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The first question many people ask when they buy their first rifle is “What kind of scope do I want to mount?” Not that there is anything wrong with iron sights. Many rifles come factory equipped with iron sights that work quite well with little or no sighting in required. But not all of us are blessed with 20/20 vision, and it can be troublesome for older shooters to keep the front sight in focus. Some rifles, particularly bolt action models, are not equipped with iron sights at all and are intended to have some sort of optics system installed.
So for whatever reason, you’ve made the decision that you want to install optics on your hunting rifle. But what type of scope should be installed? First, you will need to determine the primary role that you intend to use the firearm for. For the purposed of this article, we’re assuming you’ll be using it for hunting, but what type of game will you be using it for? Medium game such as deer taken at less than 200 yards? Small game such as prairie dogs, or squirrels? Or maybe bighorn sheep or pronghorn taken over 600 yards away? Whatever the purpose, there is an optic that is right for your firearm.
Most scopes are fogproof and waterproof. Most scopes have coated lenses. The coatings are expensive and vary in type, number, and quality. It is very possible to have a scope with single coated lenses that greatly outperforms a scope with multicoated lenses. It all depends on the quality of the glass and the coatings. Good quality does not come cheap.
The following are accepted terms for coatings:
Coated: A single layer on at least one lens surface.
Fully Coated: A single layer on all air to glass surfaces.
Multicoated: Multiple layers on at least one lens surface.
Fully Multicoated: Multiple layers on all air to glass surfaces.
For prairie dogs or long range target shooting, a 6-20X or 8-25X variable scope does not have too much power. Keep in mind though, on hot days, mirage and heat waves can make a high power scope almost unusable.
Some people prefer fixed power scopes for their simplicity and fewer moving parts. On some rifles, People like nothing more than a fixed 4X. Squirrel rifles and many 22s are well equipped with this magnification. Some target shooters use fixed power scopes with high magnification such as 24, 36, or 40 power.