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Focus on Optics

Picking your first scope can be daunting, so here are some helpful tips to find what's right for you.

Focus on Optics
A bit of knowledge will make choosing your first scope much easier.

You took the leap and obtained your first firearm. Congrats! You are now a responsible supporter of the Second Amendment. You've been shooting for a while now at the range, maybe even hunted. Now you're ready to increase your experience level. It's time to add optics.

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Buying your first scope can be intimidating. However, gun store associates are there to help. Don't be afraid to ask questions and look through products.

Optical sights simplify aiming. Instead of aligning two sights (rear and front) with the target, optics enable shooters to place an aiming point or crosshairs on target. This not only helps with accuracy, it also assists those with vision deficits. But with so many types, terms and mysterious numbers, where does a novice optics buyer even start?

Numbers

First, let's tackle all the numbers on the box. A common scope found across many brands is a 3-9x40mm. The first set of digits, "3-9X," describes the magnification of the scope. This means the magnification range varies from 3X to 9X. The next number is "40," and it describes in millimeters the diameter of the objective lens (the lens that's farthest away from your eye). Don't overlook these numbers; they are pivotal in your scope purchase.

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More magnification is not always better. If you are hunting or target shooting within 100 to 150 yards, anything larger than 10X is overkill and makes quick target acquisition difficult. If you are shooting targets at distances greater than 200 yards, 12X and higher may work better. Consider your terrain. High magnification scopes are useless in dense woods. That's why variable-powered scopes are so popular — they allow shooters to tailor magnification to their every situation.


The objective diameter of the scope is another important factor. The larger the objective lens, the more light that comes through. Again, bigger isn't always better. While it is nice to have a clear picture of your target/prey when it's dusk or dawn, keep in mind that bigger lenses and higher magnifications come with larger price tags and heavier scopes.


Some lenses are so big that they require special mounts for the scope and an elevated cheek pad to properly align your sight with the crosshairs, which is not advantageous if you need to have quick reactions. For the majority of situations, a 40mm lens does a great job. Now let’s focus on which reticle is best for you.

Reticle

The reticle refers to the crosshairs inside your scope. You have multiple options here, ranging from simple crosshairs to reticles with dots or hash marks for precise measurements. Choose your reticle based on the type of shooting you do.

For most situations, a simple reticle is all that's needed to deliver accurate shots at most distances. For more advanced uses, such as long-range shooting, basic crosshairs no longer cut it. Here's where cutting-edge reticles come into their own, as they allow shooters to accurately account for bullet drop at extended distances.

Mounting

Before settling on your scope, let's talk mounting and sighting. There are several types of scope bases and mounting rings that use clamps or screws to connect to your rifle. Pay close attention to avoid issues later.


The space between the ocular lens and your eye is called eye relief, and it is a very important number to keep in mind. A high-recoiling rifle coupled with a short eye relief scope could result in a cut to the forehead from recoil. The greater the recoil, the larger the eye relief should be.

Sighting-In

When sighting-in, begin at 25 yards. Dial-in your shots using a sturdy, stable rest to minimize human variables as much as possible. Try and try again, making adjustments and double-checking until you get the adequate alignment of your shot and crosshairs.

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Last but not least, focus on scope quality. It's hard to beat the durability and dependability of a good quality scope. You don't want to wait until you're in a shooting competition or hunting big game to find out you have an untrustworthy scope. Buying the right optic the first time will ensure years of trouble-free use. And if something catastrophic does happen, most premium scope manufacturers offer excellent warranties. 


Red Dots and Binoculars/Spotting Scopes

Red dot sights are also an option. These sights do not magnify the image. Instead, red dots feature a bright aiming point that quickly draws your eye to the center. For lightning-quick shooting at targets or game, nothing beats a red dot.

Scopes and red dots aren't the only optics worth considering. Binoculars and spotting scopes are great for spotting far away game or checking a grouping of shots from a distance. Binoculars are of modest magnification and allow the viewer to use both eyes, which reduces eyestrain and makes observing a painless affair. Because spotting scopes magnify an image much greater than binoculars or riflescopes, make sure to use them in conjunction with a tripod for stable, easy viewing.

Many of the aspects of scope shopping also apply here. Knowing what you are going to use your binoculars/spotting scope for makes all the difference on whether a compact unit or a heavy set will suffice.

Options are Great

There are a variety of optics to choose from. The options are wonderfully endless. Equipped with the information provided, you will be able to choose a scope for any activity. The place to start is knowing what you are going to use your scope for. After you have decided that, the rest will fall into place. The investment aspect is key. You can still hit a target with a cheap gun and quality scope, but it would be hard to aim accurately with a cheap scope, even if it's mounted on an expensive gun.

Good luck, be safe and shoot straight.

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