SPOTTING SCOPES


 


If you’re an experienced shooter, chances are that you already own a spotting scope. If you’re new to the shooting sports, it’s definitely one piece of equipment that you’re going to want to purchase at some point in time.

Spotting Scopes vs. Binoculars?

Although you can use a pair of high power binoculars (i.e. 16x70, 20x80, etc…) for many of the same tasks for which you might use a spotting scope, including BPCR Silhouette, binoculars are virtually useless when you’re laying on the firing line trying to view your target. Binoculars simply aren’t designed for the specific needs of the Long Range shooter. A spotting scope is a much better choice.

A spotting scope enables the shooter to view the target to determine where the last shot impacted. It can be used when testing loads at the local range, when spotting for a fellow BPCR Silhouette shooter, or when either competing (looking at your own target when you are in the prone position on the firing line) or when spotting for a shooting partner at a High Power or Long Range BPCR match.

Spotting Scope Makers

Spotting scopes run the full gamut when it comes to price, features, quality, and size. Most of the major manufacturers of camera lenses, telescopic rifle scopes, and binoculars also make a line of spotting scopes. Scopes made by such names as Nikon, Kowa, Bushnell, Pentax, Leupold, and many others are readily available.

Before Buying A Spotting Scope, Do Your Homework

Before you run out to buy a spotting scope, take your time and do your homework to determine which spotting scope and spotting scope stand is best for you. Since most spotting scopes do not come with a stand upon which to mount the spotting scope, you need to determine which stand will work best for you as well.

Here is what I would recommend:

1) Use the Internet

There are several very good web sites that offer detailed discussions on the various features that you should consider when buying a spotting scope. Although these sites are oriented toward bird watchers, the same basic features apply to spotting scopes used for shooting-related activities. Bird watchers are probably the largest group of users of spotting scopes.

Orion — “Choosing a Spotting Scope or Binoculars?”
http://www.telescope.com/content/learningcenter/content2main .jsp?iContentID=824&CCNavIDs=19,20,82

Birding.com — “Choosing a Spotting Scope”
http://www.birding.com/scopeGuide.asp

Optics4Birding.com — “Choosing Scopes”
http://www.optics4birding.com/chscop.aspx

LookSmart — “Choosing a Spotting Scope”
http://articles.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BQY/is_3_48/ai_ 82551657

All About Birds — “Choosing a Spotting Scope”
http://birds.cornell.edu/programs/AllAboutBirds/GearGuide/Scop es/


2) Talk to Other Shooters

The next time that you are at your local shooting range or at a match, make note of the manufacturers and models of the spotting scopes that seem to be used by the majority of the shooters in attendance. This holds true whether you are at a BPCR Silhouette or Long Range match, or a modern High Power match.

Ask the shooters why they purchased the scope that they are using, what features they like and don’t like about their particular scope, and if they would recommend it to others.


3) Visit Your Local Sporting Goods Store

If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that has one or more of the “mega” sporting goods stores like Cabela’s, Gander Mountain, Galyans, or Pro Bass Shops, visit the stores and see what they have to offer. Then compare the different models by testing them (looking through them at a distant object) to see how they compare with each other.

Once you’re familiar with the differences between scopes and understand the various features they offer, ask yourself the following questions and make a checklist of the features that you want in a spotting scope:


How Much Money Do I Want To Spend?

The answer to this question will narrow the range of scopes that you will want to consider.

How Much Magnification Do I Need?

The magnification power, light gathering capabilities, and quality of a scope that is only going to be used at the local 100 yard range are different than those needed when spotting targets at 1,000 yards.

Generally speaking, consider at least 20x magnification as a minimum for Long Range shooting. I use a 27x power eyepiece on my Kowa Model TSN-821 scope. I also have a 20x to 60x zoom eyepiece that I use from time to time.

Remember that at 800, 900, or 1,000 yards you are not going to be able to see the bullet hole in the target. The spotting scope simply needs to be powerful enough to give you a reasonably close view of the target.

What you are going to be looking for when you look through your spotting scope is the position of the 4” disc that is placed in the bullet hole (the Shot Hole Spotter) and the 5” bright orange disc that is hung next to or near the value of the shot, which is indicated by its position around the edge of the target frame (what I call the Score or Value Spotter).

For a picture of what the target should look like when viewed at a distance, see “Target and Scoring” in the “Competition” section of this web site.

Would I Prefer a Straight or Angled Eyepiece Model?

Some scopes may be offered in two different configurations — a straight eyepiece vs. an angled eyepiece. The angled eyepiece model probably accommodates a wider range of conditions and positions than a straight model. But, the choice is up to you.

These Kowa scopes are a good example of the Straight (TSN-822) and Angled (TSN-821) configurations mentioned above.

Does The Scope Manufacturer Offer a Rain Cover?

A rain cover can provide an added level of protection for an expensive piece of equipment. If one is available for the model you are considering, I would recommend buying one.

Does The Scope Manufacturer Offer A Carrying Case?

Once again, a carrying case made for your scope can protect it from damage when transporting your equipment to a match. A good, hard cover or padded soft-sided carrying case is a smart investment!

Selecting A Spotting Scope Stand

As I mentioned earlier, most spotting scopes are not sold with a stand. Although a couple of manufacturers do bundle their scope with a small tabletop tripod, most do not come with a stand of any type.

The reason is because people use their spotting scopes for different purposes. A person who is watching birds will probably use a standard or heavy-duty camera tripod to mount their scope. A shooter may also do the same when spotting at a Silhouette or High Power match.

But the High Power and Long Range shooter will generally want to purchase a more versatile spotting scope stand made specifically to accommodate the needs of someone shooting from the prone, sitting, kneeling, or standing positions. A camera tripod is simply not designed to address all of those requirements.

This is the Giraud Spotting Scope Stand, just one of many different stands that are made to address the needs of the Long Range and High Power shooter.

Finding The Right Stand For Your Spotting Scope

Spotting scopes have a 1/4” x 20 threaded insert or drilled and tapped hole on the base of the scope. This is the standard thread size used by camera manufacturers for use with a camera tripod.

Spotting scope stands that are made for shooting generally consist of a relatively heavy base with a small footprint, so the stand can be positioned close to a shooter who is laying on the ground. They generally have some type of vertical pole and an adjustable head on which the spotting scope is mounted.

This allows the shooter maximum flexibility in adjusting the height of the scope to accommodate the prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing positions assumed by shooters in various types of competitions. It also enables a spotter to position the scope at a height that will accommodate someone sitting in a chair or on a stool while spotting.

Here are just a few of the spotting scope stands available on the market:

C&S Accuracy:
www.benchrest.com/csaccuracy/spotting_scope_stand.html

Georgia Precision Shooters Supply:
www.georgiaprecision.com/cart/items/FSScopeStand.htm

ChampionShooters.com:
www.championshooters.com/Stands.htm

Ray-Vin Classic Scope Stand:
www.ray-vin.com/cat/scopestand/classicstand.htm

Giraud Spotting Scope Stand:
www.giraudtool.com/prod01.htm

Ewing’s Scope Stands                                                509-455-5677

Champion's Choice Shooting Supplies & Equipment:
www.champchoice.com


Positioning Your Spotting Scope On the Firing Line

When you are laying in the prone position on the firing line during a match, you want to have a spotting scope stand that you can quickly and easily position and adjust to your needs.

You want to have a stand that can hold your scope about 12” to 16” above the ground and close enough to your shooting position so that all you have to do is move your head slightly to one side in order to look through your scope. This is where a scope with an angled eyepiece really shines!


Look at the pictures shown below for an illustration of this point:

Notice in picture “A” that the spotting scope is positioned close to the shooter’s head without interfering with his view of the target. After firing, in picture “C”, he simply tilts his head to the side to view the target. This allows him to stay in the solid, comfortable shooting position he has established without having to change his position to use his spotting scope. Picture “B” shows the same position from a slightly different angle.

Most shooters prefer to position the spotting scope on their weak side (in this case the left side) rather than have to lean over the stock of the gun in order to look through the spotting scope.

Notice also how the wind flag is positioned off to the side of the shooter’s firing position, but close enough so that he can see it out of the corner of his eye. Remember, wind shifts at the firing line have the greatest effect on the flight of the bullet.

One Final Word

Be sure to buy a Daylight or U/V (Ultraviolet) filter for your scope. This will protect the front lens of the scope from the harmful effects of the black powder smoke that invariably drifts back into the shooter’s face from time to time. It’s far better to ruin a twist-off filter than the front lens of your new scope.


By Darryl Hedges

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