Confessions of a scope-swapper: choose wisely, mount intelligently, but don't be afraid to mix things up a bit.

Author:Anderson, Dave

Back in 1961 when I turned 12 and was old enough for my own deer rifle, choices in a bolt action were Winchester, Savage or Remington. It would be chambered in .270, .30-06, or the then-avant-garde .308.

Yes, there were also rifles from Browning, Weatherby, Steyr-Mannlicher, Sako, but they were for rich people. Not only did I not know any rich people, I didn't know anyone who knew rich people.

Then came scope selection--Weaver, Leupold, Redfield or Bausch & Lomb. It would be either 2-1/2 or 4X. That's a total of ... 3x3x4x2 = 72 possible combinations--more than enough for many a ferocious campfire debate.

To this day I'm an inveterate scope swapper, indecisive as ever. Sometimes after a few tries my scope/rifle combo seems just right. I do have a few setups I don't plan on changing. At least not in the near future!

The virtually unlimited choices we have today are a wonderful thing, but can be perplexing. I certainly sympathize with a young shooter who has bought a rifle, and needs a scope. Could I make a recommendation? I could probably list a couple hundred and they would all work. Not helping, I know. About all I can do is suggest a few guidelines, along with a couple of ideas on how to get the most value for your money.

The first consideration is, what are you trying to accomplish? If the scope is for a hunting rifle, what are you planning to hunt? What hunting method do you expect to use most often--from a stand, still hunting, small group drives, spot and stalk? Will you be mostly sitting in a comfortable blind a 1/2-mile off the road, or hiking back into rough, hilly terrain? Do you get out early and stay out late when the light is dim?

Your level of experience is another issue. Novice shooters often seem to hunt around to get a full field of view to pick up the target. The rifle is shaky enough already without magnifying the wobble 8 or 10 times. Such shooters may be better served with a lower-power scope with non-critical eye relief and a large field of view. They'll shoot better, which means they'll enjoy shooting more, and pretty soon they won't be novices.

Some conditions--and some shooters-- are hard on scopes. Adjustments may work fine for those who want to sight the rifle in and then leave it alone, yet not prove durable enough for those who like to spin turrets for different distances and wind conditions.

Heavy recoil, especially fast heavy recoil, is tough on scopes. So is constant jiggling, such as in the rack of an...

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