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The telescopic rifle sight is not a new invention. Hunters have been using it since the days of the buffalo, but it was not until after World War II, under the impetus of the sudden increase in big-game hunting, that its manufacture became a big business. Since then, far more progress in the development of the hunting 'scope has been made than in the last 100 years, and recently the device received a crowning accolade when it was adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps for its snipers. Considering the importance which the USMC attaches to accuracy in rifle fire, this was proof that the hunting 'scope has finally arrived.
One reason for the slow acceptance of the instrument has been the well-known conservatism of hunters. I have many times watched a man aim a 'scope-sighted rifle for the first time. There are three standard reactions. One is: "I couldn't hit anything with that?the gun wobbles too much." A second is: "I could hit a deer at half a mile with that." The third is: "That gadget wouldn't stand up on a pack trip in the mountains."
All three are wrong. The rifle doesn't wobble any more with a 'scope sight than it does with the fixed iron sights put on by the factory. You think it does because you see so much better how far and how fast the rifle swings on and off the mark. You soon get used to that. Second, hitting a deer at long range requires something more than a 'scope sight; the sight doesn't tell you how to squeeze a trigger. Finally, this sight is not so easily damaged as some old-timers think.
The prime advantage of the 'scope is that you can see so much better with it. If a 4X (4-power) 'scope were perfect you could see the part of a deer you wish to hit at 300 yards as well as you can see it at 75 yards with the unaided eye. There is some loss of light, amounting to about 15%, in the best 'scopes with coated lenses. But a 4X 'scope enables you to see the target at more than three times the distance you can see the target without it. It leaves you little excuse for mistaking a fellow hunter for a game animal or mistaking a doe for a buck.
VISION AND TRAJECTORY
Seeing better means more than it used to. In the black-powder days a shot at 150 yards was considered about the limit for a sure hit. At any greater range than a guessed-at 150 yards the high curve of the bullet was against you. Today the bullet of a .270 rifle has a trajectory only one-sixth of that of the .45-70?an old-time favorite?at hunting ranges. If you sight the rifle for 200 yards, your average bullet will be no more than two inches high at 100 and no more than two inches low at 225 yards. And the .30-06 is only a little behind the .270 in flatness of trajectory.
This is important because big game is so much scarcer than it used to be, and also warier. The chances in open country are longer. It was one thing for a hunter to pass up a shot he thought difficult in a day when he knew he'd get an easier chance in another hour. It's something else for a hunter with only a week or two in big-game country. The long shot may be the only chance he gets before the season closes or he has to go home.
Under most circumstances it's difficult to see a deer beyond 200 yards with the unaided eye well enough to aim at the vital area with only the open sights on a rifle. The deer usually blends with the landscape and your front sight pretty well covers him up. But you can generally see him well enough with a 'scope sight, and its cross hairs do not cover up too much of him.
Seeing what you are doing is not the only advantage of the 'scope sight. When you use open sights?a notch rear and a bead or blade front sight?you must focus your eye, or rather try to focus it, at three different distances: the rear sight, the front sight and the target. This is quite a feat for a young eye and may be impossible for an old one. If you use a rear peep sight (which you merely look through) you still have to focus your eye on the front sight and the target. There is no such problem with the 'scope. Here you are not actually seeing the target?you are seeing the image of the target. And when the 'scope is properly adjusted the image and the cross hairs are at the same distance?in the same plane.
A GOOD 'SCOPE'S REQUIREMENTS