What do the numbers mean when looking at the specifications of a scope? What does the word scope mean? Let's first have a look at what the word scope means. The word scope comes from a Greek word which means to see or to look.
In our everyday life, the word scope that we use was derived from the word telescope, at least that is the most common deduction. So, we understand then that a scope is something to see with or to look through to see something. We can freely assume that the word scope means that it is something that will enhance our natural sight and allow us to see better.
The word scope we use in modern-day context is, therefore, mostly used in conjunction with a rifle, and that means that it is a scope that you mount on top of a rifle to enhance your sight for more accurate shooting. Now that we have determined that, let's take a look at the numbers mentioned before the word scope.
What do the numbers actually mean? To accurately explain the numbers mentioned, we will have to investigate the meaning of optic magnification and how it is applied in rifle scopes.
Magnification takes place when something that is viewed from a distance is enlarged through the manipulation of light through glass lenses. This makes the object look bigger than when looked at with the naked eye - hence the word magnify. In other words, it means to bring the image closer.
Because of the use of glass and light, we labeled it optical magnification. It is also defined as the ability of a lens to magnify, or, in simple terms, to make it look bigger. It is not necessary to go into too much technical detail about optical science, because we only want to know what the numbers mean.
Explanation in simple terms what the numbers stand for
The number before the x in the equation is the number of times the image is made larger than when viewed with the naked eye.
To explain this further, the 3 stands for 3 times the size if observed by the naked eye. In other words, it means 3 times enlarged or magnified. It also tells us that the magnification power of the scope or lenses in the scope is times 3.
This means that an object of any size can be enlarged to form a larger image, in this case, 3 times larger. This is only an entry-level scope judging by the specifications, but it is not necessarily that bad. If you are following moving objects through the scope, it is actually better to have lower magnification.
In standard scope specifications, the second number or the number that appears after the x explains the size of the front lens or the objective lens, which is where the light enters the scope. That number tells us the diameter of the objective lens.
It simply means that the front lens lets in the light, and, the bigger the front lens or objective lens, the more light is let through. The more light that is let through the objective lens, the better the image quality will be. That is the basics about the meaning of the numbers appearing on the scope.
More often than not, you will find numbers that are written on the side of the scope that has more digits and is written like this: 3-9x20, or something similar. That only means that the numbers appearing before the x explains that the scope power ranges from 3 times magnification, which is the smallest magnification of the scope, to 9 times magnification, which is the highest extent of magnification of the scope.
Higher numbers always mean better magnification, and, of course, on the objective lens side of the equation, the higher the number means the larger in diameter the lens will be. The larger the diameter, the more light is allowed through the lens, which in turn means better image quality.
All of this being considered, the better the scope is, the more you will pay for it and vice versa. There is also another way to refer to the strength of magnification of a scope, and that is to simply multiply the magnification of the viewing lens by that of the objective lens - hence the number.
For instance, x1000 is sometimes found on a scope. That simply means that the magnification of the viewing lens is times 10, and that of the objective lens is 100.
So, what does 3x9 scope mean? It is, in essence, the work of the scope to bring the image you are viewing closer, so that you may observe it better through the eyepiece than with your naked eye. Therefore, it is important for anybody who wants to buy a scope to understand the numbers and their application.