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GOOD Low light scopes

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Unread 10-11-2003, 09:57 AM
Bronze Member
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Terre Haute, Indiana
Posts: 41
GOOD Low light scopes

I am wandering what are some of the best low light scopes...

my situation is, when I am coyote hunting, and see a Coyote around 6pm in November (Indiana) when it's just before dark...
like last year...

I see a coyote out at 450 yard (I thought it was 300 and missed as I didn't have a rangefinder then, but anyway)... I turn the safty off on my Ruger MkII Target mdl 25-06, looking through my Leopold 6.5-20x50mm I see something out there,

I turn the power up to 18-20 to get a better look, gets slightly darker... I can barely see from the silluette, it's a Yote...

I have other scopes, in 32-40 and 50mm objectives, and the leupold is better but geez, $20 binocs kills the Leo...

Comparring my old KMart Focal 10x50 Binocs to my Leupold 6.5-20x50 set at 10 power.. the Bi-nocs gather much more light in low light conditions... I mean it's like a BIG differance.. does the Prizums in binocs gather more light?

yes a cheap pair of 10x50 $20 binoculers made back in the mid 1980's kills a $800 Leupold 50mm (from the 90's) both at 10 power, both 50mm.... WHAT GIVES?? not happy!

Thats the whole purpose of getting 50mm over a 40mm, "Low light gathering".

Does any scope maker dare to make a better low light scope than my old cheap $20 Focal Binocs??

Probably well over 50% of coyotes, as well as deer are harvested in low light conditions like early morning or late afternoon, why doesn't scope makers see the needs, and make 60-70-80mm objectives....

Also most scope makers have gone to 56-57mm... why is Leupold stuck back in the Stone age with only 50mm?
Nightforce has better clarity, and many other scope makers are surpassing Leupold in optical quality... Japanese optics should never be able to pass up American technoligy, if we do not want it to... we are the most advanced nation on earth... no reason for it.
But Leupold sits back for 20 years racks in the money of a "yes" proven "but" age old design, spending el-zilcho money on improvments, reserch, technoligy of better optics & coating.. a 1994 66Mhz 80-486 CPU with 8megs of ram, works fine, but high performance today is P4 & AMD 64 2000-3000 Mhz and 512-1024 meg of ram.. Hey Leupold, lets upgrade from the 486!!!

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Unread 10-12-2003, 09:00 AM
Silver Member
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: occupied, USA
Posts: 189
Re: GOOD Low light scopes

You need to consider the science involved before knocking Leupold in this case friend.

The amount of light gathered by an optic is a function of the objective lens -- the one that looks out. Then you got quality of glass, coatings (preferably full multicoatings), blackened internals, and the like to ensure the maximum amount of light gets transmitted to your eye. A variable magnfication optic will not transmit as much light as a fixed power optic. Lastly, you need to consider 'exit pupil', which is how big the light image is that you can actually see at the ocular lens (eyepiece).

To compare how bright an image is from a cheap bino to a fine riflescope is like saying you'd rather count change from a muffin tin than a cash register -- because you don't know how the cash register works.

Exit pupil is calculated by dividing magnification into the objective lens diameter. In a 7x35 bino, the exit pupil is 5mm. And of course you have the double advantage of an image at both of your eyes.

So what you are experiencing at 10x is not out of the ordinary. You've got both eyes seeing a 5mm image, in a glass that has very little else happening between the objective and the ocular lenses, vs. one eye looking at a 5mm image that is transmitted through a scope that must also provide other magnification and the internal ability to change point of impact.

Furthermore, the porro-prism design (presuming this here, as most inexpensive glasses are of that sort, cheaper to make them) is inherently superior to a 'roof' prism (which you get in straight, vs. dog leg style binoculars, and riflescopes).

In a 6.5-20x50 scope, you have a 7.7mm exit pupil at lowest power (where you should have cranked your scope to get a brighter image), and at max magnification the exit pupil is a mere 2.5mm.

The human eye can dilate to about 7mm maximum, in general. So if you want to see the best you can in low light, you need to utilize an optic with a similarly sized exit pupil. Next time, crank your scope down.

High magnification is best used at stationary targets in broad daylight. Consider the exit pupil on a fixed 36x scope with a 40mm objective. Just 1.1mm. Does that make it a crappy scope? Hardly. It does make it an unsuitable scope for lowlight useage, or for shooting at moving targets in virtually any conditions, unless the target is a snail. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

You want a bright riflescope? Use a fixed power, like 6x with a 40mm objective, and ensure that the lenses are fully multicoated and the internals are blackened.

Otherwise, you can always turn to NOD stuff, (Night Optical Device), but that's a whole 'nother story.

[ 10-12-2003: Message edited by: Nate Haler ]

[ 10-12-2003: Message edited by: Nate Haler ]
it's not about need in the USA -- it's about WANT
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Unread 10-12-2003, 10:10 AM
Junior Member
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: West TX
Posts: 21
Re: GOOD Low light scopes

I agree that the exit pupil is what you need to look at when buying a scope for low-light situations. My coyote rifle has a Leupold Vari-XIII 3.5-10x50mm scope sitting on it. I bought the model with a heavy duplex just for low-light situations. To me, it is the perfect low-light coyote or deer scope. Very clear and when it's cranked down to 3.5X, I can see the reticle up until the time it is pitch dark outside. The Leupold will set you back around $500, though. I lucked out and found a used one with exactly what I was looking for.

Get something that's fully multi-coated and has a lower power. I also have a Sightron SII 3-12x50MM, and I like it too. It's not exactly on par with the Leupold, but it's a good low-light scope for around $300.

If nothing else, just get a good quality 3-9 power scope. I promise you won't use the higher power settings when you're hunting - just not needed.
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Unread 10-12-2003, 12:38 PM
Silver Member
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Newburgh NY
Posts: 235
Re: GOOD Low light scopes

Donham- I have a Leupold scope and feel the same way!!! I don't believe that they are as good as everyone says!!! I believe that everyone is prejudiced as to the fact that it is a Leupold!!! My Springfield Armory 6-20x56 is much better at any magnification than the Leupold!!! I also like the Springfield's lit reticle. The only thing better than my Springfield that I have is my nightvision scope!!! There are better scopes for low light than the Springfield but I think you will find them very expensive. We put my Leupold, my Springfield, and A Nightforce side by side. Well after everyone adjusted each scope to their eye and looked through each scope the Leupold came in last!!! The Nightforce was the best but the Springfield wasn't that far behind!!!
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Unread 10-12-2003, 04:02 PM
Platinum Member
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 1,757
Re: GOOD Low light scopes


Was all three scopes set on the "Same" power for your tests?

WE did the same test using the Nightforce and the Leupold LR. The Leupold 8 1/2X to 25X LR 50MM was set to 22X to match the Nightforce NXS 5 1/2X to 22X and four guys all stated that the Leupold was sharper then the Nightforce after each had a chance to set both scopes to their eyes.
The test MUST be done so that all scopes are on the SAME power setting. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

My Leupold LR scope are sharper to my eyes then my Nightforce NXS is at the same power setting.
As a matter of fact, the older Unertl 2" 15X Ultra Varmint is clearer then either of the above mentioned scopes when you set the Leupold or Nightforce at 15X.

Darryl Cassel
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Unread 10-12-2003, 04:06 PM
Platinum Member
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Palmer, Alaska
Posts: 2,539
Re: GOOD Low light scopes

My dad is sending his Springfield Armory 6-20 Gen III scope back now, it simply won't remove the parallax at any range, so something broke or moved in it. I like my NF NXS, no comparison between it and any of his SA scopes IMHO. I have my lit reticle adjusted way low and is almost never even used except for the lowest of light conditions. I had to turn it on at the range not too long ago as my crosshairs faded to the point it made a big difference. It will have it's place in the field at some point I'm sure. When I got mine, it was set way too bright and was actually a hinderance at low light when turned on. I like mine set so the hairs are again just visible but not bright enough to make the image become darker from the bright light of the reticle.
Brent Moffitt
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Unread 10-12-2003, 04:37 PM
Silver Member
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: occupied, USA
Posts: 189
Re: GOOD Low light scopes

Gang, note what DC says about the 15x Unertl.

Fixed power scopes will show a brighter image than variable scopes at the same power. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

The other thing worth noting is that the Unertl has external adjustments -- less stuff inside the scope to degrade the quality of the image reaching your eye.

Lastly, rest assured that Leupold is not sitting on their dominant market position and watching the rest of the manufacturers pass them by. Hardly. Leupold is continually trying to improve and refine their product line and sends representatives to shooting competitions to find out what the users want.
it's not about need in the USA -- it's about WANT
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