How to choose the right Rifle Scope for you.
We are living in a time when technology has been rapidly advancing. This gives you so many great choices for Rifle Scopes. It can also be confusing with so many options to choose from especially if you have not been keeping up with the advances in the marketplace offerings. Some of the choices are magnification power, size of the objective lens, tactical knobs or not, MOA or Milrad, types of lens coatings, type of gas used in the body of the scope to keep it moisture free . Do you want a lighted reticle or not? Do you want a variable power Scope or fixed? Front focal plane (FFP) or second focal plane (SFP)? Etched glass reticle or not. Plane duplex reticle, BDC, Christmas tree reticle or some other proprietary reticle. How fancy of a Rifle Scope do you want? What is your Budget? Those etched Christmas tree reticles in Milrad are my favorite. I like them because I am just not that quick at math and the Milrad allows me to do simple math in tens much quicker. When you answer the above questions it will help you narrow your search.
Front Focal Place the reticle is on the front of the scope which in short allows you to range targets at any magnification using the hash marks on the reticle in relation to a know size of a target at any given distance. But the reticle appears much smaller on low settings. The Second Focal Plane the reticle will allow you to range targets but on a specific power setting but you have an easy to see reticle at any setting because the reticle appears to stay the same size on all settings.
MOA reticle= At 100 yards adjust 1/4 click it move POI 1/4 inch or 2.5 inches at 1,000 yards
Milrad reticle= At 100 yards the smallest adjustment you can make is .36 of an inch or 3.6 inches at 1,000 yards.
In general when you choose a variable power Rifle Scope over a Fixed power you have some trade offs. It is up to you but a variable power has more lenses inside the main tube compared to the fixed scopes and tends to let in less light because the light has to travel through all the extra lenses. The lower quality the variable scope the less light will come through to your eye. This is important if you are using your Scope for hunting because many shots are taken at low lighting times. (very early morning and late evening) You can see the difference for yourself if you looked through say a 10X power fixed scope instead of a variable power scope, it will be bright and clear letting in lots of light because the light does not have to travel through multiple lenses to get to your eye. But the trade off is you will give up that close in shot because with the fixed power all you will see is a blur of hair. For me I like a quality variable Rifle Scope, but that is because I have already answered the above questions of what type of shooting I will be doing. There is nothing wrong with high power fixed Rifle Scopes for the correct application they are awesome if you know you are ONLY going to shoot at a longer distance.
The Red Dots Scopes are mainly used for close in shooting and can be used in variable lighting. Although there are some very nice Red Dots Scopes with Reticles having hash marks (BDC type) for graduating distance shooting and calibrated for specific calibers. You can still see the targets far off but not with fine detail. You can still get hits on target with them at longer distances and that may be a good compromise for you if most of your shooting is under 100 yards.
The Christmas tree type reticles (there are many types) allow you range your targets and shoot at longer distances as well as account for the wind on the fly. When you put your trigger time in these reticles works very well. If you find the secret code to precisely reading the wind on long distance shots, please let me know. For many of us it is a guess your best, although there are some awesome shooters out there that are very good guesstimating the wind. It gets tricky reading wind when you are shooting across a couple canyons etc. The wind gusts, changes direction and speed, all of which effects the bullets flight.
As far as the different lens coatings it is exciting to see so many options and innovations available to you in the marketplace. The special lens coating goal is to cut down the glare and protect from scratching the lens. Good scope caps are a good thing to have because the lens are exposed to many elements that are out of your control. (dust, rain, snow, twigs etc.) Mostly if you spend more money you will get better and or the newest technology, proprietary processes of the lens coatings.
Lighted reticles, do you really need them? I don’t know if you do but they tend to come as an option with the scopes I buy for myself. Your choice.
If you like to or are going to be shooting long distance, hunting etc. there are a few companies that specialize in making custom turrets that you can dial in the yardage for a shot. This would be just for your Rifle and a specific load you always use. If you know the velocity of the load that you always shoot in your Rifle then that may be the option for you. This is a great option for someone that mainly uses his Rifle for hunting season and not a great option for someone in competitive shooting or thinking about getting into that.
So when choosing a Rifle Scope you can make it much easier on yourself by asking yourself and answering questions which will eliminate certain products. You will be able to shoot better if you can see what you are shooting at, that is why I like the option to increase the power of magnification. What distance are you mostly going to be shooting at? Are you just going to be taking it to the range shooting 100 or 200 yards? Are you thinking of getting into competition at some point in the future? Is your interest just a need for home defense and some range time? (maybe a Red Dot Scope is your huckleberry) How much are you wanting to spend? Remember that the more you spend glass the better you will see what you are shooting at, and you will be happier in the long run. You can’t hit what you can’t see.
I am sure that you heard the saying ” buy once, cry once” this especially holds true with a Rifle Scope. You may have also heard about the rule of thumb that “what you spent to buy your Rifle then spend that same amount on your scope”. These old sayings are still around because they mostly hold true. Today you can easily spend much more on your scope than you did on your rifle. In general I don’t think you will have to worry about scopes made today that are going fog up on you. The manufacturing processes, technology coupled with the stringent competition now in the marketplace for companies to risk offering poor performing products are unlikely. The market trend now is many companies lifetime guarantee for their Rifle Scopes. Many have a no questions asked return and replace or fix policy. So why would you not buy once and cry once?
Don’t forget the Scope mounts, they are extremely important. If you are going to be using a scope on your AR type Rifle they tend to need a higher scope mount than a bolt action would need.