How to Make Unbelievable Shots Using Handgun Scopes
Author: John Voight
When youre talking optics, theres a scope application for just about everyone.
Many people are loyal to certain brands regardless of price while others are
just looking for a great deal. No matter what your reasons, youll have to
choose based on your shooting criteria. In other words, youll want to match the
proper scope to whatever type of shooting youll be doing.
In this article, Im going to focus on the subject of extended eye relief and
tell you why it is the most important feature when choosing a handgun scope. A
little knowledge can go a long way before making your scope selection.
But first, before I explain how it works, I want to give you a brief, Ã¢â‚¬Å“generalÃ¢â‚¬Â
description of what Extended Eye Relief is. Some readers might be new to the
subject, so Ill want to get them up to speed.
Essentially, eye relief is the distance between your eye and the rear lens
(ocular lens) of the scope when the full field of view is visible.
Now that might seem like a very simplistic definition of what EER is, but how do
you actually determine proper extended eye relief with a full field of view?
Try this. The next time you look through a scope, move your head around or the
scope varying distances from your eye. Youll begin to notice a black ring or
shadow in your site picture. When the black ring or shadow is completely
eliminated from your picture, your target should fill the entire inside diameter
of the eye piece and be completely centered within the scope. Once you see that,
youll know you have a full field of view and youll be able to measure the
distance of eye relief.
This is critically important when choosing a handgun scope because youll
probably be holding the scope anywhere between 5 to 30 inches away from your
eye. If you dont have the proper full field of view at these distances, youll
have to adjust your shooting stance in order to accommodate the scope, something
youll want to avoid because your shooting accuracy will more than likely
Keep in mind that your goal is to make the scope work for you, not the other way
Something you should also know is that Extended Eye Relief changes with
magnification in variable power scopes. Generally speaking, the higher the
magnification the less eye relief you have. This is important for those hunters
or competition shooters whose target sits at a significant distance.
When higher magnification is used, the field of view narrows sometimes making it
a little more difficult to acquire the target, especially if the target is
moving. The trade off is that even though there is less visual information for
you to process, the target is magnified by the number of times you dialed in on
the scope, making it easier to see your target once its in your field of view.
If, however, youre going to be hunting or shooting in areas where your shots
will be close and youre not using a rest, then youll need little magnification
and a large field of view. A larger field of view will always allow for quicker
target location, especially one thats difficult to see with the unaided eye.
Just make sure that you have the proper field of view as discussed earlier.
Some of you may be wondering what the magnification numbers from the spec. sheet
Let me explain. Lets say you have a scope that is 2x20mm. The first number is
the apparent magnification power where 2 means your target looks twice as large
through the scope as it does over iron sights. The last number, 20, is the
diameter of the front lens (also called the objective lens) measured in
millimeters. In general, the larger the objective lens, the more light gathering
capabilities it carries and can therefore be used in lower light conditions.
Because in the above example there is no other number associated with the number
2, this tells you that this is a fixed power scope. If it were written 2-8x28mm,
then this would be a variable power scope with 2 being the lowest magnification
and 8 being the highest magnification. Again, the 28 represents the size of the
objective lens in millimeters.
Why are these numbers so important? Because not only will it tell you what the
magnification of the scope is but also the diameter of the exit pupil once you
know the formula.
Before I get into how to calculate the exit pupil, Ill bet youre wondering
what an exit pupil is. This may get a little technical so please bear with me.
Heres how it works. A scope gathers light over the face of its front or
objective lens and concentrates it out into the eyepiece in an area called the
The exit pupil of your scope should match the pupil size of your eye as closely
as possible (or just a little larger) to get maximum low light performance and
prevent scope blackout. You calculate the exit pupil diameter by taking the
objective lens diameter (front lens closest to your target) and dividing it by
the scope power.
For example, a scope with a 20mm objective lens and a power magnification of 2
will have a 10mm exit pupil. 7 to 8mm is about the maximum size that the human
pupil will dilate in low light, so this scope will work well under low light
conditions. A smaller exit pupil would not deliver as much light to the eye as
the eye is willing to accept, however, a large exit pupil means that the eye
doesn't have to be as precisely centered behind the scope to receive a full
For adjustable power scopes, 3-9x40mm for example, you get the exit pupil based
on the power setting of the scope. For example: 40 divided by 3 = 13.33mm exit
pupil and 40 divided by 9 = 4.44mm exit pupil. As you can see, the higher the
magnification, the smaller the exit pupil, hence the lower the light gathering
capabilities at higher magnifications.
When talking about light gathering capabilities, youll want your exit pupil to
be the same diameter or just a little larger than the conditions you're using
the scope in. For instance, if your eyes pupil is dilated to 5mm, and the exit
pupil of the scope is 7mm, then you have 2mm of leeway before your eye position
behind the scope becomes critical.
If the exit pupil of the scope is smaller than the diameter of your eyes pupil, youll start to encounter problems seeing the full image of your target.
Just as a frame of reference, the human pupil is normally dilated to about 5mm
in standard light, 2-3mm in bright light, and 7-8mm in low light conditions.
Whew I know my description was a little technical, but knowing what the exit
pupil is and how it works will help you determine how to best utilize your
You might also be wondering how the exit pupil calculation, light gathering
characteristics, and scope magnification tie in with extended eye relief? Just
remember, for EER handgun scope applications youll be holding your scope
anywhere from 5-30 inches away from your eye. This can be a significant distance
if your scope doesnt illuminate your target well enough and the position of
your eye is not aligned with the exit pupil. These have a significant affect on
EER, making it difficult to get off an accurate shot if not taken into account.
And speaking of accurate shots, there are a few handgun scopes I recommend to
give you the best chance of accomplishing those shots.
I think some of the best handgun scopes for Extended Eye Relief and light
gathering capabilities are the Nikon EER Monarch series, the Leupold FX and VX
series, and the Burris LER series. All three companies offer exceptional choices
in optics as well as full lifetime guarantees. Theyre rugged and durable and
100% waterproof. They have unmatched lens coating systems which excel in
brightness, clarity, and contrast.
Few companies are able to stack up, however, youll have to make the best choice
for your shooting application and go with the scope and company you feel most
Theyre not the cheapest scopes, but theyre best overall value and definitely
worth the investment.
Hopefully Ive clarified questions you might have had about scope definitions
and how to calculate critical components of a scope. Now, with this information,
youll be armed with the knowledge you need to make a wise EER scope selection.
Oh one more thing. Usually, the amount of eye relief and magnification is
listed in the specifications by most manufacturers, so you should be able to get
a good feel for what you need after applying the knowledge youve gained from
Copyright 2005 Ã‚Â© John Voight
About the author:
John Voight is an avid hunter and sportsman and the owner of http://www.eer-scopes.com.
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