A hunting scope is a must for rifle hunting
There’s no doubt that a hunting scope will get you the best accuracy when hunting with a rifle. The times of open sighs are way back behind us. But which hunting gun scope do you choose? We’ve got a lot on offer in our store, making the possibilities nearly endless. Getting decision anxiety? Not to worry, we’ll explain the main features to help you choose the best hunting scope for you.
Which magnification for a hunting scope?
The first thing you’ll be scoping out is the magnification. It’s easy to assume it will be best to have the biggest magnification possible. You get to see the target in great detail, which is great. But while a big magnification enhances the target, it also enhances your own movements. In other words, the movements you would barely notice on a low magnification, will become very apparent when magnified, making it extremely difficult to hold the reticle still over the target. So, too much magnification will work against you.
Another practical thing to consider is that the field of view will decrease when magnification increases. You’re zooming in, so it’s logical that the rest of the image will disappear out of view. When participating in a driven hunt, you want your field of view as big as possible. Hence the use of a 1x or 2x (maximum!) magnification hunting gun scope. The speed of movement in your image also increases as the image gets bigger, making it harder to get a good focus on the target. Too much zoom, and all you see is a blur. So, you understand it greatly depends on the type of hunting that you do, which magnification range you should choose.
Some hunting scopes offer a single magnification, for example a 4x24 (4 is the magnification, 24 is the diameter of the objective), but most hunting scopes offer a variable magnification, resulting in a magnification range of which the minimum and maximum magnification are the boundaries. The low magnification will give you a wide field of view, while the high magnification allows you to zoom in on the target for a detailed view and more accurate aim. A good example of a variable magnification is a 3-9x40 hunting scope, where the magnification can be adjusted stepless from 3x up to 9x. A 3-9x magnification range means said hunting scope has a 3x zoom.
For a long time, the 3-9x40 hunting scope was the evergreen in hunting. When asked what the best hunting scope for deer hunting (for example) is, the answer will often be: the 3-9x40. The same scope is also often mentioned as the best scope for air rifle hunting. However, why opt for a 3x zoom, when you can get a 4x or 5x zoom? A 3-12x hunting scope is a very popular example of the former, giving lots of extra magnification. A 2-10x is a popular example of the latter, adding both a wider field of view and a bit of extra magnification.
It’s worth mentioning the objective. That’s the big lens on the front of the hunting scope. The bigger the objective, the more light will get through. This isn’t only important when shooting in twilight, but also when you’re using high magnifications. For this reason, a 24 mm objective is only used in driven hunts where low magnifications are used. Hunting scopes for long distances will use high magnifications, therefore using bigger objectives (58 mm for example) to get as much light as possible through for a detailed image. Having said that, the objective diameter isn’t the only thing needed for a high light transmission. Equally important is the quality of the lenses used. High dispersion glass will let more light through and special coatings will raise the transmission even more, while also giving more contrast, true colours, et cetera. It won’t be a surprise that all this comes with a price tag, but the difference is clear to see.
Which reticle for a hunting scope?
When choosing the best hunting scope for your needs, There are two main things to consider where the reticle is concerned. First is which type of reticle you should use and second is in which focal plane it should be situated. Let’s start with the type of reticle.
A standard reticle consists of, simply said, two crosshairs. Nothing fancy, just aim with where they cross and that’s it. There are variations, like the duplex reticle, where the crosshairs are thick on the outside, but thin where they cross. This’ll pull your eye to the centre, but also keeps your target better visible when zooming in. There are also simple reticles that just consist of a dot in the middle. All these reticles are very usable on fixed distances.
If you’re shooting at multiple distances, you’ll need a reticle with markings. A good example is the Mil-dot reticle, that has crosshairs with dots as markings. These dots will have a certain size of their own and are spaced in between with certain sizes too. Using these, will enable you to hold over (or under), without the need to constantly adjust the reticle with the turrets when changing distance.
Reticles with markings can also be quite comprehensive with loads of horizontal and vertical lines, numbers and markings that will become more and more visible when zooming in. These ‘Christmas tree’ reticles will help you accurately calculate distances and target sizes. They’ll let you compensate for bullet drop and even wind, making them perfect for long distance shooting.
When choosing a hunting scope, it’s good to notice if the reticle is situated in the first focal plane (FFP) or in the second focal plane (SFP). An FFP reticle will enhance when you’re zooming in. The advantage of this is, that the markings will stay true to the image. Their dimensioning will increase in the same ratio as the image, making FFP reticles perfect for calculating distances, et cetera. The above mentioned ‘Christmas tree’ reticle is a good example of an FFP reticle. The markings and numbers will increase in size when zooming in, making them visible at high magnifications, while they will be very fine and non-disturbing at lower magnifications.
A standard crosshair reticle has no use in the first focal plane, as the crosshairs will only get thicker when zooming in, obstructing the view on the target more and more. Therefore, such reticles are best placed in the second focal plane, where they will hold the same dimensions, whether you zoom in or out. If you’ve got an SFP reticle with markings like Mil-dots, the markings will only be true to the image at a certain magnification. Most often 10x or the maximum magnification for lower magnification scopes. However, always read the manual to be sure. Calculating distances can only be done at this magnification. They can still be good for hold over (or under) if you make yourself familiar with the reticle. The big advantage of an SFP reticle is that it’s easier and lighter to construct, making for lower production costs.
One last thing to consider in the reticle department, is if you need an illuminated reticle in your hunting scope. Crosshairs can be hard to make out against a dark background or when hunting in twilight. An illuminated reticle will be visible under all circumstances. The middle of such a reticle is illuminated in (often) red, giving a bright contrast. The intensity of the illumination can often be adjusted.
Buying a hunting scope
With the information above, we hope to have given you a helpful insight to help you choose the right magnification range and reticle for your hunting scope. When buying a hunting scope, these are the two main features to think about. As you can imagine, there are more things to consider, like asking yourself the question if you want the reticle dimensioning and turret adjustment in MOA (Imperial) or MRAD (Metric). The way you use them is identical, it’s just calculating with them that’s different.
And don’t forget the diameter of the objective. The bigger the objective, the bigger the field of view. This might raise the question: Why are small objectives used for driven hunts? Well, you do need a wide field of view there, but as the magnifications used are low, you can get away with a smaller (and lighter) objective. The higher the magnification, the bigger the objective needs to be to compensate the smaller field of view and also to compensate loss of light transmission. The latter is also compensated with lens coatings. A fully multicoated set of lenses will get you the brightest, image with lots of contrast. Some coatings even repel water and dirt.
As you now understand, buying a good rifle scope means figuring out lots of variables for yourself. Many of them depend on the intended use, but just as many will be personal preference. There are lots of things to consider and if you can use some help with that, please feel free to ask our experts for some good advice. They’ll listen to your wishes and will give you some good options for the best hunting scope for your situation and budget.