Home » Scopes and Optics » Best Handgun Scope For Pistols [2024 Review]

Best Handgun Scope For Pistols [2024 Review]

L.p. Brezny | Updated January 5, 2024 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money
Cover photo of Best Handgun Scope showing a reflex sight

Most scopes aren’t made with handguns in mind. Picking the wrong one could mean wasting a lot of time and money on something that doesn’t fit your needs. 

With so many options out there, how can you be sure you’re buying the best model for your firearm? 

Well, you don’t need to go out and test a bunch of them – I’ve done it for you. Here are my top four picks for the best handgun scope. 

Burris Handgun 2-7x32mm – Best Overall

Burris Handgun 2-7x32mm scope held by two hands and its box in the background

Pros

  • Aircraft-grade aluminum
  • Multi-coated lens for better clarity
  • Ballistic plex reticle works best for handguns
  • Lightweight and rugged
  • Shockproof housing holds zero better than other handgun scopes
  • Second focal plane design for better targeting
  • Comes with Burris’ “Forever Warranty”

Cons

  • Pretty expensive for a handgun scope
  • Eye relief may not be long enough for larger handguns

Kicking things off is the Burris handgun scope, which comes in two different finishes – black and nickel. At 13 ounces, this model is a bit heavier than others on this list, but it’s certainly not the heaviest model available. For example, the UTG Scope is 17 ounces while the Trijicon is only 1.2. 

Man aiming a gun with a mounted scope at a target

If you like variable optics on your pistol, you’ll appreciate the 2-7x magnification range. The ability to magnify your target (even at close range) makes it easier to pinpoint where your shot will go.

Speaking of targeting, this handgun scope uses plex reticles to help adjust for the bullet drop. Since the reticle is more precise than iron sights, you can acquire your target faster and keep both eyes open when shooting for comfort. 

Glass Clarity & Reticle

Reticle of a Burris handgun scope

The reticle options for this scope are plex or ballistic plex, giving you better precision when aiming and firing. It’s in the second focal plane, making sure you stay locked onto your target even while zooming. 

Plus, the clarity is excellent, thanks to the hi-lume multi-coated lens. The coating also reduces glare and sharpens the image in different lighting situations. That means you’ll enjoy pinpoint accuracy, no matter the setting.

Eye Relief & Eye Box

The Burris handgun scope has an eye relief of 11 to 21 inches, depending on how far you’re zoomed in. As with any handgun scopes, having a longer eye relief means you can find your target without bending your arm too much. 

The reason that’s important is because a bent arm can throw off the shot and make you less accurate. It can also lead to injury if the gun has a decent kickback. 

Durability

Man holding a Burris scope with both hands

This pistol scope is made from aircraft-grade aluminum, so it’s both lightweight and surprisingly rugged. I’ve accidentally bumped and knocked the scope when pulling out my gun (or putting it away), and I don’t have to zero it out again every time. 

Elevation & Windage Knobs

These knobs use a minute-of-adjustment (MOA) system, and each click is ¼ MOA, giving you greater accuracy and precision when targeting. 

Parallax & Magnification

This handgun scope has a magnification range of 2x-7x, which offers incredible flexibility when shooting different targets. This model also has a parallax-free design, so you don’t have to worry about adjusting your eyes for distance shooting. 

While parallax usually doesn’t affect your shot at close distances, it can be trickier to compensate for at longer ranges, so you don’t have to worry about it at all. 

Mounting & Rings

Two fingers pointing at the scope mounted on a gun

This handgun scope doesn’t come with its own mounting hardware, but because it’s one inch in diameter, you’ll need rings that can accommodate it. Since handguns almost always have a Picatinny rail, you’ll need a mount that can connect to it. 

My Personal Notes and Findings

Gun with a mounted scope on top of a white platform

As a rule, I tend to prefer a fixed magnification scope on my handguns, but if I had to pick a variable model, this one is pretty incredible. I like the lightweight feel of it and the clarity of the glass. 

The reticle design is also helpful because you need to have more of an arc when shooting a handgun at a distance. While it can take a little while to acclimate, it’s worth the time investment. 

Is It Worth It? 

Burris makes some of the best handgun scopes because the company understands the challenges of shooting at a distance with a pistol. However, what also makes this one of the best models is that it comes with Burris’ “forever warranty.” So, you can feel confident that this scope will last for a long time. 

Leapers UTG Handgun Scope – Best Budget Optic

Leapers UTG Handgun Scope mounted on a gun

Pros

  • Up to 25 inches of eye relief
  • 2-7x magnification for greater targeting range
  • Shockproof and fogproof housing
  • Comes with a projectile drop compensation reticle
  • Super precise elevation and windage movements

Cons

  • In rare cases, this scope can be hard to dial in

Depending on how often you use your handguns, it may not make sense to invest in a high-end pistol scope. Fortunately, something like this model from Leapers UTG gives you the visibility you need at a price point you can appreciate. 

While this scope isn’t technically “cheap,” it’s much more affordable than some of the others I’ve seen. Plus, for the amount of technical power you get with this scope, you’re getting a lot of value for your money. 

Scope mounted on a rifle and a vest in the background

The only thing I have an issue with is that the elevation and windage knobs are a bit sensitive. So, it can be trickier to zero out the scope, especially on a handgun. However, once you get the hang of it, you can be far more precise. 

Target shooting is also easier with this pistol scope because it comes with a BDC reticle instead of traditional crosshairs. 

Glass Clarity & Reticle

Illuminated reticle of Leapers UTG Handgun Scope

The clarity of this glass is pretty good, particularly for what you’re paying for the scope. I really appreciate the red/green BDC reticle, which comes in handy when handgun hunting or practicing with long-distance targets. The coloration makes it easier to find my target, even on brighter days when more light comes into the lens. 

The glass is also emerald-coated, which allows for maximum light transmission. So, if you want to shoot on a cloudy day or at dusk, you can still get the best visibility. 

Eye Relief & Eye Box

Revolver with a scope on top of a table

Depending on the magnification setting, this scope has an eye relief that goes up to 25 inches. So, no matter how you handle your pistol, you shouldn’t have any issues with seeing through the glass clearly. 

Durability

This is one of the heavier scopes out there, so it feels rugged and dependable when you handle it. The entire thing is also sealed and protected, so it holds zero really well. Overall, I would trust this scope to handle most wear and tear, even an accidental bump or drop. 

Elevation & Windage Knobs

As I mentioned, the knobs on this scope are pretty sensitive, so it can take a while to get used to them. However, once you master the sensitivity, you can dial in your scope better than most other options out there. 

Parallax & Magnification

The parallax on this scope is set to 35 yards, so it’s designed for relatively close ranges, perfect for a handgun. However, you can zoom all the way to 7x, meaning you can get some good long-distance shots with your gun. 

Mounting & Rings

Rings of Leapers handgun scope

This pistol scope has a one-inch diameter, so you’d need mounting hardware to accommodate that size. The diameter of the lens is 32mm, which is pretty easy to find, too. 

My Personal Notes and Findings

Lens of Leapers handgun scope

I’m used to BDC reticles on rifles, but on handguns, they’re a different story. It can be a little tricky to master the compensation at first, but once you get the hang of it, this kind of reticle makes it easier to shoot a handgun at longer distances. 

Overall, while this model can work for long-distance handgun shooting, it may not be suitable for all weapons. Still, given the price point, it’s an excellent buy. 

Is It Worth It? 

If you want a rock-solid pistol scope that allows for ultra-precision, this Leapers UTG handgun scope should do the trick. Plus, as a budget-friendly scope, you don’t have to break the bank to get a decent shot. Overall, it’s well worth the investment. 

Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7×32 Scout – Best Value for Your Money

Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7x32 Scout scope and its box on the background

Pros

  • Made of high-quality aircraft aluminum
  • Shockproof and fog proof housing
  • Easy-to-use elevation and windage knobs
  • Fast focus eyepiece for quicker targeting
  • V-plex reticle for easier viewing

Cons

  • Eye relief is not as long as other scopes

When it comes to high-end scope brands, Vortex can be close to the top, along with companies like Leupold and Trijicon. Fortunately, this particular scope is on the lower end of the price spectrum, all without sacrificing quality. 

Technically, this particular scope is designed for airsoft or small rifles, but it can work with handguns as well. It’s pretty lightweight at 12 ounces, and it’s made of aircraft-grade aluminum for extra durability. 

Glass Clarity & Reticle

Reticle of Vortex Optics Crossfire II scope

This scope comes with a v-plex reticle – essentially a traditional crosshair with a highlighted center so you know if you’re on target or not. 

Since this isn’t a high-end scope, it doesn’t use the best glass, but it’s still better than some cheap scope models. Vortex uses a multi-coated lens with anti-glare for better visibility during the daytime. 

Eye Relief & Eye Box

Man peeking through the lens of a Vortex Optics Crossfire II scope

The eye relief of this scope is only about 9.45 inches, so it’s not as long as most handgun optics. For that reason, you’ll likely have to adjust your shooting stance to compensate for the shorter distance. 

However, the eye box is larger, so it’s much easier to find your target and focus in on it. Whether shooting at closer ranges or long distances, this scope is very easy to use. 

Durability

At only 12 ounces, this is one of the lighter handgun scopes I’ve seen. However, it’s made of high-quality aluminum, so it should be able to take a beating in the field. 

This one loses a few points for durability, but to get something this light, there will always be trade-offs.  

Elevation & Windage Knobs

Scope mounted on a gun and trees in the background

These knobs are designed for anyone to master, so they’re pretty easy to use. Plus, I like that they’re not super sensitive and can hold zero very well. 

Parallax & Magnification

This scope comes with a 2-7x magnification range, as with most other variable handgun optics. That said, it works best at closer ranges, so if you’re trying to shoot longer distances, you may want something a bit more accommodating. This model also uses a second focal plane to make targeting that much easier. 

Mounting & Rings

Vortex scope attached to mounts and rings

There is no mounting hardware provided for this scope. If you’re getting scope rings, you’ll have to make sure they can fit a 32mm lens and a one-inch housing. 

My Personal Notes and Findings

Vortex scope with lens caps held by two hands

Since this scope is made for rifles, it’s not as adept for handgun shooting. You’ll have to adjust your stance and holding position to make it work. However, once you figure out how to use the scope, it holds zero very well and offers excellent clarity. 

Overall, if you’re familiar with Vortex Optics, you may assume this is the best handgun scope around. 

It’s not quite on par with some of the high-end models that Vortex offers. It’s still the best value, in my opinion. Our certified realtor currency has around 1,000 reviews with an average score of 4.6/5, so most people who have tried the Crossfire II would agree with me. 

Is It Worth It? 

Vortex Optics are often some of the best in the industry. However, because this is on the cheaper end of the spectrum, you don’t get the best class of internal components. Overall, this scope is worth the money because of the brand, but it’s not the best Vortex Scope you could put on your handgun. 

Trijicon RMR Type 2 – Best Red Dot Sight

Trijicon RMR Type 2 mounted on a gun

Pros

  • Extra-durable housing
  • Mounts available for convenience
  • Excellent glass clarity
  • Adjustable LED brightness
  • Waterproof up to 20 meters
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Very expensive for a red dot sight
  • In rare cases, the dot can seem a bit fuzzy

So far, we’ve only looked at variable magnification scopes, which are handy for hunting or long-distance target practice. However, since handguns are often designed for close quarters, it makes sense to invest in pistol red dot sights. 

This model from Trijicon is expensive, but it’s also one of the best options you can find. Trijicon is one of the better high-end brands out there, and this scope delivers that level of quality. 

Although red dot sights are simple by design, the RMR Type 2 does everything incredibly well. The durability, clarity, and even the battery life are all top-notch. 

Glass Clarity & Reticle

Gun with red dot sight held in both hands

Because this is a red dot scope, you know what to expect. However, the glass clarity is superb, mainly thanks to the multi-coated lens. 

Multi-coating helps eliminate glare while also allowing for more light to enter your eye. The coating also helps protect the glass from wear and tear. 

It also has a 3.25 MOA size, which feels just right for a pistol. The battery also lasts an impressive 4 years, greatly reducing the chances of it failing you when you need it most. 

Eye Relief & Eye Box

You don’t have to worry about the eye relief or eye box with a red dot scope. You can find your target immediately from virtually any distance, no matter how close or far. Because the dot is illuminated, it’s easy to see as soon as you put the scope in your field of view. 

Durability

Gun with a mounted red dot sight and a black background

This is one of the most durable and rugged scopes I’ve seen. It’s not only shockproof but it’s also waterproof (up to 20 meters). 

It is also light as hell. It only weights 1.2 ounces, I personally don’t even feel it on the gun. 

Elevation & Windage Knobs

Since this is a 1x magnification scope, you don’t have to worry about adjusting knobs. That said, there are some dials to help make the dot a bit clearer on your target. 

Parallax & Magnification

This is a 1x scope, so don’t worry about magnification or parallax. Parallax is when the reticle shifts depending on the angle of view, making it harder to zero out the scope. With a 1x magnification, the optic holds zero more easily.

Mounting & Rings

Trijicon RMR Type 2 mounted on a gun held by both hands

You can buy this scope with mounting rings attached. There are several options available to fit almost every kind of pistol. 

Its dimensions are 45x28x25mm which means it’s compact and easy to mount. 

My Personal Notes and Findings

Red dot of Trijicon RMR Type 2 

I’m used to Trijicon making some of the best variable scopes, so I knew that this red dot sight would be high-quality. 

However, since it’s just a red dot, it can be hard to drop this kind of money on a scope. While the quality is excellent, you just need to make sure you’re going to use this scope a lot. 

Is It Worth It? 

If you want the best handgun red dot sight, it’s hard to beat this model. Trijicon scopes are always high-quality, but you can expect to pay a lot for the privilege. If you’re not going to use the sight very often, I’d recommend buying something a bit cheaper. 

Best Handgun Scope Comparison Table

NameZoomWeightType
Burris 1-7x32mm Handgun Scope1-7x13 ouncesTraditional Variable Magnification
UTG 2-7X32 1″ Handgun Scope2-7x17 ouncesTraditional Variable Magnification
Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7x12 ouncesTraditional Variable Magnification
Trijicon RMR Type 2 RM011x1.2 ouncesRed Dot Sight

Different Scope Mounts for Your Pistol

Buying a scope doesn’t matter if you can’t attach it to your handgun. There are several ways to install a mount on your pistol, including: 

Factory Drilled Pistols

Fortunately, many modern handguns are factory-drilled. This means the manufacturer put holes in for mounting hardware so you don’t have to. That said, these holes are not universal, so you have to make sure any mounting system you buy will fit. 

Take a look at this video to see the typical process of mounting a scope onto these pistols:

Milling

Instead of adding a mount to the handgun, you can mill the slide itself to hold scope rings. Milling is kind of an advanced process, as it requires specialized equipment and experience. If you don’t have the knowledge or materials, you’ll need to take your gun to a licensed gunsmith. 

Drill and Tap

If your handgun is not drilled and tapped by the factory, you’ll have to do it yourself to attach a scope mount. Drilling just means putting holes in the metal. Tapping means adding a thread so you can screw the mount to the piece and have it hold in place. 

Again, if you don’t have the tools or experience with this process, seek out a professional gunsmith. Also, make sure you know what kind of mounting hardware you want for the gun. This way, you don’t have to drill and tap multiple holes. 

Detachable

Some mounting hardware attaches to the outside of the gun. This option means you can swap mounts and scopes for different guns more easily. 

Not all detachable models fit all handguns, so make sure they’re compatible before buying. Also, some of these mounts still have to fit into pre-drilled holes, so keep that in mind. 

Different Types of Pistol Scopes and Sights

Here’s a quick overview of the types of pistol scopes you can find during your search. 

Traditional Hunting Scopes

Typically, handgun hunting is not recommended for a couple of reasons. First, the bullets are smaller, so they do less damage to your target. Second, you may not be able to get close enough to your prey to use a handgun to bring it down. 

Man holding a handgun in a snowy outdoor setting

That said, if you’re target shooting, you can use a traditional hunting scope on your pistol. This way, you can be more accurate at a distance, although you still have to compensate for the bullet drop. 

Overall, you don’t want a rifle scope with an extended magnification range (i.e., 10x or higher) on your handgun. Even if the scope is accurate, you won’t be able to reach your target. (Reference: Scopes)

Iron Sights

Unless you’re target shooting or handgun hunting, you’ll likely use iron sights on your pistol. Since handguns are designed for close-quarters combat, there’s not usually a reason to attach a scope to the top. 

Man aiming a gun with an iron sight at a target

Typically, iron sights are accurate up to about 100 yards, depending on the gun. Also, because they don’t require magnification, they’re perfect for fast target acquisition, particularly at short distances.

Red Dot, Holographic, and Reflex Sights

If you want quick target acquisition but don’t want to rely on iron sights, you can choose from different fixed magnification pistol scopes. Here’s a quick overview of each of these options: 

  • Red Dot – A red dot sight reflects a red reticle onto a flat piece of glass. This works as a fast focus eyepiece because it magnifies the image slightly and doesn’t clutter the eye box with a complex reticle. 
  • Holographic – In this case, the reticle is rendered as a holographic image at the distance of the scope’s magnification. So, it’s much easier to tell if the target is in range or not. 
Fingers holding a holographic sight
  • Reflex – A reflex sight is similar to a red dot, but it uses a reflex lens to project the reticle, not flat glass. 

What to Look for in a Handgun Scope

Eye Relief

Typically, your eye will be much further from a handgun than it would be from a rifle. Since your arms have to be extended to prevent recoil, you can’t put your face too close to the back of the gun. (Reference: Handguns)

Scope mounted on a rifle

That said, your positioning will determine how long you need your eye relief to be. Typically, the best handgun scopes will have an eye relief of at least 10 to 15 inches so you’re not struggling to see through the glass. 

Also, keep in mind that the relief changes when you’re zooming into your target. So, if you’re going to be adjusting the magnification, you might have to adjust your stance accordingly. 

Price

As with all firearm accessories, the price of the product can be a helpful guideline to tell you its quality. However, when it comes to scopes, a high-end model is not necessarily better than a cheaper one, so don’t assume affordability means low quality. 

Scope mounted on a gun on top of a table

Also, consider how you plan to use the scope and whether it offers everything you need. For example, if you’re not going to use a scope for long-distance shooting, it doesn’t make sense to pay for a variable magnification scope. 

Finally, some brands are more expensive than others, even if the quality of the scope is the same. For example, a Leupold handgun scope is considered “high-end,” but something like a Burris handgun scope may be a better fit for your gun. 

Variable vs. Fixed Magnification

Target seen through the lens of a scope

No matter what kind of scope you choose, pistols are not designed for long-distance shooting. Because the muzzle is shorter and the bullets are smaller, there is much more of a drop-off the longer the bullet flies. 

So, when choosing the right pistol scope, you have to consider how accurate your gun is at different distances. For example, if you’re target shooting at 500 yards but your gun isn’t accurate past 300 yards, adding a scope won’t do anything. Instead, you’ll have to angle the gun so much that a scope won’t even allow you to see your target. 

Reticle Type

Reticle of a scope and a lake in the background

Pistol scopes tend to have simpler reticles because you can’t aim as far as you would with a rifle. So, while a rifle scope may come with a bullet-drop compensation (BDC) reticle, a pistol scope may just have crosshairs. 

Some reticles are designed to help you compensate for bullet drop, but they look far different than those on rifle scopes. Also, if you’re shooting at closer ranges, crosshairs may clutter the image and make it harder to pinpoint your target. In that case, a red dot sight might be the better option. 

Rifle Scope vs. Handgun Scope

If you’re someone who has fired from a rifle and a handgun, you know that both types of shooting are wildly different. So, while you can technically mount a rifle scope on a handgun (or vice versa), it’s much better to get a scope designed for the gun you’re using. 

Leapers UTG scope mounted on a handgun with an orange background

Some differences include:

  • Eye Relief – As I mentioned, the eye relief has to be longer on a handgun than a rifle. Since your arm will be straight out when shooting, you need to compensate for the longer distance.
  • Weight – Since you’re holding a pistol with your hands, the best handgun scopes are lightweight and aren’t hard to carry. By comparison, you may fire a rifle from a prone position, so the scope can be heavier without affecting the shot. 
  • Distances – While you could try to hit a target 1000 yards away with a pistol scope, chances are you’ll miss. Even if the reticle is on target and you compensate for elevation and windage, pistols just don’t fire at fast enough speeds to reach that far.

Conflict of Interest Disclosure

All scopes listed in this article have been chosen based on their merits only based on first-hand field testing and online reviews. No money or free products were accepted in exchange for listing any item on this list. 

For more information on how we review our scopes and how Barrett Rifles makes money, see the links in the footer of this page. 

For similar reading, see our guide to to best pellet pistols on the market.

FAQs

What is the point of a scope on a pistol?

The point of having a scope on a pistol is to ensure better accuracy when firing, particularly from a greater distance. Although handguns aren’t designed for long-distance shooting, a scope can make you far more accurate at several hundred yards. 

Red dot handgun scopes are perfect for close-quarter combat as well, so you can aim more accurately at short distances. 

Is a red dot better than a scope on a pistol?

A red dot is better than a scope on a pistol if you’re only using it for close-quarters shooting. However, if you want to use your handgun for distance targeting, you’ll need a pistol scope with magnification. 

What is the most accurate scope for a firearm?

The most accurate scope for a firearm is one that offers a magnifying zoom on your target so you can see it more clearly. However, since there are different types of shooting, it’s hard to say which specific scope is the ‘most accurate.’

Our Top Pick: Burris 2-7x32mm

Burris Handgun 2-7x32mm scope held by two hands and its box in the background

References

  1. Hunter-ed, Sights: Telescopic (Scope) and Dot. Retrieved from https://www.hunter-ed.com/california/studyGuide/Sights-Telescopic-Scope-and-Dot/20100501_66873/
  2. Britannica, handgun. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/technology/handgun


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