The Scoop on Scopes


February 25, 2007, 03:01 PM
I recently learned a valuable lesson about what a good scope is and what "trash can" fillers are. Now I need to understand the difference between hunting scopes and tactical scopes.

How are tactical scopes different and what exactly is the third knob for?

Also, if tactical scopes allow windage and elevation adjustments in the field, doesn't this screw up your basic scope settings?

If you enjoyed reading about "The Scoop on Scopes" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
February 25, 2007, 03:19 PM
The third knob is focus. Adjusting windage and elevation in the field is a common procedure among target shooters and military.LE sharpshooters. The scope is adjusted to compensate for wind and range so the crosshairs can be held dead on.

It probably shouldn't be done by novices.

February 25, 2007, 03:27 PM
Part of true marksmanship is learning your ballistics. How much drop to expect at a given distance. How much the bullet will be deflected by the wind at that distance. You can't accurately guestimate windage and elevation, so you need to adjust the scope accordingly to make an accurate shot. It doesn't mess up your original settings because you can always return to them if you need to. That's why scopes have the numbered clicks to start with. Limiting ourselves to shooting within maximum point blank range only, is missing out on half the fun and much of the cartridge's capabilities.

Generally the third knob is for parallax adjustment. This allows you to focus the scope at that distance to eliminate parallax error. Parallax error can cause the crosshairs to move in relation to the target and effect accuracy. That's usually only important at closer ranges. Scopes that don't have adjustable parallax are factory set at 100 yards or so. They work fine for most uses, but for precision work adjustable parallax is useful. It's also useful for high powered scopes at close range, such as benchrest competition with .22 rimfires. I adjust mine to 50 yards, crank up the power to 18x and punch teeny tiny groups.

I think labelling those scopes as "tactical" is just a marketing ploy to sell scopes to the "tacti-cool" crowd. They've been around for a long time and were originally sold as target and competition scopes. I'm noticing this marketing trend more and more on items that have been around long before the whole tactical fad began.

I won't be surprised when they come out with the "tactical can opener" complete with weaver/picatiny rails so it can be mounted on the bazillion rails they managed to stick all over guns today. Or more likely to be mounted on the bottom of the vertical foregrip without which no Rooney gun (see is complete.

February 25, 2007, 03:50 PM
...the "tacti-cool" crowd, ...the whole tactical fad, ...I won't be surprised when they come out with the "tactical can opener" complete with weaver/picatiny rails so it can be mounted on the bazillion rails they managed to stick all over guns today.


You seem to have some kind of problem with your fellow tactical rifle shooters.
Are you by chance related to Jim Zumbo?


February 25, 2007, 04:08 PM

I gotta admit that I find the entire uber-tactical thing just too utterly too-too also. I do have an AR platform, I am not related to Zumbo, and I think many sit quietly on the sidelines with me & bemusedly shake their heads.

:rolleyes: 900F

February 25, 2007, 04:19 PM
If you have that stuff hanging from your AR, are you automatically a terrorist?

I wouldn't downplay parallax. When I was first varmint hunting in the 60's, I had a 22-250 with a fixed 10x scope. I would try to center the crosshairs, then move my head side to side to put the target in the center of the "wiggle" hoping I was close to right

February 25, 2007, 04:19 PM
I too feel that the Tactical thing is more of a marketing ploy than anything. Make it matte black, special reticle, larger bolt handle, etc. etc. and double the price. It's pure genius. I don't care for it because I am value conscience, and tend to be extremely cynical of any trends that appear to be more style than substance.

Anyways, Sidefocus is more or less the same thing as an adjustable objective, just that it does the focusing internally. Don't quote me on this, but instead of moving the front lens to adjust the focus, a side focus has additional lenses internally. This has a few drawbacks.

February 25, 2007, 06:45 PM
I too feel that the Tactical thing is more of a marketing ploy than anything.

Granted, there are some products being marketed at "tactical", which tactical rifle shooters wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole, but for the most part, what you are seeing is the market meeting a demand that already exists. However, the point I was trying to make (and what the whole Zumbo bruhaha was about) was, we should not divide shooters into categories, and we shouldn't make fun or belittle participants of a shooting fraternity that we don't belong to. Just MHO.


February 25, 2007, 07:48 PM

You seem to have some kind of problem with your fellow tactical rifle shooters.

USSR, not a bit, brother.

I shoot along side them often and learn a lot from them. I also own a rather large number of semi-autos and scoped long range rifles myself. What I have trouble with are fads and trends and how easily people are brainwashed into following them by the marketing folks who sell "coolness" rather than content. There's a big difference between tactical shooters and "tacti-cool" shooters.

Ever notice reviews of products? More often than not, the talk centers about how cool something looks rather than it's performance. I recently bought a new digital camera and read reviews all over the net before purchasing. Not one answered the questions I had about it, but I sure found out it's "coolness" factor compared to the others. Even the products themselves. Companies spend more time "restyling" than they do actually improving. Doesn't matter whether it's cars, boomboxes where glitter is more important than sound quality, or firearms accessories.

We have a large number of military and law enforcement who shoot at our range. They're serious professionals who are highly talented and work hard to keep their skills honed. They're generally very helpful, well trained, and present a positive image of firearms owners.

We also have a large number of the Rooney gun folks. They mostly just make a lot of noise, send rounds over the berm and in general, make a laughing stock of our sport. Those are the fellows that I like to poke fun at for being "tacti-cool". To them it's all some testosterone frenzy of acting cool, posturing and playing armchair commando.

Trend is just another word for fad. It's all just hoola hoops and frisbees.

I'm with CB900f on this one. I guess my head just doesn't shake as quietly as some. :)

February 25, 2007, 07:59 PM
I guess my next question is,....once a scope is zeroed at whatever yardage that is chosen, does the shooter then alter the primary settings to make a 600 yd shot or is there a secondary set of adjustments that allow the scope to be returned to zero?

I guess I'm thinking like a hunter and expect holdover to be the norn m instead of altering scope settings.

February 25, 2007, 08:11 PM
Picknlittle this thread and linked articles should answer your questions.

February 25, 2007, 08:22 PM
Tacticool has it's place. The trick is to finding the happy medium between what works and what doesn't. Think of them as beta testers. Every piece of junk known to man has been on the tacticool weapons, and if you really want to know what works, and what doesn't, they are the people to ask.

Of course, a lot of this has to do with the fact that some of these guys are kids, and young adults without a whole lot of money to burn, and they simply emulate what they see on TV and in the movies. But it is still part of the fun, and they learn by trial and error.

IMO, everyone should have at least one zombie gun. And truth be told, an entry level Maverick/10/22 with some plastic tacticool stuff on it will probably work as well as some of the higher end rigs, for at least a little while. And that's what makes having something like that fun.

Between you and me, I think, evetually, those guys grow up, and then they start hanging around places like THR.

February 26, 2007, 12:07 AM
Thanks for the link

February 26, 2007, 12:27 AM
I have a whole safe full of black so-called "assault weapons. AKA "tactical" weapons.

But IMHO, the floodlights, flashlights, lasers, foregrips, beta drums, mud flaps and raccoon tails are for the under 21 crowd

I can look at an AR-15, and guess with 95 percent certainty whether or not the owner is over 21 years old.

February 26, 2007, 12:39 AM
Here's a good mil dot simulator.

February 26, 2007, 01:38 AM
Stretch, while I may question the mindset of the folks who emulate what they see on TV (and those who follow fads), I have to agree with everything you said. And well said it was.

As for sidewheels on scopes, I can see their usefulness in a sniper situation where less movement is better. My adjustable scopes have the adjustment on the objective and I have to reach to adjust them. This type of movement could give away a sniper's position, whereas the side wheel is close and handy to reach.

A few years back, after struggling with the mildot concept for a while, I bought a long distance shooting simulator program designed to teach mildot use. It made learning how to range with the system quite intuitive, as well as being a heckuva lot of fun to play. I don't remember the name offhand, but if anyone is considering getting into mildots and runs into the program, it's a very good value. It had a very well done tutorial, and simulated the ballistics of common rounds from .223 up to .50 BMG.

February 26, 2007, 02:15 AM
I have a few of those "tacticool" items but I think it is unfair to group all "young people" "without a whole lot of money to burn" into such a category. Items actually used by the military that have trickled into the LE and civvie market tend to be quite expensive, dependable, and rugged. There are imitation products out there that attempt to cash in on the same market, but they're not in the same league. There are also untested products sold as LE/Mil with artificially high prices as well (aka Bose marketing)

I would say that people buying up the imitation stuff for "that look" would probably be more akin to those that add fake carbon fiber, big mufflers, and foam intake socks to their car rather than actual carbon fiber panels and a full intake/exhaust system with a set of cams and heads.

They definitely exist, but I just don't think a majority of the people who burn $600 on Aimpoints and EOTechs or $2k on US Optics and S&B do so unless they generally know what they are after. Okay...and now to poke fun after I said all that with something I saw elsewhere :neener:

February 26, 2007, 02:32 AM
I can see both sides on this. My basic compass on anything I do TO a firearm is what will I need to do WITH the firearm.

That said, I am well over 21 and I actually DO have a couple things handing off one of my AKs. I live in a VERY rural area and keep one of my AKs as a home defense rifle. From experience, I have found how difficult it is to check on something that goes "bump" in the night while carrying being half asleep, carrying a rifle and a light.

My solution was adding a tri-rail barrel clamp rail and adding a flashlight. I also found that holding the rifle was a lot more comfortable with a vertical grip on the lower rail (its an underfolder and that was the only possible placement.) the final rail has a laser (god forbid!) It's bore sighted on and is only there if I felt the need to put an exclamation point on my "Don't Freaking Move!" (Yes, I HAVE actually had a robbery attempt.)

I personally HATE the way the weapon LOOKS, but am very satisfied with how it FUNCTIONS. Oh and by the way--- the super-cool tactical light I put on it had its bulb blow not long after I got it. It was practically impossible to get a replacement bulb. If you have to get a "tactical light" get a Surefire or something. You'll thank yourself when the bulb blows.

Frankly, I took the damned thing off and got a holder for a $7.99 Mini Mag light that does just as good for what I need it to do. And THAT doesn't use hard-to-find bulbs or EXPENSIVE 3 volt batteries.


February 26, 2007, 05:16 AM
Cesium, that's the best Rooney gun that I've ever seen! :)

Picknlittle, I'm sorry that my comments on marketing hype caused your thread to go so far astray. I hope you found the answers that you came for.

February 26, 2007, 09:46 AM
A "hunting scope" has low profile knobs and usually no adjustable objective or side focus knob.

A "tactical scope" usually HAS an adjustable objective or side focus for parallax, and has tall, easy to adjust "target" knobs that will catch and snag on rocks, branches, vines, and any other inconvenient bits of nature at every opportunity. DO NOT hunt with a "tactical scope" if you value your sanity! (varmint hunting excepted).

February 26, 2007, 01:09 PM
Plink,'s all good. I didn't really get all my answers but did learn a bit. Bottom line is that I'll be a hunting scope kinda guy cause I don't go for a lot of complicated gizmos and have no desire to spend money that doesn't put meat on the table.

I do like target shooting some, but with the focus of being able to hit a predetermined six to eight inch circle at will. Varmint shooting is pretty much limited to wild dogs and cyotes. I'll shoot enough to learn how to hold over as my comfort level with normal hunting conditions increase.

It is interesting how sensitive a subject this can be. I thought only flatpickers were that easy to tweak <G>

Thanks all.

February 26, 2007, 02:04 PM
Pick... On some scopes that third knob is for an illuminated reticle FYI.

February 26, 2007, 03:50 PM
For all the contempt I have for BSA scopes, I do have one on my .50 cal. muzzle loader that has a lighted reticle. Pretty cool, but I haven't mad much need for it.

February 26, 2007, 06:41 PM

I wasn't talking about quality optics. I have an A.C.O.G. on my Bushmaster and an Eotech on my Colt. But these were added for function, not for "kool factor."

I don't have, and won't have a bunch of "Tacti-Kool" hang ons on a gun that I may need to stake my life on.

A sling, a few spare magazines, a cleaning kit, and if you dseire, an optical sight, and an AR is good to go.

Zak Smith
February 26, 2007, 08:19 PM
Tactics = manipulating time and space so you get a turn and your opponent does not. Tactical as an attribute of an object only makes sense if it means it has features that make it a more effective tool in exercising tactics.

Rather than arguing whether X, Y, or Z is tactical or not, it's more productive to determine what you want to accomplish with a weapons system and then think about what features and attributes the scope needs to achieve those ends.

I avoid the "tactical" issue by talking about "practical" shooting and what it entails:

February 27, 2007, 12:10 AM

Practical not tactical!

If we can agree that "assault rifle" is a stupid fear mongering term, perhaps the same could be applied to something like "tactical".

If you enjoyed reading about "The Scoop on Scopes" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!