If you're anything like me, you appreciate fine optics, but have a spare rifle in the back of the safe that needs a scope. Perhaps it's a rifle that an uncle gave you that you just can't sell or give away, but overlaps the function of a rifle you already have. Maybe it's a just a rifle that's been hunted hard and has dented wood and worn bluing, but still shoots well and has stories. Perhaps it was a screaming deal at an estate sale and you just had to have it. No matter what the reason, that rifle is just an expensive club without proper sights or a scope.
Perhaps you have a bargain basement scope on your rifle that has fogged up, won't hold zero, or is too dim to see through during those critical daylight and dusk times when game moves.
Maybe you've got a son, daughter, niece or nephew that you'd like to set up with a good rifle and scope, but don't want to break the bank on premium optics until you know if they will appreciate it or not.
I firmly believe that every extra dollar spent on good optics is money well spent. A good rule of thumb would be to spend $1 on optics for every $1 spent on the rifle. Unfortunately, good rifles follow me home more often than great glass, and sometimes we have to find the best value for those second string rifles.
The Nikon Pro-Staff line fits this particular niche of the market just fine.
WebyShops.Com sent me a Nikon ProStaff 3-9x50 scope (model 6727), with the BDC (Bullet Drop Compensating) Reticle, finished in Matte Black to review. The scope retails for $259.95, but you can always find a better deal at Webyshops.Com.
Here's a link to Nikon's factory page for this scope: http://www.nikonhunting.com/products/riflescopes/prostaff/3-9x50_BDC_RETICLE/6727#
And here's a link to Webyshop's page or the scope: http://www.riflescopes.webyshops.com/Brands/Nikon-Prostaff-Rifle-Scopes/NIKON-ProStaff-3-9x50-Rifle-Scope-BDC-Reticle-Matte-Black-6727
I'm familiar with the Prostaff line, as I've used them in the past to fill scope rings on rifles. I've used the previous model of 3-9 with a BDC reticle on my boy's rifle to give him some good glass that didn't make me cringe when it got banged around a bit. I used a different one on a long range AR project rifle. I've had good success with them in the past.This is what it looks like when you unpack the box.
Starting at the left, going clockwise, we have the protective bag the scope came in, the box, the manual that covers the operation of the scope, the manual that covers the operation and use of the BDC Reticle, the warranty and registration cards, and the scope, complete with scope covers, in the middle.Immediately I noticed the rubber magnification adjustment ring didn't match the scope, but this appears to be just a protective coating or something on the rubber, as it wiped off as I handled it. I peered through the scope at the surrounding hillsides and took a picture to show the BDC Reticle.
Now, if Murphy and his law follow you around like he does me, then you'll appreciate the next bit.
I set up to mount the scope on the rifle, and, of course, the rings mounted on the old Ruger 77 Tang Safety .30-06 were not high enough to keep the larger 50mm objective from touching the barrel. New rings were in order, and I stopped by my local gun store to buy some. They did not have the Ruger factory rings in stock, but they did have a Millet set that said "Fits all 40mm and most 50mm objectives." Of course, these were not tall enough to clear the scope either. Another trip to town, and a visit to another store, and I returned home with one Ruger #5 and and one #6 ring.
A brief note on Ruger scope rings, while I'm here. Ruger uses a unique, proprietary scope ring setup that is strong and sturdy, but can be confusing. For instance, on this rifle, I did not need two #5 rings, or two #6, rings, but instead I needed one #5 and one #6. The front ring mount is machined higher in relation to the bore centerline than the rear. The logic behind this is as follows: If you upgraded from a 32mm objective scope to a 40mm scope, and your rifle was equipped with a #3 and #4 scope ring and the objective hit the barrel, you would merely need to buy ONE #5 ring, mount it on the front, move the #4 to the rear, and you've adjusted your scope height with the purchase of only one ring.
After mounting the rings securely, I leveled and mounted the scope and headed to the range. Here's how the scope looked mounted on the rifle.
The ProStaff line in the matte finish are attractive scopes, and the Matte finish would complement the synthetic stocks that are so common now. The turret covers for the elevation and windage adjustments are taller than I'm used to, but they reveal a nice surprise under their prominent protuberance.
Next, I had to zero the scope in. It seems I should have bought a lottery ticket while I was at the store buying scope rings. I didn't bore sight the rifle, nor did begin the sight in process at 20 yards like I usually do. I took a chance and shot the first round at a target in the center of a 3x5" piece of plywood @ 100 yards. I'll be darned if I wasn't only 6" left, and 3.5" low. Who gets that lucky?Now it was time to adjust the scope, and I was pleasantly surprised when I unscrewed the caps. Here's what I saw:
No digging in your pocket for a dime or a nickel, or worse yet, the door pockets or glove box of your truck for a screwdriver...Just simple, easy knobs with large, legible numbers, and large, easy to read script telling me which way to adjust. Another cool feature is the 'Zero Reset' function of the knobs. Once you are zeroed in, you gently pull the knob out, and set it to zero, and the spring loaded knob sets back in, and your 'ZERO' is now '0' and '0' on your windage and elevation knobs. Here's where this is handy... Let's say you have a deer load and an elk load for your hunting rifle, and they hit in different spots. Simply zero your rifle for your
'Elk load', and zero the knobs. Sight your rifle in for your deer load, and when your deer season ends, you simply return your knobs to 'ZERO', verify with one shot, and you're done.
I clicked the windage adjustment 24 clicks to the right, and the elevation adjustment 14 clicks up, and my next 4 rounds made a decent 3" group around the bulls eye.
I then 'Walked the Square', clicking 24 clicks right, and shot a couple rounds. Those two hit 1 1/2" apart, 6" to the right of bulls eye. 24 clicks down led to a two inch group 6" below that, 24 clicks left put a 3" group 6" below the bulls eye, and 24 clicks up put me back on the bulls eye.
A couple shots at a milk jug full of water at 200 yards, holding at the first circle under the crosshair on the BDC, resulted in satisfying explosions of milk jugs. The enclosed manual with the scope gives great instructions on how to use the BDC reticle, and how to utilize it with your rifle and your particular ammunition.
Clarity on this scope is good. It's far sharper and crisper than the average scope that comes on a rifle/scope combo, or the average $100 scope.
The light gathering is also much better than bargain basement scopes, critical during the important hunting times at dusk and dawn.
The eye relief is generous, and the eyepiece focus adjustment quickly brings the crosshairs into focus if you are shooting at a target near or far.
The Lifetime Warranty gives one peace of mind if something should go awry.
The Nikon ProStaff 3-9x50 with BDC reticle does a fine job of filling the 'Darn good scope without breaking the bank' Niche. The gains to be had in clarity, light gathering by spending more money on more expensive scopes are very real....if you can afford and justify the extra money. We could have this conversation right up to a super clear, super crisp $3,500 rifle scope and beyond. But, we all have to draw a line somewhere, and if your line is drawn at around $220, you'd be hard pressed to find a better value.
Mark Spreadborough writes from his family homestead in Kalama, Washington, where he lives with his wife, son, daughter, dog and cat. When not writing, shooting, hunting, fishing or working on his property, he goes to his day job as a HVAC repair mechanic.