John's Journal...

Shooting More Accurately – How to Mount and Sight-In Scopes

How to Pick a Riflescope

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: The secrets to shooting accurately include choosing the best rifle for your hunt, the correct ammunition and the right bases and rings, mounting your scope properly and then sighting-in your scope correctly. To gather the best information on how to make rifles shoot more accurately, I talked with Russ Sockwell of Mark’s Outdoors in Birmingham, Alabama, a gunsmith with 10 years of experience who mounts scopes and sights-in thousands of rifles each year.

According to Russ Sockwell, the gun, the caliber and the terrain best will determine what scope to use on your hunting rifle. “If you’re big-game hunting with a .375, you don’t need to put a 6-24X varmintClick to enlarge scope, because this is more scope than the gun possibly can use,” Sockwell warns. “On a .375, I recommend most hunters use a 6X scope and no more than a 9X scope because most of your shots will be up-close and personal. If you’re varmint hunting, you want a 6-24X scope because most of your shots may be 200- to 400-yards away. “When hunting whitetails, most hunters need a 3.5-10X or a 3.5-12X scope. And size does matter because of a scope’s light-gathering capabilities. The bigger scopes gather more light than the smaller scopes do, but they also make the rifles much heavier and more cumbersome. So, if you’re stalk hunting and climbing up and down mountains, you’ll want a smaller scope than if you’re sitting in a shooting house, hunting over a green field.

“For most eastern deer hunters, I recommend the Leupold 4.5-14X scope on a .280 Ackley, which is a custom rifle. Then the hunter will have the ability to make really-long shots at whitetails. However, Click to enlargefor a deer hunter who hunts with a .30-06 or a .270, I recommend the Zeiss Conquest in a 3-9X or 3.5-10X scope. Smaller scopes with great light-gathering capabilities that will solve most problems for most deer hunters. The 3-9X scope sells for about $399. This same type of scope made by Leupold will cost $499. Both these scopes are in the 40mm category. For more light-gathering ability, you can step up to the 50mm lens, but you’ll also step up in price. I also like the Zeiss V series, which sells for $1299 and believe it’s the ultimate scope. This European scope is 3-12X56, has a 30mm tube and will allow you to hunt longer and take shots later than the laws in most states will permit you to shoot. If you’re looking for a less-expensive scope ($100 - $150), consider either the 3.5-10X Simmons or the Tasco 40mm or 50mm style scopes with a 1-inch tube. “When you’re considering an objective, remember that the larger the objective, the more light-gathering capabilities of the scope. Therefore, a 40mm objective won’t gathClick to enlargeer as much light as a 50mm objective will.

“For the average hunter who comes in and buys an average-priced .30-06, I’ll recommend the Zeiss Conquest, although that scope will cost about as much as the gun. However, the hunter will be much happier with a quality scope than if he tries to save money on the scope. Being able to see a deer in the riflescope later in the afternoon is the difference in not getting a shot and getting a shot. Therefore, when you’re considering buying a rifle and a scope, if you have $1,000 to spend, I suggest that you plan to spend $300 or $400 on the rifle and spend the rest of that $1,000 on the scope. If you can’t see the deer through your scope, then you can’t get off the shot.”

To learn more, go to, email Sockwell at or call (205) 822-2010.

Tomorrow: What’s the Best Reticle

Check back each day this week for more about " Shooting More Accurately – How to Mount and Sight-In Scopes"

Day 1: How to Mount Your Riflescope
Day 2: How to Sight-In Your Scope
Day 3: How to Pick a Riflescope
Day 4: What’s the Best Reticle
Day 5: What Price to Pay for a Scope


Entry 373, Day 3