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The old adage "You get what you pay for" may be truer for scopes than for anything else in the shooting realm. You can buy a lower-priced rifle and get excellent accuracy (often with run-of-the-mill ammo that's available at your local Wal-Mart). However, all of that accuracy is academic unless your scope is worthy of the gun and ammo. Sure, you can buy "package guns" that include a scope, sling, and other stuff with a new rifle, but most experts agree that these aren't good for much more than plinking cans.
When pricing a new rifle, pass on the packaged scope and factor in roughly $200-$250 for a good Nikon rifle scope. That may sound like a lot, but quality optics can run in the thousands. Fortunately, you don't have to shell out super-big bucks to get quality.
There are probably as many reasons for using a scope as there are hunters and target shooters. Some people find that their eyes simply can't focus on iron sights as well as they used to. Switching to a scope helps improve their sighting, if not their sight.
Many hunters need to get a clearer look at their game. The magnification offered by a scope allows them to make sure, for instance, that the White Tail they're sighting on is not actually a Black Angus. A lot of people choose scopes because they are simple to use and make hitting what you aim at a lot easier. There is no truth to the rumor, however, that lonely hunters use scopes to make their guns more attractive to the opposite sex.
Would you believe the peep (aperture) sight is better than a scope? According to the experts, when it comes to hunting close cover and identifying the game with the naked eye, nothing beats a peep for speed and accuracy.
Still and all, the scope IS the easiest sight to use. If your scope is properly zeroed, all you have to do is put the crosshairs on the sweet spot and squeeze the trigger - no sight alignment needed.
When it comes to power ranges, most experts agree that the very lowest they would want on a hunting scope is 4x. Why? Because anything higher than that will narrow your view too much for close shots and/or shots involving moving game.
For zooming in on far game at reasonable ranges, 9x is usually plenty high. You might want a higher magnification in some cases, but that depends on the type of terrain you hunt and how far the longest shot may be. You should keep in mind that 12x is probably way too much for most realistic hunting situations. Besides, the higher the magnification, the shakier the movement of the crosshairs on your target. In the end, however, you are the best judge of what you need in a riflescope.
In the world of scopedom, magnification means power and vice versa. Actual magnification values vary from scope to scope, but the numbers mean that at the lowest setting (3x), the object you are looking at through the Nikon scope will appear to be approximately three times the size it would appear when viewed by the naked eye. At the top setting (9x), it would appear to be about nine times that size.
The adjustments between the low and high settings are infinite. You can turn the adjustment to any position between the low and high, and view the target at varying respective sizes. This is true of any variable-power scope.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|