A good rule of thumb we follow is that you only need enough magnification to allow you to see your target clearly.
Some hunters seem to think that more power in a riflescope is always better, but realistically, less is more depending on what you’re hunting.
When Magnification Is Too Much
While the idea of more power is almost always appealing, there comes a time when you can have too much magnification.
Think about the way what we see is impacted by the magnification. As we look through the lens, what we see is the field of view, or FOV. To illustrate what we mean, consider a 60” widescreen TV compared to an older 32” tube TV. There was a whole section on the sides of the older TV that was missing. Thanks to widescreen tech, that has changed and now we see the whole picture. That’s your FOV.
What do you think happens when the field gets smaller? That’s right. It makes it a lot harder for us to find the target quickly.
Imagine realizing that the perfect buck got away because we missed him. He was in the shadows the whole time, and because we had a scope with too much magnification, he lived to see another day.
Reticle Quivering Is an Issue
Something else to think about when we’re looking at choosing the right magnification on a scope is the reticle quiver.
Higher magnification makes the scope more susceptible to reticle movements that happen just because our hearts beat, and our muscles move.
At lower magnification, you wouldn’t even notice that dip, but as soon as we raise the magnification, that slight dip becomes a deep jump that can cause difficulty in controlling your aim.
Once that movement happens, we find ourselves fighting to maintain control, which is tiring all on its own. At that point, accuracy becomes even more challenging – then the buck gets away again, but for a different reason.
Different Scope Magnifications
Different scope magnifications exist because let’s face it – we shoot for various purposes. Some of us prefer competition, while others enjoy the thrill of the hunt.
Either way, having the right scope with the proper magnification can be the difference between hitting or completely missing the target.
Before selecting the best scope for our purpose, we need to understand what the numbers on a scope represent.
The 3-9x40MM Scope
Consider a 3-9x40MM scope. Each number means something different. The 3 means that your target will appear three times closer as compared to viewing with the naked eye.
The 9 also represents how much closer your target will appear, so you can adjust to increase magnification if necessary. The 40MM is the lens diameter measured in millimeters.
This riflescope is also what is known as a variable scope because it can be adjusted from 3 times to 9 times magnified. A more extensive range also makes for more versatility when we’re out shooting, so we tend to prefer variable scopes.
One entry-level option that works well and is relatively inexpensive is the Bushnell Prime Riflescope. It starts at around $180 and offers Bushnell’s exclusive EXO Barrierlens coating that keeps us seeing clearly even in the rain.
The 1-4x32 Scope
In this configuration, we have the Prime 1-4x32 riflescope. In this variable scope, we can adjust the magnification from 1x to 4x, magnifying our target to our preference. The lens diameter is smaller at only at 32 millimeters, which makes it lighter & more compact for easy carry in the field.
Do keep in mind, though, that the 1-4x32 riflescope is designed for short and mid-range shooting, in other words, for your classic brush & lever guns like a Winchester .30-30 WCF.However, if you’re hunting further out over open fields, then our next optic might be a better choice for you.
The 3-12x40 Scope
The Prime 3-12x40 Multi-Turret scope is all about getting you your best shot at a further distance. We don’t see fluff here, just a stellar scope with seven different turrets that can do the job right.
Lightweight and covered with Bushnell’s EXO Barrier coating, its simplicity is one of those things that makes it extremely attractive to new and experienced shooters alike.
A simple Multi-X reticle makes it feel intuitive when we look through the lens. Every single glass element is also coated to maximize light and present a bright, true color view of our target.
The side focus for parallax correction is an excellent feature that we love on this all-work scope. All turrets are also clearly marked to make for an outstanding shooting experience.
The elevation turret is outstanding at 60 MOA of adjustment travel and 12 MOA per revolution. It’s fantastic for shooting at a long-range distance.
Understanding Objective Lenses
The objective lens on medium variable scopes ranges from 40-50 millimetersin diameter, but the standard sizes of most objective lenses are between 40-44 mm.
When objective lenses are larger than 44 millimeters, it can make the rifles feel off-balance, so consider not going to a bigger scope just because it’s a higher number.
Other things to consider are the way that we see through the lenses. A bigger lens does offer more light resulting in a brighter picture. Lenses with wider diameters can also make things easier to focus on and shoot.
When you can see through a lens easier, you will automatically experience a natural eye relief as the exit point is larger.
Larger scopes also mean you’re going to need taller rings to mount the scope properly. The scope will also be a little higher than smaller scopes which can create some difficulty with a typical stock comb height.
Change Your Optics for a Whole New Experience
When we hunt short and mid-range game, we’re all about the 1-4x32 scopes. They’re perfect for hunting at around 100 yards out. We also like the 3-9x40 scopes because they get us just a little bit closer, but not too close.
On the other hand, when we’re interested in hunting from 200 yards, then we suggest raising the magnification to 12x or 14x out in an open field.
Keep in mind that hunting grounds make a difference in the scope that we use. We wouldn’t use a high-magnification, long-range scope if we’re hunting in a dense forest.
The average hunter probably needs a short to mid-range scope. Finding the right one for you depends on your hunting area, what you’re hunting, and then picking one that you’re comfortable with.
The bottom line is we don’t need a ton of power when we’re out hunting deer. A 1-4x32 riflescope is perfectly fine for hunting among the brush. For more versatility, a 3-9x40 scope is the best bet.
Simple scopes that are reasonably priced are waiting to become our new best friends. For more information about riflescopes and how to know what’s best to have, check out our buyer’s guide. Happy hunting!
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