July 3rd, 2021

Eye on Optics — How Riflescopes and Spotting Scopes Work

Accurateshooter.com optics rifle scope Swarovski

For many years, the Swarovski Optik website featured a blog with interesting technical articles. (Unfortunately some of these articles have been taken offline.) In the “On Target” series of blog stories, Swarovski provided a handy explanation of how optics systems work, with exploded diagrams of rifle scopes, spotting scopes, and binoculars. We’ve reproduced the key diagrams here. CLICK HERE for Swarovski On Target Archive.

Accurateshooter.com optics rifle scope Swarovski

Scope Terminology
Focusing Lens
The focusing lens is an adjustable lens inside the optical system for focusing the image at different distances…. In the case of rifle scopes, apart from focusing, the focusing lens also facilitates parallax compensation.

Objective Lens
The objective lens is the optical system’s front lens group facing the object and operates like a converging lens. Its purpose is to display an image which, at the image plane, appears upside down, laterally transposed and reduced, and which is subsequently displayed correctly again by the reversal system.

Diopter Adjustment
For rifle scopes, the reticle can be focused using the diopter adjustment on the eyepiece, thereby correcting any visual impairment. [Editor’s Note: Movable eyepiece diopter adjustment is not offered on all rifle scopes. It is a useful feature on Swarovski and other premium scopes. This allows shooters who need eyeglasses to get a sharply focus image even without wearing corrective lenses. Of course shooters should always wear ANSI-certified eye protection. With the diopter, folks who need correction can use inexpensive, non-Rx safety eyewear instead of expensive prescription safety glasses.]

Reversal System
The purpose of the reversal system is to reverse the image by means of prisms in binoculars and telescopes, and lenses in rifle scopes….The lens reversal system is needed in rifle scopes to control the variable magnification and move the exit pupil[.]

Resource tip by EdLongRange. We welcome reader submissions.

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