Using a Spotting Scope for Long Range Shooting

Using a Spotting Scope for Long Range Shooting

Using a spotting scope is a skill and provides challenges of its own, but these top tips can help improve your ability and to assist with your or someone else’s shooting.

Buying the best spotting scope does not mean a larger objective lens, while this is great for poor light in the bird watching world, shooters are more likely to use a spotting scope in daylight conditions. Bigger scopes also get buffeted more from the wind and, although seeking shelter behind a vehicle or landscape feature will help minimise it, it cuts you off from feeling the conditions yourself. Loose cases or carrying straps flapping around the scope also have the same effect.

A high-quality tripod is critical to the setup, perhaps as much as the scope itself! Carbon tripods are light for transport when covering vast distances on foot, but you can’t beat physical mass for dampening out vibration.

Choose a scope with correct eye relief so that you can keep it steady and in position and take the time to get comfortable without bending your back or straining to maintain position, this kind of continuous strain adds to muscle fatigue and lost attention to the target or game. Don’t be afraid to sit down behind a scope lower to the ground, what you lose in height can be offset by less buffeting.

For long range shooting, stay as closely in-line behind and above the shooter as possible to help see the bullet’s flight path (trace). If the spotting scope view is even slightly displaced to one side, a lateral miss on target, with a backstop behind it where the impact actually takes place, can easily be misinterpreted with `over the top` miss. Consider the arc of the bullet, which curves towards the ground as range increases.

When aiming the spotting scope, have the target set about one third up in the field of view because far more of what you want to see occurs above the direct line of sight than below it. After you focus on the target bring the focus back a little toward you, to a point half to two thirds of the flight distance from the rifle’s muzzle. Seeing the bullet splash precisely on a backstop is fantastic but when `lost` in a crosswind knowing the trace is far more helpful.

Allow your vision to relax and gaze into that upper two thirds of the field of view that is where you will see the trace as the bullet flies. Flight time is far longer to occur than the impact and this will give you a split-second advance warning of errant flight path and where it is likely to end. Make sure you are well hydrated; you will blink less and maintain better vision.

After a few shots, you will get a feel for the timing between the shot sound and seeing the trace. When moving to longer ranges, you notice the trace and impact time significantly increase before you hear any noise from striking the target. The banana like shape of the trace on a shot deliberately dialled out into the lateral wind and then drifting back in for a perfect `kill` on the steel is a rewarding sight, and if you can rig up your smartphone with slow motion video, makes for engaging footage but leave that until after you have conquered the other variables.

Lastly, it is very wise to coordinate a pattern between the shooter and spotter to make sure the latter knows when a shot is about to happen so that he can avoid the dreaded blink that may make the shot itself worthless if it is a miss.

The Hawke Endurance ED range’s dual speed focussing system based at the centre of the scope can be manipulated with incredible fingertip delicacy and cause the least amount of physical disruption to the scope when focussing. Scopes with the focus on the eyepiece are ok when used like a compact monocular at closer ranges, or in dynamic hunting situations but not so good when mounted on a tripod. Air movement and mirage between you and the target is a crucial indicator and another reason for ease of focal control to alter the viewing range without disturbing the scope’s aim.

  • Hawke Endurance Spotting Scope


    Dielectric coatings designed to increase light reflectivity. Fully multi-coated optics to produce sharp images. Close focus - see detail from 8.2ft/2.5m. BAK-4 porro prisms for intense colour and contrast. Dual focus knob to achieve ultra fine focusing. Stay-on soft scope cover for maximum protection. Twist-up eye cup and pull out sunshade. Digi-scope compatible for use with your camera

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