Optics

Ballistic Reticles: Bushnell and Leupold Offer More Than Nikon

Beasts usually like to keep as much woodlot, coulee, or cornfield between us and them as possible, and that may mean shooting our rifle farther than the sighted-in distance. Essentially we use old-fashioned Kentucky elevation and take our best guess at crosshair hold over. Combine a good sense of distance with shooting experience, and you could fill out your tag. If not, you'll kick up dirt below two sets of hooves, whiz a round high, or, sadly, wound an animal.

Riflescopes with ballistic reticles purportedly take the guesswork out of long-distance shooting by combining a typical crosshair with additional aiming points at set distances. The reticles are calibrated to popular hunting cartridges with muzzle velocities in the range of 2800 to 3000 fps or more. The usual suspects fall into that range—243, 6mm, 25-06, 270, 308, 30-06, 7mm Rem. Mag., 300 Win. Mag., including a slew of others. Since the aiming points are not calibrated to a specific load they, offer general approximations, which means you will need to shoot your rifle to understand how the reticle will work with your specific rifle and cartridge combination. The reticles are chockfull of aiming points and seem cluttered compared to a typical hunting scope, but they are quite easy to master. You may want to make a cheat sheet on an index card or a piece of masking tape and fix it to your stock so you can remember what aiming points are for what distances. Finally, you will still need to know the distance to the target, and some scopes have this covered with built-in range estimators, as you will see.

Our team recently tested three scopes with ballistic reticles: Bushnell's Elite 3200 with DOA 600 reticle, Leupold's VX-3 with Boone & Crockett reticle, and Nikon's Monarch with BDC reticle. We were interested to see if the additional aiming points would be easy to use and hit true to the distance claimed. Since the purpose of these scopes is hunting, a kill zone the size of paper plate, or about 9 inches in diameter, was used to determine whether the aiming points worked. We also looked at light-gathering ability and weather resistance.

To test the scopes, our shooters fixed them to a Kimber model 8400 Classic in 30-06, which is a perfect example of a hunting rifle/caliber combination likely to be found from Montana to Maine. Since the 30-06 is common caliber and is available in a number of bullet styles and weights, we assumed it would fit the scope manufacturers' criteria as a "popular caliber" as stated in their manuals.

We also wondered if proprietary and not-so-popular calibers that fall into the muzzle velocity range, like those from Weatherby and newer ones like the 30TC, would work with these scopes. Debuting just a few years ago, the 30TC, which is only loaded by Hornady, has less recoil than a 308 or 30-06 yet achieves a higher velocity using the same weight bullet. We tested the 30TC in a Thompson/Center Icon using Hornady 165-grain SST InterLock bullets. We found that what mattered were the velocities and bullet weights. All scopes performed within the calculated range.

Test ammunition consisted of Federal Premium 165-grain Sierra Gameking boattail softpoints and Remington's Premier Core-Lokt Ultra bonded pointed softpoints in 168 grains. Since the scopes are calibrated to muzzle velocity, we chronographed the factory ammo with a ProChrono chronograph to be sure the Kimber's 24-inch barrel provided the necessary length for the bullet to pick up speed. After initial sight-in, our test procedure consisted of three-shot groups fired from a bench rest. Starting at 100 yards and progressing to 200 yards, we soon ran out of range, so we fired at 100 yards using the additional aiming points. We used an online ballistic calculator (www.biggameinfo.com) to determine the bullet trajectories. The idea was that the shots should group at a height consistent to the caliber's trajectory, so the 300-yard aiming point group with the Federal 165-grain bullets should print 4.6 in. high at 100 yards and so on. Light-gathering ability was tested during dusk conditions, and the scopes were frozen for 15 minutes and then placed in warm water for another 15 minutes to test water and fogging resistance.

Shooting took place over numerous sessions at the Fin Fur Feather Club, a members-only facility in Chaplin, Connecticut. Let's see where the bullets hit the paper.

Self-Defense Handgun Sights: Novak and Wilson Combat Win

Where is no end to debate concerning handgun sights and their use. Personal preference plays a role, but a poor choice in a defensive handgun may have serious consequences. Good enough and bargain basement dont cut it. Even the use of sights is debated. Some argue for point shooting or instinctive fire at close range. Unsighted fire sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. The keys to accurate fire include smooth trigger compression, proper sight alignment and proper sight picture. Area aiming or aiming for the whole target is not going to get the job done.

For most gun-buyers, sights are a make-or-break part of the purchase, as important as the cartridge. Sights can-and should-influence which guns you buy. Also, on guns you already own, you can upgrade the sights, especially 1911s and Glocks-if you know what works, and what doesnt. A person who purchased the best pistol he could afford at the time may wish to upgrade to better sights at a later date, but how does he know what to choose?

We wanted to compare the execution of several sights found on existing factory guns and as aftermarket products to see which one offered the best combination of sight quality, ease of presentation, and durability. This is a tricky job description for a sight, because those requirements can be contradictory. In the past the shortcomings of pistol sights were understood. A universal fault was the round front sight. Where was the top of the sight? Sight pictures were not repeatable. About 1923 a Western peace officer named Tom Threepersons had a square and tall front sight added to his 4.75-inch-barrel Colt Single Action Army. Better sights followed.

Among the first practical high-visibility handgun sights were Kings Hardballer sights. They raised the sight picture and offered an improvement over small GI sights. The problem with fitting combat sights on a self-defense gun is the height of target-type sights. Too-tall front and rear sights became so obtrusive the handgun became difficult to holster. If you use a rear sight that sets tall above the frame, then the front sight must have a correspondingly high profile. The revolution came with Wayne Novaks Lo Mount sights. Designed like a pyramid, these sights require a special mounting cut in the slide to ride low. The front sight may be as low as .200 inch, although a .249 sight is also used.

Reducing the vertical profile of a sight is important because adjustable sights are exposed to all manner of insult and are relatively fragile. If you visit a police department, you notice that the area around the door jamb of the squad room is often beaten up. This is because that is hip level, and cops guns, especially the sights, take a beating on doorways. And, of course, sights are rubbed on by holsters, and they may impede drawing the weapon when you need it most.

To consider these issues, we looked at nine different common sight styles on a host of guns. GI sights, Mil Spec sights, Trijicon sights, XS big dot sights, Novak sights, Heinie sights, McCormick sights, Para Ordnance sights, and Wilson Combat sights.

Self-Defense Handgun Sights: Novak and Wilson Combat Win

Where is no end to debate concerning handgun sights and their use. Personal preference plays a role, but a poor choice in a defensive handgun may have serious consequences. Good enough and bargain basement dont cut it. Even the use of sights is debated. Some argue for point shooting or instinctive fire at close range. Unsighted fire sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. The keys to accurate fire include smooth trigger compression, proper sight alignment and proper sight picture. Area aiming or aiming for the whole target is not going to get the job done.

For most gun-buyers, sights are a make-or-break part of the purchase, as important as the cartridge. Sights can-and should-influence which guns you buy. Also, on guns you already own, you can upgrade the sights, especially 1911s and Glocks-if you know what works, and what doesnt. A person who purchased the best pistol he could afford at the time may wish to upgrade to better sights at a later date, but how does he know what to choose?

We wanted to compare the execution of several sights found on existing factory guns and as aftermarket products to see which one offered the best combination of sight quality, ease of presentation, and durability. This is a tricky job description for a sight, because those requirements can be contradictory. In the past the shortcomings of pistol sights were understood. A universal fault was the round front sight. Where was the top of the sight? Sight pictures were not repeatable. About 1923 a Western peace officer named Tom Threepersons had a square and tall front sight added to his 4.75-inch-barrel Colt Single Action Army. Better sights followed.

Among the first practical high-visibility handgun sights were Kings Hardballer sights. They raised the sight picture and offered an improvement over small GI sights. The problem with fitting combat sights on a self-defense gun is the height of target-type sights. Too-tall front and rear sights became so obtrusive the handgun became difficult to holster. If you use a rear sight that sets tall above the frame, then the front sight must have a correspondingly high profile. The revolution came with Wayne Novaks Lo Mount sights. Designed like a pyramid, these sights require a special mounting cut in the slide to ride low. The front sight may be as low as .200 inch, although a .249 sight is also used.

Reducing the vertical profile of a sight is important because adjustable sights are exposed to all manner of insult and are relatively fragile. If you visit a police department, you notice that the area around the door jamb of the squad room is often beaten up. This is because that is hip level, and cops guns, especially the sights, take a beating on doorways. And, of course, sights are rubbed on by holsters, and they may impede drawing the weapon when you need it most.

To consider these issues, we looked at nine different common sight styles on a host of guns. GI sights, Mil Spec sights, Trijicon sights, XS big dot sights, Novak sights, Heinie sights, McCormick sights, Para Ordnance sights, and Wilson Combat sights.

10X42 Binoculars Test, Part II: Zeiss Beats Swarovski, Leica

We examined six pairs of optics ranging in price from $260 to nearly $1,700 to see if price really has an impact on ease of use and performance. This time, models over $1100.

Binoculars Test, Part I: Leupold 10x40s Beat Bushnell, Steiner

We examined six pairs of optics ranging in price from just under $300 to nearly $1,700 to see if price really has an impact on ease of use and performance. First up, models under $900.

Laser Range Finder Binoculars: Bushnell, Wind River, NewCon Optiks Tested

In a comparison of optical quality, user-friendly features, and prices, we find these units can quickly and accurately answer the questions of "Where?" and "How far?" with precision.

Nikon 20X Spotting Scope A Best Buy For The Shooting Bench

The evolution of spotting scopes seems to have maintained pace with other advancements in the firearms and shooting accessory industry. This fact was strongly realized when we compared the equipment in this test to the spotting scope one of testers has mounted in his pistol box. It's an O. F. Mossberg & Sons Model A "Spotshot" 20x. In 1963, its list price was $29.95. It has a 38mm objective lens. Its 10mm ocular lens is mounted at the end of a sliding tube, which is pulled in and out to rough-focus, then rotated to fine-focus. Considering inflation, we certainly get a lot for our money today, in quality, warranty, and advances in manufacturing and the science of optics.

However, the Mossb...

Burris Signature 6-24x Tops Other Varmint Rifle Scopes

For most kinds of deer hunting, a 3-9x rifle scope is a good choice. It provides a fairly wide field of view, which makes acquiring the target relatively easy, and a good range of magnification. However, when hunting varmints at long distances, a much more powerful scope is needed. A 6-24x scope with at least a 40mm objective lens is generally considered to be a good varmint scope.

However, this rather limited definition of a varmint scope promptly expanded when we started buying scopes for this test. We found two 20x scopes that outperformed most of the 24x scopes, and a 44mm scope that was smaller than most 40mm scopes. Our final choice of optics for this evaluation included the eight...

Variable Power At Your Fingertips: Tasco Gets Our Best Buy Nod

Shooters of many different stripes enjoy the flexibility 6-20X and 6-24X variable riflescopes give them. These products' extended power ranges allow them to be used at their low settings for indoor air rifle or rimfire and centerfire hunting use. Dialed up, they allow shooters to shoot spots on silhouette targets or pick their spots on long-range game animals with .300 Win. Mag-class beanfield rifles. With the right glass and mounts, a shooter can easily make one of these variable scopes work in several scenarios, assuming its owner has the skills and steadiness to use the high-mag settings.

Ideally, such products should provide crisp looks at targets and accurate adjustments to compensat...

Halfway There

On April 12, 2022, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 319, Constitutional carry, into law. Constitutional carry in Georgia goes into effect immediately....