Finding the Right Scope: The Essentials

New hunters and seasoned hunters get the best out of their rifles when they use a quality scope. The key word is quality. But how do we understand differences in quality, and what features truly matter when it comes to buying your best scope?

First things first—what do those numbers mean?

Let’s take a 3x9×40mm scope: 3x means objects will appear three times larger than they do with the naked eye. 9x means, well, objects will appear nine times larger. The last number always refers to the objective lens. The objective lens is the lens on the end of the scope—in this case it’s 40mm wide.

Here are the essentials to consider:

  1. Optical power

How far do you shoot? Consider this extreme example: a 1,000 metre bench rest shooter would be terribly underequipped with a 4x scope, while a deer hunter in dense trees would have a very hard time making a shot with a 32x scope.

Three power is low enough for when you are big game hunting in the bush. Seven to nine power is sufficient for those longer shots. It depends on the magnification you need. Remember though, the higher the magnification, the shakier the view through the scope.

  1. Lenses

Once you decide on your magnification, look to the size of lenses in the scope. The larger the objective lens (the lens on the end of the scope), the more light that can enter the scope. This means that a larger objective lens will typically perform better in low light conditions…to a certain point. It’s tempting to drop the big bucks for a 50-mm objective lens when we think the biggest equals the best light transmission. But the human eye takes advantage of only so much—typically 40mm is plenty. Save your dollars here.

Instead, be more concerned with lens coatings. This is what impacts light transmission. A simple test in low light conditions reveals how well a scope transmits light: set up a magazine page at 100 metres. Can you read the print or decipher photos during low light? All scopes should work perfectly in excellent light…what you might want to pay extra for is how clearly you can see in low light.

  1. Crosshairs

Look through a scope and you’ll see the crosshairs, or “reticles,” intersecting lines in the shape of a cross. Crosshairs give you a centralized aiming point and help you hit target

There are many kinds of crosshairs but the “duplex” is by far the most popular in hunting rifles. In a duplex, the lines are thicker on the edges, then taper to thin in the center of the image. They are great even in low light, with the thick sections easier to see against a dark background.

A final word: Finding your scope comes down to personal preference. With that said, it’s hard to go wrong with a 3x9x40mm riflescope — it’s a go-to for many hunters.


Parts of a scope

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