As we’ve grown over the past year or so, MAX has started receiving more and more questions on a wider range of products than we ever expected. One of the most asked about products has been rifle scopes.
When I think back on my 35+ years of being a consumer of hunting products, one of the biggest changes I’ve noticed has been in rifle scopes. I do remember my first scope being a fixed 4x Weaver that I mounted on a Marlin 336 30/30 and my second, after being able to afford it, was a Redfield wide field 3 x 9 that I mounted on a Winchester Model 70 .270. That Redfield, for those who remember, was “the” scope to own” and for a while the one that all others were compared to. Since that time, I have purchased and used many scopes from different manufacturers and in all price ranges from $100 to $1,300. Most were worth what I paid, but some were not.
We have been getting so many requests by customers wanting to know what we thought was the best scope for a 200-250 yard muzzleloader, that we started looking at scopes more closely. Some of the questions we were getting were: what power, what size objective lens, what tube diameter, fixed or variable, BDC or not. And actually the list could go on and on. But one of the most frequentlyasked questions has been “do I have to spend a lot of money to get a quality scope?”. After attending the 2010 Shot Show, I can tell you without any doubt that the answer to that question is definitely NO.
As I walked around the Shot Show, there were so many companies, many of which I had never heard of, making inexpensive, high-quality rifle scopes that it was almost overwhelming. I spent the better part of 2 days looking at nothing but rifle scopes and the main thing I learned was to “think outside the box” as far as the brands we are all familiar with.
First of all, let me tell you what “I” believe the features would be for the perfect muzzleloader scope (if you think about a factory rifle being capable of shooting 200 to 250 yards):
1. variable power of 3 x 9 or 1.5x to 6x
2. 30 mm tube
3. eye piece or side focus
4. 1 piece tube
5. 40mm to 44mm objective
6. price: $280 - $320
1.) Variable power is a nice feature for a scope used on a muzzleloader because a muzzleloader would be considered a close to mid-range rifle. It’s just nice to be able to see the power on the scope meet the need for the type habitat/area you are hunting. Lower power for close or thick situations and more power for longer-range or open areas. I’m really leaning towards the 1.5 x 6 over the more traditional 3 x 9 because of the limited range in muzzleoading rifles, plus you get a bigger field-of-view with the lower power scopes, but with still enough magnification for the longer shots.
2.) I will probably catch a lot of flack from readers on this next feature, the 30mm tube, but here we go (try to remember, this is what “I” think...but then again, I do have a great deal of experience with both 30mm and 1 inch tube scopes). To start with, until recently, 30mm tube scopes were not common in the brand names we are all familiar with. Most were European scopes that came with big price tags. In the summer of 2009, before I started thinking outside the box, the only scope I found in the $300 range that had a 30 mm tube with one piece tube was a FullField 30, which is made by Burris. When I found it on the internet, I had never seen it before but had used several of Burris’ Fullfield II 1 inch tube scopes with great results. I bought the scope and used it last summer on a new rifle (muzzleloader) we were testing and hunted with it this past winter – and I would recommend it to anyone. As to why a 30mm tube, and this is where the flack will start, I really believe that the only way to really get more light to your eye is to have the light from the objective lens, no matter how big it is, pass through a larger diameter (30mm) tube. If you read enough about 30mm tubes vs 1 inch tubes, you will find a lot that supports my opinion (and some that won’t). One more quality in the 30mm tube that I like is that you will have more clicks available in both windage and elevation if needed.
3.) Having the ability to focus or adjust the paralex of the scope from the eye piece or with a knob from the left side of the turrent is a great option. In my opinion, if you have a scope on a muzzleloader where the focus is done by adjusting a knob on the objective lens, you’ve put too much slope on the rifle.
4.) There is not a lot to say on the one-piece tube, a one-piece tube will hold up better.
5.) My reasoning behind drawing the line with a rule about having a scope with an objective lens 44mm or smaller is easy: good marksmanship skills and habits. I’m a huge believer in having the scope mounted on the rifle as low as possible. By keeping the scope as low to the rifle as possible, it allows you to properly mount the rifle to your cheek with the stock, this is called “stock weld”. This puts the rifle in a more natural shooting position which allows better shot placement and also allows you to better accept, and recover from, the rifle’s recoil. As a general rule, a 40mm to 42mm scope can be mounted using low bases and up to a 44mm can be mounted with medium bases.
6.) And lastly is the price. I found all of the above features, plus a few more, in very well-built scopes for around $300, give or take $25 each way. All of the scopes I looked at during my visit to the Shot Show have limited lifetime warranties and seem very well-built.
One company, Konus, has a scope with all of the features I was looking for, plus it had a lit redical for low light. This is a high-quality scope, it has a great price and all of the Konus sales reps were very helpful and made sure that I understood all the features of their products. I like to see confidence and superior product-knowlege in a sales rep.
Another company, Leatherwood / Hi-Lux also had a great line of products of high-quality with good prices. I met Mr. John Wu, the company president, who was very proud of his company’s proudcts and it’s staff. We spoke for a while about both and I’m expecting great things from these scopes.
We will be testing scopes from both Konus and Leatherwood this spring and letting you all know the results by late summer.
In short, high quality does not come with a big price tag, but Konus and Leatherwood will have to pass the long and rigid MAX Tests before we pass it on to you , the consumer and our customers, as a product we recommend.