Choose wisely when scope shopping
|Photo by GORDON HUTCHINSON|
The Konus scope made a nice fit for the .270-caliber H&R Handi-Rifle.
Rifle telescopic sights are all pretty much manufactured the same way. They all consist of a tube generally built from aluminum for strength and lightness of weight. If it is for a centerfire rifle, it will have a main tube diameter of 1 inch. The scopes with larger objectives like 50 millimeters frequently go to a 30-millimeter tube diameter, slightly larger than 1 inch, to allow the larger amounts of light gathered by the front objective lens to flow through the internal lenses into the rear ocular lens.
Most all scopes are pumped full of nitrogen, an inert gas, to remove any chance of air trapped in the scope — air that would contain water vapor that would fog the lenses during a temperature change.
It has become popular to buy scopes with 50-millimeter front objective lenses to gather more light than the standard 40-millimeter lenses.
Lens coatings are imparted to the lenses by vaporizing metallic compounds in vacuum chambers containing the optic lenses to be coated. The number of coatings determines how much light gathered at the muzzle end will be transmitted through the scope tube. The coatings overcome the loss of light and image degradation caused by the reflective surface of the glass scattering the light. The higher quality scopes will have fully multi-coated lenses, and will transmit well over 95 percent of the gathered light through the tube to the rear of the scope.
The higher quality scopes will have lenses that are precision-ground optics, and fit in the scope tube perfectly round. Cheaper lenses may be coated to a degree, and may gather light fairly well, but they may not be ground to the exacting specifications of precision optics, and instead of being perfectly fitted inside the scope tube, they may be shimmed in place, and may move at some point.
I had heard and read of this phenomenom, but I had never seen it until now. And that’s a shame, because I was really prepared to like the scope given to me by Editor Todd Masson, with the instructions to put it on his H&R Handi-Rifle, give it a workout and review it.
Masson had received a call asking him if he would take a scope for testing in the magazine — a Konus. He agreed, and a few days later, he received a large box containing a new Konus Pro 3-12x50.
The box was fairly large for a scope container, probably because it needed the room to carry the extra screw-on sunshade extension tube that came free with the scope, or maybe it had something to do with the size of the instruction booklet that described the scope in 10 languages, including French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portugese, Italian, a couple that looked middle eastern, and one set in the Cyrillic alphabet that appeared to be Russian.
Surprisingly enough, considering the box stated the scope is manufactured in the People’s Republic of China, none of the instructions were in anything that resembled Chinese characters.
The box and instructions stated the scope was fogproof, waterproof and had an engraved 30/30 reticle and multi-coated optics.
I considered the sunshade simply a gimmick. Few shooters will ever need one. Even if they think it makes them look really professional at the range, they will quickly remove it as it limits the amount of light entering the objective lens.
But the scope appeared solid and relatively well-made.
After mounting and boresighting the scope, I took it out on my range, and shot it from 25 yards to get it on the paper and ready to tune in at 100 yards.
It took several shots to get the bullets striking where I wanted them to hit at 25 yards, about an inch low and dead on vertically. I was very impressed with the clarity of the scope, its clear images at all powers of magnification, and its focusing ring on the objective end that allowed you to turn it until the image was perfectly crisp and clear at any setting.
Scopes have an adjustable lens in the center of the tube, and windage and elevation adjustment knobs that push the lens against springs on the opposite side of it from the knobs. The springs keep the lens in position against the adjustment screws, which move it left or right and up and down until the bullet strikes where the shooter wants it.
One very effective test of the ability of a scope to adjust correctly is to “shoot the square.” The shooter fires a group of three shots. He then cranks the windage right a specified number of clicks. If the scope is set up for ¼-inch increments equaling 1 inch at 100 yards, and the rifle is shooting relatively tight groups, then the shooter may turn the adjustment knob 12 times to the right, which should move the next group 3 inches to the right.
The shooter will then turn the elevation knob 12 clicks down, which should drop the next group 3 inches directly below the second group. The shooter will then turn the windage knob 12 clicks to the left, and the new group should move 3 inches to the left and be directly under the first group. Adjusting the elevation knob 12 clicks up should make the next group return to the same spot as the first group, and print on top of it.
I had neither the time nor ammunition to perform such a test, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the scope tracked perfectly at 25 yards.
My first shot struck the target 1/2 inch to the left of vertical and 5 1/2 inches high at 25 yards.
I was shooting .270 Winchester 130-grain Power Points, a round that had proven amply accurate in this rifle in years past. I adjusted the sights to pull the strike of the bullet slightly to the right, and started walking the bullets down the target.
To my surprise and delight, the scope responded perfectly — each adjustment dropped the following round consistently straight down as I tried to get a bullet strike approximately ½-inch low at 25 yards. I knew this would print me high at 100 yards, but within a reasonable height to adjust down to a 2- to 3-inch height above point-of-aim sight alignment.
In only three rounds, I had walked the sight to ½-inch high at 25 yards. Just to check the group and the sight, I fired two more shots. All three touched, which is exactly what I would expect at that range.
I then dropped down to the bottom point of the target diamond to give myself fresh paper, adjusted the scope again, and the bullet struck exactly where I wanted it — 1/2 inch low. Needless to say, I was pleased. In fact, so far, the only criticism of the scope I had was the incredibly small and sharp-edged rectangular knobs on the windage and elevation adjustments. They were very difficult to turn with bare fingers, and would have been an impossibility with any sort of gloves on.
I had fired one other shot on this target for a total of eight shots. I was now ready to move out to the 100-yard target, and sight the gun in for that range. Again, I was looking for 2 to 3 inches of height above point-of-aim here. Wuch would give Masson the ability to simply aim dead-on at any range out to about 250 yards.
Coming back to the rifle after the second shot at 100 yards, I loaded it again, kneeled down with the rifle resting over my ballistic shooting bag, and leaned into it.
Looking into the scope, I instantly saw that the crosshairs were canted clockwise a couple of degrees.
Aggravated beyond belief after having such good experiences with it, I first assumed the reticle lens had shifted inside the scope, but I found that hard to believe. The scope had to be loose in the retaining rings.
I shut down the session, and that evening repositioned the scope, this time placing small strips of masking tape under the rings, and tightening them down with the allen screws so much, I thought I was going to strip the heads of the screws. Of course, I applied Lok-Tite on each of the screws again.
The next evening, I couldn’t wait to get home and start all over. I found the little rifle exhibited very pleasing accuracy when fitted with a scope that allowed you to actually see the target. The scope I pulled off had an occlusion in the upper right quandrant of the optical field that looked for all the world like a rock peck on a windshield. It really didn’t affect the view of the target through the crosshairs, but it definitely should not have been there.
Of course, I had to go through all the same procedures again as the scope had been removed and reset on the mounts. And again, the scope tracked perfectly down the paper.
After about six shots, I was ready to move out to the 100-yard target, but before I began, I made a mark on the top dead center of the scope and a corresponding one on the ring holding the scope. If the scope moved in the rings, the alignment of the two marks would shift, and I would know. I then proceeded to begin the final tuning in.
After three shots, it began again: I noticed the crosshairs beginning to cant to the right, about two to three degrees. Again, the whole shooting session had been blown. I looked at the marks, and they were still perfectly aligned.
So I shot the gun three more times. With each shot, the crosshairs canted even further, until I had approximately a 10-degree lean of the vertical crosshair. That may not seem like much, but when you look at it through a scope, it makes the crosshairs resemble an “X” more than a cross.
I went back in the house, and called Sid Melancon, a retired long-time law enforcement firearms instructor, and former long-time president of the old Baton Rouge Rifle and Pistol Club. Sid has forgotten more about rifles than most people will ever learn.
Describing what I had experienced, I said I had read of this but had never experienced it, even in the cheap scopes I had tested over the years. Melancon made the dry observation that, “Well, now you have.”
Obviously he had seen it a few times over the years.
Sitting at his computer, he asked, “What’s the name of that scope again?” He then ran an Internet search and found a distributor, and read the description and nomenclature of the scope to me-I identified it as the correct model.
“Let’s see here,” he mused. “Konus Pro … 3-12x50 … really expensive piece of glass you have there. Without shipping, these folks will charge you $82.50 for it.”
I want to be fair, so we’re going to ship it back to the distributor with a description of the problem, and give them another chance. After all, it easily could be a one-time manufacturing defect.
And the scope actually performed well — up to the point the crosshairs started turning like the minute hand of a clock with every round fired.
A scope takes an incredible beating every time a high-powered rifle is fired. It must be held in place absolutely perfectly and immoveable by quality, tough rings and mounts. And it must hold its zero shot after jarring shot, with the crosshairs not moving.
We’ll give the factory another chance, and report on it in a future issue.
Gordon Hutchinson’s best-selling novel, The Quest and the Quarry, is a generational tale paralleling the lives of a line of trophy bucks with the youths of a farm family that hunts them. It can be ordered at thequestandthequarry.com, or by calling (800) 538-4355.
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