Welcome to Optics Trade debates. In each episode, we talk about a different topic and try to answer the most common questions we receive about it. Today, we are going to talk about the three basic riflescope categories.
These three groups are getting more and more mixed, but there are still some distinguishable traits that remain.
Hunting scopes usually have a lower magnification range and are the only category that can be mounted with rails. They usually feature a second focal plane reticle which is a clean hunting reticle that means that it doesn’t have any subtensions and hash lines. It usually features capped low-profile hunting turrets, which aren’t meant for a lot of manipulation, but only to zero the scope, because on most hunts you only shoot once: first you observe the animal, then shoot from a cold barrel and the shots are usually on medium to close range. The only exceptions are some of the modern scopes that have ballistic turrets (BDC turrets) and are a bit more advanced.
Tactical scopes have uncapped turrets and usually feature one-centimeter click and a first plane reticle. So the turret click and the reticle subtensions are matched, therefore the point of impact will shift for one line on the reticle when the turret is turned for ten clicks. Generally, the magnification is on the upper side of the medium range, usually between five to twenty-five times of magnification. They usually feature an illuminated reticle which is used to shoot on unknown distances, to have a positive first shot. These scopes are not made for grouping. In most tactical competitions you only have two shots on an unknown distance, the first shot counts for full points and the second one counts for only 50 %.
Because the reticles are very advanced and are located in the first focal plane, it’s possible to estimate the distance to a target. You can also apply the reticle directly for the holdover and you compensate for the bullet drop through the reticle without clicks.
Tactical scopes go on tactical rifles which are a bit lighter and more robust, have the possibility of lasers and laser rangefinders.
Target scopes are meant for precision shooting. That means that you know the distance and that you can have a couple of shots so that you can adjust everything and after that, you do a grouping of 10 or 20 shots, where the goal is to have the tightest possible group in the center of the target. They usually feature extremely high magnification (up to 55x magnification), they usually have really fine clicks (1/8 MOA which is 3.5 mm on 100 m). The reticles are in the second focal plane and are usually plain and basic fine crosshair.
You would also need an extremely accurate F+ rifle, with an extremely long barrel.
All three of these riflescope categories have a lot of subcategories. For instance with hunting scopes: wide angle hunting scopes, scopes for stalking, long range hunting scopes, all-round hunting scopes, low-light hunting scopes… And with tactical scopes: CQB tactical scopes, medium-range tactical scopes, DMR scopes… Target scopes have fewer subcategories than the other two groups, which are: benchrest scopes and all other long range F-class precision scopes.
There is always a bit of coverage, so if you have a hunting scope with a really high magnification you could still use it for target shooting (not advisable). If you have a modern hunting scope with an ASV turret, you could maybe use it in some tactical situations.
With a tactical scope, you can hunt without a problem if you are a good marksman and you know what you’re doing. Most of them have an illuminated reticle so that they can also be used for hunting in low-light situations. It would also be possible to use new scopes that have extremely high magnification in F+ competitions but with limited success.
Only tactical scopes are limited only to tactical shooting because of the high magnification and the thin reticle.
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Hunting riflescopes: https://www.optics-trade.eu/en/riflescopes/hunting-rifle-scopes.html
Tactical riflescopes: https://www.optics-trade.eu/en/riflescopes/tactical-rifle-scopes.html
Target riflescopes: https://www.optics-trade.eu/en/riflescopes/target-rifle-scopes.html