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"Appropriate" 'scope settings
Old 12-01-2004, 11:55 AM
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Default "Appropriate" 'scope settings

In another thread addressing comparisons between "Magnums" and "Standard" cartridges, a comment was made regarding sighting in 'scopes at 1" high at 100 yds. Since there seems to be some interest in 'scopes and "proper" 'scope settings, I thought I'd open a thread for discussion. The primary purpose being to discuss those elements of 'scope adjustment that are associated with HUNTING. Target shoting is an entirely different matter.

To start the discussion off, I'll post the settings I use now, and how I've come to that decision.

For probably 30 or more years, I "listened" to the "experts" tell me what was "right" in terms of how "high" to be at 100 yards when sighting in a 'scope for a "flat-shooting" rifle. From my first days with a big game caliber rifle (a .270 Win.), all the "experts" agreed that 3" high at 100 yards was the "correct" setting. Their logic seemed reasonable: Being 3" high at 100 generally meant that you would be no more than 3" low at 300 yards. Therefore, you could aim "in the center" of a big game animal, and be "sure" of a lethal hit without having to make a particularly accurate estimate of range. This is not a false statement, nor is it particularly faulty logic. However, over the years, it has not "worked" very well for me. These days, I set my 'scopes' settings so that the point of impact is either dead on at 100 yds, or no more than 1" high.

The reason for this choice is pretty simple: I like to hit where I aim - exactly. In my experience, the "plus 3 minus 3" philosophy subtly leads to an attitude akin to "flock shooting". Hence I feel it actually detracts from a hunter's need to develop an attitude about accuracy. You will never be a "good shot" if you're satisfied with "plus or minus 3 inches". When I shoot at an animal using a 'scoped rifle, I aim at a very specific feature on that animal. When I walk up to that animal, I expect to see a bullet hole in the spot where I aimed. Even if the animal was cleanly killed, I am not as satified with the shot if it is off that point of aim. I'll relate a recent shot that is a perfect example.

While hunting pigs in California, I had occasion to shoot a coyote at what turned out to be 104 paces. The rifle I was hunting pigs with, the Collath drilling, was not the best choice of the rifles we had on hand, so I used the rifle my Dad was carrying, a TCR-83 chambered in .257 Roberts AI. The bullet was an 87 grain Combined Technology Ballistic SilverTip. At the offhand shot, the coyote dropped like the proberbial stone. Congratulations all around of course, but when we walked up to the animal I noticed that the bullet had hit high and forward, going through the shoulder blade and the spine in a line running directly up the leg from the foot to the back. Trouble was, I had aimed at the heart. That bothered me. I had missed my intended point of aim by 2 inches left and 5 inches high. That bothered me. Was the animal dead? Sure? Had I had to chase it? Nope. Had it suffered? Nope. Still, as far as I was concerned, I had missed the shot. That bothered me. And it did so for the next two days.

I mulled that shot over and over in my mind's eye for the next two days, unable to accept the fact that I had so badly missed the shot. I ALWAYS assume "operator error" with missed shots. Experience has too often shown the painful truth - "guns" don't miss, people do. Because of that basic attitude, I forgot about a change I had made to the rifle's aiming that I had made to accomodate the differences between my Dad's and my sight pictures. When I sighted the gun for my Dad just before we left to hunt pigs, I had had to adjust the scope 5 inches up and 2 inches left from my sight picture. Exactly (without actually measuring), how far I had missed that coyote's heart.

I hunt mostly caribou and dall sheep, animals whose hunting is generally regarded as "long range" in "open country". I've shot lots of sheep and lots more caribou. The longest shot I've ever taken on a sheep is 219 paces, and the longest shot on a caribou has been 319 paces. Most shots are near 150. With the "plus 3 minus 3" 'scope settings, I would rarely hit my point of aim exactly. Finally, back in the early '80s, regardless of the 'flatness' of the cartridge's trajectory, I started sighting my rifles in at 'dead on' at 100 yds. I find myself much less botheredthese days.

CAfrica, you may recall a dicussion before "The Crash of '04" in which you wondered why people tend to shoot "too high". I submit, that this "plus 3 minus 3" attitude is a contributing factor.

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