How can I get an accurately engraved dial compensator on my hunting rifle scope?
When I started Lazzeroni arms company in 1995, my goal was to build the finest, most powerful & accurate long-range hunting rifles & ammunition in the world.
There are arguments on both sides on whether or not I have accomplished this, but Lazzeroni Arms Company has certainly had an influence on cartridge, projectile and rifle scope improvements since that time.
A very important part of this equation is of course the scopes that we mount on Lazzeroni rifles.
All thru the 90s and 2000s we used primarily Schmidt & Bender and Swarovski scopes with Mil Dot or TDS hold over reticles, preferably in the front focal plane so that the hold-over dot or line spacings were the same at all magnifications.
During this time, I personally took well over 100 animals at ranges from 25 to 810 yards, most of them one shot kills.
Some examples are this beautiful B.C. bull moose taken at 565 yards, Alaskan Caribou at 440 yards, B.C. stones sheep at 460 yards, New Mexico antelope at 375, & 114” BC net Mexico Coues deer at 810 yards & a real nice Alberta whitetail at 200 yards.
That does not mean that I am the world’s best shot, because I am not, but I had the right equipment, I tuned it as well as possible and I PRACTICED at the long ranges, including my repetitive shooting at 1,000 yards during the Saguaro bench rest club shooting matches at the three points range just outside of Tucson.
During the early 2000s hunting scopes began to emerge that featured dial drop compensators that were used to dial to the range of the animal.
Craig Boddington and I actually tried a few of these back then and found them difficult to repeat on the target, especially at the longer ranges.
Fast forward to 2014 and our customers were beginning to DEMAND scopes with drop-dial compensators on their Lazzeroni rifles.
So, I contacted my good friend Tom at Swarovski and ordered two of their 3-18X50 Z6 scopes with Ballistic Turrets, along with two Schmidt and Bender scopes, one 5-25X56 PMII and one 4-16X50 PMII with fully adjustable dials for both elevation and windage.
I then went to the Hornady website ballistics calculator and loaded in the data for each of my rifles and got the dial compensators engraved.
Then I backed up to 300 yards, zero’d each rifle, then set the drop compensators down on the number 3.
We have a 1,000Y shooting match on the second Saturday of every month here in Tucson, so I waited for the next match to check the rifles with the new scopes at an actual 1,000 yards.
To my astonishment, the 1,000Y mark on each scope was not even close, with both of them as much as 8 clicks off from what was needed to be on the bulls-eye at 1,000 yards.
Well how could this be,,, the new computer calculated ballistic charts with advanced software calculations couldn’t be wrong could they?
No, but the actual data entered can have many variables.
It starts with the scopes themselves, as they may not track internally exactly as they are supposed to be calibrated.
Another variable is the speed of the bullet as measured by the chronograph might not be 100% correct, as well as the published BC (ballistic coefficient) of the bullet used.
There was no way that I could engrave a dial from just computer ballistics calculations, mount it on a Lazzeroni rifle and send it to a customer, with any confidence at all that at the longer ranges the dial compensator would be accurate.
How many of you have gone into the field with a hunter who had just acquired a brand new long-range rifle package from a builder, 100% confident in their scope dial compensator at almost any range?
They then take a long range shot at a trophy game animal and have the animal just stand there and look back at them, with the shooter/spotter/guide not having any idea where the bullet went, or worse, a bad hit on the animal which runs off, never to be found.
So, what is the solution here? How is one to get a dial compensator or ballistic turret accurately engraved for his/her rifle for the specific hunting ammunition they will be using?
First set up at 300 yards, and dial the scope turret until your 3 shot group is centered on the 300-yard bullseye. (if your 300-yard group sizes are not consistently under 3”, find an alternate long-range hunting load before continuing)
Then set up at 1,000 yards and dial the scope turret until your 3 shot groups are centered on the bullseye, holding into the wind whatever amount necessary.
Then count the clicks between 300 and 1,000 yards. It does not matter if your scope uses 1/4 moa clicks, 1/8 moa clicks or cm clicks, the important thing is to exactly count the clicks between your 300-yard turret position and your 1,000-yard turret position.
Now enter the ballistic data into a calculator like the one you can find on the Hornady website at http://www.hornady.com/ballistics-resource/ballistics-calculator , make sure to put in your desired zero, and you will receive data like is shown here for the Lazzeroni Warbird 168gr HPBT factory load.
“I then contacted Tom McKenna at Swarovski, told him what I wanted, he then fed the ballistics data into their ballistic turret engraving computer.”
Then increase or decrease the speed of the bullet as entered into the calculator, until the number of dial clicks between 300 yards and 1,000 yards matches the number of clicks you actually shot with at 1,000 yards.
At this point you know how the dial needs to be engraved for all distances that you have available on the turret.
Now this all sounds very complicated and it is until you find a way to make it simple.
For example, with the 53-total cm clicks available on the Swarovski 3-18X50 Z6, engraving on the dial will stop at approximately 975 yards, with the scope ZERO set at 250 yards.
I then contacted Tom McKenna at Swarovski, told him what I wanted, he then fed the ballistics data into their ballistic turret engraving computer.
Then HE increased or decreased the speed of the bullet in the entered data, until the exact number of clicks between 300 and 1,000 yards showed up on the data chart and WALLA, the turret was then able to be engraved correctly.
I did the same with the big Schmidt and Bender PMII dial compensators with the help of Mike from Kenton Industries, for two more of my Lazzeroni rifles in calibers 8.59 (.338) Titan and 9.53 (.375) Saturn.
With my 5-25X56 Schmidt & Bender PMII, I was able to engrave distances out to approximately 1,500 yards, with the zero set at 100 yards, with a 20moa cant scope rail used when mounting the scopes.
I can now take a brand new Lazzeroni rifle, mount a Swarovski or Schmidt & Bender scope on it with custom engraved dial for our Lazz factory or custom loads, zero it at 300 yards, set the dial down on the 300 yard mark and secure, with the confidence that dial is actually accurate to 1,000Y and beyond.
And on this particular Saturday in May 2017, (after shooting my Warbird rifle the morning before and setting the 300Y mark on the scope turret) I switched rifles in the middle of the 1,000Y relay, turned the scope dial to 975Y, held on the very top of the blue bullseye, pulled into the wind, first sighter shot hit 8” left of the bullseye.
I then made the adjustment to the windage hold, and proceeded to shoot 3 shots into 6”, with 2-10s, (1-X) and 1-9, which was certainly very “lucky” and one of my best groups ever at 1,000 yards using a Lazzeroni hunting weight rifle.
Those of you paying attention at this point will notice that I had to hold the equivalent of 2-cm clicks (approx. 20cm at 1,000 yards) or 8” above the bullseye, as I had run out of dial on the Swarovski.
For the July 1,000 yard shoot, I was getting ready to deliver a left hand Lazzeroni mountain rifle, in caliber 7.82 Warbird with the Swarovski 3-18X50 with engraved drop compensator and 4-W reticle.
I had set the drop compensator the morning before dead on at 300yards, so that I would be ready to just dial the 1,000 yard target the next day. Result? ,,, after two sighters, then practicing doping the wind gusts, my best 3-shot group ever at 1,000 yards with a Lazzeroni hunting rifle.
In summary, NONE of us should be shooting at our treasured big game animals at anywhere “near” 1,000 yards, especially in a strong wind, as this type of behavior will eventually cost all of us our hunting privileges.
But if you are going to go into the field with your favorite hunting rifle, equipped with a drop-dial ballistic turret, take the time to make sure that the engraved marks on the dial are correct at all distances, or purchase one from a reputable manufacturer who has done the work for you.
Spend some time practicing and calculating wind hold at various distances.
Then when you finally get that trophy shot of a lifetime, you will have the confidence and the equipment to get it done.