Many of the products below provide preventative measures to counter the British climate, while others rectify a problem after it has occurred.
By Bruce Potts
Thursday, 15 March 2007
A clean lens can mean the difference between a hit and a miss when you're out stalking in the field. Her we offer some tips on top products to help take care of your rifle scope.
If performance is to be relied upon then, as a general rule, ensuring your rifle is in tip-top shape externally and internally should be a matter of course, but how many of us spend as much time on our scopes and optical equipment as we do our rifles?
I know I pay no real attention to my scopes other than a quick clean to remove any raindrops or finger smears on the lens. I guess the fact that most good scopes state they are waterproof and shock-proof means I wrongly assume they need little pampering.
When I clean my rifle I take great care to achieve a spotless job, so to redress the balance I recently pulled together a range of cleaning equipment aimed solely at sporting optics. Many of the products provide preventative measures to counter the British climate, while others rectify a problem after it has occurred. On this basis I have split up the equipment into two main sections: preventative and cleaners.
Prevention better than cure?
Most scopes come with some form of lens cover. These can range from two separate plastic cups with see-through inserts held together by elasticated cord to screw-in lens covers or rubberised, stretchable, one-piece units. In my view, the plastic cups and cord covers offer the sportsperson very little - you can bet, if it is raining and you leave them on to stop rain coming in contact with the lens surface, that this will be when a deer or fox presents itself. As you fumble to remove or, worse still, try to peer through the poor plastic inserts, your frantic movements spook your quarry.
There certainly will be no time to remove screw-in caps, though rubberised one-piece covers go some way to solving the problem. In this case, on the edge of each rubber cap, front and rear, is a flap or tab that, when pulled, releases the stretch rubber from around the eyepiece or objective lens. It pings off quickly, certainly a lot quicker than the normal covers, and, being a stretchy rubber, seals the ends of the scope from moisture, dust or debris.
The only thing to be mindful of, in the heat of the moment, is that it will fall when you remove it and could become fouled. I usually place a rubber band around the mid-section of the scope, near the scope rings, which prevents the cover from falling off the rifle, but still allows the lens to be uncovered. It's a simple and relatively cheap option.
In a similar vein there is a product called the Scope Coat, which is a stretchable cover that shields the scope, but is made from a stretchable neoprene material that offers much more comprehensive coverage. There are three sizes available to cope with most scope lengths and the nice thing is that all the lens ends, scope body and turrets are covered not only from rain, but also from knocks and scratches.
Again, just tug on the eyepiece end and the Scope Coat can be peeled off and the shot taken. Yes, it's a bit fiddly, but a lot better than no protection. Priced at £9.99 it offers good all-round scope protection.
You can leave your cap on
Your best bet is to obtain a system that stays permanently attached to the scope ends, but that can speedily be opened without spooking your quarry. The options here are very good pop-up lens covers: either Polar Caps, from Weaver, or Flip Open, from Butler Creek. They are similar systems, offering a huge range of sizes to accommodate any scope made today.
The Butler Creek system uses a tough, black plastic lens-end cover sized to match your scope, with a flip-up hinged front section. On the objective lens part there are two protruding tabs. Push one with the thumb of the hand supporting the rifle and the spring-hinged cover pops open instantly; at the same time the thumb on the pistol grip hand pushes down on a red button, thus opening the eyepiece cover.
This allows instant viewing through the scope with absolutely minimal movement of the hands. It also means the lens covers are closed throughout the stalk for maximum protection, only needing to be opened at the instant of the shot. A set will cost you £20 or so, depending on lens sizes.
The Weaver Polar Caps differ in that the main body of the lens cover is stretchable rubber to fit a differing diameter of lens, and the pop-up cover is made from a polarised see-through plastic lens. In this scenario, in an emergency you can see through the scope without popping open the covers, but for best clarity the covers should be open. Again priced at £20 or so, they offer a good alternative to Butler Creek's caps.
Austria's Swarovski, famous for scopes, makes a great all-in-one lens cleaning kit. It comes in the form of a green cordura-type pouch, with pockets to hold the lens-cleaning fluid bottle, lens brush pen, moistened lens wipes and packet of lens tissues. Retailing at £19.95, it contains all you need and has a handy belt strap. For a quick clean you remove the dust with the brush, akin to a lipstick applicator, and then clean the lens with the moist wipe provided, using a circular action and starting from the centre of the lens, working your way out.
For a more thorough clean, again brush away the dust or dirt, then place a few drops of the lens cleaning fluid on the lens tissue and clean the lens surface in the same circular manner as before. This is a very useful kit, which takes all the hassle out of keeping your scopes clean and can easily be stored away in a pocket or on the belt.
In a similar vein, Leupold produces a Lens Pen system, a double-end application in the shape of a pen - no surprise there - which is a brush at one end and a non-fluid lens-cleaner at the other. Priced at £9.95, it represents good value for money; it is easy to use and keep in a coat pocket until needed. To apply, simply slide the green barrel on the body of the pen to reveal the dust brush, and remove the cap on the other end to expose the lens cleaning tip. It is cone-shaped with a chamois insert that uses a non-fluid-based cleaning agent. Use a circular motion to remove smudges and fingerprints in a trice.
Another handy piece of kit is the Bushwear Spudz. This is a cleaning cloth stitched into a protective elasticated waterproof pouch measuring no more than 2in by 1½in with the Bushwear logo on it. You pull out the cloth, which is a triangular lint-free fabric, clean your lens and pop it back in. Because there is an ABS clip attached, it makes for easy location on any rifle sling or clothing, so is always handy. This is a useful item to have with you - how often are you fumbling to clear a lens on a stalk, especially in the Highlands? At £5.99, it will not break the bank and will become an essential item in any stalker's kit bag.
The perfect fit photo kit
Last but not least are the photographic equipment items. These can be bought as single items, such as brushes and cloths, or bought as kits. I use a company called Speedgraphic for all my photographic supplies, as it carries a vast array of items. Hama makes a kit of brush, paper and cleaning fluid, which, at only £4.95, gives you all you need to keep your rifle scope in order.
The brush has a bellow-formed end that, when squeezed, forms a jet of air when brushing, which is very handy. I also carry a small 85ml canister of Kenair; for £4.95, this is an aerosol-type dust remover with CFC-free gas that blasts away dust and debris from the lens surface. It's a great product, which I also use for removing grit and crud from bolt raceways, mounting dovetails and gummed-up rifle magazines.
Finally, for a really good clean or scope service when I return home, or when the rifle is being serviced, I use Kodak lens cleaner and Kodak lens cleaning paper. Bought as a pair, they cost only £6.25. The 37ml fluid and 50 sheets of soft lint-free tissues last for ages and give the lens surface a really good clean.
Regardless of the product you choose, scopes are expensive items and deserve better treatment than a quick clean in the field with a scrunched up old tissue or shirt tail. Treated right, the lenses on your scope, binoculars or range finders will perform to their intended optimum. As with your rifle, it only takes a few minutes, but it is time well spent.
- More useful than you think, a jet of gas by Kenair removes dust
- Use moist wipes or lint-free cloth, like Swarovski's product
- The Spudz lens cloth, intended for use when out in the field
- A quick pop-up lens cap keeps out dirt and rain very well
- Made from neoprene, the Scope Coat covers the whole scope
- The Butler Creek eyepiece with its quick-acting red plunger
- When stalking in foul weather, some form of lens protection is mandatory
- The Butler Creek objective lens cap is speedy to operate and easy on the wallet
- The Swarovski all-in-one kit is a great item when it comes to taking care of your scope
- The Leupold lens pen is a quick and convenient brush and lens cleaner
Conservationists are urging the British public to follow the s... Read more
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