Selecting the right Riflescope

Author Chris Barrett
Publish Date 19 Feb 2014

Selecting the Right Riflescope

This info sheet is not intended to be a complete 'course' in the vagareties of optical instruments but rather a brief summary that will help you to gain a better understanding of riflescopes in order for you to make a better informed decision regarding your purchase.

Selecting the correct riflescope to suit both the firearm you are using and the conditions under which you are shooting is vitally important to the success of you shooting whether that be hunting or target shooting.

General Overview

The main factors in selecting any piece of optical equipment can be broken down into the following areas -

  • Optical quality
    • This relates to the quality of the lens elements and the coating/s placed onto these elements.
  • Optical clarity
    • This relates to the ability of the lens elements to render a clear, sharp and crisp image to the viewer
  • Edge to edge sharpness
    • This relates to the ability of the optical instrument to render image sharpness out to the outer edge of the viewing area. The better the optical quality & clarity, the better the edge to edge sharpness.
  • Light transmission
    • This relates to the amount of light that the user is able to utilise at the ocular end of the optical instrument
  • Light gathering
    • This relates to the amount of light that the optical instrument 'gathers' or 'pulls' in at the objective end. e.g. a 50mm objective 'gather' more light than a 40mm objective lens.
    • It should be noted that other factors in the design of the optical instrument can play a bigger factor in 'useable' light than simply light gathering ability.
  • Eye Relief
    • This is more important on a riflescope than on binoculars. As a general rule, you require longer eye relief the larger the calibre of firearm you are using.
  • Field of View
    • This relates to the width of area that you get to view through the optical instrument you are using.
    • Whilst the field of view is inordinately determined by the magnification of the optics you are using, a wider field of view for any given magnification is usually preferable.
  • Environmental conditions of the user
    • This relates to where, when and under what conditions you intend to use your optics. The answer to this will greatly determine how much you pay and what features you deem necessary.

Hunting Riflescopes

Hunting riflescopes can be fixed or variable power and do not contain contain an adjustable front objective. They are designed for quick 'off the shoulder' shooting and therefore necessitate a more simplistic approach to their operation than target scopes can afford.

The most popular hunting riflescopes for various types of firearms are as follows -

  • Air Rifles
    • 4x32
  • Rimfire Rifles
    • 4x32, 4-9x32
  • Centrefire Rifles
    • 6x40, 3-9x40, 4-12x40

When choosing a riflescope for hunting conditions, you need to consider the following factors -

  • Hunting conditions under which you would most likely find yourself, these include -
    • Time of day
      • Wherever possible view the riflescope you are intending to purchase under similar ligh conditions to that which you expect to find in the field when you are using it. In this way you can be sure that you are choosing a scope best suited to your conditions.
    • Weather conditions
      • Similar to above
    • Density of vegetation
      • Thick country would dictate lower powered scopes and open country would allow you to make use of higher magnifications.
    • Distance to target
      • Close quarter hunting would dictate the need for low powered optics from 1.5x to 4x
      • For longer hunting conditions, it would be rare that any hunter would need more magnification than 6x or 9x for shots up to 200m.
  • Type of firearm that you are using -
    • This includes the calibre, action type and size & weight of the firearm
  • Your eyes -
    • Younger eyes are more forgiving on optics that those of people over 45. remember, none of us are getting any younger and the optical quality of your riflescope, and the quality of the optics that you need, will be dictated a lot by the age of your eyes.
  • Budget -
    • As a general rule;
      • The more you pay, the better the optics that you are purchasing but having said that, there are some brands that 'punch' higher in quality than their price would otherwise suggest and of cause the reverse is also true.
      • For every small incremental increase in optical quality, there is a corresponding excremental increase in the price paid.
      • Choose the best riflescope for you available funds.
      • If you cannot see any difference in the quality by looking through it, settle for the one that best suits your budget.

Target Riflescopes

Target riflescopes can be fixed or variable power and contain an additional control to hunting scopes in that they contain an adjustable front objective.

The size of the magnification that you need for any given target discipline will entirely depend on the size of the target, distance to the target and your need to see the bullet hole in the target.