Ray-Vin Spotting Scope Head Comparison

Many new shooters will ask on the forums what scope stand is best. There are several excellent scope stands available to the high power shooter today. Each has its own combination of features that one should consider carefully before making a purchase.

Because spotting scope stands have evolved towards a standard 1" diameter shaft, it is now possible to purchase a scope stand from one manufactuer and fit it with a scope head from another maker. So, a better question to ask is: "What is the best scope head?"

We make an excellent solution, but we realize it may not be best for everyone. So, here I will attempt to objectively describe the major systems available today so you can make an informed decision with your hard-earned dollars.

First, a couple of things about spotting telescopes.

  • Most new scopes will have the 1/4-20 female thread standard camera mount. Some older scopes have no mounting provision at all and will require what is called a saddle mount.
  • For high power rifle, scopes with angled eyepieces are desired because of ease of use. Not all scopes with angled eyepieces will have a rotating band. The rotating band is a ring that mounts to the scope stand. The scope can be rotated inside this ring to position the angled eyepiece. Scopes that do not have a rotating band need to be paired with a head that allows the eyepiece to be rotated.
  • Bigger is not always better. For across the course high power rifle, a good 60mm scope with a 25x LER (Lone Eye Relief) eyepiece is quite sufficent. Small scopes like the Kowa 611 & 601 are great for spotting, scoring and reading mirage. Some shooters want to scope the target during the reload of rapid fire to see where their first hits were. Shooting .223 you will not always reliably spot your hits at 200 and especially 300 due to many factors even with the larger (and heavier) scopes like the Kowa 821.
    I scope during the reload to see if the mirage has changed. You can lose a lot of time looking for bullet holes.
  • One hand adjustable: There is no scope that can be set using only one hand. Minor adjustments may be made with one hand and most fine (cam or friction) adjustments may be made with one hand.
    However, initial positioning of the scope always requires two hands.
This review is not designed to get you to buy our scope stand or our scope head, but we will be very happy if you do! We hope to present an objective view of the different options available to the shooter today so that you may make an educated decision. I invite the makers of the other scope heads to provide their input.

First a few definitions of terms used here.

  • Elevation: Raising or lowering the aim point of the scope.
  • Windate: Moving the scope aim point left or right.
  • Fine Adjustment: A screw adjustment for either elevation or windage that provides very fine adjustments.
  • Cam Adjustment: An eccentric cam in a slot that provides semi-fine adjustments for either elevation or windage.
  • Friction Adjustment: The aim of the scope is held by adjustable friction and the aim is adjusted by slipping against that friction.
  • Binding Adjustment: The adjustment is either tight or loose. This requires two hands.
  • Offset: Distance the scope mounting surface is from the scope rod.
  • Angled Eyepiece: The scope eyepiece is at an angle to the line of the scope aim.
  • Rotating Band: The scope has a band that mounts to the head that allows the scope to be rotated about its axis.
  • Ambidextrous: Quickly and easily reversable on the scope rod without reversing controls.

    This head features the greatest offset from the rod at 7-1/2". For tripod scope stands this gets the scope closer to the shooter's eye for prone, long range work. It has a fine adjustment for elevation and the windage adjustment appears to be friction or cam.

    A simple device with little offset from the rod. The eccentric elevation adjustment has considerable backlash.

    First Strike:
    A simple design using two friction controls. One controls position on the rod and windage, the other controls elevation. An inherent feature of the design is a built-in quick release.

    Freeland Swivel: Does not require rotating band scope.
    Adding the Freeland Swivel fitting to any scope head gives additional offset from the rod. The two additional knobs lock the ball. One allows the ball slot to rotate as for elevation adjustment and lets you position an offset eyepiece scope that has no rotating band. The other allows the ball to pivot.

    Freeland Zoom:
    The Freeland is a 5/8" rod stand and is mentioned here because for years it was the standard. There are zillions of them in use and you can get a good deal on a used one. One knob controls position on the rod and a second provides a fine elevation adjustment. There is also a friction element on the elevation that allows the scope to be turned parallel to the rod, but I found this not to be reliable so I never used it.

    Similar to the Ewing.

    Ray-Vin: Does not require rotating band scope.
    The only one-knob scope head made. The single control allows very quick aiming of the scope. Elevation, windage and rotation may all be adjusted simultainously. As the knob is tightened, friction on all degrees of freedom is increased. First to stabilize is the vertical position of the head on the rod. Next is the ball that allows an extream range of motion. When set with enough friction to hold the scope from moving by itself, it is easy to refine the scope aim with one hand simply by twisting the scope in any of several axii.

    Similar to the Ewing, but having the additional feature of an eccentric control for windage.

    Most closely related to the Freeland with a fine adjustment for elevation and a friction windage. The offset from the rod is not that great. The Schneller head is symetrical and can be reversed for an opposite hand configuration. However, this feature requires moving screws etc. and probably would not be practical to do on the firing line.

    (In alphabetical order) Creedmoor Ewing First Strike Freeland Swivel Freeland Zoom Giraud Ray-Vin Satern Schneller
    Rod Size 1 Inch 1 Inch 1 Inch 5/8 Inch 5/8 Inch 1 Inch 1 Inch 1 Inch 1 Inch
    Price $189.95 - $85 $95 $60 - $109 $125 $131
    Number of knobs 4 2 2 4 2 2 1 4 2
    Position on rod adjustment Binding Binding Binding Binding Binding Binding Binding Binding Binding
    Elevation adjustment Fine Cam Friction Fine-Binding Fine Cam Friction Cam Fine
    Windage adjustment Cam Friction Friction Friction-Binding Friction Friction Friction Cam Friction
    Rotation of eyepiece adjustment No $20 Opton No Yes No No Yes No No
    Available for Rod Sizes 1" 1" 1" 3/4, 5/8 3/4, 5/8 1" 1" 1" 1"
    Mounting surface Offset 7" Close 2-1/4" 3-3/4" 1-1/2" Close 3-1/2" Close Close
    Ambidextrous No No No No No No Yes No Hardware
    Complexity of mechanism High Simple Simple High Moderate Simple Simple Simple Simple
    Scope Stores Parallel to Rod Yes* $20 Opton Yes Yes Yes $20 Option Yes No No
    *We believe it will, but because of the large offset this doesn't seem practical.
    If you believe any information is misrepresented here, please contact :
    Literally falling between stands and heads is Bob Schneller's extension.
    This is one of three known ways of offseting the scope a great distance from the tripod.
    Also see Creedmoor's Big Blue scope head and Ray-Vin's Total Eclipse System system.