Choosing the perfect rifle scope should be a need-based process. No matter if you are a hunter or just enjoy shooting for sport, you’ll know that choosing the best rifle scope is not an easy task and many variables have to be taken into consideration. The important thing to do is recognize what you actually need a scope for, and choose accordingly.
With so many options available and technical jargon and special features to consider, it can be easy to end up with a riflescope that is unfit for purpose.
If you are not experienced in this field, do not worry as well. On this page, I will try to give you an outline of the most important things you need to know when choosing a scope for your rifle.
- 1 Benefits of Rifle Scope
- 2 Benefits Of Using A Rifle Scope
- 3 Basic Reticle Types
- 4 Consider the primary reason you shoot your rifle.
- 5 An Essential Guide To Choosing A Rifle Scope
- 6 Objective Lens Size
- 7 For outstanding shooting and accuracy, learn either MOA or Mil-Dot.
- 8 Focal Plane
- 9 Adjustment ranges
- 10 Light transmission
- 11 Zeroing Distances
- 12 Focus
- 13 Eye Relief
- 14 Field Of View
- 15 Parallax adjustment
- 16 Parallax Error
- 17 3 Ways Scopes Correct Parallax
- 18 Tube Size
- 19 Scope Length
- 20 What are the best rifle scope brands?
- 21 Conclusion
Benefits of Rifle Scope
The principal advantages of a rifle scope are speedier target procurement and a more extensive field of perspective when chasing. It might be worth putting resources into a smaller degree for individuals who chase at short proximity. Minimized rifle scope is likewise lightweight, and offers a reasonable option to other rifle scopes. On the off chance that one is looking for a degree that is not difficult to mount and does not have to be located in the wake of having been evacuated, a reduced extension may be the arrangement.
Benefits Of Using A Rifle Scope
Most of us buy products we don’t need or don’t know how to use which is not a good practice. It is very important that you know the benefits, drawbacks, features, and purpose of manufacturing a product before you go for buying it as this is the only way you can get the maximum benefit from it. Most people have a rifle scope, but they do not know its effectiveness and benefits. Well, if you are one of them then you must continue reading.
A More Extensive Field
A minimized rifle scope offers a more extensive field of perspective, which makes it less demanding to track quick moving targets. With a more extensive field of perspective, a seeker can locate in all the more rapidly on the grounds that he can see a greater amount of the scene. Scopes in lower force extents are normally utilized, and masters suggest degrees with a force scope of one to four.
Smaller rifle scope is frequently utilized with handguns or short activity rifles. A reduced scope is by and large less than 9 inches (around 23 cm) and is lightweight. This sort of rifle scope offers more prominent exactness and closer center, and in a few models, the line of sight can be enlightened. This gimmick includes additional deceivability when utilizing the extension under short of what impeccable conditions. Some smaller degrees additionally offer a red spot reticle notwithstanding the enlightened reticle.
At the point when obtaining a rifle scope, reasonableness is an attention, and this is the place a minimal rifle scope truly has the preference. These degrees offer great quality at a moderate value and can be a decent option to other rifle scopes. In 2010, a reduced extension could for the most part be obtained for under $150 US Dollars (USD).
A great reduced rifle scope is by and large less demanding to mount and sight in than other rifle scopes. A reduced extension on a handgun would most likely need to uproot to store the weapon. In a circumstance, for example, thus it is advantageous to have the capacity to mount the extension and to have the capacity to utilize the weapon without needing to the sight in the degree once more.
Conservative rifle scope has one drawback — they are not suitable for utilization at nightfall or sunrise. This is on account of the target, lenses are much less than that of conventional extensions, which implies that very little light is caught. These extensions work best in full sunlight and in conditions where there is satisfactory lighting.
Basic Reticle Types
Here are the three most popular reticles:
Duplex Reticle – The simplest crosshair pattern. Great for hunting and target shooting.
Mildot Reticle – Like the Duplex reticle except there are dots that help estimate the target’s distance based on size. Great for military, law enforcement and security.
Bullet Drop Compensating (BDC) – It has hash marks towards the bottom that help you gauge where a bullet will land at x distance. Amazing for long-range shooters.
Ask yourself the following questions before going to choose a rifle scope: Do you need a scope for hunting, competitive shooting, or maybe home-defense?
Consider the primary reason you shoot your rifle.
If you are protecting a large parcel of land, a rifle scope may be needed. How large is the parcel at the farthest distance? Most home defense applications do not require a scope.
Are you a long range target shooter?
Is your range 100 yards, or are you shooting long distances?
Are you a hunter who hunts at dawn or dusk?
Think about where you hunt and what you hunt. Small game hunters in New England won’t need to zoom above 10x, as thick trees are likely to make it useless, but those hunting big game out west may require a bit further vision.
These are just a few of the circumstances that will need different features in a scope. You will also need to make sure the scope you are thinking of purchasing is able to mount on your rifle.
Vortex Nation is undoubtedly one of the best shooter-oriented podcasts and information networks available. Here is an extensive podcast; Episode 116. Choosing the right rifle scope.
An Essential Guide To Choosing A Rifle Scope
How much magnification do you need?
Magnification is an important thing to consider when choosing the best rifle scope for you. It is one of the most important features of a scope and it can make a lot of difference in your shooting and hunting results. For the best results, the power of your scope should match your needs.
What should your magnification level be for the distance you are shooting?
Numbers to the left of the X in a rifle scope represents how much bigger the target appears than compared to the naked eye. A 4X designation means the target will be 4 times larger in the image of the scope.
The following tips will help choose a magnification range:
While the following magnifications are guidelines, they can help you as you start shopping.
– For carbines, a reflex sight or 3.5x-9x magnification telescopic scope should work well. These are often strong enough for most recreational hunters or basic target shooters.
– Anything below 10x is best for off-hand shooting and following targets.
– For full-scale rifles, 12x-20x magnification telescopic scopes may be necessary. They are made for big, open spaces and long shots. They will be expensive. Anything above 10x generally requires a supported position, such as prone or bench shooting.
– There is no real benefit to paying for higher magnification just to have it. In fact, zooming in 20x to hunt whitetail deer is overkill that often leads to missed shots and wasted ammo.
To find how much magnification a scope has, look at the first number (or range of numbers) before the x.
For example, if a scope says 2×30, that means the magnification is 2x. What if a scope says 3-9×40? That means the magnification is 3-9x.
You might be wondering: what’s the difference between 2x and 3-9x?
Besides the amount of magnification, the main difference between them is the type of magnification.
There are two types of magnification:
– Fixed power scope
– Variable power scope.
Fixed Power vs Variable Power
Fixed power scope means there’s only 1 magnification (Like 2×30), while variable allows you to choose from a range of magnifications (Like 3-9×40).
As with anything, there will pro’s and con’s with one option vs another. One of the pro’s of a fixed power scope is that there is less fiddling around with magnification as it’s already done for you. This provides a level of assurance in not having to worry about making a mistake in your magnification adjustments and then missing your target. It’s also going to cost less which is great if you have a fixed budget.
Possible cons are that because the magnification is fixed, you aren’t able to adjust it to a target further away or that may be closer. For this reason variable scopes can be more desirable.
Another pro to a variable scope is that it can ultimately be used anywhere because of the ability to adjust your magnification.
Objective Lens Size
A scope’s objective lens faces the end of the rifle barrel, transmitting light to a hunter’s eye. The most common objective lens size for hunting rifle scopes is about 40 mm wide.
When choosing the size of your objective lens an important consideration will be when you plan to use the scope. Will there be low light or will it be used only during the middle of the day when there is plenty of light? The larger the objective lens, the more light can be transmitted which can help to make a clearer image in lower lighting situations.
However, it does come at a costly price. Larger objective lenses mean smaller scope rings, a heavier scope, and it may even give away your position due to the reflection of sunlight off the lens. So be careful.
Rifle Scope Lens Coatings
A lens coat is an invisible coat that reduces glare and enhances the sight.
There are 4 basic lens coating types:
Coated: They cover at least one surface of the scope in one layer. The budget man’s package.
Fully-Coated: They cover ALL external glass surfaces in a single layer. The standard package.
Multicoated: They cover at least one surface in several layers. The upgraded package.
Fully Multicoated: They pamper ALL your scope’s external glass surfaces in several layers. The luxury package.
Buying a scope that has too much objective lens could be harmful by adding excess weight, requires taller scope rings, and makes your scope more prone to sunlight reflection.
This should help you out:
– If your firearm has low recoil, you’re using it for close range hunting, and have a low power scope, then get 28 mm & under.
– However, if your firearm has quite a bit of recoil, you’re using it for low light hunting, and have a high power scope, then get 30 – 44 mm.
– Lastly, if you’re a long-range shooter or using high magnification in low light, then opt-in for 50 mm & up.
– You can find how much objective lens a scope has by looking at the number after the x. For example, if a scope says 2×30, that means the scope has a 30 mm objective lens.
These small pieces of etched glass are fascinating technologies within a rifle scope.
Years ago, a scope’s reticle was nothing more than a crosshair etched on glass. Now, there are thousands of designs and materials for every type of shooting application. Reticles come in a variety of designs, and it is important that you choose a reticle that is appropriate for the activity you intend to use your scope for and the distance that you plan on shooting. Below we provide more information about the most common reticle designs and discuss what and where they are best used for.
The simple cross hair reticle design was the first reticle designed for rifle scopes. The cross-hair reticle design is good for very precise target shooting but is not always ideal for hunting.
This is because the fine crosshairs can be hard to see against a target or in low light, and aren’t as effective as other reticles if you are trying to quickly take aim at a target.
A duplex reticle is the simplest crosshair pattern. Ideal for target shooting or hunting.
A dotted crosshair that lets you estimate the target’s distance, so long as you know how big the object is.
Ballistic, or BDC reticles as they are often known, are designed to compensate for the effect of bullet drop; that is the effect that gravity has on a bullet as it travels through the air from your rifle towards your target.
It has a set or horizontal lines on the lower half of the crosshairs, helping you adjust for distance at great distances. Best for long-range shooters.
If you’re planning on using your riflescope to hunt in low light conditions, or in deeply wooded areas, then you may want to choose a reticle that is illuminated.
If you wish to purchase a riflescope with an illuminated reticle it is best to opt for a more expensive model which allows you to make minute adjustments to the brightness of the illuminated reticle, as illuminated reticles in cheaper riflescopes can sometime hinder your view of the target rather than enhancing it.
One last consideration when choosing a reticle design is the type of measurements you want to use.
In the last couple of years, these measurements have become quite sophisticated and geared toward specific types of shooting—the design you choose is vitally crucial to consistent accuracy.
For outstanding shooting and accuracy, learn either MOA or Mil-Dot.
What Is Moa?
Most scopes have windage and elevation adjustments as MOA, or minute of angle adjustment. Each click of the scope’s turret is usually ¼ MOA change. Some scopes may even have ⅛ MOA change.
1 MOA is equal to 1.0472 inches at 100 yards. Most will round down to 1” per 100 yards. When you hear shooters saying they they shot a sub MOA group with their rifle, what they are saying is all their shots fit into a circle, less than an inch in diameter, at 100 yards. At 1000 yards the MOA group would be 10 inches in diameter.
What Is Mrad?
A mil dot reticle is basically the metric equivalent of the MOA scope. A mil dot reticle will have normal crosshairs with a series of dots, spaced along the horizontal and vertical crosshairs.
The center of one dot to the center of the next dot is exactly one milliradian, or mil. There isn’t a dot in the middle of the crosshairs so your view is not obstructed. You count the crosshair intersection as a dot.
Either design of reticle, MOA or Mil-Dot, is highly capable. The best choice boils down to personal preference and how that design intersects with your type of shooting or hunting.
There are two types of focal planes, the front focal plane (FFP), and the second focal plane (SFP). On the front focal plane, the size of the reticle changes, while it remains the same on the second focal plane. Front focal planes sometimes prove to be better because of the unchanged hash marks and dots.
Inside a scope, different assemblies carry out essential functions. One of the most critical is the erector assembly. This vital part houses the reticle and is attached to the turrets.
When you change the settings by way of the turret, you are moving the erector assembly. A second focal plane scope is the most common configuration. SFP scopes have the reticle positioned behind the magnification lens.
With a reticle in the second focal plane position, the target image increases and decreases with each change in the marination. The reticle stays the same size; therefore, subtensions are continually changing.
If you are using a compensating trajectory reticle, for accurate holdover and ranging, a specific magnification setting should be used. The least expensive design is a scope in the second focal plane.
Long-range shooting demands serious adjustment ranges. The scope you’re going to buy should have the ability to adjust the turrets.
Windage and Elevation Turrets
Scope turrets are the adjustment knobs, on the body of the scope, that allow you to adjust the reticle.
The knob on the top of the scope is the elevation adjustment and adjusts up or down. The knob on the side of the scope is the windage adjustment and adjusts left or right.
Check out the turrets for the scope you are thinking about purchasing. Some turrets can be adjusted by hand and some require a tool for adjusting.
First, make sure the turrets produce a loud “click” sound when they adjust. That way you know when you’ve adjusted. This is usually mentioned in the reviews.
Second, make sure the turrets are reliable. Don’t listen to the advertisers. Instead, read what people say about the turrets’ reliability.
Third, make sure the turrets the scope adjusts immediately. Although it’s not that important, it is an indication of high-quality turrets.
The Different Kinds Of Turrets:
Turrets are affected by purpose, price, and manufacture.
They are the oldest set of turret style in the industry. Target turrets allow the shooter to make small and precise adjustments and are characterized by height. These turrets are most commonly available in MOA adjustments.
Tactical shooters and quick acquisition hunters prefer ballistic turrets. The ballistic style turret is capped, preventing accidental changes. Ballistic turrets are used for distance targeting, measured in yards and meters.
Fingertip has been designed to make quick, easy adjustments without special tools. Fingertip style turrets are add-ons for ballistic or targeting turrets.
Parallax Adjustment Turret
Coin style turrets are the most basic style of adjustment knobs. They get the name from coins that can be used to make adjustments. Coin style turrets have small indentations that can fit most scopes and adjustment tools.
This is key — how much light does the scope let in, so you can see your shot. Super high-end scopes offer higher light transmission, but with significantly higher costs. Theoretically, the highest a scope can go is 98%, but very few make it past 95%. Most are around 90%. While important, you should ask yourself if spending an extra $500 is worth it for an extra percentage point.
Note, the longer-range the shot, the more helpful high light transmission will be
If you zero your rifle at 100 yards, it means if the target is 100 yards out the bullseye will be at the center of your reticle. You will need to adjust for targets that are further away or closer than the 100 yards.
This is a great video that explains how to zero your rifle, step by step.
It is a misconception that if you focus on the scope, your image will get sharper. However, focusing means that you have to adjust the eyepiece to make the reticle lines as sharp as possible. Hence, make sure you focus the scope once before using it and leave it unchanged.
Eye relief is the space between the ocular lens and where your eye is placed. This is important in order for you to prevent ‘scope eye’.
This occurs when you don’t have proper eye relief and your scope hits the area around your eye from the recoil of the firearm after a shot and can be pretty painful.
The higher the recoil on your gun, the more useful a higher eye-relief will be.
The most common eye relief for rifles is around four inches. However, there are scopes for pistols and bigger guns that go up to 16–20 inches (40.6–50.8 cm), sacrificing some field of view vision in return.
Always test the scope of how you most frequently shoot it. If you shoot with a bench rest, test the eye relief on a bench rest.
Eye relief also plays a role in preventing eye strain and ensuring a clear view.
Field Of View
Field of view (FOV) simply put is the area which you can view through your optic. As you increase magnification, the field of view decreases.
FOV is mеаѕurеd in feet at 100 yards. To explain, if a rifle scope states that the field of view is 42ft at 100 yards, that means you can view a 42-foot scene from left to right at 100 yards.
For scopes that have a variable magnification power, you’ll likely find a range for the FOV, for example, 41.2-8.6 ft/100 yds. This accounts for the magnification variation which is it been 5-15 then at 5 power you’ll see a scene of 41.2 across and at 15 power you’ll see a scene of 8.6ft across.
The low magnification and less expensive scopes are free of parallax settings. Parallax is the ability of the scope to correct itself in relation to the target.
The higher magnification scopes should have parallax settings because lower magnification scopes can’t shift if the reticle is too small.
It should be noted that parallax is different from focus. A parallax gives you the best view to hit the target as it cancels the parallax between the reticle and the target.
Parallax error can happen when you’re looking through your rifle scope. When you look at your target through your scope, your target and reticle should be on the same plane.
If they are not, and your target seems to move from the center of your reticle when you move your head or eye around, you are experiencing parallax error. It’s important to know what it is and how to fix it.
Once you have adjusted your scope, the crosshairs of the reticle should stay centered on your target, even when you move your head or eye around when looking through your scope. This means that you have corrected the parallax error and both the target and your reticle are on the same focal plane.
3 Ways Scopes Correct Parallax
Parallax Adjustment Turret: This is a third turret knob (from earlier) that adjusts parallax.
Factory-Set: Parallax adjustment is automatically built-in by the manufacturer. It’s usually set at about 50 yards to 100 yards.
Adjustable Objective (AO): This is a ring on the scope that you twist to kill parallax.
This video offers a few more pro tips:
A lot of 3-9X40 and similar specification scopes feature a 1” inch diameter body tube but larger scopes with higher magnification ranges are often 30 mm. As far as light transmission goes this does not make that much difference but the larger tubed rifle scopes tend to have more turret adjustment so adjustable ring mounts are less likely to be required. Rifle scopes with a 25 mm / 1-inch diameter body tube tend to be less expensive and for the average user will probably suit their needs very well.
Tip: If your hunt involves long hikes, or you need to keep optics as compact as possible, check out the 1-inch models. They may give up some light management, but they will save ounces on your rifle.
Meanwhile, if you’re hunting or shooting activities are mainly stationary, or weight isn’t a serious consideration, 30 mm may be something to consider. You might benefit from the stouter construction this chassis can offer.
If you choose a particularly long rifle scope then you may have issues getting the correct eye relief. One way to move your scope forward along the scope rail is to use reach forward or extended ring mounts. This type of ring mount can increase your eye relief by around 1” inch which is often enough to obtain a comfortable shooting position.
What are the best rifle scope brands?
There are literally hundreds of brands of rifle scopes that I could write about here, which would no doubt make a very exhaustive post on its own. Instead, I am going to pick out a few rifle scope brands that I think are some of the best brands to accompany a good rifle.
All of these scopes are within our initial budget and are great for both first-time buyers and experienced shooters:
Nikon MONARCH 3 German 4 Riflescope, Black, 1-4×20
Nikon Buckmasters II 3-9×40 BDC (Image above)
Leupold 115370 Mark AR MOD 1 Rifle
Vortex Optics DBK-10021 Diamondback HP 4-16×42 Riflescope
Athlon Optics , Argos BTR , Riflescope , 6-24 x 50 First Focal Plane (FFP)
Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate BDC 600
Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-9×40 Second Focal Plane Riflescopes
Bushnell Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle-223 Riflescope 1-4x/24mm
Nikon PROSTAFF 5 Mildot Riflescope, Black, 4.5-18×40
You can find more rifle scope brands here.
There are a number of specifications, designs, and materials that make these rifle scopes more effective than others, but for the most, it is because these manufacturers have been designing rifle scopes and have developed them over a number of years, making improvements based on customer feedback and professional insight. This is what you get when you pay in this range for a rifle scope.
We understand that all this information may be overwhelming for beginners, or even for experienced hunters. A fair amount of research into the market is to be expected if you want to buy a scope worth your money and effort.
Making a guideline for choosing an appropriate scope and narrowing the field to the “right” one can be a daunting task. You can buy rifle scopes ranging from cheap $50 imports all the way up to $2,000+ high-end scopes, but the golden rule to be followed is to spend at least half as much on the optics as you have on the rifle itself.