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Old August 31, 2012, 04:46 AM   #1
GI Sandv
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No More than 10 Power?

First of all, I've never used scopes, so I don't have much of an opinion (or knowledge) on this subject. However, I was speaking with a long-time SF sniper the other day and he said they never used scopes with a higher magnification than 10 power. He said that any greater than that and the scope starts to pick up mirage and is therefore less accurate. This gentleman was not particularly young, appeared to have been pretty involved in the sniping world for a few decades, and had most recently spent some time in Afghanistan. I trust that he knows what he's talking about. But I wonder if anyone else has any thoughts. For those who use more than 10 power scopes, do you feel they give you an advantage? For those who don't use any more than 10 power scopes, why not?
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Old August 31, 2012, 06:23 AM   #2
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First off a 10 power scope will still do the same thing. Maybe not as bad,but it will still happen. I use a 8-32 x 56 scope and love it. The reason being. I shoot matches out to 800 yards. Try this and you will see the reasoning behind it.
Take a one inch circle,place a small dot (pencil diameter ) in the center. Place that target 300 yards away. Set your scope to lowest setting. You might see the circle,but you will not see the small one in the middle. Now when you shoot that way you are shooting a one inch circle and being target is so small in your scope it leaves a large margin of error as to where crosshairs are at. Set scope at full power-Now you can see small circle in middle and crosshairs will be inside that circle, and shot placement will be a lot tighter. As for the mirage part of it. You A- learn to shoot through it
B- back off on power a little. I do A. Snipers ( im sure kraiwgy) can chime in on this. They have very exstensive pratice and training. Mirage is just one aspect of it. Doping the wind,bullet drop,ect,ect. And i would think thousands of rounds of practice goes with that.
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Old August 31, 2012, 08:35 AM   #3
Art Eatman
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Among other things: Low power = wider field of view. This helps with close-up targets or moving targets.

Higher magnification allows more precise aiming at longer distances. It's easier to aim at a particular place on a prairie dog at 400 yards with a 14X or 24X scope, not "just somewhere in the body".

Mirage is caused by heat. It can be from a high temperature and sunshine in the afternoon, or from barrel heating after shots have been fired.

As far as the usual deer hunting need, a fixed-power 4X scope is good to around 350 or 400 yards. That's "need". I've used a 3x9 for decades, but it spends most of the time set on 3X. 9X for sight-in.
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Old August 31, 2012, 08:49 AM   #4
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Ive shot deer out to 600 yards and never felt underscoped with a 9x scope. I think that for varmit hunting theres a big advantage to higher powered scopes though. I would never again buy any scope that was over 10x that didnt have either side focus or an ajustable objective. Most fixed objective scopes get a bit blury to my eyes when cranked up past 10x.
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Old August 31, 2012, 09:18 AM   #5
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As far as "need" .... first ask "What is it for (other than "Why, to sell, of course!")?

A rifle scope just allows you to see your target better. It is also easier for old eyes to focus on.....

For deer hunting, I'm with Art, you don't need anything bigger than a 3-9x .... and most of the time 3x is sufficient. A couple of the carbine length guns in the house have fixed 2.5x's on them- no sense in putting a large bulky scope on a deer gun that won't be used past 200 yards anyhow.... I keep mine on 3x, as there will be plenty of time to turn it up if the animal is so far out there that I need to see it better.....

For shooting smaller targets like prairied dogs at long ranges, something bigger would be better ..... but I shoot prairie dogs as practice for deer hunting, so I use the same rig (just lighter bullets, downloaded to similar speed as my deer load). 9x works.

For long range target shooting, or the very precise stuff like benchrest, ask somebody else..... I'm sure they have special needs which the rest of us do not.

As Art said, higher magnification makes close/moving targets more difficult- and in those cases, time is important. Diminished field of view can also lead to other problems- I missed the first buck I shot at when I was a kid- deer on the other side of a creek, maybe 30 yards....... but I killed the hell out of a 2" thick branch right in front of me.....
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Old August 31, 2012, 09:55 AM   #6
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I've used a 3.5x10 on my deer hunting rifle for at least 20 years. I may have cranked it off of 3.5 once or twice in that time. All shots were 150 yards or less.
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Old August 31, 2012, 10:11 AM   #7
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I have used several different power scopes over the years and have hunted in heavy woods (Minn) as well as open country Montana, Idaho, Wyo, Colo. So. Dak. This is deer hunting sized animals as well as elk, my scope of choice is the 3.5X10 Leo. I have a couple one is a 1970ish vintage. My experience has been most of the time my scope is set on 3.5 to 6 power.
With that said when shooting smaller critters I have a vast array of scopes up to 32 power seldom is that much power needed to be effective.
My new 700 XCR 25-06 is being fitted with a Ziess 3X9 just to try something different.
I know this has been beat to death but quality of glass is as important as power and in most cases more so.
I look at it like this when putting a scope on a rifle don't over kill, in other words don't put a 4X12 or 6X16 on a 30-30 it just don't make sence. (I've seen it)
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Old August 31, 2012, 10:31 AM   #8
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Quote:
he said they never used scopes with a higher magnification than 10 power. He said that any greater than that and the scope starts to pick up mirage and is therefore less accurate. This gentleman was not particularly young, appeared to have been pretty involved in the sniping world for a few decades, and had most recently spent some time in Afghanistan. I trust that he knows what he's talking about. But I wonder if anyone else has any thoughts.
Well yeah, I have thoughts on the subject.

I've been to sniper school, trained as a (peace time) Mil Sniper and worked as a LE sniper, and conducted untold sniper schools, military and LE.

Added to that I have over 35 years shooting long range competition, and coached NG Rifle Team.

So yeah I have thoughts on the subject, My experience tells me your friend is 100% correct.

Before the Army, Marines, Secrect Service, FBI and tons of other local LE sniper schools came about the US Amry Marksmanship Unit conducted sniper schools, mainly with the goal of their graduates go back to their respective unit or department to start their own programs.

That is what happened in the case of the Army, Marines, NG, SS and FBI as well others including the Alaska NG who's program I developed.

The number one recommended glass for the LE sniper per the USAMU was a fixed 6X.

When I started teaching sniper schools the guard was using M1C/Ds with their 2.2 X M-84 scopes............they worked to 900 yards.

When I coached the AK NG Rifle team we had a 100 MM team scope that came with 16 - 32 Power eye pieces. I found (as most coaches) for a spotting scope 20-24 power is the best. Many of my shooters kept putting the 32X in the scope thinking it would be better. I finely had to toss that scope in the trash.

Too much power does in fact pick up too much mirage and washes out the target. Mirage is a great tool, but you need to look at the mirage not the target to use mirage to check wind conditions. With a scope you need to see the target not mirage.

Thats why we have spotting scopes. Focus it between 1/2 to 2/3s distance between you and the target. Focus your rifle scope on the target.

One other thing that must be addressed and that is heat from the barrel. Many people wrongly think you can use the scope to focus on the mirage to get a reading then focus back to the target to shoot. That's time consuming since it takes an instant for the wind to switch.

Plus, when using a rifle scope you get interference or heat waves coming off the barrel giving you a false reading, you can't tell if you're reading the mirage or heat waves on the barrel.

I use a barrel band, or an elastic band that stretches from the rear sight to the front sight to break up heat waves coming off the barrel.

For my 1000 yard rifle I use a Weaver T-10. I do have a couple scopes that go higher, one is a 3-12 weaver and I do have to use the 12 power to get the Mil Dots to work. I also have a 6-18 varment scope on my 204 Ruger #1. My wife bought that scope but it isn't too bad for PDs, but I don't often use the higher ranges.

I also have a Remington 24X scope on a 22 target rifle, but that's a short range gun (50 ft to 50 Meters), there's not much mirage there.

So yes I agree with your friend.
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Old August 31, 2012, 11:32 AM   #9
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The question is what are you shooting and how far.

I can't argue with kraigwy's advice and I've even repeated it based on his experience alone.

However, I use scopes up to 40x for shooting woodchucks and I strongly prefer high powers BUT the distances I shoot, maybe 350, 400 yards, the issues that creep up at 800 or 1000 yards are just not significant.

I even use 25, 30, even 40x at 100 yards. Don't need it but I like it and I'll never be shooting far enough to see the negative effects.
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Old August 31, 2012, 11:37 AM   #10
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Kraig can correct me if I am wrong but as I understand it the military chose the fixed 10X as high enough magnification for long range shooting, with an excellent field of view, and without worry of mirage interfering in any potential operating environment (jungles, deserts, etc)

Fixed magnification allows a more compact/lighter scope with fewer moving parts that can potentially cause problems.

It is a compromise that people who are not snipers most likely do not need to make. A good variable will allow high magnification when mirage isn't bad, allowing more precision shots, but can be backed down if mirage is a problem or if more field of view is desired.

If there is a problem with the variable adjustment makes my scope unusable, I get irritated, and a P-dog gets to live another day. If a sniper has a problem with his variable adjustment, he is no longer an effective sniper.
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Old August 31, 2012, 12:57 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kraigwy
The number one recommended glass for the LE sniper per the USAMU was a fixed 6X
Interesting. I'm not a sniper, nor do I claim to be. I've long used a Weaver K6 on my hunting rifle and find it to be one of the better scopes I own. Simple, relatively rugged and easy on the pocketbook. However, I've recently switched to newer optics. I'll hunt with the newer scope for awhile and see how I like it. My question: Which fixed 6X did the USAMU recommend?
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Old August 31, 2012, 02:13 PM   #12
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Being retired, and a long time shooter (hunter, mostly) and reloader, I started way back when with a 4 power scope. Then went to a 6 power. Then went to a 3-9 and hunted with it set at 5 power. About that time in my life I started spending a lot more time at the shooting range and I felt that a 3-9 wasn't just right for that. It works, but I want more magnification without having to grab the spotting scope. My deer hunting scopes now are 4.5-14 and my varmint scopes are 6-18 and 6.5-20. While out in the back pasture, waiting for a pig or coyote, I usually have the scope set on 8 power. If I'm in the woods I usually go down to about 5 power (or 6 on that other scope). As for what I think might just be the perfect blend of magnification ranges, I like the 4.5-14 or the 4-16. And if you have the big bucks to drop on a scope, a NF or S&B 5-25 would sure make me happy. Do ya need 25 power? Hardly ever, but it's there if you want it or need it. Some will say that a big scope like that isn't pretty on a rifle. I couldn't care less. The rifle is mostly a tool and the more effective and versatile the tool is the better it can work. And...put that NF 5-25 on your rifle and I'll send you $5 every time somebody walks up to you and says "that sure is an ugly rifle and scope". What'll actually happen is that you'll have to wipe Bubba's drool off your NF scope.
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Old August 31, 2012, 03:32 PM   #13
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Just my opinion,but there are trade offs for everything.

And,IMO,in choosing a scope,I look at "What do I gain?What do I give up?"

Many rifles,including hunting rifles,are used within 300 yds of the vehicle,and not carried more than 1/2 mile a day.

For many,the point is shooting a group a fraction of an inch smaller,or,maybe a prairie dog at a measured true 600 yds.

Whatever works.If you liike a big scope,enjoy.

IMO,weight and bulk that is carried in my hands is weight and bulk I pay the highest price for.They have a lot of uphill here in Colorado.I appreciate light,compact,easy carrying rifles.

With the scope on it,my .257 AI,built on a Mexican Mauser with a Douglas fwt bbl,weighs 7 lbs total.It has a fixed power 6x 42 mm Leupold on it.

Interestingly,the standard Duplex is one Mil from center crosshair to duplex tip.That is useful for rough range estimation.It also works out that with a 300 yd zero,the upper duplex tip is dead on at 100 yds,and the lower is on at about 430 yds(115 gr Nosler BT,3050 fps,5000 ft altitude,numbers are approximate)

It all just works so good!! And I have done a lot of crawling under fences,through sage and cactus,etc with it.Not a pretty rifle,it is painted with bow camo that has worn through to the gel coat,but its a tool!

IMO,if you are shooting at a heart/lung size target,not a PD,about 1x per hundred yards will do fine to place your shot.

Another point,quality of optics trumps magnification.

With a really good 10 x glass,you can see to place shots at the farthest ranges a .308 is effective.

I just do not understand putting a 22 in long 56 mm objective 2 1/2 lb scope on anything but a very specialized(limited use) rifle.

And,please folks,do not use your rifle scope for spotting scope/binoculars.When I am looking through my binoculars at some one who is checking me out with their rifle scope.......

Don't point your rifle at anything you do not intend to kill.If you are looking at me through your scope,your actions say you intend to kill me."I'm sorry" is not enough for that kind of rude and stupid.
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Old August 31, 2012, 03:38 PM   #14
GI Sandv
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Well, it's clear to me that this is anything but clear. As I said, a scope is still a little ways into the future for me so all the insight is helpful as I consider my options.

A point of clarification with regards to the gentleman I mentioned. He did say that his goal was to hit a human, not "drive a tack at 1,000 yards." (Paraphrasing.) And in comparison to hunting deer or elk, he made the point that even hitting a guy in the hand will put him out of the fight. Perhaps not as ideal as a direct, center mass hit, but it'll prevent the bad guy from returning fire effectively. As with everything, I guess your purpose and parameters in which you're shooting really drives the decision.

I suppose with the mirage issue, even if you have a higher-powered scope, leaving it at a lower setting would negate this issue. No?

As to quality of scopes, in a similar price point, will you generally get a better quality scope with a smaller range, e.g. 3-9x, than you would with a larger range, e.g. 8-32x?

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Old August 31, 2012, 04:57 PM   #15
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I am not a sniper, nor have I ever competed in long range events.

I have a single scope that exceeds 10x. It's a Leupold Vari-X III 6.5-20x50mm, that resides on what used to be a dedicated varmint/target rig (.220 Swift).
Even out to 400 yards, or so, I never used the top end of the magnification in the field (prairie dogs). The field of view was too small, and the mirage too annoying. It usually ended up being set somewhere around 12-14x.

Now, that rifle has a different barrel and is a little more 'utilitarian', chambered for a wildcat equivalent to .243 Winchester. The only time it exceeds 10x, is when I'm shooting paper on a comfortable day. Even at 100 yards, barrel heat mirage is just too annoying on cold days or in the heat of the summer.

I have one 2-7x33mm (.444 Marlin with no iron sights) and one 3.5-10x40mm (.270 Winchester). Everything else is 3-9x40mm, even the scoped rimfires.

In the field, I rarely exceed 4x. Even on Antelope hunts where 400-500 yard shots might be considered as an option, the scopes usually stay down around 4x for a better field of view and mirage abatement.

In the last few years, I've given serious thought to going with fixed-power scopes on future builds/buys. 4x and 6x fixed scopes usually have great clarity, a fantastic field of view, lower weight, lower price tags, there's less to fail, and you only need to know the reticle's subtensions at a single magnification (if you care about that). Even if I were to build a "long range" target rig, I would likely slap exactly what this thread is about on the rifle - a fixed 10x.



I am not an expert, but in my experience...
Generally... At the same price point, a fixed power scope will be higher quality than a "low magnification" variable power scope (2-7x, 2.5-8x, 3-9x, etc). And, the "low magnification" variable power scope will be higher quality than a "high magnification" variable power scope (6.5-20x, 6-24x, 8-32x, etc).
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Old August 31, 2012, 05:17 PM   #16
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When I bought my 220 Swift, it came with a 10 power scope mounted on it (Lyman or Unertl, I just can't remember). It was an excellent scope, but a fixed 10 power was just too much magnification for a lot of the varmint shots I was taking, or trying to take. Today that rifle has the 6.5-20 Leupold. Probably I'd be just as happy with a 4-16 of similar quality, but I'm not going with a fixed power scope again. Mostly I'm on the edge of fields varmint hunting when I have that rifle, and the shots could be 60 yards to 500 yards. I shoot on 8 power generally, but I did shoot a coyote last year with the scope on 20 power. He was a fairly long way off, and I managed to hold the sight picture when the rifle went off, and was watching the coyote's expression when the bullet got there. Bottom line is that a fixed power scope will do, but with today's technology, why would anyone really want a fixed power scope to hunt with. It may be lighter, simpler, and cheaper, and that can be an attraction, but fixed power is, in a way, limiting. Note that I'm talking about hunting and not about target shooting.
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Old August 31, 2012, 05:27 PM   #17
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For a game rifle, 3-9X or 4-12X is fine, easy enough to get a good shot on a game animal at any range I am comfortable to take a shot.

My Varmint-LR Rig has a 6.5-20. I have another Varmint rifle that has a fixed 36X Leupold benchrest scope, which frankly was a mistake. It is quite difficult to find targets because of the narrow field of view, and the eye relief is ridiculously critical. If you head/eye is not in the perfect spot (± ~1mm) you can't see a damn thing.

I never understood the attitude some people have that "This is the way the military does it, so this is the way you should do it". The Military has specific reasons why they do what they do how they do it, and generally speaking, for your average hunter/shooter those reasons probably do not apply. If you want a fixed power scope for a military Sniper rifle, 10X is a great choice, for the reasons stated. Police are probably fine with lower power, because the engagement ranges are shorter (I remember haring conflicting numbers for this, some claim the average shot is 70 yards, but I have also heard it is as low as 50 yards)

I am not a sniper, and I am not limited to a fixed power scope, A good variable gives you lots of magnification when you need it, and less when you don't.
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Old August 31, 2012, 05:42 PM   #18
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Dos centavos from an old dinosaur. When I was a puppy I shot long range with iron sights and only used a spotting scope at rifle matches to score. Time passed and my long range days were over but i found a fixed power 4x handled everything I was going to shoot at in Wisconsin, absolute maximum distance 200 yards, 60 -100 was more likely.

Then I fell, broke my arm and the gun and lost the scope somewhere. When I got back into it I found and tried a variety of scopes from a fixed 10x50 to 2.5X 30, Still on my shotgun). I discovered it didn't seem to matter if the tip end of my scale was a 9 or a 12 or something else by the time I got the scope where I wanted it I was on 6X. 22Lr shooting 200 yards or 300 Wby shooting 300 yards it just seemed 6x was right for me.

Your mileage may vary but you will end up with more than one scope, we all do but I think you will find a clear target at a specific setting beats the day lights out of a wiggly target at a high setting. (I can do 10x but not 12x) I am sure if I was back in the desert of New Mexico chasing pronghorns I might want to rethink that but probably not. My comfort zone has gone from 1000 yards to 600 yards and my skill level is good out to 300 yards for those tack driver contests. Borrow first and try before you buy and get what you need. No use buying a $500 2.5-25X42 scope if a $100 fixed power 6X40 will work for you.
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Old August 31, 2012, 05:46 PM   #19
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As other have stated,Buy your scope for what you are going to use it for.
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Old August 31, 2012, 09:26 PM   #20
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One thing to be considered for a sniper's scope: it is fixed power so there is no confusion when ranging targets. Range to the target could easily be miscalculated if the scope were a zoom scope and not set at the proper magnification for ranging.
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Old August 31, 2012, 11:19 PM   #21
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Quote:
My question: Which fixed 6X did the USAMU recommend?
From the USAMU Counter Sniper Guide:

The list few scopes, mounts and rifles giving the order of preference.

Scope: Redfield 6X with 4 post cross hairs
Mounts: Redfield single piece
Rifle: Remington 700 Varmit Special

Understand this was written in the mid 70s but it worked then and it will work now.

Quote:
Range to the target could easily be miscalculated if the scope were a zoom scope and not set at the proper magnification for ranging.
This is true if your scope is calibrated at the second focus plain. It's then valid at the highest magnification. But if the scope is calibrated at the first focal plain, its valid through out the range.

Meaning your mil dot on the second focal plain works only at the highest magnification where as the mil dots will work at any setting when the scope is calibrated at the first focal plain.
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Old September 1, 2012, 04:41 AM   #22
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Quote:
For those who use more than 10 power scopes, do you feel they give you an advantage?
Yes , the scope which works for the sniper is not the same thing that will be used by a target benchrest shooter or varminter. The sniper is shooting at a far larger target than a prairie dog hunter. I doubt you will see any 10X scopes used in setting world records in target benchrest.

For deer hunting I would say the vast majority of hunters are not taking shots over 100 yards and the 10 power or higher is not needed and deer are massive targets in compairison to varmints.
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Old September 1, 2012, 07:20 AM   #23
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I think alot of the fixed power metality in the military comes from reliability not in being user freindly. Im sure if given a choise on a 1000 yard target most would prefer something with more power the a 6x. Alot of that mentality came from back in the VN area when reliable variable power scopes werent made. todays variables are alot more reliable and if im not mistake even the military uses them today and even did field some 3x9 redfields back in the day. I know if i were in a combat situation and my only arm was my sniper rifle id sure want to be able to crank the scope down lower the 6 or 10x.
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Old September 1, 2012, 07:43 AM   #24
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In the military all we had were fixed 10Xs with mil-dots or mil-rads or similar variation to the theme.

You are instructed to take shoots from 100-1000 yards hence a fixed 10X with mil-dots does the trick. Adjustable power is a no-no in combat because the mil-dots calculations vary with different magnification plus it's much better to learn to shoot accurately using a fixed scope and use the mil dots to adjust for bullet drop. It was never a case of durability as I believe quality variable power scopes can be just as sturdy as fixed one.

The objective of a sniper is to kill zombies with one shot any any distance not to nail groups of 1" at 1000 yards. Past 500 yards we were instructed to take body shots not head shots. Said that, I've seen 1-3" groupings using 10X @ 1000 yards! However, if you ONLY shoot at 1000 yards, then you'd be better served by higher magnification like a 16X or 20X.

A 16X would do the trick from 500-1000, a 20X 700-1000, but a fixed 10X is where it's at in terms of sheer adaptability and that's the whole point of being a soldier: Adapt and Survive!

So yes, for 99% of shooting and hunting situations, a fixed 10X is all you'll ever need.
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Old September 1, 2012, 08:08 AM   #25
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At one time variable scopes were less then ideal in the reliability department now however they have improved greatly, personally that is all I buy because of the type shooting I do, mostly 5-20x44 fit my needs, and a couple 8-32x44 target dots for super fine target shooting. I fully understand for military usage the fixed power makes sense but for sportsman the variable is a much better pick IMO.
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