Getting ‘scoped’ when shooting a rifle is always a risk, but it’s one that can be minimized if you take a few precautions. This injury goes by a few different names like Scope Bite or Scope Eye and it’s always a highly unpleasant experience for shooters at any level.
We all understand how recoil works (or you should) and the scope bite effect occurs when your weapon jumps back when fired and the attached optics make contact with your face. In some cases, it isn’t too severe and you may just end up with a light bruise and a good wake-up call. In other instances, you may end up in the emergency room in need of some stitches to close the wound. The area of impact is pretty standard and tends to be on the brow bone or forehead above your dominant eye, but it can also slip over to the bridge of your nose or the eye itself. With any type of head injury, it’s almost always a good bleeder and there’s a decent chance that you’ll end up with a scar. Some may see it as a Badge of Honor, but I’d rather avoid it altogether if I had a choice.
There are a number of reasons why these accidents occur and some simple things that you can do to help offset the chances of it happening. It basically comes down to a poor shooting position in addition to incorrect rifle set-up. If you haven’t correctly secured your weapon against your shoulder and the scope is too close to your face, then you’re likely going to catch a good one to the head. Another thing to consider, especially for new shooters, is the long-term effect that a scope bite(s) may have on your shooting performance and enjoyment. It can lead shooters in flinch involuntarily whenever they fire, as they anticipate the potential of an impact. This just leads to added stress and over thinking and it will definitely affect your accuracy.
If your rifle doesn’t fit your body properly, then you’ll be off to a bad start. The trick is to match the weapon to the shooter and try to account for the effects of recoil. You’ll have to consider whether a wood or composite stock is best and if any adjustments for casting on/off or the pitch will make any difference. The Length of Pull is also an important factor and this will depend on your physical size. You won’t want to be in a position where the scope is too close or if you have to crane your neck forward to make the most of your optics. Neither of these situations is ideal.
Scope Selection & Mounting
Ensuring that you set your scope at the furthest distance from your eye, while maintaining a good field of view, will help to minimize your risk of impact. This eye relief distance creates a buffer between your face and the optics and shouldideally be about 4 to 5 inches. Maintaining this distance is especially important for new shooters who may not have the best form (yet). A better quality scope will also give you more flexibility with how you can mount for optimal viewing and distance from your eye. Note that sometimes the instructions that come with the optics don’t always jive with your own rifle assembly. Keep all of the factors for proper fit and eye relief in-mind, while balancing them with getting the most out of the scope’s potential.
Form & Function
Now that you know that your rifle fits you well and you’re not too close to your mounted scope, the other thing to consider is how you shoot. With any new set-up, it’s not a bad idea to practice raising the weapon into position quickly to ensure that you consistently get a solid cheek weld and you’re able to keep a safe distance from the scope – and getting the stock deep into your shoulder pocket every time is a key factor. This is where most new shooters mess-up. If the stock isn’t tight enough to the shoulder or if it is placed forward onto the pec (chest) or too high, there will likely be enough movement there for the recoil to pop that weapon back and potentially hit you. Even the most experienced shooters can fall prey to getting ‘bit’, but it’s typically for different reasons. In these cases it can occur with rushed shots, shooting uphill or at odd angles (shortening the eye relief), or relying a little too much on a mount to stabilize your firearm.
Shooting from a standing position can help vs. prone or bench if you’re struggling with the recoil. You’ll usually be better oriented to absorb the impact if you’re on your feet. Pay attention Newbies.
Consider the caliber of weapon you’re using and the cartridge/load type to make sure that they’re not too much for you to handle, and that they’re not overkill for what you’re shooting at.
Use a good rubber buttplate or recoil pad for added comfort.
Utilizing a muzzle brake will reduce the effect of recoil on the shooter
Lighter weapons don’t always mean less recoil. Do your homework.
When not using a rest or mount for your shot, utilizing the sling can help to stabilize your hold and minimize muzzle rise
Just because someone hands you a weapon, even if they know what they’re doing, doesn’t mean that the set-up is right for you. Always double-check the fit before you shoot.
As always, ask a qualified professional for assistance if you’re not 100% sure about how to get yourself set up.
Shooting should always be safe and without the impulse to flinch every time you fire. Scope Bite shouldn’t be a problem if you’re aware of the issue and can put the precautionary elements into place.
Sign up for K-Var’s weekly newsletter and discounts here.
Years ago I took out a girlfriend for some target shooting with a Savage 110 Varmint chambered in 22-250. I figured that the heavy profile/bull barrel would help to dampen any recoil. As she got set to shoot, I completely failed to see that her set-up was faulty, gun butt not well secured at her shoulder and the scope too close to her face. She fired, and shrieked! Fortunately she wasn’t cut but had a nasty bruise around her eyebrow. Totally my fault and I felt bad about it. Needless to say, that was the end of our target shooting outing, and we broke up soon after!
If you have a re-attached retina,you’d better have sufficient eye relief..or risk losing your sight in that eye..and if your other eye is weaker,you’ve got a real problem!!!
Better a longer than “normal[??]”length of pull[I need 14.5″]-and practice seating your firearm correctly, plus a better quality scope.Use a slio on recoil pad for eye protection,wear prescription glasses or shooting glasses to”interdict” that recoiling scope-or your thumb….
Having -9.5 of correction/a re-attached retina/worse vision in other eye/glaucoma : I can not over emphasize protecting your eye[s] SN:”a side benefit” to glaucoma=reduced color and peripheral /and nocturnal vision;cataracts add sensitivity to muzzleflash]