There are a lot of reasons to add an optic to a gun these days, but old guns in particular can get a breath of new life with a simple change of the scope

Wisdom often comes with age – at least it used to. As the years pass, we learn new things and experience new practices. Despite the semi-conservative nature of many gun owners, we should never miss out on an opportunity to improve as shooters.

But our equipment can also improve as we learn new tactics and skills, so let’s discuss how you can breathe new life into an older rifle by simply upgrading the scope.

Why Uprade?

Sig Sauer Scope
Optics technology has come a long way in just a few years. (Photo: Jeff Wood/

Why fix something that isn’t broken, you might ask? We all know someone – and it might be you – who religiously keeps one or more firearms in a certain configuration or style. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, there are also great gains to be made with upgrades.

Optics technology has made great advances in a very short time. Modern riflescopes incorporate an incredible number of features and new tech, so much in fact that a good scope from years past can often be easily eclipsed by modern designs. Sure, they don’t make them like they used to, but sometimes they do it better.

Upgrade to What?

1903 Springfield
My father's old 1903 Springfield is capable of sub-MOA shooting, so it can only benefit from a nicer scope. (Photo: Jeff Wood/

To actually qualify as an upgrade, there needs to be added value in performance. That could mean better optical quality or a different variable power range. It could also mean added features that increase your ability to hit more targets.

A perfect example of this comes from my father’s first hunting rifle. It was a sporterized 1903 Springfield from the post-war era. Part of its post-service alteration was that it was drilled and tapped for a scope. Dad had put a 4x Weaver on it, much like everyone else did back in the day, turning the gun into a fine deer rifle for the rugged Rocky Mountains where we hunt. 

The old Springfield can still put five shots into a sub-MOA group, making it certainly capable of doing more. Removing the old Weaver scope and replacing it with something a bit more modern could greatly improve the capabilities of this old rifle.

Installing something like a Leupold VX Freedom 3-9x40 could do several things to improve the rifle’s performance. The greater magnification offers the shooter a more detailed view of the target and its surroundings. In addition, the newer optical lens coatings surely outperform the old scope. Furthermore, with the ability to dial corrected elevation for more distant targets, the old Springfield could easily reach targets as far as 500 and 600 yards or more. 



Rifle Scope Reticle
Reticles have improved and so has the quality of glass and lens coatings on modern optics. (Photo: Jeff Wood/

Another example of what can be done comes from an old Model 70 I have. It’s probably had the same Leupold on it for the last 30 years or so. While it’s not one of the famed Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock’s Model 70s, it does shoot well. The old duplex reticle that has inhabited Leupold scopes forever can be useful, but I was thinking something a little more useful was in order. 

Model 70 with a riflescope
This old Model 70 can still shoot and does so well with a nice optic up top. (Photo: Jeff Wood/

I have a little Vortex Crossfire 3-9x40 that would easily drop into the same rings. Instead of the plain-Jane duplex, it has a few added points. The elevation post has 1.5, 4.5, and 7.5-MOA drop points on it, which give perfect holdovers for 180, 315, and 410 yards for that rifle. Not that you couldn’t shoot those ranges with a duplex, but it just makes it more consistent to have a fixed point you can hold for those distances.

Something that simple can greatly affect your ability to hit targets, and you wouldn’t even have to mess with your rifle or load at all. 


Sig Sauer BDX Reticle
Some optics even offer illuminated points for bullet drop thanks to range-finding technology. (Photo: Jeff Wood/

A discussion on optics upgrades would be incomplete without mentioning some of the electronic advancements that have been made over the past decade. Simple electronic advancements like the LevelPlex system from Sig Sauer give the shooter real-time leveling indications to ensure the rifle is on a level plane prior to making the shot. 

Also, from Sig come the BDX riflescopes that include illuminated holdover points that are calculated from a rangefinder’s measurement. There are also night vision and thermal riflescopes that will allow for nighttime hunting opportunities. These often include digital recording and other data hunters will find useful. While many of these gizmos may seem foreign, they can greatly improve your old rifle’s performance and your experience shooting them.

Mounting Options

Don’t overlook the new and better mounting options for your optics. Canted optics bases help with long-range optics, allowing the shooter to better use the internal adjustment of the scope to their fullest capacity. Things like Picatinny rails allow for easy changes between optical options, so you can quickly swap from one scope to another without worrying much about losing zero. Or, if you have a favorite scope, you can switch it between multiple rifles that use the same kind of mounting system.


There are countless ways you can improve your favorite old rifle. A fresh look at the scope or sighting system can make genuine improvements by increasing your effective shooting range and providing better accuracy, taking your shooting to a whole new level. 

These are just some of the tips you can use to improve your rifle-shooting experience. There are plenty of others, but improving your riflescope game is one of the simplest and can have a drastic impact for you with minimal effort.

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