Help needed choosing a scope, please


October 13, 2006, 01:55 PM
I need some help selecting a scope for a 24Ē 6.5 Grendel overwatch upper. I want to get long range shooting (probably 600-1000 yards, ranges permitting) with it, but need help choosing a scope. I would like something with a mil-dot recitle and target turrets. I think that I would like a 3-10x or maybe a 4-14x. I donít think that more magnification is needed. I donít know about the rest. Is a 40mm objective lens OK, or do I need a 50mm? I was looking at the Leupold Mark 4 series, but ouch! A G-note. Now, as I have said in the past, I donít mind spending the money for quality goods, but is this scope over kill?
Can anyone recommend something to me that is good quality, is good for long range shooting, but wonít break the bank? Am I going too Tact-i-cool with the MD and turret knobs?

As always, thanks for the assistance. You guys are the best.

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October 13, 2006, 02:52 PM
I know that you guys like spending other people's money...

October 13, 2006, 05:37 PM
If it's strictly for long distance shooting on the range, a fixed 10x scope might be just the ticket. If you are planning on shooting in low light conditions get a 50mm objective. If not, the 40mm is better due to less bulk and lower mount. I would recommend:

a fixed 10x magnification
40mm or 42mm objective
30mm scope body

I've never used one, but I have heard very good things about the Super Sniper brand scopes. From what I've heard, you get 98% of a Leupold Mark 4s performance at about half the cost. It is probably what I would buy if I was looking for a long range target scope on a budget.

Chris Rhines
October 13, 2006, 09:45 PM
Okay, first getcherself over to the Rifle forum and read Zak Smith's article on scopes for long-range practical rifle shooting. Here's the link:

Optics are expensive. Depending on what you want them to do, optics for multiple-target unknown-distance shooting can be very expensive. I just ordered a U.S. Optics SN-3 for a long-range rifle, and the bill makes that Leupold Mk4 look downright cheap. I wouldn't consider anything under a Leupold Mk4 PR/T for this kind of shooting, most cheaper scopes just don't have the necessary feature set.

Easily adjustable target turrets are absolutely necessary for shooting at different ranges - you need some way to adjust your elevation hold-off when changing ranges. Same with the mil-dot reticle, you'll be using that to determine the range to your target. If you're only going to be shooting at known distances, the mil-dot reticle is less important.

- Chris

October 16, 2006, 04:57 PM
Thanks for the heads up. That was a great writeup by Zak. Very informative. So, now I'm thinking of saving up a bit more, well maybe a lot more, for the Nightforce 3-15X50. Anyone have any experience with this bad boy. If so, your $0.02 would be appreciated.


Zak Smith
November 3, 2006, 04:03 PM
For under $1500, get the Nightforce NXS 3-15x50mm, reticle of your choice. The NPR1 and NPR2 are good choices.

If you have unlimited funds (== about $3k), buy the 3-12, 4-16x50 S&B PMII, configuration of your choice. My recommendation is the 3-12 PMII, cm/metric knobs, double-turn, illuminated, P4-fine reticle...

March 26, 2007, 12:47 AM
At ANY price, get the NF 3.5-15x50. I have 4 NF scopes, I don't deal with any other optics manufacturer these days. NF is the only company (AFIK) that offers a scope with a 4x magnification range, MOA reticle, side focus knob, zero-stop, and 2nd focal plane reticle. Some people (like Zak) believe that the 1st focal plane is a better choice, I disagree.

In the old days, there was a good argument for 1st focal plane reticles since they would hold zero better throughout the magnification range of the scope, but this is no longer an issue with quality (read: Nightforce) scopes. The disadvantage of a 1st focal plane scope is that the reticle never seems to be the right size; usually it's too fine at low power, and too clumsy and thick at high power, so you can never get it right at over the entire magnification range.

Others will tell you the advantage of 1st focal plane reticles lies in their ability to use hold over points and perform range estimation at any magnification. First of all, in real world this is irrelevant, anybody who can afford a decent scope can also afford a good laser range finder, which is so much more accurate than mil-dots or MOA tic marks it's ridiculous. Hold overs also don't matter, since accurate shooting requires the use of the elevation knob anyway. Finally, range estimating with the reticle is actually MORE accurate with a 2nd focal plane reticle, since you can zoom in on the target to bracket it perfectly within an EXACT number of tick marks (e.g. 8.0 MOA on a NF NP-R2 reticle), and then back-calculate the exact distance by using your knowledge of the reticle spacing at maximum power and the current power setting of the scope (e.g. for the NP-R2 reticle, the distance between vertical tick marks = 2MOA*(22/current magnification setting). They don't teach this method in sniper schools (I won't speculate as to why that is here), but if you try it yourself, 9 times out of 10 you will find your reticle ranging to be far more accurate. That being said, I stand by what I said earlier; reticle range estimation is for armchair commandos, if you want to range your target properly, get yourself a laser rangefinder.

March 26, 2007, 12:51 AM
I'm no expert but I bought a 6-24x40 Bushnell 4200 Elite. It has some nice paralax adjustments and was only $585 @ Also look at

Zak Smith
March 26, 2007, 01:15 AM
Like most of this stuff, FFP vs SFP is something that depends on one's shooting style.

I do agree that many FFP scopes have reticle lines that are too thick at high magnification. I have sold off several scopes because of this, but the thinnest offerings from S&B and USO have line thickness in the range of 1/8th MOA, which is fine enough to obtain a sight picture on an IPSC silhouette's head (6x6") @ 1000 yards. On the low end, I have used these thin-line scopes to engage targets from 300 on out at 4x and it is possible.

I do agree that range-finding is much better accomplished with a LRF-- no question. I disagree that the reticle is useless for specifying holdover. I wrote those comments about FFP vs SFP in the context of "practical" shooting, not benchrest or shooting flies. Using the knob is the most precise method to spec elevation, and it creates a simpler sight picture, but it also takes time, which is often limited in "practical" scenarios. For engaging multiple large targets, it is going to be faster to use the reticle to spec holdover, and if you are planning on target transitions, a lower power will be faster.

But this is all kind of ancillary, becuase 99% of the time I dial. One main reason to get a FFP is to use reticle holdoff for wind. Having to dial wind is one extra step to do between doping the wind and making the shot. When engaging the same target location all day, it's not bad to keep the knob updated, but if shooting a variety of positions and directions, or during rapid wind changes, I think it's a liability, and I have seen a lot of people get confused which way to turn the knob or forget to reset it.

I have seen people attempt to use the reticle features for hold-over on timed stages at sniper/tac matches, but screw up because they forgot to set the power to the right setting on a SFP scope.

On the point of ranging using the power ring.. how accurately can the current power be read? It'll have to be at least 5% to have a reasonable chance at hitting a 2 MOA target in the 600-yard regime.

The guys I shoot with who have MOA programmed into their brain and don't want t switch to mils all use the NF or the USO. The difference in optical quality between the NF and a USO or SB is dramatic. I used to shoot a NF, and as soon as I looked through my buddy's SN3, I did not understand this difference. But we are talking major $$$.

March 26, 2007, 02:37 AM

I'm one of those guys with MOA programmed on the brain, so maybe that's party responsible for my NF affinity (it's certainly a minus for S&B, whom, as far as I know, only use Mil-dot reticles). I'll be the first to admit I've had little experience with S&B, but I have been over to USO's factory in Buena Park, where I brought my NF NXS 3.5-15x for a head-to-head comparison. Granted, it was a rainy day, but I didn't see the difference that everyone else claims. The common problems I always find with rifle scopes, i.e. bad curvature of field at low magnification, noticable chromatic abberation at higher magnification, still plagued the USO scope (I wish somebody would build a rifle scope with apochromatic lenses).

As far as using the reticle for holding the wind, yes, I'll agree that's the only time I compensate with the reticle. But the truth is, 99% of the time I'm using my scope's maximum power when taking the shot; if I find that the highest power setting on my scope isn't the one I use most often, I buy a lower power scope.

used these thin-line scopes to engage targets from 300 on out at 4x and it is possible

Possible, yes. But ideal, I don't know. At low power settings, where one must place an emphasis on speed, it's a thicker reticle, not a thinner one that's needed. It has always seemed to me that 1st focal plane reticles are at their worst at both ends of the magnification range (unless, like you said, they are perfectly tuned for the high end, in which case I find them waaay to fine at low power).

On the point of ranging using the power ring.. how accurately can the current power be read? It'll have to be at least 5% to have a reasonable chance at hitting a 2 MOA target in the 600-yard regime.

I guess the real question is, which is easier to guesstimate, the actual power, or the actual angular target size. In my experience, bracketing the target with perfect integer number of tick-marks and extrapolating your magnification is usually more accurate than knowing your magnification and guessing how large the target actually is (e.g. somewhere between 6 and 8 MOA). Maybe I'd change my mind if I switched over from the NP-R2 to the finer NP-R1, but I think that the R1 reticle would be too cluttered on my 2.5-10 NXS, and I like using the exact same reticle on all of my scopes.

In the end, I doubt I'll ever see a scope that I think rises significantly above the performance of the NF NXS series, unless someone bothers to make a scope with an APO objective lens, zero stop elevation turret, 34mm tube, 56+mm objective, MOA-pattern (illuminated) reticle with MOA adjustment knobs, >4x power range, >100 MOA vertical travel, 2nd focal plane reticle. Hey, while we're at it, why not integrate a laser range finder which automatically compensates an electronic reticle for holdover, incorporating air temperature, bullet weight and muzzle velocity, as well as altitude into the ballistic trajectory.

BTW Zak, are you going to be at the MGM Ironman this year? If so, maybe I'll see you there and we can talk/compare optics. I'd love to see some NF vs. S&B side by side comparisons.

Zak Smith
March 26, 2007, 12:35 PM
S&B has a SFP 5-25 coming out, and you are not the only person who wishes they would make a MOA reticle! Another lever is Premier, since they are doing reticle swaps on S&B scopes now.

As a side note on the FFP fine-ness. At the night stage at the 2006 PRTC, I shot my 3-12x50 PMII (P4-Fine, Illuminated) at about 6x and had no problems, since the illumination brings a lot of attention to the reticle in low light.

I won't be at Ironman. A lot of my time this year is going into the multi-gun stuff up at Camp Guernsey ARNG base. I am going to try to make one of the other sniper matches outside of the CO/WY/NM region this year though.

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