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Why are expensive scopes better then cheap scopes?

Printed From: OpticsTalk by SWFA, Inc.
Category: Scopes
Forum Name: Target
Forum Description: Paper punchin' scopes
Printed Date: January/26/2020 at 00:19
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 12.01 -

Topic: Why are expensive scopes better then cheap scopes?
Posted By: Sublight
Subject: Why are expensive scopes better then cheap scopes?
Date Posted: February/07/2016 at 12:37

HELLO!  this is my first post, I just discovered this site so Hello everyone!!!
I know this may sound like sacrilege but.
Why buy expensive scopes?  By expensive I mean 400 dollars plus.
For instance, I have a BSA Sweet 17 (I know most people call this garbage).  But, When I put my crosshairs on the target, then the bullet hits where I want. 
How would a more expensive scope change that.

Posted By: koshkin
Date Posted: February/07/2016 at 13:05
If the Sweet 17 performs to your requirements, then perhaps a more expensive scope will not do much for you.

Overall, aside from some exceptions (some scopes are better for the money than others, so there are some non-linearities there) more expensive scopes will be better optically, better mechanically, hold zero better, be less likely to break, etc.

How useful that is and at which price diminishing returns set in, is really individual.


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Posted By: 338LAPUASLAP
Date Posted: February/16/2016 at 21:23
A sweet spot for me was Sightron cheap to be had and they have excellent mechanics that are well within ones shooting ability.

Did I mention they are probably about 1/2 as much as they should be.

Big Sky II or SIII or the S-TAC, I do not think the others have the same glass/coatings in them but I believe these 3 have the same glass/coatings.

Give them a try.

I replaced lots of ubber glass and haven't missed much.  And I got to keep my Wife!!!

Posted By: urbaneruralite
Date Posted: February/17/2016 at 13:17
Usually one has to have a negative experience with a cheap scope before they open their eyes to what more expensive ones can do for them.

Posted By: supertool73
Date Posted: February/17/2016 at 16:08
I think a lot of it will depend upon your usage.  If you are just doing basic big game hunting or close range target shooting never beyond point blank range then 99% of the time a $400 and under scope would fulfill your need.  A basic 3-9x40 woudl fill that role perfectly.  And many use just that scope.  I have several of them. 

But if you need something for extreme low light, or precision target shooting then you start needing upgrades in glass, mechanics, consistent adjustable turrets etc.  It is going to cost more money to get that.
Your needs may require a 5 or 6x magnification system, so you can have both a very low bottom end and a good high end magnification.  You may need a very good illumination system light Trijicon has.  You may want turrets with a zero stop, or turrets that have 10+ mils of adjustment per turn.  All of these things are bells and whistles that cost more money.  

Lifetime warranty and excellent customer service don't mean a thing when your gun fails during a zombie attack.

"A Liberal is a person who will give away everything they don't own."

Posted By: jonoMT
Date Posted: February/18/2016 at 11:29
There's definitely a point of diminishing returns. I never had a $2000+ scope that was four times better than a $500 scope. And it's in that $500-700 range that you'll find the most value in terms of good glass, reliability and repeatability.

Go with as much as you need, depending on what the scope's used for. Personally, I found the most value and enjoyment comes from the SS 3-15, followed by the SS 3-9. I hunt hard with the 3-15 and that has meant a few scratches on the bell housing and a little wear here and there. But I would be preoccupied all the time if I hunted with a $2000 scope. What if it got dropped hard or the glass got scratched?

Things like illumination: I hunted/target shot with a NF 2.5-10 for four years. It was a really good scope. But I never once used the illumination hunting. I also found that less expensive scopes had as good or better glass and came in FFP. It was a no-brainer to switch.

Reaction time is a factor...

Posted By: outdoordreamdeals
Date Posted: March/01/2016 at 19:49
It seems to me that if what you have works you should stay with it. My advise is to do your research and also test out the scopes before you buy one.

Posted By: Son of Ed
Date Posted: March/01/2016 at 20:00

Visit the Ed Show

Posted By: Peddler
Date Posted: March/01/2016 at 20:02

When you are dead, you don't know you are dead.It is difficult only for others.

It is the same when you are stupid.

Posted By: davisj3537
Date Posted: March/05/2016 at 10:30
I'm still new at this as well, but I think several guys made great points. It depends on what you need it for.

If you're going to be shooting at long distances then you'll be constantly making adjustments for bullet drop on the scope. When you turn a cheap scope back to your previous zero, it might not be zeroed anymore. Repeatability.

If you do shooting close to the end of the day or early in the morning then you'll need a scope that sees better in the dark. Illuminated reticles come in handy here as well. When everything is dark, it can be hard to see where the crosshairs are.

Longer distances also require better quality glass so you can see your target much better.

If you just do shooting less than 300yds and never touch your scope once it is zeroed then you might be alright with a cheap scope. It's about what you use it for.

Posted By: RifleDude
Date Posted: March/05/2016 at 17:03
Why drive a more expensive car if a Chevy Spark will get you to and from work?

Why buy an expensive rifle if an H&R Handi-Rifle will kill a deer?

Why buy an expensive bass boat if an aluminum Jon Boat with a 25 horse Evinrude will float and get you to your fishing hole?

Why buy an expensive anything if the cheap counterpart will do the function it was built for?

In each case, nicer goods usually either provide better build quality, more convenience features, better design, last longer, or in some way get the job done in a superior way. I say usually because there are always exceptions. Sometimes an item is just more costly to produce.

More expensive scopes will absolutely provide superior optical performance, and usually better mechanical repeatability. Your Sweet 17 may very well be a good choice for the rifle you have it mounted on and may serve you well. If you mount that same scope to a heavier recoiling rifle, it might fail to maintain zero, however. It's difficult to make something as mechanically complex as a rifle scope and sell it at a cheap price without sacrificing something to keep cost low.


Money can't buy happiness... but it's much more comfortable to cry in a Porsche than on a bicycle.

Posted By: everydaywine
Date Posted: May/11/2016 at 13:40
there a lot of scope even ones that sell for $4000. but having an expensive scope doesn't mean the user will achieve high precision. it depends on the user and what the user what the scope to do.

Posted By: Rancid Coolaid
Date Posted: May/12/2016 at 13:22
Originally posted by everydaywine everydaywine wrote:

there a lot of scope even ones that sell for $4000. but having an expensive scope doesn't mean the user will achieve high precision. it depends on the user and what the user what the scope to do.


I am a fairly good shot and missed a wall-hanging deer because (as i found later) the point of impact changed - dramatically - as power changed.  I zeroed at 9X and shot at 3X and missed by more than a foot or so.  That is far more prevalent among cheap scopes.

Many buy scopes that aren't needed for the use, but those who do push their gear hard appreciate the difference between "good" and "okay."

Someone once told me Wal Mart sells bikes intended to be ridden 100 or fewer miles; racers can put thousands of miles on a bike in a year.  I kinda see Wal Mart optics in a similar light.  If you shoot 5 rounds a year, I doubt the $3k scope will seem worthwhile.

Freedom is something you take.
Respect is something you earn.
Equality is something you whine about not being given.

Posted By: cheaptrick
Date Posted: July/03/2016 at 15:14
Everydaywine....Has left the building. Big Grin

If at first you don't secede...try..try again.

Posted By: gdpolk
Date Posted: January/05/2018 at 21:21
It all depends on what you want or need the scope to do.  If you want it to hit an 8" pie plate out to 50 yards in broad daylight out of a .22lr almost anything will be adequate.  If you want to hunt heavy timber from dark thirty to dark thirty on cloudy days, be able to sight in at the range with 3-5 shots, have zero hold for hundreds of rounds on magnum class actions, and the scope to have a lifetime warranty that is actually honored (if needed, though likely won't be) then you might need to spend a little more money.  If you want something that has a good field of view at 10 yards and can also be used out to 600-1000 yards for something like a .308/.30-06/7mm-08 class gun that you take to Africa and may literally be presented with ANY of those ranges then you might be well served to step up to something like a Swaro Z6 1.7-10x42, despite it being more expensive (although it wouldn't be that much more expensive than the cost of a second rifle and optic so you have one up close and one far out gun plus freight to/from international hunts).

To my eyes for hunting scopes, I find the typical sub $200 scope to be more of a detriment than benefit as most go dark way too soon to be more useful than simple fiber optic open sights.  The $200-400 price range starts to offer some basic utility to the budget minded hunter.  At $400-600, there are a lot of really solid options that will give you a nice bright, clear image out to dark thirty, track reasonably well when sighting in, and hold zero.  While I own more expensive glass, almost all of my hunting scopes fall in the $400-600 price range.  Beyond that you really start pushing that law of diminishing returns and those returns often aren't needed for basic hunting needs.

Posted By: magshooter1
Date Posted: January/08/2018 at 07:33

I used to think as you do.  All my rifles had Bushnell, Simmons or Tasco scopes on them.  This was back prior to the Elite series was introduced by Bushnell.  Then I bought a real nice Browning A-Bolt and thought I'd get a real nice scope to go on it.  So I bought a Nikon Monarch shortly after they were introduced.  WOW!  I was blown away by how much better the Nikon was.  Suddenly I understood why a lot of people thought the scopes I had were crap.  I do too, now.  I started replacing all my scopes with Monarchs and Leupold Vari-X III's.  Then I discovered the Zeiss Conquest and Meopta MeoPro's.  Then It wash Kahles AH's and Zeiss Diavari's. 

My best advice to you if you're happy with what you have:

DO NOT EVER buy a $300-500 scope.

It's not the size of the campfire; it's the quality of the company.

Posted By: jonoMT
Date Posted: January/08/2018 at 10:10
Originally posted by magshooter1 magshooter1 wrote:

DO NOT EVER buy a $300-500 scope.

Unless it's Black Friday and the SS 3-9 is on sale (was $479 last year) Big Smile

Reaction time is a factor...

Posted By: RifleDude
Date Posted: January/08/2018 at 11:29
Given that this thread is 2 years old, I'm sure that the OP has had time to come to a conclusion on whether expensive scopes are worth the money and has most likely stopped reading the replies long ago.


Money can't buy happiness... but it's much more comfortable to cry in a Porsche than on a bicycle.

Posted By: acudaowner
Date Posted: January/09/2019 at 20:04
had what i call a bad experience with salesmen in my area pushing one scope over any other if that counts, the thing was i liked the cheaper scope till i heard all 4 of them say the same thing "you cant compare vortex to s&b its unfair " which to me was a cop out on them not knowing much about the products they sell. not that i would say they are better or worse i would own a schmit now if the prices were more around what i got my crusader at. I wanted a scope to take me from knowing nothing to knowing how to shoot  and to do everything in between 100 yard to 1300+ if i can ever find that range near me. I can use it on my rpr and transplant it to what ever custom rifle i save up to get not having to as the sales men stated "grow out of " i still might buy one if the shiny new gun squire leaves me alone for a bit to save.

Posted By: DeckArtist
Date Posted: September/27/2019 at 22:04
My first post on someone else's first post. As with most anything made, more expensive doesn't always mean better for you. While most of the time it does, I have a real world example for you. I had a Nikon M-308 4-16x44 on a rifle that got replaced with a different rifle. I did some research after seeing an Athlon Argos at a show. I thought I would get one, but then the Midas TAC reared it's head. Since it had zero stops and superior glass according to the experts, I decided to get one.
 [cost me $575] To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. The glass wasn't nearly as clear as the Nikon and at full magnification, wasn't in focus for my eyes no matter what I did. Fast forward a year and I just picked up a newer version of the Ruger Precision 6.5 and on it was an Athlon Argos BTR 8-34x56. Clearest glass I have seen on a comparable scope [$400 range] and every bit as good as the Nikon. I thought I'd be less than impressed, but after seeing the clarity, I am going to give it a run and see how it does.

If the less expensive glass works for you, then that's all that matters. You will know when you need a better setup.

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