Scoping it out
One of the single most important aspects of your stalking/foxing/varminting rig is the scope, and equally important is the interface between the scope and the rifle... the humble scope mount.
Let’s first look at the popular systems on the market today and the pros and cons of each.
Scope rail and ‘claw’ mounts:
Without going into every single variant, Picatinny and Weaver are the most popular by far. They offer the ability to move the scope and mounts fore and aft to adjust eye relief for the shooter. Also popular with the foxing and keepering boys and girls, these rail systems offer the flexibility to be able to swap between night vision and day scope, making the one rifle a very flexible and versatile tool.
Over the last few years, rails with inclination built in have gained favour with the long-range varmint and target shooters. The choices of 0, 10, 20 or 30 M.O.A. from the likes of Third Eye Tactical, NightForce etc allow the ‘dialling’ of turrets/drums to accurately allow the adjustment of P.O.I. out past 1,200 yards. The main downside is that often the mounting screws used by the manufactures are, in my opinion, not up to the job and require upgrading either by tapping up to the next size and/or pinning or the use of a bonding agent.
Direct fit mounts:
Sako, Tikka, Ruger and several other manufactures use this system. With the correct mounts from a respected manufacturer, this system, unlike the use of a rail, offers a good solid set-up with one less link in the chain between the scope and rifle. The downside is that it is more difficult to add inclination. This is something UK Gunworks is working on and will be available (hopefully) by the time you read this.
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Swing off or quick release:
These are generally used on driven or dangerous game rifles where it is a necessary function to be able to remove the scope to allow the use of open sights.
The main downside is that they do not always return to zero.
Mounting the scope:
The scope needs to be mounted securely and accurately to give good, solid, repeatable performance.
Well-made mounts are of the utmost importance. There are two ways you can mount your scope: either dead square with the action or so that, with the rifle in the mounted, ready-to-shoot position, the reticle sits horizontal or level.
There is no absolute or definitive way to do this. One thing to remember, though, is that so long as the rifle is mounted in the same vertical plane every time, the results will be good. Scope levels and inclinometers are your best friends here.
The screws need to be ‘nipped’ up, rather than tightened up to the point that the scope tube is deformed. You can use Loctite on threads, but make sure to use the correct product for the job – the colour doesn’t tell you what it is designed to do! The professional advice is to use only blue or green Loctite on the threads, but there are well over 20 products in those colours, from soft anti-shake compounds through to permanent retaining compounds. If in doubt, ask someone that knows.
In the field – Dom Holtam
One of the most important things about this project was to ensure the rifle remained ‘field practical’. In other words, this was first and foremost a sporting rifle and so should be entirely useable as such. So how is it faring so far?
The first thing to note is the extra weight. The stock adds over a pound in weight and the new scope is also heavier – 32oz, or just over 900g, compared to 580g for the Zeiss Duralyt 3-12x50 that was previously fitted. Having said that, the only weight still to add is a moderator – typically another 250-500g, depending on model.
Now, clearly this is less of an issue for me at over 6 feet tall and 16 stones in weight (I add more weight than that at breakfast time!) but even I would notice the difference over the course of a day’s stalking – especially if that was on the hill.
I started my rifle shooting life with a fixed 8-power on my stalking rifle and a 6-power on my .22. To say that a modern ‘zoom’ scope was a revelation is a complete understatement! I still think 3-12x is a perfect all-rounder for the vast majority of UK shooting applications. However, as my skills and experience have evolved, my criteria for shooting have, too.
The T3 RS was always going to be a rifle to push my long-range shooting aspirations a little further, and to that end a higher magnification was in order; as the adage goes, “Aim small, miss small.” However, I didn’t want to totally forgo a wide angle lower end for close-range work such as woodland stalking.
At rangy foxes, the extra ‘pull’ of the NXS’s 22x top end is a definite boon, while wide open at 5.5x it is still ideal for my usual stalking and even wild boar from the high seat, too.
I am used to immediately adjustable illumination, whereas on the Nightforce you have to remove the battery cover and use a flat-head screwdriver to set the level. With this in mind I have erred on the low side as I tend to only use it in low-light scenarios anyway.
I was confident with the T3 before we ever started this project, but every step so far has increased that. The trigger, the stock and now the scope are all top notch and work perfectly for me.
Confidence in rifle shooting, especially when pushing the range, is extremely important. With this gun I already know what will happen when I pull the trigger; the result is a foregone conclusion.
The new MOAR reticle:
I am not a huge fan of ‘tactical’ reticles as I have done very little target work or long-range work in the past. The classic 4A with a simple dot was more than good enough for my hunting, thank you very much.
My main criteria for this application were a fine, illuminated cross in the second focal plane and a sight picture that wasn’t too cluttered or so fine as to be impractical in the field.
The MOAR reticle from Nightforce is new for this year and promises to be ideal for ‘field tactical, varmint shooting and long-range hunting’… in other words, perfect for the T3 RS!
Firstly, the posts at three, six and nine o’clock are not at all dissimilar to the 4A and offer fast initial target acquisition.
The slightly thicker subtensions than some of the other Nightforce reticles make it easier to use in low light or against dark, broken backgrounds – as experienced when hunting. But the floating centre crosshair still allows for great precision when trying for tight groups.
We will be doing some long-range work once we get to load development so will report back in greater detail then. n