Choosing The Perfect Scope

Choosing The Perfect Scope

My new to me Ultra Light Arms rifle is a tasteful camo pattern, rather what I’d planned for the Ugly Stick. But when Melvin made it, he shortened the action. Since I have a tendency to torque the bolt when I’m throwing a second shell in the chamber—under pressure—I’m hoping that will now be a thing of the past.


I just bought a new-to-me ULA in .243 WSSM, that belonged to our friend Tommy McIntyre.  It was built on Melvin Forbe’s Model 28 action, which is usually used for longer mag cartridges, like the 7mm Rem Mag but, because this cartridge is so short, Melvin shortened the action, so it’s even shorter than the model 20 action of my .257 Roberts. (The Ugly Stick.) Part of the deal is I’ll be able to work the bolt more easily in the field. 

I have a tendency to torque the bolt, whether I’m excited or not. I did it on a wildebeest years ago when John and I went to Namibia. I’d just taken what I thought was a good shot at the bull and was jacking another round in the chamber—to be ready—when I jammed it. Really hard. Couldn’t get the cartridge loose at all. 

My PH, Jochen Hein, whispered that he could see the wildebeest’s head was still up as I struggled to reload. After 10 to 15 seconds, I opened my pocket knife, got the spent shell out and loaded a fresh one in the chamber. As we moved closer, I was ready, but then we realized he was done. The first shot had killed him, but he fell straight down, into a ‘normal’ resting position, with his nose pressed into the ground at such a hard angle that it kept his head tipped straight up. But what if the shot hadn’t been so good? What if he had been alive, and waiting for us? 

My Ugly Stick, Melvin Forbe’s super-accurate, super-dependable Ultra Light Rifle is also super-identifiable. Whenever one of us posts this image somewhere, people comment: “The Ugly Stick strikes again!” That and that they’ve never seen an elk smile before


Given Melvin’s shorter action and the .243 WSSM’s shorter, fatter cartridge it’s harder for me to twist it. Plus that short, fat cartridge is very accurate and flat shooting, both of which I prefer whenever possible. (It’s like salt. We all know just how much salt makes us happy. And we all know what guns make us happy. They’re the ones that get taken out for a walk more often while the others collect dust.)

Now we’re deciding on a scope for my new WSSM. John’s a bit of a pack rat when it comes to scopes, so we have a few as yet, un-utilized scopes to choose from. John’s thinking of mounting the same model scope I have on my Tikka T3x in 22-250 Remington that I’ve been using on antelope and deer the last couple of years. It has a 1 in 8 twist which isn’t standard in 22.250s, one of the specs of a special run Whittaker Guns of Kentucky purchased. I love the gun, but it is a bit heavy to carry around the hills, up and down. For my taste.

But the scope on it is a 3-9×40 Burris Fullfield II which are relatively inexpensive, but pretty tough, have good adjustments, and have what John calls a ‘nifty’ reticle.  It’s a plex-type reticle with a series of 3 hash marks below the crosshairs. Burris calls it the Ballistic-Plex. 


What works for me may not work for you. Or feel comfortable when aiming at a big game animal. The Burris BallisticPlex is my favorite. But it took a while to figure that out. And in a few years, it may change. If your scope isn’t perfect for you take the time to try the many variations in reticles, magnification, and lens options. These days you may find that the rifle scope that strike your fancy is well within your price range.


Three hash marks are just right for me. I’ve had more complicated scopes, ones with multiple hash marks on the reticle, ones that you dial in at specific ranges, ones exactly calibrated to one specific load in one specific rifle, but when Swarovski lent me one of those dialers, it sat idle for a year, not finding its way onto any of my rifles. And I eventually sent it back to them with thanks. I had thought I could do it. When I’d been at FTW using the scope on their very, very long range, with all the time in the world for each shot, I thought it was pretty nifty. But I don’t take long shots. Twice, antelope at a smidge over 400 yards, but I prefer practicing at those distances, then taking surer shots at shorter ranges. It’s why it’s called ‘hunting.’ Not targeting. At FTW there had been people to help figure the math, too. When I’m hunting, I like to hunt alone, and with equipment I know and don’t have to Google before taking the shot. Game animals don’t have any patience for Google.

The other thing I like about variables that go to 9-power, is that I can see more.  John laughs at me for having a variable when I pretty  much leave it on 9 power all the time. But there are three reasons I do that. First, it’s not such a high power that I have trouble finding the animal in the scope. I see the animal, insert the scope between it and my eye, wait for the perfect moment and shoot. Big game animals are big enough to do that easily. For me.


In recent years, more options have become available in scopes, allowing people more chances to find their perfect scope—at prices that are way more affordable than before.


The second reason I keep the scope at 9 power refers back to that ‘seeing more’ I mentioned. I can see my breathing—or the crosshairs rising and falling with my breathing—and I can see just how smoothly I’m pulling the trigger. Right away. Any wiggle there, and I back off. Those subtle—and sometimes not so subtle–movements are much easier to see at 9 power than at 4. Again, for me. 

The third thing? Simply that, at 9 power, I have no problem mounting the rifle and immediately, having the full optimal view through the lenses.  No ‘now you see it and now you don’t.’ No shadows, no half moons. So, while I might be able to monitor my breath better with more power, 9 power gives me the best of both mounting and seeing easily. And, face it, game animals have no patience for tweaking either. 

But why don’t I just buy a fixed-power scope? Because you never know.

John just happened to have another Fullfield II exactly the same as the one on the Tikka, just sitting around doing nothing so we’re thinking of putting that on the new ULA. Partly because that scope is fairly light weight, so would help in the total weight category. (It is discontinued, but a new model has just come out.)

My gopher rifle also has a FuIIfield II but it’s a 7 power, a 2-7×32, on my Ruger American .17 HMR. (The HMR John bought for me after I fell in love with his last spring.)  I use those 3 hash marks below the crosshairs a lot when varmint hunting. Not so much with big game. So why is a 7 power big enough, even when the gophers are smaller than elk? The ranch we have access to, the shots are closer.


Gun shows are a handy place to check out all the variations in reticles, magnification, and size of lenses. Whitetail hunters, who tend to only see the largest bucks in the dimmest light, generally go for larger objective lenses. But they often weigh more. That’s something to check out at the Gun show too.


Right now, John’s down in the basement mounting the scope onto my new ULA. And I am very happy. My new-to-me ULA weighs about 6.5 pounds, and the scope is about 13 ounces.  Walking around, sneaking over ridges for mule deer and antelope, a light rifle is an advantage. Plus this ULA was made in 2004, so directly under Melvin’s thumb. Like the Ugly Stick, it will shoot flat, straight and dependably. 

Aside from the rifle though, it’s the simplicity of the optics. 

All three scopes look the same, when I’m aiming. Which simplifies my life. 

Of course the downside is that my new ULA wears a quiet, tasteful camo pattern, which is nice when you want to go incognito, but it will never win the ugly gun contest at the Paisley Shawl Bar in Glenrock, Wyoming. (Immortalized in the very first Rifle Loony News’ What’s Up column.)

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *