ARE YOU KEEPING YOUR SCOPE HONEST?
To borrow Ross Seyfried's words, an honest rifle scope is a rare bird in the optical world.
What does "honest" mean? Let's begin with what a scope is: It's an aiming device. Scopes aren't for finding game. They aren't for judging game. They are for putting bullets where bullets are supposed to go. Clarity, fancy reticles, eye relief, and the like are all worthless if the scope doesn't hold a zero and appropriately respond to adjustment.
Hunters are taking longer shots these days. And we increasingly rely on the mechanical integrity of scopes. When we use an elevation turret to account for 20 inches of bullet drop, we need the scope to respond with movement proportionate to that adjustment. The scope is garbage if its adjustments aren't true. That is why we test scopes.
First, ensure the rifle and load are accurate by making the scope the only variable. Then test the scope on the range. Exercises such as "shooting the box" help us ensure that x number of clicks represent x amount of adjustment.
From a steady rest, fire one round at a 100-yard target. Adjust the scope 12 clicks right and fire another round. Next, adjust it 12 clicks down and fire a third shot. Then, adjust it 12 clicks left and fire a final round. Finish by adjusting it 12 clicks up to zero it back in. These four rounds should make a perfect square. The distance between each shot should correspond with the value of the adjustments: A scope with ¼ MOA clicks, 12 clicks should place each shot three inches apart.
We're more likely to dial for elevation than windage in the field. So, how a scope tracks on the vertical plane concerns me most. To test this, place a fresh target at 100 yards. Fire a round. Dial enough elevation into the scope for a 500-yard shot. Fire another round. The two shots should be aligned vertically. If not, either the reticle is canted due to improper mounting, or the scope is a dud. Crank the scope back down to the 100-yard zero and fire another shot. If it hits near the first shot, breathe a sigh of relief.
There are many good scopes out there, but NightForce seems to produce the most honest scopes...for now. They are expensive. So are most of the hunts many of us go on, though. I've used two scopes in NightForce's lower-priced SHV line. They seem to share some of the great tracking attributes of the more expensive NXS lineup.
Is your scope honest? Find out now. Don't let it lie to you in the field.