Choosing the Right Optic
August 24, 2016
Choosing a firearm can be a complicated process, but a buyer shouldn't discount a decision that can often rank even higher on the importance scale — choosing the correct optic to accompany that firearm.
The riflescope is often the most important component in the shooting equation. There's a saying that it is better to spend one's budget on the scope and use what's left to buy the rifle. I can't find fault with that mindset.
Not only is choosing a quality scope important, but selecting the right optic for the task at hand can mean the difference between success and failure.
Before we get into choosing the correct scope, let us define what a riflescope is and what we want it to do.
Above all, a riflescope is a sight — a means for aiming the rifle to hit an intended target. If a scope fails as a sight, nothing else matters.
A scope is not an observation device. We don't use scopes to locate targets or to determine whether a game animal is worthy of pursuit. Not only is using a riflescope for observation dangerous (we are pointing the rifle at everything we observe, including things/people that we shouldn't be pointing guns at), but scopes are generally poorly-suited for the task. Observation is done with binoculars, monoculars and spotting scopes.
For scopes, we only need enough magnification to be able to make a precision hold on the target, not to count hairs upon it.
Now that we have defined the role of our riflescope, let's begin the process of matching the optic to the firearm. Due to our optic-centered focus, we are going to do first discuss the virtues of the scope, and then determine the appropriate host firearm.
Bushnell Trophy Red Dot TRS 1x25mm
The Bushnell Trophy Red Dot TRS 1x25mm is the simplest and most versatile optic in our discussion. It is lightweight, rugged, compact and easy to use.
As a true 1x optic, the TRS is not magnified. Shooters look through the device as if it were the windshield on their car. Projected on that windshield is a red dot that can be adjusted to any one of 11 brightness settings to suit the situation and the shooter's preference.
The primary benefit of such a sight is speed. Competitive shooters, military units and SWAT teams use unmagnified red dots such as this because red dot sights are incredibly fast. The shooter puts the red dot on the target and pulls the trigger. The dot on the TRS measures 3 Minutes Of Angle (MOA) which means that the dot would cover a 3-inch circle at 100 yards.
The TRS can be mounted on semi-automatic carbines, bolt-action rifles, shotguns and rimfires.
Red dot optics are ideal for teaching new shooters due to their inherent simplicity. This would be an appropriate optic any time that speed is paramount and magnification is not required.
Bushnell Rimfire 3.5-10x40mm
What about a rimfire, such as a .22 LR or a .17 WSM? We can't leave out optical choices for the most popular cartridges in America.
Most traditional riflescopes are poorly suited for rimfires, unless they have an adjustable parallax feature. Parallax is an optical problem that exists with all magnified riflescopes, where the target and the reticle image are not on the same plane at many distances. Most centerfire scopes without an adjustable parallax feature are set so the reticle converges on the target (called the "parallax free" setting) at a distance of 100 yards.
That's often no good for a rimfire, where the target is likely to be only 50 or even 25 yards downrange. Bushnell's rimfire scopes are designed specifically for the shorter distances common with rimfire rounds. The Bushnell Rimfire 3.5-10x40mm model has an adjustable objective so that the parallax can be set to the specific range to the target.
One of the few rimfire rounds that's capable of true long-range shooting is the .17 WSM, a cartridge that produces as much as 3,000 fps of muzzle velocity. For shooters looking to stretch things with the .17 WSM, the 3.5-10x40mm has a reticle designed specifically to accommodate that round's trajectory.
Whether you're punching targets at 50 yards with a .22 LR or taking out varmints at long range with the .17 WSM, this scope has the capability to get it done.
Bushnell AR Optic 1-4x24mm
The Bushnell AR Optic 1-4x24mm is built for a specific role. It complements America's most popular modern sporting rifle: the AR15-style semi-auto.
As a variable power scope, it can be adjusted from a true 1x (no magnification) to 4x and anywhere in between. Though the trend today seems to be toward more magnification, 4x is plenty of power for 95 percent of the shots taken by most shooters.
The greatest virtue of this scope is versatility. At 1x, this scope is can be used to sight and fire a rifle with great speed. At 4x, precision shots can be made out to hundreds of yards.
The reticle of this optic is a traditional duplex crosshair, but with a twist. The reticle incorporates what is known as a Bullet Drop Compensator (BDC), which provides aiming points for various target distances.
Because this scope is designed for use with one primary cartridge (.223 Rem./5.56mm NATO), the bullet's path is fairly predictable. With the power setting at 4x and using ammunition loaded with 55- or 62-grain bullets, the scope is zeroed so that the center crosshair is "dead-on" at 100 yards.
The four dots that string vertically down the center of the reticle will then correspond with the bullet's impact at 200, 300, 400 and 500 yards, respectively. If you need to hit a target at 500 yards, you hold the bottom dot on the target and send the shot.
This scope is ideal for any semi-automatic rifle or carbine chambered in .223 Rem. or 5.56mm NATO.
Bushnell Elite LRHS 4.5-18x44mm
There are some features that are truly "must haves" for a true long-range riflescope. Shooters who do a great deal of long range shooting generally use scopes with what are called "first focal plane reticles."
This is a fancy name for compensating reticles that can be used effectively at any power setting rather than only at the highest magnification. There are times when this is a real advantage.
The Bushnell Elite LRHS 4.5-18x44mm is equipped with a first focal plane reticle, graduated in either mils or MOA (inch-based Minutes of Angle). This optic also features a side-focus parallax adjustment, which is another necessity for long-range shooting.
The 30mm main tube allows for enough adjustment to allow a rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor to be dialed to hit a target at 1225 yards. The target-style adjustment knob also contains a "zero stop" so that the elevation can be rapidly adjusted back to its zero position without fear of going too far.
This is the ideal optic for any shooter interested in absolute long-range precision where size and weight are outweighed by performance.
Matching the correct scope to your task is an important consideration. A scope should not be considered an accessory. Rather, it should be considered a key component in the equipment equation and an equal to the firearm.
Ensuring that an optic is chosen that will meet the needs of the shooter and the capabilities of a firearm is a vitally important step in preventing disappointing results both on the range and in the field.