A small-caliber rifle is owned by almost every hunter. Some use it mainly for hunting, others for hunting and target shooting and some own it solely for precision target shooting.
In shooting disciplines associated with hunting, a small-caliber rifle is used a lot in competitions, especially in 4-position target shooting (35 m, members), 35-meter Veteran target shooting and 50-meter running boar shooting.
Even as a hunting trainee, I was very interested in competing. I started training and competing with a Brno 2 small-caliber rifle, manufactured by Czech Zbrojovka, and a Bushnell Trophy 3−9×42 riflescope. By watching other shooters, I realized that I could achieve better results with a better rifle and a riflescope of higher quality. After two years, I decided it was time for a replacement.
After consulting with my shooting friends and experienced shooters, I bought a used Anschütz Match 54 .22 LR small-caliber rifle. Then, I focused on buying a riflescope. The starting criteria for the purchase were: a parallax-free riflescope, a 12x variable magnification and a price range up to 250 €. After consulting with Optics-trade, I bought a Hawke Varmint 3–12×44 SF with a Mil-Dot reticle which met all the criteria and was in my price range.
It features an adjustable parallax of 10 m to infinity and a 12x magnification − It is a great riflescope for this price range. I was always using the maximum magnification (12x) that is allowed by the hunting rule book with 4-position target shooting. After a good year of training and competing, I started to think about changing my riflescope. The reason for the change was the image quality at the maximum, 12x magnification. Looking through other riflescopes that were of the higher price range, I noticed an obvious difference at a 12x magnification.
I decided to buy a new one. Once again I visited Optics-trade, where I had many different riflescopes to choose from. The purchase criteria were similar to the previous one with one essential difference – I wanted my riflescope to have a 16x magnification or more this time. Therefore, I chose to purchase a Delta Optical Titanium 4–16×42 AO riflescope with a Duplex reticle. The advantages of this riflescope in comparison to the Hawke riflescope were a higher variable magnification, a thinner reticle and better image quality. It is somewhat more expensive but still has a great price-quality ratio.
This riflescope served me well, but with time I wanted an even better riflescope. I bought it last year (2019) at the beginning of the season. Naturally, this kind of replacements and purchases of new riflescopes happen frequently, but I must say I am currently more than satisfied with my Sightron S TAC 4-20×50 SF with an MOA 2 reticle. Compared to the other two riflescopes, it has an image of higher quality. The objective lens diameter is 50 mm, which contributes a lot to a bright and quality image. The MOA 2 reticle is very thin and appropriate for target shooting and the magnification range is quite wide, which is more than welcome. Price-wise it is 2x more expensive than the Hawke riflescope I owned in the beginning.
A short summary and experiences that I gained through all the riflescope replacements
Speaking from my own experiences, I see that the image is somewhat worse at the maximum magnification provided by the riflescope or, better said, at its maximum capability of providing an image of decent quality. For example, let’s consider two riflescopes of the same price range, with the same lens diameter and a different variable magnification. If we set both, a riflescope X with a 3−12 variable magnification and a riflescope Y with a 4−20 variable magnification to 12x magnification, we can see that the image quality is better on the riflescope Y that has a higher maximum magnification.
The first two riflescopes I owned were less resistant to minor shocks and vibrations. The last one, Sightron S TAC 4-20×50 SF, has never moved during hunting & shooting, whereas with the other two I had to make small adjustments of the reticle as well as the parallax during the season.
A price was also a big factor in all replacements. I was always searching for a reasonably priced riflescope, but I also wanted good quality. In the end, after all the replacements, I have come to the conclusion that it is better to go into a slightly higher price range in the beginning, thus overcoming all problems and doubts about the right purchase. Ultimately, because of all my replacements and new purchases, I spent more money than I would if I had initially bought the riflescope I own now. Of course, the purchasing path depends on each individual, as requirements vary from person to person. Even the first riflescope I had is sufficient for normal use or competing in all hunting disciplines that are listed above. However, I really recommend consulting with experienced shooters and looking at a target through different riflescopes for making it easier to decide what to buy.