Different Uses For Rifle Scopes


There are many different uses for rifle scopes and some readers will possibly even engage in multiple different uses with the same rifle. While there are good financial reasons to only buy one scope that could be used for multiple different situations, this may not always be an ideal solution.

In this article we will highlight the features you need to focus on for the three main different scopes uses: hunting, target shooting and tactical. While there are dozens of features on each scope we will focus a few main features that will ensure you make the correct decision for your intended use.

We should also mention that there are quite a few scopes available that are pretty well designed to cover multiple uses and you will find more details about our recommendations at the end of each section. But first, let’s get to the details.

We will be looking at the four following features for each scope use category:

Reticle

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Parallax

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Magnification

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Field Of View

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Now, let's get to the details of different scope uses.

Hunting

  • Reticle
    For hunting you will most likely want to get a scope with a thicker reticle to help it stand out from busy background like foliage and in low light conditions at dusk or dawn. The design will depend on your personal preference and there are many different ones available. We would recommend not getting too hung up on this though.
    You will also have no No real need for mil dots to help compensate for distance and wind. If your scope is zeroed at 100 yards and you are firing a standard round then one mil dot on the vertical will compensate for 200 yards or a total distance of 300 yards from the target. For most hunters this will not be a common scenario, meaning that mil dots may be just a distraction.
  • Parallax Adjustment
    This is an often misunderstood phenomenon and dependent on your use will not really be a huge issue at all. For hunting at 150 to 300 yards the offset in the point of impact is so small that it will not be an issue. However, if you are target shooting for competitions then even a fraction of an inch will make a big difference. In the section about target shooting further down we have a quick guide to understanding the impact of parallax.
  • ​Magnification
    You will most likely not require a very large magnification range unless you are maybe hunting squirrels. For most hunting situations you will likely be between 100 and 200 yards from your target, and the most common target for hunting is deer. A scope with 3x to 9x is likely going to be more than enough. Anything more than that will reduce the field of view, which we will get to next.
  • Field Of View
    This is essentially what amount of space you are able to see at different levels of magnification. The further you zoom in, the tighter you field of view will become, and this can be offset by the size and design of the optics. For hunting, especially of moving targets you will want to have a large field of view to help you track and even get ahead of a moving target.

Looking For A Hunting Scope?

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Target Shooting

  • Reticle
    For target shooting you will need a very thin reticle that does not cover or obscure the target. You will want to make sure that you can zoom in to a tight spot and then get the crosshairs right on that spot, and the thinner the reticle is the more precise you will be able to align yourself.
    You will also be considering a scope with horizontal and vertical mil dots, but this would depend on personal preference and the type of competition you might be involved in. When time is not of essence you will probably make scope adjustments with the turret knobs, but if you need to hit multiple targets at different distances in quick succession then using mil dots will be more effective.

  • Parallax Adjustment
    This is important for target shooters. Even a small amount of deviation due to parallax can ruin a shot and a competition. To help you understand the amount of impact that parallax has at different distances we recommend you check out our terminology guide.
  • ​Magnification
    For long range shooting a large zoom is very important and will make it a lot easier. It is not uncommon to see magnifications to 18x and beyond on professional scopes. But keep in mind that the higher the magnification the larger the scope will become and also its price tag will significantly increase.
  • Field Of View
    During target shooting you will want to have a very tight field of view as you will be focusing on a very small target. The less distraction you have the better and ideally you want to fill the field of view with the target itself. This is very much the opposite to hunting scopes where you need a large field of view.

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Tactical

  • Reticle
    For close range shooting in a home defense situation you will be looking for a thicker reticle, as opposed to very thing reticles for long range sniper scopes. You will want it to be very clear and visible, with a design you personally prefer. It may also be a good idea to consider an illuminated reticle as this will be very superior in dark light conditions.
  • Parallax Adjustment
    This is an often misunderstood phenomenon and dependent on your use will not really be a huge issue at all. For hunting at 150 to 300 yards the offset in the point of impact is so small that it will not be an issue. However, if you are target shooting for competitions then even a fraction of an inch will make a big difference. In the section about target shooting further down we have a quick guide to understanding the impact of parallax.
  • ​Magnification
    This again is not needed for tactical uses and can actually be a distraction and hindrance. You will be better off with a fixed magnification scope with a low amount of magnification making it a shorter attachment to your rifle. This will also increase the field of view which we will get to now.
  • Field Of View
    In close range uses you will not want to have a tight field of view. Quite to the contrary you will want to almost have a wide angle view through the scope to allow you to track a target more easily.

Looking For A Tactical Scope?

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