In our last article we looked at the basics of what makes up your typical airgun scope. As we move forward with part two, were going to take a look at some of the advanced features found on many of today’s modern airgun scopes.
One of the benefits of scoping your air rifle is the ability to magnify your target making it easier to see. When you look at the description of a scope, you’ll often see the magnification referenced in the first part of the description. For example; 4×32 would mean that the scope has a four power magnification. Sometimes you’ll see two numbers split with a “-” followed by an “x” with the third number. A very popular example would be, 3-9×40. This scope has a variable magnification range that starts at three power and can go up to nine power. The 40 refers to the diameter of the objective. This is perhaps one of the most common configurations on the market today.
Variable power is useful for many reasons. When you increase the magnification, you reduce your field of view. At the highest magnification, it can be very difficult to find objects that are close to you. With a variable powered scope, you can reduce the magnification, opening up the field of view, and making it much easier to find your target. Having variable power means that you have greater flexibility whether target shooting or out in the field.
In my opinion, the most important feature that all airgun scopes should have, is an adjustable parallax. Without getting into an overly technical description, I’ll try and describe what I believe all of us that have ever used a variable power scope have experienced. Unless otherwise specified, most scopes have a fixed parallax. One way to describe this is that the fixed parallax is the minimum distance where you will be able to have a clear sight picture of both the crosshairs and the target at maximum magnification. I’m sure at one time or another we’ve been looking down the typical 3-9×32 airgun scope at 10 yards and tried to turn the magnification up to nine. More than likely either the target will be completely out of focus, or if we adjust the eyepiece, the reticle will be completely out of focus. This is not a fault of the scope but rather the fact that we are inside the fixed parallax range of the scope. If we were to set up the target at 50 yards, we would probably be able to have full range of the magnification while maintaining a clear sight picture of the target as well as the reticle.
Because most airguns have an optimal range inside 50 yards, in fact 35 yards is really more practical, some airgun scopes have been fitted with a means to easily adjust the parallax. There are a couple of common methods of doing this. The most typical is to have an adjustable objective. For simplicity we’ll call it a focus ring on the objective of the scope. Some scopes will allow you to adjust the parallax all the way down to as little as 9 feet. This gives you a tremendous advantage when trying to be as accurate as possible. The ability to “focus” your scope on the target using maximum magnification at close range, means that you can be extremely precise with your shot placement.
The other advantage, provided that the scope is calibrated properly, is that as you focus your sight picture you will be able reference the yardage markings on the scope’s focus ring. While not an exact measurement, this can give you a basic idea of how far you’re trying to shoot, allowing you to better adjust for pellet drop.
A more advanced means of adjusting the parallax is found on higher-end scopes. This is called “side focus.” On these scopes you will find a third adjustment turret on the left-hand side of the scope. Rotating this turret will adjust the parallax just like you would with an adjustable objective. The real advantage comes when you add a larger wheel to the side focus turret. The larger wheel allows you smoother and more precise control over the parallax adjustment. It’s also much more convenient when bench shooting as the adjustment is in a much more convenient location.
Whether you’re using a scope with an adjustable objective, or side focus equipped scope, having the adjustable parallax will really make all the difference in your shooting experience.
Light it up
The last feature we will discuss as part of the advanced features, will be an illuminated reticle. While some may think this is a completely unnecessary feature, I would have to disagree. I don’t how many times I’ve been target shooting at black targets. When you have a dark reticle trying to sight onto a dark target, it can make things more difficult than they need to be. Illuminating the reticle allows you to see the crosshairs against the target much easier. There are many different means of illumination, and many different colors that are offered. The most popular will be red or green.
An illuminated reticle is not only an advantage when target shooting, but also when hunting in low light or your target is hidden in the shadows. This feature will give you an advantage in the field and allow you to stretch out your hunting sessions were normal scopes would no longer be effective.
If I were to put together the perfect airgun scope it would have the following features. First, it would have to be extremely rugged and able to withstand the harsh recoil of a magnum spring powered airgun. I would certainly pick a 30 mm tube so that I’d have maximum light transfer. I would want a reasonable amount of variable magnification, say something in the 3 to 12 power range. I would absolutely need to have an adjustable parallax, preferably a side focus with the ability to add a large wheel for precise adjustments. To maximize the clarity in the sight picture, it would have multicoated lenses throughout and a large 50 mm (or larger) objective. Lastly, it would have an etched glass, illuminated, half mil dot reticle.
The scope that comes the closest to what I would consider “perfect,” would be the Hawke Optics Sidewinder 3-12×50 30 mm tube, half mil dot, illuminated reticle, with side focus. It his all my “must haves” and then some. I would not call it a budget airgun scope, but as compared to some firearms optics, it’s certainly reasonably priced for all the features and quality.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about airgun scopes and their various features. When you are looking for your next airgun, consider the bundled optics and compare their various features. It may be that you need to budget for an upgraded Airgun Scope right up front so that you get the most bang for your buck!