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Education / Training Scopes – Part 1Selecting a scope

Scopes – Part 1Selecting a scope

by B.B. Pelletier

If I don’t get this tutorial started, we’re never going to get to it, so this is the beginning. As I’ve mentioned before, some of this material will be used in a book I’m writing about airguns.

What will you use the scope for?
That may not be not good English, but it’s a heck of a good question. If you have not used riflescopes a lot, or at all, please read this carefully. How you want to use the scope should determine many things about what the scope must have. First, let’s consider magnification.

A general-purpose scope of 4 or 6 magnification (4x or 6x) is ideal for general-purpose shooting and for hunting large game (deer-sized and larger). The image seen through a scope like this is always bright and big. It doesn’t “black out” with slight movements of the head. The objective lens on this scope can be 32mm and the scope will still be very bright.


Some simple scope terms I’ll be using.

Variable power
Variable-power scopes are certainly more popular than fixed-power scopes today. For the general shooter a 3-9x scope has a good useful range, and once again, a 32mm objective lens allows plenty of light to pass through. A 40 mm objective lens is even better. Greater than 40mm gives such a slight improvement that it may not be worth the extra expense and mounting concerns.

Twenty years ago, scopes were primitive enough that variable power gave some cause for concern, but today a variable is as tough and useful as anything else. And the price is practically the same for fixed or variable, so I recommend a variable unless you know for sure what magnification you want and need.

If you really want a lot of power but still need a general-purpose scope, you might consider a 3-12x or a 4-12x variable. Any more power than that and the scope becomes too large to use for general shooting. It’s starting to specialize. A 32mm objective lens starts to get dark or cloudy with anything above 9x, so a 40mm objective is best if the power goes up to 12x. Remember, as the objective lens size increases, the outside of the objective bell also increases and you may encounter scope mounting problems.

What size scope tube?
Scope tubes come in different diameters. One inch and 30mm are the most popular sizes today. One-inch is more common, and the larger 30mm is reserved for scopes that need more light to pass through them. A regular scope (one that isn’t a night vision device) does not magnify light. In fact, a small amount of light that tries to pass through the scope is absorbed by the lenses, meaning that what is seen through the eyepiece is less light than entered the scope through the objective lens. Magnification and additional lenses rob light. Large objective lenses and larger scope tubes increase light transmission because the lenses inside the scope can also be larger.

I would like to give you a good rule of thumb for when you should go up to 30mm, but I don’t have one. I have a 6-24x Tech Force variable that’s pretty bright and it has a 1″ tube. All I can say is that the 30mm tube allows the lenses inside to be larger, which may make a difference when the magnification climbs high. When I want a scope for use in low light scope, I always shop for one with a 30mm tube.

Specific scope uses
Field target requires a powerful scope if you plan to compete at the top levels. To determine range using the scope’s parallax adjustment takes at least 40x to go out to 55 yards successfully. So, use nothing less than an 8-32x with a 56mm objective lens and a 30mm tube if you want to win.

Next, there are hunting scopes, which have to be bright. Pick the largest objective lenses and a power commensurate with what you are hunting…9-16x for squirrels; 6-12x for birds, woodchucks and large game; and 4-6x and close focus parallax for insects, etc. Deer hunters can be satisfied with 4-6x.

Airgun sillouette shooters use higher-power scopes. The handgunners use rifle scopes in the Unlimited Standing class and the Unlimited class. They do not need the power that field target competitors do, but they do use higher power than general shooters, as a rule. The Unlimited Standing handgunners hold onto the scope as well as the gun and they hold the scope close to their eye when they shoot.

Stay tuned!

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.

59 thoughts on “Scopes – Part 1Selecting a scope”

  1. Hello B.B.,

    Excellent blog as usual, and good timing for something I ran into this morning.

    Last night I put a brand new scope on an air-rifle. By the time I was done, it was dead on. I awoke this morning and fired a few rounds, and the POI had changed by a couple of inches. I re-adjusted the scope, and all was well.

    I have experienced this situation previously when I had used brand new scopes, and just dismissed this as a normal ocurrence. Usually after at most 3 shooting sessions the gun is good to go.

    Do you ever experience the same thing? What is going on inside the scope that is causing this? Should I expect to have to resight sometime in the distant future for the same reason?

    Just and FYI, I use Leapers scopes.

    Thanks as always for your insight.

  2. B.B.,
    I’m getting a new scope this morning and this blog has helped me feel confident about my decision. I’m also getting a gel shooting rest and a Mendoza peep sights.

    When I have some time I’m going to use my memory foam pillow as a rest.

    The vacuum sound of NAFTA is just around the corner for me. I should have more time to shoot latter.

  3. BB,

    Couple of comments:

    1. 30mm also allows for more reticle adjustment.

    2. Ranging at 55 yards can be done quite well at 32X as evidenced by the many people using the Bushnell 8-32X Elite scopes for field target. I use a Leupold 35X (as do many FT shooters). The larger limitation is objective diameter rather than magnification IMHO.



  4. B.B.

    What a timely blog. I just received my long-awaited BugBuster scope, and man is that thing fantastic–great clarity and sharpness, positive adjustment and a nice quality feel. But what is the deal with the red-green illumination knob? I turned it as far as it would go for both colors and nothing happened. The battery cover was a little loose, and I tightened it but without any effect. What am I supposed to do? What is supposed to happen? Incidentally, the Mendoza peep sight arrived and was very impressive but sat too high for use on my IZH 61–a real heartbreaker since it looked so good in other respects. Onto the Beeman sport aperture sight.

    Is the Air Force Talon ever used for field target? It sounds like it’s accurate enough.


  5. Hi BB. Another Talon SS question. I have playing with my new Talon SS for a couple of days now. I can’t get it as quite as the one you shoot in the AirForce video. In the video all I can hear is what I think is the pellet hitting the pellet stop. Am I missing something? Do you have any hints?


    Mike T.

  6. Squirrel Killer,

    Two things can cause that. Adjusting the elevation all the way up, causing the erector tube to float on the spring, and changing your spot weld.

    I don’t encounter this problem, but then I don’t often shoot the same gun more than twice.


  7. B.B.

    I caught a glimpse of a battery but will check again and also the orientation and will try some of the spares supplied. What do I look for? What is supposed to turn red or green?


  8. Mike,

    I think you mean quiet instead of quite. If that is the case, this is my answer.

    The problem is with your speakers. Even a home theater sound system does not accurately reproduce sound. If it did, viewers whould be killed or maimed evey time they heard an atomic explosion. Even a gunshot would deafen you, which of course it doesn’t.

    This is why it’s impossible to convey what a supersonic pellet sounds like, compared to a subsonic one. When I did that demonstration on the podcast, it sounded the same.

    At trade shows I tell people that a Talon SS sounds like a loud hand clap when fired on high power. But even that is just a representation.

    Here is something you can do, however. Start with the power dialed back to four and, with a full tank, start shooting and listening to the soud increase as you dial the power up. Somewhere above number 6 but below number 9 you will find a spot where the sound is relatively low, but the velocity is high. Thast’s a good place to shoot your gun most of the time.


  9. Matt,

    On the Bug Buster, it’s the entire reticle. Look here for an example of what to look for:


    Look at the next to last picture and you’ll see a Bug Buster reticle fully illuminated. By the way, I hope you have been turning the illumination dial to the highest number in the range (there is one for red and another for green). In daylight, that’s what it takes to see the illumination.


  10. squirrel killer,

    i have a great scope that has a problem that makes it adjust when you turn the turret caps down too tight; in this case too tight is very loose.

    try turning the turret caps all the way down and listen for clicks.


  11. BB,
    Off topic.
    I’m trying to decide what new air rifle to get. It’s between the S200, HW 77, RWS 460 or B40. I’m leaning toward the RWS 460. I don’t 1 inch groups at 1000 yds and don’t need to stop A charging Cape Buffalo dead in his tracks. I only plink and hunt.LOL

    I’m waiting for the final on the RWS 460 and A test of the Super Streak before I make A final decision. My hands are getting real itchy. Thanks.

    BobC NJ

  12. BB,
    About a year and a half ago, I bought a Bushnell scope from Pyramid–a decent quality one better than the Banner. Well, now the objective lens is “crazing” quite seriously. In other words, when viewed from outside, the lens has a multi-colored pattern that looks like oil on water. It’s similar to what one sees on coated sunglasses that are wearing out and the coating is receeding on the edges, but this is worse. When viewed from inside the scope, the oil pattern isn’t visible, but the image isn’t as bright or clear any more. This began to happen long before the scope was one year old. Is there a way to reverse this problem, and will Bushnell rectify it? Surely I am not the only one experiencing this problem. The scope has never been abused, gotten wet, gotten oiled, or any other thing that would damage it, so I suspect it is a design flaw. Tom in Honolulu

  13. BobC,

    Since no one has the Super Streak yet and no one will get it before very late in December, I’d strike it off my list.

    The last 460 test is the .22 caliber rifle, but I can already tell you the 460 is a great air rifle. Forget the hype about velocity and concentrate on what it does have.


  14. Honolulu Tom,

    That “crazing” is the lens coating, and both of my Bushnell Trophys have it. Oddly, none of my Leapers scopes ever got it.

    If you want it fixed, the scope needs to go back to Bushnell for recoating.

    I simply disregard it and continue to use the scopes.


  15. Just a comment about audio recording of gunshots. I don’t remember why, but you have to have a special setup to accurately record gunshots. I found this out years ago when I happened across a video recording session. They were making a video of black powder shooting and explained the problems associated with it.

    .22 multi-shot

  16. off subject but i just bought an air force condor and was wandering if they had the power for air bullets. it is .22 cal if so do you know anyone who makes molds because i have
    an electric lead pot and it would not be hard for me to make. thanks

  17. Before you go to the trouble to do that, please hear me. It doesn’t work! First, you have to engrave the rifling with your thumb when you load the bullet. You cannot do it. Imagine muzzle-loading a conical bullet with your thumb.

    Second, there are no bullet molds for airgun calibers. A .22 bullet for a firearm will cast .223 or .224. To fit an air rifle barrel it has to be .218 or smaller.

    The rifle has no trouble driving the bullets, but they are too bothersome to fool with, when all you get is a .22 short, anyway. And the range safety of the airgun goes away when you shoot a solid bullet. The Condor will shoot it about 1.5 miles just like a .22 rimfire.


  18. B.B.

    When I was looking at scopes today on Pyramyd I couldn’t help but notice that leapers and centerpoint scopes were remarkebly similar. It seems every leapers has a corresponding centerpoint. I once saw a centerpoint at a bass pro shops and I noticed the adjustment nobs from a centerpoint looked identical to the ones on my leapers. Do you know of anything about this? I assume centerpoints (crosman) bought leapers and is rebadging them into centerpoints, but maybe not.

    Thanks, Kyle.
    BTW can’t wait for that surprise on the whisper haha.

  19. BB,

    people keep guessing what the surprise is.

    Benjamin super streak
    rws 460 in 22
    etc etc

    bad guesses!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    never before have you not told us what gun your testing (if its a gun) unless someone is asking. plus you normally don’t give us weeks of notice. AND NEVER CALL IT A “BIG” SURPRISE!!!!!!!!

    i think were all revvvvvvd (if thats how you spell it) up!!


  20. Hi BB and Tom in Honolulu,

    I know I’m ready for a big surprise, BB!

    BB and Tom, I noticed some of that crazing and what looked like coating breakup on one of my scopes before, and on my some of my binocular lenses. Both the objectives and eyepieces. It came off with some cleaning with water, dish soap and soft cloth. That’s not to say that your crazing and coating problems aren’t for real, just that mine were actually oil. When you shoot an airgun, unburnt oil mist drifts around and stick to everything. You can smell it if you’re indoors. It’s just easiest to see on glass surfaces. Also, different brands use different coatings, so it may show up worse on Bushnell than on Leapers lenses. Just be careful not to scratch the lens while cleaning it. Might be worth a try. Just my 2 cents.


  21. 30mm tube size has nothing to do with light transmission nor scope brightness. The only benefit is greater POI adjustment range.

    In a properly designed optic system, scope brightness is determined soley by objective lens diameter, magnification, number of lens elements and quality of coatings. Tube diameter is not a direct factor in scope brightness.

  22. B.B.

    Everyone is trrying to figure out what’s the big surprise announcement that you have been whetting our appetite with.

    Well , I have two guesses. And they both seem plausible.

    1. Pyramyd AIR has contracted with one of the most respected tuners in the U.S. and will be offering that service on most if not all of the air rifles it sells to its customers.

    2. I remember reading in one of your blogs that Airforce had something in the works. Therefore, my guess is that Airforce will be offering an internaly shrouded Lothar Walther barrel (like on the AirArms S 410) on all its rifles. Also, the new barrels can be retrofitted to all its older rifles.

    I’m probably wrong, but they would both be one hell of a surprise.


  23. B.B,
    I was reading todays comments , and was thinking about what you said about about a new gun. Then I saw bobc’s post. I think he is right about the new Airforce gun being the big surprise. I can’t wait.

  24. Sumo, CyberSkin, BobC and everyone,

    The big surprise concerns the Gamo Whisper.

    I have never before seen such a response to the announcement of a surprise, so let me tell you here and now that within two months, I will have another surprise that will make all other surprises seem small.

    If the Whisper surprise is big, then there are no adjectives to describe the enormity of the next surprise.

    To keep you all from blowing up with anticipation, I WILL announce a neat surprise that concerns the AirForce guns, too. That one will come very soon.

    I’m just full of surprises, aren’t I?


  25. B.B.,
    I have been biting my tongue about the 2nd double-extra-big surprise because I think you heavily hinted at it a while back in a blog comment to me. Very, very, exciting.
    Yes, we all are like a bunch of little kids just before Christmas! Life is good!

  26. B.B.
    Having bought the Gamo Shadow 1000, I would appreciate any suggestion for a good scope. Mind you that I am at an older age, so power and clarity is a must. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

  27. B.B.,
    I was considering a Burris 4-12×32 AO Compact rimfire/airgun scope for my Beeman R-7 but after your comment on this day’s blog about the brightness of a variable 12 power with only a 32MM objective I have changed my mind and have ordered a Sightron SII Big Sky 3-12x42MM AO. The Sightron should just fit the R-7. Your comment made sense to me after all the highest magnification usually offered in 30MM objective binoculars is 10 power. I’m looking forward to you next installment in your scope mounting series.


  28. bb,

    i know you said the whisper suprise isnt the trigger(the grt-III), but i just want to know if you still plan on doing that addition to the whisper to see how it shoots with a nice trigger, and to give an evaluation of the trigger.


  29. Scope buyer,

    For the Gamo Shadow 1000 I recommend a 3-9 or a 4-12 at the largest. The scope needs to be on the shorter side because the 1000 is a breakbarrel that needs barrel clearance.

    A Leapers 3-9X40 would be nice, or the Leapers 3-12X44 Mini-SWAT scope mounted in high rings.


  30. B.B.
    Thanks for the suggestion on the scopes. Two questions though as I am new to this sport and I do not want to make any mistake.
    1. Can you direct me to the scopes you suggested in Pyramyd’s Air site?
    2. What other parts do I need for mounting it to my Shadow 1000? I’d appreciate your directions here as well.
    Thanks for the help and bear with me

  31. B.B.

    What scope do you recommend for a Daisy 953? PA only recommends the Daisy 2-7X-20, which looks like a marginal scope. Why not the Winchester 3-9X-32 also sold by Daisy, or the Leapers 3-9X-32 with Accushot medium rings? Access to the chamber for loading is an issue and there may be non-obvious limits on size and weight based on the receiver construction, or other factors. It is difficult to choose without being able to see the products or how they fit together.

    I have almost zero experience with scopes, although now an old guy. Will use the rifle for plinking indoors and out. After 30+ years of almost no shooting, now shoot air rifles 3-6X a week. This will complement an HW 55 with aperture sights. I will call PA about their recommendation but will appreciate your advice.


  32. My hits keep drifting off. I have a crosman phantom1000. Do I sell it, get a new scope other than the factory one, new mounts? none of the above? This is a plinking and bird gun.

  33. Kiriakos.

    My answer assumes that you have a Shadow 1000 with a factory-mounted scope stop. If not, this won’t work.



    with this mount:




    with this mount:


    Now before you order either of those combinations, you are to call Pyramyd AIR and request that they confirm the scope and mount you want will fit on your rifle.


  34. B.B.
    Thanks again.
    First both PyramydAir and Leapers recommend a 1-pc mount.
    However they differ as to that PyramydAir and you suggest for the Shadow 1000, High profile mount and Leapers Low profile mount. So who is right?

    Does the fitting of a mount on the gun requires any hole drilling? And besides the scope and the mount do I need anything else? Yes my Shadow comes with a scope stop.
    I appreciate your help.

  35. Kiriakos,

    You would have to read all my blogs and articles to learn why I don’t favor one-piece mounts as much as most people. But on the Shadow 1000 they do work well. So they are okay, too.

    If you have a scope stop you are set. There is seldom any drilling done on spring guns as the spring tube is thin and there are moving parts inside.


  36. B.B.
    Sorry but you did not answer me what’s the difference between High and Medium profile mounts. Why Peramyd Air suggests High profile and Leapers Medium profile. Which one should I favor in my case with either the Leapers or Centerpoint scope?

    I would be interested to read a characteristic piece of writing that you’ve wrote concerning the 1 pc vs the 2 pcs argument. Is there somewhere something that I can read?
    Best regards

  37. Kiriakos,

    Get the scope rings with enough clearance for the scope you choose. If it comes to a choice between low and high, go for the low if they fit.

    As for recommended scope articles, go here:



  38. B.B
    Now I know that you’ll call me a nerd but the postings of your commentators in your basic mount article have me worried about the problems that they encountered with the mounting on the Shadow 1000.
    I am completely lost now.
    What make thins worst is that I will not be able to return the mounts since I am living in Greece and the mounts will be bought in the US and brought to me.

  39. Most of the scope manufactor’s and medium power airgun recommend a two piece mount, W/High rise. I don’t know why but mostly all are in agreement on this issue. Also the weight of the pellet has a direct influence in the slam of the piston and will destroy a scope with 10 shots, a Kodiak for example.
    Most of the scopes from England hold to the 12 p/muzzle, which are not suitable for high magnum air rifles that produce 20.
    Am I correct in all of this?


  40. hi bb, from UK. Getting my new tx200 mk3 .22 walnut this week. What scope and mounts would YOU put on this rifle for looks, balance,versatility and best allrounder,with IR if it was yours, regards GED.

  41. Ged,

    Well, I’m very partial to Leapers scopes, as you probably know. I think they offer the best value for the money – at least here in the U.S.

    I always use 2-piece mounts when I can. because they offer grater flexibility. I think I would choose a 4-16 like this one:


    For mounts, I’d choose B-Square adjustables, which are also sold in the UK as Logans and maybe a couple of other names. High rings, of course.


  42. bb, thanks for your prompt reply on scope advise for my tx200.That Leapers you suggested sure ticks all my boxes wish they were avaiable here in uk,I think they would fly off the shelfs at twice that price here. regards GED.

  43. BB,
    Well, I think I have the $ for the HW 45 now. Unfortunately, PA doesn’t carry them any more. I emailed the German company directly, but haven’t heard back. I would like it in .22, so that leaves out the P1 for now. Any suggestions? Also, you mentioned a while ago that Leapers was going to produce a handgun scope. So far, it hasn’t showed up on the PA web site. Any news on that?
    Michael in Georgia

  44. BB,
    Thanks for your reply. So what should I look for in a pistol that will reach out to about 20-30 yds with enough accuracy and power to take out chipmonks (dare I hope to ask squirls?) in an air powered handgun without going to PCP? Perhaps a P1 in .177? The .20 pellets are hard to come by in our area. Perhaps I might still have to order them from PA (not too hard to do anyway) even in .177. The .22 (I think) would do for the larger rodents as well. So maybe I should just give up and go with the BAM 40? I do like practicing with a handgun though.
    Michael in Georgia

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