Today’s top quality firearms that are teamed up with superb ammunition provide a combination that delivers consistent pinpoint accuracy. While a vast majority of time is spent on a firearm itself, there is one component that is often overlooked: optics.
In the 1930s, rifle scopes began to become widely available, but many were reluctant to use them. That isn’t the case anymore.
Today, optics for nearly every type of firearm are available, and there is a wide range to choose from.
The basic fixed power rifle scope is economical and works well. The most popular are scopes that provide the variable power option.
Then there are models capable of being controlled by a cell phone app that is capable of connecting to the scope’s internal electronics. After inputting data regarding the ammunition being fired. The app will calculate the information then adjust the scope’s crosshairs to accurately hit the target at a given distance.
Optics, regardless of their individual capabilities, come with a price, and in many cases the device becomes an investment. When properly cared for, it will provide a lifetime of shooting pleasure.
Unlike proper gun care, when it comes to optics many fall short. So let’s take a look at the basics.
Scope care begins when the firearm is put to use. Then a set of scope covers provide the first line of protection.
The caps of scope covers should remain closed even while hunting. Most lens covers are designed to flip open in a fraction of a second. When used in this manner, there is less chance of dirt, dust, and other debris collecting and adhering to the lenses of the scope.
In the field there will be occasions when scope lenses will require a cleaning. When there is a need for this never touch the lens. By doing so you may be degrading the coating on the lens. This is when an easy-to-carry lens brush can be used to save the day.
The majority of scopes are fog-proof and have coated lenses. How lenses are coated are expressed in different degrees.
Being coated designates a single layer on at least one lens surface has been treated.
Fully coated refers to a single layer of coating having been applied to all air-to-glass surfaces.
Multiple-coated indicates that multiple layers of coating have been applied on some but not all surfaces.
Fully coated indicates multiple layers on all air to glass surfaces.
Scope lenses are coated with a combination of zinc sulfide, zirconium oxide and magnesium fluoride. When applied, the coatings enhance the scope’s light transmission rate to 95-99 percent. This is what provides that crystal clear image.
The coating also gives the lens a blue/green, purple, and sometimes a reddish gold appearance.
Inexpensive scopes many receive up to five applications of coating that are a few tenths of a thousandths thick. More expensive scopes may receive up to 15 layers on all surfaces. The coating is also important because it contributes to reducing glare and light reflection.
To understand the cleaning process relating to sporting optics, the first step is to know what not to do.
While it can be tempting, never use saliva or your breath to moisten the lens of scope, or then clean it with a hanky, tissue, a paper towel, or worse yet your finger.
Condensation from your breath moistens the lens and at the same time combines with debris on the lens into a minuscule glob of gunk. Remember the lens coating is sensitive and needs to be treated with extreme care.
Proper lens cleaning begins with a shot of air from a nasal aspirator or similar device used to clean camera lenses. When applying air to the lens, position the lens so that the debris will fall down and away from the lens.
At this point the brush end of a lens pen should be used. The device has a soft brush on one end and on the other is a small and extremely soft concave cup. At this point only use the brush to whisk away dust particles and other debris that were not blown away using the air bulb.
Just as you would clean your personal eye wear, the lens being cleaned should be treated with lens cleaning solution, not window cleaner or some other type of harsh chemical. Always use a product specifically formulated for cleaning lenses.
The cleaner should be gently applied to the lens using a Q-tip. By doing so dust particles will be picked up in the process and removed from the lens.
To complete the cleaning process, use a clean microfiber cloth or lens tissues specifically labeled for use on lenses. The cupped end of the lens pen can be used for the final cleaning of the lens.
Unlike when using a napkin a T-shirt or paper towel, the microfiber cloth or lens tissue will not scratch the coating on the lens.
Cleaning a lens is not difficult and is quick and easy. However the entire process should be done with care.
And when done the right way it will preserve that clear, crisp image when the scope was brand new.
When cleaning the bore of the firearm always close the scope cap covers. By doing so the lenses and their coated surfaces will be protected from possible damage from bore cleaning solutions.
Firearms equipped with optics should be stored with the lens caps closed to protect lenses from any possibility of collecting dust.
A lens cleaning kit is easy to assemble and the components include: an air bulb, lens pen, and or a lens brush, a microfiber lens cloth, lens tissue, lens cleaning solution, Q-tips, and packets of commercially available pre-moistened lens cloths. These items are stored with my gun cleaning products. The items listed can be purchased for under 50 bucks.
When I go in the field, at a minimum I will take a lens pen and several pre-moistened lens cloths packets, along with a microfiber cloth.
Lens care is easy. Understanding lens care is the first step in keeping your outdoor optics in top notch shape and ready for your next outing. After all scopes can range in price from 75 to well over 2,400 bucks. But regardless of the price they’re worth taking care of.
Charlie Burchfield is an active member and past president of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association, an active member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, and the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers. Gateway Outdoors e-mail is GWOutdoors@comcast.net