Scope Choices: Eye Relief, Illuminated Reticles, and Future Optics
The capabilities of a scope are one thing. If you own a quality scope, you’re already on the right path. But when you actually need to take a shot, it’s how the optic functions with your eye and your rifle that can make or break your shooting experience.
Let’s review some key aspects of a scope that can have a direct impact on how they perform for you.
Eye relief is basically how far you need to be behind from your scope to gain a clear and accurate picture of your target. Normally, this will be at least a few inches, which helps protect you from the scope itself when it recoils backwards after shooting. But maintaining a safe distance from your scope is really just one aspect of a quality optic.
There is a level of “forgiveness” – or eye box – that varies from scope to scope. Some optics allow for several inches of forgiveness, which means you have some room to adjust the position of your eye when using the scope and maintaining a good sight picture.
How do you know what scope offers you the best eye box for your needs? Well, most quality scopes will have information about the eye box that they provide. But it really comes down to getting behind the optic and testing it out on your gun.
I recommend you test it at the maximum magnification. The eye box will shift depending on your magnification. Starting at the highest magnification will show you the narrowest limit of your scope’s eye box. Regardless of your eye position, you want to have some level of forgiveness so you can shoot from various positions. That flexibility will help you get a clear sight picture regardless of your shooting conditions.
Do you need an illuminated reticle? Well, not really. There are great optics that don’t offer illumination, but it is an increasingly common feature. It’s not really necessary for most of the shooting that I do for Mid-Atlantic Rimfire Series matches.
Illumination does come in handy when you are shooting at night or in low-light conditions. After dusk, an illuminated optic will help you engage a target that is dark. This is especially helpful if you are doing varmint hunting or plinking later in the day. However, I find that I really don’t use illumination 95 percent of the time.
Scope technology is developing quickly. It’s actually pretty exciting. While the electronics in scopes are relatively new, they have a lot of potential. There are systems now that connect your scope to your smartphone so you can update and collect data directly from your optic and your phone.
We are at a point where you might not really even need to dial or adjust your optic. Instead, it will show you where you will impact at various ranges. There is still a lot of joy in manually adjusting your optic and putting rounds on targets down range. Technology, however, is starting to create some very interesting and competitive alternatives that are worth watching over the next few years.