To Scope or not to Scope

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2008

Last revision: Dec. 8, 2010

at longer distances. The answer turned out to be, “pretty well.”

My first step was to invest in some inexpensive ammunition for familiarization shooting and some high-quality cartridges for serious target work. The accuracy of even the best rifles is only as good as the ammunition you feed it and how comfortable you are with it.

After carefully zeroing the rifle’s iron sights at 25 yards, I shot targets at 100 to 200 yards from a shooting vise. I wanted to see what kind of accuracy the rifle was capable of with iron sights and the 150-grain, boat-tailed soft-point bullets I settled on.

The average three-shot group at 100 yards had a 3.5-inch spread. That’s excellent for me and iron sights. However, I don’t shoot deer from a shooting vise. My next project was to discover how well I shot from normal hunting positions.

Most of my shots are taken from a sitting position. Occasionally I have to shoot standing. Not surprisingly, I did best on the sitting shots at the shooting range. My groups were mostly 6 to 8 inches in diameter at 100 yards.

Standing shots were a different matter. I did well to hold a 10-inch group in that position, and a distressing number of shots landed randomly outside that diameter. The techniques that worked for me at 25 yards were not adequate at 100 to 200 yards. It was time to try another approach.

I got a 6-foot shooting staff and fired several groups—sitting and standing—gripping the staff with my left hand and resting the front stock of the rifle on my fist. This brought virtually all my shots inside an 8-inch circle.

Because the shooting staff provided excellent vertical stability, misses were almost all left or right of the bull’s-eye. That is good, since a deer’s body is much wider than it is tall. At this point, I felt confident in my ability to take deer at 100 yards and beyond with iron sights.

Optical Conclusion

Then it was time to try a scope. I bought a 3- to 9-power model with a 42mm objective lens. I was ready to pay $50 more for one with a 50mm objective until I talked with Tony Proper, president of Alpen Optics.

He informed me that a 42mm objective lens gathers all the light that a rifle scope with a 1-inch tube can transmit. He said buying more glass is a waste of money and adds unnecessary weight.

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