Baa-Baa, my favorite HD/PD shotgun, a Mossberg 500 20-Gauge, has been adorned with a UTG Red/Green Circle Dot sight or a reflex sight, which has guided my POA with the shotgun quite well for some time. Recently; however, I discovered a failing with the sight. The dot does not appear when the battery is dead; I had neglected to turn the dot off after my last range session with Baa-Baa. It should be needless to say that I would not be having a good time should Baa-Baa actually be called into duty. I needed to rethink my optic options.
Since dot optics and my astigmatism do not get along, I decided to try a different type of optic. I had read articles on shotgun scopes and decided to give one a try. An inexpensive Sightmark Core 1×24 optic was mounted and I liked what I saw, with the exception of the front sight of the shotgun leeching into the sight picture. I decided that a little magnification might be in order.
Author’s Note: When I am attempting to mate a scope with a firearm, I get everything mounted up, let the combination sit in the gun vice for a day or two, and let the rifle/optic combination speak for itself as I glance at the package every now and then. If I like what I see and the package works for me, it is usually a go. I have, on occasion, judged a firearm/scope combination to be not workable. It’s kind of like observing your daughter’s new boyfriend; sometimes you know right off that this pairing is not right, and other times you have to have to give it a little time – but not enough time for any “damage” to occur :>)
Given what I now know, I do have a recommendation for what I feel would be a near perfect optic for a shotgun intended for defensive use, and that would be the Leupold VX-1 Shotgun Scope 1-4x 20mm with Turkey Plex reticle. I had chosen the Turkey Plex Reticle, because the turkeys that I might have to deal with would not be suitable for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner – let alone invited to such.
Let me digress into the optic for a bit, and why I chose it. More importantly, why did I decide to outfit a defensive shotgun with a magnified optic?
Running an optic on a shotgun is nothing new. Competitors and hunters have been doing so for quite a while. The obvious advantage in running a magnified optic is because, well, of the magnification. In some states, a magnified optic is not allowed on a shotgun intended for hunting. There has been, to my knowledge, no such edict regarding shotguns intended for defensive or competition use. So what does a magnified optic do for me? Well, it gets me closer to my target without getting physically closer to my target. A magnified optic affords me a better chance of hitting what I want to hit, regardless if shot or slug is the chosen load. As we know, we still have to aim a shotgun to be effective with one. A magnified optic just make me a more effective operator.
My primary defensive load is 20 pellets of #3 Buckshot, which travel somewhere in the vicinity of 1200fps. My secondary load for Baa-Baa is the Remington 2 ¾” rifled slug (Slugger), which is a 5/8-ounce slug traveling at about 1580fps at the muzzle with 1513 foot pounds of lethal energy. While some say that placing these loads anywhere on the body would do the trick, but people have even stood up to the mighty 12-gauge slug – until one was delivered that stopped all aggressive activity. Shot placement is still king, and a good optic is the best way to see where you want to place the shot.
Now, let’s look at the Leupold VX-1 Shotgun Scope 1-4x 20mm with Turkey Plex reticle.
It is obvious when looking at the scope that the objective end does not have large objective lens housing. However, with an ocular lens of around 40mm, provides a large and bright view through the scope.
I found that that the Turkey Plex reticle was an idea aiming device and is much like the circle-dot configuration found in many dot sights. Author’s Note: Although intended for a shotgun, the reticle really works for rifles as well, but a scope intended for a rifle may not work so well mounted on a shotgun. Cover the intended POI with the circle, place the cross-hairs on the precise POI, and send the mail. I found that with using this type of sighting device I can return to the target quicker than just using the cross-hair alone.
As a side note, the circle surrounding the cross-hairs of the scope covers approximately 3.5 inches of the target at twenty-five yards. The circumference of the thin section of reticle could also serve as “patterning” boundaries, if you so desire. At fifteen yards, the majority of my #3 Buckshot was within the “boundary.” That is good enough for “combat” work. For me, the best “all around” defensive load for the 20-gauge shotgun is still a .63 caliber rifled slug.
Baa-Baa and the Leupold VX-1 Shotgun/Muzzleloader 1-4x20mm scope comprises a sweet little package that is relatively light to handle.
The Leupold VX-1 Shotgun/Muzzleloader 1-4x20mm scope has; very useful magnification levels (1x to 4x) for both near and intermediate ranges (in regards to the Remington “Slugger), has excellent glass, is robust enough for harsh environments, the eye relief is near perfect (4.2” – 3.8”), has no batteries to be concerned about, and would be a single unit to serve multiple purposes rather than two units (for example, a dot sight and a magnified optic) to serve the same purposes.
The eye relief is excellent for a shotgun. It allows you a good field of view without climbing the stock and possibly getting “scope eye.”
At 1x magnification, the front sight does creep into the sight picture slightly, but I found myself disregarding it since that cross-hair was garnering the most of my attention as the sight came on target. At twenty-five yards, I found 1x magnification entirely suitable to work with, but it seemed that 3x magnification was a good all- around setting to work with. If I had to stretch a shot to fifty yards (or beyond), I would be using every bit of that 4x magnification.
At only 8.1 ounces in weight and 9.5 inches in length, the Leupold VX-1 Shotgun/Muzzleloader 1-4x20mm scope is a very compact package, and a compact package on a firearm like the Mossberg 20-gauge shotgun is a very good thing.
The Leupold VX-1 was paired up with a set of Weaver Grand Slam, 1”, Lever-Lock, solid steel high rings. This setup allows for enough room to operate the top-mounted safety of the Mossberg without interference by the scope. The combination of scope and rings adds approximately 1.4 pounds to Baa-Baa’s weight. The lever-lock scope rings provide a very firm grip on the sight rail, but allow me to quickly remove or attach the scope when needed.
With this scope/ring combination, the center of the scope is exactly two inches above the center-line of the bore. It is a little bit higher than I like, but I wanted to clear the front sight at the lowest magnification as much as possible. As it is, the front sight just peeks into the sight picture, but my attention is more focused on the cross-hair of the scope. At 2.5x the front sight post disappears totally from view. When I shoulder the firearm, the scope is in a perfect position for a good cheek weld and line of sight. The substantial eye relief of the scope keeps me from crowding the stock. So far, the scope/ring combination is working out well.
What almost kicked the Leupold VX-1 Shotgun Scope 1-4x 20mm out of contention; however, was the optic quality at my local indoor range. In the range fluorescent lighting, the target (at twenty-five yards) and the reticle just would not come into focus. However, in normal lighting the optics are just fine and everything is clear. My shooting partner, Mike, who was a professional photographer, suggested that it may have to do with color wavelengths, density, the coating on the optics, and the fact that the scope was intended to shoot in natural and not artificial lighting. Sometimes, he just makes too much sense.
One obvious shortcoming of the scope, you might say, is that the reticle would be nearly impossible to see against a dark background. However, we have these very useful “Torches” as the British call them. We know them as flashlights. Light up the target and the reticle is crystal clear – problem solved.
The Turkey Plex reticle really made it easy to set up my POA. The upper magnification level certainly made it appropriate for use with the Remington Slugger ammunition, turret adjustments are easy, and the scope is certainty light yet robust enough to handle field conditions.
Baa-Baa really shines with this scope mounted on it. From #3 Buck shot to a 273-grain lead slug, this optic allows me to place shots where I want them (if I do my part). The 1x magnification level is great for placing buckshot out to about fifteen yards while keeping most of the pellets on the target. But, it really shines when shooting slugs accurately out to about sixty yards (a 273-grain lead slug traveling at 1580 fps, such as the Remington 20-gauge Slugger round that is relatively flat between ten and seventy yards, which is within my comfort zone with a 1-4x scope. Note that with a fifty yard zero, there is a secondary zero at fifteen yards. At close distances, I only need to consider how much the muzzle lifts during recoil – optic or no optic.
While I won’t say that the Leupold VX-1 Shotgun Scope 1-4x 20mm with Turkey Plex reticle is an ideal solution for wringing the best accuracy out of your defensive shotgun, I can say that using it has definitely helped me when working with Baa-Baa.
Leupold 1-4×24 Leupold VX-1 Shotgun Scope 1-4x 20mm with Turkey Plex Reticle: https://www.leupold.com/hunting-shooting/scopes/shotgunmuzzleloader-scopes/vx-1-shotgunmuzzleloader-1-4x20mm/
Weaver Grand Slam, 1”, Lever-Lock, solid steel high rings: http://www.weaveroptics.com/rings_bases/rings/grandslam_steel/