RIFLESCOPES BUILD TO REACH OUT
Precision shooting at long range distances is a demanding task which requires the very best equipment. Dedicated long range riflescopes are made to perform in the most extreme settings on the shooting range, out in the field or on a mission.
All dedicated longe range riflescopes share a lot of the same characteristics. They have a large magnification range of which 5-25x is an industry standard, although higher magnifications are not an exception. They all offer the possibility of wide adjustment ranges for windage and elevation, and can also adjust for parallax. What’s more, with many of these scopes you can choose to have the reticles in the first or second focal plane. Most regular hunting/target scopes lack these characteristics and make long range rifle scopes into highly specialized precision instruments.
Obviously, the farther you want to shoot, the more magnification you need. It doesn’t make sense shooting at a target you can’t even properly see. A sensible minimum is a higher-powered scope with a maximum zoom of at least 18x, as in 6-18x. As said magnifications such as 6-24x and 5-25x have become something of an industry standard although magnifications of 3-27x, 6-30X and even 5-45x are not uncommon at all. The lower magnification in a 3-27x scope still offers enough field-of-view to use the scope for observation purposes while the magnification can still be cranked up sufficiently for long range precision requirements.
Focal plane looks at the location of the reticle compared to the zoom mechanism of the scope. If the reticle is in the first focal plane, then the reticle itself will zoom in and out together with the image in your scope. This means that the markers on the reticle get larger and smaller depending on your zoom setting. Scopes with the reticle in the second focal plane, behind the zoom mechanism, don’t have the markers zoom in and out. They are always in the same position. Second focal plane scopes are standard issue for most regular hunting and target scopes. The advantage of the reticle not zooming in together with the image is that, on maximum zoom setting, it will not obscure the target as much as a reticle in the first focal plane will.
On the other hand, having the reticle in the first focal plane, increasing or decreasing in size with the magnification, means that your zero and the ranging capabilities of a ballistic reticle (such as Mil Dot or any BDC-style reticle) will remain consistent at any magnification. With a reticle in the second focal plane, the distance between the markers on the reticle is only correct for one specific zoom setting or you will have to do some quick math to calculate the adjustment. This can make shooting at longer ranges using a second focal plane scope a challenge, yet it is up to the shooter to decide what suits him/her best.
Long range riflescopes tend to have specific reticles that seem to be far more complicated than average crosshairs. They often come with evenly spaced dots or markings on both the horizontal and vertical axis. The Mil Dot reticle is an industry standard. It is a really versatile and intuitive reticle that allows to easily adjust for windage and elevation. It even helps to approximate the range of targets. In addition to the many standard reticles available, many riflescope manufacturers have developed proprietary reticle styles for long range shooting.
Parallax describes a situation where the focal plane of the target in your riflescope is offset from the reticle. It’s actually an optical illusion that can really throw off your shot, especially at long ranges, and needs to be corrected. By correcting parallax, you move the planes at which these two objects are in focus so that they share the same plane. When looking through a scope, you identify parallax by adjusting your gaze slightly. If the reticle changes position on the target when you shift your gaze, your parallax is not properly compensated for that range. Properly adjusted, the reticle appears to be locked in place onto the target so that the reticle position never changes relative to the target.
As an industry standard, regular hunting scopes come adjusted for parallax at a distance of 100 meters, covering most standard hunting situations. In riflescopes used to shoot over long distances you simply have to compensate for parallax. This is why long range riflescopes usually come equipped with a side-mounted turret, or an adjustment ring located on the objective bell.
WINDAGE AND ELEVATION
Windage and elevation are two vital parameters when considering riflescopes for long range shooting. These two parameters define the total elevation (up, down) and total windage (right, left) travel that a riflescope offers. With windage adjustment, you compensate for wind drift of the bullet from a straight trajectory. The elevation is how much up and down you can adjust a reticle. The longer the distance of your shot, the higher the range of the elevation adjustment has to be.
Both windage and elevation can be measured in Milliradians (mil/mrad), Minute of Angle (MOA) and cm/100m:
- In riflescopes, 0,1 Milliradian (mil)per click is the most common mil based adjustment value. A common rule of thumb is that an adjustment of 0,1 mil changes the impact as many centimeters as there are hundreds of meters. For example 1 cm at 100 meters, 2 cm at 200 meters…
- Minute of Angle (MOA)is measured in inches and yards. One MOA represents 1 inch at 100 yards, 2 inches at 200 yards… Scope adjustments are most often made in 1/4 inch increments at 100 yards. Each "click" of an elevation or windage turret will move your point of impact 1/4 inch at 100 yards.
- Measuring windage and elevation in centimeters per 100 metersis very common in Europe. Mostly 1 adjustment/click is 1cm at 100 meters, 2cm at 200 meters… actually the same as 0,1 mil adjustments.
When corrections for windage and elevation need to be very small and precise, the adjustment values are in 1/8 MOA (3,5 mm at 100 m) or 0,05 mil (5 mm at 100 m).
Typically riflescopes with a larger main tube, 34mm, 36mm... allow for a larger range of elevation adjustment compared to standard 1 inch or 30mm tubes, so always consider taking a scope with a larger tube diameter for this reason.
The best long range scopes used for hunting or target shooting are often the same scopes used by military and law enforcement operators. Entry to mid-level scopes might not have been battle proven but they share the same characteristics, making long range shooting a challenging sport available to any budget.