SEA­SONAL SCOPES

Peter Yeats tells us why one scope just isn’t enough

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Pete Yeats adds to his scope col­lec­tion – has he found per­fec­tion?

Ev­ery is­sue of Air Gun­ner (and the sis­ter mag, Air­gun World) has me look­ing at new scopes, and like all equip­ment in our sport, they carry a built- in temp­ta­tion to up­grade. There are so many fea­tures to con­sider; tube size, ob­jec­tive size, lens coat­ing, fo­cus­ing, mag­ni­fi­ca­tion, and most im­por­tantly, the ret­i­cle. Por­ing over th­ese de­tails is al­ways en­joy­able – con­tem­plat­ing buy­ing new kit al­ways is.

This time, in­stead of just drool­ing over one set of spec­i­fi­ca­tions and then an­other, I asked my­self, ‘ Why do I want a new scope? What is it that I’m seek­ing?’ The sin­gle an­swer to th­ese ques­tions was, ‘An image so sharp and clear that I con­cen­trate only on the cor­rect place­ment of the ret­i­cle for a suc­cess­ful shot’.

I con­sid­ered my ex­ist­ing scopes and thought about what they of­fered, and how they met my needs – un­til I bought the next one.

UP­GRADES

My first scope, to top off a Cometa Fenix 400 .22 springer, was a 2.5-10 x 44 BSA, sport­ing a 30- 30 ( Du­plex) ret­i­cle. This was my first ‘proper’ air­gun out­fit and I thought it was sim­ply won­der­ful – I couldn’t en­vis­age any need for change. How­ever, the fixed fo­cus soon led me to re­alise that the best image would be achieved by ad­just­ing the front ob­jec­tive for sharp fo­cus be­tween about 18 yards and 35 yards. Ze­roed at 30 yards, it was clear and ef­fec­tive at hunt­ing ranges. Per­fect … or so I thought. Of course, hold over and windage cor­rec­tions were achieved by gues­ti­ma­tion, and that turned out to be the seed of my first up­grade. With a sub-12 ft.lbs .22, the curved tra­jec­tory meant quite a lot of vari­a­tion at dif­fer­ent dis­tances, both in holdover and windage, and I wanted some­thing a bit more pre­cise than this. En­ter the Nikko Ster­ling ( Game King 4-10 x 44). This scope pro­vided par­al­lax ad­just­ment at the front and a glass- etched, redil­lu­mi­nated, mil- dot ret­i­cle. The ex­cite­ment of an­tic­i­pated im­prove­ments in ac­cu­racy and con­sis­tency was al­most un­bear­able.

A quick down­load of Hawke Chair­gun soft­ware and I was able to make a range card that gave much more pre­cise aim­ing in­for­ma­tion. Shoot­ing at dawn and dusk was eas­ier, too, thanks to the grad­u­ated red il­lu­mi­na­tion of only the mil- dot cross hair of the ret­i­cle. Holdover ac­cu­racy over var­ied dis­tances soon picked up, too, al­though ac­cu­rate as­sess­ment of windage still seemed like black magic!

PRE­CI­SION

The next re­al­i­sa­tion was that, to make the most of the scope and soft­ware com­bi­na­tion, I needed clear and ac­cu­rate range in­for­ma­tion, so the next up­grade – not a new

scope – was a Hawke 600 Pro laser rangefinder. Wow! How had I coped all this time with­out one? The dif­fer­ence it made, and con­tin­ues to make, is fun­da­men­tal to get­ting the best out of scopes and my­self. Holdover be­came easy; pre­ci­sion over hunt­ing dis­tances, and even fur­ther at the shoot­ing range, seemed un­canny. Pel­lets ar­rived ex­actly as ex­pected – within the group­ing ac­cu­racy of my springer ri­fle.

Ev­ery­thing sorted, right? Well, er … yes – un­til fate lent a hand and the Cometa trig­ger broke just af­ter I’d bought a Ben­jamin Trail gas- ram, break- bar­rel!

This came with a Cen­terPoint 3- 9 x 40 AO scope and one- piece mount. I re­placed this with the afore­men­tioned Nikko Ster­ling scope and con­signed the Cometa to the ‘sort out at a later date’ area of my loft.

How­ever, and this is the nub of my scope prob­lem, even though it’s an in­ex­pen­sive kit scope, the Cen­terPoint scope ret­i­cle has char­ac­ter­is­tics that I would like in my ideal scope, and I still flirt with the idea of us­ing it as my main op­tic. Why? Its ret­i­cle is what’s known as the ‘4A mil- Plex’, which has Ger­man-style thick posts on all but the top ver­ti­cal line, mak­ing rapid tar­get ac­qui­si­tion eas­ier and quicker, es­pe­cially for close-range, un­ex­pected tar­gets. I also like fine line mil mark­ers, in­stead of dots, but would love it to have half-mil lines, too – some­thing de­liv­ered by the Dis­cov­ery VT-2 10 x 44 SF, an­other desirable scope, re­viewed in Septem­ber’s edi­tion, by Mark Camoc­cio.

SCOPE FUSSY

My first PCP, a Walther RM8 Varmint, in .22, was bought with a Nikko Ster­ling Mount­mas­ter 4-12 x 50, AO IR half mil- dot. This is my main scope; it ticks more of my ‘scope boxes’ than any of the oth­ers. My only slight nig­gle with this scope is that the whole ret­i­cle is il­lu­mi­nated red/green when us­ing the IR fea­ture. For­tu­nately, five lev­els of bright­ness ad­dress this, but its low-light per­for­mance and half mil- dot ret­i­cle more than make up for it and have helped to raise my per­sonal ac­cu­racy bar even fur­ther, es­pe­cially out in the field. That’s what a hunt­ing scope’s for, right? So, why whinge, even a lit­tle, about a re­ally good scope? For the same rea­son that I’m al­ways look­ing at new ones - it’s not QUITE per­fect, be­cause its low mag­ni­fi­ca­tion isn’t ideal at my lo­cal shoot­ing range and it isn’t as good as the 4A mil- plex ret­i­cle for close range, un­ex­pected tar­gets. The cur­rent an­swer to be­ing scope fussy, like me, might be to ex­plore the avail­able quick- re­lease scope mounts. If they re­ally do hold zero, when de­tached and then reat­tached, my per­fect so­lu­tion could be in the right mounts that al­low me to swap scopes quickly and use the best one for the job, rather than seek­ing the Holy Grail of scopes, that might not even ex­ist.

SCOPE FOR ALL SEA­SONS

How­ever, I do some­times won­der if the ac­tive LCD ret­i­cle of a laser rangefinder, or the var­ied ret­i­cles on holo­graphic sights could be brought to­gether so that a shooter could dial in the pre­ferred ret­i­cle for the job. A ‘scope for all sea­sons’, if you like. OK, there might be some light loss, but a 50mm front ob­jec­tive would, maybe, cover that.

One thing is for sure, though; what­ever you choose for your next scope, make sure that it meets your pri­mary shoot­ing needs and take par­tic­u­lar care over choos­ing the right ret­i­cle. When you take aim, that – more than any­thing else – is what ab­sorbs your con­cen­tra­tion when se­lect­ing the per­fect point of aim.

Af­ter all this, what would my per­fect scope for all sea­sons look like? At the shoot­ing range, some­thing with a high mag­ni­fi­ca­tion like 6-24 x 50, but in the field I like a wide view at low­est mag­ni­fi­ca­tion so 4-12 x 50(or 44) would be fine; most, but by no means all, of my hunt­ing shots are taken at ei­ther 6 or 12 times mag­ni­fi­ca­tion. The scope would have an ad­justable ob­jec­tive, side pre­ferred, but front OK. The ret­i­cle would have the Cen­terPoint’s 4A mil- plex ret­i­cle with the three thick posts, but with half mil- dot mark­ers and an il­lu­mi­nated red/ green cen­tre sec­tion. Per­fect! Just don’t ex­pect the same an­swer next month!

RIGHT: For hunt­ing this ret­i­cle has served me well

BELOW: The clas­sic 30-30 ret­i­cle has served us well for decades but there are bet­ter op­tions now

RIGHT: The Nikko Stir­ling was a step up in qual­ity for me

RIGHT: Al­though the Cen­terPoint is of av­er­age qual­ity, I re­ally like its ret­i­cle

ABOVE: This is the Cen­terPoint ret­i­cle and it suits my needs very well

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