If you’ve ever considered getting a gun scope but you’re not sure where to start, whether you are a beginner or simply need more info on gun scopes, this crash course into gun scopes is designed for you.
The decision to own a gun is a serious decision, one that is very important to educate yourself about. And whatever your decision is to own a firearm, whether for protection, home defense, recreational, or even hunting, we are going to explore and learn about gun scopes and how they can potentially aid your gun, skills in shooting and more!
If you still need to learn more about guns in general, Carrie has provided a great resource for you on where to start. Regarding gun scopes, we will be going over several topics to help educate you so you know how gun scopes work and how you can find the best gun scope for you and your situation.
To help sort through the hype and confusion that can surround buying a gun scope, this guide examines both the basic and advanced features of gun optics and hopefully help you to select the ideal scope for your needs. Ok, now that you’ve seen the general outline of what you’ll learn, let’s get into our beginner’s crash course into gun scopes!
For those who aren’t even sure what a gun scope is, let’s start there. A gun scope is nothing more than a tube with lenses for magnification to see at longer distances than the natural eye can normally see. Gun scopes use a reticle (or cross hairs) to help you aim through the scope to hit your target. Gun scopes have been around for a while, since before the Civil War. However, after World War II manufacturers started making improvements to scopes initially for rifles to help shooters and hunters have reliable equipment for long distance shooting.
Nowadays, scopes aren’t just made for rifles, but for almost every firearm or shooting weapon you can think of including hunting bows and even handguns. It’s pretty common to see rifle’s made without their iron sites anymore. That goes to show how common, reliable, and effective rifles scopes have become. I can confidently say that the modern gun scope is an excellent addition to almost any firearm, whether it is a dedicated target shooter, a seasonal hunting tool, a military weapon, or for home defense.
Gun scopes allow a shooter to see targets more clearly and to aim more precisely. That’s a huge reason why scopes are so widely used on rifles today since rifles can shoot at such long distances and it’s hard to see that far with the naked eye. Even if you primarily use a handgun, using a handgun scope will only aid the gun and help you shoot more accurately and even give you faster target acquisition.
One of the main uses of a gun scope is to magnify your target. Not only does this allow you to shoot more accurately at long distances, but it also increases safety since you can also see the target and what is behind it. In home defense, it can help with accuracy and precision. For hunters, it can mean the difference between a humane kill or no food on the table. For target shooter, it could be the difference between a 1 inch grouping on paper, or a 6 inch grouping.
Gun scopes can also increase the available light and make it possible for you to accurately shoot in low light conditions, like at dusk or dawn. They also come equipped with different types of reticles depending on your use, which again makes it easier to shoot your target more efficiently and accurately.
Another thing that gun scopes do is help you become a better shooter! No, they don’t replace skill and you still need to practice shooting your firearm of choice to get better, but with the aid of gun scopes, they make beginners and professionals that much better, shooting more precise shots than before thought possible. Just point the reticle at the target and shoot. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things to consider to find the right gun scope and with so many different options available it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the different features and the jargon associated with them.
From looking and researching gun scopes and reading gun scope reviews to figure out which is the best for your firearm, you may have come across some terminology that is new to you.
Optics have very specific terms that are important to understand.
If you’ve ever seen the numbers advertised on different scope models, it could be confusing and overwhelming, but don’t worry, once you understand them, it makes choosing the right scope for your needs that much easier. Let’s dissect this specific gun scope specs: 3-9x40mm There are two parts in the numbers:
The magnification number represents how many times larger an image becomes when viewed through the scope. Two numbers for the magnification with a dash between them means that the level of magnification is adjustable over that particular range from the lower number to the higher one. The higher number has a greater magnification. In the example, the 3-9x40mm means the scope will be able to adjust from 3x magnification all the way to 9x magnification and everywhere in-between. The second number in a scope’s description is the diameter of the objective lens. In this case, at 40, the objective lens is 40mm.
Photo from Gunsandammo.com
Ok, let’s get into how to zero in your gun scope. Sighting in a gun scope is primarily for a rifle at long distances. Hand guns don’t usually need to be sighted in. After you’ve correctly mounted your gun scope following the scope manufacturers guide, you will need to follow these 5 steps:
Head to the Range – If not there already, go the range. Take out the bore sight.
Measure & Adjust – Now properly store your rifle and make sure the range is clear.
Repeat – Once you are comfortable with the initial adjustment, it is time to shoot 3-5 more shots using the same techniques.
Adjust Distance – Now that you are comfortable shooting accurately at 25 yards, it is time to move the target out to 100 yards.
As you can probably already tell, there are a lot of things to consider when choosing a gun scope. Now let’s get into how to choose the best scope for your situation. Not only does it depend on the type of firearm you will be using but how you plan on shooting. There are a few things to consider after you’ve decided on what you plan on using your firearm for:
To make it easier, I’ll go into different uses for a handgun and a rifle and then filter out which gun scope settings are preferred for the use and situation.
Photo from Outdoorhub.com
Handguns are extremely popular, especially among woman. If you are primarily going to use a handgun, your gun scope will be much different than if you were going to choose a rifle scope. A handgun is meant for close range shooting and the farthest you will likely shoot is 25 yards. With this in mind, you don’t need a variable scope for your handgun. You want to look for a fixed gun scope such as a 1x25mm, for example, because you don’t need the extra magnification power to reach longer distances. Also, when and how will you be using your handgun? Primarily during the day? Sometimes at night or in other low-light conditions? Target shooting only? Home defense? Concealed carry?
If you are going to be using a handgun for home defense, consider getting a mini red dot sight. This will help you for fast target acquisition, as all you’ll need to do is put the dot directly on the target. Miniature red dot sights are also perfect at night as the red dot is usually illuminated. Red dot sights are also very small and don’t add a lot of bulk to your handgun making it easier to conceal. If you are wanting your handgun to shoot at longer distances, consider getting a variable power scope or a higher fixed power scope such as a 2-7×30 or a 4×32. Shotgun scopes follow the same general guidelines as a handgun due to its close to medium range capabilities.
Photo from Coastmonthly.com
There are a lot of different rifle’s for a lot of different uses, from long target shooting, to hunting, to home defense and military situations. A rifle is typically meant for medium to long range shooting, but can also be used for close range shooting. If you have a hunting rifle like a Ruger American .308 or a .30-06, and you are planning on shooting big game at long distances consider getting a variable power rifle optic. Recommended settings are a 3-9x40mm. 9x will still allow you to shoot at 500 yards accurately. Most hunting is done between 20 and 300 yards anyways so 9x is plenty.
If you have a .22 Long Rifle for varmint shooting, consider getting a rimfire scope with variable power ranges as well. If you are going to use an AR-15 for more tactical purposes at close and medium ranges, there are a lot of different AR-15 scopes to get. Consider getting a fixed scope, around 4×32. 4x or 6x will allow for more intuitive shooting as well as better target tracking.
If you want to shoot at distances well beyond 500 yards, consider getting a scope with high magnification power. With this added power, the scope will be heavier and bulkier and will likely need rifle bipods or a stand to shoot on, accompanied with a good spotting scope to keep track of your shots. Also, will you be shooting your rifle in low light? If this is the case you will need to make sure the objective lens is big enough to allow for enough light for a brighter picture. Red dot sights will help with this as well.
By now, you should have a pretty good understanding of guns scopes and what you need to look for. Now you’re going to have to find one that fits your budget. Depending on the gun scope and what you plan on doing, it can cost a lot of money. Luckily there are also cheaper scopes for the money that are high quality. The higher the cost, the more premium features you are getting. You also may be paying for the brand as well. In most cases you pay more for increased adjustment precision and repeatability, as well as optical clarity and overall durability. But all of those features sometimes aren’t necessary and there are amazing brands that offer amazing products.
So remember that just because you can spend a small fortune on a gun scope doesn’t mean that you have to. Today’s scope market is the largest it has ever been. Manufacturers new and old are competing for their share of it. This means you have lots of options at many different price points. I suggest budgeting at least $200 for your gun scope. You could find a great gun scope under $200 or even a little over. Remember, variable power scopes are more expensive than fixed power scopes. So depending on your use it could be cheaper or more expensive. When in doubt, pay a little more for the name and warranty you can trust.
These days guns, especially rifles, are more often than not defined by their optics. It’s important to select a scope that meets your needs. It’s possible to find the right gun scope for your needs. Whether you’re planning on plinking, target shooting, hunting big game, or home defense protection, I hope this beginner crash course helps you get the most out of your firearm by using a gun scope!
Guest post by Gary Fretwell, rifle optics guru and big game tracker at GoShootGuns.com. He is a 33-year-old die hard hunter from Wyoming. He served in Iraq and is an Asset Protection Officer and a big game tracker who helps hunters like himself find big game.