THE STATE OF OPTICS
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.