Rimfire Scopes - Tips for Enhancing your Rimfire Rifle

Tips to Enhance your Rimfire Scope and Rifle
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Rimfire Scopes - Tips for Enhancing your Rimfire Rifle

A Brief History & Overview

Rimfire ammunition (not to be confused with Centerfire ammunition) has the primer contained within the rim of the casing. The most common rimfire cartridges are 22 caliber and 17 caliber. However, there are dozens of additional subvariations. Rimfire ammo is generally limited to low-pressure loads, and the cartridges are not reloadable.

The rimfire 22 dates back to over 160 years in American history, with the 22 Short being the first of the rimfire cartridges. It was introduced in 1857 for the Smith & Wesson First Model revolver and was used for self-defense. Soon after, the 22 Long Rifle was developed in 1887 by the J. Stevens Arms & Tool Company.

Regarding firearms, one commonly asked question is, "What is a rimfire rifle?" I've always tried to answer that question with the simpliest answer possible - it's a fantasic beginner/training rifle that uses a 22 or 17 caliber round.

There is usually little to no recoil on a rimfire rifle, making it ideal for learning the fundamentals of marksmanship (IE) Trigger control and proper breathing techniques. Finally, the cost of rimfire ammunition is very reasonable, averaging roughly six dollars for a box of 50.

Rimfire Rifle Scopes

First, it's important to remember that rimfire rifles are generally smaller than centerfire ones. That said, you should always do research before making a purchase because many scopes you see online or in-store could be too large &/or too heavy and will outsize your rifle. An ideal rimfire score shouldn't be so clunky that it unbalances your rifle, making it feel "top-heavy."

Another consideration to remember is that rifle scopes can have a fixed magnification, variable magnification, and a fixed or adjustable parallax (more on those differences in a minute).

As a rule of thumb, an ideal rimfire scope should match your intended usage. For example, you generally won't need high-powered magnification if you plan on hunting or plinking. On the other hand, dedicated competition scopes should be high-powered to help with accurate shot placements for a better score.

What is Parallax in a Scope?

Many shooters do not understand parallax as it pertains to a rifle scope. Parallax occurs when the focal plane of the image/target inside the scope is not close enough to the focal plane of the reticle. When excessive parallax is present, if you move your head behind a riflescope that is held motionless, you can see the reticle move across the target

Why is this a bad thing? Because unless you place your head/eye along the exact optical center of the rifle scope, the reticle will appear in a different position, and you will not be aiming where you want to hit.

To illustrate how this works, pick an object across the room and hold your thumb up under it. Then, move your head back and forth, and the object will move in relation to your thumb.

Next, extend your arm and place your thumb (almost touching) over an object on your computer screen. Then, again, move your head from side to side.
In this instance, the object will not move in relation to your thumb. This is an example of no parallax because the optical plane of the image/target and your thumb/reticle are on almost the exact same focal plane.

Rimfire Scopes Explained

Fixed Parallax Scopes

Fortunately, rifle scope manufacturers set the parallax based on how they think those scopes will be used. Because of this, most shooters are never exposed to excessive parallax.

For example, Leupold sets the parallax of most of their riflescopes to a setting they expect to be used on centerfire rifles at 150 yards. This reasonable compromise distance will show only minimal parallax from about 100 to around 250 yards.

Scopes with Adjustable Parralax

With high magnification rifle scopes like they believe will be used to take shots over a wide range of distances, like from say 50 to out beyond 500 yards, Leupold equips these riflescopes with a parallax adjustment.

This allows the shooter to adjust the parallax so the focal plane the target is seen on, is closer to the focal plane that the reticle is viewed on. This can eliminate parallax from around 50 yards out to infinity.

Rimfire Parallax

Rimfire rifle scopes are most often used at distances between 25 and 75 yards. So, on their rimfire rifle scopes Leupold sets the parallax at 60 yards. The only problem with this is that the closer distance the parallax is set, the greater the parallax will be as the distance to the target increases.

If you're shooting at 150 yards with a rifle scope that has the parallax set at 60 yards, you'll see excessive parallax. In some cases, enough to alter the point of aim as much as two inches. To aim correctly at long distance, you will have to position your eye perfectly along the optical center of the rifle scope.

Some shooters will mount a centerfire rifle scope to their rimfire rifle. Then, they struggle to shoot with precision at close distances because of excessive parallax. (Most rifle scopes intended for centerfire rifles have their parallax set at 100 to 150 yards.)

If you want to use a high-quality centerfire rifle scope on a rimfire rifle, that's fine. It's also understandable that many rimfire rifle scopes are of lesser quality. However, if you're going to using a centerfire rifles scope on a rimfire rifle, it's best to select one that has an adjustable parallax feature.

Rimfire Scope Options

With two new 2022 rifle scopes, this parallax issue becomes very important. Both Bushnell and Tract are now offering rimfire scopes with trajectory compensating reticles. This is a good thing if you want to shoot accurately up close and at a distance with a 22 rifle.

However, the Bushnell 3-9X40 illuminated reticle Rimfire rifle scope ($119.99) is parallax free at about 50 yards, and the Tract 22 Fire 4-12X40 ($244.00) rifle scope is parallax free at about 100 yards.

This means with the Bushnell rifle scope you'll have parallax at a distance, and with the Tract rifle scope, you'll have parallax up close. Both are nice rimfire rifle scopes, but since neither has an adjustable parallax, you'll have to decide which will best suit your needs.

Alternatively, a rimfire rifle scope like the Meopta Optika5 2-10X42 PA SFP ($399.00) is parallax adjustable from 10 yards to infinity. It will be a much better fit on a rimfire rifle if you want the most parallax-free precision up close and at a distance. Of course, you'll have to pay more for this added versatility.

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