Optics and Moderators

A scope with proven light gathering qualities is a must

Possibly more is talked and written about scopes and moderators than almost anything else in fox shooting circles. A visit to almost any of the best shooting websites will reveal long and sometimes heated discussions on the merits or otherwise of which scope or which moderator is the best.

The problem in coming to a decision on either of these two items is that everyone’s view is clouded by their own experience and perception of what is expected from them.

Let’s look at telescopic sights. The choice is absolutely enormous and the price variation is too. Take a firm like Schmidt & Bender: its products are top shelf and prices can range from almost £2,000 down to £400. Another firm in the same price bracket is Swarovski. Again, scopes at the top of their range are around the £2,000 mark. Zeiss too is in this bracket, as is Nightforce, a well-loved brand among experienced fox shooters.

What is it that puts these makes at the top of the tree and is money well spent acquiring one of these optical gems?

I personally think that there is absolutely no doubt that where scopes are concerned you get what you pay for. Looking in the sort of price range outlined above shows excellent build quality, top of the range optics and in most cases after sales back-up. However there are many less expensive brands that would rightly claim that they too offer such products and service to go with them.

Leupold is a make I rather like, producing excellent scopes below the price points of those listed earlier. Kahles is one of the oldest European makes, and produces optics on a level with Leupold price-wise. IOR and Meopta too are also held in high esteem at this price point.

In this piece I am referring to optics to be used on centrefire rifles used for fox shooting rather than rim fires or air rifles. Moving a little further down the price scale opens up an even bigger selection of goodies to look at. Deben with their Hawke range are one of the best known, and many of their scopes are for air guns many are eminently suitable for centrefire use. Some of their special reticles are extremely good at giving the user pre-determined aiming points at a variety of ranges. I have used one of these for some time now and find them very good indeed.

I could go on and on listing names of manufacturers, all of whom are providing good quality useable scopes. In truth there are few bad ones on the market today, such is the quality of modern CNC machinery.

So where does this leave the prospective purchaser, in particular, first time buyers and those wishing to upgrade? Well what I have to say is purely my point of view, and will not necessarily be endorsed by all. I own several scopes and have had several more through my hands – some very expensive ones too – and what I’ve found is that they all do the job. It’s many years since I had a scope that in itself caused problems, so don’t fret if you’re on a limited budget – your scope will do the job for you whatever the make. But, like most things in life, some of the most expensive items not only do the job… they do the job with style. In the case of optics, top quality glass will give clarity unsurpassed by lower-priced models.

Also there is of course the ever-present lure of the big name. I suppose in the shotgun world it would be like the man with a Webley 700 aspiring to own a Purdey. When he gets one he will love it and he’ll be the envy of all his friends, but he’ll probably only shoot the same number of birds as he did with the cheaper gun.

I would love to be able to own a really top of the range scope, but in the meantime the ones I have do the job very well.

Finally the choice you make will be influenced by exactly what you want to use the scope for, the late night deer stalker will look for superior light gathering abilities, whereas the casual rabbit and fox shooter will be able to settle for something a little less.

Enjoy looking at what’s on offer and go for the best you can afford, they will all do the job – some just a little better than others.

Much of what I have written about telescopic sights applies to sound moderators. Sound is very much like beauty: in the eye, or in this case the ear, of the beholder.

Many and varied are the views on which is the best centrefire moderator. One thing is certain: arguments will rage on for as long as people use moderators.

Sporting Rifle magazine has conducted in-depth tests using sophisticated sound measuring equipment to come up with tables showing decibel levels and proclaiming one make or another to be quieter than others. Yet when actually in use in the field it is extraordinarily difficult to tell the difference using the human ear – if possible at all.

As an example I have a Wildcat moderator on one of my rifles. In one of the tests I read it showed well down the list, but I really like it and have no reason to change what is a very efficient unit.

Peter Jackson of Jackson rifles is one of the leading retailers of moderators in the country offering BR, ASE Utra and Sak models – all very good and retailed by a man always ready to share his knowledge freely. Then there is the PES range distributed through JMS Arms; and JLS stalker silencers also have their followers.

A moderator that has seen a lot of favourable press is the A-Tec, an over-barrel design, which gives good sound reduction according to its users.

Few scopes will let you down, but it pays to go for the best you can afford

Gerry Lapwood’s Husher moderators are unusual in that they have no internal baffles and can have extra chambers added to improve efficiency. UK Custom Shop produces the Wildcat range – nicely made in stainless steel –that are strippable and lightweight. Another one well worth a mention is the LEI, a good example of a muzzle-mounted moderator, which is aluminium-cased with stainless baffles. Finally for anyone looking for the most up-to-date model, Alan Rhone is importing Aim Sport moderators. I have one myself and am more than pleased with it.

So where does this leave us? Basically the choice comes down to two types, muzzle mounted and over-the-barrel versions. Both have benefits and disadvantages, relating to price, user-friendliness, ease of maintenance and longevity. The benefits have to be weighed against variations in length, weight, price and materials used.

What really doesn’t help someone choosing a moderator for the first time is that you can’t just take out a selection and try them. All you can do is to read the test reports on as many as you can and find one in your price range.

Nightforce scopes are well thought of by experienced foxers

One thing you can rely upon, though, is that they will all do the job well enough. Using a moderator not only cuts down disturbance to others, it protects your hearing as well.

In the field, the use of a moderator diffuses the sound so that the quarry cannot usually detect the source – particularly useful when out after foxes.

Whatever type you decide upon, always remove the moderator when returning home after shooting. Some advocate a quick spray with something like WD40 for the types that do not come apart, whereas the types that can be dismantled should be given a regular clean.

I started off this piece on scopes and moderators by saying the choice is difficult and that it can be bewildering, as there are so many points of view. Vision and sound are interpreted by each of us in different ways. Choose the accessories that suit your pocket and personal physical preferences. Modern technology means there are few scopes or silencers out there that don’t work well enough to contribute to the job of fox control when mated to a decent centrefire rifle. Mike Powell

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One comment on “Optics and Moderators
  1. Steve Makin says:

    Do you have any views – especially if upheld by sensible tests – that can confirm or refute the “rumour” that having the smallest practical hole versus calibre up through the moderator will provide the best (most effective) sound control please?

    I ask as I have recently purchased a PES over the barrel moderator to fit on my Tikka Sporter in 6.5×55 Swedish. I chose the one with a bore supposedly best suited to any 6mm cal. bullet instead of the more usually recommended one designed to best suit bullets in the .30 calibre range. I am now wondering if I made the “right” choice as the report is still quite noticeable on firing my rifle (standard 24″ barrel)….. This must be taken in the context of my many years (20+) of shooting vermin destruction rifles in the smaller .17 Rem, .22 K-Hornet and .223 Win calibres so some additonal report noise is to be expected I would think?..
    Kind Regards,
    Steve Makin.

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