How to Choose a Best All Around Scope

How to Choose a Best All Around Scope

Posted by Charlie's Custom Clones on Feb 15th 2019

QUESTION: Hey, Charlie, I am in the build queue for my next rifle which will be a true multi-caliber system in .338 Lapua Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum and .308 Winchester. It got me thinking about scope choices and the following question; does/did a multi-caliber system influence your choice of scope? Or maybe put differently; should a multi-caliber system influence your choice of scope? Just curious what the thinking is or does it not matter at all?

ANSWER: Sure it does. Sorry, but if you told me that you had a car that could quick-change adjustable suspension from low to ground street racing to to off-road sand and mud to winter snow and ice all-wheel drive, might your choice of tires be different?

From a .308 to a .338 Lapua, I am not sure you have one scope that fits all. It is the same issue. That is why some tire manufactures, said, "I give up, here is an All Season Tire. All Season Tires are like dating the ugly girl in college. You know how the evening will end, but you will never remember date five years out. Sorry, folks, sometimes rifles and girls just go that way for me. My wife slaps me when I compare how tight my barrels fits to *****, but I am just that way. She should.

You can find the all season tire version of a scope that will work for you, and I get it. There is such a thing as a budget, and I guess that is why you are looking at a single rifle frame that accepts different caliber. I have one or two of those rifles. They end up really never having the rifle swapped out in my safe, but that is just me.

First, for your information and education, as well as for disclosure, at Charlie’s we are scope snobs, and we love scopes. It is one of the most fun part of our business. And we are dealers, both direct to the manufacture on many brands, and also through distributors on others. That means that we have lots of experience with different scopes, booth in looking, touching, comparing, and out on the range, and also, in our ability to get you the scope you need, from many brands. We try to give you our honest opinions, and not our bias by what we have in inventory, but you should know, through which lens (ha ha) we look at scopes.

Also, one last thought on the Charlie’s commercial standpoint. If you are serious about a high-quality scope, send us a note, and let’s talk. Most all scope manufacturers have what is known as a MAP price, or minimum advertised price, which restricts us and other quality dealers, from showing a price lower than a certain limit. This means that you might see a $4,000 list price scope, that we often sell for $100s and $100s less. We think we have the best price on most high quality scopes anywhere, if you ask.

Let's got back to basics. For the .308, you will most likely be shooting 400m to 900m. A good scope for that range is a mid-range scope like a 3x-15x, or somewhere around there. Many great scope companies make one of those. NightForce, Steiner, Bushnell, Leupold and Kahles are top of mind for me.

Now go to the .338. This is actually a monster round. Here, you will start at 800m and go to 1,800m. You really want something that will take you out to 25x on the top-end, and some will say 35x. I only see >25x work well if you don't have the South and East Coast humidity and tree cover, and you don't have the desert Southwest heat mirage, AND you are shooting paper and steel. Otherwise, finding your shot and preparing for your second shot is very hard beyond 25x, which is why you see most military snipers stopping at 25x. You also want a scope and rings / mount that is built well enough that the concussion of the .338 round does not injure the scope of mess-up your zero on the rifle. Scopes like Schmidt & Bender PM-II, Nightforce ATACR, Kahles, Vortex Razor HD Gen2, Tangent Theta, Steiner Military, Hensoldt all produce scopes that work great, and I probably forgot a few.

Then you mention the .300 WM. This is a particular favorite of mine. I do not own a .338 Lapua rifle. The .338 is a fine round. But, in recent years, the improvement on the .300 WM, as well as the .375 & .408 CheyTac, have created a lot of overlap in targeting in the 1,000m to 1,600m range, and for the CheyTac, and even the .50 BMG, much, much further, but that is a whole story in and of itself. Point here is, you might want to re-think whether you really want to shoot the .338 Lapua. There are economics that make the .300 WM much less expensive to shoot, and as you to up to the .338, the .375, the .408, .416 and .500, you step further and further up an exponentially higher budget for chassis, triggers, barrels, bullets, etc. Again, if you want to shoot in the Extended Long Range, go for it. There is a whole different world of equipment to take you there. Charlie’s is one of the largest Cadex stocking dealers on the East Coast of the US, and you can see where some amazing equipment in that market. Most of our Cadex offerings have not yet made onto our Website yer. If you are interested, give us a call, or drop us a note. Anyway, I diverge, but think about whether you really want a plug and play single platform barrel swap setup.

Well, as we were putting the finishing touches on this blog, a writer chided us, and said that "surely a 7-35x or 5-25x scope could do well as lower magnifications," and thus that would be the answer.

We addressed that question with this short answer: "Every writer and every scope enthusiast has different opinions. I don't think we disagree, maybe just a different POV. You can drive a Porsche 911 for a 1,000 mile trip, and no doubt, it will take you there. I just think there are more comfortable vehicles for longer trips, and those more comfortable vehicles are not as good as the Porsche on the windy back roads."

"In particular, I agree with your statement about the S&B or Steiner 5-25x. I just think there are scopes that do not have all the weight, length, and bells and whistles that are needed for the 25x, that are very adequately equipped for the 800 yard shot of a .308 cal shot."

Now, after all that preaching, let me come down from the pulpit. Every one of us who are scope nerds, and I am, have deep opinions on scopes that are rooted in fact, bias, personal experience, research of the engineering, and the appeal of design aesthetics, etc. No other part of the long-range rifle has as many strong opinions, as that of the rifle scope.

If you were looking only at the mid-range scopes, which I think are best for the .308 / 6.5 CM rifle, I would very clearly be looking at Nightforce ATACR 4-16x42 FFP, with a reticle that works best for you, or the Steiner 3-15x50 FFP, either in the T5Xi or the M5Xi, depending on your budget. These are my go-to scopes for mid-range. Next would be the new Kahles 3-18x, the Leupold Mark 6 or Mark 5 6-18x scopes and the Hensoldt ZF 3-12x56, which is a very good scope, but a bit of a sleeper in this market segment . Finally, there are a handful of Bushnell Elite Tactical scopes that work well in this focal length that are also deserving of a look-see. the This gives you a great selection of truly remarkable scopes and several different budget levels.
Steiner T5Xi 3-15 best in class mid-range scope at Charlie's Custom Clones

Nightforce ATACR 4-16x Steiner T5Xi 3-15x

Kahles 3.5-18x mid-range riflescope at Charlie's Custom ClonesHensoldt ZF 4-16x CCW scope at Charlie's Custom Clones

Kahles K218i 3.5-18xHensoldt ZF 4-16x

If you are looking only at long-range scopes, I tend to favor the Schmidt& Bender PM-II 5-25x56 and Steiner Military M5Xi 5-25x56 as my go-to scopes for 1,000m + targets, but followed very closely by Nightfore ATACR 5-25x56, Kahles, either in their older model 6-24x56 or their newer, more modern designed 5-25x56, and the Vortex Razor HD Gen2 4.5-27x56.

Vortex HD GenII at Charlie's Custom ClonesNightForce ATACR 6-25x56mm riflescope at Charlie's Custom Clones

Vortex Razor Gen II 4.5-27x EBR 2C Nightforce ATACR 5-25x Mil-R

Steiner Military M5Xi rifle scope with 5-25x56 H59 reticle at Charlie's Custom ClonesSchmidt Bender PM-II 5-25x56 rifle scope in black MTC at Charlie's Custom Clones

Steiner Military M5Xi 5-25x Tremor 3 Schmidt Bender PM-II 5-25x MTC

Now that I have diverged all over the place on scopes. I will attempt to answer the question asked: How do I find an all-season tire scope that will work for medium to long to extended long range? My pick is the Schmidt and Bender 3-20x, either in the full length tube, or one of my personal favorites, the Ultra Short. The full-length 3-20x50 scopes are a favorite amounts target shooters, and the Ultra Short 3-20x50 scopes are more favored by tactical shooters. You will pay more the US, but it is an amazing piece of German engineering and design, and will hold its resale value quite nicely. You will never regret buying the Ultra Short, but the full-length tube is still a strong seller.

Schmidt Bender Ultra Short 3-20x50mm in black at Charlie's Custom Clones

Schmidt & Bender PMI 3-20 Ultra Short MSR

If you liked this blog, be sure to read our scope eval from SHOTSHOW. And, our review of scope options for a Mk12 clone build.

Good luck in your search. Give us a shout at Charlie’s Custom Clones if we can help.