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How to Fix a Cloudy Scope: Fixing Blurry and Foggy Scopes!

How to Fix a Cloudy Scope

I remember the time I was out hunting and almost landed a direct shot on my target.

Why almost?

Because, to my surprise, the scope was incredibly blurry, so I couldn’t see! That moment was so frustrating that it inspired me to write this guide.

If you’ve ever been in a similar position, you’ve come to the right place!

Read on and learn some of my practical and technical tips on how to fix a cloudy scope.

The real solution for your blurry scope might just be in front of your eyes.

Why Is My Scope Blurry? Why Does It Fog Up?

There could be 4 reasons why your scope has a cloudy or blurry image:

#1 Dirty Lenses

#1 Dirty Lenses

It was a rookie mistake of mine not to double-check my lenses. I never realized how dirty they were!

The simplest reasons are often overlooked.

Before looking into mechanism issues, check if your cloudy scope is because of dirt or scratches.

The dirt could be from fingerprint oil, grime, or dust build-up.

Aside from dirt, humidity can fog up the lenses and affect the quality of the scope image.

All the moisture can contribute to blurry images. This is easy to fix and can be solved by cleaning.

#2 Reticle Is Out of Focus

#2 Reticle Is Out of Focus

This is one of the most common causes of a blurry image.

The reticle refers to the fine lines or crosshairs found in the eyepiece of an optical device, such as a rifle scope.

To get a good image quality, the reticles need to focus on a focal point where the light bounces off.

Otherwise, the target may seem fuzzy when it is out of focus.

#3 Magnification Issue

#3 Magnification Issue

Image quality can also be due to the distance in relation to your target, or magnification.

Magnification tells you how the image differs from the target.

To illustrate, a target viewed with a 5x magnification scope will appear five times closer than it actually is.

As the magnification increases, the apparent distance to the image also decreases proportionally.  

When you look through a rifle scope, what you’re actually seeing is a projection of your target. Blurred images can be a sign of parallax issues.

FAST FACT: Parallax is when the reticle seems to be off-target when you shift your viewing angle.

In simplest terms, parallax issues occur when the target is too far from the crosshair of the lens.

Therefore, I advise you to double-check if your scope has a parallax adjustment knob to avoid this issue.

Rifle scopes tend to lose focus when used under HIGH magnification. 

Low magnification leads to poor image quality, while high magnification gives a hazy or blurred image quality.

Sometimes, I get too excited to hunt that I bring my scope all the way to the highest magnification, which results in poor focus.

#4 Mirage

#4 Mirage

A mirage is a heatwave-like distortion that occurs during the day. It can mislead you into thinking you have a blurry scope. 

I learned how to troubleshoot this by adjusting the setting to low magnification.

The close-up of a wavy scope image may be because of high magnification.

Another type is what they call suppressor mirage, common among close-range shooters.

If the sun is too hot, heat waves emanate from the barrel, resulting in a blurry reticle.

When this process happens, a simple solution would be to let the rifle cool down for a while before resuming another round of shots.

How to Fix a Cloudy, Foggy, & Blurry Scope

In this section, I’ll give a step-by-step guide to fixing the poor image quality of your blurry scope.

Apart from human error, there may be technical problems, such as a blurry reticle and an incorrect magnification setting.

Focusing the Reticle

Focusing the Reticle

Vision differs from one person to another, and even with the same person, the state of one’s sight is never constant.

Similarly, in rifle scopes, there is no one-size-fits-all.

The reticle focus needs to be RECALIBRATED once in a while or if another person will use the scope.

Step 1

Take off the caps from the scope. If you’re wearing eyeglasses, keep them on when using the scope.

Step 2

Use the eyepiece to set the right diopter value.

The goal of adjusting the eyepiece to the proper diopter setting is to focus the reticle.

Step 3

Choose a bare background to sight in your riflescope with, like a plain wall or the sky, to make the reticle the sharpest image within the scope.

If you do this with a particular target, your eyes will NATURALLY focus on the target first and not the reticle.

Look through the eyepiece and identify the blurry reticle.

Remember to never look directly at the sun because it can cause permanent damage to your eyes.

Step 4

Look away and allow your eye muscle to relax on a distant target.

To adjust, rotate the eyepiece slowly and quickly look through the scope again to identify the reticle.

When doing this process, it’s important to look away from the target quickly so that your eye muscles won’t get the chance to adjust and get used to the blurry reticle.

Step 5

Repeat rotating the eyepiece and looking away until you have a perfectly clear reticle.

Once it is perfectly clear, it has already been correctly focused for your eyes!

NOTE: If multiple people use this scope, it is advisable to mark your specific setting so you don’t lose your reference point when focusing.

Adjusting the Parallax Setting

Adjusting the Parallax Setting

Most modern scopes are equipped with a side turret or adjustable objective that’s used to focus the target in relation to the reticle.

When focusing on the target and the crosshairs seem to move when you change your viewing angle, there’s a need to adjust the setting because of the parallax:

Step 1

Put your rifle in a SECURE shooting stand or table to avoid unnecessary shakes when making adjustments on your parallax setting.

Step 2

Estimate the target distance.

Adjust the parallax ring based on the distance from the target. Look down and fix your eye position slowly.

If your rifle scope has a side focus scope, set the dial to the maximum. Rotate the side focus until the image becomes perfectly sharp.

The reference markings should MATCH the estimated distance of your target.

Step 3

Check the reticle’s position on the target.

As mentioned above, if you notice it moving as you move your head/eye, this is a sign of parallax issues.

If the reticle moves to the left on the target, your image is too far in front of it, and you need to INCREASE the distance adjustment.

Whereas, if the reticle moves to the right on the target as you move your head left, you need to DECREASE the distance adjustment.

As a general rule, the parallax setting is about 50 yards to the true distance to your target.

Overshooting or underestimating the range may cause a blurry image.

The side focus scope can also affect image clarity, so don’t overlook the appropriate distance.

Put a line and use the reference markings as a gauge.

How to Clean Rifle Scopes

How to Clean Rifle Scopes

As mentioned previously, fogginess or blurriness can be caused by dirt, oils, grime, or dust.

Here’s how you can deal with them with the right materials:

Microfiber Cloth or Lens Tissue

After the hunting incident, I always kept a microfiber cloth on hand to clean my lens.

Microfiber cloth is reliable for taking out dust particles from your rifle scope.

It is gentle enough to use on the surface and is easily available anywhere.

Using a circular motion, start at the middle of the lens and work toward the edge until you have covered the whole surface.

You can also use a cotton swab for hard-to-reach areas.

Camel Hairbrush

This hairbrush lets you gently wipe off any dust around your scope. You should also make sure to clean the brush before storing it.

Lens Pen

This retractable pen-shaped lens brush is used to clean cameras, binoculars, and scope lenses.

Lens pens have two ends; one has bristles, while the other has a circular pad with a built-in cleaning compound.

Canned Air

Compressed or canned air is another option you can use for sensitive devices that cannot be cleaned using water.

This is also referred to as a gas duster. It uses pressurized gas to loosen dirt build-up.

Lens Cleaning Fluid

Ideally, the cleaning agent should contain 100% alcohol.

Avoid using 70% solution because the 30% contains water that can leave marks on your scope.

The cleaning fluid should be applied on a cloth, not directly on the lenses.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Ask your rifle manufacturer what the best cleaning agent is to use to avoid damaging your lens coatings.

Maintaining and Taking Care of a Rifle Scope Properly

Maintaining and Taking Care of a Rifle Scope Properly

Regularly clean your rifle scope to make sure it is in tip-top condition. Here are some practical tips for proper maintenance:

Cover the Lens When Not in Use

Most scopes have caps for the eyepiece. It is advisable to keep the lens capped to protect them from scratches and damage.

NO Tissue, Paper Towels, or Newspaper

These paper products contain wood fiber that can damage the lens.

These scratches have a very thin line that’s not visible to the eye, but collectively, they can make the scope cloudy.

Only use a soft cloth like microfiber.

Mind the Turrets

These are the adjustable scope knobs you can calibrate and use to adjust windage and elevation.

Remember to unscrew your turrets and clean them regularly to avoid rusting. 

Friendly advice: wipe your lenses BEFORE the turret when using the same cloth for cleaning.

You don’t want to risk scratching the lenses from the dirt of the turret.

Take Out the Batteries

If your scope is battery operated, take them out periodically to avoid leaks and moisture build-up.

Easy Does It!

Don’t get too carried away when cleaning your rifle gun and its parts. Use gentle movements and find a safe and steady place to do your maintenance check.

You can also read up on this guide on how to properly repair a rifle scope!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Tunneling in a Rifle Scope?

Tunneling occurs when the field of view does not change regardless of the magnification setting.

As you decrease magnification, the image seems “farther,” as if looking down a tunnel. This issue can be caused by improper mounting or gun vibration.

What Makes a Scope Better in Low Light?

A scope that has a fully multi-coated lens works better in low light. Additionally, the bigger the lens size, the better, as more light can enter.

The magnification should also be smaller; a smaller magnification means a larger exit pupil.

What Should I Do if Cleaning the Lenses Does Not Fix the Cloudiness?

If cleaning the lenses does not work, the scope may have some internal problems, like moisture buildup.

If that’s the case, I recommend taking the scope to a professional and having it fixed there.

How Often Should I Clean My Scope to Prevent Cloudiness?

My general rule of thumb is to clean it once every three months, assuming the scope’s fog- and dirt-resistant properties work.

However, if you live in an area that is dustier or has a lot of debris, you may have to clean it more often.

The Closing Shot

As you can see, blurry errors can be fixed with some adjustments to the scope.

Before you shoot, try to focus the reticle and check the magnification to address the parallax.

The next step to getting a perfectly sharp image is giving your rifle scope some tender love and care through regular and proper maintenance!

Take my word for it — a high-quality scope lens will boost your confidence and ensure your best performance.

Needless to say, don’t settle for low-cost options on the market because you may end up wasting more money in the long run.

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