THE STATE OF OP­TICS

Outdoor Life - - GEAR -

You could look at the lineup of ri­fle­scopes in this year’s test and draw two con­clu­sions. First, there’s lit­tle for the av­er­age deer hunter who won’t shoot much be­yond 100 yards. Sec­ond, the op­tics in­dus­try is pro­mot­ing un­eth­i­cal hunting be­hav­ior by ped­dling scopes—some with elec­tronic brains—that fa­cil­i­tate shoot­ing out to 1,000 yards and be­yond.

But here’s an­other way to look at this year’s crop of new op­tics: All the tech­nol­ogy in­side th­ese scopes can make you a bet­ter shot and a more eth­i­cal hunter at any range, as long as you know and obey the lim­i­ta­tions of your gear and rec­og­nize when it gives you an un­fair ad­van­tage over the an­i­mals you pur­sue.

Put an­other way, it’s the brain be­hind the scope—not the one in­side it—that con­trols and lim­its its use.

Con­sider the break­out ri­fle­scope in this year’s test. The prom­ise of the BDX is that it can re­li­ably place shots out to 800 yards. That might be a chip shot for a long-dis­tance pre­ci­sion tar­get shooter, but it’s un­jus­ti­fi­ably far for a hunter. Too much can go wrong in an 800-yard shot at an an­i­mal, from un­reck­oned wind drift along the tra­jec­tory to the length of time the bul­let is in flight, which is long enough that an an­i­mal can take a step or two from when the trig­ger is pulled to when the bul­let ar­rives.

But it’s also worth say­ing that hunting is a game of vari­ables, and some sit­u­a­tions call for hun­ters to shoot near the lim­its of their demon­strated range. Many of us de­cide not to shoot at an an­i­mal un­less we can guar­an­tee a lethal hit. But how many times have we used “Ken­tucky windage” to guess at the hold at a dis­tant an­i­mal? What the Sig (along with many of the scopes in this year’s test) can do is take the guess­work out of a longish shot. That’s not pro­mot­ing reck­less be­hav­ior; it’s us­ing tech­nol­ogy to pre­cisely place a bul­let and de­liver a quick kill.

What about the ne­glected 100yard deer hunter? Will he ever need a scope with 800-yard ca­pa­bil­ity? Maybe not. But the other sig­nif­i­cant trend in op­tics is the nor­mal­iza­tion of the all-around ri­fle­scope. The wide va­ri­ety in our ver­sa­tile ri­fle­scope cat­e­gory at­tests to the value of a sin­gle scope to han­dle all shoot­ing sit­u­a­tions—from sum­mer­time varmints and tree­stand deer hunting to off-sea­son tar­get shoot­ing. That ap­proach doesn’t ex­clude any seg­ment of our com­mu­nity. In­stead, you might de­scribe it as the best ex­pres­sion of in­clu­sion.

If there’s an un­sus­tain­able trend, it’s price. The av­er­age for a scope in our ver­sa­tile cat­e­gory is $1,100. It’s $1,900 for the pre­ci­sion class. That’s a steep climb, whether you’re a Midwest deer hunter or a tar­get shooter.

Large, ex­posed tur­rets are stan­dard in this year’s field of ri­fle­scopes.

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