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Scope Strategy

03 Mar 2014
@ 05:38 pm (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

I am in the middle of a project and having a difficult time making up my mind on what direction to go in optics. Help is appreciated - opinions tolerated (something Dad might've said).

My project is to take an econo rifle (Thompson Center Venture) in .30-06 and develop it into its full long range capability. Nathan's books have been priceless in mapping out the project. I am getting ready to do a stock stabilization and bedding job as instructed on this site. I am also developing loads. Once the bedding job is done I'm going to go to work on the trigger, which is not bad, just a tad heavy for long range work.

Here is my issue. I have a bargain basement scope on the rifle now. My first project benchmark is to establish MOA shooting to 300 yards. I believe the current scope is adequate for that much. The next benchmark is to shoot MOA at 600. From there I hope to go to 800 and eventually 1,000. I made my mind up some time ago that I would get a scope that would be adequate to 600 yards and not pay over $250 US. Then, once I had achieved the 600 yard mark I would upgrade to something appropriate to 1,000.

The reason I have leaned toward the two scope approach is purely about budget. I have one of those jobs that is meaningful to me and I love but the pay is... well, we eat so I'm not complaining. My question is do you experienced shooters think that the next scope (out to 600yds, under $250) is a valid move or am I just as well off sticking with bargain basement until I can afford higher end optics? Thanks to any who read all of that.

Replies

04 Mar 2014
@ 04:11 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Scope Strategy
Hi Josh, that is a bloody tough call. I have set up rifles for clients on a shoe string budget before. It is doable but not ideal. Some things simply shouldn't be done on the cheap. There is no pride to be had in polishing a turd (as my grandfather would say).

Here is the trick (as I wrote in my first book). If you have no money- don't try and get some half assed half way optical unit with aiming points and all of that rubbish. As an example, the very basic Leupold VX1 3-9x40 (I think it is now called a Rifleman) has a friction adjustable turret. The outer ring can be reset to zero. You can take this scope, sight in, then dial up 10 MOA and record how high the rifle shoots. It will probably shoot 10" high rather than 10 MOA. Some units have further miscalibration. You would then have to plug the figures into your ballistics calculator, converting MOA to inches using Microsoft Excel. After doing the math, you can generate a drop chart.

That is how I set up a rig on the cheap. There is no point looking at other brands of cheap scope because their calibration is just as bad and the same math has to be done. That said, if you do opt for another brand- the same rules apply. You need a way of setting the turret to zero after sighting in. I just helped a bloke in the U.S with his optic, a cheap Nikon. This had a center screw in the turret which after loosening, allowed the turret to be removed and sat back down again with the zero lining up with the zero indentation on the scope body.

The next problem is running out of magnification with the cheaper optics. You will find it a bit of a stretch to shoot past 600 yards with a cheap 3-9x40. I have done it because I stated out the same way as you. But I had to practice and practice.

Just bear in mind that these days, you can pick up a reasonably good long range scope for very little money such as a basic SII series Sightron. These scopes do not have the features of the high end SIII series but they do not require calibration and can allow you to reach out to maximum ranges with ease.

If you look at my Youtube vids, the Savage rifle (.308) has a basic VX 1 4-12x40 mounted on it (friction turret), set up for long range work.
05 Mar 2014
@ 03:28 pm (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: Scope Strategy
Josh,
I started on the road you are heading down a few years ago with a Marlin XL7 30-06 which turned out great with Nathans help and a Boyds stock! Rifle sorted within .5 moa and on a tight budget.
I then changed one mid priced scope for another higher power 6-20 scope thinking l could get the job done at range with a cheaper optic, big mistake!
Yes it works to a point (holds zero), dialing up is a pain as Nathan has already discribed, optics are not as clear as I need at range, reticle is not as sharp as it could be and eye relief is crap at higher magnifications.

Then l saved for what felt like forever (small budget at the time, as you have) and brought a Sightron SIII 6-24 and only wished l had done this the first time!
Since then l have put a 3-12 on my sons rifle and cannot fault that either, excellent to use, high end, affordable optics.

Most people will tell you good optics are very important at range and l would say critical! Save as much as you can and invest in a good optic that you will be able to use for years to come!
Cheers Marty
05 Mar 2014
@ 04:02 pm (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

Re: Scope Strategy
The feedback is appreciated. The more dialogue I have with guys who've been down this road the more it sounds like patience, again, is a virtue. Sounds more and more like waiting and making one good purchase will be the wiser course. It also sounds like I need to invest some study into turrets, which will be essentially a new topic for me. Thank you both.
05 Mar 2014
@ 06:16 pm (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: Scope Strategy
Josh
l have found whilst building my kit there has been many compromises, a combination of budget, necessity (needs & wants), avaliability and personal choice but the scope is one thing that l wont stuff around with anymore.

Your doing your research which is great, l think you will find many good user reveiws on the Sightrons and a few other premier brands, just watch out for the marketing crap!
Try and get to your local range and ask guys if you can have a look through their scopes at range, most are happy to help out. You will be suprised with some you look through!
05 Mar 2014
@ 06:59 pm (GMT)

GREGG FOSSE

Re: Scope Strategy
In a general sense, a quality scope is more expensive to manufacture in a variable than in a fixed power. Another way of saying this is that a high quality fixed power scope is much more affordable than a high quality variable scope. The link below is to the SWFA fixed 10 power (they also offer a 6 power) scope. This particular fixed power scope went through extensive military testing and is extremely durable. It may offer you another option here at a reasonable cost:

http://www.riflescopes.com/SWFA-SS-10x42-Tactical-30mm-Riflescope-P499.aspx
05 Mar 2014
@ 07:16 pm (GMT)

Mike Neeson

Re: Scope Strategy
The biggest mistake I did on my rifle was get a 3-10x scope. They are great as long as you plan to buy a spotting scope too. When I am practicing at the range, as soon as I go past 100 or so yards, I can't see my bullet holes. I can see impacts okay, but not the detail which is frustrating to no end. Considering I don't have a budget for a good spotting scope. I WISH I GOT A 6-24 SIGHTRON! If you want to shoot at 10x then dial it back, but then you can dial up the mag to see how you are going. I rue the day I bought my Burris Eurodiamond. Clear optics and all. It is real limiting it it's use. If you don't practice or have a spotting scope, then 10x will be fine.
06 Mar 2014
@ 07:54 am (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

Re: Scope Strategy
Gregg, I took a look at that link. Very interesting. For several years I hunted with a fixed 6X and found it very serviceable. I was hunting 300 yards and less during those years, but I do feel there is some real merit in fixed power scopes for a lot of applications.

Martin, it just so happens that I have a meeting today in a town with one of the state's largest hunting stores. I'm going to take advantage of the opportunity and hound the scope counter guy for a while. They are a Sightron dealer so I will definitely peek through a few.

Mike, do you think a 4-16 would be substantially better than your 3-10? I've been looking at some scopes in that range just because I like the idea of keeping some ability to dial it back and track moving targets at closer ranges.
06 Mar 2014
@ 08:21 am (GMT)

GREGG FOSSE

Re: Scope Strategy
One interesting factoid that turned up in an extensive comparison test of the SWFA 6X scope against two variables by different makers was the fact that the 6X SWFA had a considerably wider field of view than the variables did at 6X, in fact the SWFA field of view was wider than one variables field at 4X. There is a lot of favorable stuff on these scopes on the various sniper forums. The only negative I have heard is that the 20X (they make and sell 6, 10, 12, 16, and 20X fixed power rifle scopes as well as some variables) had more noticeable distortion than the 10X.

Personally I would favor getting a spotting scope for range work Joshua, especially since the SWFA fixed scopes are only $399 (US).
06 Mar 2014
@ 08:26 am (GMT)

GREGG FOSSE

Re: Scope Strategy
Correction, make that $299, the side focus model is $399
07 Mar 2014
@ 03:47 am (GMT)

Mike Neeson

Re: Scope Strategy
Hi Jason, I guess 16 is better than 10 but I have no experience with this. Best wishes for the decision you have to make.
07 Mar 2014
@ 03:53 am (GMT)

Mike Neeson

Re: Scope Strategy
Sorry Josh got my threads confused.
07 Mar 2014
@ 07:02 am (GMT)

David Bath

Re: Scope Strategy
I bought a Weaver grand slam 6-20x40 secondhand and it has served me very well. I havn't measured the turret accuracy, but it definitely comes back to zero and adjusts consistently. I will measure it when I get a chance.
07 Mar 2014
@ 03:41 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Scope Strategy
Hi David, the Weaver is not generally true to MOA or inches. It can be calibrated and made to suit just fine but if possible, if a guy is contemplating a long range scope, I would prefer that he utilized something true to MOA to save the hassle of conversions. Some Weaver units also lack eye relief which can (does!) cause flinching and Weatherby eyebrow in the magnums and lighter weight .30-06 rifles etc.

Tricky business really.
07 Mar 2014
@ 08:31 pm (GMT)

David Bath

Re: Scope Strategy
Sound advice Nathan.
10 Mar 2014
@ 11:03 am (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

Re: Scope Strategy
On the topic of eye relief, have you guys found manufacturers advertised specs to be accurate in this area? I have not done any real investigating but it seems like there are substantial differences in eye relief scope to scope, manufacturer to manufacturer, yet the published numbers seem very similar. After reading Nathan's issues with Zeizz and Swarovski in this area I looked up their numbers and on most scope models they seem to publish numbers that are a lot like the other companies. Has anyone gotten out the tape and really checked into this?
11 Mar 2014
@ 06:37 pm (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: Scope Strategy
Josh
I wasnt going to put a name to the brand but Nathan has summed up my findings to a tee with 2 different model Weavers!

Eye relief is a big problem on my 3-10, it has brushed me many times on 10 power and will go when l can afford to change it!
13 Mar 2014
@ 08:39 am (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

Re: Scope Strategy
Good to know, Martin. Thanks.
I actually had a chance to look through a Vortex Viper yesterday. The first thing that jumped out was that when I held the scope up to what felt like a natural distance from my eye it was too close. Relief was a legitimate 4 inches.
13 Mar 2014
@ 05:16 pm (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: Scope Strategy
I have been caught out twice as l have said, rated eye releif seems to vary a lot with different manufacturers! A bit of generous 'fudging' seems to go on!

When looking through a scope regardless of brand always wind it up to the highest power mags as this is where it will be at its shortest. As you said your eye will find the amount of releif it has!

When you have that tophey buck lined up at range and you are crowding the scope with excitment it will be on the highest setting, well it is for me anyway!
 

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