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How a Rifle Scope Works

Jun 30th 2015 at 11:46 PM

Picture this, a newbie hunter goes to a store and buys a top-notch hunting rifle and a $50 dollar rifle scope. Does anyone notice anything wrong with this? Well yes, the hunter clearly is ignorant that a quality rifle scope is just as important as the rifle itself. Scopes come in many varieties and what type to use can be quite confusing especially if you are not an expert. So, how do they work?

Rifle scope parts

Lenses at both ends form the main part of a scope and they include the objective and the ocular lenses. The objective lens transmits and focuses light to the ocular lens which in turn magnifies the light to form magnified images. It also has a reticle (cross-hairs) which pin-point where a shot will hit once trigger is pulled. Adjustment controls namely elevation and windage control the trajectory of the shot with former tweaking the vertical axis and latter controlling the horizontal axis.

Different rifle scopes types

Say you are looking for 7-12x48 scope, what do those numbers represent? Well, this is interpreted as a scope that has 7x to 12x magnification, thus one would see an image to be at least 7 times larger than it actually is. The 48 represents the size of the objective lens in millimeters i.e. 48 millimeters. In general if you are shooting distances greater than 100 yards you need powerful scopes usually 7x or more. Shorter distances take anything below 7x.

Mounting a rifle scope

Before you do this, it is important that you position your rifle in the most comfortable way. Next, check that you have all the equipment: scope mount and mounting rings. Note that some guns aren't designed to handle scope mounts and may need to be modified by a gunsmith. Connect the scope mount to the rifle and secure it in place with the mounting rings. Set a target about 25 yards and at maximum magnification, adjust the position of the mounting rings till the reticle pin-points the center of your target.


This is term used when one aligns a scope in order to have a clean shot. This skill though, takes a lot of patience but once mastered, your shots will be the stuff of legend. Set up a target about a 100 yards and tweak your scope so that the cross-hairs align to the center of the target. Next step is to remove the bore sighter from the muzzle, load your rifle, take aim, and fire. Repeat process until you're constantly hitting the center of the target.


Most common defect in scopes is the parallax error. This parallax causes the aim of the scope to change relative to the eye-position of the shooter. Thus just by shifting the angle of your view a target can seem off target and this can be a problem in high magnifications. It can be corrected though if your rifle scope has adjustable objective lenses. Unfortunately, most scopes have fixed objective lens as they are made to shoot distances not exceeding 100 yards.

Thus rifle scopes should be a very big priority and should take just as much consideration as the rifle itself. Remember that a good scope can make one hit a great shot even with a mediocre rifle but a bad scope can make you miss terribly even with the best of rifles. If you follow everything to the latter, all you need is eye relief (space between the eyepiece and your eye) from your rifles recoil, take aim and fire!



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