Optic Oddballs

Some were good ideas, others weren't.

Riflescopes have been around for a long time, even used during the Civil War. Scope popularity really took off during the economic boom following WWII. Scopes have improved in many ways over the years. There have been a few ideas along the way, which for various reasons never caught on.

During the post WWII era when scopes began really catching on, there was considerable debate on the merits of external versus internal adjustments. During the 1950s, some companies offered a choice. You could have a simple scope and complex mount, or a complex scope and a simple mount.

The market is always right, and what the market wanted was internal

In the early 1960s Bausch & Lomb introduced a scope line with external adjustments. With no internal adjustments the scopes were simple and tough. Scopes could be moved from one rifle to another with no loss of zero. B&L made a determined effort to promote the advantages of external adjustments but the market wasn't buying.

adjustments. We can speculate about the reasons why, though it no longer matters.

The last stand of external adjustments came from Bausch & Lomb in the early 1960s. B&L was a highly respected name, made an excellent product and promoted its advantages with a major advertising campaign. All to no avail. Shooters wanted simple mounts, and they wanted the complexity out of sight where they wouldn't have to look at it or think about it.

Looking back, I wonder if the market made the right choice. I've used scopes on my rifles almost exclusively for going on 45 years. Of the few scope problems I've had virtually every one involved the internal adjustment system.

The most common problem was with reticle adjustments, such as crosshairs which didn't move as they were supposed to (or sometimes didn't move at all), or variable scopes which changed zero as power was changed.

In order to have reticle adjustment while keeping the crosshair intersection centered instead of off in a corner, there is a reticle cell inside the main scope tube. The elevation and windage screws push the reticle cell in one direction, springs push it the other direction. The adjustment turrets require openings in the main tube which must then be sealed against moisture.

Variable scopes complicate things further. Most variables have the reticle in the second focal plane to keep the crosshairs from being magnified as power is increased. As a result point of impact can change as power changes.

Ingenious design and good workmanship have overcome most of the inherent problems of internal adjustments. I use variable scopes

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"TV" shaped eyepieces had a brief vogue in the 1970s. Claimed advantages were lower profile for scabbard use and wider field for running shots. The wide eyepiece sometimes prevented low mounting on bolt-action rifles.

with internal adjustments almost exclusively. Most of the problems I encountered were back in the '60s and '70s with cheap scopes (both fixed and variable, incidentally). It's been a long time since I had a scope fail. Nonetheless of the three legs of the shooting equipment tripod — rifle, ammunition, and scope — the scope remains the leg most likely to fail.

Suppose the market had gone the other way 50 years ago. With external adjustments, the

- scope body could be all in one piece, with no openings for adjustment turrets. The only sealing needed would be to seal the lens elements. The reticle could be etched on glass so it couldn't break or shift.

That would be a tough scope. I recall ads in which B&L removed their scopes from rifles, used the scope to drive nails through a board, then reattached the scope with no loss of original zero.

Instead of scope rings, a mounting rail could be incorporated in the scope body (as is done with some Swarovski models). While we're at it we could have more rifles with integral receiver bases (e.g. CZ, Ruger and Sako) instead of relying on those tiny 6-48 screws originally intended for attaching iron receiver sights.

What about those external adjustment mounts? The B&L system certainly was no thing of beauty. But if the demand had been there, no doubt the same brilliant engineers could have designed mounts accurate, compact and attractive.

Well, it's water under the bridge now. I doubt any company is going to take the financial risk of reintroducing

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