Choosing a Scope

February 20, 2009 by  

By Richard Burt

The most important piece of equipment you will buy for big game hunting in the open plains of North Dakota is a scope for your rifle. I believe that the scope makes the gun, and if you have a budget and have to choose between an inexpensive Weatherby Vanguard with a nice Swarovski or a high end Weatherby Mark V and a cheap Tasco, go with the good optics and save the money on the gun (this is speaking from a hunter’s perspective, not a gun collector’s).

Personally, I like to compare the following specs on scopes when comparing:

  • Magnification – more isn’t always better, it depends on the application
  • Percent Light Transmission – bucks move in the morning and evening, low light times.
  • Reticle – I want a plex that I like
  • Objective Size – bigger means more light gathering
  • Eye Relief – More means not cutting your forehead open from recoil
  • Weight – Not a huge factor, but I make note of it (sometimes heavy is better, meaning strongly built)
  • Field of View – compare FOV at the same distance, if it’s small you won’t be able to find your target when you shoulder the rifle
  • Cost – I’m not rich

Two years ago, I decided to replace a cheap scope on my Browning .308 BLR rifle. I did a lot of research, and for this rugged gun I decided to get a “most bang for the buck” scope. I decided on a 3.5x-10x-50mm Burris Fullfield II, which is one of the best scopes for the money out there in my opinion. I purchased it new in the box off of ebay for about $100 less than I could find it locally.
I  chose this standard power range due to the fact that on occasion, I may be walking cattails or shelterbelts “pushing” deer and would want low magnification to allow me a large field of view (FOV) for quick shouldered shots, and I liked the 50mm objective lens over a 40mm to allow for greater light gathering in low-light morning and evening hours. I went with an adjustable magnification (vs. just a straight 4x or something similar) for those times (which are most of the time for me) that I hunt by walking out in a field that I know a buck will return to in the afternoon, lay down, and waiting for him, oftentimes until the end of shooting hours – times like those are when I may need more magnification for longer shots. Also, my .308 is capable of shots that are somewhat long range (although I probably wouldn’t shoot at an animal over 250yds with it) so I don’t have to worry about having a scope that’s overkill for the rifle. I also really liked Burris’ ballistic plex, which includes dashes for different distances (and they have an online chart to let you know, for your caliber, what distance those dashes dictate for your gun – of course, you should verify that yourself at the range).

Alternatively, last year I acquired a Weatherby Mark V Accumark chambered in .30-.378 Weatherby Magnum. This rifle is in a different class than my lever Browning .308. For starters, it’s a very large caliber (as well as being expensive at roughly $5 per round of ammo). It was a used rifle (as was my BLR when I acquired it), and already had a very nice scope on it – a Leupold VX-III 3.5-10x50mm. However, for this gun, which is made for accurate, long-distance shooting, I wanted more magnification. This isn’t a gun that I will be toting through cattails at well over 10 pounds, it’s a rifle I will be still-hunting with in pursuit of big game and it is capable of taking long shots, so I want to be able to see the target well at a distance.

The Weatherby Mark V Accumark is a high-end gun, and while the Burris Fullfield is a very capable scope, I determined that I would bite the bullet on this one and make a higher-end optics purchase to complete the package. On a side note, if you are putting optics on a magnum rifle be sure to look into quality rings and to make sure that the rings on your gun will not allow your scope to move if you’re shooting something with a lot of recoil.

I would like a Swarovski, but can’t afford it, so after looking at about 10 options I narrowed the field down to two choices for my Weatherby.

  • Leupold VX-III 6.5-20LR: $650
  • Burris Black Diamond 6-24SF: $700

When comparing these two, I noticed very similar specifications. One difference is that the Burris goes up to 24x, that’s a nice feature. But, the other variation on the two was eye relief. The Burris specs eye relief at 3.2-3.7″ while the Leupold boasts relief of 5.3-5.6″. While you may have never seen the .30-.378 cartridge, you can guess that it packs a punch and I want as much eye relief as I can get – for comfort as well as safety. This drove me to decide on the Leupold for the Weatherby.

Hopefully my process of determining a scope on two different guns will help you in your next optics purchase. Make sure to check out the Chuck Hawks website, it’s got tons of information on there and can aid you a lot in your next firearms purchase. Now I need to find a .25-.06 for that VX-III that I pulled off the Weatherby.

Check out our Firearms and Reloading Forum and show pictures of your best spotting scope for hunting or find all the spotting scope comparisons here.

Courtesy of the ND Outdoorsman Blog


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