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SCOPES FOR HARD-KICKING RIFLES

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/03/2009 at 10:12
John Barsness View Drop Down
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This is the sixth in a series of articles written for Opticstalk.com by John Barsness (www.riflesandrecipes.com).

 

            Unfortunately, there’s no way to know beforehand which individual scopes will take repeated hard recoil.  When buying most scopes we essentially place a bet on the manufacturer’s track record. Since very few of us can buy several of every scope made, mount each one on a .375 H&H, and then shoot the .375 long enough to “prove” the scope, we have to rely on the experiences of others.

            Even then the process can get tricky. Obviously we can’t just ask shooters at random what scopes have held up for them. We might ask the question on a forum like Opticstalk.com, but even that risks the possibility of bias, because unhappy people tend to respond to such questions more often than happy people. (There’s also the slight possibility that somebody is getting paid to promote a certain scope. This might startle the friendly users of OT, but it’s becoming a widespread practice on Internet chat rooms.)

            A couple of other sources might be gunsmiths and sporting goods stores. Unfortunately both can also be biased. I know several custom riflesmiths, some semi-famous, and a few years ago called all of them and asked what scopes they recommend for hard-kicking rifles. The top two brands turned out to be Leupold and Swarovski, with Leupold the front-runner by a little bit. But this didn’t mean nearly as much as it might, because Leupold and Swarovski are by far the most common brands mounted on custom rifles. That in itself might indicate something, though I suspect it’s mostly a result of peer pressure. But the fact remains that very few people who buy a custom rifle use other brands of scope, so my “survey” gathered almost no data on manufacturers such as Burris, Bushnell, Nikon, Schmidt & Bender, etc.

            The same principle applies to sporting goods stores. Most only carry a limited number of brands. Sometimes this is because they’ve found these to be reliable, but sometimes it’s because a scope company allows a greater mark-up from wholesale.

            A local store in my part of Montana only carries four brands of scope. One is a very “affordable” line, for customers who don’t want to spend much money. The manufacturers of the other three lines all make scopes that range in price from $200 to well over $1000, but the store only carries scopes costing $200 to $300 from two of those three manufacturers. They’ve found their customers are only willing to spend $500 and up on one particular brand of scope.

            So the answer to obtaining information on what brands of scope hold up under heavy recoil is get it anywhere you can. Some sort of consensus may emerge.

            My own experience is that spending more money won’t necessarily buy ruggedness. The exception is with really expensive scopes, the heavy-duty “super-tactical” type scopes made by companies like Nightforce and Schmidt & Bender. (I make the differentiation of super-tactical because just about every company makes a “tactical” scope these days, some selling in bubble-packs.) But even those scopes are made by humans. One of my riflesmith buddies makes a lot of big rifles for African hunting. His rifles have broken both Schmidt & Bender and Nightforce scopes.

            Such scopes are really tough, though, because they are what might be called “over-built,” with heavier tubes and stouter parts than the average hunting scope. Consequently they tend to be pretty heavy, which makes them tougher to keep attached to, say, a .458 Lott.

            There are also definite levels of heavy recoil. I tend to define heavy recoil as starting with the various .300 magnums, for a couple of reasons. First, this is where a significant number of shooters start having trouble with flinching. Of course this doesn’t apply to you or me, but still it’s there. My old friend Finn Aagaard, who served as a professional hunter in Kenya before hunting was banned there in 1977, and then as a guide in Texas until his death a few years ago, observed that about a third of the hunters he guided couldn’t shoot a .300 magnum well enough to consistently kill big game cleanly. From my own experience as a guide and general observer, I agree.

            Second, .300 magnum recoil is what starts separating tough scopes from average scopes. A lot of scopes will hold up just fine on a 7mm magnum or a .30-06, but .300’s will break a much higher percentage of scopes.

            I don’t think the recoil of a .338  

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/03/2009 at 10:26
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 I tried hard, but couldn't really find anything to fault in that article, John!
 Another good read.
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/03/2009 at 10:42
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I'm glad you mentioned the Weaver mounts. I used standard Weaver mounts on my .375 H&H for years before I switched to Talley QD's. They have a large surface area and when both cross bolts are seated against the front of the base, do not move. They even re-zero decently.
I have three scopes I absolutely trust on any of my guns. A 4X Burris FF, a B&L 4X Balfor and a 1.5-5 Leupold. My heaviest kicker is the .375 and all three of them have seen duty on it.  My M700 feels like it kicks more than all of the .300's I've shot, so I trust these scopes on anything less.
Thanks for the fine article John.

Doug
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/03/2009 at 11:48
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  A  Thunbs Up  Thunbs Up's up article!!!
 
  I feel for the scope manufacturers.  Their designs have come a long ways in all respects over the years but the trend to lighter weight rifles and/or higher velocity cartridges have negated the advances to a degree.  Just think how long a modern scope would last on the std. rifles used say 50yrs ago(an 8 1/2 to 9lb. .30-06).
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/03/2009 at 14:47
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  A great article JB!I just got back from the range,I choose to take my Burris 4x ff off my T/C 460mag Katana to try out my new Bushnell 6500 elite.Now I know my 460 doesn't kick like a Lott but it does make my Rem 700 5r mil spec 308 feel like a .22.I've put over 1K rounds through the cheap Burris [cost $250]& never had a problem,now after only 9 rounds through the 6500...no more parralex,the knob just turns & turns [cost $725]You hit the nail on the head...Back to the small 9" fix scope & by by to the elite after I send it back for repair.
  Wish I would have read your article last night.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/03/2009 at 19:16
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Ha.  I still buy those eight pound rifles.    Bucky    

 

                             Weight Lifter

 

 

 

                                 Laugh

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/03/2009 at 20:22
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Mr. Barsness, Thank you for the excellent and informative article.  It is gratifying to have personal experience validated by one with your experience, but it is more important to have an honest assessment based upon years of experience with a wide variety of rifle scopes.  Just FYI, I phoned one of the "major" highly recommended and used scope manufacturers about a low power variable for my Lott right after purchasing it.  The rep said "we don't recommend ANY variable we make for the .458 Lott."  I certainly appreciated their honesty because I was considering one of theirs.  Thank you again for this highly informative article.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/04/2009 at 06:27
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Great info, tks John
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/04/2009 at 06:40
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Reading John's stuff is how us "greenies" learn. Thank you.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/04/2009 at 09:21
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Adding extra ring is always a choice. I have it done on my contender handguns at least the ones over 35 rem in kick. Not to difficult to have done and really seems to help keep the scope in zero and working in harsh environments. I know have 3 setups with the 4 rings one in 35 rem in 14 inch pistol, One in 45-70 in 14 inch pistol and one in 7-30 water in 16 inch rifle. I think the setup on the 7-30 might be a bit much but I have had very good results with the others so I chose to keep doing it.
 
 
 
Not the best picture in the world but if you look close at the 35 rem barrel in the back you can see 4 rings holding on to the scope. the 223 barrel has just 2 in the b-square mount.
just have the local machine shop cut a couple of well placed extra slots in the mounts and attach extras. Then remember to lap the rings since the extra area of the rings needs to be
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/04/2009 at 10:07
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Thanks John!!  Excellent
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/05/2009 at 09:50
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interesting article..thanks ..just wish I had the $$$$ to big game hunt in Africa

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/05/2009 at 19:02
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John, your expertise is greatly appreciated.  For those of us who own those hard kickers, but have never had an opportunity to take them to Africa, your points are well taken.  My hardest kicker is a 375 RUM in a Remington BDL.  Purchased it at a really low price.  I know now why.  Light rifle with a heck of a kick.  With my loads, the recoil is calculated at 73 ft.lbs.  That is with a Leupold vx-III 2.5x8 scope.  Tremendous eye relief and has easily with stood the recoil thus far.  I have loaded 300 grain bullets.  The recoil is far less than my 458 Winchester in a 9 lb rifle with a 1.5x5 Leupold vx-III scope.  It was loaded with 300 and 350 grain bullets for black bear hunting in eastern nc.  I am a Weatherby collector and want a 416 and 460 and think I will mount fixed 4x or even less Leupold scopes on those.  Right now with the economy, I am waiting for the right time to purchase those rifles.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/05/2009 at 20:32
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Another good article, John.  Thanks!Thunbs Up
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/07/2009 at 14:34
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Thank you for another good article, a hard kicker takes the fun out of shooting quickly, not much fun at the range but great for big game.
I shot a 460 Weatherby once that was enough.
Duce Smile
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/07/2009 at 14:48
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Thanks for the article John. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/17/2009 at 18:40
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F.W.I.W. If I were to be dependant on a hard kicking rifle I'd rather have two $400 scopes with QD mounts than one $1000 scope, especially away from home. Ya' never know... I found myself waiting on customer service more than once last fall. I also tend to lose more scopes on hard kickers when I'm using a sled type rest. Not real sure why.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/17/2009 at 19:26
John Barsness View Drop Down
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I tend to agree with you on both counts--partly because more than once I've had a variable go belly-up on a hunt, and replaced it with a fixed-power backup that worked just fine.
 
I suspect the reason for the increased number of failures on a Lead Sled is because of he more sudden "stop" after recoil. (This is much like the old joke about a parachute not opening: It's not the fall that kills you, but the sudden stop at the end.) After all, the rifle still generates the same mount of recoil, it's just held tighter. This also the reason rifle stocks break sometimes in a heavy sled-type rest. And it's also the reason I rarely add weight to a Lead Sled. They tame a .416 or .458 just fine on their own....
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/17/2009 at 19:36
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i put a 25lb bag of shot on mine just to keep the sled from jumping. other than that they are a great tool!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/17/2009 at 19:45
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Originally posted by Duce Duce wrote:

Thank you for another good article, a hard kicker takes the fun out of shooting quickly, not much fun at the range but great for big game.
I shot a 460 Weatherby once that was enough.
Duce Smile
Unless... you love pain.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/25/2009 at 10:44
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I have a Model 70 in 300 Wby that has been giving me fits and I'm thinking the scope could be the problem. It originally shot horizontal groups around 1 3/4" to 2 " which I figured was a bedding issue. After completely bedding a platsic stock and that didn't work, I installed a new laminated stock and completely bedded it. Still no cigar, I've screwed with this rifle till I'm blue in the face. As I think back, it had Leupolds on it at first and I went to other brands since while trying to improve this beast, but it has now gone to vertical stringing 3 inch groups with all loads. This gun kicks lick real bastage so maybe these variables are coming apart! If I find it is the scope I may just put on a good 6 power that really has good glass and is known for taking punishment. How bout the new FX-3?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/25/2009 at 12:08
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  This oughta work:
 
  
  Can't try one of your old tried and true Leupolds to test out your rifle?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/25/2009 at 12:37
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I'm going to send off one of the Leo's for a refurbish as it has the friction adjustments and they are loose enough to turn without a coin. (was on my 340 Wby and shot well). I have a brand new 4200 I'll put on it to see. If it is the scope I will lose my faith in the brand I have on it! I will not bash the scope at all without real proof! If it is bad this will be the second of this brand to kick my azz and will be the last! (not a Bushnell). How could the Vari-X-II stand up to the 340 though, but it did and shot great groups! Most of the time I am hunting my scope is on 6 and stays there, I was just thinking the new Leupold fx-3 might be really clear and solid. The only thing I don't know is if it would be enough light early or late in the day as that's where I tuned the variables down.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/25/2009 at 13:05
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  I've read nothing but positive posts on Leupold 6x42's of all models.  Alot of guys have gone to it as an all-around scope with no mention of short comings.  Hopefully some will post for us.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/25/2009 at 13:50
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Why, why, why do Leupold offer the 4x33 with Duplex/Wide Duplex only......Roll Eyes
 
If this scope could be had with eighter a Heavy Duplex, or better still, a German #4, I would put one on top of my  375 Ruger tomorrow!
 
As many have mentioned, the low mag fixed scopes are great on heavy rifles.
But alas, so few to pick from, and if I find one like the Leupold 4x33, only the flimsy Duplex is available.
 
Stalking dense cover with dark shadows, shooting distances under 150 meters and perhaps moving game, a more bold reticle always give the edge compared to the thin Duplex imo.
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