without the fear of scaring any deer or turkeys off. Obviously, spotting prey from a long distance can’t really be done with sights alone.
That’s why long range hunting rifle scopes are so necessary! But how does one go about choosing the perfect scope for their rifle?
How Do Long Range Scopes Work?
Before we get into how you’d pick the perfect scope for your rifle, we need to take a moment to briefly review the most important characteristics of a good hunting scope. If this is the first time you’re buying a long range scope, it is essential that you do your research beforehand. If you don’t, you may purchase an incompatible scope for your rifle. Some basic parts on long range scopes include:
Objective Lens – The objective lens is the telescope-like glass at the front of the scope. You look into it whenever you spot a target worth your bullet’s time. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that this is the most notable part of your scope, but there is more than meets the eye to the objective lens. Pun totally intended, by the way.
When shopping for a long range scope, try not to get one that’s too big. With newbies hunters, you may find they frequently see a scope with a huge, gigantic lens and think to themselves, “Look at that! A big lens! That’ll help me see things very easily!” This is not true. All that a big lens is gonna give you is a workout…because they make scopes heavy. Do not fall for this deception–your image can easily be improved by adjusting your magnification level!
Magnification Levels – Also known as the zoom feature of a scope. There are two operative types of magnification systems that are typically implemented on hunting rifle scopes. Fixed magnification levels refer to scopes containing one zoom level. Variable magnification levels, on the other hand, have multiple zoom options.
Which magnification type is the best, you ask? Honestly, that completely depends on your preference. Fixed magnification levels are good for those of you looking to hunt from a not-too-specific distance, but still within a range (far, close, midway, etc). Variable magnification settings give you much more control over your sight, in the case there’s a very specific location you want to “make house” at during your hunt. Plus it works from those with shoddy eyesight…so the ability to freely adjust your magnification is a real lifesaver.
What Additional Details Do I Need to Consider When Picking A Long Range Scope?
First thing’s first, it is essential that you keep the overall quality of the lens in mind at all times. Most sporting goods stores will let you test out the scopes firsthand, so the lens is the first thing you should check before making a decision. When you put your eye up to the lens, can you see anything? How clear is your picture? Do you have to strain your eyes at all? If you answered “yes”, “very”, and “not at all” to these questions, then that scope has successfully passed the first round of consumer interrogation!
For those of your ordering scopes online, the best advice I can give is do your homework on the available options. You can read reviews from other buyers, look up Youtube videos demonstrating the products, or you can go on a hunting forum and ask for recommendations. It might be more of a gamble when purchasing your scope, but it’s one that can be in your favor if you’re careful.
Another super important feature that you need to thoroughly evaluate is the reticle marks and positioning. You know those little marks inside your lens that may or may not remind you of a James Bond film intro? Those are your scopes reticles, and they should be very bold in texture (meaning they should be very easy to see). Vertical marks help with bullet drop compensation and horizontal marks help with wind compensation.
There are two possible focal planes that can help with your positioning. Each focal plane coincides with the different magnification types. As such, the one associated more with variable magnification is more accurate because it’s easier to adjust. As for the focal plane closely related to the fixed system, it’s caught in a neverending stasis. It won’t move unless you move!
Now that you know a bit about what to look for in long range hunting scopes, good luck shopping!