Category Archives: Hunting

SKILLS: Riflescopes: Adjustments & Variable Power


There’s a lot to learn to really understand riflescopes and make the best choice. Here’s another valuable lesson. Keep reading…



Windage and elevation adjustments in riflescopes are made with either internal or external adjustment systems. Here’s what that means.

Internal: Most modern telescopic sights have internal adjustment systems using threaded, cylindrical knobs or screws in the turrets. The adjustment screws move the reticle assembly in the optical axis inside the main tube against spring pressure. The adjustment screws have clearly marked graduations around their circumference and many have a ball-detent system that clicks as the adjustment screws are turned. Each graduation or click represents a change in reticle position that moves the bullet strike at the target. This is expressed in minutes of angle (m.o.a.) and normally has a value of 1/2, 1/4 or 1/8 m.o.a. per click.

External: Many older scopes have an external-adjustment system built into the mounts and rings. Such scopes remain popular today for certain types of target competition. In this type of scope, the reticle remains stationary within the main tube and the point of the bullet strike is adjusted by mounts having micrometer windage and elevation mechanisms that move the entire scope laterally and/or vertically. These mounts often allow the scope to slide fore and aft to reduce recoil. An advantage of external-adjustment scopes is that the user is always sighting through the optical center of the tube.

As internal-adjustment systems became more reliable and more accurate, the popularity of external-adjustment scopes faded. Today, external-adjustment models are still offered, however the use of such scopes is now generally limited to a few specialized disciplines of rifle competition.

It is important to note that some scope-mounting systems designed for internal-adjustment scopes still incorporate the ability to accommodate some coarse external windage adjustment.

This leads us to the discussion of variable power. Variable-power riflescopes have an internal mechanism to change the amount of magnification within design limits. This consists of an additional set of lenses mounted in an internal tube that slides forward and rearward under the control of a cam attached to the magnification ring. The design of the lens system and its position in the tube controls the amount of magnification.

The popularity of variable-power riflescopes rests squarely on their flexibility. Variable magnification enables the shooter to adjsut the power to suit a wide variety of conditions ranging from lower power (with a wide field of view for fast shots at close range), to higher power (for greater precision at long range). Once considered expensive and unreliable, variable-power riflescopes have become the most popular type as their design has matured and prices have dropped. Todya, the single most popular riflescope is the 3-9X-40mm, which has become a kind of “jack of all trades.” Smaller variables such as 2-7X-32mm remain popular for smaller-caliber rifles, while 4.5-12X-50mm and bigger models are favored for long-range shooting. Despite their flexibility, no one variable fits all applications and that is why there are so many different models.

Despite their popularity, variable-power riflescopes may suffer from certain drawbacks:
ONE: The variable magnification system introduces another level of mechanical complexity and another source for optical error, potentially decreasing reliability.

TWO: The movement of the internal components of a variable-power scope can produce changes in zero as the scope power is increased or decreased.

THREE: Variable-power scopes are harder to seal than fixed-power scopes by virtue of the magnification-adjustment ring.
As the magnification increases, the field of view and image brightness decrease, often substantially.

FOUR: Variable-magnification scopes are substantially heavier than fixed-power scopes.

FIVE: Variable-power scopes are more expensive than fixed-power scopes.

5 Things to Watch Out For in the Dark Woods


Paying attention and keeping your cool when out hunting before sunup is key to anyone’s success, and safety. Here are a few thoughts on a few things to avoid…

hunting in darkness
Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

by Jeff Johnston

ONE: Sticks and Pitfalls
The most dangerous thing you can do in the woods is to become so nervous that you get tunnel vision and begin “crashing through the woods.” If you do this, you may not notice a rock, a hole, or a steep ravine in your path. One of the common dangers while walking to your stand is to get a stick in your eye. Use a flashlight or wear a headlamp.

TWO: Your Gun or Bow
Make sure your rifle is unloaded and your broadheads are secured and covered while you walk in the dark. The chances of having to use your gun or bow in the dark are not nearly as high as the dangers of tripping with a loaded gun or exposed broadheads. Do not load your gun until you are safely in your stand with your safety belt affixed.

THREE: Tree Stands
Always make sure your tree stand is in good condition before using it. If you notice a loose step or something weird, wait until it gets light to climb and fix the problem, if you can. Never climb if the tree is icy. Always keep your gun unloaded and use a rope to pull your gun or bow up into the tree after you are seated safely with a safety harness attached.

FOUR: Streams
Never take a chance on crossing a deep or iced-over stream in the dark. If it is deep or swift-moving, find a new way to get to your stand in the daytime.

FIVE: Wild Animals
Most people who have been lost in the woods report “wild animals” as their biggest fear. Most of these people, however, never see these animals or come into contact with them because the real problem is their imagination. Sure, animals are in the woods, but they almost always avoid humans. If you are in known bear country, you should be aware of that fact, but coyotes, deer, bobcats, pigs and other animals are not to be feared. If you are in snake country, like South Texas, always use a flashlight to walk to your stand, and consider getting snakeproof boots for peace of mind. Realize that snakes can sense large predators and almost always slither off before hunters see them.

To control fear of animals, adjust your attitude. Instead of hustling to your stand, assure yourself that you, with your gun and your wits, are by far the scariest thing in the woods. You are the top of the food chain, the ultimate predator, and you should act like one. Slip quietly to your stand like you are hunting it. You will be less fearful, and you will see more animals once you get there. If you do see an animal, your best bet is to keep walking to your stand. If you have to, speak out loud. It will almost certainly run off.

Optics Terms Defined: Magnification and Objective Lens


When it comes to optics for firearms, the specific terms that people use to describe them can be confusing. Here’s what all that argot actually means…

optics array

by NRA Staff

The magnification, or power, of a riflescope is expressed as a number corresponding to the size of an object viewed at a specified distance through the scope, relative to its size as seen with the naked eye. Put another way, an object 100 yards distant viewed through a 10X scope will appear to be the same size as if it were viewed with the naked eye from 10 yards away. Different scope magnifications are used for specific shooting activities.

High-magnification riflescopes from 15X to 50X with objective lens diameters of 40-50mm or more with adjustable objective-lens systems are popular for various types of centerfire rifle competitions such as benchrest and F-Class.

Varmint shooters normally prefer a scope with magnification levels of 12X to 24X and adjustable objective lens diameters of 44-50mm for their precision work.

Long-range big-game hunting demands a scope with an adjustable objective lens system of approximately 40mm diameter with power levels up to 15X that enable the hunter to judge game and wind conditions at extreme distances.

At dawn, dusk or during poor light conditions, scopes with large objective lenses of 50mm and above that gather all existing light are preferable, with powers between 6X and 12X. Illuminated reticles are a popular option on these scopes.

Low-power scopes of 1.1X to 4X with a wide field of view and fixed objective are well-suited for hunting in woods or brush at close range.

For general-purpose hunting, most sportsmen are well served by a 3-9X-40mm variable scope with fixed objective, which is a good compromise between a wide field of view for close shots (at 3X) and added magnification (at 9X) for distant shots.

As magnification levels increase, the field of view decreases, which makes target acquisition increasingly difficult. Increasing magnification also magnifies movement, making the reticle appear less steady and thus hampering the ability of many shooters to hold their point of aim. These factors conspire to make most scopes over 8X very difficult to use without a solid rest. When shooting from a rest on a bench, a narrow field of view and high magnification are less of a problem.

Objective Lens
The objective lens is the light-gathering lens at the front of the scope. The larger the diameter of the objective lens, the more light will be admitted into the scope. This results in a larger exit pupil with a brighter image.

Most riflescopes have objective lens diameters from 32mm to 44mm. These provide a good balance between light-gathering capability, cost and image quality. Such riflescopes are relatively lightweight and easy to mount on most rifles. For many hunting applications, such riflescopes are an excellent choice.

For hunting at dusk, dawn or in very low light conditions, the increased light-gathering capability of a larger objective lens may be a better choice. For such conditions, most scope manufacturers offer models with 50mm to 56mm objective lenses. However, there is a penalty to be paid for th is increased performance in the form of substantially increased weight, higher cost and difficulty in mounting a scope with such a large objective.

Varmint hunters and some target shooters prefer riflescopes with large 50mm or greater objective lenses for a different reason. They want a higher-power scope of 12X or more with a clear, crisp, flat image with excellent contrast and an adjustable objective to remove parallax. The image quality reduces eyestrain and enables them to clearly see small targets at long ranges and to judge wind and mirage precisely. They also spend considerable time looking through the scope with the rifle held on a solid rest, so unsteadiness from high magnification and a narrow field of view is less important.

7 Things to Do Before Rifle Season


Preparation is the key to virtually any successful venture, and deer hunting is no exception! Here are some valuable tips on how to best spend your time getting ready to go… Keep reading.

hunting trip
Image by Jim Bulger/Colorado Parks and Wildlife

by Steve Johnson, NRA Publications

Hunting season officially starts in September in most states…even earlier in others. Most states open with archery season and, as things progress and the rut draws nearer, they have a shorter season for folks who hunt with firearms. As a kid, firearm deer season in Nebraska was always the holy grail of hunting. We would get our rifles out and head to the range, usually on a cool October afternoon, staple a paper plate up on the 100-yard backstop and head back to the bench. Most of the guys I hunted with would take a shot or two, and if they hit the plate say, “meh, good enough,” then case their rifle back up and let the next guy shoot. Strictly speaking, you may only require a permit, rifle, ammo, and knife to go hunting, but there is more to it. A lot more.

ONE: First off: Boots
If you’ve never had a bad pair of boots, it can make it hard to appreciate a good pair. If you’ve only had good boots, you’re lucky or smart. Before you rush out and just buy a pair of “hunting boots” think about where you’ll be hunting and spend some time researching the correct boot for your environment. We grew up hunting in Sorel pack boots, which are great, as they’re waterproof and warm. If you go with a leather boot, Danner is worth a look, just make sure to protect them with the manufacturer’s recommended product for waterproofing.

TWO: Clothes
Both underwear and outer wear require thought beyond “what’s the coolest camo pattern”: Consider breathability, insulation properties (especially when wet), how well it layers, windproofing, etc. Will you be hunting in a tree stand-stationary and exposed-or still hunting, where you can find a warmer spot to sit? Think about where you’re hunting and which performance features will mean the most to you, then purchase accordingly. Check out companies like Icebreaker for out-of-this-world wool clothing. Synthetics have come a long way in the past 10 years, and one of the very best is Sitka.

THREE: Blades
There are a lot of good knives on the market, from the timeless Buck 119 to hunting knives that are bound to be classics like the KA-BAR Gamestalker. The one thing a knife needs to do is get sharp and hold an edge. Taking a dull knife into the field is dangerous. A sharp knife makes work quicker, easier and safer. Trying to cut tough materials, tendons, cartilage and hide with a dull and slippery knife is a good way to earn a trip to the emergency room. Keep your knife sharp. Sharpening a knife is a lost art, so take the time and learn how to sharpen your blade, get a good one and build a “relationship” with that piece of equipment. It will likely be one you can pass to a son or daughter along with your love of hunting.

Check out Midsouth offerings HERE

FOUR: Gather Intel
Trail cams have become a very important tool for the hunter, regardless of the species you hunt. They provide a lot of information about the type of critters passing through and their schedules. Trailcams can be found easily online. Spend some time researching features and talk to friends to get recommendations on the best camera for your hunting application.

Check out Midsouth offerings HERE

FIVE: Prepare Your Hunting Grounds
Prior to season, you’ll also want to head out for an afternoon and make sure your stands are in good repair, and that nothing has broken over the off-season. If you pull your stands after the season, this is the time to get them reinstalled. Cutting shooting lanes while branches still have foliage is not a bad idea either, as the foliage makes it easier to see all the little branches that might be missed if you cut a lane after the leaves have dropped.

SIX: Pack it Up
Make sure you’ve selected the correct pack for your hunt. There are many types of packs, frame packs, soft shell packs, hybrid packs…it’s almost limitless. The basic rule: “go in light, come out heavy.” This is the right idea. Take in only the essentials, and make sure and include spare batteries for any device that you will be using. Carrying a separate GPS is still a good idea, as cell phone battery life is normally very short when compared to a handheld GPS unit. Plus, there is a very good chance your cell phone GPS won’t work in a remote area. If you are hunting a large expanse of land on foot or horseback, it’s also wise to carry an old-fashioned paper map of the area, as paper maps are lightweight, and the batteries never go dead. At least one good flashlight is a must. LED flashlights have much longer battery life and generate more light with less energy. Basic firs- aid equipment is also a requirement. You’ll also want to make sure that you’ve got a back up knife, extra gloves and stocking cap so you can rotate them as they become sweaty or wet.

Check out Midsouth offerings HERE

SEVEN: Nom Nom Nom
Nothing will make you long to leave your tree stand like an empty stomach (not to mention how noisy it can get.) Some healthy, high-energy snacks are also a must. Nuts provide excellent energy and salt that you need to help replace minerals. Beef jerky is also an excellent, high protein, higher sodium snack that is very lightweight.

House Committee Passes SHARE Act by Wide Margin


The SHARE Act could have a very positive effect on gun-owning sportsmen as well as all gun enthusiasts. Here are some details…



On Tuesday, September 12, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a hearing on the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, which had been introduced on September 1 by Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC). Following the subcommittee hearing, the full Committee on Natural Resources marked up and passed the SHARE Act by a vote of 22-13. All amendments offered in an attempt to weaken the bill were soundly defeated. The bill now awaits floor action in the U.S. House.

As we have reported, this year’s version of the SHARE Act is the most expansive and far-reaching yet. Besides previously-introduced provisions aimed at enhancing opportunities for hunting, fishing, and shooting, and broadening access to federal lands for these purposes, this year’s SHARE Act contains reforms that would widely benefit sportsmen and the gun-owning public at large.

These reforms would protect Americans traveling interstate with lawfully-owned firearms, amend provisions of federal law that have been abused by antigun administrations to impose gun control by executive fiat, and make the health-promoting benefits of firearm sound suppressors more accessible.

Attorney and constitutional scholar Steven Halbrook, who has litigated firearms issues before the U.S. Supreme Court, testified at Tuesday’s hearing that the Act would “enhance protection of Second Amendment guarantees” without “adversely affect[ing] law enforcement interests.”

Halbrook provided background on several key provisions of the act. He noted that under current law, for example, certain federal courts have denied plaintiffs remedies for violation of their federally-protected right to transport unloaded firearms interstate between jurisdictions where they may be lawfully carried. This has emboldened certain states, like New York and New Jersey, to ignore these protections and arrest law-abiding Americans for exercising their rights under federal law. “Title XI of the bill will rectify this affront to the right to travel and the Second Amendment by explicitly immunizing law-abiding travelers from arrest and recognizing a civil action for violation,” he stated.

Halbrook also testified about the benefits of suppressors and how they were rarely implicated in violent crime. “That is why suppressors are freely available,” he noted, “even over the counter or by mail order, in many European countries.” In this regard, the bill would eliminate the current $200 transfer tax and a federal approval process that can take as long as a year to complete.

Others testifying focused on Title IV of the bill, the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act, which will reduce the regulatory burdens for federal agencies to promote hunting, fishing, and shooting on federal public lands across the nation.

Testifying against the bill was David Chipman, Senior Policy Advisor for the Gabby Giffords/Mark Kelly gun control group, Americans for Responsible Solutions. Chipman claimed to draw on his experience as a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in arguing that the Act “assaults the interests of our nation’s law enforcement officials and threatens our public safety and security.” In particular, his comments focused on the Act’s removal of impediments to the lawful purchase of suppressors. He also criticized the Act’s reforms to the “sporting purposes” standard for firearm importation.

Ironically, Ronald Turk, ATF’s current second-highest ranking official — who has spent over two decades working up the ranks of the agency from his initial assignments as a street agent — offered far different takes on these same issues in an interagency white paper that became public in February. Turk cited both of these issues as ripe for “regulatory changes or modifications … that would have an immediate, positive impact on commerce and industry without significantly hindering ATF’s mission or adversely affecting public safety.”

Turk characterized the import restrictions cited by Chipman as serving “questionable public safety interests,” because they often affect firearms “already generally legally available for manufacture and ownership in the United States.” He also suggested a broader understanding of firearm “sports” was appropriate, to include activities and competitions that use “AR-15s, AK-style, and similar rifles.” Regarding suppressors, the white paper opined, “Given the lack of criminality associated with silencers, it is reasonable to conclude that they should not be viewed as a threat to public safety necessitating NFA classification, and should be considered for reclassification under the [Gun Control Act].”

The SHARE Act now heads to the House Floor, where it could receive consideration as early as September 25.

Please contact your U.S. Representative NOW and ask him or her to vote YES on H.R. 3668, the SHARE Act. You can call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your representative’s office.

There has never been a better opportunity to pass this important and far-reaching legislation, but your help is urgently needed to ensure it goes the distance.

FIREARMS: Five Good Reasons To Reconsider The Ruger Mini-14


The AR15 platform is decidedly not the only way to go… Let’s revisit another American-made classic that might just win you over. Keep reading…



by Brian Sheetz, American Rifleman

When it comes to .223 Rem. semi-automatic rifles, Ruger’s Mini-14 has long been one of the obvious choices (technically, the Mini-14 has the more desirable 5.56 NATO chamber, which allows use of surplus ammo). And it’s no wonder, considering it offers nearly the same handiness as the M1 Carbine, the ballistics of the AR15, and the feel of the classic M1 Garand and M14. The Mini’s popularity confirms its strong perceived relevance among a wide range of users, and sustained sales for more than 40 years is evidence of its sound design — even if it’s unfairly judged by the same criteria as today’s predominant platform, the AR, which enjoys the huge advantages of U.S. military adoption and unlimited manufacturing sources. So while some consider the Mini a bit dowdy or lowly, it is actually a serious standout worth giving a second look. Here are just five of the many reasons why a Mini-14 Ranch, Tactical, or Thirty model should be on your short list the next time you shop for a modern rifle:

One: The AR may not be right for you.
 As difficult as it may be for some to believe, not everyone finds the AR platform appealing. There are a number of reasons why, but two come quickly to mind. The first is that its appearance may be too “tactical” for some people’s tastes; aesthetics can be subjective. And the second is that its controls may not be intuitive for some users because of their physical makeup and/or lack of prior training. In contrast to the former, most versions of the Mini have a sporter-like profile and some feature wood stocks, making them right at home in saddle scabbards, pickup trucks and, more importantly, in the minds of many for whom the sight of a traditional rifle is less likely to arouse unwanted attention. As to the latter, the Mini’s centrally located safety, its hook-rock-and-lock magazine design, and its beefy, integral charging handle make for a straightforward manual of arms with the respective benefits of rapid employment, secure loading and positive chambering. Add to these factors the Mini’s light overall weight (6 lbs., 12 ozs.) and handiness (36.75-inch length), and you have a combination of qualities that is difficult to ignore.

Two: The latest Minis are more accurate.
The Mini has long suffered from a reputation among many users for poor accuracy. Theories abound as to why that is the case: My own is that the considerable mass of the operating slide impacts harshly against the gas block, which is bolted directly to the relatively thin barrel, not allowing the barrel to return to its precise point of rest between shots. But in 2005, Ruger retooled the Mini-14 production line and most shooters agree that, beginning with the 580-prefix series guns made since then, shooting 2-inch groups at 100 yds. is not out of the question. Again, it may come as a surprise to some, but not everyone needs a half-m.o.a.-capable rifle. Many tasks just don’t require that level of accuracy. In fact, most hunting and self-defense situations are in that category. Also, my experience is that accuracy and reliability in semi-automatic rifle actions is usually inversely proportional. So, anything that the Mini lacks in the way of accuracy is, practically speaking, likely more than made up for in reliability and cleanliness of operation and in lack of ammunition sensitivity.

Classic lines and ergonomics make the Ruger Mini-14 appeal to those who have had experience with more conventional rifles.

Three: The Mini is one of few semi-auto .223s available in stainless steel.
 For boaters, coastal dwellers, and others for whom corrosion is an issue, the Mini is one of the few factory semi-auto rifles available in stainless steel, which can greatly reduce the necessity for fastidious, immediate maintenance. Because of their simple fixed-gas-piston system and Garand-style rotating bolt with two large locking lugs, Minis are generally not maintenance-sensitive anyway, but when it comes to harsh environments, particularly, the advantages of keeping stainless steel free of corrosion are undeniable — especially when gun maintenance cannot be performed as regularly as it should. Note that, with the Mini, stainless construction means that the barrel, receiver, bolt, operating rod, trigger group, and many other small parts are stainless steel. Blued guns, of course, use chromemoly steels in many of those same large components, but even in those guns, many of the smaller components are made of stainless. The broader point, of course, is that the Mini is made largely of steel — not polymers or aluminum — and steel’s material properties lend it a durability and longevity that lighter-weight materials simply cannot match.

mini-14 stainless
A simple, well-proven design that’s even available in stainless steel makes the Mini-14 appeal to many who just haven’t warmed up to the AR-platform firearms.

Four: 20- and 30-round factory magazines are widely available and reasonably priced.
This had been a longstanding bugaboo that plagued the Mini-14’s reputation. Ruger has produced 20- and 30-round magazines since the gun’s earliest days, but, until just a few years ago, it sold the latter only through law enforcement channels. That spurred the production of a raft of inferior aftermarket magazines, which did nothing to bolster the Mini’s otherwise enviable reputation for reliability. Nowadays, factory-fresh, Ruger steel magazines — a durable design that has functioned virtually flawlessly since its inception — are available for sale in the usual commercial channels at reasonable prices. In addition, flush-fitting 5-round magazines are also available. All feature a projection on the follower that activates the gun’s bolt hold-open once the last round has been fired. (The hold-open can also be manually activated by way of a button atop the receiver rather easily.)

mini-14 magazines
A range of quality steel magazines is available from Ruger, and there are many others on the aftermarket. Ruger offers 20-, 30-, and 5-round (flush-fit) magazines. Shown are a 30 and a 5.

Five: It’s recently available in .300 Blackout.
This option should make an already proven platform even more appealing and versatile — especially for those who would like to hunt with a Mini in areas that require a caliber greater than that of the .223 Rem. Of course the Mini has been available in 7.62×39 mm for years as the Mini Thirty, albeit limited to 20-round factory magazines, but the new .300 Blackout Mini brings .30-cal. presence to the familiar platform with the advantage of feeding from the same .223-cal. 20- and 30-round magazines. Ruger is selling the gun with a magazine marked “300 AAC Blackout” simply as a precaution, but there is reportedly no difference mechanically between it and the .223 magazine. It makes one wonder if the smart move might be to buy two Minis, a .223 Rem. and a .300 Blackout, along with a raft of magazines to fit either interchangeably as a practical, powerful hedge against bad times.

Check out the Minis HERE

SKILLS: Problems (Some) Riflescopes (Can) Have


The more you know the better choices you can make. Consider all of this carefully before you purchase your next riflescope.

by NRA Staff

There are some problems that riflescopes can experience, but you should note that modern manufacturing techniques can make a real difference. There are three main issues:

Many riflescopes suffer from a condition that stems from the inability of a scope to remain focused at all ranges. The compromise solution for most scopes is to design them to focus at infinity or one specific range. This serves most purposes and simplifies scope design. When a scope is properly focused at the chosen zero range, parallax will be minimal.

However, this is not acceptable for some applications, such as varmint shooting and hunting at long ranges. Under such conditions, parallax becomes a problem that must be addressed. Scope makers solve this problem by offering models with adjustable objective (AO) lenses. AO models incorporate adjustable objective bell housings with graduations marked on the traveling edge that allow quick and easy adjustment to remove parallax at any range. Alternately, some models locate the parallax adjustment in a third turret on the main tube for more convenience. Although AO and side-focus models cost more, shooters demanding enhanced accuracy often feel they are worth the asking price.

Most quality scopes are sealed. This means the outer lenses and adjustment systems must be sealed against ingress of water, dust and dirt. This is very important, as dust or dirt inside the tube will degrade the image in several ways, mainly by appearing as black spots within the field of view. Dirt inside the tube can also jam the delicate adjustment system. Moisture inside the tube can cause fogging so that the shooter cannot see through it. Moisture can also cause corrosion of inner parts and surfaces.

Scopes are sealed at the factory by first attaching them to a vacuum pump that removes all air from inside the tube. The tube is then filled with dry nitrogen gas to prevent fogging and then subsequently sealed. Of course, if you remove a turret or the ocular bell housing, the nitrogen gas may escape, thus compromising your scope’s anti-fogging capability.

Many high-quality scopes have double seals to ensure gas-tight integrity. However, no scope is permanently waterproof despite advertising claims to the contrary. Wear, tear, impacts and age all conspire against the tube holding the nitrogen gas. For this reason, most scope manufacturers will reseal and refill a scope at modest cost.

Want to check your scope for leaks? Try this simple test: Fill a sink or washbasin with warm water. Immerse your scope in the water for five minutes and check for bubbles coming from the tube. Bubbles mean leakage and such scopes should be sent back to the manufacturer for resealing and refilling.

Shock & Recoil
Newtonian physics are not kind to riflescopes. In addition to maintaining their accuracy, reliability, and water-tight integrity, scopes must withstand the considerable shock of repeated recoil many times the force of gravity. The delicate adjustment mechanisms and lens mounts are particularly susceptible to high G loads and must be designed accordingly. Scope makers are well aware of this and have designed shock resistance into their products. They have been so successful that shock resistance is now taken for granted by shooters and manufacturers alike.

Air rifles are a special case. Be careful when using conventional riflescopes on a spring-piston air rifle. If you do, the lenses may come loose, sometimes within a few shots, and your scope could be damaged or ruined. The reason is that spring-piston air rifles recoil in both rearward and then forward directions while a conventional rifle recoils only rearward. Thus, a riflescope for a conventional firearm need resist G forces in only one direction — rearward. Air rifle scopes must resist G forces in both directions. This requires a special scope designed for the purpose.

RELOADERS CORNER: Bullet Jump: does it really matter? (Part One)


The distance a bullet travels to enter the lands is a topic of much concern to the precision shooter. This series takes a look at why it matters, and also when it doesn’t…

Glen Zediker

bullet jump
Here’s jump: it’s the distance from the end of the case neck portion of the chamber to the first point the bullet will engage the lands or rifling.

Bullet jump: the open space a bullet must span until its first point of sufficient diameter engages the barrel lands.

Last week I had a long phone conversation with a fellow who had been bitten by two bugs, two somewhat conflicting bugs (at least seemingly so on the onset). The one was a regrouping equipment project for USPSA-style practical rifle competition, and the other was for a desire to maximize accuracy, which is to minimize group size. This fellow had been involved in competition long enough to decide to stay with it, and was re-upping his AR15 upper with a new custom barrel. He wanted to have the best accuracy he could buy, and that’s a worthwhile pursuit as long as there’s a budget that supports it.

The subject of bullet jump became the dominant topic.

Yep, he had read my books and a few others and developed the impression that minimizing bullet jump was one crucial component to maximizing accuracy. That’s fair enough. I’ve gone on about it, as have others. Adjusting bullet seating depth can make a big, big difference in shot impact proximities. However! The reason bullet jump matters — usually — is largely, almost exclusively, because of some bullet profiles being more finicky than others. Namely the longer and spikier “very-low-drag” type bullet profiles.

The first point of “major diameter” on a bullet is what coincides with the land diameter in the barrel. If that’s a .22 caliber with 0.219 diameter lands, then the first point along the nosecone of a bullet that’s 0.219 is the distance. Gages that measure this distance (Hornady LNL for instance) aren’t necessarily going to provide perfect coincidence with land diameter, but still provide an accurate bullet seating depth that touches the lands.

If you find the cartridge overall length, which really means bullet seating depth, that touches the lands (coincides with land diameter) then subtract that from what you then measure when the bullet is seated deeply enough to fit into a magazine box, that right there is the amount of jump.

Hornady LNL gage
There are other ways to find it, but the Hornady LNL Overall Length Gage makes it easy. I’d be lost without this tool. Use it to determine the current distance to engage the lands for any bullet you’ll use (it works also as a way to monitor throat erosion). Get one HERE

Dealing with an AR15, or any other magazine-fed rifle, assuming we are wanting the rounds to feed from the magazine, is that there’s a finite cartridge overall length that will fit into the magazine. So. We’re almost always going to be dealing with some amount of jump, unless one or two things can be manipulated to reduce or eliminate it.

AR15 loaded magazine
A box magazine sets the effective limit on overall cartridge length. Getting a bullet to sit close to the lands when the round is chambered requires either some trickery in chambering specs or, mostly, bullet selection. However, with selection there is also limitation. For safety’s sake, no factory loaded round is going to approach lands-on seating structure. When a bullet touches the lands at rest, pressures will, not can, spike. All good, if it’s accounted for. This sort of “fine-tuning” is strictly a (careful and knowledgeable) handloader’s realm.

The one is that the influence of rifle chamber specs with respect to either more or less jump is pretty much exclusively in the leade or throat. That’s the space that defines the transition from end of the chamber case neck area to entry into the lands. The closer the lands are to the chamber neck area the shorter the jump will be with any bullet. That is the leading difference between a SAAMI-spec .223 Remington chamber and a 5.56 NATO chamber. The NATO has a much longer throat. I’ve written on that one a few times…

A shorter throat has goods and bads. The main good is that, indeed, any and all bullets are going to be closer to the lands in a round loaded to magazine-length.

But the “two” in the things that influence jump is bullet selection. It is possible to find a combination that will easily have the bullet sitting right on or very near the lands at the get-go. That’s going to be a short, and light, tangent ogive bullet within a SAAMI-spec .223 Remington chamber, or (and this is what I have done) a barrel chamber finished using a throating reamer to get even closer. In general: the nearer the first point of major bullet diameter (remember, that’s the land diameter) is to the bullet tip, the shorter the jump will be, and that’s because this point is “higher.”

Hornady 52gr HPBT
Looking through a good factory loading manual down amongst the “lighter bullet” selections, take a notice of the overall round length used in the test ammo. Magazine box maximum for an AR15 is 2.25 inches (it’s actually 2.26 at a maximum, but don’t cut it too close). If you see a length less than that, then there’s a bullet that can be seated on or near the lands at magazine length. Simple.
Here’s a great example that I can tell you absolutely will engage the lands in an AR15 loaded to magazine length. As a matter of fact it will be over 0.020 into the lands at magazine length, so certainly must be loaded to an overall length well less than that… It also shoots little groups. Check it out HERE

Throat erosion is going to lengthen the throat. Can’t stop that. The cartridge structure that was jumping, say, 0.005 on a new barrel is jumping more than that after literally every round fired through it. After some hundreds of rounds it’s jumping a few multiples of 0.005. (How much or how many is not possible to forecast because way too many factors influence the amount and rate of throat erosion. Just have to keep checking with the gage I suggest you purchase.) This is the reason I specify a custom dimension to get reduced jump: with the right hands using a throating reamer it’s easily possible to maintain land contact at magazine length seating even after a lot of rounds have gone through. Bullets will begin being seated more deeply and then get nudged out as the throat erodes.

So, where the conversation ended was this: If (and only if) someone is willing to take the time and make the effort to carefully establish and then control a reduced or eliminated amount of magazine-loaded jump then, yes, it’s a fine idea! It’s also an idea that likely will result in the best accuracy. I’ve done it in one of my AR15 match rifles, and it’s the best shooting I’ve ever owned. The hitch is that the rifle becomes what I call a “one-trick pony.” It’s not always going to accept bullets and loaded round architectures that stray from the carefully calculated dimensions originally set down. It’s also not likely going to perform safely with every factory-loaded round out there, and you can forget (totally forget) ever firing a NATO-spec round.

There’s a whopping lot more to this whole topic, and we’ll look at the other end of the spectrum next time.

The reason that reduced amounts of bullet jump increase accuracy, in a perhaps overly simple but entirely correct way to understand it, is because there’s simply less potential for disruptive entry into and lands and then through the bore. There’s less misalignment opportunity, less jacket integrity disruption opportunity. There is a lot more that can be discussed in finer points, of course…

The preceding was adapted from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available here at Midsouth. For more information on this book, and others, plus articles and information for download, visit

SKILLS: Riflescopes: All About Reticles


This is the second in a series on optic basics, and it covers the most visible component of a scope: the reticle. Read on…

by NRA Staff

basic riflescope reticle

The riflescope’s reticle is the visible reference used as an aiming point to align the gun with the target. There are many reticle patterns ranging from simple to complex. The most popular remains the general-purpose crosshair. However, even the simple crosshair offers choices, such as tapered, ultra thin, duplex, mil-dot, ballistic compensating, range-finding, center dot, center ring and post, just to name a few. Each configuration is intended for a specific type of use and there are multiple versions of all. For example, tapered crosshairs are a popular choice for varmint hunting and duplex crosshairs are a common choice for big-game hunting. There seems to be no limit to the new reticle designs being offered, and most makers offer at least six or more types. Your best bet is to try out several at a local gun store, then consult with experienced shooters or hunters before making a final selection.

Reticles may be illuminated electronically, with tritium or with fiber optics to enhance their contrast against dark backgrounds; this is helpful especially at dusk or dawn or during heavy overcast conditions. Illumination remains an expensive option that may not work well in very cold conditions and has limited usefulness. Still, it has proven a popular addition to many scopes.

reticle choices

The reticle itself may be located inside the scope at the first, or front, focal plane or the second, or rear focal plane. The location is an issue only in variable-power scopes. Reticles located in the first focal plane in a variable-power scope will increase or decrease in size as the magnification is changed while those located in the second focal plane do not change size when the power is adjusted. For this reason, the latter location has become the most popular.

One situation in which a front-focal-plane reticle is clearly advantageous is in scopes with a mil-dot ranging system. This type of reticle employs dots spaced one milliradian apart on the crosshair. (A milliradian is the angle subtended by 3 feet at 1,000 yards.) An object of known size is bracketed between the dots, and a table is used to determine the range based on the number of dots the object measures. With a rear-focal-plane reticle variable, the mil-dot system is only accurate at one power setting. A front-focal-plane location maintains the same relationship to the target throughout the range of magnification, thus enabling mil-dots to be used accurately at any power.

A second benefit of placement in front of the variable-magnification lens system is that the reticle remains unaffected by tolerances or misalignment of the erector tube during power changes. With a rear-focal-plane location, these tolerances may shift point of impact as the power level changes.

In the past, many scope reticles were not constantly centered, meaning they moved off to the side when windage or elevation adjustments were made. Many shooters found this annoying. Today, nearly all riflescopes have constantly centered reticles that do not change position when adjustments are made.

Crosshairs or other reticle patterns are created by laser etching on optical glass or by ultra-thin platinum wires. Some early scope reticles used strands of hair, hence the name “crosshairs.” Others used spider silk…interestingly enough, the silk of the black widow spider, which has a better tensile strength than other types of spider silk.

David Tubb DTR Reticle
David Tubb’s DTR design takes a reticle about as far as it can go, offering built-in aiming dot compensation choices to even account for density altitude.

SKILLS: Optics ABCs: What All Those Terms Mean


When it comes to optics for firearms, the specific terms that people use to describe them can be confusing. Here’s what all that argot actually means…in alphabetical order, no less.


rifleman with scope

The ability of an optical system to distinguish clearly and crisply between areas of light and dark is called contrast. For shooting purposes, always select the riflescope with the highest contrast.

Exit Pupil
Exit pupil is the diameter, in millimeters, of the beam of focused light transmitted by the ocular lens. The exit pupil can be calculated by dividing the diameter of the objective lens by the power, or magnification, of the scope. An exit pupil of about 5mm or larger in diameter is preferable. A large exit pupil provides a brighter image with greater contrast and a wide field of view for easy target acquisition. Exit pupils smaller than 5mm in diameter offer darker images with lower contrast and progressively narrower fields of view.

Eye Relief
Eye relief is the distance of the eye from the ocular lens when the image fully fills the lens and is not vignetted. Normally, eye relief figures are given as a distance range, for example 3.2 to 3.8 inches, due to differences in individual visual acuity. On a variable-power scope, eye relief typically changes with scope power. Too little eye relief is undesirable, particularly on a scope mounted on a hard-kicking magnum rifle, where it may contribute to a “scope bite” on the eyebrow. For this reason, most centerfire riflescopes have a minimum eye relief of 3 to 4 inches. A riflescope with an eye relief of less than 3 inches should only be used on a small-caliber rifle with low recoil.

Most riflescopes and shotgun scopes are designed to be mounted on the receiver, close to the eye, and thus have relatively short eye relief. Scopes to be mounted on handguns and on the barrels of long guns are classed as long eye relief (LER) or extended eye relief (EER) scopes. Some models provide as much as 18 to 20 inches of eye relief, enabling scope use on a handgun extended at arm’s length. Other models may offer an eye relief of 12 inches or less for scope mounting on a scout rifle. Note that the higher the magnification, the shorter the eye relief of such scopes.

Field of View
Field of view is the width of the area that can be seen in the image at a given distance. Normally, field of view is expressed as the number of feet in the image at 1,000 yards, for example 322 feet at 1,000 yards. Field of view decreases dramatically with increasing magnification. A narrow field of view makes it difficult to find the target and then to hold it in the image. For this reason, a wide field of view may be more important than high scope magnification.

When looking through a scope with a 100-foot field of view at 1,000 yards, a 100-foot-wide object viewed at that distance will just fill the visual field.

Focal Plane
The focal plane is the plane or distance from the objective lens at which light rays from an object converge to form a focused image inside the main tube. Objects in the same focal plane appear to the eye to be at the same distance, and therefore can be seen with equal clarity without the need to refocus the eye. One of the advantages of optical sights is that the target and the reticle are in the same focal plane. This eliminates trying to focus on both iron sights and the target at the same time. This is why riflescopes are so popular with shooters who have less-than-perfect eyesight.

There are two focal planes in a typical riflescope: The first behind the objective lens, and the second behind the erector lens set.

See the huge selection of riflescopes available here at Midsouth HERE