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Expensive scopes vs. cheap ones. What's the difference?


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What would be expensive to you is not expensive to someone else.  You might want to add price ranges.  Like $300-$800 scopes vs $1500 scopes vs $2500.  I think a better questions would be what your believed budget is and what you intend to use the Optic/rifle for, you would get a better answer.  

 

A general answer is Eye relief, clarity of glass, durability and Field of view at power.  Typically all of these things will be better as price goes up.  In my eyes, Return on investment usually drops drastically after $1,800 - $2,000, possibly $2,500 price range.   At least it seems that way in regards to LPVOs.  At that point it would seem reviewers and an individuals preferences (nit picking) is what separates optics.  

 

Maybe a PRS guy who has use super high end scopes can chime in on optics over $3,000.

 

I am mostly in the LPVO market.  I cannot ever spending more that $2,000 on an LPVO and in my eyes that is steep.  You can easily find an LPVO that would get the job done in the $700-$1,100 price range.  Size of targets and distances you plan to shoot plays a role in this as well in making a decision on which optic you might want to purchase.  If I shot out to 600 meters/yds or further on a consistent basis I would have an optic that is something like a 1-8 or 1-10 optic.  In my eyes that drives the price closer to $2,000.   200 yds and in 1-6 is plenty of optic.  

 

These are opinions obviously.  Others views may differ.  

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Posted (edited)

This is an easy one.

For starters, the more expensive scopes typically have a higher quality glass.

This means the view of the target is brighter and sharper.
If you are a hunter and taking game at relatively short range, this doesn't mean as much.

If you are trying for bug hole groups or shooting at long or extreme distances, it matters a lot.

Try to focus a cheap scope on a target beyond 500 yds and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Beyond just optical quality, internals are better and the premium scopes tend to track more accurately.

 

In short, what you are paying for is a scope that is tougher, image that is brighter & sharper, and adjustments that are more accurate and repeatable.

Also, this type of scope often has some sort of holdover reticle (that may or may not be illuminated)

This goes beyond a duplex crosshair but adds value and cost.

Its also worth noting that high end scopes tend to have larger diameter tubes, and generally weigh more.

 

FWIW,

My PRS rifles are all custom builds.

They are premium barrels with chambers cut and fitted to a high end action.

The barrelled actions are cerakoted and bedded into in quality chassis.

Triggers are among the best money can buy.

 

The point being, these are some expensive shooting irons.

 

The glass on each of them cost more than the rifle,... if that tells you anything.

Optics matter.

Edited by 38superman
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17 minutes ago, Boomstick303 said:

What would be expensive to you is not expensive to someone else.  You might want to add price ranges.  Like $

 

Good point, thanks.

 

I'm talking about the 3x9 Bushnell that came on my Savage Axis, vs. Something that costs 200 bucks.

 

I'm going javelina hunting in AZ, and my buddy says at the most 150 yards.

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5 minutes ago, 38superman said:

 

If you are a hunter and taking game at relatively short range, this doesn't mean as much.

 

Yep, I think that's me. See above

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I worked for several years in a very good gun store. Mostly for hunting. The way I sold scopes, lower price & high end was to see what their budget was and to bring several outside for them to look at an item in the distance and decide what they like. In a large sports store just looking across the building as far away as possible will work. Rather than recommending a particular brand. Every ones eyes are different and what looks great to one person may not work for another.

 

I found that several lower priced scopes looked excellent to my customer compared to the more expensive. 

 

gerritm 

 

 

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The internal gears ability to handle constant adjustment and staying true to the travel for that particular number of clicks and them moving the listed adjustment amount.  High quality reticles, and high quality glass.  Several companies use the same oem to make their scopes but the prices and quality differ greatly due to the guts of the finished product.

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On 5/12/2021 at 12:02 PM, ysrracer said:

 

Yep, I think that's me. See above

I had a hunt ruined with a cheap for mentioned scope. 

After a long hike and tried to take a sight picture all I could see was fog.

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big difference is seen when it is smoking hot out. good glass does much better with mirage, and also at dusk and dawn. better scopes will typically get you more shooting time in low light.  it is eye opening to sit behind good glass on a prarie dog town on a hot day.

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On 5/12/2021 at 5:01 PM, ysrracer said:

 

Good point, thanks.

 

I'm talking about the 3x9 Bushnell that came on my Savage Axis, vs. Something that costs 200 bucks.

 

I'm going javelina hunting in AZ, and my buddy says at the most 150 yards.

If I were shooting at running pigs I'd go for an EOTech or a HoloSun 2 moa.    If however you might just want to shoot more conventional game, and I do recall a friend and I  bugle up a Sika, he had that Bushnell and he couldn't make him out, I handed him my rifle with a Simmons 44 mag, and he said dam the sun came up and he could make the shot.   You need a good pair of binoculars, those little rascals will sneak right up on you so close you can't see them without binoculars.  A 3x9 or 3x10 is probably a handicap at 150 yards a good 1x4 with @50 mm would give you a good field of view, stay on 1 till you have a target over 200 yards.  No scope will help if you don't know your zero and where it hits at different ranges.

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Higher quality glass and repeatable optical tracking.  The latter is extremely important if you plan on doing any kind of precision shooting with an optic of any kind, but especially with a variable power optic in the 4-12x or more so in the 4.5-27x and higher powered optics on the market today.  

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I started PRS with a lower mid-tier scope (Millet). After a long and frustrating day on the range, I finally figured out that each click of the turrets was not 0.1 MIL.  That the amount varied slightly.  This meant that Ballistic App calculated DOPE was useless and I had to actually shoot every 50 yards out to 1200 yards or so and build actual DOPE for the scope.  When I moved to a lower upper-tier (Vortex) the difference in clarity, in eye box forgiveness, and in repeatability was night and day.

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2 hours ago, Stevenchrist said:

I believe everyone should know something expensive will be of a better quality over a cheaper one .

No way possible.  There's perceived value for a thing and then there's the price for that thing.  Look at diamonds.  When DeBeers had the market cornered and they were selling their ideal of the perfect wedding ring, the perceived value of diamonds was absolutely massive.  When you look at diamonds as just a rock, the perceived value goes to near zero.

There was a company that sold Anjou stereo cables for something like $1000 per cable.  But these were just annealed copper speaker wire that you could buy for $25 or so.  Did some suckers buy the Anjou cables?  Absolutely because the perceived value was high.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, ysrracer said:

When I was a kid, Monster Speaker Cable was all the rage. I used Radio Shack cable.

 

It worked fine.

 

Subjective judgement without blind testing sells a lot of really expensive stereo stuff, on the bright side it no longer sells a lot of medicines. Medicine adds in the newspapers from way back when are interesting. 

 

1 hour ago, SnipTheDog said:

 There's perceived value for a thing and then there's the price for that thing. 

 And raising the price often drives up perceived value. But when there is an honest testing method value judgements can change, https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/05/24/479163882/the-judgment-of-paris-the-blind-taste-test-that-decanted-the-wine-world

 

Edited by IHAVEGAS
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If you think cheap scopes are as good as expensive scopes you are probably wrong. While a cheap scope may be plenty for a person's needs, it only takes a glance to tell high end glass from mediocre. And if you want it to track right, be ready to spend some money. 

 

Scopes are something that, pretty much without exception,  you get what you pay for. A 200 dollar scope may be all a person needs, but it ain't a 500 or 2000 dollar scope, and don't try to fool yourself that it is

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I wish the question was "expensive scope vs mid range scope, what's the difference?"

 

There is a tremendous amount of difference between cheap and expensive, but middle of the road is where the quality and value meet. There are some really good scopes for just about every need in the $500 to $1500 range. Some even a little less if you look carefully.

 

My favorite two hunting scopes are by Vortex. Favorite is the Razor 1-6 with JM reticle. Not the least expensive, but it was almost half the price of my Swarovski that did nothing better than my Razor. Second favorite is the Strike Eagle 1-8. For $399.00 it does a lot on a hunting rifle and is capable of everything from Hogs here in Florida to Caribou in Alaska. Its not as clear as the Razor, and the reticle is illuminated but not daylight bright like the Razor. But it did survive bumping around a rifle rack for 50 miles on an ATV and still held zero, hitting its mark at 200 yds to bag my Caribou.

 

For the hunting you described at Javelina at 150yds or less I would not use a 3x9. I would use a 1-6 or 1-8, or even just a red dot.

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  • 2 weeks later...

There are many different aspects to a rifle scope.  Repeatable adjustments, ability to handle recoil, ability to withstand bumps in the field and maintain zero, quality of glass, reticle design, weight, illumination or lack thereof, and overall build quality can all be important.  And then there is matching the design and cost of the scope to your needs, depending on usage.  A scope for hunting in heavy cover where shots are expected to be under 200 yards has very different requirements than a 1000 yard target scope.  I'd say it's a matter of clearly defining your requirements and then looking for a scope that will match those requirements at a price you can afford. 

 

For general hunting of larger game (not woodchucks, ground squirrels etc.) out to 300-400 yards,  something like a Burris Fullfield II 3-9x40 with ballistic plex reticle would work fine.  These are reliable hunting scopes that cost less than $200 and are made in the Philippines. They have decent glass, a good hunting reticle and hold up over time.  There are better hunting scopes like Meopta, Zeiss, Swarovski etc. but they cost considerably more.  If you want to dial for elevation instead of using a BDC reticle, you will need a more expensive scope designed for that. Your selection is mostly personal preference.

Edited by Bowman
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One more comment on quality.  Some manufacturers emphasize particular functions, so that for example, their scopes may have great glass, but not be particularly durable when it comes to heavy recoil.  I've heard of some top level European  scopes only lasting a few rounds of hard kicking rounds. Some brands are known for very reliable adjustments for dialing at relatively low cost, but the glass is just mid quality (maybe SWFA for example.) So it gets back to matching your requirements to the specific scope.  Just spending more doesn't always give you what you need although it often will.  

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