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How to choose a scope for a Competition

The amount of long range competitions are growing every year, and the best way to learn about them is to go and compete in one. These competitors shoot at distances of 300 to 3,520 yards (two miles!). However, competitions require a different level of equipment. 

A typical stage requires the shooter to engage multiple targets at varying distances, often from different shooting positions and in varying wind conditions. As a result, the scope will need to be constantly adjusted and the reticle used for windage: therefore the scope has to operate under tough conditions reliably, reparably and very precisely.

‍Image credit: James D. Nelson - 1000 yard target. 4-16×56 Millet scope.fclass

Mechanical precision and optical clarity is the most important. 

Depending on the competition, you will also want target turrets, quick throw magnification levers, zero stops, quick MIL turrets, and holdover reticles for long range shooting to be competitive. 

Horus or Christmas tree reticles are often used for quick adjustments. 

Speed and confidence in your equipment is needed. 

Caliber, ballistics coefficient and reading wind is vital to score hits at range. 

It’s always helpful to see what the pros are currently using for precision rifle (or PRS) matches. 

The vast majority of competitors use powerful variable magnification optics made by Kahles, Vortex, Schmidt & Bender or Nightforce due to their durability and repeatable adjustments. 

Scope buying criteria

Scopes for Long Range Competition shooting require extreme mechanical precision and optical clarity first and foremost. Competition shooting requires precise tracking turrets. While many low-end scopes use mildot, higher end scopes use each use their own improved mildot, most frequently with a simple grid pattern for simple hold overs at range. Other features such as illuminated reticles, zero stops and revolution indicators are beneficial but of secondary importance. PRS match shooters use holdover reticles for quick ranging and follow up shots. 

• Reticles play an important role in PRS matches, ranging without a range finder, allowing for wind and elevation holdovers. The standard is the Horus or Christmas tree. 

• FFP whenever using a holdover reticle is needed as changing the magnification to range or holdover requires focus and time. 

• Target turrets in mils or set for ballistics both elevation and windage are required to run speed courses. Many companies offer custom turrets for ballistics of handloaded rounds, however many shooters adopt the MIL system for speed and ease of use, between calibers. 

• Perfect tracking turrets are vital when adjusting between multiple ranges and stages. 

• A stage may require changing elevation between targets, regularly over 20 MOA between targets. The changes need to be precise to allow the rifle to maintain zero.

Example persona for competition shooting

Jessica Shoots 3-gun and wants to get into PRS matches, but has a budget of $2,000-$4,000. She does not want a SFP scope because of humiliating moments losing her target in long range 3-gun. Shooting over 15,000 rounds a year practicing for competition is not unheard of. Reticle is important for ranging, holdovers and identifying targets. Many competitions use quick follow up shots or adjustment between ranges, necessitating target turrets. Longer ranges up to 800 yards with the ability to Mil ranges. 

An example of a budget starter setup would be:

• Rifle. Remington 700 6.5mm.

• Chassis. Aluminum is the most common. This allows the rifle to have a free-floating barrel and be secure for movement, as well as adopting the AR’s Modularity for accessories, and adjustability for different size shooters.

• 6.5mm Caliber has a fantastic ballistics coefficient, allowing for simple wind calls and a flat trajectory.

• Bipod. Atlas or Harris. Atlas bipods seem expensive at first, but they are equipped with features that many shooters desire. Quick change feet, extensions and 45 degree locking legs. 

• Bags. Many PRS matches require shooting off barricades. Bags allow for a experience similar to benchrest shooting. 

Scope options:

• Kahles K624i for perfect tracking and glass.

• Vortex Razor HD for a more budget option.

Note:  If you shoot F Class you use MOA scopes, if you shoot PRS you use MIL scopes.

Scope notes:

SWFA SS 10x42 : Clear glass, massive adjustment range, and a great beginner reticle for Long Range PRS matches, The SWFA SS 10x has all a beginner needs, but it does lack illumination.

Bushnell Elite Tactical LRTS 4.5-18x44: Bushnell tactical elite cuts down on weight with a smaller objective bell than other long range scopes. Great reticle, glass clarity and tracking for the price. 

Razor HD Gen II : Most popular rifle scope in PRS matches, high quality glass and tracking with an amazing warranty with quick turn around time. The Vortex Gen. II is a good choice for competition PRS Shooting. 

K624i: Kahles makes great scopes, second place in PRS matches with a growing following in the PRS community. Clear glass and great tracking combined with lighter weight and perfect reticle; make it a great scope if you can afford it.

B.E.A.S.T. F1: Nightforce’s flagship product, every feature you could want in this big brute of a scope. The BEAST is a beauty of a scope if you can afford it.

* * *

*SFP = 2nd focal plane; FFP = 1st focal plane.

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