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Trends in telescopic sights

An acquaintance of mine has a lovely pair of custom rifles in 6mm Rem. and .220 Swift, but on each rifle he has mounted a 6X-20X Leupold scope. Now, the Leupold is a fine scope but the big variables mounted on those exquisite light sporters are akin to putting single-action salt water fishing reels on No. 4 fly-rods — it screams of imbalance.

Yet my acquaintance is representative of many hunters today in that they don’t believe they can go hunting without a big variable scope with a “dial-in” feature and a top magnification of at least 14X. I recently saw a picture of a guy’s new 7mm-08 and equipped with an Austrian Swarovski variable big enough to beat a grizzly bear to death.

I own a lot of rifles, including a 7 X 57, .270, .280 — all with 4X scopes made by Leupold, Burris and Redfield. Over the decades I have bungled shots with each rifle, but the misses were not due to lack of magnification. Rather, it was the fault of the guy behind the rifle!

I do have several rifles that employ fairly large variables — a pair of Mark V Weatherby rifles in 7mm and .300 magnum. A friend of mine gave me the 3-1/2X-10X Leupold I have on the 7mm. On the .300 I have a 2-3/4X-10X Bausch & Lomb 4000 series that I got for a song about 20 years ago, swapping an old Balvar for the newer model. Most of the time I set these variables on 4X so I really don’t need the extra magnification. However, both are fairly heavy rifles with 26” barrels, and the relatively large scopes fit nicely with the profiles of each rifle. In addition, the extra scope weight soaks up recoil.

I don’t remember ever shooting a big game animal with the scope set on more than 6X. I should add that among my collection is a .257 Weatherby built on a Sako action, Ackley barrel and 4-1/2-14X Leupold Vari-X-III scope. I had it built for my father about 40 years ago, and he gave it to me a couple years before his death. It is a plains rifle with 26” barrel, E. C. Bishop stock and carries the large scope well. However, when I shot an antelope with the rifle a few years ago the scope was set on 6X.

My other plains rifle is a .25-06 built on a Sako action and barrel with stock by Reinhart Fajen. On the rifle is a 45-year-old 6X Redfield Widefield with 2-minute dot reticle. After dozens of deer, antelope and a few coyotes, the rifle has never failed me, nor have I felt a need for more magnification.

Actually, one of the most useful scopes is a low-powered variable. It can be cranked down to lower power for timber hunting or for dangerous game, or set on higher ranges for longer shots. I have a .338 Win. magnum that I have owned for decades. The rifle is built on a Sako action, Lilja barrel and is equipped with a 1-3/4X-5X Burris Signature scope in Leupold mounts.

Since the rebuild 20 years ago I shot an Alaskan moose with the rifle, an elk or two, and three barren ground caribou bulls. The first was at 35 yards, the last at 368 paces. I had the Burris set on 5X for that last shot and never felt lacking.

I also have a low-powered variable on my .375 H & H Magnum, a custom rifle built on a pre-war Model 70 action. The scope is a 1-1/2X-5X Redfield Vari-X-II in Redfield detachable mounts. I shot a bison in Montana with the .375 and four or five animals in Africa.

The substantial recoil of the .375 would probably do harm to a big, bulky scope (the same could be said for the .338) but it doesn’t affect the low-powered variable. In any case why on earth would anyone want a big variable on a .338 or a .375 in the first place?

Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been                                          an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974