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IHMSA News Feature Article
Published in The IHMSA News, the Official Publication of The International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association
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Alpenís Big Boy

By Todd Spotti

     If youíre one of the many folks that have been lusting after a big, honkín 80mm spotting scope, but haven't won the lottery yet, Iíve got some good news. The Alpen model #788, a 20-60 variable power 80mm just may be the answer to your desires.

     The big fella weighs in at four pounds and can be had from various internet dealers for around $350, give or take. This is a very attractive scope which is decked out in dark green rubber armor with contrasting black, nubby armor on the 2.5" sliding sun shade and on the rear of the body as well. Additionally, the Alpen name and logo in gold lettering is located on either side of the body. The overall visual effect is very pleasing in a subdued kind of way.

     The zoom eyepiece is longer than most (just under 3") and has two 3/4" knurled bands around its circumference to give you lots of grip when changing the power. Focusing is accomplished with a 1 1/4" elongated rubber covered knob on the top of the scope. I found the focusing gearing to be satisfyingly refined, enabling me to tune the image perfectly even in heavy mirage without binding or unevenness. A very functional plastic, screw on cap protected the front objective lens, and a rubber slip on cap serviced the eyepiece. As on almost all spotters with a screw on cap, it has to be removed before the sunshade can be extended.

     One of the nicer features of this scope is having the tripod attachment plate fastened to a rotating metal band that goes around the body. This is a very useful feature on any scope equipped with a 45 degree eyepiece. Once mounted on a tripod, the band allows you to rotate the scope to the best position to your eye. This is especially useful to standing shooters. After the best position has been found, the scope is locked in place with a large set screw with a half inch ribbed head. The rotating band feature used to be commonly found on high quality spotting scopes of yesteryear, but for some reason it fell out of favor. More manufacturers should bring it back.

     While examining the scope, I noticed a small bright red "button" with two tiny holes on the bottom of the scope body. Iíd never seen such a device on a scope before so it definitely aroused my curiosity. My first instinct was to press it just to see what would happen. On the other hand, since the button was red (usually indicating danger) I thought that maybe Iíd better check it out first since there was nothing in the instruction manual about it. I made a quick call to Alpen, and they assured me that it was not a self destruct or any other kind of button, but just the valve thatís used to fill the scope with nitrogen gas to make it 100% fog proof. The scope is also waterproof, shock resistant, and carries a life time warrantee for the original owner. By the way, I checked out the fog proofing by sticking the scope in the freezer for a couple of hours and then brought it out into the warm Southern California sunshine. Worked fine. Got lots of condensation on the outside, but no internal fogging.

     I then took the scope out to the back yard, set it up on my Slik tripod, and trained it on a distant, high capacity electrical transmission tower. As Iíve stated in these pages before, the tower makes a good optical target because of its complex shape. Using a Nikon laser range finder, I determined that the tower is located 300 meters away. I then set up another 80mm spotting scope that sells for approximately $100 more next to the Alpen. I wanted to see how the two compared in terms of brightness. After all, thatís the primary reasons anyone buys a big diameter scope.

     The first thing I noticed about the Alpen, was that it had good eye relief. I wear glasses most of the time and thereís nothing more frustrating than to use a spotter that forces me to get so close that Iím bumping my eyeglasses against the eyepiece. Indeed, when I checked the specifications, I saw the eye relief is rated at very practical 19mm at 20X. I also noticed that the field of view was also nice and wide. I checked the specs again, and saw that at 20X the field of view was just under 10í at 100 yards.

     Moving back and forth between the two spotters, I really couldnít discern any difference in brightness between the two. At 20X, the image produced by the Alpen was every bit as bright as its more expensive competitor.

     Color fidelity and contrast seemed to be comparable as well. Of course, the fact that the Alpen uses multi coated optics no doubt contributed to its performance.

     I then moved on to one of my favorite features of the structure. This tower features a row of spikes above each of the giant ceramic insulators that hold the eight power lines. The purpose of the spikes is to keep birds and the like from perching on sensitive areas where they could blow out the power grid for half the United States and Northern Mexico. However, that row of spikes makes a very good target to check the practical resolution of any scope.

     Both spotters resolved the spikes very well. For instance, the spaces between the spikes were clear and discrete. In other words, the spikes didnít tend to blend into each other. I could also see straight, undistorted edges on the spikes and even the sharp tips were distinct. This was really good performance.

     The Alpen 788 comes in a very nice, heavy nylon bag with a wide, practical carrying strap. The interior of the bag has a divider on the side so you can carry the furnished plastic bench tripod as well. This is a neat little accessory thatís perfect to have next to you when shooting groups from sandbags.

     The bottom line here is that this is a good looking 80mm scope thatís loaded with features, and which gives jumbo performance for a very reasonable price. Itís also extremely reliable as the factory tells me that returns for repairs are practically nonexistent. I personally know several Alpen 788 owners, and everyone of them tells me that they really like it. Iíve used this scope as well and I agree. Iím sure you will too.

Good luck and good shooting, Todd

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Warning: All technical data mentioned, especially handloading, reflect the limited experience of individuals using specific tools, products, equipment and components under specific conditions and circumstances not necessarily reported in the article or on this web site and over which IHMSA, The Los Angeles Silhouette Club (LASC), this web site or the author has no control. The above has no control over the condition of your firearms or your methods, components, tools, techniques or circumstances and disclaims all and any responsibility for any person using any data mentioned. Always consult recognized reloading manuals.