Spotting scopes: fixed vs variable, eye relief, etc.


Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2002
Wenatchee, WA
Well, after farting around w/ the old Bushnell 15-45x straight tube scope this hunting season, I'm looking at finally getting a decent spotting scope. Looking at getting a Kowa TSN 661 w/ a 25x LER, w/ the idea that I can use it for a) NRA HighPower competition (and most any kind of matches I might go to, 600yd BR, tactical, varmint, regular range use) and b) hunting varmints, and c) scouting for big game. Right now I'm using an old CC45 w/ a fixed 30X eyepiece, not LER or WA, and not very clear for competition. Probably going to retire it to 'loaner' status.

Will a fixed 25x LER work well enough for hunting as well? In competition there seems to be a trend towards less emphasis on magnification and more on wide angle, to be able to see the wind/mirage on 'upstream' of your target. Obviously a bigger 80mm or 100mm would be better for mirage, but not so good in terms of $$$ and having to lug it around. I can get a variable power eyepiece for it, but it's an added expense and the eye relief goes to heck. I'm assuming long eye relief would be reasonably important/useful for hunting, or would wide viewing angle be more important?


I have a TSN821 with both a 27LER and a 15-60 eyepiece. Almost never use the 15-60. The 27LER is great for both target spotting and for long range glassing. It seems to me that any time I could use more magnification I end up getting hosed by mirage anyway,
I'm not really looking for recommendations on what particular scope to buy; that's pretty much set at this point. More interested in pluses minuses of fixed vs. variable, long eye relief vs. wide viewing angle for hunting purposes.


...always better off with variable for the purposes you stated... eye relief is infinitely adjustable by twisting eyecup in or out... field of view is a fixed formula based on power to objective lense diameter, i.e. the lower the power setting, the greater the field of view... once again variable can adjust for more or less field of view... like I said, Swarovski 25-60 x 65...hope this helps...
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...always better off with variable for the purposes you stated... eye relief is infinitely adjustable by twisting eyecup in or out...

By 'infinitely adjustable' I take it you mean it has the twist-up eyecups instead of the fold-down style.

Maybe this is more of a technique question. Let me phrase it slightly differently.

In competition, the shooter is set up w/ the gun, looking thru the spotting scope watching the conditions at some point btwn the firing point and the target, and switches to the actual sights (iron or telescopic) just at the last little bit before he takes the shot. Obviously, this works a whole lot better w/ a target that ain't moving! The LER eyepieces have an advantage as you don't have to get as close to the eyepiece to see the full field of view, and the WA eyepieces allow you to see more of the conditions 'upwind' of the target; variables are a compromise that does neither quite as well, though exacting target identification isn't exactly the object either.

Do you (or other LR hunters) actually use the scope like this, or is it more just for finding and observing the game, and gets set aside once the rifle is taken up and aimed at the target? This is assuming solo hunting, not team. Is it completely fruity to think of setting up w/ the spotting scope next to your firing position, say observing a group of deer or elk grazing in one area of a clearcut a ways off, watching the wind conditions btwn you and the animals, switching to the rifle scope when the conditions come back around to a favorable pattern? Is it more normal to use the scope just to find, ID, and observe the animal, and then do all final conditions watching thru the rifle scope itself?

Trying to figure all this stuff out...


Monte infinitely adjustable, I mean there are no detents or stops in the eyecup, you can set it where it works best; this is especially helpful with eyeglasses etc.

...greatest benefit to the scope would be for spotting or observing game at great distances... binoculars for most glassing and then finally picking up the game in the riflescope...

...another good thing about the variable is, as you mentioned, you can dial down from excessive mirage and really helps to resolve bullet holes in targets at long distance...

...I'm just saying this scope is almost "too good to be true" in clarity and quality, but pricey I admit... if you've never looked through one, you owe it to yourself first before making a decision... hope this helps...Larry

I do appreciate your time and consideration... the Swaro scope is no doubt very, very nice. They didn't get their reputation by making less than perfect stuff. I'm a bit constrained by budget here (too many toys, not enough money!), and am kind of leaning towards a conservative choice. My use of the scope will probably be about 98+% competition/range time, the rest hunting, so I'm kind of leaning towards what seems to be a known item in that aspect. May not be the best hunting scope, but I think I'll be able to live w/ it.



[ 11-09-2004: Message edited by: milanuk ]
Monte... I know what you mean... I mainly use mine for fun stuff (bird watching, little bit of astronomy, etc)around the house and sometimes "down on the farm"... almost all of my shooting (way too little) is done with high power varmint scopes so I rarely even take the spotter with me to the Swaro was all but a gift to me, I could've never justified the expense for my type of shooting... thanks so much, good shooting to ya'... Larry
fyi kowa has just came out with a new pair of scopes, the compact is 77mm and the large 88mm
Besides the particular brand (which you seem to have picked), there are some generalities that apply to all scopes (and bins).

Obviously, larger scopes are heavier and more awkward in the field (Duh), but...

Larger objectives give you two things (assuming that the scope is of high quality), a tiny bit of more resolution on overcast and raining days, and less resolution/more mirage on sunny days.

A high power match shooter might want the increased mirage for reading heat waves and the wind, while a PD shooter would want less mirage so they can spot the PDs.

For the match shooter, the 80mm or 100mm might be fine, but the PD shooter might be best served with a 60mm, 50mm or smaller, even at the same power.

The big area of importance for scopes, that is very often over looked is the eye pieces.

I have a limited production 60mm Bushnell 60mm "ED" scope that the objective is state of the art. But the reason that they were "limited production" was that he eye pieces for they whole Bushnell line were (and are) crap, so users didn't get any advantage of the very expensive scope.

I salvaged the scope by fitting high quality Mirador eye pieces, but most users did not know of this option.

Here's an interesting page on the importance eyepieces. The writer is from the bird watching community, and if you think WE are fussy about optics, you haven't met a bird watcher yet...

I bought one of these scopes, JUST because of the eyepiece... but it is huge.

For field use, I think a LER or WA 20x to 27x would be fine, but a variable would be much better if mirage has to be dealt with...
... across a dog town, a 25x might be too much to see anything because of mirage.

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