A Plea for Sensible Riflescopes

By Rick Ryals

This article is addressed to both riflescope manufacturers and riflescope users. While the manufactures are the ones producing ever larger, heavier and more powerful riflescopes, they would not do so if we, the users, were not buying them. A basic rule of business is that a company must provide what will sell in order to stay in business.

This does not make the riflescope makers blameless in this, since they have hyped these scopes for the past several years. However, we, the buying public, are responsible for making sensible choices. If we purchased their more sensible offerings, they would continue to sell them.

The sad truth, however, is that many of the better choices in medium and large game hunting scopes are being dropped from the catalogs. For example, Nikon recently dropped the 2-7x32mm variable from their Monarch line. Similarly, I have been searching in vain for a couple of months trying to find someone selling a Weaver K2.5 for a Ruger No. 3 I recently purchased.

On a related note, I have noticed many companies referring to their 2-7x scopes as an excellent choice for slug guns, muzzleloaders, and other short range firearms. What? Why in the hell would someone need a seven power scope for a slug gun or muzzle loader?

A fixed 2.5 power is a superb choice for this type of gun, but can hardly be found anymore. The K2.5 is still shown in Weaver's catalog but I cannot find a retailer selling them.

In fact, the only 2.5 power scope I can currently find for purchase is Leupold's 2.5 Ultralight. It is indeed a sweet little scope. However, at nearly $300, I have a feeling that most of these are sold to knowledgeable hunters for dangerous game rifles. This scope has long been regarded as one of the better choices for such rifles.

Please don't think I am railing against high powered variables. They are superbly suited to some types of rifles, such as varmint or tactical rifles. I will also grudgingly admit that an argument can be made for a 4-12x scope on a long range rifle like a .257 Weatherby, in special circumstances. However, these scopes are ridiculous on deer rifles that will never be shot over 200 yards, and need to be optimized for 100 yards. Why do you think that big game scopes are corrected for parallax at 100 yards?

My three pet peeves about rifle scopes are short eye relief, heavy weight and excessive length. Three inches is not �generous� eye relief, it is barely minimal for high intensity calibers such as .270 and 30-06, not to mention magnum calibers. Your scope should not "wink" at you every time you barely move your head. The average weight of scopes now has to be well over a pound, without a mount. In addition, 13 to 14 inches in length is not unusual. Why do hunters put up with such scopes?

Much more useful for the average deer/black bear/elk rifle is a scope with 4 inches of eye relief that weighs no more than 12 ounces and is approximately 10 and not over 12 inches in length. Such a scope won't pop you in the eyebrow and it will not over-balance your rifle. Magnification in fixed power scopes should be between two and four power. The most useful variable power scopes for the great majority of big game hunting situations are the (approximately) 1-4 x, 1.5-5 x and 2-7x models. Riflescope magnification in excess of seven power has very limited application in big game hunting. Variable power riflescopes should always be carried in the field set at or near their minimum magnification to maximize the available field of view.

I plead with the scope manufacturers to take a more active role in educating the buying public about sensible riflescope choices for typical big game hunting purposes. I ask hunters and shooters to evaluate their big game hunting scope needs. If they do, they will start buying sensible scopes before they disappear from the catalogs.

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Copyright 2008 by Rick Ryals. All rights reserved.