Scope Size: What’s right for me?

A quick look through Lancaster Archery Supply’s lineup of 3-D and target scope offerings for compound bows shows scopes measuring 29, 30, 35, 39 and 41 mm, among some other sizes.

Recognizing there are different sizes of scope housings available begs the obvious question, “Which size is right for me?”

And the answer is, “That depends on what you want to see.”

Scopes and lenses are married to provide a certain view of the target. Some archers like to really zero in on the arrow’s exact point of impact, while others prefer a more distant view, so they can relax while aiming.

The smaller the scope housing, the smaller your field of view. That field shrinks even further the more you magnify it with a lens.

So let’s say you are shooting at a typical Vegas 3-spot target face for an 18-meter, indoor shoot. A small scope housing will enable you to really focus on each individual spot, while minimizing your view of everything surrounding each spot.

X-Spot 29mm scope

Some archers find it distracting to see much surrounding the intended aiming point. So maybe you start with a 29mm scope housing and then choose a magnifying lens that blows up the target enough to all but completely fill your view of it through the scope when you’re at full draw.

On the other hand, some archers feel “claustrophobic” when they can’t see anything but the target face in their scope. They like a little extra room around the bull’s-eye, which allows them to settle down and hold the bow steadier. So maybe a 35mm scope is a better choice for that archer.

Bowfinger 20/20 35mm scope

Moving outdoors, you’ll have to address the same issues for field archery, 50-meter rounds and other bull’s-eye target rounds. How much area around the target do you want to see? Find a scope and magnifying lens to create that view.

For 3-D, the larger scopes dominate because most archers want to see the whole target in the scope. And those targets might range from a tiny skunk to a life-size bull elk. Being able to see the whole target allows you to find reference spots to aim when scoring rings are not readily visible. Also, for those archers who shoot unknown distance, seeing the whole target allows them to better judge the distance to it. As a result, many archers choose the 40- and 41-mm scopes for their 3-D setups.

Shrewd Nomad 42mm scope

Lighting is another factor to consider for an outdoor scope. The smaller the scope, the less light will get through it to your eye. In an open field, that’s probably not a problem. But if you’re going to be shooting in the woods with a dense canopy, then going with a bigger scope to allow more light in might be the best choice.

Choosing scope size for a compound target sight with David Houser and Alex Wifler

Choosing the right scope housing for your compound bow target sight can make a big difference in your competition scores.

What you see when you look through your scope – and what you can’t see – plays a role in how well you aim and how well you focus. And with scope housings varying greatly in size, your field of view can change dramatically from scope to scope.

scope size

Compound scopes come in the following common sizes – 14, 25, 29, 31, 35 and 42mm, or 1.25, 1.375, 1.625, 1.66 and 1.75 inches.

The variations range even wider when you factor in magnifying lenses of different powers. For example, the field of view through a 25mm scope is going to be much different with a 6-power lens than with a 2-power lens.

You can rest assured that professional archers have played with any and all scope-lens combinations in trying to figure out what works best for them. Granted, what works for one pro might not work for you. But hearing their thought process might help you find your winning combination.

So we asked two pros – David Houser and Alex Wifler – what scopes they use for various competitions, and why they picked those sizes. Both archers compete regularly in indoor target, outdoor target and 3-D tournaments.

DH: I use a 29mm Shrewd Essential for indoor and outdoor target archery, and a Shrewd Nomad 42mm for 3-D.

davidhouser_retouched2

David Houser

AW: I use a 29mm Shrewd Essential for indoor and outdoor target archery, and a 35mm scope for 3-D.

wifler

Alex Wifler

LAS: What do you want to see when you look through an indoor scope, outdoor scope and 3-D scope?

AW: When I’m looking through my indoor scope, I see just outside the scoring rings on the three-spot target. For outdoor, it’s about the same – just outside the scoring rings. Please note, I shoot a 2mm blue dot outdoor and a 4mm blue dot indoor. (The dot is his aiming spot, and he uses a larger dot at the closer distance, and a smaller one at the farther targets. From his perspective, however, both dots look similar when aiming at the different targets.)

DH: For 3-D, I like to be able to see the entire target in my scope – or most of it at close distances. When we have a 25-yard target first thing in the morning, and it is a very dark target, I want to be able to see a lot of the animal in order to “silhouette shoot” the target. What I mean is to be able to reference off of the animal’s back, front leg, etc., to be able to make the best shot I can. This is where individuals run into issues when shooting a really high power lens, or small housing for 3-D.

Coyote

As for indoor, I want the target face to be the majority of my sight picture. This is something that will be different from archer to archer, in figuring out what they like to see in their sight picture.

LAS: What problems do you have when you go larger than the size you like best?

DH: For outdoor events, such as field archery, OPA or Redding – the latter two are 3-D tournaments that require long-range shooting – a larger diameter scope doesn’t allow me to shoot as far because I run into clearance issues with my vanes hitting the scope at the longer distances.

AW: Lining up my peep becomes more difficult, because there is more to line up with a bigger scope.

LAS: What problems do you encounter when you go smaller than the size you like best?

AW: Dark, dark, dark! Especially indoor, when light is compromised anyway.

DH: I am not able to see as much of the target as I would like in certain situations.

LAS: How does lens magnification play a role in your scope housing selection?

DH: Lens magnification doesn’t really play a role in my scope housing selection, mainly because I shoot a 4-power lens for all types of archery.  However, if you are an archer who shoots different power lenses for different types of archery, then I would say that scope housing size would play a factor. Or if you are an archer who wants to see less or more of the target when aiming, you would need to take lens magnification into play when selecting a scope housing, because if you put a four-power in a 28mm scope and a four-power in a 42mm scope, you have a wider field of view with the 42mm, so you will see more of the target/around the target.

AW: Not hugely. I started using a two-power lens, and in the last three years changed to a four-power, and my scope size didn’t change.

LAS:  If someone wanted to have only one scope housing for all target competition, what do you think would be best?

AW: My personal recommendation based off of what I use is a 29mm scope with a 4-power lens, and dot for target and a fiber for 3-D.

DH: I would recommend a Shrewd 42mm housing with the “stepped” sunshade kit. This would allow you to shoot a 42mm scope to be able to have the light gathering capabilities, while the stepped kit allows you to screw a sunshade on the front side of the scope (closest to your eye) to decrease the perceived size of the scope. An archer could simply get separate stepped sunshades that correspond to the type of archery that they will be shooting.

shrewd shade

The 1-step, 2-step and 3-step sunshades in 42mm from Shrewd.