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What makes a $1000 scope better than a $500 scope???

Discussion in 'Long Gun Accessories and Optics' started by ACES&8S, May 3, 2019.

  1. ACES&8S

    ACES&8S Member

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    This question stems off the thread by 357smallbore about Tasco & Simmons.
    Probable seen a question like this on here before but I haven't been here a year yet so here
    goes.
    I stand with the poor guys on a lot of my opinions because I was one for half my life so you know
    where a lot of my thoughts come from.
    Today's tv hunting & shooting programs & & even magazines all lean toward people with money,
    not the REAL AVERAGE hunter & outdoorsman or woman.
    Maybe I am in a low income area or not in touch with how many people have plenty of money
    but I know about 90% of my friends don't own a scope over $250 because they simply can't
    afford the Leupolds or other well known scopes.
    At last count I have 9 Leupold scopes & 3 Nikons which aren't the $1000 size but more like the
    $500 to $600 variety, which all work just fine & for the truth, I can't see why I would spend
    $1000 to $1500 to get a scope that does the same thing as the ones I already have. No problems
    with low light or anything else.
    My question is,,, what can a $1000 Leupold give me that a $500 can't give me???
    We have all heard this, the more you pay, the more you paid them for ADVERTISING.
    I am not bashing Leupold, they are great to deal with for parallax changes, or any questions.
    I can take any one of them & walk a clover leaf group which will stay on target all season.
     
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  2. Hokie_PhD

    Hokie_PhD Member

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    Great question and I'd love to hear the answers too.

    I know in photography that even inexpensive lenses are good for most people, and only when you start getting really serious or doing professional work does having the best lenses really matter. In my case, only in a few cases has the extra sharpness really mattered.

    I'm suspecting that things like brightness and sharpness and keeping zero are the big benefits. But I wonder at what point is it diminishing returns. Or put another way where are the price points. In photography we have camera phones, entry level dSLRS, mid level and pro gear.

    I'm guessing that for scopes we have under $100, $100 to $300ish, $300 to $750 or so, and then above that. But that's just a guess. SO again I'm looking to hear what folks have to say both on what the price points are and what to expect at each level.
     
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  3. Nature Boy

    Nature Boy Member

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    I have a $1,000 Leupold Mk4 and used to have a $500 Nikon M308, so I'll use that as a comparison. The difference in $ goes into additional features, mechanical function, clarity of the glass and quality of manufacturing.

    In the case above, I had to send the Nikon back after the reticle came loose and rotated inside the tube after 400 rounds or so. They sent a new one and it wouldn't track accurately. Sent it back again and just accepted that what ever they sent me was going to be the best it could be.

    Never had a problem with the Leupold after ~6,000 rounds of .308.

    If you spend a lot of time behind a scope you'll start the appreciate the features and functions that the additional $$ buys you. A more forgiving eye box is a big one for me. That, and clarity of glass means less eye fatigue.

    However, a $500 scope is perfectly acceptable if how its intended to be used doesn't require the additional features and quality.

    Now, I'll caution everyone here on this point. If you are happy with your $500 scope, and an opportunity presents itself, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT shoot a few rounds behind someone's $2,500-$3,000 scope. It can result in a loss of income and potential marital disharmony
     
  4. forty_caliber
    • Contributing Member

    forty_caliber Contributing Member

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    The old argument is the quality of the glass, coatings, and some unique design gismo. I have a hard time swallowing this argument. For the average hunter that shoots maybe 20 rounds in a season any small advantages of a $1000 dollar scope brings are probably wasted. For someone who shoots competitions and needs a competitive edge it makes a little more sense. Tiny improvements to one's kit can make the big difference when the scores are called out. For example my 20yrd indoor archery setup came in over $2500 and shoots $30 arrows. I have a state gold and a silver medal to show for it.

    I recently spent a couple months looking at various offerings for a scope. I finally decided on an Athlon Argos BTR 8x32x56. One thing I noticed was that scopes with higher magnification generally cost more. Feature for feature the $400 Athlon was very similar to other names costing 3x the price. It made a great addition to my RPR in .308. The hogs will never know I didn't use a $1000 scope.

    A good solid mount and properly leveled scope are probably more important than the scope itself.

    .40
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2019
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  5. skeeterfogger

    skeeterfogger Member

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    Well, this makes me sound cheap but I have 3 with the $90 scopes you get hanging on the rack behind counter at wally world. Multi zoom with background colors for cross hairs. All will get a deer at 300/350 yards, longest shot I've ever had to make, no problem. All are at least 5 years old. Never any issues. There are plenty out there that work fine without feeding the jonses syndrome.
     
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  6. Nature Boy

    Nature Boy Member

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    I have to disagree with that. They are both important, but the scope is more important. A scope that won't hold zero, regardless of how meticulously you mount it, makes the whole rifle useless. I can take a good scope that's not quite level and shoot just as good as one that is dead level. Loose mount? Well, get the bit driver out and tighten it.
     
  7. Derek Zeanah

    Derek Zeanah System Administrator Staff Member

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    Not with Leupold in particular, but as a general rule you're getting a product that:
    • Gathers light better
    • Has better eye relief
    • Is sturdier and will handle more abuse
    • Has more consistent adjustments
    • Offers a clearer image
    • Offers better contrast
    • Has coatings that protect the glass a bit better
    And so on. It's diminishing returns though - a $1,000 scope isn't twice as good as a $500 scope, and a $4,000 scope certainly isn't four times better than a $1,000 scope.

    Does any of this matter to most shooters? Nope. And there are some amazing quality scopes available for just a few hundred dollars nowadays. The confusing thing is that manufacturing has gotten to a point where factories can produce a product to match your price-point, so companies like Burris, Bushnell, Primary Arms, and the rest can have cost-effective low-end stuff and high-end expensive stuff. The difference is in quality of materials, assembly techniques, and attention to details.

    If you're planning on going into combat where a failed scope is a huge problem, then you might want a US Optics scope after watching a few videos of folks engaging targets at range, swinging their rifle like a baseball bat at a tree and hitting the scope a couple of times, then firing a few more rounds to prove the scope is still functional and zero wasn't lost. (I'm not endorsing US Optics here, and their product line has changed since then, but I remember those videos.) If you're going on the hunt of a lifetime you might want a higher-end scope as an insurance policy. If you're shooting for fun and spend a lot of time behind your rifle, then a clearer image and a more forgiving eyebox might be worth some cash. If you're shooting in competition then better optics might mean you can find that 8x8" black target at 1,400 yards a bit faster so you have more time to take the shot, and the clicks your elevation knob makes might be a bit crisper and more consistent.

    Figure out what you like, and what you can afford, and go with that. I moved to EOTech sights for carbines because they're a touch bit faster for me (and my astigmatism) than the 1x power optics or red dots. They cost more, they're bulky, their batteries don't last as long, but they're fast and durable, and I value those a lot in a gun I'll take a a week-long class or use for defense. The exception is a suppressed .45 carbine where I've got a Zeiss red dot that never did well commercially, but the image is clean and the dot automatically adjusts to ambient light levels which works well with a gun-mounted light. If I was richer I'd use the Elcan Specter dual-power optics which seem ideal, but I'm not so I don't.

    But a $300 scope is probably 80-90% of a $2,000 scope. It's whether you care enough about the details that higher-end scopes do better or not that makes the difference.
     
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  8. 40-82

    40-82 Member

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    One of the things I've seen hunters commonly do with average to high quality telescopically sights is the low light shooting. Long after it's too dark to see any kind of iron sights, the crosshairs on a telescope will still show up, and you can place a hit about as well as you can mid-day. In certain lights, this may give an hour of additional hunting time.

    What you can do and what you should do may be two different things. Too many times I've made good hits on an animal as small as a whitetail. They've run less than fifty yards into dense brush before they died. A dying, panicked animal often makes illogical turns. Had I shot these animals in the last minutes of shooting light instead of earlier in the day, I wouldn't have found them until the next morning, which would have meant wasting the animal. Because of these experiences, I avoid hunting that last light in the day.

    I'm not saying you shouldn't buy the best optics you can afford, but a feature like the ability to gather very low light has limited utility. Most of my hunting with telescopically sighted rifles is still done with optics bought in the 60's. It might be reasonable to assume that the ordinary optics of today are significantly better. Still, I won't replace a functional old sight I've used for years unless I have a clear idea why.

    A younger brother who is an optometrist tells me that it's possible in high end optics to create a lens that's better than the human eye can appreciate.

    Trust, may be a reason to go with a better system, provided you're sure you understand why it's better and not just more expensive. If I'm going to hunt big game for a week, particularly in open country, a telescopically sighted rifle is the most reasonable choice. If I'm merely going to travel in brutal, remote country, where it might be possible to go a month without taking a shot, I just don't trust optics enough to rely upon them.
     
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  9. Jessesky

    Jessesky Member

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    A lot of the price goes to durability and reliability. A true return to zero is expensive to do. I’d say the difference from a $200 scope to $500 is significant, but the jump from $500 to $1000 is much more minor but refined.
     
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  10. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    Generally speaking, a $1000 scope, when compared to a $500 scope, will have a wider range of focal lengths -- 2-12X instead of 3-9x or 2-10x. That's 6X "zoom range" versus 3, 4 or 5X zoom range. It might also have features on the turrets like the CDS ZL2 with custom BDC turrets included in the price. It could also include an illuminated reticle (like Leupold's 'firedot'). It will also likely have a 30mm tube or larger instead of 1" tubes, and that allows for a wider range of elevation and windage adjustments (it may or may not also be necessary for the optics). It might also have a larger ocular (eyepiece) which can provide a larger apparent field of view (you don't necessarily see a bigger picture (true field of view), but you see it on a bigger "screen."). Also, you can easily take a $500 scope and upgrade it with features like custom reticles, custom anodized or cerakote finishes, custom turrets, custom engraving, and custom parallax adjustments and spend more than $1000.
     
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  11. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    I just spent $1800 on a scope, most I have ever spent. This last weekend I was able to look through it and two $800/$1000 range scopes at the same time/place/conditions. The difference in glass was substantial. All had good reps for tracking well, and they all did so that day.

    Two things you pay the most for IMHO:

    1. Glass quality & quality of coatings.

    2. Tracking and repeatability of dialing back and forth.

    Both cost money to manufacture.

    Some scopes do not need to track well (Set and forget), and so should be a better deal dollar for dollar glass wise.

    Some scopes need to track well, and usually those same scopes have buyers that want/need good glass. That costs more.

    I am so glad I went with the higher dollar figure range of scope. The rifle/scope combo will soon be paid off (Selling another pistol this evening) and the joy of ownership using a nicer scope will last a very long time.
     
  12. dcloco

    dcloco Member

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    Clarity, consistency, and....the first two "C's", lead to the final "C".....confidence!!!!
     
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  13. <*(((><
    • Contributing Member

    <*(((>< Luke

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    This is very true, there is a significant difference between sub-$200 scopes and $500.
     
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  14. cdb1

    cdb1 Member

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    Yep.
     
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  15. cdb1

    cdb1 Member

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    I totally disagree.


    The difference is night and between scopes from the 60’s and today’s scopes.
     
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  16. Nature Boy

    Nature Boy Member

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    Good point on this. Illuminated reticle always adds to the price (+$100-$200) and to me it's one of those features that doesn't deliver on the value to dollar ratio
     
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  17. 40-82

    40-82 Member

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  18. cdb1

    cdb1 Member

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    The cheapest scope I own is a Vortex Crossfire 2-7 Rimfire. It’s mounted on a Marlin Model 60. I haven’t shot the rifle in probably seven years, if I shot it frequently it would have a better scope. When I did shoot it though I definitely got eye fatigue, and I don’t get eye fatigue with my other scopes, which with the exception of my Clearidge are $300.00-$750.00 scopes and the Clearidge is very nice for a rimfire scope in my opinion.

    Since I’m a set and forget shooter I’m paying for toughness and glass quality. If I was dialing too I suspect I’d have $1k+ scopes and have fewer rifles, not that I have a ton of them. But I do buy the best scopes I can afford and $750.00 is my max. If I had the money though all of my scopes would be Leica, Minox or Schmidt & Bender.
     
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  19. Nature Boy

    Nature Boy Member

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    There's a 3rd one that's important to the Bench Rest community (and to a slightly lessor degree, F Class) and that's POA shift after the shot. In order to know if your scope does this you need a scope checker mount where you install a scope that has a fixed power parallel to the variable power scope you are checking. A lot of high end scopes don't pass this test.

    This is obviously not critical for recreational use.
     
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  20. cdb1

    cdb1 Member

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    Well for one thing scopes have many more uses than just killing deer very early and very late in the day. Hunting hogs and varmints are examples of why better low light clarity is good. You stated, “a feature like the ability to gather very low light has limited utility”, yet only gave one reason as such. I can think of numerous situations where the ability to gather very low light is utile. I also agree with you that it is unethical to take shots at deer under the circumstances you described.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2019
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  21. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    I don't think there is a meaningful difference in glass quality or durability between a $500 scope like a Vari-X3 and a $1000 scope like a VX6HD. There is some, but the real cost is in the features I mentioned in post #10. There is a much bigger difference between a $300 scope and a $1000 scope in terms of glass and durability. But the Vari-X3's are not bad at all. I did not get the impression the OP was even asking about sub-$500 scopes where the glass and durability are questionable. This wasn't a cheap-scope versus good scope question, but a good scope versus premium scope question. And by premium, I mean in the context of hunting and outdoor pursuits as mentioned in the OP.

    Now there may be a significant difference in optics between a $500 scope and a $3000+ scope, but that cannot come without a significant amount of weight. If you're willing to put two or three pounds of optics on a rifle then a $1000 scope can easily be beaten. If one is serious about LRP then I'm sure that's a practical necessity. But for hunting, especially out of a stand or blind and stalking, it's not so practical.

    For the kind of hunting and outdoor recreational pursuits mentioned in the OP, pounds of optics are not even a luxury, they're just a hinderance. A cheap scope can be a real liability, but a "good" scope like a VariX3 or Swarovski Z3 work fine. For shooting within MPBR, that's all I'd ever want for all the money in the world. In fact, I kind of like fixed scopes like the FX. The features of a premium hunting scope like a VX6HD or Z5 with light-dot reticles, return-to-zero custom BDC turrets and wider zoom range can be good if you're hunting longer range, shooting a cartridge with a more arc to the trajectory, or doing some target shooting. Again, none of these are 25X target scopes like the Mark series where the real money and weight are.
     
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  22. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    The difference between a $100 scope and a $300 scope is HUGE. But the higher you go up the price scale you pay more and more for smaller and smaller gains in performance. This is the same with any product. A $1000 scope will give you a better scope in every way compared to a $500 scope. But most of us can't use that extra quality and the gap between a $500 and $1000 scope is far smaller than the gap between a $100 and $300 scope.

    For me $200 MSRP is the bottom rung on the ladder as far as performance is concerned. Most of the scopes I actually use are in the $300-$400 range, but I'd not feel handicapped with most of the $200 scopes. Above $500 and the scope has features I just don't need.

    Bigger glass and more X's add to the cost too. Most 3-9-X40 scopes in the $200-$300 price range are all that 90% of shooters will ever need. If the quality is the same a 4-12X scope will be about $100 more. Move up to a 44 or 50mm objective and you can add another $100 to the scopes price. If you keep the same quality glass and construction. If a 4-12X50 scope is in the same price range as a 3-9X40 it is using lower quality glass. I don't NEED more than 9X and can't use more than 40mm objective. I'd rather pay $200 more for a better quality 3-9X40 than $200 more for an equal quality 4-12X50 scope.

    More expensive scopes do give you a FEW more minutes at the beginning and end of the day for hunting. But I've taken game with $200 scopes with 20mm objectives 5 minutes into legal shooting time. Even with that scope I COULD have seen well enough to have killed game 10-15 minutes earlier. Before legal shooting time. In many European countries, and at least one state here legal shooting times are well before, and well after sunup and sunrise. In those places that extra light transmission could be a factor. but not for most of us.
     
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  23. cdb1

    cdb1 Member

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    Exactly. The highest power scope I have is a 3.5-10x44.
     
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  24. Nature Boy

    Nature Boy Member

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    I have a VX3 and love it.

    Now these are taken through a cell phone camera under different conditions so they don’t capture a fair comparison but.....

    VX3

    8E45DC0F-6BD0-49ED-B47B-C387112D6FD9_1.jpg

    Swarovski Z6i

    F7AB4530-3EAB-4BB7-AB10-28B842AB100D.jpg

    My Swaro has a lot more features and the glass quality is superior to everything I’ve ever looked through but it's +$2k over the VX3.

    Is it worth that?

    Well, that VX3 is a damn nice scope for the money but I’m very happy with my Swaro and glad I have it. So my answer is yes, it was worth it.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2019
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  25. 40-82

    40-82 Member

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    Thanks for pointing the limits of my remarks out. Your objection is completely fair. A telescope is of great utility in killing varmints in low light. Sometimes it's not even a matter of great distance. For instant a brown groundhog with his head out of the hole against a brown dirt background as close as forty or fifty yards away might be nearly invisible to the naked eye. Whereas, in a good scope, he shows up clearly. Another case: coyotes, I'm a stockman. If I can get him in my crosshairs, and it's a safe shot, I shoot.

    The truth is, you're right. Big game hunting is only a limited part of the reason to own rifles. Five, six deer sized animals will easily do me for the year. Varmint hunting makes up the rest of the year.
     
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