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Education / Training AirForce 4-16×50 scope

AirForce 4-16×50 scope

by B.B. Pelletier

AirForce 4-16×50 scope is a really good hunting scope. This photo shows the new target turrets mentioned in this post.

A reader asked for this review last week, and I was surprised to learn I had never done one. I don’t talk about this scope a lot, but when it comes to my AirForce rifles, this is the scope I usually use.

How does it rank?
I talk about Leapers scopes a lot, because they have been the best scope values for many years. Nearly all scopes are made in China today, so the origin of a particular brand is no way to tell if it’s good or bad; but there’s a huge range in the quality of scopes!

The Chinese have the best commercial lens grinding machines in the world. The Swiss and Germans set them up in the 1970s so they could use the cheaper labor to make their optics. That’s why almost all of the best optics are now made there. The few brands that are still made in Europe and the U.S. stand out because of their higher prices.

What differentiates scopes is the quality of materials put into them and the time spent in certain operations. Leapers scopes are very good because they put good materials into their scopes. Their emerald lens coating on all lens surfaces transmits more light than multi-coated lenses, making Leapers scopes brighter than most. But, AirForce went a step farther.

The AirForce differences
AirForce specified optical glass of higher quality than most scopes. I cannot say they are higher quality than Leapers, but I can say they beat BSA, Simmons and many brand-name scopes. Some scope manufacturers, such as Bushnell, have different grades of quality in the lines that carry their name. The top lines from these manufacturers probably use optical glass of the same quality as AirForce, but these scopes sell for two and three times the price of the AirForce 4-16×50.

Then, there are the lens coatings to consider. Low-priced scopes often use multi-coated lenses, which means they have several different coatings on the lenses. Each does a different function, and together them make a well-rounded scope. However, these lens coatings absorb some of the light that passes through them. The more lenses in the optical package, the more light is lost this way, which is why some mid-priced scopes are either a bit dark or muddy-looking. They are fine when the light is bright, but they degrade when the light is marginal. AirForce specified a single coating of fluoride for their lenses. That makes their scopes very bright compared to average scopes.

Also, AirForce uses a 50mm objective lens that lets a lot of light enter the scope. Though they specified a 1″ scope tube, which passes less light than a 30mm tube, they managed to produce a really bright scope of decent power for hunters. You’ll get extra minutes on both ends of the day where you can still see the target clearly enough to take the shot.

The reticle is a duplex with thin center lines for more precise aiming. The thick reticle lines at the extremities help you locate the thinner lines when you’re looking at sun-dappled vegetation.

New target turret knobs
The turret knobs are target type, and AirForce upgraded them last year to a sharper profile. The new knobs look different than those pictured on this site, and they no longer have caps. You simply turn the knobs themselves for adjustments. They’re still 1/4 MOA adjustments, but the detents have been made even crisper than before. There is no “stacking” of pressure at the ends of knob travel until the final few clicks.

Quick change
I own both a Talon SS and a Condor, so I transfer this scope between the two. I have used both a B-Square-single mount base and an AirForce TriRail for this, and both work equally well. The scope stays tight in the rings and just the base is loosened for the move. AirForce’s 11mm scope mount rail makes it easy to make this switch. The scope re-sights quickly as both rifles shoot very nearly to the same place.

This scope is more expensive than a comparable Leapers, but I do feel it’s worth the extra money. For hunting, especially, this is a hard scope to beat, plus it’s a perfect match for the entire AirForce line.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

42 thoughts on “AirForce 4-16×50 scope”

  1. Multi-Coated in the optics industry simply means that more than one lens has a coating. Cheap manufacturers simply coat the outside surface of the objective and the eyepiece to give it the “coated look”.

    Multi-coated means multiple lens’s have the coating, not that the lens’s that are coated have multiple coatings. Why add a process thats going to cost money if it “absorbs light” as you claim. Doesnt make sense does it to add a process thats going to degrade the performance of the optics? Coatings IMPROVE light transmission. Multi-coated is a good thing, the higher quality lens’s will specify multi-coated.

    Then the next step up is FULLY-coated which means all lens surfaces are coated.

    It seems your nomenclature is a little off….

    The above has been the industry standard for some time so please don’t just say.. well thats what air force say. Air force are not the industry standard or responsible for the industry standard.

    I hope you were just mistaken and not trying to mislead people into thinking that a “multi-coated” lens is deficient to these air force optics… That “PROBABLY” have better glass then leapers…

  2. Actually I meant just what I said. You do correctly point out that the outside surfaces of cheaper scopes are coated to give the coated look, but multiple coatings do not just refer to all lens surfaces. There are also scopes with multiple coatings (i.e. different coatings) on all lens surfaces.

    Coatings do not increase light transmission, as Dick Thomas of Premier Reticle explained it to me. That is optically impossible. They do cut down on distracting effects like flaring (glare reduction), UV resistance, etc. These things make it easier to see the object under certain lighting conditions, even though some of the light has been subtracted.


  3. Historically, multi-coating refers to an improved process from the 1960s that uses multiple layers of coating on lens elements to reduce reflection from the surface. Lenses were first coated around WWII.
    I would disagree that multicoating a lens element reduces transmission by a meaningful amount, while the increase in internal reflections will definitely reduce image quality.

  4. I have to agree that the optics on the AF scopes are impressive. I have an older 3-9 and I compared against a Nikko Sterling and a Leapers. The AF scope was much clearer than the Leapers and still clearer by some degree than the Nikko. There’s no milkiness or internal reflections in the AF scopes. I would use the scope much more often if it were mil-dot with a sidewheel focus.

  5. lymon,

    Your “meaningfiul amount” probably should have been in my posting. The small amount of light loss from a single coating is usually negligible. But as the coatings increase, the loss does, too. I have seen figures of a 3 percent loss in some scopes from just the coatings.


  6. sorry this is a little off topic my budding asked me to repair his very old crossman 1377 which i have never done before. i took it to my local gun shop he said i could change the pump cup myself, his thought on why it has no pressure. so not to sound stupid do i need any special tools to do this or can i just tap the pivot pin out and take it apart. i would appreciate any insight.thx

  7. Beside the pivot pin you may need some smaller pin punches.

    Have you first oiled the pump cup with Crosman Pellgunoil? That will sometimes save the day, though when they become hard there’s not much to do but replace them.


  8. There’s some confusion in terminology I think. My background is photography optics as opposed to optics for scopes or other viewing devices. Still, I don’t think there’s much difference in the methods used in making these devices, however. I know some camera optics makers also make numerous other otpical devices such as scopes for firearms, scientific microscopes, binoculars and telescopes (Leica, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, etc.). Multi-coating reduces internal reflections in the device. This improves light transmission because there is less light bouncing around from one glass surface to another. Less light reflecting means more light transmitting.

    In respect to the higher quality optics I’m familiar with, the term “multi-coating” means just that–there are multiple layers of coating applied to each glass surface. This used to be air-to-glass surface, since that’s where the reflections take place. Maybe manufacturers today apply multicoating to the cemented surfaces in optics, I’m not sure about that–I haven’t kept up with the technology.

    Multi-coating in the optics industry that I’ve been familiar with doesn’t mean multiple glass surfaces are given a single coating. Perhaps that’s what some manufacturers mean by their multicoating but I would be suspect of anyone who makes any type of optical device and claims it’s multi-coated because they put one coat on multiple elements. I’ve seen a bit of this misleading terminology used before, most notably for cheap binoculars of questionable pedigree (the “fully coated” vs “coated” glass elements).

  9. hi bb

    on the topic of scopes i would apreciate a post on different reticle types. i know about the duplex and mil dot. ive seen reticles that have a full horizontal line but missing the top verticle line. also ive seen some complicated sniper reticles in movies. just wondering about some different designs and there uses. thanks

    Field Targetier

  10. Field Targetier,

    I guess I could put something together. I have seen reticles that looked like a landing pattern for a commercial airport, so there certainly are some different types out there.

    I’ll see what I can do.


  11. i have an old what looks to me about a 25 to50 year old diana 30, it said bavaria 30 on the barrel and has a picture of the goddess diana on the receiver. i oiled it like you said in a earlier blog and it fires not very hard but will still dent 3/4 plywood(177 cal.) is this rifle worth any money and is it a diana. sorry for the wind thx.

  12. This is very confusing. There are 2 different Diana model 30 air rifle models. Both are bolt actions, but one shoots steel ball bearings and the other shoots diabolo lead pellets.

    Buy Bavaria is not a Diana trade name. It’s a name used by BSF. If they made a model 30 it would have been a breakbarrel.

    Which gun do you think you own?


  13. yes i’m sorry this was so confusing it is a very small in size break barrel. if this clears things up does it have any value, if it does should i leave it in its present condition of the barrel being pitted with a little rust and the stock is marred with scratches thx again.

  14. I think you have a BSF airgun. The model 30 is seldom seen outside Germany, according to the Walter book.

    I would estimate its value as pretty low, though, because it is a youth model. However, let’s not refinish it.

    Clean the metal with fine steel wool and oil. And just oil the stock with London Oil until you find out for sure.

    If you shoot the gun, oil the piston seal through the air transfer port with three drops of petroleum oil every 6 months. Right now, unless you’ve been oiling it, it probably needs 10 drops.


  15. i’m sorry to harp on this subject but i do find you and your bloggers on this site to be very knowledgable. can you give me a rough idea in dollars and also what kind of velocity would these youth rifles produce in thier hay day.

  16. Thanks for the review of the AF scope (I asked in the AF co2 adapter review). I still wanted to know who was manufacturing the scope for AF. I got mine recently and I’m satisfied. I was also surprised to learn that it had a mil dot reticle. Most the information I had come across said it was not and I’m sure many people do not consider it because of that.


  17. hi bb
    i have anothher question. i was reading a forum and they meantioned fpe. at first i thought it was a typo but it kept appering. is fpe like ft lbs? i cant quite figure it out. thanks

    Field Targetier

  18. BB – While you mention that the AF is a great scope, an observation I can’t dispute, please recognize that the US/Euro brands you mention (and most of the upper end US-labelled, Japan-sourced units)generally carry lifetime warranties. AF is one year. When you are scoping harsh springers, it makes a difference. Two AFs @ $169 each will buy you a very nice Leupold/Burris/Bushnell you will never pay to replace. As the old saw goes “I’m not rich enough to buy cheap scopes”!

  19. 1. wikapedia can be edited by any idiot, its not a source of valid information. (Just like this blog). Forturantly i trust some people.
    2. How could a coating help transmition? It wouldent, its another reflective barier.
    3. What you could do for even brighter imiges is get some night optics, that helps light transmitio! It will excelerate light. I think this to be true but dont bet on it.

    -they who will remain anonymous

  20. Coatings reduce reflection by interference. The thickness of the coating is 1/4 of the wavelength of the light to be suppressed so that the reflection from the coating cancels the reflection from the lens element.
    Coatings increase transmission of light; they do not reduce it.

  21. lymon is absolutely correct.

    Properly designed (and $ charged for!) coatings increase light transmittivity.

    If you don’t believe wiki, which by the way is quite accurate on this topic, then refer to any frosh level collegiate physics text. eg. Tipler, “Physics”, Vol 2, section 26-7.

    Only an idiot would design his lens coating to attenuate visible light transmission.

    Only a salesman would claim his single layer coating is superior to a more expensive multilayer coating.

    Multilayer coatings allow the optics designer to more precisely filter those wavelengths allowed to pass through his lens system.

    For those familiar with electronics, multilayer coatings are very roughly analogous to a multiple pole filter.

  22. BB,my point is this, the only time i get any use out of my ags 3x9x50 scope is at that magical 1/2 hour,after sunset and before sunrise,in the good old days,i remember having a tasco moonlighter scope the’ be all end all’ of telescopic sights ,when you looked through the scope you could see a nice set of screws in the tube,things have come a long way since then,the best thing i bought for my scope was a sun shade witch gives you a better sight picture in bright sunshine,but you can have all the multilayer coatings you wont,and they do sell scopes,the most important thing is that our eyesight is up to it! you can get perscription glasses but not scopes and your eye pupal can only handle so much light, so to the averidge person i dont think it makes much difference!

  23. BB,

    My Sheridan air rifle has the number 8691E on the receiver.
    I was investigating serial numbers for Sheridan air rifles when I stumbled onto this blog after many hours of searching.
    — begin quoted —
    “If the number is incomplete, it was made after 1964 and before 1972. In that range, all guns were marked with the year in reverse and a letter for the month that the receiver was produced. So, 8691A would be Jan 1968.”

    I was thrilled to watch as my rifle birth year and month visualized, May, 1968! Do you know how many rifles were made that year?

    Also, I was suprised to find a number of oblonged/ out of round pellets mixed in with “Benjamin” (500) count tin of cylindrical ammunition. I heard that cartons of ammo come from the same batch unlike tins. Do you know if that is true?

    Thank you,


  24. George,

    Great detective work on your serial number. I don’t know how many rifles were made before the serial numbers began in 1972.

    Regarding the pellet tin vs. box thing, you seem to be talking about modern ammo. Is that true?

    You are referring to the Crosman Pemier, which is sorted by die lot number when it comes in a cardboard box. Five years ago, there were no tins of Crosman Premier pellets.

    The Benjamin is not die sorted, but you can be assured that they are all made at the same time (lot). That means the pellet-making machines are in the same relative range of adjustment.


  25. Well done dodging being incorrect about the coatings, BB. For the most part, I think your blog is great (90%) but I’m disappointed you can’t post a correction when you are wrong.

    If you see the Canon link someone left above, it is explained very clearly (so to speak).

  26. Hope this is right forum. I'm looking for a scope for Benjamin Marauder…considering the AF scope reviewed…or comparably priced ($150-ish) Leapers…I would really appreciate recommendation. Thank you very much.

  27. jadocar,

    Please repost your question to the current blog/blog//. You asked your question on a blog that was written in 2006 and not many people will see it there. You'll get a great response there.

    Mr B.

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