Head to Head: On Target

Good, reliable scopes for $300 or less.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Would you like to own the best scope in the world? I would too, but gas is $2.50 a gallon and my cat's teeth need capping. We are editors and we feel your pain, as President Bubba used to say. We have selected four excellent riflescopes that we-and you-can afford. I ran each scope through the Petzal Optics Abuse Regimen (see below), and here is how they fared.

The Test
Immersion I put the scopes in a pan of water and looked for tiny bubbles escaping. Then I put them in the freezer, let them thaw, and checked whether anything had fogged.

Optics On a gloomy evening when the light was poor, I took the scopes to a 100-yard range, lined them up, and saw which gave the sharpest look at a variety of targets.

Adjustment Accuracy With each scope mounted on a rifle, I stuck a grid collimator in the muzzle to see if the adjustments shifted the reticle accurately and consistently, watching for things like backlash and lag.

Impact Resistance Now for the fun part: I centered the reticle on the collimator grid. With the scope in the rings, I banged like hell on the rings with a 2-pound rubber mallet (this doesn't mark up the scope or the rifle but does transmit some dandy shocks). Finally I checked against the collimator to find out if the reticle had moved.

1. Leupold VX-I 3X¿¿¿9X x 40
$220; 503-646-9197; www.leupold.com
**Special Features: **This scope has a generous 4.2 inches of eye relief, and a range of image-enhancing screw-in filters is available. It didn't leak or fog. When pounded with a mallet, it shifted left 4¿¿ inches. **Best Features: **Unlike previous Leupold nonclick adjustments, these were very consistent. **Points to Ponder: **Even good nonclick adjustments are inferior to the click type.

2. Bushnell Elite 3200 3X¿¿¿9X x 40
_$199; 800-423-3537; bushnell.com _
Special Features: This scope has a fast-focus ocular lens and a Rainguard lens coating. It didn't leak or fog, and the crosshairs moved the equivalent of ¿¿ inch at 100 yards when I pounded it. Best Features: Rainguard is invaluable and would figure heavily in my buying decision.** Points to Ponder:** The click adjustments were okay but not as good as those on more expensive scopes.

3. Cabela's Alaska Guide Premium 3X¿¿¿9X x 40
$280; 800-237-4444; cabelas.com
Special Features: **Includes screw-in aluminum lens caps and a fast-focus ocular lens. It didn't leak or fog, and when pounded it moved 3 inches left and ¿¿ inch up. The click adjustments were satisfactory. Best Features:** It had the best optics of the four-very sharp, very bright.** Points to Ponder: **You want some, you go find them. I can't see anything wrong with this scope.

4. Weaver Grand Slam 3X¿¿¿10X x 40
$256; 229-227-9053; weaveroptics.com
Special Features: **No leaks, no fog, and when pounded the reticle moved 2 inches down and ¿¿ inch right. The big power-selector ring is easy to use in the heat of battle. **Best Features: I like having 10X at the top end instead of 9X. **Points to Ponder: **Picky, but the little dot that shows what power you're on is invisible to left-hand shooters.