SKILLS: Do You Need A Rifle Scope?

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To push the limits of your tactical rifle a long-range rifle scope might just be what you need, or not… READ MORE

rifle scopes
Some shooters romanticize the idea of getting a huge rifle scope so they can shoot a country mile. It is best to find balance in realistic goals for your rifle and the optic.

SOURCE: Springfield-Armory Armory Life, Adam Scepaniak

In previous articles we discussed the merits of utilizing and understanding the practicality of iron sights as well as when red dot sights can improve speed and awareness and be beneficial to those of us with less than perfect vision.

That now brings us to the topic of more conventional rifle scopes with magnification. There is a novelty in being able to push one’s shooting prowess to its limits and see exactly how far you can connect on a shot. Simultaneously, you don’t want a rifle scope on an all-purpose carbine that is so overmatched for your target that close quarter targets become unfeasible to engage.

There is a certain balance that must be achieved in magnification, weight and other ancillary features to accomplish the mission at hand. In the third part of this series on carbine sighting systems, we will now cover the pros and cons of rifle scopes on your modern sporting rifle.

Realistic Goals
With most people’s modern sporting rifles being chambered in .223 Rem/5.56mm NATO, your effective range is roughly 600 yards (without deep-diving into reloading your own ammunition and some other wizardry performed on your firearm). Understanding this is essentially the practical limit of the cartridge, you then need to ask yourself how far you are actually going to shoot.

Secondly, how close do you want to shoot? If you top off your rifle with a titan of a scope you may not be able to engage anything quickly under 100 yards. Conversely, if the magnification of your rifle scope is too weak, how comfortable are you shooting long distances with low magnification? Identifying your working range, or the distances you intend to engage targets, will lead you to what magnification your rifle scope should be.

rifle scopes
A good quality scope, such as this Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6X, can offer you close range performance as well as the ability to reach out to longer distances.

My answer to that proposed question was potentially 300 yards at a maximum and possibly 10 yards at a minimum. Sounds nearly too close and too far at the same time, right? Well, there are a bevy of rifle scope manufacturers who make optics that could amply cover that range of distance. With a rifle scope that is 1-4X, 1-6X or 1-8X, you have the ability to shoot both near and far while not adding significant weight to your weapon platform.

Real-World Applications
With a rifle scope that can be dialed down to 1X or essentially no magnification, you have the ability to do the work iron sights or a red dot can accomplish. This affords the shooter a greater field of view and better awareness of their surroundings. This can be exceedingly valuable for defense or hunting situations. Also, many rifle scopes offer the feature of lit reticles so your optic could truly do the work of a red dot in close quarters.

At the same time, you can spike your magnification up to potentially 6X or 8X to engage long-distance targets. This makes that example of a 300-yard shot more feasible without sacrificing your ability to shoot something a stone’s throw away in front of you. While some of your friends might boast of their ability to shoot far with little magnification, it is better to make your shots as easy as possible instead of tight-rope walking the limit of your abilities behind a rifle.

Practical Considerations
Another consideration aside from the magnification of your optic is the size and weight. Most modern sporting rifles are viewed as mobile firearms — something someone can easily carry or sling over their shoulder. At a weight of roughly 6 lbs., it really diminishes the mobility of your firearm if you tack on a gawdy 4-lb. rifle scope. While it might appear cool for social media and your range buddies, it will fail a “practicality test.”

rifle scopes

rifle scopes
Something that a rifle scope can accomplish that iron sights or a red dot cannot is to make a long, difficult shot more easily possible.

With a rifle scope that can be brought down to 1X, you get the benefits of greater awareness and field of view with the ability to apply magnification.

So, if you have an AR-15 in your stable like a SAINT and want to turn it into more of a workhorse, a rifle scope can add a lot of value! If you believe a scope will be too overpowering or will ruin your chance of close-up shots, think again. A well-chosen rifle scope has the potential to give you the benefits of iron sights, a red dot, and magnification all in one.

The only thing that might deter some people is the price that comes along with it. Good rifle scopes can start around $200 and easily exceed $2,000 fairly quickly. As mentioned earlier, it’s all about finding that balance of what you wish to accomplish and what will get you there. Be safe out there, and happy shooting!

Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

Adam Scepaniak
Adam is a manager at The Guns And Gear Store in Waite Park, MN. He’s also a writer for the NRA Shooting Sports USA, TheFirearmBlog, Sierra Bullets, All Outdoor, OutdoorHub, and Boyds Gunstocks. He is a Glock and Smith & Wesson Certified Armorer as well.

 

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2 thoughts on “SKILLS: Do You Need A Rifle Scope?”

  1. Back when I was shooting high power rifle competition, National Match Course, and 1000 yard with 30 caliber rifles, I used 30-06 for 1000 yards, While I once fired a “clean” at 1000 yards in a scope match at Camp Perry. Usually though I used Iron Sights Redfield International, shooting as well with “iron sights” as I did with a 10 power x 1.5″ Unertle target scope that I still have. I also felt that a scope sight destroyed the balance of the Model 70 Winchester Target Rifles I most often used. To each their own though. For a closing thought, regarding problems in Virginia, where were Virginia gun owners last election strikes me as an interesting question.

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