The editor explains the meaning of all the numbers inscribed upon a scope
Just what do all those numbers mean? The editor tells all
Rifle scopes are usually described with numbers, which is all well and good when you understand, but hopeless when you’re new to the sport. There are two main types of description:
The first looks like 4 x 40, or 10 x 50, which tells us that these are fixed magnification models. The first number tells us the magnification and the second number is the size of the objective (front) lens in millimetres. These used to be very popular, but today have become less common.
The second type might read 3- 9 x 40, or 4-12 x 50, and the same rule applies except these scopes have variable magnification, or what’s sometimes called ‘zoom’. these are fine virtues. Fixed mag’ scopes can also be lighter and more compact. They used to be more reliable than variable scopes, but that’s not such a big issue today. All optical devices have improved massively over time and old problems, like the lenses fogging up, have all but disappeared on highquality optics.
Now we understand what the numbers mean, how do we choose a model to suit our needs? I think it’s fair to say that today, most people choose variable mag’ scopes for their versatility and ability to be adapted to suit almost any situation. For the hunter, the 4-12
“might read 3-9 x 40, or 4-12 x 50, and the same rule applies except these scopes have variable magnification”
So, the first one can be varied from 3x all the way up to 9x to suit the conditions in which you find yourself. The last number is the objective lens diameter in millimetres.
Fixed mag’ scopes are simple and less expensive than variable mag’ models, and for some people x 50 is a great all- rounder. Being able to drop the mag’ low makes for a bright image and a wide field of view, ideal for targeting rats and feral pigeons around the farmyard. Generally speaking, the higher the magnification, the darker the image and the narrower the field of view. Turning magnification up allows for more precise shot placement on difficult targets, such as a pigeon’s head at 30 yards. The extra magnification allows us to see precisely where we need the pellet to land, and to place the shot right on the mark.
Bigger objective lenses are often touted as being able maximise the image brightness and that’s true, to a degree, but the quality of the lenses and their coatings play an even bigger part in that quest. It’s better to buy a medium- sized scope of high quality, than a huge scope with poor lenses. Quality counts when it comes to optics, so always buy the very best you can.
BELOW: The last number in 4-14 x 44 is the front lens diameter in millimetres
ABOVE: Scopes are described in numbers as we see here