What are the benefits of paying more for a hunting scope? Most important of all: Is it actually worth it?
Firstly, let's be entirely straight about this; there are no modern scopes that can, charitably, be described as “bad”. Manufacturing today is so advanced that even at the cheaper end, you will likely still get a reasonable enough (albeit more basic, less refined, less clear in terms of the resolution of the image and therefore less effective at what you want them to do) rifle scope.
An apt comparison to rifle scopes is wristwatches. You could buy a mid-tier, utilitarian example for roughly £200 (a Hawke scope/ a G-Shock watch) or you could buy a stunning luxury version for £2000 (A Swarovski scope/ an Omega watch). But it begs the question, why would you conceivably spend ten times more? There are more reasons, at first glance, than you might suspect for why these precision instruments could cost ten times more. And still be worth it.
It's all in the details of what it is, exactly, that you are paying for.
After reading this article you will understand the factors which dictate how much a rifle scope costs, what you can expect to find on the market today, and where we, Cluny Country Store, as a company specialising in these shooting optics, is situated in this crowded market place.
Is it worth spending more of your hard-earned money on a better scope? It is for those for whom quality is important. And in this area there is a strict correlation between quality and price. Additionally, it is important to understand that all that loaded term, quality, means, in this context, is a better experience. You might quibble that a truly objective determination cannot be made on this subject; but it really is the little things that make the difference.
Why are scopes different prices - what dictates the cost of Scopes?
Rifle scopes, hunting scopes, deer stalking scopes…whatever you want to call them, whatever the goal or category of shooting for which they are intended; the simple fact is that these devices are used to improve how we see naturally. To improve the intrinsic capabilities of the human eye, by orders of magnitude, in order to enhance vision for more accurate shooting. That's it. Sounds simple? It's not.
Which leads naturally to perhaps the most decisive factor in the determination of price, and the kind of scope you might be looking for, and that is the quality of the glass. The premier brands (Swarovski, Leica, Zeiss, Schmidt & Bender etc) use sharper, more illuminative glass lenses that reduce glare and demonstrate better light transmission. Trust us, you want this. Spend more and you are buying into added features like HD and fluoride containing lenses, better and more lens coatings (see image below) and higher tolerances. All of these are huge contributors to overall clarity.
This is a highly advanced science and the variations are seemingly infinite: The elimination of colour distortion, much higher light transmission (up to 96%), better image definition, better resolution, better colour contrast…in essence, a scope that displays a much better and brighter image that becomes a real pleasure to look at, as you look through the scope. It can't be overstated: high quality glass equals a high quality experience.
This is where you look, therefore this is where the experience is occurring.
An example of this: one of the top brands, Zeiss, use SCHOTT HT lenses. These are some of the best scope lenses available, leveraging 130 years of speciality glass experience, which today is used not only in sports optics but also in microscopy, aviation, pharmaceuticals, in fact all areas requiring advanced optics. From Specsavers to the Hubble telescope, lenses run the gamut of the entire spectrum of pre-modern, all the way up to the most advanced applications of, modern science.
Build quality comes in at a close second as a price determining factor. The Swarovski, Leica, Schmidt & Bender and Zeiss scopes of the world are, inarguably, precision manufactured masterpieces. They have tighter tolerances, use better materials (magnesium alloy rather than aluminium housing) necessitating augmented and expanded quality assurance checks (we've been in the factories and can personally attest to the breathtaking scope and, no pun intended, vision of these proponents of what is, always, a state of the art science; not withstanding that it is a science, their artistry must be seen to be believed), all of which combine to optimize maximum longevity and durability. Two attributes that are never not worth paying for.
Technology also, as in all other areas of life, affects the price hugely. But when it comes down to it utilising these staggering advances in technology only ensures, in the final analysis, more accurate shooting. This is what we all want. For some optional additional tech there is the possible inclusion of ballistic turret options (which allow easy adjustability of the scope for shooting at different distances), a larger magnification range (transforming a single scope into a multi-purpose instrument) and/or the option of an illuminated reticule (red dot). The latter is very helpful for minimising the loss of the small central aiming dot against a dark background.
Some of the more expensive scopes even have the facility to turn this red dot off automatically when the scope is tilted at an angle - the idea being that the hunter has lain his rifle down or stowed it over his shoulder, and the scope is instructed to save battery by its inclination sensor.
The latest big tech innovation deployed in rifle scopes is the remarkable Swarovski DS hunting scope. It uses smart technology (it is linked to your smart phone) that allows the device to calculate and display the correct aiming point at various distances (imagine the scope is zeroed at 100m and the deer is 352m away - see image below).
Using the in-built laser rangefinder, you simply press a button on the top of the instrument and it will display the degree to which to adjust the aiming point at any given distance (up to 1500m).
It is as simple as linking the scope to any smartphone, selecting the particular brand of bullet, weight and calibre, and that's it. Make no mistake, Swarovski Optik, and the other top-tier firms like it, are tech companies as much as Amazon and Google. The research and development invested in the amassing of this data, for what some regard as only an added extra, is astonishing.
None of this expertise, none of this investment in research and development costs nothing; it all contributes to the price of the thing itself. And here is that price (RRP:) £3490.00 - if you want to be exact about it. Every precise Austrian penny of that three and a half grand is specifically earmarked for one of the above features. At its absolute essence this can be reduced to the difference between seeing through a telescopic sight exactly where to aim, or making semi-educated guesses (how much higher to lift the cross hair at longer distances) targeting a stag, or pressing a button to help you make better decisions, which only again facilitates better choices, contributing to what is ultimately a better shooting experience…
If anything, you are paying for peace of mind, the peace of mind of knowing that you are in control and have the power to make the right decisions. More technology (and hence expense) in rifle optics allows you to see more, act faster, shoot further; which only results in manifold improvements in your personal confidence and precision.
What you can expect to see in the industry:
- Minimum Advertising Pricing (MAP) pricing – best to call or email us for best prices or trade in deals.
From £150-£3.5K – this is our price spectrum of rifle scope prices in stock; but, and this is important, we can source anything.
Cheaper scopes try to compensate for their inherent inferiority by touting a host of often exaggerated extra features. Whereas, the innate quality of the scope is always dispositive (which they are compensating for in the first instance). See the host of factors outlined in section 1
- One of the essential takeaways from this article: four or, generously, five brands dominate the industry: Swarovski, Schmidt & Bender, Zeiss, Leica, Kahles. They are the Rolex, Omega, Breitling, Tudor & Tag Heuers of the scope world (in no specific order).
- Hawke, Minox & Meopta are really good scopes for entry level (£150) up to the mid-tier, mid-priced range(£900)
- There is fairly consistent pricing on the real quality end of the spectrum, the invisible hand of the market, as in everything, dictates all, and it doesn’t fluctuate massively
Where we are situated as a company:
We have all the stock, and are heavily invested in rifle scopes and all sports optics – binoculars, telescopes), our specialised viewing gallery allows you to compare every aspect of all of these products, in order to make the most informed decision, about these precision instruments, right in our shop.
- With a general focus on the high end brands due to their popularity, we nevertheless stock the full price spectrum, Hawke upwards.
- We are able to fully kit hunters out with entire rifle packages, setting up the gun, scope, bipod, sling etc – offering package discounts and the full setup
- Excellent prices and service: we are premium dealers and optics is the biggest part of our business. We understand every aspect of this business, and, as enthusiasts ourselves, we are more than eager to help and advise regardless of experience or budget. We always respond quickly to all enquiries.
- We objectively have a lot of experience with our products; it's our passion, we love doing it; we love talking about it.
As previously mentioned, it is difficult to give an absolutely objective opinion regarding whether or not it is worth paying much more for rifle optics. However, what is objectively fair to say is that premium scopes offer superior performance and hence, without a doubt, more enjoyment, and a better experience.
But here is the big recommendation:
Buy the BEST you can afford; a good gun scope is just as important as a good gun - you aim with the scope!
Ultimately it is a bit like buying a luxury Swiss watch... yes, there are cheaper options which work, but as well as being more accurate and much longer lasting, it is something to really cherish, thoroughly enjoy and ultimately pass down generations.
- Beginners guide article – https://www.clunycountrystore.co.uk/blogs/news/a-beginners-guide-to-rifle-scopes