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May 03, 2006

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Gun Myths, Part II: Rough barrels, expensive binoculars, and "knock-down" power

MYTH: Rough barrels shoot poorly.
TRUTH: Some do, but others shoot quite well. I have, over the years, shot cut-rifled, button-rifled, and hammer-forged barrels whose bores looked like plowed fields, and they were highly accurate.

MYTH:  Thousand-dollar binoculars are a waste of money.
TRUTH: I can’t tell you how many guides I’ve met who owned the clothes on their back, a pickup truck, and a pair of thousand-dollar binoculars. There’s a reason for that.

MYTH:  If you use enough gun, you can actually knock an animal down.
TRUTH: In theory, you can’t literally knock anything down with a bullet, but I’m conflicted, because I’ve seen some that appeared to be bashed flat at the shot. Perhaps they slipped, or convulsed, or something else happened in that fraction of a second when the bullet impacted, but according to all the laws of physics, nothing gets knocked down.

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Comments

Matt

I'm glad you mentioned something about expensive optics being worth it because I'm tired of hearing about how I waste money buying scopes and binoculars than in the grand scheme of things aren't really that pricey.
I paid $325 for a Bushnell Elite 4200 2.5-10x40 and was told by a friend that I was crazy and his $90 Tasco 6.5-20x50AO was the best buy around. Come deer season (yes, he uses such a large scope for deer, here in WV of all places) he went to adjust his magnification and the crosshairs turned with the knob. For a replacement he actually shelled out around $300 for an Elite 3200 5-15x50 after I let him see the 3-9x40 3200 thats on my muzzleloader (another scope which I caught crap for since its 'only' a muzzeloader and $160 is apparently alot to spend to scope a muzzeloader). Granted he did buy another monstrous scope but I'm glad I atleast got him to step up to a quality optic.

Mike Diehl

There's a difference between cheap, decent, and superb optics. Cheap isn't worth the sixty bucks or whatever. Decent ($200-400) works for just about everything I'm likely to experience. Superb is way beyond my needs. Probably the difference between decent and superb only matters in places where the weather can turn lousy in a hurry.

I'd own thousand dollar optics if I hunted alot in Alaska or on the nw coast rainforest.

Kevin

Mr. Petzal,

I'm curious as to what brands and models of scopes and binocs you prefer to hunt with.
Thanks!

Mark

Myths: Part I

I avoid coated bullets and never have observed the benefits of shooting coated bullets.

I have no data to prove it, but I do “believe” a rifle is more stable after about 75-rounds. I don’t know if this is because the barrel is broken in or if the barrel and action have settled into the bedding.

I’ve been most fortunate in never having a rifle that was a turkey. I did have one with a rough chamber that an old target shooter told me how to fix with oil and polishing compound and by making a flexible shaft on an empty cartridge.

Myths: Part II

I have no idea how many head of big game I’ve shot in my career with a 257, a 7mm Mauser, 7mm Mag, a 35 Whelen, and a 458….but never have I had a animal “drop” in its tracks. I’ve come to believe the event is “myth”.

I agree it’s a wise investment to procure premium binoculars. I do believe a hunter can buy modestly on a rifle scope.

tom

I think optics are a good investment, just as important as the gun you are putting them on. I do not understand why people will invest thousand's of dollars a year on hunting but won't make the investment on a good pair of Binoculars.

As for knock down. I don't understand physics but a few years back when I was invited on a deer hunt, and all I had in the cabinet was a 300 win mag and a bunch of 180 grain nosler bullets. I had a nice 140 class buck "sneak" in on a rattle at 20 yards. I shot him and through the scope I saw he was knocked 2 feet back flat on the ground. (I have a witness)

:)

Dave Petzal

Kevin: I hunt with just about everything, but this is what I've had the most use out of in the past 15 years or so:

Bushnell Elite 4000 2.5x-10X
Swarovski AL 2.5X-10X
Leupold Vari-X III 2.5X-8X
Leupold Vari-X III 1.5X-5X

Bushnell Elite, Leica, Zeiss, and Swarovski binoculars, all 10X, except for a 20-year-old 8X Zeiss that is ideal for Africa

El-Wazir

Excellent observation about expensive binos.

Since you can't hit what you can't see, in terms of real-world relevance, most hunters should weight their investment dollars in the following order:

1. binoculars
2. scope
3. rifle

But I wouldn't go so far as to change the name of this blog to "The Optics Nut". Because shooting is still more fun than just watching.

Unless, of course, you're some kind of voyeuristic perv...

El-Wazir

Excellent observation about expensive binos.

Since you can't hit what you can't see, in terms of real-world relevance, most hunters should weight their investment dollars in the following order:

1. binoculars
2. scope
3. rifle

But I wouldn't go so far as to change the name of this blog to "The Optics Nut". Because shooting is still more fun than just watching.

Unless, of course, you're some kind of voyeuristic perv...

El-Wazir

Excellent observation about expensive binos.

Since you can't hit what you can't see, in terms of real-world relevance, most hunters should weight their investment dollars in the following order:

1. binoculars
2. scope
3. rifle

But I wouldn't go so far as to change the name of this blog to "The Optics Nut". Because shooting is still more fun than just watching.

Unless, of course, you're some kind of voyeuristic perv...

Smith W. Dewlen

I have dropped a few animals in their tracks. This was done when the shot destroyed the nervous system. A brain/spine shot (OK. Not one at the base of the tail from the side.) will usually cause the animal to drop straight down. This effect is not caused by the Super Duper Whamper .3000 round used.

I witnessed a buck deer, shot at about 35 yards with a .375 H&H and a 250 grain hollow point, run for over a hundred yards. The bullet had taken the heart and both lungs and turned them into mush. So much for knock down power, as I see it.

tom

Dewlen,

I am not stating that a bullet will always knock an animal off their feet. I was talking about one shot in particular.

Steve

I'm new to hunting and have shot exactly one animal: a Florida wild hog. I know the laws of physics disprove the knockdown theory (I saw it demonstrated on Mythbusters), but they don't seem to preclude us from knocking DOWN an animal. The hog I shot -- at about 30 yards with a 30-06 -- fell where it stood without taking another step. The bullet blew out the left shoulder and scrambled the heart and lungs. I think it just depends on the shot and the animal, and there seem to be no rules about it.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out what law of physics can cause one to be addicted to hunting after one day in a tree stand.

TEH

Costly thy optics as thy purse can buy, but not expressed in fancy, rich not gaudy.

But seriously, focusing on the binocular question, a major consideration for me is that optics are fairly delicate and the conditions afield can be anything but.

Dust & dirt blow around and some of it comes to rest on our lenses. The water dripping off trees has minerals, sap, & tannins in it which will get on them too, and when we wipe them off with our shirt-tails (be honest- we've all done it) it's like using a very fine scotch brite pad on them. Now all those little scratches are scattering light instead of focusing it, ( sort of like what happens if you make a tape recording with the volume set too low - you get a lot of background noise competing with the music.) And so pretty soon your $1000 lens is the optical equivalent of a $100 lens.

Which is to say by all means buy as good pair of binoculars as you can, and then take very very good care of them.

Don Pacis

Okay, enough of the benefits of premium binos. They're good if you use them without getting headaches, which I unfortunately do. Talked to Swarovski whose SLC optics I bought thinking the brand would solve my problem. I followed instructions re diopter ring, left & right eye focus, etc., to no avail. Now I have binos envy because my Swarovski 10x42 is gathering dust in the closet! (have no problem with rifle scopes or spotting scopes.) So, relax, guys. Enjoy your binos, cheap or otherwise. Remember, like Petzal says, shooting is more fun than watching.

Don Pacis

Okay, enough of the benefits of premium binos. They're good if you use them without getting headaches, which I unfortunately do. Talked to Swarovski whose SLC optics I bought thinking the brand would solve my problem. I followed instructions re diopter ring, left & right eye focus, etc., to no avail. Now I have binos envy because my Swarovski 10x42 is gathering dust in the closet! (have no problem with rifle scopes or spotting scopes.) So, relax, guys. Enjoy your binos, cheap or otherwise. Remember, like Petzal says, shooting is more fun than watching.

phil

i have always believed in buying very good optics and some of my friends told me when i put a 450 scope on a 375$ used gun they compared it to putting a 5000 engine in a 20 year old car but last weekend when we were sighting in our rifles for the summer it was his 60 bushnell that wouldnt hold a zero or shift right.

Guy Miller

I've done lots of groundhog hunting in North Carolina where you spend most of the day looking through binoculars. I bought some 10x50 Swarovskis in Germany 15 years ago and it was my smartest buy ever. At the end of a long day glassing, your eyes can really tell the difference between cheap, OK, and good binoclars.

Mike Diehl

I have a set of Nikon 7-15x35 binoculars I purchased about a decade ago. The lenses are crisp, clear, distortion free (even at the edges of the field of view), sturdy, and easy to use.

I have no more need for Swarovski binoculars than I have for a battleship rangefinder. The Nikons do just dandy out to at least 1000 meters... which is many times more distant than I'll ever take a shot .. and more distant than most hunters have for an unobstructed view.

P. Bolding

Optics: In my experience, refering to the cost of optics, Pareto's 80/20 rule applies. That is the mid-range gives you the vast majority of quality to value verses the top of the line. In other words it costs you 80% more to achieve 20% more.

"Nock down": I shot a doe antelope running full out at 90 degrees and 15 feet with a .300 Win Mag...it was "knocked" off the ridgline. I have also shot several mulies in the 50-150 yard range and they fell in their tracks (also .300 Win Mag). I dropped a bull elk at 300+ yards on a very steep down hill and it fell dead in it's tracks (it of course was a spine shot...the only way I have ever seen an elk drop).

Dave Petzal

To TEH: Mother of Mercy! A fan of WIll Shakespeare reading this blog. I always thought it was a shame what happened to Polonius.

Jack Tishue

Warren Page once said, you won't knock anything down with a rifle bullet, and noted that when men were hitting the beach on d-day, they fell the direction they were going, when hit, not backwards, even with a 50. But I also read, a few years back, a 4 part article in the 1947(?) Rifleman magazine on "killing power" and the upshot was, a deer hit with a bullet going at or over 2700 fps causes the blood to back up in the veins, etc., to the point that the deers brain is blasted and they look like they have had a stroke, which would accont for them falling right down. There were several 1000 animals shot for this article. I shot my first whitetail with a 25/06AI and a 117 gr bullet. Hit him behind the right shoulder at about 40 yards, maybe. Bullet broke the off leg. He went down so quick I didn't see him fall (he'd been running from something and made the mistake of stopping). When I opened him up, no heart, no lungs, diaphram was split, liver was bruised on the top edge, etc. I think there can be too much gun or maybe too much bullet used on game of deer size, say a 300grRN 375 bullet which is not made for shooting deer, and probably won't expand quickly, and give a lessor result than a 130gr bullet from a 270 on the same animal.

Jack O'Connor used to say, it is better to put a $600 scope on a $200 rifle, than the other way around. Many folks don't understand that there is more to a quality scope, than brightness. I think there is a lot more quality around today, than there used to be, but there are also a lot more manufacturers around too. I stay away from the cheap ones, as have had folks have them literally come apart when used on a heavy recoiling rifle.

Steve Hall

This is the first time I've commented in a forum such as this, so be kind.

I agree with the commentary on binoculars and optics in general. It's worth the extra bucks in terms of clarity and light gathering abilities if you can put a nicer scope on your rifle, or make use of nicer binoculars. I've yet to make big investments in either category, but have had very good service from both my Leupold scopes and Steiner binoculars.

With respect to knocking an animal down, the fellow hunters on my Virginia farm lease and I tend to go for neck shots during deer season, particularly when culling the large number of does on the property. Deer hit in this fashion tend to "drop" immediately. I can't claim that it's the bullet or rifle that makes the difference, only that I seldom have to track the deer hit in this manner.

al the infidel

I see no mention of foot pounds of energy. When the proper bullet hits where the front shoulder connects to the spine you will see most of the time an animal knocked on it's ass with an adequite gun. Bone absorbing the bullet energy is devastating shocking power.

Roger E. Reeves, Sr.

I've been a big game huner for pst 5l yrs.Never used a scope till I reached age 50. For some un-godly my eye sight began to fail me. I tried all the Tasco, Bushnells, Simmons, and all had to re-zeroed each season. I decided to up-grade my eye equiptment to something better. i decided on Nikon products. I now have 4 rifles scoped with Nikon Monarch's, plus 3 set of Bincs from 8 x 21 to l0 x 50 and a range finder 8x 800. With this arrangement, I have killed a 6 x 6 Bull Elk, a 6 X Mulie, and this past year 2 w-tails 4 x 4. All one shot kills. Glassing a lot out west does not tie my eyes r give me a headache using any of the Nikon products I now use.I think anything pst the mid-range equiptment is a wase of money, but each persons eye's react differen to glass. try several and see which one's suit your eyes better. Now this fall, I will hunt Antelope in Wy, Elk/Mulies in Wy with the above equiptment. Shoot to kill on first shot.I am disabled/handicapped, and cannot tract a wounded animal, therefore good glass is necessary for me and the caliber to stop the game you hunting.Good hunting guys. Hope each of you have a successful outdoor experieence as I do. The Kill is the iceing on he cake. The outdoors is my first love along with my fellow hunters and that includes my wife. Roger

Roger E. Reeves

Me again: I will be hunting Anelope in Wy this fall, my first lope hunt. My firearm is a Remington 700 in 25-6 caliber, toped with a Nikon scope 3 x 9x 40. I;ve always used Rem.Ammo, but Rem does not make a 25-06 in a Ballistic tip and Boattail. What Ammo would you guys suggest for such a hunt? I also will hunt Elk and Mule Deer in Montana, using a Remington 700 in 30-06. My ammo will be Rems Scricco in l80 grs. I killed l Elk, l Mulie and 2 w-tails with one shot, dropped in their tracts with this combination.Any suggestions as to Ammo on the 25-6 for Lopes will be appreciated. This hunt is a new ball game for me.




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