Rarely in the wonderful world of shooting do you buy a single item of equipment and see your shooting improve dramatically and permanently. Usually, the course is that if you keep figuring things out, you’ll make continual, small adjustments, all of which will eventually total up to something significant.

However. Once in a while, things happen in big gobs. Until a couple of months ago, I did my competition shooting with a Nightforce ATACR 5X-25X. It’s a big, heavy, impressive tactical scope and it’s a Nightforce. End of story, right? Wrong.

The right tool for that job is the Nightforce Competition scope. I sold a gun, and got one, and things improved radically for the simplest of reasons: I was shooting at bull’s-eyes. The Competition model is designed to shoot at bull’s-eyes. It’s not intended to shoot at silhouettes, or painted rocks, or old automobiles, or people. (Recreational shooting at people is against the law, I understand, and can actually get you in a fair amount of trouble.) The ATACR was switched to a non-target rifle, where it tells me it is happy.

If you make the decision to buy a Nightforce, and go to the website, you can be bewitched, bothered, and bewildered by a cornucopia of models with all sorts of exotic features and weird and complex reticles. So in order to spare you a migraine look only at the Competition model.

You want the 15X-55X version because of all those Xs. Probably you’ll never use the top end, but you’ll spend plenty of time in the 20s and 30s and some in the 40s. If you have eyes like a buzzard you may prefer the plain crosshair, or the crosshair and dot reticle, but these can be pretty tough to see under some conditions. What you want is the DDR-2 reticle. It has a .095 MoA center dot with two heavy horizontal stadia wires alongside it, and you can’t lose the dot even with geezer eyes.

Unlike most other Nightforces, which have ¼-inch W&E adjustments, the Competition has 1/8-inch clicks. Why? Because at 600 yards, a single ¼-inch click will move the bullet 1 ½ inches, and with this coarse of an adjustment you may not be able to get the bullets hitting exactly where you want them to. Yes, it is that fussy a sport, and yes, the Nightforce is that precise, which is why you’re spending all that money. A single 1/8-inch click at that distance will shift the point of impact only ¾-inch, which will do the job.

There are other, more subtle design features that will give you a leg up, but these are the biggies. As Nightforce says, this is a very serious scope. Raid your kid’s college tuition fund and buy one. What’s the kid going to learn in college anyway? How to demonstrate against free speech? How to get out of an exam because the news is too stressful? They’re going to be living with you anyway, so get the scope instead.

Meopta MeoPro HD 80 Meopta

Spotting scopes. I didn’t want to buy a spotting scope because I’m an elderly retiree who lacks unlimited funds and because I already owned two. However, all the really good shots use spotters because like NFL quarterbacks and naval officers who con warships and want to keep their careers, they need situational awareness.

If you look downrange through a riflescope set at 25X or so, you can see your target but very little else. What you can’t see is what the mirage and wind are doing to either side of your target, so it’s very easy to get blindsided.

After much thought and reflection, I said what the hell and got a Meopta MeoPro HD 80 spotting scope with a 20X-60X angled eyepiece. You can look up the features yourself ( What the specs don’t tell you, however, is how good these instruments are for the money. The HD 80 is not a cheap scope, nor is it an expensive one, but when you use it, you find yourself asking how they manage to put something this nice on the market for the money they ask.

And if you happen to be swimming in wealth, get the MeoStar S2 82 HD Angled. You’re probably not worthy of owning it, but maybe someone will sell you one anyway. Gorgeous.

I took the MeoPro and my rifle to the range, set up on the 500-yard berm, and sighted on the #4 target frame. With the scope set at 25X, I could see that frame, and a little piece of the #3 frame and the #5 frame. Through the scope, set at 20X, I could see all the frames from #1 to #6—from roughly 6 paces along the berm to 21 paces.

When you shoot from prone, you position the scope so that the eyepiece is perhaps a foot from your right eye, so all you have to do is lift your head off the comb, turn it a half-turn to the right, look through the spotter, see what the hell is going on down at the target, figure out where to hold, put your cheek back on the comb, line up the sight, and shoot.

You can’t do this with a straight scope, and in the past, when I was sighting in at different ranges, I would have to position my scope behind me with the tripod set at eye level. After each shot I had to stand up out of the prone position, and my screams of pain annoyed the IDPA shooters on the other side of the berm. Now all I do is turn my head, and I and the IDPA shooters are much happier.

Which brings us to the question, how do you get a spotting scope only a foot or so off the ground? Why bless your heart, you buy the third item on our list, which is a prone scope stand. I went online and looked, and found that the good, solid ones started at $200 and went up, and up, and then I started asking around, and was told fool, call Harry Davis.

Mr. Davis is a former Naval aviator, an engineer, a machinist, and the owner of Freeport Manufacturing Company. He’s also a competitive rifle shooter of many years standing. Fifteen years ago, a friend came to him with a busted prone scope stand and asked if Harry could make a new one. Harry Davis looked at the stand and saw that it had far too many parts, and those were fragile, so he designed a stand that has very few parts, and is, to put it mildly, robust. In fact, it’s built like a brick shithouse. In fact, there are very few brick shithouses that are put together so solidly as Harry Davis’ scope stand. Best of all, it costs $150.

These stands are built to order, and mine took a week and change. The two most popular colors are black and red, but other shades are available. Call: 207-865-9340.