Shepherd Varminter M.556 Scope

Shepherd Varminter M.556 Scope

Shepherd's new M.556 rangefinding reticle system is calibrated specifically for the .223 Rem. cartridge, but as Layne discovered, it works equally well for .17 Fireball.

Not long after I introduced the 7mm STW to Shooting Times readers in 1988, Dan Shepherd called and said he wanted me to try one of his scopes with its rangefinding reticle system calibrated specifically for that cartridge loaded to 3400 fps with a 140-grain bullet. I'll have to admit that I was skeptical at first, but after attaching the scope to that first Model 700 in 7mm STW and actually trying it at various distances, I became a believer. And Shepherd's new Varminter M.556 reticle is every bit as effective.

The big-game rangefinding setup in Shepherd scopes is based on the assumption that the average mature deer measures 18 inches from back to brisket, and it consists of two separate reticles, each adjustable by its own pair of windage and elevation knobs. One reticle is made up of regular crosshairs; the other consists of a series of circles spaced vertically below the horizontal crosshair. The circles vary correctly in size for 18 inches of subtension at various ranges, and they are spaced in accordance with the trajectory of the bullet fired.

In use, the scope is zeroed dead on at 100 yards, and if a buck fits inside, say, the 400-yard circle, you not only have the range, but you are ready to squeeze the trigger since that circle is also used for aiming at that distance. If the deer happens to be big for one circle and too small for the next, you simply hold between the two circles and shoot.

Shepherd Varminter M.556 Scope
Model:Varminter M.556
Purpose:Hunting, target, varmint, tactical
Manufacturer:Shepherd Scope, Ltd.
Tube diameter:1 inch
Tube construction:Aluminum
Tube finish:Matte black
Objective lens dia.:40mm
Objective lens adjustable:Yes
Eyepiece dia.:39.5mm
Lens coatings:All lenses multicoated
Twilight factor:6x: 15.49; 18x: 26.85
Eye Relief:3-3.5 inches
Exit pupil:6x: 6.66mm; 18x: 2.2mm
Reticle:M.556 pattern with rear-focal plane crosshair and rangefinder/bullet-drop compensator in front-focal plane
Field of View:6x: 16.5 feet @ 100 yds.; 18x: 5.5 feet @ 100 yds.
Adjustment RFP:0.06 inch; FFP: graduations: .25 inch @ 100 yds.
Maximum adjustment travel:20 inches @ 100 yds.
Overall length:16.25 inches
Weight:19.5 ounces
Accessories:Lens caps, extended adjustment knobs, owner's manual (optional 3- and 4-inch shades

I still carry a laser rangefinder when hunting with a rifle wearing a Shepherd scope and use it in combination with the aiming circles for shooting at various distances. When the rangefinder reads a certain distance, I know which circle to use when squeezing off a shot. But when time does not allow the use of a separate device for determining distance, I utilize the circles for that as well.

The New Varminter M.556 Model

Not all Shepherd scopes are designed for big-game hunting. The 6-18X unit I recently mounted on a Remington Model 700 in .17 Fireball is called the Varminter M.556 (short for 5.56mm NATO) due to the fact that the spacing of its 10 ranging/aiming circles coincide with the trajectory of the .223 Rem. out to 1,000 yards when that cartridge is loaded with 55-grain bullets such as the Sierra BlitzKing, Nosler Ballistic Tip, Berger hollowpoint, Hornady V-Max, and others with similar ballistic coef


The diameter of each circle in the Varminter M.556 scope subtends 9 inches at its designated range, which just happens to be the nose-to-fanny length of a mature prairie dog. And since the circles and the target are set in the same focal plane, the system works regardless of what magnification the scope is set on.

To use it, you simply frame yon pasture poodle inside the circle that matches its height (or length if it is lying down), squeeze the trigger, and watch the critter bite the dust right there inside your shiny new Shepherd scope.

When both cartridges are zeroed the same, the .17 Fireball drops about 7 inches less at 400 yards and 10 inches less at 500 yards than the .223, but you can compensate for that by using the top of the 400-yard circle for aiming at that range and the hash mark just above the 500-yard circle for that range. This is but one of several examples of how the system can be adjusted to accommodate faster and slower varmint cartridges.

The new Shepherd varmint scope has a 1-inch tube, weighs 19.5 ounces, is 16.25 inches long, has a 40mm adjustable objective, uses a binocular-style focus adjustment, and features quarter-minute windage and elevation adjustments. I find optical quality to be quite good throughout the entire magnification range.

Shepherd's new 6-18X M.556 Varminter scope has a 40mm adjustable objective, uses a binocular-style focus adjustment, and features quarter-minute windage and elevation adjustments.

One-Shot Zero

All Shepherd scopes feature what company founder Dan Cooper describes as one-shot zero. Here's how it works.

After firing a shot on a paper target placed at 100 yards and with the rifle resting steady atop sandbags or other type of rest, hold the intersection of the crosshairs on the aiming point used to fire the shot and rotate the two larger windage and elevation knobs until the central circle encloses the bullet hole. Then use the two smaller adjustment knobs to bring the intersection of the crosshair to its proper position at the top of the circle. If the rifle is held perfectly steady during the scope adjustments, it is perfectly zeroed with one shot. Even if additional shots on paper reveal a need for a bit of zero tweaking, the system has put you close to where you want to be without shooting up a lot of ammunition. This feature also allows the shooter to verify reticle movement during scope adjustment rather than totally relying on the "feel" of click adjustments, something law enforcement and military personnel have come to appreciate.

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