Riflescopes for Long Range Shooting – What Do They Need to Know to Get You Top Performing?

Almost as important as the weapon is the right optics for long-range sport. But what should you take with the vast range of rifle scopes? What must a long-range scope for the money be able to do, and what should you pay attention to when buying your new optics?

Basic information about long-range riflescopes:

The market for riflescopes is now huge, and the range on offer is accordingly confusing. However, not all riflescopes are created equal. Here, too, the following applies once again: Before you buy such an optical device, you should be precisely clear about what you want to use it for. The helpful target optics can still be divided into three broad categories: sports, hunting, and tactical telescopic sights. However, in recent years, technical developments and achievements have repeatedly flowed from one area into another and vice versa.

And it is precisely the great variety and the many overlaps between the different uses that make it difficult for long-range shooters to choose the optimal rifle scope for them. Because despite many similarities, the needs of the user groups differ significantly in some cases. For example, a sports shooter and an LR supporter who only shoot during the day will not attach as much importance to exceptionally high light transmission as a hunter. Nevertheless, every long-range shooter will be careful to choose a sufficiently large lens diameter to be prepared for all weather-related capers that affect visibility. Incidentally, lenses with a diameter of around 50 to 56 mm are most common in the long-range shooting ranges.

For the gunman, who has to watch his target or even only a specific part of it for the hunter or sniper, a view area that is as comprehensive a possible is not as significant. After all, they usually have to follow a moving target and, of course, observe the surroundings of their target for safety reasons. But long-range shooters who want to hit multiple targets at different distances also benefit from a larger field of view.

It is similar to magnifying a rifle scope and the general question of whether the shooter should buy optics with fixed or variable magnification. Like a bench rest shooter, anyone who only shoots at a certain distance with the same stop from a stable surface can also choose a lens with a fixed magnification. However, if you shoot at different distances, you cannot avoid a lens with variable magnification. In practice, you will often find telescopic sights with a magnification of 5 to 25 times. However, it should be noted that the glasses designed for the hunter with these magnification values are often factory-equipped with much smaller adjustment ranges than the models intended for the sporty or tactical area.

A sports shooter, long-range hunter, or sniper who often shoots at longer distances will probably pay more attention to easy accessibility of the controls, especially the reticle adjustment and the zoom setting ring’s operation parallax adjustment, than the average person Hunter. The latter usually shoots his riflescope once with his preferred load at the most favorable shooting distance (GEE) with a 4 cm high shot and then benefits from the fact that with his shooting distance of a maximum of 200 m, the hit deposition is still within the acceptable range for hunting.

What role do the reticle adjustment and reticle planes play in long-range shooting?

Their usability stands or falls with the equipment or function of the so-called ballistic towers. Here, large and light, but not too light, locking rotary elements are desirable, with which you can hear and feel every adjustment click. It is even better if the tower has a quick-release function that engages more strongly with a certain number of clicks. Easily readable scales should be a matter of course here. Some height adjustment towers also indicate the plane of rotation in which they are located. Towers that can be zeroed without tools should also make the long-range heart beat faster.

For the long-range hunter, in particular, some optics manufacturers also offer so-called quick reticle adjustments (ASV for short). These are unique height adjustment towers equipped with a distance scale designed for a previously selected load trajectory. Thanks to this, the shooter should only have to set the distance to the tower’s target to adjust the reticle to the holdover point required for the selected distance.

In terms of adjustment range per click, adjustments of ¼ Minute of Angle MOA (~ 0.7 cm at 100 m) or 1/8 MOA (~ 0.4 cm at 100 m) or 1/10 milliradian have been found in the long-range MRAD (= 1 cm at 100 m) established. It is important here that when choosing the reticle, one falls back on one that is based on the same angle. Then you can set the positions determined with the riflescope on the towers without having to do any significant conversions.

Every riflescope has at least three components objective, erecting system, and an eyepiece. The incident light from the target enters the telescopic sight through the objective, which usually consists of several lenses. Behind the lens, a reversed and upside-down intermediate image of the target appears. The area in which this first image is created is also called the lens image plane or simply: 1st image plane (1st BE). The inversion system follows this. As its name suggests, this ensures that an upright and laterally correct image of the target is created in front of the visual system, i.e., in the ocular image plane (2nd BE)

In the case of riflescopes with variable magnification, the erecting system’s lenses can be shifted about one another so that the intermediate image in FIG. In the case of variable riflescopes, it also plays a decisive role in which of the two image planes the reticle is installed. If the target mark is in the 1st BE, it is enlarged or reduced to the same extent as the target image when the magnification is changed. If, on the other hand, the designers attach the reticle in the 2nd BE, the target image is enlarged or reduced accordingly when zooming, but the reticle does not change its size here.

Both construction methods have both advantages and disadvantages:

  • With the changing reticles in the 1st BE (English: First Focal Plane, FFP for short), the coverage always remains constant. This is understood to mean the target areas that are covered by the marks of the reticle. The distances between the reticle’s elements also always remain the same, regardless of the magnification. Therefore, if the target size is known, the marks can be used very well to determine the distance. However, the marks are also excellent and challenging to see depending on the background at very small enlargements.
  • A reticle in the 2nd BE (Second Focal Plane, SFP), on the other hand, always remains the same size when changing magnification. With high magnification, the marks also cover more of the target but are easy to see even with a smaller magnification. If you look at your riflescope’s instructions with the reticle in the 2nd BE, you will also know how to use it to determine exact distances. But this is only possible with a specific magnification.

The selection of reticles now seems to be almost as large as that of riflescopes, so that every long-range shooter is spoiled for choice here too. Classic Mil-Dot or MOA reticles are recommended for beginners.

What budget should you plan for a long-range riflescope?

For the price of a long-range riflescope, the rule of thumb is that the target optics should cost at least as much as an excellent entry-level rifle, i.e., around 1,200 to 1,500 dollars. This automatically ends up in the middle price segment. The Picatinny standard (MilStd 1913), which comes from the tactical field, is becoming more popular for assemblies. But here, too, you shouldn’t go for the cheapest that the market has to offer, and you should calculate around 450 to 500 dollars for this, including the base.


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