Consider Your Glass Carefully
The freezing drizzle instantly stuck to anything it touched. Cameras lost function, and our eyelashes began to freeze shut. We crested the hill on that old day, and the mesquite thicket exploded with wild hogs signaling our time to shoot. When the guns started firing, I was thankful for the adrenaline dump and good glass. How do you select optics that won't fail you on the worst of days and at the most critical times?
There’s no shortage of good glass and marketing speech out there. However, I’m more focused on glass than the dollars thrown into fancy words. I need to decide what the optic is for before I rushed into buying one. Is the optic for long-range, hunting, plinking or competition? No matter which optic I’m choosing it’s got to be able to withstand brutal conditions, but I can’t replicate that in any store.
Put in a little leg work before you step into the store. Walking into a store to purchase a new optic is tough work. There are hundreds to choose from, and landing one takes more time than necessary. Google the names of the optics you’d like to try and see what other folks are saying about them. I narrowed down my search to the right optic based on hours of research and pining through reviews and videos.
The Bushnell Nitro receives rave reviews, and I was lucky enough to spend some time behind the optic before purchase. That might be the most important thing to do before buying one. Shooting behind an optic before buying is crucial if it can be done. I needed an optic that I could chase hogs with and shoot long range if needed. I didn't need a busy reticle, so I landed on the Multi-X crosshair. Simplicity avoids confusion when pigs are running through thick brush. Now, if I were looking to get a long-range setup, I would've chosen either the Deploy MOA or Deploy MIL reticles that are also offered in the Nitro line.
There's a difference when it comes to storing lighting and natural light. Most folks go into buying an optic and raise it through the store rafters to get a better look. If it looks great in the store, it will look even better outside, wrong! Here are a few simple steps to follow when going to a store to pick out a new optics.
The first thing I do is ask to take the optic outside in the natural lighting. The more realistic viewing scenario, the better. Most times you’ll get funny looks and the answer no, but ask them to join you. If they won't let you do that I would try and not stand under any type of fluorescent lighting. Try to move somewhere where it is not as well lit. When looking through different optics, make sure you maintain the same distance and same focal point. Once there, focus on a small object that isn’t easily seen. Here, you want to only adjust the focus and look for fine details.
Also, try and located an object that has the same color as its background. Such as a black item on the shelf against a black wall. If the optic has additional coatings (more than just coated lenses), you will get a brighter, crisper image. The more coatings on the glass the less color fringing or blurriness you will see on the outside of the object you are viewing. With some optics, the focal point is clear but all the items around start to get distorted. So the extra coatings prevent that, as well as heighten light transmission and improve contrast and resolution. This helps distinguish objects of similar color against a similar background – such as the points and mass of a deer’s antlers against a wooded backdrop.
Okay, let’s say you can get outside. Focus on something off in the distance like a powerline. If you are looking through an optic with lower end glass, you will see a blue/purple haze around the object. This is what is commonly called a chromatic aberration. The better the glass, the less haze or discoloration you will see.
A while back, before I knew how to shop optics, I bought an optic for my deer gun. I picked the optic up, pointed to the back of the store and thought it looked great. Fast forward to a November evening when the bruiser buck I'd been chasing finally showed himself. Daylight quickly faded, and he had a history of showing up late to the party. Sure enough, a big-bodied buck stepped to the edge of the fence as daylight diminished. I had five minutes until legal shooting light set. I couldn't verify that it was that same deer I'd been chasing the past two years. No dice. The optic I’d chosen didn’t gather light as well as I’d hoped. No shots were fired that day.
Bushnell’s new line of Prime, Nitro and Forge optics were designed to give shooters better light-gathering when those legal hours dwindle. I think that is what drew me to deciding the Nitro scope was right for the rifle. Well that, and the fact that they redesigned the coating that protects the glass.
Back to the pig hunt. We crested the hill and hogs erupted from the thick brush. We began picking off every hog we could see dodging and running through the mesquites. The hunting party was able to pick off seven crop destroyers from the big group.
After the hunt, I looked over my equipment and noticed giant beads of water/ice on the objective lens, but throughout the shooting, I never lost sight of my target. Plus, I was able to clearly identify my target.
Even though the nastiest conditions, the good glass should perform. The last thing I want on my mind during a hunt is my gear's performance. Will the glass live up to the conditions? If I slip and fall, will my glass remain true? Don’t get caught off guard with your optics. Take time and do some research to figure out what works best for your needs. Keep in mind that store lighting and natural light are two different things, and I think you’ll find the right optic for you. ~ KJ
Kevin Jarnagin (KJ) hails from Oklahoma but quickly established Louisiana roots after joining the Gun Talk team. KJ grew up as a big game hunter and knows his way around a bass boat. Whether it's making his way to British Columbia for elk or training with pistols, Jarnagin always seems to find a gun in his hands and adventure on his mind.