“Dad. You need a new scope.” “No, Son, this one has done me well for over 25 years now.” “Dad, that’s exactly why you need a new scope!”
Ever heard a conversation like this? Well, who’s right? They both are.
How many old Leupold Vari-X II, 3-9x scopes do you see on guns, these days. Lots! They were workhorses in their day – and nothing’s changed. They still work as good as the day they were purchased. Case in point: if any of you hunted with me at the San Roman Ranch, my truck gun was a Ruger .25-06 with this very scope nestled in its rings. It’s still there. Has been since 1980 when I bought the rifle. It ain’t broke; I’m not going to fix it – yet.
Optics will last a really long time and work well with an amazingly little bit of care (that scope on my Ruger has lead a rough life though), and work as good as new. Dad wins the conversation on this point. The fly in the ointment is that optics have gotten a lot better in the last few decades. Here, the son wins. So, what does Dad do?
Some folks shoot recurve bows and .45-70 rifles. Some shoot state of the art compound bows and mega-magnums. If Dad is in the former group, that scope isn’t going anywhere, but if Dad shoots a 7mm STW, he’s probably not long for new glass. I have a pre ’64 Winchester model 70 featherweight .30-06 that’s a legacy from my father and it wears that same Leupold 3-9x scope. Unless it breaks, it’s not going anywhere and never will for nostalgic reasons, but the Ruger is itching for an upgrade next time a good reason (hunt) comes up – has been for years.
If I were to hold a new VX II 3-9x scope next to the one on my Ruger, it would be noticeably clearer, sharper and brighter even though it’s the “same scope”, but not because of the age and use on the old one. Optics technology has made major leaps in quality in the interim. Better glass, better lens coatings and better engineering and manufacturing are the reasons for the improved image quality. Add to that the improved reticles, reticle adjustments and other new features, and it’s not difficult to justify upgrading to a new scope. This same argument applies equally to binoculars and spotting scopes, too. In fact, if the question is whether to upgrade a binocular or riflescope, I would opt for the bino because it is used so much more than the scope and I can most likely determine that the critter out there is a shooter with my bino and then make the shot, even if I can’t see it clearly enough to “judge it” through the scope itself. Then I’d get a new scope when I could.
I don’t often recommend upgrading a scope just because of “size” or to gain most features advertised today. Look first to upgrade image quality and brightness, then while you’re at it, you can opt for different magnification, reticle, objective lens size, etc. Scopes can now be had with built-in cameras, laser rangefinders, bullet drop calculating devices and such, but I’m not sold on most of these items. If you are the rare shooter that needs these features – you know it. If they just sound interesting to you, I’d stay away. They will only detract from the prime task at hand, which is putting a bullet in the kill zone of a critter. Most hunters rarely shoot beyond 300 yards, negating the usefulness of many of these features. Guiding on the San Roman Ranch, I saw several trophies simply walk away while my hunter played with his “toys” instead of squeezing a trigger.
In marrying Old and New, Weaver has just announced it is making a new version of it’s classic K-4 scope that so many of us got started with back in the 50’s and 60’s. It looks like the original, but has modern optics and mechanics inside. It is a 4x scope. Bet they sell a ton of them.
While there may be nothing wrong with the scope on your rifle, there may be a lot of things right about getting a new one. If you’ve had that scope for 20 years, it’s time to start looking at what is available. For as little as $300-400 you can get great image quality and dependability in many new scopes, but whatever you spend, put it toward quality, not gimmickry. You’ll have that scope for maybe another 20 years or so. Put your money toward what counts. You’ll be glad you did.