Not many things have improved in the last decade or so like scope reticles have. We’ve been at it long enough to remember when anything but “duplex” was exotic, and generally came at a punishing premium. Today, pffft! Whether it’s BDCs, Mildots, or Horuses (Horii?), if you can’t find something that suits your aiming task, we think you haven’t looked very hard.
Nothing wrong with duplex, exactly, but we wanted to teach ourselves something new. [Image Courtesy of Leupold & Stevens, Inc.]
Judging by the number of slim, squarish boxes we see exiting local gun shops, we conclude we aren’t the only folks enamored of dandy glass and calculation-saving stadia. What can be a little heartbreaking is the mighty nice glass on either side of the ho-hum reticles we are often replacing.
It may come as a surprise, then, that there’s an intermediate and budget-sparing step we highly recommend. That nice older tube and glass, for which you already have rings, scope covers, etc., may well be capable of housing a seriously upgraded reticle for the fraction of the cost of a completely new rig. Don’t misunderstand us, there are lots of good reasons to upgrade your optics. But it’s a bit like adjusting any sophisticated contraption: The more a component does, the fewer things you should change around it at any one time. That’s good to keep in mind unless you just don’t care about that whole “unintended consequences” thing. That match-winning “X” or once-in-a-lifetime Boone & Crockett-buster buck will be back ‘round again shortly, right?
We fell into a reticle swap frame of mind through a simple (and, frankly, stupid) expedient—an utterly gorgeous Leupold Vari-X III 3.5-10x40 LR with dust on the box. Incomprehensible, we know. But be that as it may, the folks in Beaverton were obliging, and in a few short weeks (really!) we had a TS-29 X1 where a crystal clear, rock-solid but humdrum duplex used to be.
Rock solid controls that we can use without looking; why give ‘em up? We didn’t… [Photo By A1F Staff]
It’s a little hard to decide what to brag on first, so we go with the obvious—the scope works beautifully. This is Leupold, after all. We mated it with some “extra high” Warne QDsfrom Brownells, bore-sighted it on a 20-inch Frankengun AR, and headed to the range. Didn’t take long to figure out the failings were all us.
Next, we observe the “saved” form factor we’d always liked—overall size for certain, but also weight, objective bell, eye box, magnification range and adjustments that we know, and can use well and quickly.
The next—and favorite—advantage is the whole point of our exercise, but not to be underestimated just the same. It does need a small “proviso,” we think: We’re fortunate enough to have a finger on the pulse of change in an obviously advantageous way, so we had a good idea what our reticle swap would be like. As a sort of pseudo-Horus grid, the TS-29 X1 reticle brought some of the advantages of that system to our Vari-X LR. Without our built-in advantage, the result would be a superb introduction to the precise alternate aiming points that account for windage, elevation, target movement and range estimation without mechanical adjustment in such reticles. The learning curve and cost of a full-up H58 or 59 (as good, but complex, as that actually is) doesn’t have to be reckoned with in a single step.
That new enough for you? The TS-29 X1 let us stop estimating wind and drop, and start hitting through it. [Image Courtesy of Leupold & Stevens, Inc.]
Therein lies the real value of a reticle swap on your Leupold: It yields an effective “test drive,” without starting at square one on everything else about your optic. On a second focal plane scope like ours, you can swap in one of several dozen incredibly varied reticles for well under $200 all told (shipping and taxes), and some are as inexpensive as $60. If you’re already in the first focal plane camp, yours will be more. But again, at least you can do it.
If you have a candidate, but are still on the fence, two last silver linings are due contemplation. First, your scope will have a complete, meticulous refurb by the folks who built it in the first place—this goes along with your reticle swap. Second, even if you decide your new reticle isn’t the ticket, you’ll have made an extremely informed choice, and maybe saved a bunch more money on something new you would not have liked.