Scope Quality and Seeing Trace

samb300

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So yesterday I popped my own cherry in a way when it comes to seeing trace. For the past 4 or 5 years I’ve been shooting 6.5x47L, and while obviously not a high recoiling caliber, I’ve never really been able to spot my own trace.

I was breaking in a slow load of 6GT, shooting 110’s at the low node of 2840fps specifically with the intent of low recoil and hopefully ease of seeing my own trace. I went out to the longest target at my local range, 685yds, to verify my dope, and couldn’t believe that I could see trace on basically every shot! It was actually pretty incredible, I’ve seen videos online and watched trace through spotters/binos, but never followed the bullet so clearly through the scope to the target.

I’m shooting a Gen2 Razor 4.5-27, but now I’m wondering if an “alpha” tier optic helps see trace better, and if so, why? Is it superior resolution? Depth of field? Something else in the glass or prescription? Basically I’m wondering if I should justify my wanting of a ZCO 527 and buy one sooner than planned to aid in seeing trace (among its other attributes). Will a ZCO or TT or NF see trace better than a Razor or Bushnell?

Sam
 
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The_Count

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It wouldn’t hurt, but most people miss trace because the are at max magnification.
 

Rob01

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Basically I’m wondering if I should justify my wanting of a ZCO 527 and buy one sooner than planned to aid in seeing trace (among its other attributes).

Sam
That sentence is basically the jist of the whole post. You want a ZCO and trying to justify it. Will you see trace better with it? Maybe but I doubt it. Have watched trace with scopes from Super Snipers on up and it's more to do with the environment and as mentioned your mag/FOV if you can pick up your own trace.

I will help you though, yes you will so now you can go buy a new scope. LOL
 

samb300

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It wouldn’t hurt, but most people miss trace because the are at max magnification.
I was at 15x at 685yds. I tend to shoot around 15x for most PRS stages, and maybe go up to 20x for prone or KYL style stuff.
 

samb300

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That sentence is basically the jist of the whole post. You want a ZCO and trying to justify it. Will you see trace better with it? Maybe but I doubt it. Have watched trace with scopes from Super Snipers on up and it's more to do with the environment and as mentioned your mag/FOV if you can pick up your own trace.

I will help you though, yes you will so now you can go buy a new scope. LOL
That’s not entirely true. I really do want to know if side by side a TT or ZCO will see trace better than a Razor. I’ve wanted a ZCO for a while, but have been shooting the same EBR2C Razor for 4 or 5 years. The Razor is awesome overall, but I’d be lying if I said it was the best choice optically or that it resolved or saw through mirage as good as some of the higher end offerings. I also have the older reticle with the 0.5 mil hashes which I’d like to upgrade to 0.2 mil at some point.

I’ve read that Swaro binos see trace better because of their depth of field, and was wondering if it’s similar for scopes. Like people say with Tangents you can set the parallax to infinity for everything 300yds and further, does that mean the DOF allows you to see trace without setting your parallax short of the target?
 

ofelas

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I'm not a technical guy but I have experience.

Yes, you will see trace better with "alpha glass" ;-)

Buy the scope.
 
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Rob01

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That’s not entirely true. I really do want to know if side by side a TT or ZCO will see trace better than a Razor. I’ve wanted a ZCO for a while, but have been shooting the same EBR2C Razor for 4 or 5 years. The Razor is awesome overall, but I’d be lying if I said it was the best choice optically or that it resolved or saw through mirage as good as some of the higher end offerings. I also have the older reticle with the 0.5 mil hashes which I’d like to upgrade to 0.2 mil at some point.

I’ve read that Swaro binos see trace better because of their depth of field, and was wondering if it’s similar for scopes. Like people say with Tangents you can set the parallax to infinity for everything 300yds and further, does that mean the DOF allows you to see trace without setting your parallax short of the target?
As I said I have had no issues seeing trace with a number of optics from inexpensive to Hensoldts and they all saw trace. Buy the ZCO or find someone close with one and put it next to the Razor. Only way you will prove it to yourself. Nothing anyone posts here will prove it to you.
 
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jtackmann

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Shooting my new ZCO 5-27 today both my wife and I could see trace starting at 350y with mag at 11x. Was a huge step up from shooting family members' hunting rifles!
 

Rexwagon

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I’m running a Tangent Theta. I am over from running kahles scopes for a few years. Seeing trace. It’s more about the conditions than the glass at that point. Can I see things with my tangent over my kahles for sure. And even more so than a gen 2 razor. Will it increase your score at a match. Maybe. You might get an extra point because you could see exactly where it hit the target at 600 yards while the plate was in the shadows. Do you need that for justification to buy a new scope? Hell yes brother. Step up. Get a Tangent and join our club!
 

Rexwagon

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And your right about swaro binos. Especially the EL series. They are cats meow. I use my mavens and can see trace well on most shots if the weather is right. But you step behind some EL and it’s the next level, you can see plates at 3-400 yards and their indentation from getting hit so much at a match. You can tell the plate is concave. You can read the mirage at the next level with those binos. If there was one piece of glass that I feel confident saying could help you, it would be a set of EL Swarovski binos. Being able to read the mirage and each section of it across the field is crazy.
 

blbennett1288

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While scope quality plays a part the larger part of the equation is environmental conditions.

I havnt had issues spotting trace w/ 6BR or 6.5CM w/ a NF 7-35, TT 525P, ZP5 5-25 if the conditions are right.

Slower loads will help as there is more time of flight.
 
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samb300

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I’m running a Tangent Theta. I am over from running kahles scopes for a few years. Seeing trace. It’s more about the conditions than the glass at that point. Can I see things with my tangent over my kahles for sure. And even more so than a gen 2 razor. Will it increase your score at a match. Maybe. You might get an extra point because you could see exactly where it hit the target at 600 yards while the plate was in the shadows. Do you need that for justification to buy a new scope? Hell yes brother. Step up. Get a Tangent and join our club!
I tried a TT briefly, but the parallax bound up in a Spuhr and it had to get repaired, so that turned me off a bit. Plus for my style of shooting props, I prefer a shorter scope and the TT is loooooooong haha.
 

samb300

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And your right about swaro binos. Especially the EL series. They are cats meow. I use my mavens and can see trace well on most shots if the weather is right. But you step behind some EL and it’s the next level, you can see plates at 3-400 yards and their indentation from getting hit so much at a match. You can tell the plate is concave. You can read the mirage at the next level with those binos. If there was one piece of glass that I feel confident saying could help you, it would be a set of EL Swarovski binos. Being able to read the mirage and each section of it across the field is crazy.
Have you seen any difference between the 10x and 12x Swaro EL's? I wear Rx glasses when I shoot, and the 10x gives a little more eye relief, but I wasn't sure if the extra bit of power helps or hurts. My pretty much only use would be observing during PRS matches.
 

wjm308

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I tried a TT briefly, but the parallax bound up in a Spuhr and it had to get repaired, so that turned me off a bit. Plus for my style of shooting props, I prefer a shorter scope and the TT is loooooooong haha.
Don't give up just yet on the TT, plenty of owners with Spuhr's who haven't had that issue, that being said if you're looking for something shorter, the best glass I've seen in a short body is the ZCO - forgiving DOF, parallax and eyebox along with an incredible sight picture.

Speaking to trace, I'm with you in that I have never seen it but have shot fairly light rigs until recently which jerk off POA so by the time I get the rifle back on target the chance of spotting the trace has gone. I now have a heavier rig (AI AT) which I'm shooting 6.5 Creedmoor out of and a couple weekends ago shot out to 1660 and was using about 15x IIRC but still did not spot it and was able to keep on target much better than my lighter rifles. Based on comments above, sounds like atmospherics play a big role and maybe because I'm in Colorado the atmospherics up here make witnessing trace more difficult. Next time I shoot at distance I think I need to concentrate more on picking up trace as sometimes we just don't see splash and you're left wondering - did that hit, left, right, high low...

I've also been considering getting a pussy cat cartridge like a 6mm, dasher or BR would be really soft, but maybe even a 6mm GT which seems to bridge the gap between Dasher/BR and Creedmoor, but shooting with @canezach he let me shoot his 25 Creedmoor with Blackjack 131's and I fell in love with the cartridge, not quite as soft as the 6's but definitely better than the 6.5 Creedmoor and with the speeds he's getting from the 131's it shoots even flatter and bucks wind better than the 6mm's I've seen ballistically.
 

samb300

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@wjm308 The TT has long been repaired and sold; I think I would've run it had it not had the issues out of the box, but I also needed funds for the AI chassis prototypes so that $4k was better spent on that.

The ZCO checks so many boxes, and the shorter length is one of them. I'm used to the short Razor 4.5-27, and the ZCO is really the only full-power optic that comes close. It's actually crazy how short the Razor is! Now if ZCO @gebhardt02 would make the MPCT3 with a standard vertical stadia instead of the funnel, that would be about perfect...

I can normally see splash with a 6.5, but the recoil must be enough to not see trace during the scope movement. I shoot a heavy AI, but I run suppressed 100% so I also don't have the recoil reduction of a dedicated muzzle brake helping me.

I was shooting in mid-day sun and mirage here in WI, so maybe that helped me see it. But it's not like I've never shot in those conditions, so I know it had to be the reduced recoil of the 6mm. I don't know how much seeing trace has to do with recoil vs bullet speed. A 22BR has to be more difficult to spot trace than a 6BR, simply because it's moving so dang fast, even though it has less recoil. The trend in top PRS shooters (for whatever that's worth) seems to be 6mm's going slower and slower, like 109/110's at sub-2800 fps. And still winning matches with them.
 
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Dthomas3523

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I’ll never tell someone not to buy a zco.

But, for example, Jake Vibbert says he sees his trace almost all the time with his USO. And while they are good optics, I wouldn’t consider them ZCO or Theta glass.

I think it’s mostly having the FOV and lower velocity/recoil. As well as having the focus set properly and knowing where to look for the trace. We are usually hard focused with our eyes on the target or around it. When the trace is going to be in the upper part of our FOV where we aren’t looking. Training yourself to look for it would probably be more beneficial than glass.
 

BLKWLFK9

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Another factor of seeing trace is where you are actually looking. If youre running a kestrel 5700 elite, there is a trace function that will show you where your trace should come into view in your reticle. Example. Target is X yards away, your dope is Y, your trace should come into view at point Z in your reticle. I don't think youre loosing much as far as seeing trace goes, by using a razor gen II.
 
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BLKWLFK9

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I’ll never tell someone not to buy a zco.

But, for example, Jake Vibbert says he sees his trace almost all the time with his USO. And while they are good optics, I wouldn’t consider them ZCO or Theta glass.

I think it’s mostly having the FOV and lower velocity/recoil. As well as having the focus set properly and knowing where to look for the trace. We are usually hard focused with our eyes on the target or around it. When the trace is going to be in the upper part of our FOV where we aren’t looking. Training yourself to look for it would probably be more beneficial than glass.

beat me to it. lol
 

samb300

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Another factor of seeing trace is where you are actually looking. If youre running a kestrel 5700 elite, there is a trace function that will show you where your trace should come into view in your reticle. Example. Target is X yards away, your dope is Y, your trace should come into view at point Z in your reticle. I don't think youre loosing much as far as seeing trace goes, by using a razor gen II.
Vibbert talked about this on one of the VPP podcasts, not sure that a Kestrel calc is needed?

Something along the lines of:
- 4 mils elevation needed for target
- During recoil, center of reticle jumps 1 mil up
- 4 minus 1 = look for the peak of the the trace arc at 3 mils elevation in the reticle
 

BLKWLFK9

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Vibbert talked about this on one of the VPP podcasts, not sure that a Kestrel calc is needed?

Something along the lines of:
- 4 mils elevation needed for target
- During recoil, center of reticle jumps 1 mil up
- 4 minus 1 = look for the peak of the the trace arc at 3 mils elevation in the reticle
correct, but just like getting dope, the kestrel makes it easier. I don't need a calc to get dope, but it is the easy button. I wish my Hornady kestrel had the trace feature.
 

Whiplash6.5

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I currently run an Athlon Cronus which some say is lagging behind the Razors and I have no problem seeing traces. Then again I was able to see them with my Weaver 4-20x50. If you can afford jumping tiers go for it!
 

Rexwagon

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Have you seen any difference between the 10x and 12x Swaro EL's? I wear Rx glasses when I shoot, and the 10x gives a little more eye relief, but I wasn't sure if the extra bit of power helps or hurts. My pretty much only use would be observing during PRS matches.
You can’t go wrong with either honestly. 10 power works just fine. And it will give an edge to eye relief. But I can’t say I have ever really noticed much. But I don’t wear glasses. If I had to choose I would go with the 12 power. But I would also recommend you try out someone’s since it is a large investment. Wearing Glasses sometimes can change opinion a lot for someone vs someone who doesn’t wear them. Make sure you adjust their binos to perfection for your eyes also.
 

samb300

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You can’t go wrong with either honestly. 10 power works just fine. And it will give an edge to eye relief. But I can’t say I have ever really noticed much. But I don’t wear glasses. If I had to choose I would go with the 12 power. But I would also recommend you try out someone’s since it is a large investment. Wearing Glasses sometimes can change opinion a lot for someone vs someone who doesn’t wear them. Make sure you adjust their binos to perfection for your eyes also.
IIRC, the last time I looked through a 15x56 SLC, the FOV was slightly reduced with my glasses, and they list the eye relief as 16mm, whereas the 10x and 12 EL are listed at 20mm and 19mm respectively. I did look through the Bushnell Forge 15x56 (not in the same league as the Swaros, I know) but the 21mm eye relief was awesome for me.

I'll have to see if anyone at my match this weekend has the ELs, I know a couple guys have the SLCs and really like them.
 
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blbennett1288

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I have no problem seeing trace w/ my x15 Meopta Meostar B1 HDs. The biggest problems picking up trace at matches is mirage and having a good position behind the shooter. If you are off to either side it is more difficult to pick up in my experience. You can still pick it up, but you are not following it the entire time if that makes sense.

FWIW I used to run my scopes at 15-17 magnification. Over the last year or so I have backed it off. I very rarely every go over 15. Most of the time between 12-13 mag. This increases the FOV, helps mitigate mirage, which in turn allows me to see trace better.
 
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wade2big

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I never see trace through my scope when shooting or spotting for others. I wonder if the high humidity on the Texas gulf coast makes it tough. All the videos online where trace is easily seen seem to be in much drier climates. Maybe someone can shine some light on that.
 

samb300

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I have no problem seeing trace w/ my x15 Meopta Meostar B1 HDs. The biggest problems picking up trace at matches is mirage and having a good position behind the shooter. If you are off to either side it is more difficult to pick up in my experience. You can still pick it up, but you are not following it the entire time if that makes sense.

FWIW I used to run my scopes at 15-17 magnification. Over the last year or so I have backed it off. I very rarely every go over 15. Most of the time between 12-13 mag. This increases the FOV, helps mitigate mirage, which in turn allows me to see trace better.
Unfortunately the Meoptas have some of the shortest eye relief out there, so they're out for me but I've heard great things!

I think that's a good point. I don't necessarily set my magnification consciously to a certain number before each stage, usually I roll it to the 12-15x region and I'll likely tweak it when I'm on target. But even going from 15 to 18x might reduce my ability to deal with mirage and see trace. The Razor has a great FOV so maybe I trend upward on magnification because I still have a wide view at 18x. It's a balance, since the Razor doesn't have the best resolution, I don't want to be too zoomed out so that I miss splash. But if I'm too zoomed in and don't see trace OR splash, that's when I start the guessing game on wind lol
 

samb300

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I never see trace through my scope when shooting or spotting for others. I wonder if the high humidity on the Texas gulf coast makes it tough. All the videos online where trace is easily seen seem to be in much drier climates. Maybe someone can shine some light on that.
What's your caliber and ability to mitigate recoil? When you're prone, does your reticle end up more than 1 to 2 mils from your original aiming point? Like I said in my OP, going from 6.5 to 6mm seems to be the magic pill for me, as I've always been able to see target splash but never trace.

I can't comment on environmentals though, but I'd like to know the conditions that make it easier and harder to see trace!
 
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blbennett1288

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I can't comment on environmentals though, but I'd like to know the conditions that make it easier and harder to see trace!
I typically see it with mid humidity(40-60% on Kestrel), very low mirage, sun at your back or sides. I have seen it in a range of temperatures across the Southeast (Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama)

 

wade2big

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What's your caliber and ability to mitigate recoil? When you're prone, does your reticle end up more than 1 to 2 mils from your original aiming point? Like I said in my OP, going from 6.5 to 6mm seems to be the magic pill for me, as I've always been able to see target splash but never trace.

I can't comment on environmentals though, but I'd like to know the conditions that make it easier and harder to see trace!
I shoot .308 and 6.5CM mostly. I rarely ever shoot prone. Prone seems to be the least practical position in the real world. Vegetation makes that impossible much of the time. If I am trying to get steady as possible when I shoot, I shoot of my 4 wheeler or the top of the cab of my truck. I have a peice of plywood on the back rack of my 4 wheeler and shoot off the bipod leaning over. Thats my prone. Like I said, I never see it spotting for buddies either regardless of which caliber they shoot even on good overcast days with no mirage.

In the summertime, splash is impossible to see. Some days 500 yards is the furthest target I can see due to mirage. Has to be a cloudy day to shoot further to cut the mirage.