Muzzleloading Scopes: Make Mine a Fixed Power Model!
By Chuck Hawks
high performance inline muzzleloader. Illustration courtesy of Sightron
Guns and Shooting Online members who have read my review of the Savage 10MLBSS-II inline muzzleloader (see the Product Review Page) know that my scope of choice for that superb rifle is a 4-power (4x) Sightron SII. That is not an accident. Most muzzleloading hunters are killing their game at about 50 yards or less. Even the most powerful and accurate inline muzzleloading rifle is about a 200 yard proposition, and that is only in the hands of a master muzzleloading rifleman.
Now, I understand that almost everyone these days thinks in terms of variable power scopes. I commonly get letters asking, "Should I buy a 2-7x or a 3-9x scope?" But I can't remember the last time someone wrote to ask, "Should I buy a 2.5x or 4x scope?"
But the fact is that a variable power scope will properly be used at no more than 2x to 5x to provide the field of view required at muzzleloading ranges. And furthermore, 2.5x to 4x is all the magnification needed for hunting any species of North American big game animal out to 200 yards or more.
So my question is, why buy a variable power scope at all? It is an optical and mechanical fact that variable power scopes are more complicated and less reliable than fixed power scopes. It is also a fact that for a given level of quality a variable power scope is more expensive to manufacture--and therefore must be sold for a higher price--than a fixed power scope. And variable power scopes are usually larger and heavier than equivalent fixed power scopes, negatively impacting the handling of the rifle.
Who needs all of those drawbacks? There are plenty of good fixed power scopes between 2x and 5x that fill the bill for muzzleloading rifles. Not only will they perform as well or better than a variable power scope; they will probably save you money. Spend that money burning powder and shot and I guarantee that you will be a more effective hunter when the next deer season rolls around.
I know that for many shooters fixed power scopes have slipped completely below their radar. They may ask, "What fixed power scopes?" Okay, here are some examples of fixed power scopes suitable for short to medium range hunting with any rifle, muzzleloading or centerfire (in alphabetical order):
Burris Compact 4x, Leupold Compact M8-2.5x20mm, Leupold M8-4x33, Nikon Monarch 4x40mm, Nikon Buckmaster 4x40mm, Redfield Widefield 4x, Schmidt & Bender 4x36mm, Sightron SII Compact 4x32mm, Simmons BP 4x20mm, Weaver Grand Slam 4.75x40mm, Weaver K4 (4x38mm), Weaver K2.5 (2.5x20mm).
These are not, of course, the only fixed power riflescopes available to the muzzleloading hunter; they are merely a representative sample. And they are not equal in price or quality. Clearly you should expect a difference in quality and performance between, say, the Simmons BP 4x20mm (2004 MSRP $60) and the Weaver Grand Slam 4.75x40mm (MSRP $300).
Remember that you generally get what you pay for; buy the best glass that you can afford. That is another advantage of buying a fixed power scope for your rifle, you can get a better grade of scope for the same amount of cash, compared to a variable power model.
Copyright 2004, 2007 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.