My how things have changed in the last 10 to 15 years. There was a time when in order to get a really good glass for your rifle you needed to shell out big bucks on a premium brand, using premium glass. But, just as the prices of PCP Airguns have come down, while at the same time quality has come way up, so it is in the land of airgun optics. The bottom line is that you can get a lot more for your buying dollar today than you have in the past and that means that you don’t need to “settle” for that bundled optic or “less than” scope just because of the price point.
We’re going to take a look at some new options that make getting really good glass on your gun far more affordable than ever before.
Scopes under $200
The landscape of manufacturers offering sub $200 airgun scopes has really not changed that much over the last few years. You will still see Centerpoint, UTG, and a few others. You’ll also find Hawke Optics as a major player in this space. Rather than pick specific models, let’s discuss core feature sets that you’ll want to look for when searching out an upgrade. Each of the above manufacturers has offerings with some or all of these features important to airgunners.
Adjustable Parallax is a must! Often referred to as “focus” this adjustment allows you to adjust the scope’s parallax range so that regardless of your magnification setting, your target will be in focus. Many airgun scopes have an adjustable parallax range from 10 yards to infinity.
In the sub $200 price range you’ll mostly find what’s referred to as a “Front AO” or an “adjustable objective.” This is a “focus” ring on the bell of the scope that allows you to set the parallax to bring the object into proper focus. This is perhaps the feature most lacking on “budget” bundled scopes and one that, once you have it, you’ll never want to have a scope without it ever again.
To illuminate or not to illuminate, that is the question. Another common upgrade to look for is an illuminated reticle. Now there are a couple of ways companies do this. The more affordable scopes keep their wire reticle and just work out a way to shine a light on it. While this does work, it’s not the best method. What sets Hawke Optics apart is that ALL their illuminated reticles are all etched glass reticles. An etched glass reticle is more resilient to recoil, specifically the recoil you will get from a gas ram or spring-powered airgun.
Other features you’ll find which may or may not have an impact on you are going to be tube diameter and objective size. Generally, all your sub $200 scopes will have a 1″ tube and objectives up to 50mm. Here’s a tip we got from an optics manufacturer. If you are looking at scopes with a 1″ tube, stick to an objective of 44mm or less. Scopes with 1″ tubes and larger objectives, i.e. 50mm, have to work harder to bend the light from the 50mm opening down into and through the 1″ tube back to the eyepiece. You may find you get better light transfer from a smaller objective if you are sticking with a 1″ tube. Now if you move up to a 30mm tube, its a totally different story, one we’ll get into here with scopes over $200.
What about Scopes $200-500?
This is where you’ll find things have really opened up with regard to features, overall quality, and value for your buying dollar. Hawke really dominates this space but you’ll also see UTG and new brands like Athlon and Element. Most, if not all of these scopes will have adjustable parallax and some sort of range estimating reticle. The difference will come in the tube diameter, magnification range, objective diameter, and reticle construction and format.
As mentioned above, if you browse our site, you’ll see mostly Hawke Scope options in this price range. They really nail this price demographic and deliver a lot for your dollar. With 30mm tubes, side focus parallax adjustment (more advanced than the front AO adjustment, this is the preferred method for serious shooters). They also introduce a new option for a lot of shooters and that’s “first focal plane” scopes. Previously available only way outside this price range, FFP has become more and more popular, especially with hunters and shooters who shoot various ranges using different magnification levels.
Most scopes are “second focal plane” scopes. Without getting too deep into the subject, the major difference is that the mil-dot spacing changes as you increase and decrease the magnification level on your second focal plane scope. On a first focal plane scope, the mill-dot spacing remains consistent regardless of your magnification. This is really helpful to hunters. If they dope their scope and know they are 3 mils high at 100 yards, then regardless of their magnification setting, they will always be 3 mils high at 100 yards.
This may be a great topic for another article so let’s move on. The point is that just a few years ago, this option was not really on the table and now it’s front and center!
What about Scopes over 500?
Five or ten years ago the idea that any airgunner would spend over $500 for an optic was rare. But that’s just not the case anymore. With airgunners becoming more and more comfortable spending $1000, $1500, and even over $2000 for their airguns, the idea of putting high-end glass on their guns has become much more commonplace.
All the features we’ve discussed above; adjustable parallax, etched glass reticles, first focal plane vs second focal plane, reticle illumination, 30mm tubes, and larger objectives, are all really the norm. What’s new here are additional features like zero stop turrets, swappable turrets, and high-density low dispersion glass. Additionally, you’ll find new technology in brands like ATN which has both night vision and thermal vision scopes that not only see at night but also record the hunt right as it happens.
Certainly don’t be shy to take a look at all the options available to airgunners these days. And, it’s important to remember that your optic is your direct connection to your target. The better you can see your target, and the better your optic helps you adjust for changes in your environment, the more accurate you will be, and it’s hard to put a price cap on that!
There’s always something new
That’s a wrap for this article on some of the most popular options for airgun scopes, regardless of your budget. What’s really exciting is that there are always new optics products hitting the market. Prices are going down and quality is going up, and that’s a good thing for consumers. So, keep your eyes open for new optics as they hit Airgun Depot, and be sure to give them a call if you have any questions about which one may be right for you.