I field a fair number of questions that are typically delivered to me via e-mail or some other means of private communication. I kinda like it that way since that give me an opportunity to decide how to answer that question. Some of the questions, if I think they are relevant, I will answer in a blog post.
Here is a question I received recently:
First, I would like to thank you for all of the information you have provided! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it this morning while drinking my coffee. I am new to the rifle world and have been learning as much as I can over the past year. I wish in my area there were classes you could take on shooting, but southern MD is more of a shotgun area. Luckily, I have the internet at my fingertips – ha. I bought a Weatherby Vanguard, .300 win mag, roughly 10 months ago. I have friends out west that I want to go shooting with and was curious on your recommendation. I am OK spending in the $1,000 range (obviously I would love to spend less..ha-ha). My goal is to have an accurate scope that would help me shoot around 400-500 yards. Thanks so much for your time and the effort you have put in to this site! Sincerely, C.
Mr C, thank you for your kind words.
As far as shooting goes, there are a lot of good resources out there and you can learn a lot from different websites and books. As a matter of fact I recently acquired a book that I think is exceptional. Although I have not finished it yet, I got through a bit more than half so far and I find it very educational:
Still, there is no replacement for instruction, so if you ever have time, it may be worthwhile to go out of state for a visit to a good shooting school.
Now onto riflescopes.
400-500 yards is not very far for a 300Winmag, but it is very far if you are actually shooting at a live animal. Once you start getting out into fairly long distances, the limiting factor is usually the shooter not the scope, so if you have limited funds, put them into practice and getting instruction, not into fancy optics.
I think you can comfortably stay in the $600-$700 range, which leave some money in your budget for quality mounts (just as important as the scope if not more so).
For general purpose rifles I like scopes with low end magnification of no more than 4x and 3x is better. High end magnification is not all that critical, but anything in the 9x to 16x range is perfectly reasonable.
If your interests lean toward precision shooting and learning how to range and adjust for trajectory with the reticle, SWFA’s new SS 3-15×42 is a good scope to take a look at. If has a front focal plane reticle which some hunters do not like, but I think it is a good overall choice. While people label it as a tactical scope, it is pretty versatile.
Vortex has been building a fair number of very successful scopes on their HS/PST platform and one of them, the HS-LR 4-16×44 for a bit over $500 is probably going to be a good option for you. For hunting a simple plex reticle is a good bet, while for longer ranges, you will need to get comfortable spinning the turrets. Luckily, Vortex turrets on the HS-LR and PST scopes are quite good.
Now, I selected both of these options with a mind toward a lot of range time. While I doubt you will get to use magnifications beyond 9x or 10x all that much in the field, 15x or 16x comes in very helpful on the range since you it helps dialing in your loads and seeing bullet holes on paper.
If you want more of a pure hunting scope and are willing to spend that $1k on a scope, take a close look at Leupold VX-6 2-12×42. It is probably the best hunting scope Leupold has made to date. The #4 reticle with an illuminated dot is excellent in low light, while the CDS turret can be tweaked to match your pet ammo exactly.