Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rifle Scope Eye Relief and Determining A Rifle's Balance

I have read several articles lately concerning how to determine if a particular rifle is a good candidate for running shots or snap shots at game in thick cover. Two of the factors mentioned were determining the balance point of a given rifle/scope set up and the eye relief of the scope itself.

Most quality rifle scopes will list the eye relief on the box and even in their advertisements. These are normally pretty close, but NOT always. Here is a simple do at home method of checking your scopes actual eye relief. You will need the following items:

A ruler or tape measure
A small sheet of white paper or unlined white 3X5 card
A flashlight

Place the flashlight against the objective lens of the scope whether mounted on a rifle or simply laying on the table. The place the 3X5 white card near the ocular lens and move it in and out until the light beam shining through the scope is at its clearest and smallest point and in sharp focus. The focus will change with as little as 1/16th inch of movement and you will see the difference immediately. I did this today on my Ruger Mdl 77 .350 Rem mag with a Burris 1.75X5X32 Signature Safari series with lighted reticle (NO longer made) and eye relief was exactly 4 inches. This should be plenty even on a .350 Remington magnum.

I repeated the exercise on three other rifles:

My Savage Weather Warrior .308 Win with accutrigger has a Bushnell Elite 3200 scope in 3X10X40 persuasion and it has exactly 3.5 inches of true eye relief. Again, more than enough for a .308 Win.

My Marlin Model 1895 lever action 45-70 wears a Bushnell 3200 Elite 1.5X4.5X32 scope with firefly reticle and that comes in at exactly 3 inches eye relief. If memory serves me, the advertisement indicated 3.5 inches for that scope, however I have had no cuts over the eye, or bumps on the forehead even when shooting Buffalo Bore 350 grain penetrator loads or the same company's 405 grain expander.

Lastly I pulled out my Marlin model 336 in .35 Remington wearing a Simmons Master Series Pro Diamond 1.5X5X32 with lighted reticle coming in with a true eye relief of 3.25 inches. Again memory alone indicates it was rated at closer to 3.75 in the ads, however once again it has served me well and is more than enough.

A second test I ran on these four rifles was trying to determine the "Balance Point" of the rifle as that makes a difference in how well the gun shapes up on snap shots at close range, or perhaps a running shot (in my case) of under 50 yards. In other words, does the gun come up naturally and behave like an extension of your arms or does it feel more like a 2X6 when trying to take a fast shot. My research indicates the perfect balance point of a rifle for use where fast close shots might be taking place, is 4 3/4 inches ahead of the trigger guard. This apparently makes the rifle come up faster and into action faster and makes it easier to track game for a running shot or a snap shot.

Combine those attributes with a properly mounted bolder reticle scopes in the 1.5x5X32 or 2X7X32 range, and it makes for a dandy woods rifle for the still hunter, or old guys like me who can only sit for just so long without seeing what is over the next knoll or on the other side of the ravine etc.

Near as I can tell, the Marlin Model 336 .35 Rem has a balance point right at 4.25 inches ahead of the trigger.  The model 1895 45-70 follows suit with the same measurements. The lever action does not have a separate rounded trigger guard as does a bolt action rifle.The trigger guard is an integral part of the lever itself. The Ruger .350 mag is 4 3/4 inches ahead of the front of the trigger guard and approximately  6 inches ahead of the actual trigger itself. The Savage .308 Win balances 4.5 inches ahead of the trigger guard. I did make a running shot with this rifle this year on what I thought was a doe. I found the rifle pointed naturally for me and the doe turned out to be a button horn buck.

Hope you find this information useful and most of you probably already know this. I have know about it for a long time and yet I have to admit, I never actually tested the eye relief of a scope or the balance of a rifle that I was contemplating purchasing before.


Philipians 3:14 " "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus"

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