Making sense of hunting optics

Friday, May 5, 2017

In today’s world of high tech optics the myriad of choices presented to the consumer are endless. Hopefully this article can make things a bit “clearer,” pardon the pun, for the average hunter.

Rifle scopes

A good quality scope has been the key to many successful hunts yet most hunters don’t know where quality ends and “fluff” begins. The scope’s job is to bring distant targets in close to facilitate a clean shot. The power of the scope matters not if the image is not clear to the shooter’s eye. Selecting the right scope to fit your individual needs is the key to having that great hunting set up versus just any set up. Things that need to be considered are image quality, construction, and magnification.

Image quality

In order for a scope to provide the shooter with the best possible image, it must deliver as much light to the shooter’s eye as possible. The more light, the better the sight picture will be. In scopes the second number is the objective lens size. An 8X32 scope has an objective lens size of 32mm where a 5X40 has a 40mm objective lens size. The larger the lens size the brighter and clearer the image will be. The quality of the glass, coatings and lens design also contributes to the image quality.


The construction of a scope has a very direct impact on its visual clarity. If a scope is poorly built it will allow moisture to get in the tube and will become all but useless. Generally speaking, a fixed power scope is built to be more resistant to water and moisture than a variable power scope. This is simply because there are fewer moving parts. Better quality scopes are sealed, waterproof and fog proof. Look for nitrogen filled scopes as they are a better quality than those that are not.


Two numbers separated by an “X” like 4X32 generally refer to scopes. The four represents the magnification level. This means the object appears four times closer than when viewed with the naked eye. There are basically three types of magnification. Low powers (1.5-6X32 or 2-7X32) are best suited for close range and moving targets. Medium powers (3-9X40 or 4-10X40) are best for big game hunting when ranges will be moderate. The high power (6-18’s and such) are designed and best suited for long-range shooting at still targets. Remember, when looking at magnification, the bigger the objective lens the clearer the image will appear in the scope in poor light conditions.


Parallax is a condition that occurs when the image of the target is not on the reticle plane. This can cause the target to appear to move or be out of focus. Better rifle scopes under 10X or 11X have the parallax pre-set out of the package. The high power models generally have a parallax adjustment of the scope to set it for the individual shooter.

Troy Basso is a outdoor writer and fishing guide from Chapel Hill, Tennessee. He can be reached at his website or email at