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Old May 5, 2009, 09:40 AM   #1
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What is the best low light scope?

I would say that the majority of deer that I see, I see at dawn or dusk. So, independent of range, what is going to be the best scope for this situation? Variable power, lets say 3x-9x or thereabouts.

Lets say three categories:
Under $500
Under $1000
Unlimited $$$
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Old May 5, 2009, 10:09 AM   #2
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Low-light performance is a function of 2 things: Glass quality and exit pupil size.

I don't have time to write a whole dissertation about exit pupils, but just keep in mind that you have to match or exceed the exit pupil size of the scope to the size of your pupil given the light conditions when used. Generally, it's a large exit pupil.
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Old May 5, 2009, 10:12 AM   #3
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There are tons of great scopes available these days with fully multicoated optics. When optics shopping you should know your terminology i.e. know that fully multicoated > multicoated. IMO glass is more important that objective size. But exit pupil is a good characteristic to use when comparing scopes with similar optics. My favorite bang for the buck scopes are the Nikon Team Primos 3-9x40 (which is a Monarch) for $220 and the Bushnell Elite 4200 3-9x40 for $250.

Many low cost modern scopes have light transmission numbers that are so good (90-95%) that you can easily hunt 30 minutes before and after legal hunting times.

Overall good lowlight scopes are (in no particular order):

- Nikon Buckmaster - (budget)
- Bushnell 3200 - (budget)
- Sightron SI - (budget)
- Nikon Monarchs (mid priced)
- Busnell 4500/6500 (mid priced)
- Sightron SII/SIII (mid priced)
- Leupold VX-3/Mark 4 (mid/high priced)
- Zeiss Conquest (mid/high priced)
- Kahles - (mid/high priced)
- IOR - (high priced)
- Nightforce - (high priced)
- Zeiss/Swarovski - (ultra high priced)
- US Optics - (ultra high priced)
- Schmidt & Bender - (ultra high priced)
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Old May 5, 2009, 10:18 AM   #4
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Very good question and I look forward to the responses. Oftimes in thick brush I have trouble with this very same thing.
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Old May 5, 2009, 10:39 AM   #5
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lipadj46, Good list! I own several of those scopes and agree especially about the value/$$ of the Elite 4200 and also I feel the Zeiss Conquest to be another excellent value, IMO. Another facet of shooting at last (legal) light is the type reticle you choose. Repeated low light comparisons of 1" and 30mm quality scopes has shown me that on scopes of equal or nearly equal brightness, the crosshair type makes a significant difference, period. I favor the Leupold HD, the German #4 type and Bushnell's FF(interestingly enough, this reticle simulates a HD type even when not charged). A superior scope with excellent resolution, in low light, will still more easily loose it's crosshairs against a dark background if they are typical narrow duplex type, in my experience.
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Old May 5, 2009, 10:43 AM   #6
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I use a Bushnell Banner Dusk&Dawn 3-9X40. I can see clearly WAY past legal shooting time. WAY WAY past legal time. I use the version with the Circle-X reticle, very easy to see in low light.
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Old May 5, 2009, 10:47 AM   #7
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Good points about the reticle, Pilot.

That brings up another thought - avoid lit reticle scopes.
All that light does is transform you objective lens into a mirror leaving you staring at a black sheet. Mirror effect happens when one side of glass is darker than the other. The dark side reflects the light.
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Old May 5, 2009, 10:50 AM   #8
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Yes I prefer the regular old Duplex reticle for hunting. The thicker crosshairs can be too much for fine target work past 300 yards though.
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Old May 5, 2009, 11:15 AM   #9
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I think most low-light shooting would normally be done at relatively short ranges; at least as far as I'm concerned. I have shot game mere minutes prior to the legal 30 mins after SS law and finding it can be a true additional challenge. Everyone has their own preferences, of course, but mine run way in favor of bold crosshair types for my hunting rifles. I also feel any quality scope and crosshair combination is far superior to irons and peep sights when light is low. There's simply no comparison in low light situations.
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Old May 5, 2009, 04:26 PM   #10
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If you want the very best, go with one of the Premier Reticle Heritage line of scopes. They are unbelieveable. Absolutely the best scope I have ever looked through. I just wish I could afford one. At around $2500 they are a bit pricey.
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Old May 6, 2009, 07:07 PM   #11
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The absolute best is the Swarovski 1.5 to 6 X 42 w/ 30mm tube.

I can see clearly in the dark with no artificial light and very little moonlight. It amazes me that the scope lets me see details in the shadows and see clearly enough to confidently shoot.

Great glass with incredible coatings make it possible.
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Old May 6, 2009, 10:50 PM   #12
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The higher the mm objective lens the more light it will let in. So a 50mm lens will be much better than any 30mm scope you can buy. also the more expensive "higher quality" scopes you buy will let in more light. the more money you pay, the clearer the glass; there for the more light it will let in
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Old May 6, 2009, 11:43 PM   #13
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I broke my personal bank and bought a Swarovski 1.5 to 6 X,. It has a 30mm tube and I swear, if there is a moon, I could shoot all night. Wonderful scope, just cost about the same as the gun it sits on.
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Old May 7, 2009, 09:48 AM   #14
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what he said

I was in the market a month ago and looked at dozens of scopes. The dealer had a gunstock with cutouts to mount 1 scope on top of another for comparison. The scope was to go on remington's new AR with heavy long bbl. I planned on getting a Nikon Monarch, then did the comparisons which everyone should do. I ruled out the Nikon immediately when compared to Leupold and Burris. The Burris was slightly brighter than the Leupold but dealer said he gets a few returns from Burris products. Then came teh Swarovsky, there really is no comparison. it is brighter, much clearer, thinner reticle. I just couldn't justify the cost. I spoke to the guys at fori their suggestions and they recommended the new Bushnell elite 6500 on the 30mm tube, so I bought sight unseen. It was a wise choice and I am happy with it. If you have the money, especially for hunting dangerous game or those in low light conditions, go with the Swarovski. One note- there was more glare with the swarovski than the leupold. ( I also own 3 leupolds and a Nikon).
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Old May 7, 2009, 09:54 AM   #15
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I think years ago this would have been a real relevent question but anymore if a guy buys a good scope for around 300 bucks there about all good in low light and the differnce from one to another will not make it usable in low light for more then a couple minutes more then another one. Just look for something that has multi coated lenses. Used to be this was only offererd on high dollar scopes. Now even mid to low priced ones are multi coated.
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Old May 7, 2009, 11:47 AM   #16
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I agree, the fact that all the lenses are fully multi-coated and made from quality glass means as much or more than the need for a large objective (over 42mm).
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Old May 7, 2009, 07:53 PM   #17
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I really like Trijicon scopes and they perform exceptionally well in low light IMHO. Without batteries, crosshairs turn red in low light which to my eyes provides an excellent site picture.

Trijicon optics have an excellent rep for quality, across the board. I have a straight up 4x version with a .308 calibrated reticle and I'm extremely pleased with it.

You say you support our troops. How about actually doing something? Your blood or platelets can save a life Armed Services Blood Program.

Last edited by longcall911; May 7, 2009 at 07:54 PM. Reason: sp
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Old May 7, 2009, 08:08 PM   #18
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I have a Leupold Mark 4 LRT 3-10x40 with TMR reticule. It is excellent in low light and it has an illuminated reticule which works quite well. I have had no mirror effect when using the illuminated reticule after the sun goes down. It put me back $1200 but I think it was worth it. Leupold is a great company and are very helpful.
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