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opes And Mounts hoW much do you really hAve to spend? Manhattan restaurant is three times as good as an $6.49 Reuben from a cafe in Casper, Wyo. I’ve eaten Reubens in both places, and while the New York sandwich was better, it didn’t beat Wyo. by much. Similar assumptions are often made about scope mounts. Many shooters believe mounts must be made entirely of steel, preferably a lot of steel, in order to keep scopes in place, and any mounts costing less than $100 or even $200 are suspect. In reality some mounts costing under $50 hold scopes quite well. You may not be able to pull your scope off the rifle, then replace it as precisely as with a $500 German detachable mount, but then again you might! One of the real advances in inexpensive riflescopes over the past decade has been reliable adjustments. Before the appearance of affordable laser rangefinders in the mid-1990s, relatively few scopes had truly repeatable adjustments. They didn’t need to, since back then most of us sighted-in our rifles, then left the scope alone. These days many hunters expect to twirl the elevation turret when shooting at longer ranges. As a result, even the adjustments of many “affordable” scopes usually track quite well. It’s relatively easy to test new scopes for optical quality and repeatability of adjustment, but testing for ruggedness isn’t so straightforward. I’ve broken a bunch of new scopes on rifles from lightweight .30-06s up to .375s while shooting less than two boxes of ammo, probably due to factory defects, but how many rounds a scope takes beyond 40 is another indicator of quality. As a result, the scopes listed here as relative bargains have been around long enough to gather a consensus of toughness from a number of shooters The first nominee is Burris’ Fullfield II line, partly because the Fullfield II line is a perfect example of the modern optics market. For a number of years they were made in Burris’ Colorado factory, but several years ago manufacturing switched to the Philippines. Retail prices stayed the same, but profit was larger due to lower labor costs. Many shooters assumed the quality of the Fullfield II would drop, but I immediately obtained a 3-9X and ran it through a battery of tests. If anything, the “foreign” scope was slightly better finished than my American-made Fullfield II scopes, and the optics and adjustments were just as good. It’s held up well now for several years, as have several other Philippine Fullfield II scopes on rifles chambered for cartridges up to .300 Weatherby Magnum, an excellent round both for big-game hunting and breaking test scopes. Among my Fullfield II scopes is a tactical 3-9X with a 30mm tube, and its adjustments track just as well as those on several more expensive scopes. The reason the foreign-made Fullfield II scopes are just as good: They’re made on the same machinery as the American scopes. Instead of contracting with an overseas company to make copies, Burris provided the tooling and trained the workers. This doesn’t mean Asian factories don’t know how to make good scopes. Other really good bargains among affordable scopes are the Bushnell Elites, Minox Z3s, the new Redfields, Vortexes Talley Lightweight mounts were designed by Melvin Forbes for his New Ultra Light Arms rifles. Eileen Clarke sighted-in her new NULA .270 Winchester in 1994, when she took this mule deer (opposite), and never had to sight it in again until the scope broke down a decade later—the reason she used a different scope for this spike elk. and Weaver Grand Slams. Those are just the new scopes I’ve tested over the past decade; others appear every year, thanks to our apparently insatiable appetite for affordable optics. In the past few years, I’ve also tested scopes from Hawke, a long-time Europeanbased firm, now with a branch in the USA, and Kruger, a new company with engineering headquarters in Oregon, where it also assembles some optics. So, “Few companies make fixed-power scopes anymore, probably due to the variable scope’s dominance of the market. Fortunately, Leupold fixed-powers are light, very tough and affordable.” W W W. G U N S M A G A Z I N E . C O M 61