How Rifle Scopes Work

Article Posted: November 1, 2012

Rifle Scope

Scopes are arguably one of the most instrumental advances in modern weaponry we have at our fingertips other than bullet-grain capacity, range and velocity. Of course, let's not forget that iron sights have been around since the early days of firearms, but to have the capability of precision magnification and laser-dot technology that has arrived with the advent of these newer scopes has made accuracy a near-intuitive experience. But let's say you are new to the field of hunting or ballistics, what do you need to know about scopes to help get you consistently hitting near the bulls eye with increased accuracy?

Let's take a look at a few, must know functions of the basic rifle scope.

  • Optics: Inside the scope are a complex set of mechanisms; namely lenses, magnification rings and adjustment dials. Nearest the shooter's eyes are the ocular lens which sits in the eye piece, traveling towards the middle of the scope is the power ring, elevation adjustment (which adjusts for horizontal) windage adjustment (adjusts for vertical alignment) the windage bell and the objective lens, the lens furthest away from the eye. How optics work is that light passes through the objective lens, focusing on a point inside the scope. This is where the ocular lens (nearest your eye) magnifies this light forming the image that the lens is focused upon. Your windage and elevation adjusters will bring the image in top/bottom or right/left where you can view the image in the reticle or crosshairs. When you center that image in the middle of the crosshairs this will show the shooter where the bullet is intended to strike.
  • Parallax: Parallax is a phenomenon that occurs when you have your sights changed based upon your head's lateral position; that is your target has shifted without touching your scopes position. Most rifle companies that sell high-power scopes will come with parallax adjustment so that the shooter will not have to compensate for the error caused by this optical illusion. Parallax is much more apparent the further your distance, something a novice long range shooter should take into account.
  • Non-magnification scopes: When people think of scopes, one of the first thoughts is magnification, which of course, many scopes do indeed have. However, with today's modern technology there are other options that can help improve your accuracy, this is where a red dot scope could come in handy. Without the use of magnification, the LED light shows up in the center of the lens to provide the shooter an exact location of the bullet's intended target. This is not seen by anyone other than the shooter, as it is restricted to the inside of the scope. Virtually parallax-free, this would be a good scope for use by target shooters or those in law enforcement.
  • Scopes have no doubt, helped improve the average hunter or law enforcement officer with its powerful magnification capabilities and dot-sight accuracy. However, no matter the cost, power and increased technological capacities, you will never improve your accuracy unless you get out and consistently practice. With a basic understanding of optics, you can choose the scope that best fits your use of that newer firearm. Whether for hunting or marksmanship, a quality scope can make all the difference.

    Travis Brenson is an avid hunter and marksman who enjoys the big Texas outdoors and appreciates a good venison steak. When he's not in his deer stand he's working for, home of the best deals on scopes.

    Contributing Author: Travis Brenson

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