In drag racing, a test mule is a car used for testing engines. It lets racers do engine development and testing without sidelining their main race car. It’s a great concept, and I’m thinking of using it for testing rifles. I like trying new rifles. Good, meh, or junk rifles, they’re all fun to mess around with. For accuracy testing you need a scope, and scopes can get expensive. So I’m thinking about getting a “test mule” scope and using it for accuracy testing. Instead of buying a dedicated scope every time I get a new rifle, just get one scope and move it from rifle to rifle…
What makes a good test mule scope?
I’m looking for a few things in a testing scope. First, it needs to be a decent quality scope. Maybe not Leupold or Night Force quality, but also not a cheap piece of junk. It needs to be able to hold zero and withstand lots of use, sometimes with hard recoiling magnums. Second, it needs to have a good reticle. I’m testing for accuracy, shooting at a fixed (measured) range. A bullet drop compensating (BDC) reticle is great for a hunting rifle, but not so much for accuracy work. A plain reticle is just OK in my opinion. I kind of like reticles with hash marks, like the Nikon MK1-MOA reticle (other scope makers offer similar).
Third, I want decent magnification. I’m shooting between 100 and 600 yards, so 4-16x is OK, 5-20x or 6-24x would be better. Finally, the scope needs to be affordable. I know that’s open to interpretation. To me, affordable is $500 or less – hopefully less.
What I don’t need are frills. I’m shooting in a controlled environment during daylight hours. No need for an illuminated reticle. I also don’t care whether the reticle is first focal plane (FFP) or second focal plane (SFP). For my use, it doesn’t matter.
Nikon Prostaff P5 4-16x42SF Matte MK1-MOA
My first thought was the Nikon Monarch M5 5-20x50SF. Really nice scope, but about $120 more than I can afford right now. Even the 4-16x model is $90 over budget. After doing more looking, I’m leaning towards the Prostaff P5 4-16x42SF Matte MK1-MOA. It’s probably not quite as nice as the Monarch, but I think it will meet my needs. Besides, it’s about $240 cheaper than the Monarch – money I can use for ammo or reloading stuff.
For a dedicated scope, I’d just go with rings. For a test mule scope, I’m going with a picatinny scope base on the rifles and a LaRue QD Cantilever mount on the scope. The picatinny base is almost as cheap as traditional rings (depending on brand) and make swapping scopes really easy. The LaRue mount is kind of pricey, but I only need one and the convenience is worth the cost – at least to me.
I hope to get everything ordered by the end of this month and test between Christmas and New Years. I’m reworking some 7mm Mag loads that a friend gave me and I’m really looking forward to trying them out. If you test multiple guns, i hope you consider putting together a test mule scope setup. In the long run, it can save a lot of money and a ton of hassle. Until next time…