Scopes For Dummies


The Rabbi
February 15, 2004, 11:54 AM
Let me start by saying that I never liked .30 cal rifles, do not hunt (religious reasons), and have *never* shot with a scope.
That said, I am interested in getting a .30 cal rifle (probably a Rem 700) and using it for target shooting, like out to 300 yds. I am totally confused by scopes and the terminology connected with them. I am at a loss to explain why one should sell for $50 and another for $3k. Can someone take pity on me and enlighten me in what to look for and what is reasonable to expect?

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4v50 Gary
February 15, 2004, 12:22 PM
The late great Gale McMillan (go toThe Firing Line ( and do a search under scopes and Gale McMillan's name) said that you're paying for the warranty.

Leupold carries a lifetime warranty even if you're not the original owner. It's the single most trusted name in American scopes.

February 15, 2004, 12:43 PM
The general rule of thumb with scopes is: You get what you pay for.

February 15, 2004, 03:10 PM
size of the optics...bigger typically gathers more light but harder and more costly to make

quality of glass, grinding/finish, and coatings....all improve light gathering and clarity

fit and variable power scopes can have the reticle (crosshair) shoot loose, won't maintain zero when the power is changed, and fog up during rain and damp weather

also, the more expensive scopes have 1/4 or 1/8 inch adjustment at 100 yards. If you have a cheap scope it's maybe 1/2". No big deal at 100, but at 300, the adjustment is now 1 1/2"

Art Eatman
February 15, 2004, 04:29 PM
Yeah, the better the coatings of the lenses, the more light that's transmitted. The larger the objective (front) lens, the more light that's transmitted. The more light that's transmitted, the more clearly you can see your target.

Next is the quality of the adjustment features. "Better" can't be cheaper. For instance, can you move six clicks up and six clicks right and then get back to the original point of aim with reversal of the adjustment? If you can't, the adjustments aren't all that good.

As a generality: Scopes in the $150 to $300 category will serve extremely well for the majortity of users.

For mid-day target shooting at distances of no more than 300 yards, it's my opinion that one does not need a 50mm lens. A 40mm objective lens will serve quite well. In order to see the bullet holes at 300 yards, I'd think that a 12X or 14X magnification would do, but I'll defer to other opinions. If it's to be limited to punching paper, I don't see the need for a variable scope...

Hope all this nattering is helpful...


Oleg Volk
February 16, 2004, 05:11 AM
Better scopes have the following features:

higher contrast and resistance to internal and external reflections thanks to better design and coating

more rugged adjustments, esp. if you use certain features (zoom, bullet drop compensator) a lot

Same thing as with camera lenses. You can get decent optics at about 30-40 percentile of the price range. You don't get pro-level optics which would be much more durable and have better image quality till you get into 70-80 percentile. You can generally get better results per dollar spent with simple (non-zoom) designs, but the makers often don't offer good quality non-zooms anymore.

Looking through a $1000 ACOG convinced me that extra money can be seen at once. The contrast and the lack of glare beat $300 scopes visibly.

The Rabbi
February 16, 2004, 09:39 AM
Thanks so far. Let me cut to the chase here.

I dont know what the designations on scopes mean, like 3x15-40 or whatever it is. I have a vague sense of what a reticule is but not why I would want one style over another. I think that parallax is something I might want to try on a bagel with creamcheese. I meant when I said scopes for dummies. Yes, I owuld hope that a $1200 scope would outperform a $300 scope. Scopes seem to be a competitive business so I doubt anyone is making outsize profits. I am sure I am being naive but it seems like folly to put a $1200 scope on a $400 rifle, especially when I am not using it to take out Charlie at 600 yards.
Thanks again.

February 16, 2004, 09:42 AM
You will not be disappointed by spending a little extra cash and getting something like a quality Leupold.

Quality optics will hold their value.

Quality optics will not give you headaches or dizziness from looking through them.

I've got a $900 scope on a $600 rifle, if you want to compare prices of the two pieces of equipment, and I am very, very happy with it.


February 16, 2004, 09:52 AM
The 3x15 means the power of the scope. A 3x15 means the power is adjustable from 3 to 15 times what the "normal" eye sees.

The 40 is size of the objective lens (the one closest to where the bullets fly out) in millimeters. A larger objective lens lets in more light, but also takes up more "space" and requires the scope to be mounted up higher. A higher mounted scope moves your cheeck weld and lessens the stability of your shooting.

I moved from a ~$50 Tasco 3x9-40 scope to a $200 Leupold 3x9-40 scope in the past few years. The two biggest improvements I notice are:

1 - the eye relief is much better -- meaning that I don't have to have my eye as close to the scope to see the full view.

2 - More importantly, the COLORS between my regular sight and the scope are significantly closer to the same with the Leupold. This doesn't seem like a big deal, especially for target shooting, but for hunting in a forest, a tree that looks black through the scope and small and gray with your eyes can really throw off your target acquisition.

The lifetime warranty of the Leupold and its brand name are what sold me on my newest scope. Weaver Grand Slam will be my next scope as the light gathering and clarity seem a little better than Leupold VX2 at roughly the same price.

February 16, 2004, 10:49 AM
I will try to clarify a bit for you

Paralax is a movement of the cross hairs on the target when you move your eye behind the scope. To see it, lay the scope, or the rifle with the scope on it on a solid surface and look through it without touching the rifle. If you move your eye the cross hairs will "wander" around the target.

"AO" means that you have the ability to focus your scope at different ranges, and when it is focused properly there will be no paralax movement at that range.

The first number is a measure of magnification, a 4x scope will magnify your target four times normal size. The variables, most commonly a 3x by 9x, has an adjustment ring and you can select what power you want for the situation.

The last number, 28, or 42, or 50, is the size in millimeters of the "objective lens" at the front of the scope.

The reticle (cross hair) is most commonly a "duplex", meaning that the center portion you put on the target is a very fine line, and away from the center it is commonly thicker, and easier to see in bad light.

"Mil Dot" is a term that refers to a set of dots on the cross hair that will assist you in judging range, and in "holding over" for longer range, or holding off to the side to compensate for wind.

It is very true that you get what you pay for, more money will get you a better scope. You did not indicate what amount you want to budget for this item. You do not know yet if you will like long range shooting, and with that said I think you should look for a quality scope, with a good guarantee in the lower price ranges. I just purchased one of these, and I have not had it to the range yet, but I am pleased with the clarity, and the looks of it. And it has a lifetime warantee from Bushnell, even though it does have the name tasco on it.

My budget will not presently allow me to drive a Ferrari or shoot a Leupold, your priorities my vary from mine. :D Good luck with your choice.

Nando Aqui
February 16, 2004, 07:32 PM
The Rabbi -

I learned a lot about scopes from the link below - notice the variety of questions. I am sure that just about anything you ever wanted to know about scopes has been asked, and then answered here by someone who actually knows - no B.S.

enjoy -


February 16, 2004, 10:25 PM

You will likely be target shooting during mid-day. Many moderate scopes will look fairly clear and bright during the day. But many hunters will only get the opportunity for a good shot around dawn or dusk. At dawn and dusk, a cheap scope that looks clear during the bright sunny day may be so dim as to be useless. This is one of the reasons hunters are willing to pay $750 to $1000 for a top scope that transmits that extra amount of light.

Other differences between cheap and expensive scopes are as follows:

Do you want a scope that stays crystal clear when you will it to your grandson, or do you want a scope that fogs up the first time you use it in rain or freezing cold? The cheap scope will fog up.

Do you want a scope that is clear at the edges of the lens, where you might see an antler or a white tail, or do you want only the middle to be crystal clear? A hunter may well need the edges to be crystal clear as well as the center, or miss seeing that buck that is on the periphery of his lens.

Do you want your scope to go out of zero every 20 shots, or do you want it to remain true even if you gently drop your weapon on the ground? A target shooter does not want to be re-zeroing his scope every 20 rounds, does he?

Do you want to have a warranty that will insure you keep your investment safe, or do you care if the lenses of your 6-month old scope fog up hopelessly?

Rabbi, you get what you pay for. Do a search on scopes and all your questions will be answered. As far as your own needs go, a $300 scope like a Leupold VX-II would give you years of reliable use of mid-day target shooting. You would never need to buy another scope for the rest of your life, likely.

But for the hunter who hunts at the very edge of twighlight in a freezing rain, he may have needs you can only imagine. And that is why the Premiere optics makers can sell their premiere scopes for such lofty prices.

February 16, 2004, 10:27 PM
Here's another informative link:

See especially the section on the differences between good scopes and cheap scopes. Good stuff.

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