Now that you have purchased your “real” hunting rifle it is the time to customize it for accuracy. We will start with understanding the selection of riflescopes and accessories.
The first consideration is your own eyesight. 20/20 eyesight from your optometrist does not imply perfect eyesight-it is rather”normal” eyesight. Ideally eyesight would be in the 20/10 range for critical viewing, yet most people’s eyesight changes through the years, tending to become farsighted in clarity as we age and blurry up close. Therefore it is imperative to have an eye examination yearly with a caution to the optometrist prescription to adjust the eyesight for slightly more clarity at distance. Also discuss “loop” shootist aids, which are lense clip-ons for distance that target shootists often use. I see these in gun catalogs all the time. Try: www.natchezss.com.
My optometrist is INVISION in Christiansburg, Virginia, and they cooperate completely.
The eye lenses choices are also very important. The lenses must be impact “shooters” lenses to protect the eye from possibility of eye injury during firing residue. The color of the lenses, if a K2 yellow, or one of the new “orange type” colors will enhance detail at distance. These shooting glasses are available in all gun catalogs if you choose a non-prescription, clip ons are also available but offer less protection. A pocket size lense cleaning solution bottle and wipes are necessary. Lastly a crush proof eyeglasses case to protect from accidents. If you are on the big safari it is wise to have more than one pair of prescription eyeglasses with you.
Shooters gloves are a consideration, especially in cold weather. Sensitivity to touch is a must and some gloves have a cut out for the trigger finger.
You will require a sun hat. The traditional “Boonie Hat”, made famous from the Vietnam era is the most practical as it can be crushed into a pocket, the extra wide brim models allow the brim to be bent down to screen off the sun’s glare and of course some protection from rain. Consider a headband for hot drippy perspiration if your hat is not a “Cool Max” model. Consider sunscreen and bug repellent also.
Although some readers are enthralled by the “Gillie Suit” fame; they are hot, uncomfortable and not necessary for hunting wildlife. This is a military shootist aid, as hunting wildlife requires stillness-color is not a consideration as most animals are not responsive to colors as we are, although we all like to wear our “camos”. Tuck them in your boots, and wear long sleeve shirts to keep the chiggers and ticks off. Always mark your shootist site and/or yourself with BLAZE ORANGE.
Your choice of rifle caliber dictates your riflescope. The type of terrain also dictates your choice of riflescope. Top shootists use a bound logbook, wind/humidity meter, and a stopwatch that we will discuss when we are talking about techniques in a week or so.
Let us assume you are hunting groundhogs on the east coast. Herein the 22-250 is most popular with ranging out to 500 yards for golf ball accuracy-maybe better. Perhaps you are shooting gophers out west at 800 yards and choose a 25-06. Maybe you are an Antelope hunter in the wide spaces of the west and a 7mm Magnum, 270, or 30-06 is your choice. Hunting in the dark close confining bush of Maine, Michigan or Black Forest woods for deer and Black Bear poses a different problem for the shootist. The Lion in Africa, or the Kodiak bear also require specialized riflescopes if you want the best in opportunity to hit the target with critical accuracy. Wounding is criminal neglect. One shot-One kill.
Your 22-250 with a bull barrel, bi-pod mounted and even outfitted with a specialized heavy Choate stock is not one to “walk-a-bout”. This is heavy. This is where you sit down at a rest, or lay prone and “snipe” the target. You will require a long-range riflescope, the longer the better. I use a Tasco Custom Shop 10X40 56-30mm diameter, variable power with fine cross hairs with high turret windage and elevation adjustments; also a sunshade, but sunshades are really to dissipate heat wave visual distortion from the hot gun barrel. In addition this scope has a parallax correction wheel. Were I to buy a newer riflescope the features being offered today are astounding. I would select one with a lighted reticle, bullet drop compensation, or mill dot in addition to the former features. Scope protective lense caps are a must. If you are in the dreary ice and wet, maybe hard sun, a neoprene scope cover is excellent until you are ready to fire.
Since we are looking at long range shooting the variable power is a must. At 10X gives you a wide field of view and as you turn the scope rings to maximum power the field of view narrows. We use the lesser power to select from potential targets, which we will call “grassing” the field. Carrying a pair of variable power binoculars does the same thing, but increases the field of view (FOV), that means shifting back and forth. That is why the modern military snipers use a team; in most cases where one grasses the playing field and makes range notes to various posts. The other fellow does the shooting being advised about elevation and deflection (wind) variables he/she can insert into the turret adjustments. The partner probably has an electronic hand held laser range meter, perhaps a BUSHNEL laser rangefinder binoculars, and a spotting scope.
The riflescope at 40 X power really amplifies the target with a narrow field of view. You must be rock steady holding the entire rifle, hence the extra weight stock and bull barrel contributed to the bi-pod remaining steadfast. Of course you can use a shootist table with a gun vice or sand bags, but that leans into the target shootist style at a gun range business. The newest design bi-pods offer panning ability to swing left or right without losing the stability of the base. This is good for relatively closer shots but at extreme ranges this is a moot point. Fine crosshairs are amplified at this power wherein at the lesser power they tend to diminish requiring sharper vision.
Note the 30mm diameter tube. Most .22 caliber riflescopes are ¾” in diameter, larger calibers are mostly 1 inch in diameter. The 30mm diameter scope originated in Germany popularity back in the early 80’s since hunting in the German woods was really dark and the wider the tube the more light could be gained. The objective lense, as in this case is a 56mm diameter and about the largest one can find on the civilian market. The larger the objective lense the more light is gained. The light gained can be naught in value in some situations dark forests and peering into the bushes, hence the lighted reticle advantage, the power being supplied by a small battery. The newer models even have variable lighted intensity on the reticle- different green-red colors too. If you use a laser you would want opposite colors from one another.
Riflescope manufacturers determine the eye relief distance from your eyeball to the rear sight lens. The average acceptable distance is 3.5 inches, longer is better as this allows more flexibility for you to adjust to the full picture in the scope optics versus a tiny hole or shifting hole to peer through. When you hold a riflescope up to your eye in the store you will have to bring the scope up to a measured distance to see clearly to understand what I am talking about. Any eye relief less than 3.5 inches is unacceptable. In addition a closer eye relief with large caliber recoil implies a black eye.
I want to mention that some riflescopes are really pistol scopes with a Long Eye Relief, (LER design). These scopes are mounted on .22s as an example midway down the barrel to have a Long Eye Relief. Some newer quasi-military “Scout “ Rifles by Styer, and the Marlin Guide Model 45-70 (with a big hand grip lever action) use this feature for quick shooting in brush conditions. If I were hunting African Lions, Kodiak Bears and such predators who would likely get me first I would consider what my guide recommend. If it were left to me I would choose a long eye relief (LER) variable power 1X4, 40 Bushnell Rain guard with a lighted reticule if I could get it. Note the 1X power for a wide field of view. You would be shooting in just a few yards at best since you are probably in wet brush.
Back to the long-range distance scopes. I think the bullet drop scribe marks in the scope give you a benefit. These are spaced scribe marks usually showing the measured chest distance of a deer size target. As the target is further, the scribe marks become closer. The best scope in this area is still the SHEPHERD, which has a series of circles and horizontal lines, that get smaller and smaller as the distance increases. You place the circle over the chest of the deer and that fills the circle; you are on target for the proper ranging. I use a SHEPHERD 2X7 40 on my Black Rifle, .223. The newer NIKON scopes have similar features and not as expensive. Therein, again, the largest circle is at a hundred yards and the smallest circle at a thousand yards allowing you to place the circle on the target to fill the chest dimension.
The scribed marks of the bullet drop compensator models, such as the OSPREY INTERNATIONAL require you to test shoot using different loads and different distances at different climate conditions-all recorded in your logbook as you would with any scope and different ammunition. It would be nice to purchase an electronic hand held ranging device sold in all the gun catalog sections to get a reflected (hopeful) echo to measure the distances for an accurate recording of the ammunition and matching comparison of the scribe marks. Hand held pocket size manual split image rangefinders still exist and I noted in the www.sportsmanguide.com, Military catalog they were selling a handheld 33” rangefinder (item# DXM-176498) of the Korean War vintage that used to be sought after, hot ticket, for the out western hunters before the electronics pocket models came about.
Laser features are nice, even with the add-on lasers. NIKON makes a nice integrated laser combo scope for about $900.00 also sold at Sportsmansguide.com
Mil marks, or mil dots are a way of measuring elevation and windage (lateral) deflection of the bullet impact. These are minute of angle, which means at 100 yards the bullet moves one inch. So shooting at 1000 yards a minute of angle deflection could be said at 10 inches. You missed. The better scoops are now adjustable to make 1/8-inch adjustments to the bullet impact. If you read the fine print on that famous scope offering you want to define the minute of angle capabilities of the scope and pay the extra for a less than one minute of angle scope. More on this when we are discussing scope alignment and shooting techniques.
A quick review: The catalog will list a scope thus: (example) 3×9 40 and assume you know it is a 1 inch diameter tube. Maybe less, but you have to define the small print. Inexpensive scopes offer less- better scopes offer more, usually in more internal optic rare earth glass and strength to recoil. This 3 X power is adjustable to a 9 power and the objective lens is 40 mm diameter. This was a big breakthrough in the 1950s. Most scopes are sold in this range. A 30mmdiameter tube implies with a 10×40 56mm that it is a BIG scope and that implies a BIG size that may be too awkward for a carry and shoot rifle. I think the better scope than the old 3X9 40mm, which I use on my .300 Winchester Magnum, is a 4X12 56 Redfield with of course a 30mm tube. That is a big enough scope for carry as too much size is a problem in the bush. This is a nice elk scope, which requires a longer shot than deer.
You can overpower in a scope, even a variable scope, and you have to match the hunting terrain, your physical capabilities, the rifle itself with modern technology. So the question arises would a $2,000.00 scope be better than a $200.00 scope? Considering that you are probably not going to become a professional game guide in Africa or Alaska I think not. Modern scope technology is darn good.
All scopes are nitrogen filled and this keeps out moisture. Optic grade in clarity-in my experience, is just as good in a Burris as a BSA. Then again everything is made in Asia these days, even the German scopes it seems. I am not keen on the military design that is made for military rifles, as they are cumbersome, expensive and specifically designed for a task limiting it as compared to the versatility of a hunting scope.
Following this thread is the current 2010 Shooters Summer edition guide from http://www.sportsmansguide.com/. They are offering specific discounted military “Counter Sniper-Crusader Gunsights.” Note the word “Gunsights” These ex-military design are for military fighting vehicles in the .50 caliber-20mm, and such large caliper weapons employed today in war. The physical size cautions me as to application on traditional hunting rifles. As far as the .50 caliber goes, Barret who offers the most popular model also includes for their $10,000.00 price an electronic scope that in its self will be a wave of the future. Adding these offered “Gun sights” on a Barret at already 32 lbs. would be a more weight to carry. This would be impractical on a Remington 700 or a Winchester 70 style rifles for field carry, but perhaps as the scopes were intended for “sniper use”, they may have application. If too big, once in hand, you can always return them.
However the current summer catalog offers a wide array of varied manufacturers and it is certainly good to study their offerings. As we progress in this series we will of course cover more accessories of interest, mounting, alignment, and techniques of shooting.
Lastly I want to discuss Parallax, which is often overlooked in long-range scopes although the manufacturer probably will incorporate fixed mid range point parallax correction. Parallax is the difference in your LOS- Line of sight – from the LOF-Line of fire- perhaps an inch or two, yet in measured distance as your LOS remains consistent in a straight line, like a laser, the LOF drops adding to the parallax drop difference means you have missed. As an example your .30-30 bullet may drop 10 “ at 200 yards (or more), the mid point of converging LOS and LOF is 100 yards. Add in a Parallax factor and you can see why with open sights and small scopes you are shooting outside the X-Ring. Parallax is a problem to consider. At that 200 yard difference the 12” drop is now 14”- you missed a chest heart shot.
In theory at infinity the straight line of LOF and LOS converge but this is a non-question except for those in the design department. Most 3X9, and related scopes and rifle mid point ballistic curves are at 100 yards, or at best, 200 yards using modern ammunition in a large caliber rifle. Two Hundred yards is a chest shot and not pinpoint accuracy. Now at 500 yards, or further, you cannot have deer chest size accuracy, you probably cannot even see the target at that range. So you UP GRADE to a long range scope with parallax correction. Every inch counts to place the bullet in a golf ball size spot, or if target shooting: the “”X RING”. A Parallax wheel is adjustable in measured clicks and indicated scribe marks in range yards, or metric distance, depending on the manufacturer. Read the fine print.
Questions: I know this is confusing to new rifle/scope owners. E-mail me at email@example.com
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