Editor's Note: This article supports our "5 great light-gathering riflescopes" piece. Please give it a read for real "clarity."

Don't settle for a scope that just looks clear when you peek through it down a sporting-goods-store aisle. Most scopes will look incredibly clear in these environments — the lighting is perfect and you're focusing on close objects. I don't care what you've read or how much hype is surrounding a particular scope's clarity.

If you're dropping a chunk of change on a new scope, ask the retailer to walk you outside and let you look at targets at a distance. More than once I've done the "glance down the aisle" check, went home, attached the scope to my rifle and been dissatisfied with its clarity at long distances. Plus, this clarity only got worse in low-light conditions. If you're buying your scope direct from the manufacturer, I recommend that you first find a retailer that carries the scope and go check it out.

A new scope for your rifle is like buying a new car. It might look fancy and come with all the bells and whistles, but until you know how it handles, you can't break out the checkbook.