Neither, its the quality of the glass and the coatings placed on it. With that being said, a larger objective will give you a larger field of view at a given power but the higher power will make the target look closer to you. So, it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish.
For most deer hunting situations a 3-9 is just fine. The objective diameter is more of a personal choice. I personally don't like 50mm bells because I have to mount them too high and I don't get a comfortable cheek weld on the stock. Other people like them just fine and don't have this issue. You may want to shoulder some friends rifles and look through their scopes and see what you like best.
What Range Junkie said. A 3-9X40mm is, in my opinion, unbeatable for hunting deer. About 6 years ago, maybe, I purchased a new Model 70 Winchester Featherweight, and topped it with a 3-9X40mm Bushnell Elite 3200. I've tried several scopes both before and since, and I would say for the price, the Elite series is tops. If you're feeling rich, go for a higher up series than the 3200, but the 3200 is just fine the way it is.
Here's the thing about scopes. Believe it or not, often when you're in the field hunting, you will NOT touch the zoom on your scope. Occasionally if I'm having a bush pushed my way, and I know I'm looking at a shot at least 150 yards away, I'll crank my scope up to, maybe 6 power ahead of time. But usually, you'll set your scope on 3 power, and forget about it. This gives you enough zoom with absolutely no problems whatsoever, out to 150 (or even 200) yards without worrying about it. You WILL want to keep your scope on 3 power, because if you end up spotting a deer through the bushes only 45 yards away, you'll need all the field of view you can get. And contrary to what many new hunters think, the vast majority of your shooting will be done within 150 yards.
A 40mm lens is quite good, because as Range Junkie mentioned, they are low enough so that they remain comfortable to use, and offer several minutes more shooting time in the day than the naked eye anyway. Also, they are often considerably cheaper than the 50mm and bigger lenses. That being said, I do have a 10-40X56mm scope on my varmint gun. I only ever use the 40 power on the range, and only then if I'm feeling quite daring, but most of the time I use it on around 15 power. This is just about perfect for me for shooting at coyotes 200 yards out, which is often what I'm doing on the farm here. The 56mm is also nice because as long as it's not pitch black outside, I can shoot coyotes even at night without much problem (only on 10 power though...anything higher zoom than that and it gets too dark to be sure enough where I'm shooting) Also, my .223 has a very tall cheek pad on it, and the 56mm is actually quite comfortable to use with it.
Just depends what you're looking for, but the 3-9X40mm will not steer you wrong in nearly any "resonable" hunting situation.
3-9x40 is, in my opiniion the most versatile scope on the market. Your need for objective size and power is more or less dependent on your hunting conditions. They can get pretty specialized. For deer hunting, 3-9 is all you will ever need. Objective size (40 or 50 mm) is a matter of preference. I like the larger objective for the lowlight application, but where I am, legal shooting time is as long as you can shoot without artificial light. If you have set shooting hours, it becomes less important.
I'm probably going to be in the vast MINORITY here but I like a fixed power scope. I've been hunting for 50 years, all over the United States and Canada. I have never felt the need for anything more than my 4X Weaver that I put on my Sporterized 03 Springfield (.30-06) back in 1963. I've tried the 2-7, the 3-9, the 4-12 and have a 4-16 on a .22 Magnum. With ALL of them I've always kept the power ring on 4X and have had NO problems hitting what I was shooting at.
The variables, as nice as they are, are also heavier than a fixed 4X or 6X. Sometimes by a considerable amount. I always found that I wanted less power, not more. The longest shot I've ever taken on an animal was around 300 yards, perhaps a touch less. It was a nice 5X5 bull elk in the mountains of Colorado when I lived there. I had no problems with the 4X Weaver.
As I get older I require less and less power in a scope. I no longer take long shots. Man, I've gotta drag those critters out and I kinda like to get 'em close in. I live in Michigan now and if I was in the market for a new scope for my Springfield I'd grab a 2 3/4X scope and call it good.
I agree that 4 or 6 power is about all you'll need to accurately shoot a large animal like a deer or elk, but at the range, when trying to develop some loads, I need my 3-9x40 scopes cranked all the way up. My little Weaver K4 (which I've recently swapped onto a Marlin 336 lever) works hard for me just trying to get in the bullseye center at 100yards.
I have two Leupold VXI 3-9x40s on my 30- and 25-06 rifles. On my 22-250, I installed a Nikkon Buckmasters 6-18x40SF and I use it on 16 or 18 all the time at the range.
So...for in the field, the lower power settings will work fine. At the range (where you'll develop the loads to be used in the field, and you must know where they're going to hit at any given distance), I think you'll use the magnification.
If I were you, I'd go with the Buckmasters or step up to the 3200 Elite line in a 40mm objective.
Almost any scope will provide you with a better and faster aiming system than iron sights. If you have a deer rifle you don't need to use really high magnifications. 3-9x is popular and probably the largest you need. The 40 mm objective, or larger, is rarely needed in the North American hunting systems, unless you are allowed to hunt at night.
Personally I use either a 1.4-4.5x, or a 2.5-8x scope on my rifles, because they provide superb aiming systems and do not overbalance the rifle. I find that useful as I walk a lot with my deer rifles.
i can't add onto what has already been said in terms of practical deer hunting optics application. well put by everyone. i will add since no one else has yet. after selecting your optics, take some time to pick out a good quality set of rings and bases, DO NOT use see thru's even if your rifle has sites on it. also as mentioned above you really for the most part leave your scope down at 3 or 4 while hunting, when you get some more cash, buy a decent quality set of Bino's to use for looking way out there. and buy a bino buddy which is a shoulder harness that keeps the bino's against your chest, with no strap around your neck for comfort and will keep the bino's available at any time but out of the way at the same time when you go to shoot. good luck and let us know what you pick out.
hunting is different all over this country..due to that.. it just depends on terrain an
rifle choice.. no need to put a 4-12 on a marlin 30 30..but it helps me much shooting 3006
out to 400 yrds..its really just a matter of getting to know your gun an scope.. jmo slim
Some good advise here. Most people over scope their big game guns. As stated above, keep the scope set on the lowest setting while doing spot and stalk as you never know when you may surprise game at VERY close range. Personally my favorite scope is the 1.75 X 6 (2 X 7 in the less expensive configuration) this power gives you a large field of view for those heavy cover/close up shots and 6 or 7 power is all you will ever need to shoot 400+ yard.
There is no need for the 50mm objectives in the lower power scopes. In the USA big game hunting is illegal when it get to dark to shoot without artificial light anyway.
As for a fixed power, I like to have the LARGE field of view at the 1.75 X over the 4X or 6X. There are countless times in my 50+ years of hunting when I or other I knew spooked game at close range and put the fixed scope up and all you see is 'fur'. At 1.75 or 2 X this will not happen. You will be able to place your shot where you want it, not just at 'fur'.
I like 3x9s with an objecive in the 32 to 42mm range. I like 2x7s better. For hunting applications, you almost always want to dial the scope to the lowest magnification in case you need to make a close or moving shot. There will be time to crank it up if the target is out there a ways and you think you need more power. 95% of the deer I have killed have been with the scope set on the lowest mag it has.
Someone mentioned fixed scopes. I really think more and more this is the way to go. Less moving parts to break and fewer places for light to be diminished and gas to leak out. You get more quality for your money too. For big game hunting, a high end fixed 4x is all that I would ever need. I have a Nikon Monarch 4x. That is great glass!
As far as Nikon variable powered scopes go, for $299.95 you can go past the two models you mentioned (in quality) right now at Opticsplanet.net and get a 2x8x32 Monarch. That is high quality glass and the price (post holiday) will never be better. It is the perfect deer hunting scope.
Yeah, I have heard nothing but good things about those Marlin bolt guns. It sounds like you got a sweet deal. For that price, I would likely buy one myself. Seriously, don't settle for cheap glass. Get yourself a good scope and you wont be sorry. Leupold VX-IIs, Nikon Monarch, Bushnell 4200, Sightron S2 would all be a good choice. On the slightly cheaper side, I have a couple Burris Fullfields and a Weaver fixed K-Series that have treated me well.
Man o' man. You will get bombarded with so many opinions here that "blood will shoot out your eyes".
Soooooo.......I'd just better throw in my $.02 cents worth. Firstly,read everything that you can find on scope termanology. Then study the different offerings from the different manufacturers. It's very important to keep in mind your application. What gun will the scope be mounted on ?? What caliber ?? What will it be used to hunt ?? At what range ??
The most(by far) popular scope on the market is the 3x9. Probably a 40 or 44mm would be my guess. What brand?? I won't get into that but.......will say buy the best(usually the most costly)scope that you can afford. Why ?? It will probably be the best. I will say though,that you will probably have to spend $300+ to get a well made scope,with a good guarantee. I do not own any 2K$ scopes.....BUT.....I do not own any $79.95 scopes either.
Ultimately what your needs in a scope is,will be up to you. Anyone that offers you their opinion on a scope should first ask(and have answered)the questions in my second paragraph.
Stand by for a flood of opinions. But....that's a good thing. -----pruhdlr
The most important aspects of a good scope are optical quality and repeatable settings. I am now buying fixed power scopes for two reasons. One is that I always seem to have my variables set on the lowest power when hunting. I use them like fixed power scopes, so I might as well have fixed power scopes.
The second reason is that I had always accepted the theory that I would hunt with my scope on low power and crank it up if I got a long shot. One day I actually tested the point of impact with one of my variables when I did that and found that the POI at full power was not the same POI at the lowest power. The POI changed from max to min. zoom. That scope became a fixed power scope at that point.
I have never found any problem shooting big game at 4X. I have never shot anything over 350 yards, and I don't think I ever will, so that is enough power for me. Fixed power scopes are simple, reliable, small, light, and cheaper, they work for me.
A good scope contributes a tremendous amount to the enjoyment of shooting the gun. Get a good one.
pruhdlr is right, but the thing is, right now (post season and post xmas) you can get a $300 scope for less if you look. For example, you can get a Weaver Grand Slam 3x10x40 right now from Natchez for $260.
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