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Rifle Scopes: How Much Magnification Do You Use?

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January 10, 2014
Rifle Scopes: How Much Magnification Do You Use? - 7

My first variable power scope was a Leupold 3-9X that I had mounted on a Ruger 77—my first “real” gun. After I mounted it I cranked it up to 9X and don’t think I turned it down ever that I can recall.

It was reading about Africa and hunting dangerous game—long before I ever had a chance to visit the Dark Continent—that I learned about the virtues of hunting with scopes set to lower power, a philosophy that is second nature to me today. The vast majority of my big game kills are at 4X or so. In the case of longer shots, off a steady rest, I might go to 8X but that is a rare exception.

The benefit of using a lower magnification setting a simple: you get a better field of view, making it easier to make follow-up shots; the exit pupil is larger, making it easier to get a good view of whatever you’re looking at through the scope; lower power settings reduce the sense of crosshair tremor and wobble, improving shot placement; and, you don’t really give up anything in the way of accuracy. Trust your zero, put the crosshairs where they need to go and the bullet will do its job.

So, if my big game “sweet spot” is 4X, what’s yours? How far are your shots and what do you set your scope at?

Comments (7)

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from marksman wrote 26 weeks 4 days ago

Interesting question John. I believe that this question's answer boils down to the type of reticle that is in the scope. The more traditional naked crosshairs that us older folk grew up with are very easily moved up and down the range of magnification. If a person is shooting one of the newer BDC reticles they are designed to be shot, in most cases, at the maximum magnification for optimal results.
Personally, I have scopes of different zoom levels on my different rifles and to say that I use one power more than another would be very difficult as they range anywhere from 2x on the low end to 24x on the high end.

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from horsethief wrote 26 weeks 5 days ago

Dec 2013, in western Kansas and a 20+ mph wind at my back, I got into a decent position on the side of an exposed hill where I thought I could catch some deer going to bedding areas. I set my scope at 4x, and less than two minutes after getting into my spot the deer were running right at me. There was no time to mess with the scope. About a minute later, the 280 Rem had taken its first deer.

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from huntfishtrap wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

For my rimfires, I use 3-9x scopes exclusively, and usually leave them set on 6x, although I will turn it up to 9x when attempting a long shot at a squirrel, for example.
I have a Tasco 2-8x on my T/C Omega, and that stays at 4x at all times. I would rather have to aim a little more carefully on a long shot with the scope at 4x than have to desperately search to find the chest of a deer moving through the timber at 20 yards with the scope set at a higher power.

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from 25-06 guy wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

My scopes stay on the lowest settings all the time. But I have cranked them up on some longer shots. Thats the beauty or variable power scopes.

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from DSMbirddog wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

I leave my scopes at 4X as well. In fact, two of my rifles have fixed power scopes. A 4X power on my T/C Omega and a 6X Weaver on my 45-70.

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from JHP wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

For most eastern white tail and black bear they are set at 2X or 3X. A couple of my scopes have post and cross hair for real fast target acquisition. On a hunt in Michigan I was watching a clearing that went 300 in one direction and 400 in the other so I had the 3X9 on the .300WbyMag set up to 7X. Turned out the 10pt. showed up 40yds in front of me and was a easy shot.

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from jjas wrote 27 weeks 1 hour ago

The only big game I hunt is deer and for that in the woodlots of Indiana, I normally leave my scope set @ 3x or 4x.

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from jjas wrote 27 weeks 1 hour ago

The only big game I hunt is deer and for that in the woodlots of Indiana, I normally leave my scope set @ 3x or 4x.

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from JHP wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

For most eastern white tail and black bear they are set at 2X or 3X. A couple of my scopes have post and cross hair for real fast target acquisition. On a hunt in Michigan I was watching a clearing that went 300 in one direction and 400 in the other so I had the 3X9 on the .300WbyMag set up to 7X. Turned out the 10pt. showed up 40yds in front of me and was a easy shot.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

I leave my scopes at 4X as well. In fact, two of my rifles have fixed power scopes. A 4X power on my T/C Omega and a 6X Weaver on my 45-70.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 25-06 guy wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

My scopes stay on the lowest settings all the time. But I have cranked them up on some longer shots. Thats the beauty or variable power scopes.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

For my rimfires, I use 3-9x scopes exclusively, and usually leave them set on 6x, although I will turn it up to 9x when attempting a long shot at a squirrel, for example.
I have a Tasco 2-8x on my T/C Omega, and that stays at 4x at all times. I would rather have to aim a little more carefully on a long shot with the scope at 4x than have to desperately search to find the chest of a deer moving through the timber at 20 yards with the scope set at a higher power.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from horsethief wrote 26 weeks 5 days ago

Dec 2013, in western Kansas and a 20+ mph wind at my back, I got into a decent position on the side of an exposed hill where I thought I could catch some deer going to bedding areas. I set my scope at 4x, and less than two minutes after getting into my spot the deer were running right at me. There was no time to mess with the scope. About a minute later, the 280 Rem had taken its first deer.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from marksman wrote 26 weeks 4 days ago

Interesting question John. I believe that this question's answer boils down to the type of reticle that is in the scope. The more traditional naked crosshairs that us older folk grew up with are very easily moved up and down the range of magnification. If a person is shooting one of the newer BDC reticles they are designed to be shot, in most cases, at the maximum magnification for optimal results.
Personally, I have scopes of different zoom levels on my different rifles and to say that I use one power more than another would be very difficult as they range anywhere from 2x on the low end to 24x on the high end.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)