Shooting Scopes

Also referred to as a telescopic sight, a shooting scope is a monocular attachment to a rifle, handgun or other ranged weapon, used to increase accuracy at a distance. Shooting scopes were first perfected in 1880 by the Austrian forestry commissioner August Fiedler, under the patronage of Prince Reuss, who adapted a refractor telescope to fit a rifle. This discovery prompted a wave of innovations from armorers and gunsmiths, and the shooting scope as we know it was born. Even today, 130 years later, most shooting scopes operate on the same principles as Fiedler’s first model.

Popular amongst all kinds of shooters, from military snipers to varmint hunters, shooting scopes work by placing the user’s eye on the same optical plane as the target using the principles of light refraction. Fixed atop the weapon by means of a specialized mount, the scope makes it easier to set up a shot by projecting the aim point of the weapon and the target on the same visual plane. This allows for a much clearer picture of the target, and eliminates the need to focus on one or the other as the shooter would have to do with a basic iron sight. However, this increased targeting ability leads to the scopes’ greatest drawback: While aiming, the area surrounding the area in the viewfinder is completely obscured, leaving the shooter with a very limited field of vision.

The front lens of a shooting scope is usually etched with a reticule, a series of lines designed to aid in targeting. Reticule styles range from the ubiquitous crosshair design immortalized in popular culture to intricate rangefinding reticules that help the shooter estimate the distance between themselves and the target. Some cheaper scopes feature a wire reticule placed at an optically-appropriate point on the scope rather than using costly lens-etching techniques.

Shooting scopes are constructed out of two tubes, one mounted inside the other. The inner tube houses the scope’s lenses and acts as a refractor, bending and directing light into the eyepiece mounted at the rear of the tube. The second tube acts as a protective housing for the fragile components inside the first tube, and also acts as a mount for various additional parts that some scopes carry. The scope may also be fitted with adjustable magnifying lenses, and mechanisms for adjusting the aim point of the scope for use in differing weather conditions, and to compensate for wind and gravity.

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