Good points all. And I agree. Again, all this is in the quest for good natured debate and I submit that the points you bring up with mirage and shooting angle are very valid.
You are however referring to second focal plane reticles. I for the most part, when possible use First Focal Plane scopes. That removes the issues that you state about needing to be on a fixed power to use the reticle.
On my lightweight hunting rifle, which is a 9 lb 7mm AM, there is a Leupold Mk4 3.5-10x 40mm with the TMR reticle in FFP. I have tested this scope and while it will not track QUITE as precisely as the NF scopes, it pretty darn close. I have also tested point of impact over the range of its power settings. At 400 yards, I tested from 5x up to 10x and there was no noticable shift in point of impact.
With this rifle, there is no mirage issue in any way, if I need to turn down, I turn down. If its low light and a lower power is better suited for the shot for light gathering capabilities, I turn down and still use the reticle at any power setting I need to. I will also add that this is a 1/2 mile rifle and I will not take shots farther then that. Not because the rifle and the chambering are not up to it because they certainly are, I can not shoot the rifle consistantly enough to take +1/2 mile shots. I have shot the rifle to 1000 yards and it would easily take out the vitals at this range but even so, I limit my shooting to 800 to 1/2 mile max with this rifle simply for consistancy reasons.
Before this scope, I used the now discontinued Weaver 4.5-14x 44mm Tactical which also is a FFP scope. As I already mentioned, the standard mil dot system is not the best as there is more yardage between the dots but it will work, again, out to 800-1/2 mile shooting very well. This scope is not in the class of the Mk4 in trackability and no where near the class of the NF. I do not believe its internal workings are as strongly made either, so dialing up all the time would cause wear in these scopes over time.
The clearity of these scopes WILL compare at least as good as the Leu however and not far off the NF. Not as good for sure but for the money, MUCH better then you would ever expect. Also, if you zero the rifle, they are consistant scopes, I have not had one loose zero on me yet once zeroed where I wanted. They also do quite well with point of impact shift over the entire power range. I would rate them very similiar to the Mk4 scopes in this area. At least for the 4 I have anyway.
So my thinking on these scopes is this. They are not made to handle constant dialing up and down. They are clear, they are consistant and they have a FFP reticle, for what they are designed for, which is using the reticle for hold over, they perform extremely well. Whereas if I was dialing up for each shot, they would not perform nearly as well.
For longer range shooting, we are lacking in scopes for this method of shooting. Leupold is making progress but in my opinion, they made a mistake in jumping clear up to their 8.5-25x 50mm Mk4 model for their next FFP scope option.
They say these scopes are designed for 2000 yard shooting. In that case, a FFP is really a waste of time, at this range, dialing for each shot is really the only correct way to do things accurately and consistantly.
Again, in my opinion, they would have been much better off putting the FFP reticle in their 4.5-14x Mk4, especially a 40mm version for a lightweight hunting rifle for long range shooting.
A 6.5-20x option would have been perfect for a longer range hold over scope on a heavier rifle as well. In my opinion, the 8.5-25 is just more then needed for a hunting scope.
The call for FFP scopes for ballistic hold over as well as range estimation if something decides to stop working in your accessary gear is increasing more and more everyday. An example of this, NF has just announced they will be offering a 5.5-22x 56mm with a FFP reticle. I have one on order as soon as they are ready. this may be the ulitmate for long range hold over scopes but in my opinion again, a 50mm would have been much more user friendly on more conventional long range big game rifles. Heavy tactical style rifles however will work well with this scope.
Onto another point you make, angle. I agree, in canyon country, shooting angle can be a critical issue. I will submit however that in many cases, if your IN the mountains, long range shooting generally takes place from one side hill to another and shooting angles seldom are very extreme.
If you shoot from a valley floor up onto a mountain which I know you do often, yes, this is much more critical because you combine long range with steeper shooting angles.
I will also submit that there is alot of long range hunting that takes place on MUCH flatter ground. Here where I hunt, if I had an 800 yard shot at a 27 degree down angle, the bullet would have to travel the last 500 yards underground if you get my point!!!!
Simply put, I have NEVER, in 10 years I have been doing what I would call Long Range hunting, ever had to worry about shooting angle. Thats just a result of where I hunt and again, that is certainly not the case for all shooting areas.
As such, let me refine my original comments.
If you want a rifle set up for any and all hunting conditions at any and all ranges you can efficently put a bullet into the vitals of a big game animal, the dial up method will by far be the most versitile and consistant of the two methods. If you do not know the area you will be hunting or do not have access to set up rifles in same elevation and conditions as you will be hunting in, again, the dial up method is certainly the best choice.
If you will be intentionally looking to shoot past 1000 yards on big game or any game, the dial up method is the best choice.
If you can shoot and set up your rifle in the area you will be hunting and do not have a reason to reach past 1/2 mile on your shots. Using the hold over method has great merit, especially on a conventional weight big game rifle.
If you get a quality FFP scope, its usefulness is magnified dramatically for the Hold Over method.
If you use a scope that is does not tract consistantly but will hold zero consistantly, again, the hold over method will serve you better then dialing up simply because its more consistant. And lets face it, not everyone can afford a Leuy Mk4 or NF scope. Then the argument comes in that if your going to spend X amount on a rifle, a quality scope is just common sense.
That is true, but there are more and more long range hunters out there trying to get set up with the best gear they can for the least amount of money using factory rifles and lower priced scopes. Can it be done, yes much easier using hold over then dial up because a lower priced scope can be made to work with hold over where it would not be appropriate for dial up. That said, get the very best glass you can afford, you will never go wrong that way.
Anyway, I agree with all you say, but will add there are situations and areas where the hold over method will punch the tag everytime if used properly. If used incorrectly, it will fail miserably. If used outside its practical use range, again, failure will occur.
I think we agree with much more then we disagree, just come from two very different types of hunting areas and I will again admit that you generally shoot at longer ranges then I do for big game. My longest to date is 1300 yards on pronghorn. Second place is 850 yards which was witness by Shawn and then alot in the 600-750 yard ranges. I fully admit you reach out farther then I do in most cases and that may be why I feel so comfortable with the hold over method for big game.
For Varmints, I have stretched things a bit and again, agree dial up is about the only good way to do things when ranges get much past 1000 yards.
As far as target engaging speed. Let me quickly tell of a pronghorn hunt We had a couple falls ago. We had all tagged out on bucks. Looking to fill doe tags, My brother had one and I had two. We glassed a herd of goats nearly 1/2 mile away. They were heading in a direction where they would drop out of sight into a shallow creek bed and offer us just enough time to get out and set up on the prairie.
We did and my brother lined up first and got ready. I was the ranging man for him. When the herd showed, I ranged them at 325 yards. Simple told him they were at 325 or less as they were coming our way and to hold dead on and forget any hold adjustment of any kind, just shoot when a shot chance presented itself.
The herd walked to a range of 210 yards(ranged after the shooting was done). At his shot, the lead doe piled up to the shot. My turn now. The herd wheeled around and ran back for the creek bed. With the rifle on my shoulder and in a prone position, I was on my elbows with the Swaro RF in my hands. Two of the last does slowed and stopped just before they hit the creek bed. Ranged then at 355 yards. Quickly glanced at my drop chart. took the hold which was simply a top of back shot and the doe I targeted dropped to the shot. This was with my lightweight 7mm AM.
As I came off the scope, across the valley, I noticed another group of pronghorn run up onto the hill and look back to us to see what had happened. Ranged a big doe that was at the bottom of the group on the side hill. Still never taking the rifle off my shoulder. 623 yards. Looked up the hold, fired the shot and again the doe dropped to the impact.
We got up and Dad met us there. he said he had never seen anything like that before. From the time my brothers trigger broke until my second doe hit the ground was less then 30 seconds. Me personally, I can not dial up nearly that fast and the only reason that was possible is because I was using the method I was and I was very comfortable and practiced at it.
As far as windage hold off. Just me personally, if I have to hold off enough for windage that I should be dialing it in, that being more then a couple minutes at most, I do not shoot. The TMR and NP-R2 and NP-R1 have hash lines that serve perfectly well for this amount of accurate hold off for the wind. If I have to have the target floating out in the field of view to adjust for windage, I simply do not shoot. That is just me and I am certainly not saying dialing in for the wind is not accurate, it certainly is, I do it all the time long range varmint hunting. Just personally for me, if I have to old off that far for big game, I wait till another day to take such a shot.
Anyway, all good points, I think we agree on alot more then we disagree on on this one.