Scope Magnification: More Does Not Always Mean Better
Scope magnifications range from 1 to in some cases over 50 and 60 x for military and law enforcement sniper scopes. In competitive shooting magnification can also go to very high numbers especially for long range shooting competitions. However, many competitions have maximum restrictions for scopes to make it more difficult.
For the average hunter or target shooter, magnification can often become this shining light and attraction, and many get drawn into buying a magnification level they don’t need and that results in a less suitable option.
On this page you will find out why you shouldn’t go for the largest possible magnification and what the drawbacks are if you do opt for one.
Size And Weight
Larger magnification means more and larger lenses, which means a larger casing and ultimately more weight. For many uses this can be quite a hindrance, especially if you are going on longer hunting trips.
For target shooters the extra weight can actually be welcomed because when correctly designed it will provide more stability while targeting.
Field Of View
The more you zoom into an object the smaller the field of view become. This can make it very difficult to keep on target when the subject is moving as it would be during a hunt. With a larger field of view a hunter can target an ideal spot and weight for the animal to move into that target.
This can be achieved while looking through the optics when there is a large field of view. For static objects in long range target shooting a small field of view is actually preferential as it takes out any distractions around the target.
The more optical elements there are the less light will come through to the eye. To increase the throughput of light, lenses have to be coated with special materials and this can make them very expensive.
Some cheaper scopes with high magnification do not have such coatings, which means that the target can appear a lot darker. When hunting at dawn or disk this can make a scope almost unusable. For very long-range scopes many manufacturers compensate by increasing the diameter of the lenses, which makes the scope even bigger and heavier. Again, for target shooting this may not be a bad feature, but for the average person this is not ideal.
Vibrations and movements of the arms and hands are exaggerated when zoomed in at high magnification. You can test this with most digital cameras where you will see that the image vibrates because minute movements are amplified at long range.
The same happen with high magnification scopes and unless you have been trained to deal with this and limit it you will find it very difficult to stay on target.
Because there is more material involved and more complex lens alignment, the price will always go up the more magnification you have. If you want to combine magnification with lots of light then you have to expect to pay quite a lot of money, often upwards of $1,000 depending on the size.
When you are making a decision on a new riflescope, do not get hung up on magnification unless it is absolutely necessary. 10 to 15x is in most cases more than enough for the average hunter, and you are better off investing the extra money in ammunition to practice shooting or other gear that you might need for a hunt or competitive shooting events.