A riflescope worth considering
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, October 4, 2008.)
Lots of us, when we were kids, probably started hunting deer with a rifle that had open sights. Money was tight, so the iron sights that came on the rifle had to suffice until we could catch up to our cutting-edge friends who used a scope.
Today’s debate is not about iron sights versus scopes.
It's about cheap glass versus high-end optics.
That first scope seemed like a miracle. It enabled us to see better in dim light and brought our targets several times closer, but we crossed our fingers in hopes that it wouldn’t let us down.
Scopes had their detractors. Old-timers often turned up their noses at them and warned us that glass was fragile and crosshairs were unstable. A scope might get knocked catawampus at the slightest bump. The contraption might get a dollop of snow on its lens, or fog up in the rain.
Now, a scope sits in the saddle of nearly every deer rifle because the advantages of today’s optical sights are huge and the drawbacks are minor. The argument is no longer about iron sights versus a scope. In fact, most new rifles don’t even come with iron sights. The debate is about cheap glass versus high-end optics.
A couple of months ago I promised a follow-up about a 3-9 X 42 Alpen Apex scope I mounted on my brother’s old .30-30, a Marlin 336 clone that was sold by Montgomery Wards. Alpen Outdoor Corporation, a relatively new company, is making binoculars and rifle scopes that every budget-conscious hunter would do well to take a look at.
The old rifle is special only because it belonged to my brother. I recently took it to Ontario in hopes of shooting a black bear with it, but that was not to be. (Some people think baited hunts give hunters too great an advantage. Not so – but that’s a subject for another time.)
What was to be, however, was a nice surprise on how well the scope worked on the rifle. It was easy to mount using Weaver rings. The gun is a lever action so I couldn’t bore-sight it, but that didn’t matter. The shots were on paper at 25 yards, and the adjustments quickly brought them into center. Finger-adjustable quarter-inch clicks for both windage and elevation were positive, and moved the point of impact predictably.
I sighted in the rifle at 50 yards. Even though lever actions are not famous for accuracy, the old rifle laid the bullets into a tight little 5-shot group represented by one ragged hole plus one “flyer” that was separated from the others by a tiny scrap of paper. At 100 yards, it will do very well.
What’s just as important is how the view through an Alpen Apex compares to famous-name scopes – like the much advertised and pricier American model that sits on my bolt action deer rifle. The clarity and brightness of the Alpen Apex is indistinguishable from the famous-name scope. Plenty of light arrives at my eye, thanks to the fact that every lens inside and out has multiple chemical coatings that prevent light from getting bounced around and lost on its voyage through the tube.
Often, even in name-brand scopes, you might see some distortion at the perimeter of the field of view. Not the Alpen Apex. The view is sharp right out to the edges, and it’s easy to center your eye in the path of light traveling through the tube. And the scope is guaranteed to be waterproof, fog proof and shockproof.
Alpen Outdoor Corporation was started in 1997 and is one of several new optics companies on the market. Its owner is a former executive in the sporting optics division of Bausch & Lomb. He knows engineering, sourcing and manufacturing. And he knows how to produce a quality optical instrument that exceeds what you’d expect for the dollars you spend.
No, I’m not suggesting you put a $50 no-name scope from a big box store on your rifle. That’s not the shelf where you’ll find Alpen scopes. But if you’re open to considering a new name in scopes, a little judicious shopping can save you some big dollars, and put you in the same league as higher priced scopes when it comes to performance.