by B.B. Pelletier

There are plenty of scope-sighting postings on this blog. But all of them assume a perfect world and shooters with decades of experience. In a few instances, I delved into common scope problems that get blamed on “scope shift,” but mostly I explained how to sight-in when everything is going fine. Today, I want to look at the dark side – when problems arise that the beginner is not well-prepared to understand.

Before we begin, you may want to look at the past postings on this subject.

Sighting in a scope – Don’t get carried away
Where (and how) to locate a scope
Scope mounting height
Adjustable scope mounts
Another problem with scopes: Not mounting them correctly
Shooting with a pistol scope
Adjusting a scope
At what range should you zero your scope?
What causes scope shift?
Another cause of scope shift: over-adjusted scope knobs
More about sighting-in: How to determine the two intersection points
How to optically center a scope
Scope mount basics – part one
Scope mount basics – part two

What nobody tells you – 1
Nobody tells you to shoot groups of ten shots with your scoped rifle before adjusting anything. That gives you a good idea where the center of the group really is. Some shooters have gotten lazy and shoot only two or three shots before adjusting a scope. Well, if you’re shooting a TX200 that you’ve shot 5,000 times before, you can get away with stuff like that. If you’re shooting your first spring-piston air rife ever, it’s another story.

Dr. Joseph M. Juran was one of two Americans who “invented” Japanese management (Dr. W. Edwards Deming was the other) in the 1950s and ’60s. He had an exercise designed to demonstrate to senior managers why it isn’t a good idea to make frequent changes to a system. He had a student stand over a piece of regular white paper with a dot in its center and drop a pencil, point-first, onto the paper, trying to hit the dot. The pencil was held to the tip of the student’s nose before dropping. Wherever the pencil struck the paper, Dr. Juran then reported the result to the rest of the class who couldn’t see the paper, and they developed instructions for the tester to adjust for the next attempt. He had to do what they told him. Within a few drops, the pencil wasn’t even striking the paper any more!

That may have been a management exercise, but the same thing happens when a shooter takes a new air rifle and starts adjusting the reticle on the basis of two or three shots. Shoot a group of ten, and then you’ll know what to do – which MIGHT include looking for a better pellet!

What nobody tells you – 2
Nobody tells you to keep your cotton-pickin’ hands OFF THE SCOPE when pumping your pneumatic gun! I saw a man shooting in a contest where everyone but him was shooting a spring rifle. He had a Sheridan Blue Streak with a big scope mounted on an intermount. This guy was grabbing the SCOPE TUBE to pump his gun!!! When about 100 percent of the other shooters present told him why that wasn’t such a good idea, he began holding onto the pistol grip of the stock as he pumped. That lasted for about ten shots before he was worn out! From then on, he used a spring rifle, too. Here’s the moral: there is a very good reason why people don’t play checkers in the middle of the freeway. If you want to be different, put your shirt on backwards, but for heaven’s sake, be a traditionalist when it comes to shooting.

What nobody tells you – 3
Nobody tells you that some scopes aren’t worth mounting on any gun. There are some real “bargains” out there that will bankrupt your sanity and peace of mind if you attempt to actually USE them. Raise your hand if you think a BB gun that is scoped with a $10 scope is going to be accurate. [Will the ushers please escort all those with raised hands to the funny farm?] If you don’t invest anything in a scope, why should it do anything for you? Remember the Yugo car? Get a good scope!

What nobody tells you – 4
Last tip. BUILD A HOUSE ON A FIRM FOUNDATION! That means use good scope mounts. Most of what I see at Wal-Mart is crap! Often I see cheaper scopes that come with the rings attached. That’s fine, but you don’t want to put a $10 scope with rings on your $400 air rifle! If you actually want to HIT what you are shooting at, buy good mounts. They don’t have to cost a lot. And, nobody needs the ability to see through a scope mount, no matter what Gander Mountain tries to tell you.

Well, I finally got that off my chest.