Nine French hunters out of ten use a telescopic sight when hunting big game. A scope can be an indispensable help when seeking to ensure a maximum of precision. Red dots, scopes for driven hunts or scopes for stalking: with so much choice, it is sometimes difficult to know what to choose! This should help with your decision.
Scopes for driven hunt
If the BAR is known as the uncrowned queen of driven hunt weapons, the French are incontestably the kings of driven hunting for boar. This type of hunt is particularly dynamic and exciting! There’s an inevitable burst of adrenaline when a 90-kilo boar emerges behind you, passes at your feet, skids out of control a few metres further to crash into the bushes, brought down by your precision shot! Red dots are especially useful for this type of kill. They enable a swift target acquisition and sufficient precision for a close range shot. Other hunters may opt for such a scope, more accurate over longer distances. A good scope for driven hunt needs to fulfil certain requirements to meet the hunter’s specific needs:
Zoom range: as with a red dot, this needs to start at 1x to enable a fast shot with both eyes open. Usually the range of zoom goes up to 4x, 6x or even 8x. The hunter will need to be clear about the most suitable range, depending on the type of terrain, long-distance shooting not being exactly the priority on driven hunts.
The wire reticle: when beaters are at work, things can happen very fast. In contrast to scopes for stalking, the wire reticle should not be too fine, so that one is not slowed down searching for it in the heat of the moment. A red dot at the centre of the crosshair is also highly appreciated to speed up targeting. The dot must be bright enough to ensure its visibility, even in bright sunlight or snow.
Ergonomics: often overlooked, good ergonomics are crucial for a scope used for driven hunts. A half turn should suffice to cover the entire zoom range. The red dot should be easy and quick to switch on, even when wearing gloves.
Scopes for stalking
We generally distinguish two types of scopes for stalking: classic rifle scopes and those designed for use at dusk, when light is lacking. Both kinds of scopes offer a high degree of magnification (2×12 for example), enabling one to work at long, even very long distances. These vary considerably in their lens diameter. The wider the diameter, the more light can enter. It’s thus logical that a dusk or dawn rifle scope needs a wider diameter, often 56mm, than a classic scope for stalking or driven hunt. Low-light scopes are also useable in normal conditions, but one should bear in mind that their wider diameter makes them heavier and more cumbersome to work with.
Typically, a general-purpose scope will feature a low minimum magnification, such as 1.5x, suitable for a fast shot during a driven hunt, and a higher magnification, of 8x or 10x, which will be adequate for most stalking situations. Their optical diameter is usually of intermediate width, such as 42mm, leaving a field of vision sufficiently large for most driven hunt situations while also handling relatively low-light conditions as well. This is an excellent compromise for those seeking a Jack-of-all-trades scope that will be effective in a majority of hunting situations. But, as with all compromises, they have their limits: for driven hunts, the absence of 1 to 1 magnification doesn’t let you shoot with both eyes open. In addition, with a more limited field of vision than that of a genuine scope, very short shots are more complicated. And finally, for stalking situations, the diameter makes it less efficient in dusk conditions.
Buying a telescopic sight: a choice that merits serious reflection
Too many hunters seem to think that the more expensive a scope is, the better it will be. Others let their emotions guide them and stay faithful to one particular brand. Without passing judgement, I think such hunters are wrong. Your scope is an indispensable tool for precision shooting. A whole series of factors need to be considered, which we can divide under three headings.
The first criterion has to be the optical quality. Several elements need to be taken into account when evaluating the optical quality of a rifle scope. Firstly, its field of vision. The larger it is, the better! This allows faster targeting and a better evaluation of the surroundings. However, pay attention to the clarity of contours, some scopes that have a wide field of view present a rather vague, fuzzy definition toward their limits, diminishing the effective field. It’s better to have a smaller field, with clear contours, than an exceptionally wide field that is only well-defined toward the middle. It is equally important that the scope tends as little as possible toward tunnel vision. The tunnel effect produces a dark margin around the edges of the image, which can be very uncomfortable when sighting and anyway hides part of the surrounding area. Also pay attention to the clarity of the image and the contours. This principally depends on the quality of the lenses and their coating. Finally, a telescopic sight must ensure a high degree of fidelity to light levels and colours, at least 90%. It is important that the optics are treated in such a way as to ensure a high transmission of all colours visible to the naked eye. Poor quality scopes tend to show a dominant colour, often yellow or blue, that is far from reality. High light transmission is crucial for perfect visibility in all circumstances, particularly when meteorological conditions are less than ideal.
The second criterion is to make sure that you have a reliable and robust scope. The harsh conditions that often prevail when hunting may damage your optical sight, causing a range of technical problems, more or less serious. Personally, I would rather deal with wild boars than a customer service department, no matter how polite. Good and rugged construction will also guarantee precise and durable adjustment. For there is nothing worse than a scope that loses its setting at the slightest shock. Kite Optics, the brand associated with Browning, outclasses all the competition in this regard. All components are metal, aviation quality aluminium for the chassis, sufficiently thick so as not to be damaged by the adjustable rings, brass for the moving parts most subject to wear. Everything is assembled, nothing is bonded; with the result that scopes from Kite Optics are the most robust on the market. They will resist the most extreme conditions as well as the harshest recoil shock.
Ease of operation
To finish, you should choose a scope with regard to its convenience and ease of use. The first question concerns the wire reticle. All sorts of designs exist. The choice of one over another is principally a matter of taste. The most popular for hunting is the 4A, consisting of a fine cross, surrounded by 3 thicker bars. You need to evaluate the fineness of the hairlines, finer for stalking than for driven hunting; as well as the spacing of the thicker bars, letting the target game appear. It is equally important to choose a sight that features a high quality luminous point: round, without any surrounding halo, visible day or night and sufficiently fine to ensure precision accuracy. It must also be possible to adjust the intensity of the red dot according to ambient conditions of visibility. This should be quick and easy to do, even blind. Finally, the last aspect is to pay particular attention to the external coating of the lenses, as these are in contact with the exterior environment. Kite Optics, for example, scratch proofs its lenses. A special hydrophobic coat, PERMAVISION™, rejects water and hinders condensation.
These are the principal points to watch out for when choosing your next telescopic sight. The optical sector is as complex and technical as the arms sector. That’s why you should make a regular date for the coming months on this blog. I shall be writing other articles on optics, drawing back the veil on these still largely misunderstood products. You’ll be reading me again very soon!