Rifle Scopes Review: Competition Optics

Rifle Scopes Review:  Competition Optics

Rifle Scopes Review: Competition Optics

Hey shooters, today I'm reviewing the rifle scopes I use in short-range competition. Now before my long-range friends unsubscribe, trust me that you'll find this an interesting blog post-regardless of the brand of scope you own, or your shooting sport!

I'll share tips on how to prevent damage to your optics, and the pros and cons of different scope magnifications and objectives. If you're wanting to try and find more information about the different scopes you can purchase for your various rifles or firearm, then also make sure to check out here and other websites to broaden your range of scope products available to you.

And you'll see my own equipment, and why I love it.

Benchrest Competition Target Rifle Scopes

The optics of choice among top benchrest competitors are high-end target scopes with fixed lenses of 35x to 60x magnification. Lenses are permanently glued in place. Without additional internal parts these fixed-power rifle scopes can be made lighter than their variable-magnification cousins.

The best tubes are machined from a single billet-no plastic parts to break or degrade. Wide objective lenses gather light and increase target visibility.

Target reticle with dot.
Target reticle with dot.

High magnification can give you an edge on the target range, to:

  • see the target clearly at distance,
  • make fine hold-off adjustments,
  • detect mirage in quiet wind conditions, and
  • shoot a fly crawling across your target dead center at 200 yards!

However the higher power telescopes are impractical for shooting applications requiring a wider field of view to locate a target in the field, and can be overwhelming in boiling mirage conditions.

Benchrest shooters favor a reticle with fine cross-hairs, with (or without) a central dot of 1/16″, 3/32″ or 1/8″ Minute-of-Angle (MOA).

The parallax adjustment is on the left side of the scope, instead of a front ring. This is a terrific improvement, since you can focus the rifle scope without moving from your position behind the gun.

For windage and elevation adjustment my scopes have 1/8″ MOA movement per click-meaning I turn the turret eight detents to move the bullet's Point of Impact (POI) on the target by one MOA (one inch at 100 yards, two inches at 200 yards, etc.) This is appropriate for a short-range target scope, but would be impractical (too fine an adjustment) for long-range shooting.

March scope turrets
March Competition Target Rifle Scope Turrets

Parallax Explained

The parallax adjustment focuses the target image onto the same plane as the reticle. If the target is focused either ahead or behind the reticle, then the target will appear to move with relation to the reticle. This is called parallax.

There is no parallax when your eye is in line with the scope's optical axis. To check for parallax, move your eye side to side, then up and down (bob and weave your head), and adjust the focus/parallax turret until the movement in the scope disappears. It is more important to remove parallax than to achieve perfect target sharpness (focus).

For my scopes, there is zero parallax when the target is in focus. This speaks to the quality of the optics.

Care and Feeding of Telescopic Sights

Here are six tips to keep from harming your expensive rifle scope:

  1. Your rifle scope is not a suitcase handle-don't carry the gun by the scope.
  2. Baby the lens coatings-don't use aggressive glass cleaners (use an alcohol-based lens cleaner).
  3. Minimize vibrations to the scope-if you hammer the front rest into the bench, the range owner will hate you, and you'll transfer those vibrations onto the scope reticle and lenses.
  4. Airline travel is hazardous to your scope, although sometimes unavoidable. Just keep in mind that incompetent baggage handlers may degrade your optics.
  5. Your scope is sealed-if you open it you'll lose the dry argon gas and introduce moisture inside the scope.
  6. Don't over-tighten scope rings-the tube can be crushed. Follow manufacturer's instructions and torque screws to proper settings.

March Competition Rifle Scopes

The Choice of World Champions

March scopes are made by hand in Japan, and are at the high end of the high-end scopes. They are pricey but are worth the investment. As I describe in the video above, I love the high magnification March scopes I shoot.

The glass is clear and bright. The windage and elevation adjustments have positive detents with an audible ‘click' (you won't over-turn the turrets). The reticle is crisp and the target focus is sharp.

I highly recommend the March benchrest target scope.

Leopold Gold Ring Competition Rifle Scopes

We asked some of the world's top competitive shooters what they wanted in a scope-this is the result.

The Leupold Gold Ring competition rifle scope is my favorite.

The windage and elevation adjustments are smooth to turn but still have a positive detent. The glass is clear, the reticle crisp and the target focus sharp.

But what makes the Gold Ring Competition Series stand out is Leupold's lifetime warranty and awesome customer service. I highly recommend this scope to meet and exceed any target benchrest shooter's needs.

NightForce Scope

Nothing is Like a NightForce Riflescope

Although I haven't shot a NightForce scope it is becoming popular in the benchrest shooting community. Lou Murdica used the new 42x NightForce scope to win the heavy varmint 200 yard at the 2016 Berger Cactus Classic (> 145 shooters). Lou says: “It's a great scope.”

I was impressed by the NightForce spotting scope I saw at the 2015 Nationals and World Benchrest Championships in St. Louis Missouri. Based on this and Lou's endorsement above, I wouldn't hesitate to buy one.

Jason Coye Leather Scope Lens Caps

Jason Coye hand stitches leather scope lens covers and awesome bolt holsters. Protect your expensive benchrest scope from dust, solvents, bumps and jars. Get yours from our friends at benchrite!

P.S. the links in this post are not affiliate links (I don't earn anything if you buy from these sites), I just want to let you know how to get cool stuff for your precision rifle.

If you have a second, I'd love you to leave me a comment, and share this article with your followers! (It's just below).

Meet Vera Carter





About the Author


  • Dick Wright May 27, 2016 at 8:56 am


    You might want to add Valdada scopes to this section. Bart told me that he and Billy had tested them and will, now, use nothing else. A friend bought a gun from me and a new Valdada scope. I had the opportunity to mount it, sight it in and work up loads with it. I thought it was superb.

    I’m guessing you two are at the Super Shoot. Have fun, win something. I sure wish I was there. Old age makes it tough now days.

    Good luck,


    • Vera Author May 29, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      Hi Dick, thanks for adding this information, I really appreciate the comments from a seasoned competitor. And Billy won the Super Shoot this year, edging out Gene by 0.0005″!

      I’ll definitely look at including the new Valdala scope to my blog review. Missed seeing you at Kelbly’s, but I understand how it’s not always possible to make it to the big shoots. The numbers were down this year, but Jim Kelbly said it was an opportunity to rebuild.

      I hope my weblog can help encourage shooters to join the shooting sports.


  • COUNTERSTRIKE May 27, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    I adore this website – its so usefull and helpfull

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  • Colonel (Ret) James H Krilich, USA March 15, 2017 at 11:04 am

    I strongly recommend the Unertl as still the best target scope – specially the 2 inch programmer.
    Custom riser blocks on the rifle receiver – supporting a 14 inch, supporting a 14 inch rail so the scope mounts can be spaced 13 inches apart. Nothing touches the barrel. replace the cross hairs with a pointed copper wire creating a post. concentrate your vision on the tip of the copper wire post sight picture. Gary Anderson always used a post front sight, so do that same thing for your scope. This give you only one exact vision point to concentrate on. My first time at Camp Perry was in 1966. I will be at Bristol competing in the National Metric Smallbore Champsionships . 73 and still shooting standing and keeling….!!

    • Vera Author March 18, 2017 at 6:37 am

      Great information Jim, thanks!!!

  • Mark Carey December 14, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    It is very comprehensive excellent tips about rifle scope. Rifle scope is very need when you are hunting any animal. It easily find your hunting animal. Lots of thanks for sharing this informative article.

  • Mark February 14, 2020 at 12:03 am

    Thanks for giving us the very informative and useful tips when choosing the suitable scopes. There is no doubt that outdoor hunting is so interesting but it’s much better if having the best hunting scopes.

  • Pete Freund May 30, 2020 at 9:20 pm

    Thanks for explaining parallax. I understand it a little better now. I also appreciate the information of what to look for when selecting a good rifle scope and hope to feature some of these on my website in the future.

  • Doug Hildreth August 8, 2020 at 7:47 pm

    Enjoyed reading your article. Still lurking in the backround trying to decide if this is the retirement hobby for me.


    • Vera Author September 27, 2020 at 12:08 pm

      Hi Doug – man after my own heart, I’m a website lurker but am needing to get out more often and respond better to folks who post comments on my site 😉 Shooting is one of the best retirement hobbies you could have. And among the many shooting sports, benchrest means you don’t have to contort yourself around awkward obstacles or lie on the ground. Nothing against that mind you.

      • james N. Krouse November 15, 2021 at 8:04 am

        Amen, I’m 82 y.o. and have trouble getting back up.

      • JAMES N KROUSE November 15, 2021 at 8:15 am

        I have a Arken sh4 gen ii 6x24x50 on a cz455 action in a Oryx chassis 30 moa pica tinny
        rail . I would like to sight in this scope. My question is what settings should I use to start.
        I have had problems in the past cause I couldn’t hit paper to adjust my scope

        • Vera Author November 15, 2021 at 5:56 pm

          Hi James, with a bolt-action rifle where you can remove the bolt and look through the bore, you can bore-sight as a starting point to get you on paper.

          I usually bore-sight at 100 yards; here’s how I do it.

          Set the rifle in a stable rest or on bags.

          Remove the bolt and look down the bore at the circle of light at the muzzle end (the muzzle should look like a concentric ring within the barrel). Move your head around until the circle of light is carefully centered at the end of the barrel. Now you can see where the barrel is pointed.

          Note where the bore is pointing relative to the target. For example, it may be pointing off the left side of the paper.

          Look through the scope, and being careful to not disturb the rifle in the bags, dial the reticle to where the bore is pointing. What you’re doing is aligning the reticle to where a bullet would land if you actually shot the gun, except you don’t need to waste a shot, or risk a bad shot, or damage your range’s target frame.

          Now adjust the rifle in the bags so your scope is lined up on target, and check the bore again. You might need to tweak the scope once (or twice) by dialing the reticle to where the bore is aiming.

          With a keen eye you can fine-tune the scope and be confident your first shot will be on target, and often in the 10-ring. If you’re having trouble seeing the target through the bore (needs young eyes sometimes) you can ask another shooter to line up the bore in the center of the target, then move the reticle to match.

          Now shoot the rifle – you’ll want to confirm where the shots are grouping on paper, then dial the reticle to the point of impact to complete your sight-in.

          Also if it’s not possible to look through the bore (as for many hunting actions) then you’ll need to buy a bore sighter and follow the instructions.

          Let me know if this helps!