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Magnification - How high is too high?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/23/2012 at 15:02
Marine24 View Drop Down
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I'm curious if there is a general rule of thumb for the top end of your magnification based on distance and type of target.
 
I'm looking to upgrade the scope I currently have on an LR-308 (AR-10) rifle.  It has a 18" 1:10 twist barrel and I will typically shoot 168 to 177gr Sierra and Berger bullets.  I prefer the higher bullet weight/BC for long range performance.
 
Targets will typically be deer size game or 12x12 metal plates out to 800 meters, but also need the ability to fire precision shots for load development at 100 and 200 yards.  Prefer a variable for the wider FOV at the low end for the occasional quick shots on moving targets
 
My current scope is a 2.4-10x44 Nikon Monarch X with a Nikoplex reticle.  It is a good scope, but prefer a scope that has a ranging capability with the reticle (batteries don't always work in my laser range finder), illuminated reticle and FFP.
 
With the higher magnification, I understand the implications on FOV, mirage above 14x and loss optical clarity in some scopes.
 
Is 10X a reasonable high-end for magnification for 800 meters or am I on the ragged edge at that range?
 
How does individual vision factor in to this?  I've noticed that 10X is acceptable at 100 meters when I'm working up a load and not so much at 200 meters.  Not sure if this is my older eyes or the optical quality of the glass or both.
 
I read Ilya's article on mid-range tactical scopes with a great deal of interest and not surprised by his conclusions on the Nikon Tactical.  Found it interesting that the high end for two of the four scopes was 10X, but both didn't fair as well as the two 3-9x scopes.  Expect that was due to the quality of the glass.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/23/2012 at 15:26
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Each person is going to have an opinion, but for me, 10x-15x are by far where my scope lives the most. I do get above and below those settings, but for most of my shooting that's where the sweet spot for me.

Interestingly, I usually shoot with more mag at closer ranges. Usually while confirming zero, or at small paper targets at 100-200 yards. By far most of my shooting is out in the desert/woods of AZ. This past Saturday was the first time I had been to a square range since I got out of the Marines back in 93, and that was to shoot a match with these guys, http://www.lrprs.com/jsite/

 It is also my opinion that glass quality trumps magnification.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/23/2012 at 15:27
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Books have been written on less. Multi-volume books!

First, 800 yards is the near-edge of long range.  I have shot to/beyond 1000 yards with 10X and had no real problem, though I wasn't shooting for smallest possible groups.

Next, there are multiple schools of thought, but I belong to the 'better glass, less magnification" group.  Unless the budget is around $3,000, I'd look to something in the 15x max magnification range.

Individual vision doesn't factor in, it is "the" singular issue.

Buy the best glass you can afford, and don't overdo it with magnification.

Most 20X optics have very unforgiving eye relief and head position.  I have used many high power, high end scopes and can say without question that I shoot best, at any common range, with a max power of 12X-15X. Any more magnification and I begin to focus on the image issues rather than the shot.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/23/2012 at 16:31
Marine24 View Drop Down
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Square range brings back fond memories for me as well, particularly when someone is pulling butts for you.

Mag range recommendation around 15X is consistent with what I have on most of my rifles.  Majority of them are topped with a Nikon Monarch 4-16x42 but these are hunting rifles.  The one odd ball is a Zeiss Conquest 4.5-14x44, but there is a marked difference when compared to the Monarchs.  With the Monarchs I'm comfortable with ranges out to 500 meters but am confident taking the Zeiss out to 800.
 
Rancid:  Point noted on best glass and not overdoing magnification.  Appears I've been compensating for less quality glass with magnification, same way I need higher mag reading glasses from the Dollar store compared to more expensive glasses from Lenscrafter's.
 
Better glass opens some interesting possibilities.  Maybe a 2.5-10X or 3-9x scope is enough if the glass quality is right.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/23/2012 at 17:22
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I think for typical big game hunting distances a good quality 3-9xish scope is near perfect.  Obviously different applications and changes things a bit. 

For a .308 target/tactical style rifle a 3-15x, 4-16xish is about perfect.  I have a SS 5-20x on my .308, but I seldom go over 15x.  Most of the time I run it between 10x and 14x. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/23/2012 at 18:02
Marine24 View Drop Down
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Originally posted by supertool73 supertool73 wrote:

For a .308 target/tactical style rifle a 3-15x, 4-16xish is about perfect.  I have a SS 5-20x on my .308, but I seldom go over 15x.  Most of the time I run it between 10x and 14x. 
 
I like the 5-20X as well, but might overwhelm my LR-308 given its size and weight.  Having the extra magnification would be a plus but would prefer a lower end magnification range.
 
Your .308 a bolt rifle or AR? 
 
The SS 5-20X may be a good option for my .308 Rem 700 and start the process of replacing my Monarch's with better glass.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/23/2012 at 22:33
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Big difference between an "all around " hunting scope and one that will just be used for long range shooting on the square range or beanfield shooting.
If you have to hunt in typical terrain, then a scope with lower power widefield is handy, say a 1.5-6, 2.5-8 or a 2.5-10 would be the best.
Longer ranges in open terrain or on the square range might require more power on the top end.
I have seen many people unable to take a shot close in and lose an animal because their scope did not have enough of a field of view, conversely I really haven't heard of to many not taking a doable shot at long range because of lack of magnification.
Good glass counts for more than pure magnification power, our warriors in Iraq and Afganistan did not seem to have problems getting hits out to 600+ meters using S&B 1-4's.
The quality of the shooter counts more than the magnification of the scope.
Many today try to substitute equipment for skill, it usually doesn't work.
Art
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/23/2012 at 23:11
Marine24 View Drop Down
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True.  Environment and game will dictate the ideal optics.  In some cases, the EOtech, Aimpoint or even iron sights was the best solution, or in many instances the only option available.  ACOGs were a nice addition when longer ranges were encountered, but never enough to go around.
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/23/2012 at 23:25
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I really prefer the 4-16,  4.5-14, range but will slip comfortably into a 5-20 over 20x I seem to have no use for.  I have had several fixed 10x scopes and find it is OK but in a fixed power if it will see any use at all under 100 yds I want no more than a fixed 6x.  Once we are talking distances past 200 yds I really would rather be at 14x to 16x because you have to have a solid rest anyway. I find that 20x in a fixed power is too dim in low light for my taste but I did recently order a 16x SS MQ to play with.   While it is quite true that better glass beats more magnification it is also true that one does not absolutely have to have the best glass to kill large game. Some people (me included) truely enjoy having a higher quality image but having said that I will also say that I would be quite comfortable taking one of the $299. Super Sniper scopes into combat especially the fixed 6x because it will handle the distances the current ammo is capable of.  So there is not simply only one right choice because distance to target is unpredictable in advance.  The Zeiss Conquest scopes do represent very good value in quality of glass for the cost.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/23/2012 at 23:39
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Ive run several different optics and mounts on my .308   SS10x rear focus version and later the side focus version and for a while I had a 10x HD and now I have the Super Sniper 5-20x50 illuminated optic which is by far the best. I have gone from an Armalite one piece mount to Badger Ordnance Max 50 which is too heavy for words to now using a La Rue one piece mount. Over time a number of modifications have been made to the rifle including reworkind the upper at White Oak Armory. These are fine rifles but they are a big clunky beast compared to my nice little Tikka. 
 
Try shooting the 190 SMK it is significantly better at long range. Devil
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/24/2012 at 01:46
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Scope magnification used to be a bigger deal than it is now since quite a few scopes with high erector ratios are making their way over to somewhat reasonable price ranges.

I do not mind a little more top end magnification is I do not have to sacrifice low end field of view in the process.

For an AR-10 with long(ish) range aspiration, I would think that something along the lines of 3-15x50 or 3-18x42 or 3-12x44 or 4-16x50 or something along those lines would be pretty much optimal.

In practical terms there isn't a whole lot of difference between 15x and 18x unless your targets get very small and I find that I seldom dial my scopes that high unless I am doing load development.

ILya


Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/24/2012 at 05:27
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Marine24,
The medium powered scopes mentioned above by Ilya and others are very adequate for 800 meters.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/24/2012 at 06:59
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Appreciate the rudder gents.  I'll focus on the 15-18X range.
 
What other scopes would you say are comparable to the glass/quality in the SS 5-20x scope?  Working on a short list of possible scopes.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/24/2012 at 09:08
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What is your budget?

My AR10 wears a Premier LT 3-15 and it is about perfect: great for hunting, great for close up, great for Whiskey Foxtrot Oscar Tango.

SS is a safe bet, Nightforce makes great stuff with comparable glass.  IOR's glass is quite good, but their service is spotty, they are kinda the AT&T wireless of the optics world.

I don't like encouraging people to over-spend, but the Premier LTs are damn fine optics.

I recently handled one of the new Bushnell 3.1-21 optics, the jury is still out but it had some nice features.  For the price, it might be worth taking a look.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/24/2012 at 10:11
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Price point would be around $12-1800.
 
This puts me outside of the Premier's price point for a new scope but have my eye on the one listed on the Sample List.  Reduced weight is a big plus.
 
Despite the 5x low end, the SS 5-20x is still in the running based on the reviews on this forum, particularly if the glass quality is in line with Nightforce.
 
I've owned a Nightforce NXS previously.  I was very happy with the glass but looking for a FFP scope.  Moving up in to the F1 line will push me beyond my budget.
 
Bushnell's 3.1-21x is also on my short list.  Saw one on the for sale forum, plus the price point for a new one is toward the lower end of my budget (which I'll just spend on a 34mm mount).  Low end is where I like it but comes with a 21x top end.  Down side is lack of illumination, which can be a factor in the mountains of Colorado.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/31/2012 at 12:03
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marine24,
decide on a scope yet? when  i shoot long range my 6-24x usually is set to around 16x. when i target shoot for 100y i need at least a 12x to feel like im shooting precise.
from what ive read on here the SS 5-20x would serve you well. i wouldnt mind trying one or at least looking though one.
my next one to try out is the Vortex Viper PST 4-16. it has the features your looking for.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/31/2012 at 12:32
Marine24 View Drop Down
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7wsm:  Not yet.  Got a line on a couple of IOR tactical scopes that I started a new thread on.
 
The SS 5-20x was on my short  list but really looking for something with a 3x low end.  A used Premier Light Tactical or Bushnell's new 3.5-20x are also ones I'm considering.
 
I thought hard about the PST, but low end is a little higher than I would like plus, based on comments on this forum, there is a major jump in optics quality when you start comparing the PST to IOR, Premiers...etc.  Not exactly a fair comparison.
 
Hard to argue with the price of the PST though.


Edited by Marine24 - July/31/2012 at 13:37
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/31/2012 at 13:06
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I'll throw in another vote for the Premier LT. It is a scope with the right mag range and great glass. The weight isn't bad either. It's the only scope I'm running now other than a 4X on my .22 trainer. (That's getting replaced by an SS 1-6).
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