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October 24, 2007

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Badge of Honor?

I was at the range the other day, mounting a scope on a rifle, when I started talking to a deer hunter next to me about eye relief. It didn’t take long for us to start trading stories about eyebrow cuts. He told me that years ago he inherited his grandfather’s Model 37 equipped with a scope that had only three inches of eye relief.

Obviously, his grandfather knew how to use it, but the first time this guy shot the gun--at that time he used only iron sights on his slug gun--the scope slammed into his eyebrow and opened up a nasty cut. Did he get any sympathy from his deer camp buddies? Nope. Just peals of laughter.

Years ago I was trying to fit a bargain-basement scope onto a new .270. No matter how much I fiddled with it, the scope didn’t quite provide enough eye relief. But because I didn’t want to spend any more money--or admit I bought the wrong scope--I pronounced the fit correct and pulled the trigger. Next thing I know, blood is pouring down my face. But did I call it a day? No. I decided I was going to make that scope fit. I fiddled with it some more…and took another shot. That opened up a second crescent-shaped cut on my eyebrow.

By this time, the guys at the range figure I’m an idiot. An older gentleman came up to me and politely told me to “remove that piece of #@**” and put on a real scope. So I invested in a Leupold, and in all the years since the scope has never bitten me. Lesson learned.

In some ways, the crescent cut is a badge of honor, sort of like a Heidelberg dueling scar. It happens to all of us at some point. But two in a day? I heard about that for a long time. So, let’s hear from you about scopes that have bitten back.

Slaton White



Luckily I've never been "bitten" by a scope. I've been brushed a couple of times (once fairly hard) but never cut.

I learned when I got "brushed" to get a scope with some eye relief. I shoot primarily slug guns and muzzeloaders so I look for scopes with 4" of eye relief.

One thing for those who don't know this. Many manufacturers measure eye relief from the ocular lens and not the ocular lens housing.

So a scope that lists 3.5" of eye relief may only have 3.25" inches of actual eye relief from the housing.

Some might say what's the big deal. How about a 1/4" deep cut in your forehead, that's all.


Dennis L. Crabtrey II

I bought a Ruger 458 Lott a few days before deploying to Iraq this year. That little monster wanted blood something fierce and it got it, although not from me. It banged me HARD on it's second shot, but no blood. It got my buddies dad, over the left eye (he's right handed). Guess he wasn't hanging on tight enough b/c it really got away from him. Glad he didn't drop it. HE WAS SOOOO EMBARASSED!!!

Richard Paradis

I fired my rifle from a rest a couple of decades ago and got one of those nice semi-circular cuts by my eyebrow. After the pain, blood flow and humiliation subsided a bit I got back in action and fired again. Exactly the same result.

Now in my mid-sixties and hunting with the same group of guys I get my "badge of honor" reexamined each Fall with some really cute comments thought up in the offseason.

I will likely go to my grave with the two closely-spaced semicircular marks on my forehead.

Ralph the Rifleman

My experiences at the range has seen very little "scope biting" incidents other then by green horns taking advise from their pro hunting friends, or shooting a gun they have never used before.Even cheaper scopes, that limit your sight picture, are usable just as long as you don't crawl up the stock to try and cheat the scope Gods!
I have a 3x9Cheapy scope on my .270 that serves me very nicely with no scope bite;granted it is not subjected to very harsh conditions but it has been doing the job for over 20 years..and counting!

Tom Obuhanych

I fired my .416 Newton (much like a .416 Taylor sans belt) with a scope
that later measured 2.5 inches eye relief...a bit short. The 350 gr. bullets did OK, but when I tried the 400 gr with more recoil, the scope bit me between the eyes, also must have not held it good on the bench,
luckily it wasn't serious but bled like hell & wouldn't stop for awhile. Lesson learned about better eye relief & more care.


My experience tells me that the cheaper the scope, the less eye relief, and the more pain inflicted upon the shooter. And, in my case, my nose successfully protects my eyebrow from taking the brunt of the recoil.


Last year just before deer season, I bought a beanbag rest to use when sighting in my rifle. Unfortunately, where I was shooting was a bit of an upslope, and the beanbag left the gun considerably lower than the vise everyone else was using. That meant I tilted my head further forward to get down to see through the glass, which put my eyebrow within range of the scope.


I tried again later in the day to "do it right." Fortunately, I was stupid enough to do exactly the same thing, expecting different results, so it hit me in the same spot. So I've still only got the one scar.


Christmas day, 1977-got a new Baker climbing treestand, my first, practiced in the back yard, took it to the woods. Close to dark, had a 6 point behind the tree, and I was sitting on the platform. No chance to stand and turn. Cranked around as far as I could, had to put the Marlin 336 (35 Rem) butt in the crook of my right elbow to reach around the tree. Scrooched my eye down on the old Redfield Widefield 4x and shot. At that crazy angle, the scope swung an arc across my forehead, but I was way too excited to feel much pain. Scrambled down the tree as fast as I could with the unfamiliar stand, and began looking for sign to follow the deer. Using a flashlight, I soon found a large drop of blood, then another, then another, kept tracking about 100 yards, finding frequent single drops of blood. Had I only winged that deer? Standing there, confused, and saw a drop of blood hit the ground right in the flashlight beam-- I was tracking myself!!! What a dumbass!! I went back, started over, soon found a real blood trail- about 35 yards into the thick stuff I found my buck. Still have the scar. I don't believe 6 inches of eye relief would have helped with that weird position.