A first focal plane scope is a type of magnified optic that can be used for hunting, bird watching, or any other activity that involves observing small details. The name suggests it’s meant to be focused at the “first focal plane”, which is an imaginary point in space just above and beyond the physical lens. This kind of scope has been around for decades but today’s models are lighter, more powerful, and easier to use than ever before. The best first focal plane scopes have features that make them easy to operate and carry while being extremely accurate and reliable. They come in a variety of sizes that allow users to choose the right one for their needs. Some have integrated digital cameras so they can take pictures and videos; others come with tripods so they can be easily moved from place to place.
While there are no technical limits to how far a first focal plane scope can zoom, the size of the lens will affect how much magnification power it has. The larger the lens, the greater the magnification power. However, the bigger the lens, the heavier the scope becomes. Therefore, the ideal first focal plane scope is both lightweight and highly portable, yet still provides plenty of magnification power and an excellent viewfinder to help you observe whatever you’re looking for.
What To Consider When Choosing The Best First Focal Plane Scopes
When shopping for a new first focal plane scope, there are several factors worth considering. The following section looks at these in detail.
Before deciding on which model might work best, think about how you intend to use it and what features would help make that experience better.
- Long-range shooting: This type of shooting involves firing a weapon at a target many miles away and is typically done at night or using a high-powered rifle with a telescoping sight.
- Short-range shooting: At close range (within 100 yards), your sights should be able to clearly see the target without any magnification. However, if you plan to shoot short distances, a higher power level will allow you to see small targets more easily.
- Tactical shooting: In this case, you’ll want a scope with a low power setting as well as one that has adjustable focus because moving from cover to cover may require adjusting your vision.
The coating on the lens plays an important role in reducing glare and improving image contrast. Most scopes have coated lenses made of either glass or plastic. These materials have their own benefits and downsides.
- Glass lenses tend to be lighter weight and less expensive than plastic ones but they can scratch very easily. They also tend to get dirty faster.
- Plastic lenses don’t get damaged by rough handling but they’re heavier and usually cost more.
A larger diameter means a wider field of view, making it easier to track multiple targets or scan large areas. But it does come at a cost: A larger optic tends to be bulkier and more cumbersome. For those who prefer a compact firearm, a smaller diameter scope might be a better option. Conversely, those who like to keep things simple may choose a larger scope even though it makes the gun bigger.
First focal plane optics include adjustments that allow the user to change the size and shape of the visualized scene. These adjustments can be manual or automatic.
- Manual adjustment: With a knob or slider on the side of the barrel, the user changes the angle or distance the scope is mounted from the muzzle end of the gun.
- Automatic adjustment: An electric motor adjusts the scope automatically based on the trigger squeeze.
It’s important to remember that while a scope may seem light when held up against the handle of a gun, it’s still heavy enough to cause hand fatigue. So while lightweight scopes may feel great in theory, they could actually be putting additional strain on the shooter. Also consider how much force the recoil of the gun will apply to the scope. If the scope isn’t properly tightened down, it could twist or slip during firing, resulting in a bad shot.
There are two main types of mounts for optical sights: peep sights and flip sights.
- Peep sights consist of two small prongs that attach directly to the gun barrel just behind the front sight post. By rotating them forward or backward, the user can shift the beam out of the way to avoid obstructing the view through the scope.
- Flip sights feature four straight edges that attach to the gun barrel. By turning them over, the user can orient the beam back toward the front of the gun where it won’t interfere with viewing through the scope.
A first focal plane scope of high quality doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Even though they are excellent, they aren’t insanely expensive. For less than $500, you can discover some pretty lovely options.
Types Of First Focal Plane Scopes
First-focal-plane scopes are designed to be used in a wide range of applications. For example, you can use one as an eyepiece for your telescope or rifle scope.
A traditional first-focal-plane scope is similar to what you’d see on any rifle scope and typically includes a reticle that indicates where the bullet would impact if shot from a specific location. These types of scopes tend to have lower magnification and smaller fields of view compared to other options.
The main difference between a traditional and modern first-focal-plane scope is how the reticle is displayed. With a traditional scope, the reticle is placed directly in front of the lens; with a modern scope, it’s often behind the objective lenses.
Modern compact binoculars usually incorporate many of the features found on larger models but in a more compact package. They’re great choices for birdwatching because they allow you to keep a wider field of view while still maintaining depth perception by using both eyes. If you want something small and light enough to strap to the side of your hiking pack, these are some of our top picks. However, keep in mind that when reducing size, you’ll likely need to compromise on quality. Lowering the weight and size requirements will most likely result in plastic parts being molded out of cheap materials. We wouldn’t recommend purchasing anything less than premium optics with this kind of budget.
Most people think of night vision technology as a way to illuminate the night sky, but there are plenty of situations where seeing even the faintest objects in low light isn’t ideal. Whether you’re hunting wild game in the dark or observing nature during nighttime hours, having the ability to clearly identify objects even when the sun goes down can save countless hours of frustration. There are two basic kinds of night vision devices (NVD), thermal imaging and infrared technology. Both work by amplifying ambient light, so don’t worry about buying new batteries! The only downside is that neither type works well in bright sunlight. That means spending time outside after sunset won’t benefit you much unless you live somewhere near a body of water. However, if you spend a lot of time camping or fishing, getting access to natural light may not be such a bad thing.
How We Chose Our Top Picks
We started by searching for the best-reviewed and most popular models on Amazon, professional publications, and other online retailers. We limited our search to those with a 4 or 5-star rating.
Next we narrowed our focus to those that were also compatible with binoculars, field glasses, and spotting scopes. Finally, we excluded any scope that was not designed for use in harsh environments (such as military applications).
Frequently Asked Questions About First Focal Plane Scopes
What is the clearest rifle scope?
The Schmidt amp; Bender PMX offers a crystal clear viewing window that’s unrivaled in its clarity. The only downside to this scope is its price, coming in at nearly $500.
How do I mount a first focal plane scope?
Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Most manufacturers offer detailed information about how to install their optics, and some even include pictures to help you out.
What benefits does a first focal plane scope offer?
The best scopes for long-distance precision shooting are first focal plane models. All levels of magnification’s value are represented by the hash marks. At any time during your career, it enables you to employ and rely upon those holdovers. This has the benefit of enabling corrections by identifying impacts and misses.
Are there any disadvantages to using a first focal plane scope?
Drawing from both sides of the glass will cause parallax error (the farther away your target is, the more severe the error), which means you’ll have to adjust your point of aim accordingly if moving targets are involved.
Is it legal to use a first focal plane scope?
In general, yes. However, each state has laws restricting the types of firearms accessories that can be used during the commission of various crimes or violent acts, so make sure to check those restrictions before heading out to the shooting range with such an accessory in tow.