Scopes Are Tough, But Accidents Happen.
Bolt-action rifles, for example, will take a lot of abuse in a hunting or competing situation. But glass is a different matter. The optics are delicate instruments that can be easily damaged, ending an expensive adventure.
I was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains and hunted there for years. Still do every year. I have hunted Africa, Alaska, and Canada. During all that time, I have fallen down slopes, run over two rifles with my truck by mistake, and damaged several pieces of expensive glass. I have damaged the objective lens on an expensive binocular and put huge dents in expensive riflescopes.
After one of the falls, my scope was dented. I decided I had better see if it was still zeroed. It was way off. The dent was in the vicinity of the erector tube, and reticle travel was restricted. Another time, my scope did not seem visibly affected after the fall, but I found it, too, was way off.
Most hunts these days put a huge dent, your pocket book, and they may only be for a few days. On a hunt to Alaska for caribou, three of us were flown to a remote location in the interior of Alaska, dropped off, and left there for 8 days. Weight was restricted, thus each of us only took one rifle. You can imagine how you might feel if your scope was damaged beyond repair the first day out. You can imagine a hundred other scenarios.
The Talbot mount is by far the best return to zero, quick detachable mount Jacob has evaluated. Put the bar on the rifle and a ring set on both the primary and secondary scopes. Zero both with the same mount on the rifle. You can take the scope off and on multiple times, and it will be in the hole. The backup scope will be in the hole as well. Removing and putting the scope back on takes about 3 seconds. Talbot sells them for just about any rifle you might wish to mount them on.
Two 50mm Nightforce NXS scopes, both zeroed to the same rifle. They both have the same reticle pattern, turrets, rings, etc. Although Picatinny rings don’t always return to zero, they are close enough for most shots. If shooting long range, find a lonely spot and re-zero. Jacob sometimes takes the primary scope off and puts both in his carry-on when traveling by plane. Jacob just doesn’t trust those baggage handlers.
Strange things happen to mounts and rings as well. Now I travel with a small set of tools for just such a problem. I also carry small hex and torx wrenches in my wallet, which, by the way, the TSA confiscated after they were noticed on the X-ray. Go figure.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to avoid damaging glass. You might get by with the loss of your binocular, spotting scope, or rangefinder, but a riflescope being damaged beyond repair ends the hunt or the competition. All of these items come with lens covers, which do add some level of protection. If they don’t, many companies provide them for just about any glass on the market. Still, they don’t offer complete protection.
After several such incidents, I now carry a backup riflescope. Return-To-Zero mounts have solved much of the problem. Both scopes are zeroed with rings attached to each scope prior to the hunt or the match. If the primary scope is damaged, simply mount the second scope. It will probably be back in camp and one day will be sacrificed, but that is much better than being at the house, a few hundred or thousand miles away. On a flight to Africa, I was so worried about the way baggage handlers threw my gear around; I took the primary scope off the rifle and carried it and my backup in my carry-on backpack. Once there, I remounted my primary scope to ensure zero. The scope mounts I use were right on the money. I now carry a backup riflescope on every hunt as well as every competition.
The most popular binocular these days seems to be the 10x40mm, which is a reasonable weight to carry, and offers a great view of the area and the animal when hunting. Throwing a very light bino such as an 8X or 10X mini in the pack can save the day if something bites your primary bino… same with a spotting scope. Leupold and several others make small spotting scopes that are much better than nothing on the hunt.
The Brunton 10.5x43mm Epoch (right) is a wonderful binocular. It comes in an expensive hard case, has lens caps, and has one of the most amazing warranties I have run across. For example, if something happens to the bino on a hunting adventure, Brunton will ship another one to you. It even comes with a doubler that screws onto the right hand lens, transforming the bino into a 20X spotting scope. Still, if things go awry, this small Leica 8x20mm binocular will do the job. Jacob’s partners in Alaska carried the 10x20mm as their only bino and did fine. True minimalist hunters.
Binoculars, spotting scopes, and some rangefinders these days have both body armor and lens caps. These protect both the glass and the body, and they do an admirable job. But they are all mechanisms that can fail. Barrels on the bino can go out of alignment, the eyepiece on a spotting scope can be bent, and a rangefinder might suddenly go haywire for some unexplained reason. Best to carry light backups even if you leave them in camp.
Bottom line: Sit down for a few minutes prior to an expensive hunt or competition and think about what piece of gear would put you out of the hunt if damaged to the extent that it could no longer be repaired in the field. Then make a plan to either avoid that disaster or bring along something to replace it. And glass is certainly at the top of the list. At the top of the glass list is the riflescope. You might do without a binocular or a spotting scope. You might even do without a rangefinder. But the riflescope? Unlikely. Many years ago, rifles came with iron sights to which scopes were added. Rifles made for dangerous game often have iron sights. But the vast majority of rifles these days have no backup if the scope goes south.
By Jacob Gottfredson
14400 N.W. Greenbriar Pkwy.
Beaverton, OR 97006
Talbot QD Mounts
2210 E. Grand Blanc Rd., Grand Blanc, MI 48439
2255 Brunton Ct., Riverton, WY 82501
Leica Camera Inc.
1 Pearl Ct., Unit A, Allendale, NJ 07401
This Nosler M48 is a beautiful rifle, and it is made for carry in the high country. This one is mounted with a Leupold scope. A slight fall in the rocks might not bother the rifle, except for a scratch or two. But the scope might easily be damaged beyond repair in the field. Then what?