David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
You purchased your first rifle dedicated to long-range shooting. Congratulations!

Now, it's time to add a quality scope. One that will let you shoot with precision at a distance but can also dial down for closer shots. One that performs well in low-light situations, and one that features exact and repeatable adjustments.

Where should you start?

Magnification You can buy a rifle scope today with 30x, 40X, even 50x, the "x" standing for  magnification. How much magnification does one need to shoot long-range effectively?

Consider the Top 10 Shooters, by points, in the Precision Rifle Series (PRS), where shooting distances at competitions can run from 100 yards to one mile. Of the ten shooters on the PRS website, one does not list his scope's magnification, while two use scopes with 4.5-27x. What about the other seven shooters? They all use a rifle scope sporting 5-25x.

One doesn't need to 50x to hit targets at a distance! Though if we use the Top 10 PRS shooters as a guideline, a scope with a top-end magnification in the mid-20x range is needed.

MIL Dot or MOA? Another enduring argument in the shooting sports: is MIL Dot better than MOA for long-range shooting or vice-versa?

Both can work very well. Factually speaking, though, scopes built on the milliradians or MIL Dot system are the norm among distance shooters. MIL Dot is the military standard and with so much of today's long-range shooting having its foundation in the science and art of military sniping...MIL Dot  it is.

With the vast majority of long-range shooters using MIL DOT-based optics, you will be able to share information on shots and adjustments much easier, too, without having to do the confusing MIL Dot- to-MOA conversions.

Which Focal Plane? During your research, you will find some rifle scopes are listed as "first focal plane," while others are "second focal plane."  What's the difference?

According to the professionals at the optics maker Sightmark, 

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