Inexpensive optics


October 12, 2008, 03:16 PM
Last week I asked about a .243 as a platform to tinker with long range and or precision accuracy (entry level no competition envisioned). I got some good supporting replies and have done more research to supprot the caliber in this role especially with handloads.

So, what would you guys reccomend as a first set of inexpensiv glass for such a rifle. I'll be doing load development at 100-300yds from a stable bench in good light. The main things I want to do is to be able to learn to hold fine and dope wind (always windy where I live/shoot).

I'll have a lot of fun homework to do right there, but I might try to learn long range work as well: 600+yds.

The benchrest books talk about 24-36x magnification, but what's decent starter glass?

So for a target scope can you get good magnification for $200 that you won't want to throw away?
I might use this glass on more than one rifle for load development, then switch to better glass at lower magnification to hunt with on a particular rifle.

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October 12, 2008, 04:06 PM
State a price range. I would start in the $300 to $400 price range.


October 12, 2008, 04:10 PM
First, you gotta define "inexpensive". If you're hoping for somthing under a hundred bucks, you're better off to find another project. With optics, more than a lot of things, you need to do it right, or don't do it at all. That's not to say you have to spend $2500 on a Schmidt & Bender, but a $79 Barska will waste your time and piss you off.
If you want to shoot 600 yards, you're now looking at something at least 10x,and definately something with parallax adjustability. Both of those jack the price right off the bat.
Before doing anything, spend some hours at your computer researching this. There's some good info right here on THR in the past day or so.
But to get more specific, I'll toss this one in....
This is a great scope for the money, by almost any estimation.
Read on, I'm sure you'll get an earfull shortly........:)

October 12, 2008, 04:15 PM
One of the bushinell elite series of scopes would do you well for a reasonable price. Also the SWFA Super Sniper is pretty good from what I hear if your ok with a fixed power.

October 12, 2008, 04:27 PM
It is better to have high quality optics that have excellent light transmission, better reputation, quality build, clarity, thin reticle, ect, than it is to have huge magnification and bad clarity and clunky crosshairs.

Leupold VXI, Bushnell Elite, Nikko Stirling are good brands. 4-14x40 is a good power as you can get decent quality with out breaking your wallet.

October 12, 2008, 04:29 PM
I own 2 Nikkon Prostaff riflescopes and have had zero complaints. I have the 2x7 model on my Marlin 45-70 guide gun and the other, a 3x9 on a Savage 10fp. No problems with recoil and for the money- usually under $200, they make great scopes. An added bonus is that you can find them in camoflauge. In my opinion, they are just as good as my Leupold VXII.

Jeff F
October 12, 2008, 08:53 PM
Buy the best quality optics that you can afford even if you have to save a little longer. Its like Mil-Dot said, do it right the first time and have no regrets.

October 12, 2008, 09:17 PM
I think the reason I'm interested in higher magnification is that I want to tweak on this rifle and load combination in an experimental fashion to see if I can get real sub-moa performance.

I have a 30-06 that wears a Burris FullfieldII 3-9x40. I like the optics on this glass and it has been a solid and reliable performer. I can shoot 180gr handloads into 1 inch from the bench when I do my part.

My issue is that at 9X, the reticle is .31 inches wide at that range (Burris website), whereas at 14X the same reticle would only be .14 inches wide.

So how would I even approach .5 inch groups with a fat reticle, and lower resolution?

For work outside of the target stuff at a bench I wholeheartedly agree that the finest glass I can afford should be my goal.

I'm just wondering if there is a solid performing 18X or 24X option at $200-$300 that I can use for very fine work, keeping in mind that I'll probably shift that glass from rifle to rifle as the need arises. High light transmission would be secondary, since I'd be doing this work in full light, but I'm not an optics guru, so I don't know if you can still get clarity at higher mags with less expensive lense coatings?

Am I asking too much (probably), is there a trustworthy source for reviews?

Thank you for your help so far, please keep 'em comin'

October 12, 2008, 09:40 PM
I would have a look at the Mueller scopes for something inexpensive, or the Pentax Gameseeker. I have a bunch of Burris FFII's, Weaver Grand Slams, Bushnell 3200, Leupold VX2, etc., but the two mentioned above seem pretty good glass for the money. For serious paper punching out to 300 yards a 4.5-14 would be good enough, beyond that I really like my 20x, and wouldn't mind more.

I know a couple of guys with the Mueller Eraticator on dedicated varmint rigs and they are very happy with them. You should be able to find some reviews online.

October 12, 2008, 09:44 PM
Bushnell Elite
I second this strongly. Have 5 guns with Bushnells on them. Including my 300 to 600 yard rifle.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
October 12, 2008, 10:05 PM
For a target scope under $200, this one (well under):

You DO want the higher magnif. for your intended purpose, and the Elite 3200 with such magnif. will NOT be found in this price range. Honorable mentions to Swift Premier and Mueller.

October 12, 2008, 10:26 PM
I'm gonna get hammered again here but I'll do it anyway. All your gonna hear about optics is its best to pay out the wazoo for the best you can get. No doubt that you get what you pay for but.......for some folks(myself included) its hard to pay $500 for a scope. I don't shoot competition but I test loads at ranges out to 500 yds. I have multiple rifles that shoot sub .5 MOA and they all wear Bushnell Banner 6-18X50's. Clarity is plenty good in target shooting hours plus I moonlight hogs at night with them. I have never had a problem with any of these scopes even with .300WM recoil. I realize that these scopes are nowhere near top of the line but I have dedicated scopes for every rifle I own and these have never failed me. Hope this helps!!!!

October 12, 2008, 10:31 PM
+1 to chriso in that price range.

But I know from get what you pay for in optics.

October 12, 2008, 10:48 PM
you don't need a .14" cross hair to shoot .14" groups. Your eye is very good at centering things, and recognizing asymmetry. Things like quartering a circle are easy for the human machine to do very accurately.

Two things you want to do:

Offset your group location from your aiming point, so you don't damage the symmetry of your aiming point.

Use a round target, with visible concentric rings.

October 12, 2008, 10:58 PM
Owen is correct, 7 power at 100 yards can easily get you 1" groups with a good target. I know you are going further but you don't need power as much as you need clarity. Eye strain at 18X through a under valued scope will wreck your day,


October 12, 2008, 11:03 PM
Offset your group location from your aiming point, so you don't damage the symmetry of your aiming point.

Could you explain what this means?

October 12, 2008, 11:22 PM
Well it was Owen that said it but I'll take a guess;

Have a nice circle, square or what ever is your aming point. Sight the rifle in 4-6" away from Point of Aim so that the nice square or circle stays nice and crisp and you don't wreck the lines making it harder on your eyes.

OWEN- feel free to correct me!!!!!!!!!!!

October 12, 2008, 11:27 PM
litman, that's exactly what I mean.

October 12, 2008, 11:36 PM
Thank you litman252 and Owen. sorry about the mis-quote.

Now, again, pardon my ignorance, I understand you do not want to shoot out what you are aiming at. But what good is a rifle that shoots 4 - 6" away from point of aim?

October 13, 2008, 12:00 AM
plus one on super sniper, also I have 3 of the Tasco varmint series, and the weaver's are outstanding at high range clarity. I don't know if Burris, Pentax, and Nikon make long range scopes , but they would be good. Also , don't turn your nose up at a nikko sterling with side focus adjust.

October 13, 2008, 12:14 AM
You simply keep it 4-6" away for load development, turn it back to POA/POI for hitting where you want to once you have the "Best" combo of lenth, bullet, powder, primer and case. Or when you find a foactory load that works!

Note, 4" high at 100 yards would put you on at around 350-375 yards I'm guessing.


October 13, 2008, 08:56 AM
If my budget was in the $300 range and I wanted something with 18x magnification I would look at this right now --->

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
October 13, 2008, 10:22 AM
bullockcm - Amen, *IF* the budget was $300 - but here the question is $200 or less. Several people, including me, have recommended and have had good luck with the Bushnell Banner series for this price range.

Owen is correct, 7 power at 100 yards can easily get you 1" groups with a good target. I know you are going further but you don't need power as much as you need clarity. Eye strain at 18X through a under valued scope will wreck your day,

Bah Humbug! Disagree. Yes, you CAN shoot good groups on 7 or 9 power, but it's much EASIER and FASTER to do so on 18 power. As for eye strain, I don't know what you mean - I don't have any problems with "eye strain" shooting extended sessions on 18 or 20 power, even with the relative cheapies like the Bushnell Banner. I'm crappin ya negatory, the Banner 6-18x50mm AO is good stuff for the money, Maynard.

October 13, 2008, 10:37 AM
You don't really need a whole lot of magnification on your scope. Check out what snipers use magnification wise, and by all arguement they are very effective.
m40 Redfield 3-9X (M40); Unertl 10x with Mil-Dots and BDC (M40A1)
wa2000 Schmidt & Bender 2.5-10X variable power telescope
m24 10x42 Leupold Ultra M3A telescope sight
accuracy international (arctic warfare) Smidt&Bender 3-12X variable or the Leupold Mark 4 fixed 10X scope
hk psg 1 Hendsoldt 6x42

cheap optics serve only to test your patience not your skills. grab a leupold or another quality scope in 3-9. it will do everything you want and then some.

October 13, 2008, 10:41 AM
Barska has a decent scope and is inexpensive (less then $200). Take a look at the 6-24x44mm, IR and see what you think.

October 13, 2008, 10:47 AM
PremiumSauces - double check post #8, the original poster bumped the price from $200 to $200 - $300.


October 13, 2008, 11:43 AM
Thank you very much for all the wonderfull input!

I've got some homework to do now. I'll call around to see who has what in stock and go look through glass!

The Banner comes recommended from a buddy as well, so I might go look through his or even "test drive" it. The Nikon looks like a good deal too, but it's more than twice the price, so I'll see if I can find one in stock. don't know if anyone local carries Mueller or Swift, but I'll try those if I can find them.

I appreciate your thoughts! I agree that I don't need that kind of glass to shoot wel, but my desire for high magnification stands on my experience with the 30-06 I mentioned. I was unable to discern any difference in certain loads since several shot moa, but no smaller. At 9X I simply can't see if my POA is different shot to shot or if my rest is full of wiggle etc. i certainly need more practice, which is why I'm looking at another setup.

Nothing will get done for a while, since I'm off for a week long Elk hunt starting Wednesday!

If/when I get some glass, I'll try to post some results/reviews for those who mat be interested.

This is such a great resource!

Thanks again!

October 13, 2008, 11:48 AM
Just received a 10x Super Sniper the other day. Super scope, very reasonable.

October 13, 2008, 12:22 PM
I have fallen victim to the lure of Barka's big objectives and nice features, but . . . how do I put this nicely . . . the scope sucks. You get what you pay for.

Barska, NCStar and other manufacturers sell for nothing scopes, that from Leupold, Nikon, Weaver, etc., would sell for 5x the price. The latter are 5x the scope, though, and I have not met anyone who owned a Barska or NCStar (including myself) who have been happy with it.

I have a Barska Excavator, 4-16x, 50mm AO with illuminated target dot. Well, I like the illuminated reticle. After less than 100rds through a Savage MkII BTV (22LR target gun), the groups started spreading. Switched scopes and shot one ragged hole at 50 yards. My buddies laughed and told me, after the fact, that they had either had or seen Barskas with floating reticles after one shot atop a 270. I bought the really good one that took maybe 80 rds through a 22 before it gave up the ghost. Other buddies have had the same experience with NCStar.

I cannot recommend enough the Weaver Classic V 4-16x, 42mm AO ($264). Higher magnification may be better suited for 600+ yards, but I have used this scope to shoot center mass on silhouettes at 600. It really shines in the 500 yd and less range.

Whatever you do, stick with quality manufacturers. I personally like Leupold but their price in the magnification it sounds like you want would grow above your range. Makers like Steiner, Leica, and Swarovski (SP), though amazing optics, start way above what you're wanting to pay. I rank Weaver, Burris, and Nikon above Bushnell, but I have friends who seem to like their Bushnells and shoot well with them.

Don't get burned by <$100 makers (Tasco actually ain't too bad). They're not worth a sawbuck.

October 13, 2008, 06:34 PM
Owen is correct, 7 power at 100 yards can easily get you 1" groups with a good target. I know you are going further but you don't need power as much as you need clarity. Eye strain at 18X through a under valued scope will wreck your day,
Bah Humbug! Disagree. Yes, you CAN shoot good groups on 7 or 9 power, but it's much EASIER and FASTER to do so on 18 power. As for eye strain, I don't know what you mean - I don't have any problems with "eye strain" shooting extended sessions on 18 or 20 power, even with the relative cheapies like the Bushnell Banner. I'm crappin ya negatory, the Banner 6-18x50mm AO is good stuff for the money, Maynard.

Ok you can have your opinion. Just last Saturday a guy was looking at 2 scopes at the local shop. One was a Simmons Aetec (SP) 2.8-10, the other a used Nikon Omega 3-9x. Now the lowest power is (rated) only .2 difference. Both scopes at there lowest setting, one you could not see the individual leaves on the ground across the street, they blended together. The other you could see each leaf as clear as day.
If you multiply this out to 600 yards on high power' if the circle is fuzzy, how well can you center it?? Will your eye try extra hard to clear up the sight picture??

Your money, your opinion. I would rather spend and extra $50-75 and get the next step up in glass. Take care of it and a little luck you will have it forever.


Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
October 13, 2008, 06:47 PM
I would rather spend and extra $50-75 and get the next step up in glass.

Absolutely, I would too, but that was not his question - his question was about a specific budget - not about "hey can you guys please avoid my question and up my stated limited budget?" Can we understand the definition of a 'Question' - there are sites you can check out to help you - try .

But now I see that he HAS indeed "upped" the budget to $300 - in that case I too would recommend that Nikon Buckmaster linked to on page 1 of this thread, or an Elite 3200 in the 4-14x range. And yes, by increasing the budget 50% ($200 to $300), you can get a LOT more scope quality, and it's well worth it, and stays within his question, as modified. The higher magnification most certainly helps to make shooting small groups easier at all distances. What "snipers" do is irrelevant - they are trying to "make hits on man-sized targets" which is very, VERY different from trying to "make teensy weensy groups."

October 13, 2008, 09:23 PM
I love the high road.

Can we understand the definition of a 'Question' - there are sites you can check out to help you - try .

To the OP, you have plenty of opinions look through lots of glass and please report back. I'd like to hear what you think does best.


Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
October 13, 2008, 09:34 PM
Well, I'm sorry, but people are constantly doing that, and it becomes extremely obnoxious when it's done over and over and over again, as it is:

"I'm looking for X product on $Y budget - what's the best value I can get?"

"Spend more and get something better you ghetto punk. Better yet, forget it about - you'll shoot your eye out."

It's a very snobbish, crude, and unattractive attitude, IMO. It's one thing to say "You should spend more and here's why, BUT within your parameters, here's my recommendation". But what usually happens, and what YOU did in this thread, there's no recommendation made within the parameters given, just a non-responsive answer. I submit that not reading and answering the question asked is not very high road either. Just my opinion.

October 13, 2008, 09:58 PM
I've been considering the Super Sniper 10x scope on the SWFA website myself. Never heard a bad thing about it....

October 13, 2008, 10:44 PM
The bushnell banner series is an excellent start within your stated budget. If you feel like getting a better one later, you could always look at a Leupold or Zeiss. I had a Bushnell banner 3-9x50 until just recently when I upgraded to a Zeiss 3-9X40. The bushnell got moved to a different rifle :D

October 13, 2008, 11:25 PM
I have a simmons White Tail classic. It appears to be a pretty good scope for the money... i paid $99 for it on sale from midway. I was shooting 2-3" groups at 100 yrd with an older s&w 30.06 (a renamed howa). The group size I attribute to the rifle. After i get done rebuilding it I will give the scope another chance on top of it. Right now its atop of my savage 10fp .308 but i have not had a chance to put any rounds down range, hopefully saturday i will be back to give a update on its performance.

and right now there on sale at midway...

October 14, 2008, 12:56 AM
Holy cow I need a spell-check!

Anyway the budget is a little flexible, but a buck does not go far these days.

To be fair, I was kinda looking for the "don't buy this" threads as much as "buy this now" threads, to kind of separate the BS from the catalogs and gun rags.

I really appreciate the responses. All of them. This is a project rifle that I'll be tinkering on for a while (I hope). If it works out of the box, I'm going to have to start another project, which will involve some research and another post here :0

Anyway, thank you to those who took my stated budget seriously (I will too), thank you to those who couldn't find it within their experience to recommend something below their standards.

It's ALL valuable to me. I came here with this post asking for honest opinions. You gave them. It is now up to me to use the information as I wish. The constraints may very well change after my week long Elk hunt. You can be sure I'll be reviewing this post for some time before I "pull the trigger".

I hope I can help someone on their path as you've helped me.

October 14, 2008, 01:13 AM
I have a Bushnell Elite 3200 10x40 with Mil-dots on my 308, M24 clone. It works very very well. For $200 it is a great scope.
When I have $2000 in spare change I will upgrade to a Leupold or Nightforce but till then this is a great training scope.

October 14, 2008, 08:32 AM
I also really liked the Elite 3200 10x40 mil-dot......till I learned that it had no parallax adjustment. It's going to be set at 100 yards. If you're going to be shooting longer ranges, don't get a scope without an adjustable objective or side focus !!
And sure, I guess you can get by with the above recommnded 7x or 9x scopes, but at 600 yards, you're very likely going to wish you'd gotten something with a little more power, especially when the 600 yard efforts tempt you to make even further shots.( and remember, scopes bought for one rifle often someday end up on another).
Also, I've read numerous Bushnell banner owners getting years of good service out of them, but the one I had ( came stock on a Beeman R9 .20 pellet rifle) screwed up quickly. Fortunately, once sent in to Bushnell, they allowed me to upgrade VERY reasonably to a 5-15 3200 Elite tactical, which I'm very happy with.
As I and others have already said, stay away from the Barska junk. If you have no problem spending 200-300 bucks, why shortchange yourself and get something that 95% report as disappointing crapola ? Good luck, keep us posted....

P.S. Here's another option,especially if you're counting pennies....
This is the 5-15x Bushnell Legend, which I believe is their best scope before getting to the Elite series. It also has their great life-time guarantee,has parallax adjusment,mil-dot reticle, AND has fully multi-coated lenses, features I don't think ANYONE can touch for $209 !!

October 14, 2008, 10:11 AM
For under $200, my pick would be something from the Bushnell Legend series. These scopes have superb glass but lack some of the premium bells and whistles of the Elite series. They even have a 5-15x40AO scope with a mildot reticle for under $200.

October 14, 2008, 11:36 AM
EA Brown reccomends them for their custom made single shot rifles.

October 14, 2008, 12:08 PM

What's wrong with the Mueller?

Anything? I was thinking about this as my next scope purchase for a similar 600yrd shooting. Inexpensive and I hear good things about Muellers.

October 14, 2008, 03:17 PM
Regarding magnification, I've come to prefer either 2.5-10x, 3-12x or 4-16x, depending on the rifle and it's intended use. For use in the field, I find that anything over 16x is overkill, although more is OK off a bench on a sunny day. The lower magnification is great however for hunting. With a low magnification scope you can find your target very quickly and I think that any hunting scope should have a lower setting of 4x or less. I've got one hunting rifle set up with a 6-24x scope and I've regretted it since day one. 24x is just useless in the field and 6x doesn't allow you to get on target as quickly as 3x.

For general field use, a 3-12x or a 3-9x is about ideal. For a close range rifle that doesn't have to deliver tack driving accuracy, I'd go for even less magnification. I've got a couple of 2-7x scopes on AK's that I really like and I wouldn't hesitate to try a 1-4x either. For a tack driving hunting rifle, I like more magnification. I've got 4-16x scopes on both my .22's, (CZ452 varmint and TC R55 bench), and a 6-24x on my airgun. I use these to make headshots on rabbits at 50+ yards, so the magnification really helps. The 6-24x scope on the airgun is too much though and I wish I'd gone with either a 4-16x or a 3-12x instead. For the kind of shooting I do with that gun I wouldn't want to go below 12x.

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