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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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Getting Close With The Weaver T-36

By Todd Spotti

     As you know there is a strong school of thought in IHMSA Field Pistol shooting that more magnification is better magnification. I certainly canít disagree as it seems that a lot of the top contenders in that area certainly subscribe to that philosophy. More than a few Field Pistol shooters will often send off their scopes to custom shops to be bumped up to even higher magnifications than whatís available from the factory.

     For the most of us, factory scopes, some with relatively high magnification numbers, that come right out of the catalog are more often the norm. Those scopes usually fall into three categories i.e. inexpensive, middle priced, and "Hold onto your purse mama".

     The inexpensive scopes are much better than they used to be, but when you buy something like a 32X variable scope for under $125, you have to be ready for some realistic compromises. First of all, the image at the very top end is not going to be very good. In fact, itís likely to be downright poor. However, if you crank down the power to 24X, the image will probably be fairly decent. However, if you wanted more magnification than 24X, you probably need a different scope. Additionally, the mechanical components in the inexpensive scopes are often not as robust as found in the more expensive models and so you take an increased risk as to whether the scope on your competition gun will hold up or not.

     A the top end, youíre getting the best of the best - and paying for it. However, even the best scopes have to deal with the laws of optics. One of those laws basically says that at very high magnifications, the available light is being spread apart like a small amount of butter on a giant piece of toast. The resulting image is going to be a thinner, darker image, with less distinct color and fidelity. Even the very best lenses and coatings canít compensate for that effect under those circumstances.

"The Weaver T-36 is a Japanese made scope that won't require you to take out a 2nd mortgage."

     Then thereís the middle ground where we can find the Weaver T-Series scopes. The Weaver T-36 in particular, which is a single power scope optimized for rifle silhouette and benchrest, has always had an extremely loyal following among those who donít want to take out a second mortgage to buy one of the super expensive brands of scopes, but need something that was almost as good at a much better price. Indeed, the T-36 can be had for well under $400 from the catalog retailers while the big name 36Xs sold for well over double that price. Additionally, the T-36 being a single power type without all of the weight and complexity of a variable, weighs only 17 ounces making it very viable for Field Pistol competition.

     First, letís take an external tour of the T-36, but before we do, it should be noted up front that the big Weaver is made in Japan, and not in some third world country. While good optics can often come from other Asian countries, itís my belief that except for a very few instances, the very best quality still comes from Japan.

     Visually, the T-36 is a very handsome piece of gear. The tube has a very nice, hard coat glossy matte finish, with gold lettering on the objective lens adjustment ring and on the windage/elevation turrets. While not as starkly visible as white lettering, the gold treatment gives the scope an understated, classical look. I particularly liked the fact that the scope came equipped with a set of very nice, metal, screw on lens covers that perfectly matched the finish and color of the scope body, and an equally nice 4 inch metal sun shade. As you know, a lot of scopes skimp when it comes to the quality of their lens covers (if they have them at all).

     The target turrets measured an inch and a quarter high and were equipped with a rubber gasket at the base to insure a good seal when the cap was screwed down. Not all scopes will have this touch. Once you establish your zero with your rifle/scope combination youíll want to zero adjust the elevation and windage turrets. It was particularly easy to do this with the Weaver. The top of the turrets have a coin slot for this purpose. Just insert the coin (a nickel is a perfect fit), remove the retaining screw, lift off the turret and place it back on with the "O" aligning with the index mark, and then snug down the retaining screw once more.

     Clicking up and down, right and left was very positive, perhaps even a little stiff, but not a problem. There was also plenty of audible feedback when a click engaged. I like nice loud clicks, especially when wearing ear protection.

     Thereís also plenty of built in adjustment travel available as well - 60 inches, even for the windage. Lots of vertical adjustment is handy when the scope is going to be placed on a high mount. Each click equals 1/8th of an inch.

     The T series of scopes is equipped with Weaverís "Micro-Trac" elevation and windage system. Essentially, itís a design that uses two separate mechanical assemblies that work independently to move the adjustments either up and down or right and left. Many other scopes use one assembly for both jobs. The problem with using a single system is that in some instances as you start running out of clicks, moving the windage can affect the elevation and vice versa. Since the T scopes are using two totally separate systems, one canít affect the other no matter what.

     In going through my little check list, I found that the front AO lens assembly adjustment moved very smoothly with no binding. Sometimes they can be really stiff, making the adjustment process a hassle. The AO was also equipped with three, separate, deeply knurled rings which provided an excellent grip. Another nice feature that one usually doesnít see was the fact that the AO assembly is equipped with a lock ring to ensure that once the objective lens is in the correct position, itís not going to be moved by the recoil of the gun - a good idea. The rear eyepiece lens assembly also moved smoothly and had the normal lock ring.

     After going through the external examination of the scope, I then proceeded to the range with one of the home made resolutions targets that I often use when evaluating optics. As you can see from the photo, the target is made up of several lines of "O"s in decreasing size. The smallest being 9 point type which is as far down as my computer will go. The idea is to determine the smallest line of type that a given scope can consistently resolve. The chart is then placed at 50 yards. The beauty of the chart is that anyone can make one of these on their own home computer to check out the capability of their own scopes and compare results. (Just in case youíre wondering, the reason I donít place the chart at 100 yards is because mirage is a real problem at my range and at that distance it will distort the accuracy of the readings.)

     In looking through the scope, I noted that the image was crisp and nicely bright for a 36 power scope. Indeed, in an article written by Todd Woodard for another publication, a optical instrument was used to test brightness on a variety of scopes. Woodard noted that the Weaver was only just slightly less bright than two other big name 36 power scopes that cost far, far more. (Interestingly, neither of those two other scopes is made any longer, while the T-36 is doing very well indeed. Kind of tells you something, doesnít it.) Additionally, I found that edge to edge definition of the image was visually perfect with no discernable flaws or distortions.

     When I trained the big scope on the resolution target, I found that I could consistently read the smallest line of type on the chart (9 point). Very few rifle scopes can match this level of performance. In fact, now that I think about it, I donít recall any other rifle scope that I have reviewed in these pages that has been able to do that. I then checked the elevation and windage tracking by shooting a group, then clicking up 25 clicks, right 25, down 25, and finally left 25. The next shot then went right into the original group. Tracking was perfect. Consequently, you should have no worries about click repeatability with this scope.

     The T-36 is currently offered in either a fine crosshair with a 1/8 moa dot or a standard fine crosshair. Most silhouette shooters will probably prefer the dot reticule.

     One last point. If you feel you need more than 36 power for your Weaver T series scope, Bill Akerman of the Optical Services Company (505-589-3833) can accommodate you. Bill has been doing custom modifications on Weavers and other scopes for many years. He can not only increase the horse power, but also supply just about any kind of reticule you can imagine. He can also blue print your scope as well.

     In summary, if you want a 36 power scope for Field Pistol competition, varmint shooting, rifle silhouette, bench rest, or what ever, the Weaver T-36 will provide you with plenty of quality performance at a very reasonable price. It deserves a very serious look from every serious shooter. In fact my good friend, Dr. Jim Williams is so happy with the T-36ís capabilities and price, that he owns five of them. No kidding. Check it out and who knows how many you might end up buying.

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.