To Scope or not to Scope

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2008

Last revision: Dec. 8, 2010

His company sells the larger scopes only because some customers demand them.

My performance shooting a scoped rifle from a shooting vise was awesome—1.25-inch groups at 100 yards. Groups shot from a sitting position expanded to around 4 inches. I still had fliers out to 6 inches, but these consistently landed to the right of the bull’s-eye, indicating I had pulled them off-target by jerking the trigger. Regular practice over the next few weeks, with close attention to shooting technique, reduced both the frequency and severity of such wild shots.

The primary advantage of telescopic sights is the ability to see your precise aiming point. However, being able to see the aiming point is a separate thing from being able to squeeze off a shot when the crosshairs are on that point. Holding steady enough for an accurate shot at 200 yards is the same challenge, regardless of what type of sights you use. For me, being able to see the aiming point more clearly resulted in better shooting.

Real World Revelations

This past hunting season, I had a couple of experiences that revealed unforeseen advantages to a scope.

The first occurred when I had a buck standing broadside to me at 80 yards. Looking through my scope at 9X, I was able to determine that it was a 7-pointer, with a fourth, 1.5-inch point on one side. Without a scope, I never could have seen the brow tine that made the deer legal. I would have had to pass up the shot.

The second revelation laid to rest my concern about tracking moving targets with a scope. A doe came toward my tree stand at a canter, passing right in front of me. I was sure she would stop and offer a standing shot, but after passing my tree stand she turned 180 degrees and trotted back the way she had come. Seeing back straps and loins rapidly disappearing into the woods, I shouldered my rifle, and with the scope on 3X, I had no trouble snapping off a shot as the cross hairs intersected her flank. The lung shot brought her down within 100 yards. I am not sure I could have done that with iron sights.

So I have decided to keep the scope on my rifle. It isn’t a perfect arrangement, but it is the best for my hunting situation, my vision limitations and my shooting ability. If my Montana trip never materializes, I may sell the scope and go back to the pure simplicity of iron sights. Either way, I know that making a good shot depends more on practice than on paraphernalia.

Get Off the Bench

The accuracy that is possible with a quality scoped rifle fired from a firm rest is truly amazing. Ironically, this can lead to missed opportunities.

Shooters who grow accustomed to the perfect stability of bench shooting get a rude surprise when drawing down on deer without a rest. The cross hairs of a 9-power scope weave disconcertingly back and forth across the animal’s flank. The hunter hesitates, and the deer leaves before he or she can squeeze off a shot.

In the same situation, shooters with iron sights are not even aware of the small drift of their aiming point. Shooting practice gives them confidence in their ability to hit a target the size of a deer’s heart-lung area, so they pull the trigger and fill their tag.

Practice shooting in different unsupported positions that simulate hunting conditions. That way you will be prepared when the moment of truth arrives.

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