Gun Scopes: How to Choose the Best Scope for Your Rifle
This USMC Sniper scope from Leatherwood/Hi-Lux is a brilliant combination of a vintage military sniper scope design and modern riflescope technology
The dual red/green illumination for visibility of this tactical version of the Sidewinder helps you hit your target in low light hunting and shooting situations, every time
The Leatherwood ART (Auto Ranging & Trajectory) M1000 scope makes long-distance shooting simple
This DVD will show you both the time-tested methods as well as the newer technology methods available for scope mounting
Picking out rifle scopes isn’t as difficult as you think.
By Corey Graff, Online Editor
In addition to matching scope function to your application, consider style. This is a high-end Austrian-made scope, which compliments a custom rifle.
Great rifle scopes on good rifles are a superb combination. Poor scopes on great rifles, not so much...
Consider Sniper Scopes
If you’re setting up a deer rifle, decide if you’ll someday hunt the West for mule deer, elk or antelope. Consider a “tactical scope” — that is, one with a larger 30mm or 35mm tube, external-adjustable windage and elevation knobs, and a range-finding reticle, such as a Mil-Dot.
Leupold scopes, Nikon scopes, Hawke scopes, Vortex scopes, Leatherwood Hi-Lux scopes and Bushnell scopes are all excellent examples — and among my personal favorites — of law enforcement and military-style rifle optics. And then there are the classic reproductions of WWII-era military scopes, like the Leatherwood USMC Sniper.
You get what you pay for when it comes to riflescopes. Think in terms of value scopes ($50-$299), mid-range scopes ($300-$699) and high-end scopes ($700-$3000+). Don’t set up a big game rifle with a value-level scope. These are better suited for small game rimfire rifles.
Rifle Scopes for Mid-Price Point Rifles
Mid-level price point scopes are a good option for big game hunting. For shooting beyond 400 yards, you’ll need a scope in the higher end of the cost spectrum.
Precision rifle shooting is a discipline in which you shoot at moving targets, angles and targets so far the naked eye can barely see. This requires specific types of reticles. The gold standard used to be one-quarter MOA elevation and windage adjustment knobs, but today there is a shift among long-range marksmen to a Mil-based method that uses multiples of ten. Many scopes now come in MOA/MOA knobs or Mil/Mil.
As a general rule, the more you pay, the better quality glass and tighter fit and precision you’ll get. You’ll have to pay to get repeatability. This is especially important in tactical scopes, where tiny variations can equal big misses at long range.
Decide between a first focal plane or second focal plane scope. In a second focal plane design, the reticle remains the same size no matter the magnification. They are the most common and tend to be less expensive. In a first focal plane, the reticle changes size proportional to the magnification as you zoom, so that at any power setting you can use the reticle’s range-finding features. First focal plane scopes run on the pricier side.
The Leatherwood LER 2-7x32 is priced at under $200, making it a value scope. However, you’d never know it by its quality. I’d put this scope on any deer rifle in my safe.
When in Doubt, Go Leupold Scopes Variable
Choose between fixed or variable power scopes. The best deer riflescope power range is arguably the 3x-10x power scope. For long-range shooting, you may consider a -16x or even -24x power, although my most-used long-distance optic is a fixed 10x.
Next get a manufacturer’s catalog. Each scope maker employs a different nomenclature for describing the features on their scopes. Study it thoroughly. Buy the right scope rings and learn how to properly install the scope.
The bottom line: don’t buy a scope until you’re sure you’re choosing one that meets all your shooting requirements now and in the future. After you torque down those scope rings, you may not be able to return it, so take your time and know all the options before you plunk down your cash.
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Corey Graff is the Online Editor for GunDigest.com. His personal interest in firearms includes handguns for hunting and self-defense as well as guns from the World War II era.