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Scope Magnification: by Bill McLeod

23/07/2021 7:59 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

The first scope I used was a Weaver B4, a ¾ inch tube 4 magnification monstrosity I had fitted to my air rifle. The open sights on that rifle were demonstrably superior. The next was a similar scope on my Dad’s 22. The iron sights on my BSA were better.

My father gave me a Sako 308 which had very clear open sights. I was successful on deer and at competition shooting with those sights. I saved up my wages and chose a scope. The scope I could see through most clearly was a Lyman. It cost 21 pounds. This fitted my budget. It was a three magnification. That scope proved to be all I hoped for and lasted me decades of hard use. The clarity impressed me, I could see 308 holes in the target at one hundred yards in the right conditions, something that wasn’t possible with cheaper 4 powers. Then another Lyman, a four magnification, on my high country rifle, the 270. I found it suited my eye better than the Leupold 4x,s my workmates were using. I never felt limited in what I could hit with that scope power. 

Another 4x for my hunting 243, then a 6x, both Lymans for my competition 243. They worked well. Lyman discontinued their scope line. Got a 4x Leupold for the Sako 222, that was and still is a favourite rifle. The 222, the 270, and the 308, all with fixed power scopes,  were the mainstays of my working rifles.

I didn’t start using variable power scopes till I went to work selling firearms when I realised my knowledge was deficient, so was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the modern era.

Because I worked for the importer of Weaver scopes it made sense to choose them to fit to my rifles. I used a number of 3-9x40 scopes with very satisfactory results but old habits died hard and a number of 4x and 6x scopes appeared in my safe. Used a 4-16 on a competition rifle and was seriously pleased with the results. 

Then I changed companies to the importer of Zeiss and Burris so some of them had to be tried. By that time the fixed power scope was almost a thing of the past so I chose midrange variables for most of my use. The Zeiss 3 ½-10 on my Sako 300 Weatherby was outstanding on thar. The Burris 3-9s never let me down. 

A couple of hunts changed my thinking a bit. Hunting thar up the Dobson for the first time I used my 270 Remington ADL fitted with a 3-9 Weaver. Saw a good bull, a long way away and at a very steep angle upward. Did my mental calculations and made the shot. The bull collapsed and came rolling down the face. I didn’t realise till I checked the setting on my scope and found it still set at 4 power. There were  much more important things to concentrate on like making the calculations and getting into a stable position to make the shot so I forgot to change the power. Next trip into the area I used my new range finder to determine the actual distance, it was 395 yards. Danny and I went for a spring hunt into the Tussock hut in the Kaimanawas. We anticipated getting some open shots so I took my 270WSM fitted with a fixed 6x Leupold. There was essentially no fresh growth in the open tussock so I went bush hunting. The 6x scope, well positioned on the rifle, was no handicap, got a nice six point stag in the Mangapapa saddle. Was so impressed with the result I fitted another 6x Leupold to my 300WSM with very satisfactory results in both open shooting and dense bush hunting.

I think the key to good scope performance is the correct positioning of the scope to the rifle. Got a good reminder of that last week. My cousin and I went to get a pig for my nephews footy clubs hangi. The only pig we found was hanging around with a mob of yearling steers. There was a lot of pressure on us to produce some pork. Neither of us was keen to do the shooting. Finally my cousin prevailed and thrust his Sako 222 into my hands as the pig was galloping off to safety. Brought the rifle up, couldn’t see a bloody thing. He positions his scope different to me and the stupid thing was on full magnification. Sorted it out and made the shot. Fortunately the pig fell over. If your rifle and scope set up is correct for you, you have a wider flexibility in actually making your shots.

I listened with interest to one of Paul Carmine’s lectures on marksmanship. His lectures are seriously worthwhile and anyone from beginner to seasoned shooter can learn. A bloke asked Paul how he managed to use a 40x scope for competition shooting. Paul’s reply was classic. “You have to learn to back yourself.” I think I have learned to back myself with my field shooting so will use what I have available to make the best result I can. In field situations I have a real preference for 4 magnification for most work but I will fit and use a 6x for some situations.

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