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All about handgun and rifle scopes.
This web page will attempt to answer many common questions regarding scopes such as:

What do the numbers mean on a scope?
How to choose the best cross hairs or reticle for your scope.
What is a parallax adjustment?
Is a high power scope better than a low power scope?
Is a larger objective lens better than a smaller one?
What are the most commonly used scopes?


Many folks get a bit confused when they see all the numbers written on the side of a pistol or rifle scope. So let's take a look at those numbers and demystify them. By the time you are finished reading this article you will be much more confident when you purchase your next scope.

What do all the numbers mean on a scope?

6 X 40
The first number in this string which is 6 represents the magnification of the scope. When looking through a 6 X 40 the image you see will appear six times closer than with the naked eye.

The second number in the string which is 40 represents the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters. The objective lens is the second lens in the scope at the far end facing closest to the muzzle. In many cases the objective lens will be the larger one.

3-9 X 50

variable magnification scopeWhen you see a string of numbers like the ones shown above you have a variable power scope. The eye piece on these particular scopes can be rotated changing the magnification from between 3 times magnification to 9 times magnification. The third number in the string is 50 which means that the objective lens is 50mm in diameter. Variable power scopes are very versatile and should be strongly considered when planning your next purchase.

Is a larger objective lens better than a smaller one?
In most cases the answer is yes. A larger objective lens will allow more light to enter the scope which in turn will allow greater magnification and sharper images in low light situations. Several key factors reduce the light that will enter a scope. High magnification reduces light. The special coatings manufactures apply to their glass also reduce light. And of course the most obvious is using your scope at dusk when available natural light is limited.
The downside to a large objective lens is they are usually more expensive than their smaller counterparts. The larger size of these scopes may also make it more difficult to mount on your rifle but certainly not impossible. In many circumstances using a smaller 32mm objective lens will be just fine. Particularly when lower magnification is being used most often. 3X would be considered low magnification.

Is high power better than a low power scope?
Not necessarily. The answer to this question depends on your application. In most hunting scenarios a 3-6 magnification will suite almost every situation you encounter. High power magnification on scopes (greater than 9X) create some issues that should be considered. As discussed previously, the higher the magnification the less light will enter the scope. It will also be more difficult to align your eye to see through a high power scope. Much like looking through a microscope in science class you are going to have to position your eye just right before you will be able to view a clear image. Another drawback to high magnification is a super close up is sometimes too close to be practical for hunting. If you magnify your prey so close that your can see a patch of crystal clear fur fill your scope and nothing else - then you are too close. You need to be able to see almost the entire target to make the best shot in hunting. Obviously, if all you can see in your scope is a beautiful patch of clear fur than you won't know what part of the animal you are looking at. So when are high powered scopes needed? Mostly for stationary small targets at long distances would be the answer to that question.

What are the most commonly used scopes?
In my humble opinion the most versatile scope would be a 3-9 X 40 or a 3-9 X 50 with a parallax adjustment feature. This type of scope will suite 99% of all your hunting needs. I personally recommend that your purchase a scope that is made in the good old USA. We make some of the best scopes in the world.

Choosing the cross hairs or reticle for your scope.
Mil-Dot ReticleThe cross hairs or reticle you see when you look through your scope come in literally dozens of varieties which can make it a daunting task to choose just the right one. In the good old days the reticle was a simple crosshair pattern. One plain vertical and one plain horizontal line, that was it. Your aim point was at the intersection of those two lines and if your rifle was accurate and your scope was adjusted properly you were going to hit your target. In many situations that old simple design is still very effective.

So let's cut to the chase. If I had to choose only one reticle for hunting it would have to be the mil-dot reticle. This reticle is used by militaries all over the world (mil does not stand for military) and for good reason. The mils or dots that run along the crosshairs are used to calculate distance. A mil is an angular measurement that widens with increased distance. One mil at 100 yards equals 3.6" whereas one mil at 1,000 yards is 36". See chart below.

Mil Size At Distances From 100 to 1,000 Yards

100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000
3.6" 7.2" 10.8" 14.4" 18.0" 21.6" 25.2" 28.8" 32.4" 36.0"

Without getting too complicated, if you know the trajectories of the ammunition you are using you can calculate distance very accurately using the mil-dot reticle system. Now if you're not a mathematician and have no intentions of becoming one you can do what most average folks do. Simply practice with your favorite rifle and your favorite scope. Using the same ammunition each time you will quickly learn how each mil-dot will effect your shot.

How to focus your scope.
Focusing a scope is not what you may think. Instead of focusing your target, you will actually be focusing the reticle. To focus your scope aim your rifle at white piece of paper across the room. Turn the focusing ring until the reticle is crystal clear and sharp. That's all there is to it.

What is parallax adjustment?
ParallaxParallax is the difference between objects viewed up close and objects viewed far away. Scopes with adjustable parallax (AO) have an adjustment ring at the far end of the scope. These rings have graduated markings in yards. An example would be 20YDS 25YDS 35YDS 50YDS 100YDS 200YDS 400YDS 1000YDS. The parallax adjustment is used to keep your target in clear focus at varying distances. It's as simple as that.

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