Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rage, Rage, Against the Dying of the Sight*

The fixed-power optical sight, that is...

Duck and quail seasons are still a month away, so I figured this was a good time to get my oldest son's deer rifle set up while I had the time to do it. This is a combination of three of my favorite things: a Winchester Model 70 Classic Featherweight (a New Haven gun), the venerable 6.5x55 caliber, and the classic Leupold fixed 3X straight-tube scope.

Personally, I think it's about as perfect a beginning hunter's deer rifle as you can get. The rifle itself is one of mine, and it's a gem. It's not quite as accurate as my CZ 550 in the same caliber, but accurate enough (and in its defense, I haven't much tinkered with loads for it). It's light and nimble and elegant, not some ponderous beast of a gun, and it doesn't offend my sense of aesthetics, which is important.

Not much to say about the 6.5x55 except that it's about as perfect a caliber for deer-sized game as has ever been created. Those long, skinny, 140-grain, high-BC bullets traveling along at (depending on what load you're shooting) a relatively mild and sedate 2600 or so feer-per-second are relatively flat-shooting at reasonable ranges, produce a mild, almost melodic muzzle blast, and in the (paraphrased) words of Dave Petzal, might create enough recoil to "dislodge a thrush from a thistle." And as an added bonus, it pretty much kills whatever you shoot with it, quickly. What's not to love about that?

And then there's the scope. Talk about a dinosaur... under-powered, under-featured, under-objective lensed, under-reticled, under-tacticaled, under-branded, and most definitely under-"cool". But all it does it work, beautifully. There is no power ring to fumble with. There is no confusing bullet-compensating reticle to try to interpret in the heat of the moment, and it has four inches of eye relief so he won't get scoped no matter how much he may crowd the ocular lens. It's light, unobtrusive, and doesn't make the rifle top-heavy like some of the Hubble-sized scopes now in vogue. It's bright, has plenty of magnification for the maximum distances I want him attempting a shot, and it has a huge field of view so he can easily find the deer if one steps out close to us. Simple, effective, bombproof, and perfect.

And sadly, fast disappearing. You really have to seek out fixed-power scopes these days. They're rapidly going gentle into that good night of widespread consumer disfavor. They have become novelty throwback items, the shooters who use them seen as fringe-y, anachronistic loons, kind of like the guys who shoot flintlocks during muzzleloader season or longbows during archery season. Few companies still offer them. Leupold still makes several (including my favorite 6x42), Weaver still has their K-series, a couple of the European companies offer a tiny handful of fixed-power scopes for the American market, but the vast majority of us now clamor for the giant, bulbous variables. Hell, even I own a few, and they're good scopes, I cannot deny. But fixed-power scopes are still my favorites, because they still work well, and look elegant doing it.

* With apologies to Dylan Thomas' ghost... 



  1. Chad, great gun and great set up; he's a lucky boy! I'm still shooting my Savage 99 in .250-3000 with a Weaver K4, so I understand.

  2. That is a beautiful shootin' iron.

  3. Sweet gun. I shoot the same caliber for deer.

  4. Chad, you can find used fix power scopes on Ebay. Redfields and Weavers can be found for decent buy-me-now prices.

    BTW, Nice to see you on Campus. Miss you on F & S Blogs.