Scope sights fluster some shooters who don't know how to take full advantage
of them. But a scope, used properly, can wring every inch of potential out of
any rifle and any shooter.
A scope helps hunters fire quickly and accurately because they make targets
easier to see. Equally important, they place the aiming point (reticle or crosshairs) in the same plane of focus as the
target. Open sights make you choose your focus point -- either
the rear sight, front sight or target. It's impossible to keep all three
sharp. Not so a scope. Everything's sharp, wonderfully bright and large. What
could be better?
But none of this happens if you don't know how to set up a scope and use it
properly. First, adjust the eye-piece diopter. This
is either the outermost ring around the eyepiece (the end you look into) or the
bell itself. You twist this in or out until the reticle
looks its sharpest to your eye. That's a one-time deal unless your vision
With the reticle sharp, the image should be sharp
at 100- to 200 yards for most scopes because the manufacturer pre-focuses them
at about 150 yards. Shotgun scopes are usually factory-focused at 75 yards.
With powers under about 6X, you'll hardly notice the focus differences because
your eyes make up for them, but at higher magnifications, you'll see that
objects inside of 100 yards are looking pretty fuzzy. To fix this, turn down
the magnification. This increases depth-of-focus. If you have a Parallax
Adjustment dial on your scope (this is essentially a focusing wheel,) you can
turn it much like a camera lens to focus precisely at various distances. Turn
it until the target looks sharp.
Now, get in the habit of carrying your scope set on a low power. If a deer
jumps up at 20 yards, you probably won't have time to dial down power. If
you're on 10X, you might see nothing but a blur of hair. If you spot something
at 300 yards, chances are you'll have plenty of time to dial up power without
your quarry seeing you.
Next, train yourself to keep both eyes open and locked on the target as you
raise the rifle to your face. Don't look at the scope! The target isn't in the
scope. It's out there. Keep your eyes on it and raise the rifle until the scope
covers it. The trick here is training yourself to automatically raise your
rifle into the correct position to see right down the center of the scope
without looking to adjust things. It comes with practice, and when you perfect
it, finding game is dead easy.
This is another reason to keep your scope on low power. At low power it has
a much wider field of view, so you'll see the target even if you're not
pointing perfectly at it. When you lift your rifle into position, try not to lean,
bend and torque your neck down to meet the stock. Raise the rifle to your face.
Lift your arm to raise your shoulder pocket. This helps bring the rifle up
where it belongs. You shouldn't have to bend and scrunch if your rifle fits
Learn to shoot with your head up. Keeping your head level makes it
easier to keep game in view anyway. With your head lying on its side or canted
at a weird angle, it's easy to get confused about how the world looks, and that
doesn't make finding an animal in cover any easier.
Practice this "eyes-open" target acquisition at home with an empty gun just
to develop the muscle memory. The more often you raise the gun/scope and find
targets in it, the more natural it will feel.
If you find yourself seeing black edges in the eye-piece, readjust the scope
forward or back in its rings. Loosen them and slide the scope until you achieve
perfect eye relief. This is the distance at which you get a full field of view
without that fuzzy edge black out. You don't want to have to slide your head
forward or backward on the stock comb to achieve this proper eye relief and
full view every time you raise the gun. That means your gun/scope are not set up correctly to fit you. A full scope view
should be right there when you raise the rifle. This is a product of proper
fit, both length-of-pull and comb height. Take your time. Adjust the scope
position within the rings to get it right. You'll shoot a lot better and faster
in the long run.
Shop The Sportsman's Guide for a fine selection of high-quality, value-priced Scopes!
Ron Spomer has been photographing and writing
about the outdoors for nearly four decades. He's written seven books, hunted on
six continents and been published in more than 120 magazines. He's currently rifles'
editor at "Sporting Classics," Travel columnist at "Sports Afield," Field
Editor at "American Hunter" and "Guns & Ammo" -- Optics Columnist at "North American
Hunter," Contributing Editor at "Successful Hunter," Senior Writer at "Gun
Hunter," and TV host of "Winchester World of Whitetail." He will write on Shooting Tips weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You can read his
blogs and catch some of his YouTube videos at www.Ronspomeroutdoors.com.