In some ways, matching a scope to a rifle is easier than ever. All you need, really, is a variable; after all, that’s why they account for probably 95 percent of all scopes sold today. You simply dial up an appropriate magnification for the job at hand, and that’s all there is to it. Or is it?
Scopes can be very deceiving in that, upon cursory examination, the least expensive ones can look equal to the most expensive. It’s the old “You can’t tell a book by its cover” thing. Looking through a handheld scope in a brightly-lit store or taking it outside and peering down the street with it isn’t going to tell you anything. Even cheap scopes today have pretty darn good optics in good light. The things that don’t jump out at you are slight image distortion, flatness of field, edge fall-off, color fidelity, contrast, and resolution—things that require side-by-side comparisons in both bright and dim-light conditions with the scope held rock-steady.
Other things to consider that are not apparent are body strength, i.e. thickness and uniformity of the body tube, ocular, and objective bells. Is the objective bell integral or is it a separate piece threaded onto the body tube? Is the adjustment turret integral with the body or is it a separate component that’s glued and screwed on? Will the sealant gaskets deteriorate over time, thus compromising the scope’s ability to stay fog-free? What about the quality of the grease used on the ocular threads and power ring? How accurate and repeatable are the windage and elevation adjustments, and does point-of-impact change with changes in the magnification?