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Discussion Starter #1
Just wondering out loud here, but why does the 3-9x scope seem to be the most popular magnification of all time?

I've got a nice old Redfield 1.75-5x for woods hunting. I put a Weaver GS 2-8x on my Grendel AR (for hogs).
On my .22s and longer range rifles I prefer a max mag of 16-24x.

To me a 3-9x seems odd. 3x may be too much for close work and the 9x really isn't a lot at distance.

For those 3-9 lovers, what caliper of rifle have you mounted them on and what ranges are they good for?

And BTW I own four 3-9x scopes and they're just for general purpose shooting.
 

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Randy I don’t know that the 3x9 is as popular now as they once were. I remember back in the early 80’s there were only a handful of scope manufacturers that the “average Joe” could afford to purchase from. The 3x9 seemed like the logical choice back then. That’s just my opinion though.

I still run two 3x9’s, one on my 700 chambered in 30-06 and one on my 77 V/T chambered in 25-06, (I’m planning on replacing it with at least an 18x though). I run both those scopes out to 500yds on steel with no problem, (provided I have an accurate firing solution). I’ve taken a doe at 260 and a buck at 11, both at 4x.

But anymore I’d rather have more power on the top end, 18x minimum.
 

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I still think the 3-9x power range is perfect for the shooting most people do. I have scopes with higher power on my varmint and target rifles to take advantage of their precision and accuracy. I have a 1.5-4.5x on an AR-15 to have speed and wide field of view up close, while still being able to get accurate hits at 300yds. The 3-9x is fine on my deer rifles and my 10/22's (one is actually 2-8x) for general shooting and hunting. The rimfires are generally always used inside of 150yds. 8 to 9 power works well for that. The terrain and vegetation where I hunt means going prone with a bipod is not practical. Shooting off sticks or the rail of a deer stand limits my "confident" range to about 250yds. I can place a bullet well with 7-8x without seeing my heartbeat make my reticle bounce. I know long range hunting and tactical shooting are all the rage these days, but I'll bet most of the rounds are still being shot at targets 100yds away. I see people carrying rifle cases into indoor ranges with 25 or 50yd maximum distances all the time. You dont need a 5-25x56mm scope for that!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Randy I don’t know that the 3x9 is as popular now as they once were. I remember back in the early 80’s there were only a handful of scope manufacturers that the “average Joe” could afford to purchase from. The 3x9 seemed like the logical choice back then. That’s just my opinion though.

I still run two 3x9’s, one on my 700 chambered in 30-06 and one on my 77 V/T chambered in 25-06, (I’m planning on replacing it with at least an 18x though). I run both those scopes out to 500yds on steel with no problem, (provided I have an accurate firing solution). I’ve taken a doe at 260 and a buck at 11, both at 4x.

But anymore I’d rather have more power on the top end, 18x minimum.
Yes Mark, at my age I remember that as recently as 40 years ago anything bigger than 3-9x was called a "target scope". In '79 I bought 3 scopes: two Redfield Widefields (1.75-5x and 2-7x) and a great steel-tube Weaver K4 4x (that my son still uses!).
Back then we didn't have so many brands and the 1000 scopes available now. I think the 3-9x and 4x were the most popular.
 

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Before people use sat in trees all day to hunt anything over a 9 magnification was not very practical. You could turn up to 9 while on watch far a drive along a hedgerow and bump down to 3 when on the drive in the timber.

Today you can sit in your tree with pre planned shooting lanes and bump up to 12,16,24, or even 80 if you have the big bucks.. (some pun intended)
 

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The 3-9x is a general everyday use scope, i have 2 of them one on a Marlin 22 mag and the other on a Ruger 10/22.

I have a Burris fixed power i don't recall the power but i used it on the Marlin 22 mag for squirrel hunting. Now that i do more target shooting the 3-9x helps these eyes. Would love a higher power scope but the $$$ amount makes it bit unattainable.
 

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Oddly enough, I have never owned the classic 3-9 scope. Because of where I hunt, I liked the always the bridesmaid never the bride 2-7. So on my hunting guns, being a Leupold guy, I straddled the difference and have had extremely good luck with their 2.5-8 vari-x 3 & it’s replacement, the vx-3. So much so that it sits on 4 of my hunting rifles. Bought my first when I was 16 scrimping and saving for my first centerfire rifle, Rem 700 in .30-06. That rifle and scope has been all over the country and the only time I have wanted more magnification has been at the range. That scope range has been just fine for whitetails, mulies, antelope, and elk on various rifles. On my range toys I skipped over the 3-9 and went to the 4-5-14 or higher. Another reason the 3-9 is popular is it’s probably the most useful range in the typical 3x zoom range. Sure, advancements have led to higher zoom ranges. Accordingly I have outfitted three of my newer rifles with vx-6HD’s to take advantage of the broader magnification range, but more for the range than actual hunting. The magnification range all start with 1-, 2-, or 3-. Today, I think people have a tendency to over-magnify and to not match the scope and range to the cartridge or rifle. Sure, it’s not my money and everyone is free to do as they wish, but I have seen some odd mismatches (in my opinion which is worth exactly what you all paid for it) such as I have seen three 450 BM’s at the gun club (yup I live in Michigan’s slug zone) wearing 12x-14x top of the magnification range scopes as an example or the big target scopes on ultra lightweight rifles. But I also think of all the old-timers, many of which are not with us anymore, that I was privileged to share a campfire with. Many of them would turn their nose up at anything higher than a 3-9 and would even look at that with suspicion and they have accounted for more game than I can ever hope to bag.

I know, long winded, but the 3-9 was the standard cause it just worked and was a great compromise. You might wish the 3x was lower sometimes but it was workable, and you might wish the 9x was higher sometimes, but it was also very workable.


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3-9X40 is popular because it's a good all around scope. It works well in most hunting situations. Higher power would be better for an antelope at 400+ yards and a low fixed power would be better against a Cape Buffalo at 20 yards. However, for most hunting done in north America a 3-9X40 is a good choice.

Most hunters don't have specific rifles, specific calibers and specific scopes for every species of game they hunt. Gun writers do but most of us have to rely on one or two all purpose rile/scope combos for all our hunting. It only makes sense our scopes will be of a more generic use rather than a specific use.

I guess the bottom line is 3-9X40 is popular and ubiquitous because it works. I prefer 2-7X but in reality there's no practical difference between the two. The main advantage of the 2-7X is it's a slightly lighter and more compact. I'm still not getting rid of my 3-9X40 scopes though. They've been with me for decades and helped put a lot of game in the freezer.
 

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I have more 3x9x40's and 3x9x50's than I can count. Its a great all around scope, perfer the 50mm in darker environments, but have these scopes moumted on all, sorts of calibers and actions. For precision work on my mini 14 target I have a 4x12x44. The 243 target ar has a 6x24x50 fine crosshair, and 50 bmg has a first focal plane illuminated 6x24x50 for long range work. However anytime you go above 12 magnification you increase mirage, just a downside. Maybe you will find the answer you seek.
 

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I just put a 3x9 on my 30-06 last week. When I started hunting prairie dogs I was using a fixed 4 power. That was not the best choice so I up graded to a 3x9.So to answer your question it worked well and I pretty much stick with it.
 

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Great all around scope for all types of shooting. Don't have one as mine are smaller or larger.
 

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It's not by accident that 3~9X scopes became so popular. As it turns out, most high power rifles have a trajectory that is pretty flat for the first 225 yards then gravity takes over and causes bullets to drop at a much faster rate. As such, the usable range of most high power rifles is about 225 yards to hit the kill zone reliably so it only makes sense for a scope to have a similar range. The shooting industry established a "25 yard naked eye view" back when scopes first started becoming popular so a 3~9X has a usable range of 75 to 225 yards …. which pretty much covers most hunting scenarios.

Further, scopes with magnification higher than 9X usually have an adjustable objective lens or side dial for parallax correction. This tends to complicate things when you try to make parallax corrections while hunting and end up losing the shot. It's very hard to hold a rifle still enough to keep the crosshairs from dancing at 9X, let alone any higher magnification.
 

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I am brand new to this forum but am 74 yrs old and have been shooting all my life and think the answer to your question is simply the fact that back in the late 50s thru early 70s a 3-9 scope was the max that was available except for dedicated target scopes, and just became the go to desired scope. There is a world of stuff that is common today that we never dreamed of sixty years ago.
 

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A long time ago, I put 3-9x40 Leupold VarX-I's on my two main deer rifles. They were inexpensive, and worked well for the closer range shooting I did. They are both still on the same rifles. They're just a handy all around hunting scope.
 

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It's not by accident that 3~9X scopes became so popular. As it turns out, most high power rifles have a trajectory that is pretty flat for the first 225 yards then gravity takes over and causes bullets to drop at a much faster rate. As such, the usable range of most high power rifles is about 225 yards to hit the kill zone reliably so it only makes sense for a scope to have a similar range. The shooting industry established a "25 yard naked eye view" back when scopes first started becoming popular so a 3~9X has a usable range of 75 to 225 yards …. which pretty much covers most hunting scenarios.

Further, scopes with magnification higher than 9X usually have an adjustable objective lens or side dial for parallax correction. This tends to complicate things when you try to make parallax corrections while hunting and end up losing the shot. It's very hard to hold a rifle still enough to keep the crosshairs from dancing at 9X, let alone any higher magnification.
To go a step further, these scopes were the most the average guy could afford, before scopes became cheaper, and so manufacturers built what was in demand, creating a sort of scope selection a"rut", in the scope market, as it were.
Now, it's just a very common and popular size, much like bolt-action rifles, 30.06, and RealTree camo.
 
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