Rifle Scopes: Why You Should Use One (And What To Look For)

Rifle Scopes: Why You Should Use One

Having a scope on your gun is like Pack-A-Punching it:

Your accuracy becomes 100x better. That’s why hunters, target shooters and even home defenders use optics on their firearms.

So if you’re looking to significantly improving your shooting game, then keep reading. Because today I’m going to show you how optics will enhance your shooting, what to look for and more.

Let’s get started.

What’s a Rifle Scope

A rifle scope simply provides magnification so you can see further and improve your accuracy. For example, when I use a good scope on my AR-10, I’m easily able to hit targets out to 400 yards.

When looking through a scope, you’ll notice some form of graphic image pattern. That’s called a reticle, which is your aiming point. I’ll cover this more in-depth later. For now, just know that a rifle scope is an optical sighting device that is equipped with a reticle to allow you to see further. And that’s exactly why you should use a rifle scope, so you can have…

Longer Range

Have you ever watched American Sniper?

Why does the soldier (Chris Kyle) use a scope? So he can see the target more clearly, have better accuracy and a cleaner, more reliable shot. There’s no way he can use his bare eye to hit a target from the range he was at (over 100+ yards).

That’s exactly why you should mount a scope on your rifle — to extend your range. If you’re a hunter, competitive shooter or someone who shoots recreationally at the range, mounting a scope will help tackle long-range issues.

Better Accuracy

Scopes significantly improve accuracy.

How? By magnifying and clarifying the views of a target. All you have to do is look through a scope, adjust the turrets (elevation and windage), possibly adjust parallax (if your scope comes with it) and boom! Your accuracy will improve several folds.

It’s that easy. Of course, you’ll first have to sight in your rifle scope and get some practice shots in. But for the most part, most shooters that use a rifle scope will have better accuracy — especially if shooting longer-range distance shots.

Should I Use a Scope?

If you want to significantly improve your chance of hitting your target, perform long-range hunting or want to impress your buddies, then use a scope. It helps improve accuracy and nail long-range targets. That’s not all.

A lot of scopes have cool features like Dead-Hold BDC reticle (automatically estimates holdover for you), adjustable parallax, variable power (shoot at different distances), illuminated reticles, automatic brightness adjustment, night vision capabilities and so much more!

If you’re interested in using a rifle scope on your firearm, here’s what you should to look for when choosing a rifle scope…

What’s the Purpose

The first step in choosing the best scope for your rifle is to ask yourself, “what exactly am I going to use the scope for?”

You could use your scope for things like:

  • Hunting
  • Competition
  • Home Defense
  • Target Shooting

You get the idea. It’s important to know this information because each scope differs from one another. After you found out your use, it’s time to understand basic scope terms, starting with…

Fixed vs. Variable Scope

When looking at a scope, usually you’ll see some numbers. For example: UTG 3-9×32 BugBuster Scope. Let’s dissect the numbers, 3-9×32.

3-9x means it’s a variable scope that allows you to change magnification for different shooting conditions. So you can magnify from 3x all the way up to 9x. You should definitely go with a variable powered scope if you intend on shooting at different distances.

However, if a scope’s magnification is 3×32, that means it’s a fixed scope. It could only work at one power (3x) — no more, no less. The benefit of using a fixed powered scope is usually they offer a clearer, brighter view and it’s more affordable.

For me personally, I prefer to go with a variable powered scope since it gives me that freedom to look through various magnifications while a fixed scope doesn’t. The second number behind the x is the…

Objective Lens

To put it to you simply:

Objective lens is the lens at the end of the scope responsible for transmitting light. You can find how much objective lens a scope has by looking at the second number behind the x. For example, 3-9×32 means it has a 32mm objective lens (OL).

Also, the bigger the objective lens is, the brighter and clearer your image will look. Does that mean that you should get a scope that has the largest objective lens? Not at all. Matter of fact, having too much objective lens will make your scope heavier and require taller rings.

Basic Reticle Types

Here are the three most popular reticles:

  1. Duplex Reticle – The simplest crosshair pattern. Great for hunting and target shooting.
  2. Mildot Reticle – Like the Duplex reticle except there are dots that help estimate the target’s distance based on size. Great for military, law enforcement and security.
  3. Bullet Drop Compensating (BDC) – It has hash marks towards the bottom that help you gauge where a bullet will land at x distance. Amazing for long-range shooters.

First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane

The focal plane refers to the position of your reticle within the scope.

With a First Focal Plane (FFP) reticle, the reticle size adjusts as you change magnifications. For example, if your magnification is at 3x and you zoom it in at 5x, then the reticle will enlarge. Use an FFP reticle if you specialize in long-range shooting.

A Second Focal Plane (SFP) reticle stays the same size regardless if you change the magnification. The benefit of using an SFP is that it gives you a clear picture through all powers.

For the most part, you’re better off with an SFP reticle. However, if you intend on using your scope for long-range shooting, then go for an FFP reticle.

Eye Relief

Eye relief is important if you don’t want to get a bruised eye after firing your gun. Let me explain.

Do you know how whenever you pull the scope up to your eye level to see through it, there is some distance between the ocular lens and your eye? That’s eye relief.

The most important thing to know here is that you should always try to get a scope that has at least 3 – 4 inches of eye relief. The more powerful your rifle’s recoil is, the more eye relief you’ll want to get.

Parallax

Abbey supply did a great job with explaining what scope parallax is. Once you’ve read that article, the next thing you should to look out for is…

MOA vs MRAD

MOA and MRAD are simply an adjustment system.

The best part? They’re interchangeable. So pick an adjustment system your hunting buddies use and the one you feel most comfortable with.

Windage and Elevation Knobs

The windage and elevation knobs are the turrets located on the top and right of your scope.

They’re responsible for the horizontal (windage) and vertical (elevation) adjustments of your scope. When buying a scope, make sure to get a scope that advertises audible and reliable turrets. The last thing you want are turrets that fail mid-way through your hunt.

Now that we’ve covered the essentials in what to look for when buying a rifle scope, you might be wondering…

What Scope should I buy?

It honestly depends on what you use it for.

If you shoot within 100 yards, stalk small game or homestead defense, I recommend using a scope that has a magnification of 1x – 4x.

If you shoot targets up to 200 yards, stalk large game or hunt in closed landscapes, then I recommend using 5x – 8x magnification scope.

Lastly, if you are a long-range shooter (200+ yards), you’re definitely going to need a scope specifically for long-range — usually above 9x magnification.

Still unsure? Then come stop by my little house on the internet: Scopes Field. This is where I hand-test and review scopes for almost every major rifle and caliber.

Author Bio

Richard Douglas is a firearms expert and educator. His work has appeared on large gun publications like The National Interest, Daily Caller, ODU Magazine, American Shooting Journal, SOFREP, and more. In his free time, he reviews various optics and guns on his Scopes Field blog.

 

Let me know your thoughts on this topic!