Our editors pick the products & services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Learn more.

Best Rifle Scope – Everything You Need to Know About Rifle Scopes – Definitive Guide

Contents

Chapter 1 : Rifle Scopes 101

The allure of scopes has increased in the last couple of decades. Popular culture's focus on snipers and long-range shooters has helped the rise.  This isn’t a negative. In fact, scopes allows you to shoot a huge distance and still tag your target. Whether you are a hunter or compete in shooting matches, the best rifle scope can help.

Don't just run out and buy a scope. There is understand. The misinformation out there can cause unrealistic expectations. For example, a scope makes longer range shots possible but not easy. Understanding scopes starts with understanding their basic components
rifle scope basic

Rifle Scope Basics

Scopes are all about optics and magnification. The quality comes down to the glass. There are other parts of the scope to understand first. The scope's body and variety of knobs are vital to its accuracy. 

The first of these knobs is for windage/elevation adjustments. It is located approximately mid-body. The knobs are used to adjust the relationship between the reticle and bullet trajectory. Simply put, the windage adjustment will move the reticle left and right. The elevation will move the reticle up and down. When properly set, the crosshair in the reticle indicates exactly where the bullet will hit.

All scopes will have windage and elevation adjustments. The best scopes take those adjustments and make them turrets. Tactical and military scopes typically have this feature. It is very effective for long range hunting and target shooting.  Turrets take a lot of the guesswork out of each shot.

Most scopes will have some form of focus control. There will either be a secondary knob or movable eyepiece. This feature provides better focus by manipulating the lenses. The impact of focus on accuracy is minimal. Still, a poorly focused scope will be slightly off.

A scope may or may not have a parallax focus. Usually, this is unimportant for users. It only comes on the highest end scopes. Proper eye relief is vital to accuracy. The parallax ensures you are shooting with proper eye relief in a comfortable position.

Many scopes come with variable magnification. They will often have a ring that adjusts the magnification near the front of the eyepiece. Variable magnification is nice. Be cautious, however. Most scopes are only accurate at the magnification that was used to sight them in. If you change the magnification, it will adjust the accuracy.

Some very high-end scopes may have an illumination adjustment. This is only for accommodating shooting in different light levels. There are some scopes that use artificial light. Illumination is different. It usually just adjusts how much light is allowed into the scope.

Lenses

Two lenses are of primary interest. The one at the shooter's end of the scope is the Ocular Lens. The one at the target end is the Objective Lens.

The Ocular Lens alone is not a concern. Its quality is made up for by field of view, eye relief, and focal plane. This isn’t to say the ocular lens is not important. It is generally not a selling point on its own.

Conversely, the Objective Lens is a major concern. The primary effect of a larger objective lens is greater brightness. As the magnification of a scope increases, the darker the scope. The answer to this is a larger objective lens.

Many people think that a larger objective lens means more magnification. That isn’t precisely true. You need a thick lens for more magnification. To maintain the appropriate profile you need a somewhat larger lens. But, scopes with huge objective lenses are attempting to control brightness, not magnification.

Lens Coating

A large objective lens is not the only way to control brightness. Modern chemical engineering has developed lens coatings. These help provide clarity and brightness. They work because of the light spectrum and wavelengths. The subject is far too complicated a topic to cover here. The important takeaway is to understand the types of coatings and their impact.

Each company seems to have their own proprietary lens coating. Some are more effective than others. The end result, however, is usually very similar. The most important factor is the type of coating and how it is applied. There are four quality tiers.

The simplest coating is usually just called "Coated." It is a single layer coating applied to the objective lens. It controls glare and how much light is allowed into the scope. Even though simple, it can have a dramatic impact on the scope's effectiveness.

Some scopes are "Fully Coated." They have the single layer of coating on all optical surfaces. This leads to a slightly better view. This is not a common option with modern scopes.Some budget options do use fully coated lenses. There are better ways of dealing with light for the same cost.

The third tier are "Multi-Coated" lenses. The lens in these products has several coats of different chemicals applied to the objective. This is a minor step up from fully coated optics. It does make a difference, though. A scope with a single multi-coated lens will be brighter than a fully coated scope.

The final tier are the "Fully Multi-Coated" scopes. These are the pinnacle of performance. They often have a price to match. Each lens is coated with multiple chemicals to increase brightness. The difference in a good fully multi-coated lenses is dramatic.

Some scopes have no optical coating. This is usually reserved for the most budget options. No coatings were common on older scopes. In the current market, strive to get a scope with at least some lens coating.

Reticles

Reticles

There are more reticles than we could hope to cover. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. Many shooters swear by his or her reticle of choice. Reticles range from simple crosshairs to mil-based. Mil-based reticles allow you to easily range in your scope.

Some reticles are specifically tailored to certain calibers and loads. The se are often only included with the most expensive scopes. They are mostly designed for common military calibers. You will probably never need a specialized reticle. 

Let's ignore the super advanced reticles for now. All others can be broken into three categories.  The simplest is the cross with no additional markings. It is the oldest type of crosshair. It is very effective when used correctly. 

The second category have partial distance markings. This may be a few lines below the center of the cross. There may even be some numerical lines. Generally, these lines are only used for bullet drop. They can be quite effective when used properly.  Most of the second category tell arbitrary distances based on a certain caliber's drop. You may find them in Mils or MOA.

The most advanced scopes have a fully market crosshair in a very specific style.  There are tons of styles. They range from U.S. military styles to those used by other countries. There are even proprietary styles designed by the scope manufacturer. These are highly effective scopes provided you know how to use them properly.  Otherwise, the reticles are just clutter and will get in the way.

All scopes will have some form of marking. You can find information about how to use each. However, for beginners simpler is often better. Don’t add complexity until you have the basic form. You should be able to get repeatable shots on a basic scope. Then add a more complex reticle. 

Eye Relief

eye relief

Source : www.thefirearmblog.com

Eye relief is simply the distance from your eye to the scope.  It allows for proper view through the scope without parallax (blackness around the edges). There are two important factors that dictate proper eye relief.

If you wear glasses you will need at least 14mm of eye relief. Otherwise, you won't be able to properly use your scope. Most scopes have larger eye relief longer than 14mm anyway. Just keep that distance in mind.  If you can’t get a clear view while wearing glasses, you don’t have enough eye relief.

The second consideration is recoil. Nothing sucks more than getting a scope to the eye. Some scopes are made with extended eye relief for high caliber rifles with a lot of recoil. Anything smaller than a .270 is probably safe with normal eye relief. Larger than that and you need to consider the eye relief carefully.

Magnification

Magnification is the whole reason we want a scope in the first place. It’s the whole point.  The magnification you need is a personal choice. Base your decision on how you plan to use your scope. Most people just pick the largest magnification they can afford. That is often a flawed approach. Magnification isn't the only way to get long range hits.

Most military scopes are only 8 to 10 power. This is plenty accurate. With the proper shooting technique they are often much easier to sight in.

Remember that a more powerful scope is capable of more precision. It will also take a lot more precision in the setup and sighting-in process. Higher powered scopes are also more sensitive to changes. Often, they are even less durable.

Also consider what we mentioned in the Objective Lens and Coatings categories. A more magnified scope will appear darker. It will be harder to use in lower light. It will also require a larger objective and more advanced coatings. One of the hallmarks of cheap scopes is to offer large magnification. But, they won't have the objective lenses or coatings you need.

I would say that common magnifications for shorter range shoots should be around 4x. You should look for around 40x for the longest-range scopes. A few products may fall outside this range, but they are very uncommon. Most scopes tend to be in the high teens to low 20s.

Field of View

The Field of View (FOV) is a simple principle. It is often expressed as feet or yards at a specific distance. For example, 9-feet at 100 yards. This means that at 100 yards you will be able to see about 9 feet across. The more magnification a scope has, the less FOV.

The importance of FOV is that is allows you to find your target. If you can only see 6 feet and go deer hunting, finding the deer is much harder. A FOV of 20 feet will make the process much easier.

FOV will often be a secondary consideration in the selection of a scope. It is still important to be mindful of it. Simply put, larger FOV allows you to get on target faster.

Scopes with adjustable magnification have a different field of view. You can change FOV with the magnification levels. For example, the 6 feet at 100 yards mentioned above is based on a 20-power scope. If you scale back the magnification to 6-power, your FOV would be 20 feet or more.

Focal Plane

When you purchase a scope with variable magnification, you also need to consider the focal plane. When you change the magnification, the point of impact changes as well. This is true of scopes that are second focal plane.  A first focal plane scope will preserve the point of impact no matter the magnification. There are strengths and weaknesses to each.

A Second Focal Plane scope has a stable reticle. it will not move no matter the magnification. This means that any numbers, values, or lines will stay the same size as well. Second focal plane scopes can be handy with very complicated reticles.

However, a First Focal Plane scope will always have the same point of impact no matter the magnification. Once you are sighted in, it will work at any magnification.  If the reticle magnifies as you increase magnification, it is a first focal plane scope. These scopes are often preferred but generally cost much more.

Chapter 2 : Types of Rifle Scopes

Scopes are often used for different purposes. This means that some scopes are better suited for certain uses. We will cover more specifics later. For now we will use some classifications to make broader generalizations.

Tactical Scopes

Tactical Scopes

Lots of products seem to have the term "tactical" on them today. Manufacturers often use the term as a selling point. But, a true tactical scope is a specific piece of equipment. A 40x scope with a massive objective lens may look cool. It's not necessarily a tactical scope.

A tactical scope will have lower magnification. It may be as low as 4x. The magnification is used to extend the range of engagement. A Designated Marksman in the U.S. military rather than a sniper uses these scopes.

The idea is to take the engagement range from the standard 300 meters to around 600 meters. Keeping a shorter range is the norm for a tactical scope.

Sniper Scope

I hesitate to use the term sniper scope. The extended range scopes used by the military are really the only sniper scopes. Sniper scopes don't refer to the super-powered scopes that most people stick on their rifles. Instead, they are generally moderate-powered optics with very specific setups used by military snipers.

The U.S. military currently uses a fixed 10 power scope. It has a mil-dot reticle and fine adjustment turrets. This setup has proven very effective for nearly 70 years. It takes a lot of training to use a scope like this for long-range shots. Doing so provides the best magnification while preserving durability, field of view, and visibility. If you are looking to emulate a military sniper rifle, stick with lower powered, high quality optics.
Sniper Scopes

Hunting Scopes

Hunting Scope

Most hunting scopes are fairly simple affairs. They may only have a few extra features. They need to be easy to use, durable, and weather resistant.

The most common hunting scopes are less than 20 power with a plain reticle. They may variable power or a fixed power. Generally they will have a larger objective for a bright and clear image.

Anything more than a 20-power scope is excessive. Many hunters prefer scopes with similar power as a military scope. Around 8 or 10 power. They often lack adjustments as well.

Competition Scope

This is where your large power scopes tend to shine. The most powerful scopes on the market are often used to shoot low-powered .22 competitions. In these competitions pinpoint accuracy is required. You are usually shooting at a dot smaller than an inch at 50 yards or more.

Only consider a 40x scope if you plan on using it to complete. Those situations don't require as much durability or light transition. 

Competition Scope

Chapter 3 : What Scope is Best for you?

Now that you know the basic categories of scope, it is time to give more specifics. In this section we define the exact characteristics best suited to each of your needs.

These are only basic guidelines.You may want a scope that can cover multiple uses. In that case, compromising will need to be made. Use the information presented here as a jumping off point.  

Tactical or Military

For the collector or hobbyist, a military styled weapon can be a cornerstone of a collection. if you want the pride of owning a military weapon, look for the following in your scopes.  

A tactical scope will have low magnification. It will often be 6x or lower. The scope itself will be smaller and easy to maneuver. Adjustments will often be simple. There may not be any on the fly adjustments at all. Keep your objective lens small. Use a mil-dot or similar reticle.

For a military scope designed for longer ranges, you need 10x magnification. There should also be turret adjustments and a mil-dot or similar reticle. The whole scope needs to have a slim profile. It should also be very durable. This type of scope is the cornerstone of the market. Finding a scope that emulates a military setup is often very easy.

Home Defense

Keep in mind any potential legal ramifications for using a rifle with a scope for home defense. However, there are some good reasons to have such a weapon available. You don’t want to look like you wanted to fight. Still, you may have poor eyesight or need more range or accuracy. In that case choosing an optic isn’t out of the picture for home defense.

Our basic recommendation would be similar to the tactical scopes above. You can opt for something as low as a 3x. You should avoid anything larger than 6x. Higher powered scopes can severely limit your ability to use your rifle at close ranges.

The most common optic for home defense has no magnification at all. They are more of a sight than a scope. Adding in that little bit of magnification may make a difference. So, consider both options. 

Hunting

A good hunting scope can be a lot of things. You can find scopes less than 10x all the way to a 20x. Much depends on what and where you hunt. You can use a higher power scope in the plains. In the woodlands of Appalachia you will need lower power.

More important than magnification will be the image's clarity and brightness. A good optic would be multi-coated or better. It will have a large objective that can pick out deer or squirrels. A good field of view is also important. Most animals don’t stay still for long. The ability to follow their movement while waiting on that perfect shot is vital.

As far as reticles and adjustments, keep it simple. There is no need to over-complicate your optic. You can get by with a very simple crosshair and no turrets.

Competition - Action Shooting

For the more active type of shooting competitions, like 3-gun, keep your scope tactical. Magnification should be low for speed. The reticle can be as simple as you can use. Don’t overthink things. It will only slow you down.

Many people opt for red dot sights for this type of competition. Adding a little magnification can also be good. I recommend a 4x scope max.

Long Range Competition

For long range competitions, you first need to consider a couple of factors. Know the range, caliber of bullet, and target size. A man-sized target at 1000 yards is not so different from an inch target at 100 yards. Either will benefit from precision. That means more magnification.

You can use scopes in the 30x and 40x range. Just ensure that the competitions have decent lighting. You should also not need to move your rifle much.  You can go quite complicated for these shoots. Turret adjustments and reticles with markings are all helpful. This is a fun way to utilize some of the most advanced scopes on the market.

Read more: Long Range Rifle Scope Reviews

Plinking and Target Shooting

Some of the most fun you can have with a scoped rifle is just playing on the local target range. The ball is completely in your court. You can choose smaller or larger targets depending on your mood, range, and caliber. 

For my fellow plinkers, the world is your oyster. Get any scope you like and use it however you like. It’s a great way to become a better shooter. You will also have a lot of fun. Magnification isn’t important. Use a much or as little as you like.  You can even get by with a budget scope. Plinking and target shooting is rarely demanding.

Chapter 4 :Best 26 Rifle scope On The Market

Product

Magnification

Pros

Cons

5.5-22x

  • 100 M.O.A. of internal adjustment
  • Incredible optical integrity
  • Great Speed and Accuracy
  • Well-Tested
  • Made From 6061-T6 Aircraft Grade Aluminum
  • Expensive

4.5-27x

  • Durable
  • Great Zoom
  • Incredible Opticals
  • APO Optical System
  • O-Ring Sealed
  • Lens Cracks Easily
  • Screws Don’t Stay Tight
  • Costly

5-25x

  • Incredible Hold Points
  • Great Resolution and Color Fidelity
  • 10 Intensity Levels
  • Expensive
  • Doesn’t Hold Scope at Zero

6-24x 

  • Shock Proof
  • Precise
  • Strong O Seals
  • Thin Reticles

4-16x

  • Great Opticals
  • Scratch Resistant
  • Sharp and Clear Picture
  • Poor Glass Quality
  • Poor Zoom

5-20x

  • Limited Lifetime Warranty
  • MOAR Reticles
  • Illumination
  • Expensive

4-12x

  • Multi-coated Glass
  • Shock Proof
  • Entirely Metal
  • Not Clear
  • Crosshairs Get Fuzzy

3-9x

  • Multi X Reticles
  • Works Well In Low Lighting
  • Waterproof
  • Fog proof
  • Can’t Hold Zero

3-9x

  • Versatile
  • 40mm lens
  • Compact
  • Reticle on the 2nd focal plane

3-12x

  • Illuminated reticle
  • 50mm lens
  • Weatherproof
  • Cheap
  • Low eye relief
  • Clunky

1-8x

  • Illuminated low/bright reticle
  • Incredible image quality
  • Comfortable design
  • Expensive
  • Low magnification

3-9x

  • Color-changing illuminated reticle
  • Versatile range
  • Excellent in low-light levels
  • Compact and uncomfortable
  • Low eye relief

2-7x

  • Light and compact
  • Long eye relief
  • Clear and versatile ballistic reticle
  • Simple, bare bones scope
  • Difficult to use in low light

2.5-10x

  • Durable
  • Excellent resolution
  • Bright illuminated reticle
  • Clunky
  • Not for very long range

3-9x

  • Entry-level
  • Clear image quality
  • Durable
  • Simple, no extra features
  • Cheaper options

5-25x

  • Very long range
  • Flawless image quality
  • Large and heavy
  • Expensive
  • Meant for target shooting

3-12x

  • Precise image
  • Glass-etched reticle
  • No parallax

6-24x

  • Glass-etched reticle
  • Very long range
  • Usable in bad weather and low light
  • Large and heavy
  • Little use in close range

2.5-10x

  • Long range
  • Entry-level
  • No extra features
  • Thin reticle

3-9x

  • Versatile
  • Entry-level
  • Very cheap
  • High quality for the price
  • No extra features
  • Very heavy

4-16x

  • Versatile
  • Compatible with almost all rifles
  • Reliable
  • Intuitive ballistic reticle

 

  • Older scope
  • Lacks extra features
  • Expensive for what it does

3-12x

  • Useful in very low light
  • Versatile
  • Above average weight

3-14x

  • High-tech
  • Camera and video capture
  • Automatic shot calculations
  • HD image quality
  • Night vision
  • Variety of features
  • Requires four AA batteries
  • Very heavy

3-9x

  • Tactical
  • Usable with home defense rifles
  • Intuitive ballistic reticle
  • Precise up to 800 yards
  • No extra features

6.5-20x

  • Long range scope
  • Excellent price
  • Multiple reticles
  • Durable
  • Adjustable Objectives
  • No illuminated reticle
  • AO forces uncomfortable movement

Top 26 Best Rifle Scopes on the Market Reviews

 1  ​Nightforce Optics 5.5-22x56 NXS Riflescope

The Nightforce Optics NXS 5.5-22x56 is great as a long range scope. It is equipped with a 56mm lens. The picture will be incredibly clear in alll magnification levels.

What stands out about this scope is its precision. No matter what range, the shot will be precise. 

It has an internal adjustment of 100 M.O.A. This level is sought after by some enthusiasts. It’s also made out of aircraft grade aluminum, which gives it incredible durability. Nightforce Optics also rigorously test all their rifle scopes before they go on the market.

One negative is that this scope only comes in matte black.

 2  ​​Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II First Focal Plane Riflescopes

Another incredible scope for long-range shooting is the Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II. It’s incredibly precise. It will make shots easy no matter the distance.

There’s a 6x zoom. You will be able to see well into the distance. Made with aircraft grade aluminum, this scope is durable. The first focal plane reticle magnifies with the zoom. This features gives you incredibly accuracy.

The reticle is glass etched. It sits between two other layers of glass. One of the biggest reasons for this scope's popularity is how incredible it works in low lighting. If you’re planning on hunting on dawn or dusk, pick this scope.

It is O-ring sealed which  makes it waterproof and fog proof. Lastly, it has a scratch-proof coating. It will always stay free from oil and dirt. As a con, it is a bit costly. People have also complained that the screws tend to come loose.

 3  ​Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II First Focal Plane Riflescopes

An update to the Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen I is the Gen II. It will work great whether you’re right next to your target or taking a longe-range shot. This scope is packed with 10 intensity levels.

There is an adjustment knob that controls focus and illuminates your view. The reticle is glass etched. It has a lot of detail to make aiming easier.

The body is shockproof. It has a hard anodized finish, which keeps you camouflaged. There are  two precision force and glide systems. They make it easy to repeat shots. They also make easy magnifying changes in nearly any condition.

The reticle is illuminated. You will have not problems shooting in low light. If you can afford the price tag, you get one great rifle scope.

 4  ​Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical First Focal Plane Riflescopes

For a great scope without an insane price tag, try the Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical First Focal Plane.

The reticle is first focal plane. You may have guessed this from the name. Being first focal plane gives you incredible accuracy. The tube is made out of aluminum. It is incredibly durable overall.

The scope is also shockproof. It has sturdy O-rings, which make it waterproof as well. The O-rings also help to keep out dirt or oil. The 4x optical system gives you a clear and sharp image. There are turrets, but they are low profile. You will still be able to shoot quickly, easily, and precisely.

The windage and elevation adjustments respond smoothly. One con is that the reticles are rather thin. Overall, this scope is a great choice for the price.

 5  ​​Vortex Optics Viper HS LR Second Focal Plane Riflescopes

Whether you’re shooting for tactical purposes or hunting, the Vortex Optics Viper HS LR is a great pick.

What's great is that you can shoot this scope any distance accurately. LR is in the name for a reason. It has no problems shooting long-range. The windage turret is capped. This keeps the scope looking great. It also prevents it from getting caught on anything.

The scope has a 4x zoom. The eye box that is comfortable for extended use. With the zoom, you can see your target at any distance.

The tube all one piece. It is made out of aluminum. Aluminum tubs make for long lasting and durable scopes.

If you’re able to invest a little in your next scope, try out this Vortex product. It is not the most expensive, but it will give you a lot for your money!

 6  ​​​Nightforce Optics 5-20x56 SHV Riflescope

The Nightforce Optics 5-20x riflescope is best known for it’s magnification. With a zoom like it has, you’re able to shoot targets from quite the distance. The lens gives you an incredibly clear picture. It won't even get distorted as you zoom in.

The scope has Nightforce’s unique ZeroSet feature. This feature allows you to return to your zero even after you've changed the elevation. You will pay real money for this scope. But, you definitely get what you pay for in terms of quality. 

This scope is waterproof and shockproof. It is also equipped with great illumination control. People who shoot in low light will love that feature. Most big game hunters prefer this scope. You get a durable and long-lasting scope for the high price.

 7  Vortex Optics Diamondback Second Focal Plane Riflescopes

The Vortex Optics Diamondback is a classic hunting scope. It’s best known for its image quality. It has a dead-hold BDC reticle. Shooting will be easy, no matter the range.

The metal turrets let you reset back to zero after sight-in. The glass lenses are multi-coated. They give you a great picture quality. While it’s not illuminated, you can still used this scope in low light.

The tube is one piece. It is shockproof and has O-rings. Both features help keep out water, fog, and any dirt or grime. This scope is best used when hunting large game at dusk or dawn.

It’s incredibly wallet-friendly. You will give up a short mounting tube and eye relief. But, for the money it is quite good.  

 8  ​Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Multi-X Reticle Riflescope with 3-Inch Eye Relief

The Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Multi-X Reticle Riflescope is high-quality and affordable. You can't find another product like it anywhere. This is one of the more popular scopes right now.

It's coating provides clarity, focus, and a sharp image. Like a lot of expensive scopes, this one is shock proof, fog proof, and waterproof. The body is matte black, which gives it a sleek look.

The lenses are multi-coated. You do have the option of having illuminated reticles. The tube is made out of a single piece. It is nitrogen filled. The eyepiece focuses quickly. Lastly, the windage and elevation adjustments are adjustable.

The scope is durable. However, some users have noticed quality control issues.

 9  ​​Leupold VX-1

Leupold makes some of the most reliable sports optics in the business. The Leupold VX-1 is no exception. This scope has features that make it a versatile choice.

With a 3:1 zoom ratio and a magnification of 3-9x, this scope works great in close ranges. It will still have some options for long distances as well. The diameter of the lens is 40mm. This size gives the scope a distinct advantage. It’s not night vision scope. The objective size makes the Leupold VX-1 useful in dark areas.

The reticle is an LR Duplex on the 2nd focal plane. Being a second plane scope is on of the product's downsides. A reticle on the 2nd focal plane is bound to hurt your accuracy. The addition of this features does keep down the price.

The Leupold VX-1 is a compact, well-rounded scope overall. For its price, it’s hard to beat. If you’re on a tight budget, this is one of the best rifle scopes for $300.

 10  Barska Huntmaster Pro

As its name implies, the Barska Huntmaster Pro is one of the best rifle scopes for deer hunting. Barska specializes in high-quality scopes that consistently out-perform the affordable competition. This scope is another example of their quality for the money.

This cheap rifle scope is built to function in the worst conditions. It is sturdy and reliable. With 3-12x magnification, an illuminated reticle, and a 50mm lens diameter, you can hunt at fair distance even in low light.

The cost does mean some compromise. This scope isn’t good for much aside from hunting. Its size and weight also make it a bit clunky. The eye relief suffers at a meager 2.7 inches as well.

All that said, the positives tend to outweigh the negatives when it comes to a scope this cheap. It’ll be hard to beat the Barska Huntmaster Pro if your budget sits at a $100 or less.

 11  ​Swarovski Z8i

Are you willing to make a big purchase for the sake of making hunting super comfortable? Then the Swarovski Z8i will give you the most bang for your buck.

This scope manages to pack premium features into a sleek, light design. It’ll barely make your rifle heavier. The illuminated reticle can be toggled from low to bright. It is an excellent choice for day and night hunting. The incredible quality you’ll get from this scope lets you look at your target no matter the conditions.

The 1-8x magnification limits it in some ways. You only need that level of magnification for a hunting scope with such crystal clear resolution. It’s expensive. All the features, though, make it well worth the price.

 12  ​​UTG BugBuster

People on a tight budget who want the most utility will love the UTG BugBuster.

As a 3-9x scope, the UTG BugBuster provides a versatile scope at any range. With an adjustable objective from 3 yards to infinity, that versatility increases. The 32mm lens may seem less useful than other low-light scopes. It’s premium optics, color-changing illuminated reticle, and Emerald Coating boost it above the competition. Try the BugBuster for a reliable scope in low-light environments.

Its small size can make it a bit uncomfortable to lean into. The eye relief also isn’t outstanding. At this price, anyone on a budget should seriously consider this scope.  

 13  ​​​Burris Scout Rifle Scope

Traditional hunters looking for a quality, compact scope should try the Burris Scout Rifle Scope.

This is a no-nonsense scope. It puts comfort and clarity first and foremost. The lightweight scope will keep your rifle maneuverable. The generous eye relief of up to 12 inches make it one of the most comfortable scopes. It has a simple design. It isn't equipped with extra features, such as an illuminated reticle. However, the ballistic reticle is clear tand guides your eye up to 500 yards.

It may not be as fancy as some of the more expensive options For a scout rifle scope, you can't get any better.

 14  ​​​​Vanguard Endeavor RS IV

The Endeavor RS IV has a lot of above-average qualities. It is better than good but less than great. When you pair that with its reliability, however, you might just find a partner for life.

There’s nothing that’s particularly bad. The size and weight do add a bit of heft to your rifle. Still, there are few things that make it great. The image quality is only decent. The resolution is consistent and concise. The illuminated reticle doesn’t give much information. It is clear, visible, and can be used at dusk. The heft is a bit cumbersome. It also keeps the scope resistant to bad weather and durable.  

This a solid scope with plenty of usability. It provides a level of quality far above its price. These factors makes it one of the best rifle scopes you can get for around $500.

 15  ​​​​​Bushnell Trophy

New to the rifle scene? Looking for a new addition to your firearm? The Bushnell Trophy might be a good place to start.

This is an excellent entry-level scope. It provides all the core elements of a great scope scope. Bushnell shaves off the extra features to keep the cost low. The scope itself is straightforward and simple. 3-9x magnification and a fast and smooth eyepiece make it precise, versatile, and beginner-friendly. Multi-coated lenses keep the image clear. They also protect the scope. The solid build makes it waterproof and keeps the lenses intact. While it may not be quite as cheap as others on this list, the price is still right for most people.

It doesn’t come with any fancy additions. So its use will be limited. For an entry-level scope, it is hard to beat. 

 16  ​​​​​​Nightforce ATACR F1

This expensive scope is a bit niche. If you are a very long range shooter and patient, then you'll love this scope.

This massive scope is meant for sport and shooting targets. It has a whopping 16 inches of length and weighs over 39 ounces. It is a pain to lug around and set up. That said, it’s not really meant to be moved around. With proper set up, this scope provides flawless image quality and resolution. It has a 5-25x magnification range. This makes it one of the best rifle scopes for 1000 yards and beyond.

It’s not the most durable scope when it comes to bad weather. It's also not meant for use in the dark. If you’re looking for a big purchase that will enable you to make some impressive shots, then try this product.

 17  ​​​​​​​Meopta MeoStar R1r

People looking for a high-end rifle scope without the high end price tag will love the Meopta MeoStar R1r.

This scope is all about high quality and longevity. This particular model mixes utility in as well. It is a versatile scope with 3-12x magnification and crystal-clear image. Two different illuminated reticles can be used in low-light environments. They give extra option, which makes this scope good for any range. Both reticles are glass-etched instead of wire. They will last for as long as the glass. This scope can take plenty of punishment without showing the slightest scratch.

The scope doesn’t have a parallax correction control. That's one of the few cons about it. For only a little over $1000, you’ll be getting more than your money’s worth.

 18  ​​​​​​​​Athlon Argos BTR

Looking for a scope as hefty and high-range as the ATACR F1, but can't afford the price? Try the Athlon Argos BTR.

6-24x power means you have lots of magnification for a quarter of the price. You won’t be getting a scope with many extra features. You will be getting a durable scope. It will enable you to shoot distant targets with ease. In some ways, it’s more practical than the other, more expensive counterpart, long distance scope above. This rifle scope offers far more protection against the elements. Its 50mm lens allows more light in and allows you to shoot in low-light situations as well.

It’s not the cheapest scope on this list. If you’re looking into long-range shooting for the first time, this is a great choice that doesn’t require a multi-thousand-dollar investment.

 19  Bushnell Engage

For an even more entry-level long-range rifle scope than the one described above, try the Bushnell Engage. It offers precise distance shooting at an unbeatable price.

This scope will lack a little in magnification. Its 2.5-10x for the cheapest model is half the magnification of the BTR and ATACR F1. It will still get the job done, though. A distinct advantage it has over other long-range scopes is that it’s light. it will not encumber you and your rifle. It is a super useful rifle scope for 300 yards as well. It’s clear that this scope was designed with versatility in mind. It will also allow you to do some long-range shooting.

The reticle is thin and isn’t glass-etched. You must be careful with this scope so the reticle doesn't get crooked. With proper maintenance this is an excellent choice for long-range shooting on a budget.

 20  Simmons Truplex

The high-end rifle scopes with premium features and niche application may not appeal to you. Some users may just be in the market for a general scope. That scope should be the Simmons Truplex.

It has a crazy low price and high-performance capabilities. This is really the best budget rifle scope. With a 3-9x magnification and a 40mm lens, it is versatile. It can be used in any situation as long as there’s a small amount of light. A QTA eyepiece, clear reticle, and eye relief of just below 4 inches increases your comfort and accuracy. 

The only downside is that the scope is very heavy. It weighs a whole 70 ounces. Thankfully, it’s not particularly large or bulky. It may slow you down. Getting used to its slender-but-dense design won’t take long. It may not be a very tactical rifle scope, but there’s no better rifle scope for the money.

 21  ​Nikon Monarch 3

Despite being from 2013, the Monarch 3 is still an incredibly popular and reliable scope.

It doesn’t have the features you’d expect from a modern scope. There is plenty of reason for its continued popularity. It is compatible with just about any rifle. Its focus is fast and smooth. It also has a simple but intuitive reticle. You will never have to worry about its durability. The image quality will even rival its high-end competitors.

This is probably what you think of when you hear rifle scope. For good reason. It may be a bit pricey, but you’ll get a reliable scope that’s well worth it’s price.

 22  ​​Vortex Crossfire II Hog Hunter

For a rifle scope around $300 that matches high-end scopes in quality, try the Vortex Crossfire II. Vortex is a trusted name. This scope's price likely reflects that good reputation. From binoculars to rifle optics, Vortex knows how to make a lens.

The Crossfire II has a few variants. Mgnification and lens size will be different in each. Among them, the 3-12x with the 56mm lens is the most versatile. This scope is effective at close range. It is usable at long range depending on the environment. The 56mm objective keeps the image clear and precise even in low light. Along with the usual protection against bad weather and fog, the Crossfire II features an anti-reflective coating. This allows even more light in. The coating makes this scope effective up to pitch blackness. As long as you have enough light to see your hand in front of your face, this scope will give you a clear and crisp image. 

On the other hand, it does have a bit of weight to it. It may be a little difficult to move around in those evening hours. Once you've used this fantastic scope enough, you will get used to the weight.  

 23  ​ATN X-Sight II

If you want something new, unique, but functional, then the ATN X-Sight II checks your boxes.

You’ll immediately notice that this scope is weird. It’s big. It’s bulky. It looks like a bloated TV remote. It also weighs a whopping 5 pounds. However, once you take the great features into consideration, it doesn’t seem very strange at all.

You’ll need four AA batteries to keep this scope powered. They give you all the high-tech benefits you could ever want. This rifle scope has built-in rangefinder, dedicated night vision, and photo and video capture. It comes along with a compass and an HD display that stays HD even at the highest range. The best feature is an automatic calculator that does shot math all on its own. The calculator and the night vision feature alone make this the perfect day/night rifle scope.

This high-tech scope is in a league of its own. Despite the heft, the X-Sight II offers more versatility than any other within its price range.

 24  Redfield Revolution TAC Rifle Scope

While you may not recognize the name Redfield, you should recognize its parent company. It falls under the umbrella of Leupold & Stevens. Redfield rifle scopes are guaranteed to be a quality purchase at an affordable price.

The Redfield Revolution, in particular, is designed specifically for ease-of-use and any range. The solid scope has a 3-9x magnification, ballistic reticle, and very manageable weight. It is quite versatile. The features make this scope great for home defense rifle as well as hunting and target shooting. 

For how image quality and versatility, the price is hard to beat. Unfortunately, it lacks features such as an illuminated reticle, mounting rings, or lens caps. This lack is why it is so affordable. 

If you need a no-fuss rifle scope and you’ve got money to spend, this might be for you. Don't try it if you want the extra features. But for a pared down scope, it cannot be beat. 

 25  ​Weaver 40/44 AO Scope

The Weaver 40/44 AO Scope gives you great glass at a great price. It comes in a matte-black finish for a sleek look. It will look great on any rifle. 

Don't just purchase it for its looks. Instead, you will love the fully multi-coated lenses. It has a single-tube construction that is waterproof, shockproof, and fogproof. Some models include a ballistic-X reticle. Some models also provide an aspherical lens system.You get a lot of choices with the 40/44. 

For the price, the Weaver 40/44 cannot be beat. It will not be as fancy or high-quality as some of the more expensive options. However, it will give the cost-mind customer something to enjoy. 

Chapter 5 : Matching A Scope to Your Rifle

There are a variety of factors that determine the best setup for you scope. Use is not the only gauge you should use to find the right product. Both caliber and platform should also be considered.

Pistol Caliber and Centerfire AR Platforms

This section covers most of your AR-15 rifles as well as many tactical rifles designed to fill the same role. Use them for shorter ranges of less than 300 yards. They lack the power or range to fully utilize some of the more powerful optics.

Most people would be well served by a red-dot sight. If you choose to have magnification, something in the 4-power range works very well. You have no need to go with anything more.

The one exception to this rule is when using an AR style rifle for varmint hunting. In that case, you may elect to go with an 8 or 10 power scope.

Lower Powered Centerfire Rifles and Lever Action Rifles

Bolt action rifles in .243 and smaller don’t need a scope that exceeds 10 power. They can often get by with less. A common scope for these rifles is actually around 12 power. It will do a fine job.

 The same is true for lever guns in calibers like .30-30 or even .44 mag.  Something around 8 power is a perfect scope for them. You will rarely need to shoot farther than that level of magnification can handle.

Larger Bolt Action Rifles

Rifles chambered in calibers of .270 or larger can go with more powerful optics. Most people will rarely be able to use anything more than a 20x scope. Those that are larger don't really work for these calibers.

Once you move into the area of .338 Lapua and other dedicated extreme range calibers, use the most powerful scope you can find.  This is where those 40x magnification scopes really come in handy.

.22 and .17 Rifles

Even though this caliber has a limited range, a higher manification scope is helpful. Most people use these small-bore rifles to hunt small targets, which require a greater level of magnification. 

If you use your .22 for hunting, something in 8x is quite reasonable. You can also choose a scope with magnification up to 30-power. At this caliber scope selection comes down to intended use, not range. The size of your target it the deciding factor.

Chapter 6 : How to Mount a Rifle Scope

how to mount rifle scope

There are two components to mounting a scope: rings and bases. A few tools will also make your life a lot easier. The tools will prevent damage to your scope or the mounting hardware. At a minimum, you should have a torque-style screwdriver like the Wheeler Fat Wrench. A set of good gunsmith’s screwdrivers is essential as well.

Rremember that guns with rails may not need bases. Some scope rings are designed to mate with either Picatinny, Weaver, or dovetailed rails. If your gun does not have a rail, it will often have a pre-tapped receiver to mount bases on. This will be apparent by the several small screws in the top of the receiver.

First, remove the extra screws and attach your scope base in their place. I often use a little bit of Loctite Blue to make sure everything stays in place. Only use a small bit. Your rifle specs will tell you the recommended screw tension. Use your Wheeler Fat Wrench to make sure they aren’t too tight. Being too tight could cause issues with the function of your rifle.

Next, install the lower half of the rings on the base and loosely tighten them. This is another good place for a drop of Loctite. If you are attaching to rails, make sure the rings are spaced appropriately. You can do this by comparing the scope to the location of your base. Allow a little extra room. This makes it easier to move the scope back and forth and find the right placement.

Next place the scope into the rings. You don’t want to tighten at this point. Just place the top of each ring on and go finger-tight. You will want to Loctite these later but not yet.

Probably 8 out of 10 scopes are placed too far back on the rifle. Bad placement can cause issues or even injury. While your scope can still be moved, place it on your shoulder in the normal firing position. Adjust everything until you see the correct view and it is comfortable. Gently tighten down the screws just enough to hold the scope in position.

Always begin by tightening the base. The tighten the rings. I recommend removing one screw from the rings at a time, applying a small drop of Loctite, and then tightening it to spec. Over tightening the scope could destroy its optics.

Take your time during this process. Make sure it’s done right. It isn’t a hard process. You should still use care and precision to avoid problems later on.

Chapter 7 : How to Sight in a Rifle Scope

For some reason, many people believe that sighting in a scope is hard. It does take a person with a consistently good shot to do it properly. Otherwise, there is nothing hard about it. Like anything firearm skill, it just takes a little time and care.

Always have your rifle bore sighted first. This can be done at most gun stores. You should also consider having a second person with you. Provide them with a spotting scope or pair of binoculars. It will greatly ease the process.

You need a good target. One that shows bullet impacts well and that has a very small bullseye is preferable. A gunsmith’s screwdriver will help adjust the scope. Twenty rounds of ammunition of good quality is essential. Sandbags or a gun vice, a permanent marker, and a range of at least 100 yards are also important.

Getting on Paper

First, get the rifle to hit the paper. Fire a single shot as accurately as possible. See if it hits anywhere on your target. This is where bore sighting and your shooting buddy can come in handy. Once you know the direction your shot went , make adjustments and try again. Once you are on the paper, move to the next step.

Shoot a Group

Using the same point of aim on the target, shoot three rounds. Mark the approximate center of those rounds with the permanent marker. Now for the tricky part. You need to hold the scope directly on the original point of aim. The make adjustment so that the crosshairs point at the center of your group. You can also have your partner do this step.  

Repeat

The second group should be much closer to the bullseye. Repeat the same process as above. This can be done as many times as needed until you hit the spot you aim at. The trick is to be consistent and patient. High magnification scopes can be very difficult to get precise.

I have used this method on dozens of rifles. It has worked every time.

Chapter 8 : Common Mistakes When Choosing A Rifle Scope

The single most common mistake people make is to get one that is too powerful. Many first-time scope buyers get the most power they can find. They think that power = better. There are just too many other factors to consider.

The second most common issue is purchasing scope rings that are too tall. Always get rings that will mount the scope as low as possible. Usually, the Objective Lens will dictate the height of the scope.

Just because a scope says it has the same specifications as another does not mean they are the same. Quality glass is what really makes a scope shine. Always purchase a scope with the best glass you can afford.

Chapter 9 : 5 Tips for Getting the Right Scope

  1. It should go without saying. I'll still say it. Always buy the best scope you can afford. Look for names synonymous with quality. Read the reviews and go with the best you can find. In most cases, your scope will cost more than your rifle.
  2. Buy a scope for your needs. Don't just buy the most expensive scope or the one with the most features. Remember what was discussed in the "What Scope is Best for You" and "Matching a Scope to your Rifle" sections.
  3. Don’t be afraid to go to your local hunting shop and browse their selection. Shopping around will help you determine what you like. Often times you can get a better deal online.
  4. Don’t buy into the hype. Many scopes will boldly print their magnification on the box. All the other features will be in small print. Remember that optical quality and lens coatings are a better than just magnification.
  5. Just because it looks tactical, doesn’t mean it is. Too many companies are producing scopes that look tacti-cool. But, they still have no substance. They aren’t good for anything. For hard, tactical use that requires durability make sure you get a real tactical scope.

Chapter 10 : Scope FAQ

Thoughout this article I have answered all of these questions. Here they are all put together for your convenience. Below you'll find the most common questions I see about rifle scopes:

What’s the best riflescope magnification?

If I had to pick one magnification level to recommend, it would be either an 8x or 10x. If I were to give a range, I would recommend a variable 3-9x magnification.

Do I need a fixed or variable magnification scope?

A fixed power scope will typically be higher quality and more durable. There are benefits to each. Most militarys, however, fixed scopes because of their reliability and consistency.

What size objective lens do I need for my riflescope?

The objective lens should be matched to the scope's magnification. There is no easy way to answer this question. You should always look through a scope before you purchase it. Look for a clear, bright view.

Which riflescope reticle should I choose?

I only recommend two reticles for new scope shooters. If you predominantly hunt, go with a plain reticle. It should have few or no internal markings. For tactical and long-range optics, a standard mil-dot reticle is best.

What is parallax?

The mechanics of parallax are complicated. You don't need to know them. All you need to know is how to identify and deal with the issue.

Parallax happens because of improper alignment between you eye and the scope. Is there is too much distance between you eye and the ocular lens, you will get parallax. Simply sliding your head back and forth will allow you to find a place with no black around the edges. You are then parallax-free.

Why are the scope adjustments always called windage and elevation?

The adjustments areactually horizontal and vertical. The use of the terms elevation and windage go back a long way. They harken back to the history of distance shooting with artillery pieces. The terms have been in use for so long that they've become standard.

In modern times, these terms are true for scopes that adjust by turrets. You compensate for wind by adjusting the reticle left or right. You can elevate your bore in relation to the optical sight by adjusting the elevation knob.

What does the term MOA or Minute of Angle mean, and why is it used?

This is another older phrase taken for artillery use. A MOA is 1/60th of a degree. It just so happens that an MOA is also about 1 inch at 100 yards. It is used as an easily understaood and measured standard. You only ever need to know MOA is when making adjustments. In that case keep everything to roughly 1 inch at 100 yards.

Just to make sure you understand, here's an example. When you make an adjustment of 60MOA, you move your scope a single degree around a circle. This is unlikely to ever happen. Even the most powerful scopes usually top out at 40 or 50 MOA.

https://www.opticsplanet.com/howto/how-to-choose-a-riflescope.html

https://ioutdoorpursuit.com/rifle-scope-definitive-guide/

https://www.midwayusa.com/how-to-guides/ring-base-guide

https://www.midwayusa.com/how-to-guides/ring-height

https://adventure.howstuffworks.com/outdoor-activities/hunting/traditional-methods/rifle-scope.htm

Scroll to Top