Nowadays, rifle scopes are extremely popular. They’re a step above traditional iron sights as they make aiming simpler and more precise. However, figuring out which scope to choose is a task almost every buyer struggles with.
Here we’ll guide you through the process of choosing the right scope for you and we’ve included a list of optics that cover everything from hunting and long-range use to scopes that account for the budget you have available.
How To Choose A Rifle Scope?
As with other mass-produced goods, many optics manufacturers produce rifle scopes, ranging from garbage glasses to serious optical instruments with fantastic performance and incredible adjustability options.
When you choose the right scope that will perfectly suit your needs, your gun, budget, and shooting style can be a confusing and challenging endeavor.
In the beginning, one of the best and workable advice is to determine what range you use your gun the most often, and what your budget is. Answering these questions will help you find the specifications you need in your scope and pick up the right tool for the job.
Of course, besides two main factors, there are other considerations: Do you intend to use a riflescope predominantly in low light conditions, outdoors, or at shooting ranges?
Furthermore, suppose what you’re shooting is a life-or-death situation, and your life depends on your rifle scope combo. In that case, you’ll need a completely different optical setup in contrast to leisure weekend shooting or plinking.
Best Scope For Your Gun
As said above, your shooting application is the central aspect you should adhere to. However, nowadays, you can find rifle scopes in every size, shape, and function on the market. So, before you decide on the best optic, you need to consider your firearm action type, model, and caliber.
If we leave out military scopes, popularly known as tactical scopes, we are left with a host of other optics designed for specific shooting applications.
Generally, we can roughly divide gun optics into those designed for hunting and target shooting.
Hunting scopes are a broad category because there are many different types of hunts, ranging from hunting in the thick bush and woods to open fields and mountain hunting. Besides diverse habitats, you may need different scopes to hunt different game animals. It’s not the same when you are taking out varmints compared to chasing larger games such as whitetails or hogs.
However, an all-around classic hunting optic works well for most game and comes in a 3-9x40mm configuration.
1. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-9×50
Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-9×50 is perhaps the most representative sample of an ideal hunting scope designed for average shooting conditions and those who favor traditional hunting firearms.
With a 3-9x magnification range, it is engineered specifically for mid-range deer hunting, but it can also reach out and touch something at a long range.
Although the Crossfire II is Vortex’s entry-level lineup, its flexible design makes it suit both the beginner and the seasoned hunters as well.
Surprisingly for this budget scope, the lenses are fully multi-coated and anti-reflective. The Crossfire II body is built of a one-piece aircraft-grade aluminum tube and it is nitrogen-purged and O-ring sealed.
Vortex model CF-31027 features an illuminated V-Brite reticle, which, paired with a large 50mm objective lens, gives you excellent brightness in those perfect hunting conditions around dusk and dawn.
The capped windage and elevation turrets are low profile for extra resilience to impact, with an adjustment click value of 0.25 MOA, and feature a quick reset-to-zero function.
Target Shooting Scopes
For further dividing, we have scopes specialized for long-range shooting, 3 Gun competitions, handguns, scout scopes, optics designed for home defense, and scopes for rimfire weapons.
Of course, all of the above categories overlap each other, so we’ll provide a brief overview with not too bulky content.
Depending on the target distance you will be shooting, you will need a scope with specific zoom power, reticle, and other features.
There are likely many ways to classify what long-range shooting means to gun enthusiasts, but for target shooting purposes, we recommend a short-range that is less than 300 yds; a long-range is between 300-1,200 yds and an extra-long (ELD) range which is greater than 1 mile.
If you shoot within 100 yards, we recommend using an optical magnification of 1x–4x. If you, like us, shoot targets mostly up to 300 yards, the preferable solution would be to use a 5x–8x magnification scope.
Long Range Shooting Scopes
If you want to use the full potential of your rifle and ammunition for shooting long-range targets, you will need a scope with higher magnification and other features suitable for long-range shooting.
In fact, you’re definitely going to look for the scopes that usually have above 9x magnification, a BDC (bullet drop compensator) reticle, and a good turret adjustment range.
The scopes for long-range shooting can also be used for hunting, of course, if you are a sportsman with shooting abilities to make that ethical shot.
2. Zeiss Victory Riflescope Diavari 6-24×56 T*
While the Zeiss currently offers three optics series among rifle scopes, the Victory is a high-class lineup intended for the most demanding users.
Offering a maximum magnification of 24×, a Zeiss Victory Riflescope Diavari 6-24×56 T* is designed for shooting and long-range shooting traditional and long-range hunting as well.
A high variable 6x-24x magnification is small enough for mid-range target acquisition, whereas dialing up to maximal 24x zoom brings distant targets close for exacting shot placement.
As a typical choice of long-range hunters and target shooters, the Victory FL Diavari 6-24×56 T* from Zeiss offers the best materials and optics solutions presented in extra-low dispersion (ED) fluoride (FL) lenses and T* multi-layer coating, the Zeiss signature coating.
The premium glasses have excellent optical properties that, paired with a massive 56mm objective, offer the clearest and brightest view possible, especially in twilight conditions such as dawn or dusk.
Zeiss Victory Riflescope Diavari 6-24×56 is available with four reticle types seated in the second focal plane, making them ideal for long-range shooting. All reticles are illuminated and cover the target minimally, enabling you to place a shot with precision even on small targets.
3 Gun Competition Scopes
One of the fastest-growing shooting disciplines is the 3 Gun competition. It challenges the shooters in a new way, requiring the shooters to become proficient with three different guns; pistol, rifle, and shotgun.
A proper scope for 3 Gun shooting should be suitable for close to medium-range targets. Besides classic red dot sights and prism scopes, many shooters currently use LPVO (low power variable optic) optics like a 1-4x, a 1-6x scope, or a 1-8x scope.
Because the shooters should expect that an optic for the 3-Gun competition will likely get bumped and banged around, the appropriate rifle scope should be able to hold zero through a reasonable amount of abuse.
3. Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6x24mm
One of the most popular low variable power scopes for 3-Gun competitions is Vortex’s budget-priced Strike Eagle 1-6×24 scope. This extremely versatile riflescope is built with rock-solid quality and is based on a shock-resistant 30mm single-piece aluminum maintube.
The scope is IPX7-rated waterproof and nitrogen-purged for water- and fog-proofness to ensure reliability in all weather conditions.
A Strike Eagle 1-6x24mm offers a popular style of the tactical reticle, the upside-down horseshoe with 1 MOA center dot and 18 MOA horseshoe design. This illuminated AR-BDC3 reticle is glass-etched and provides bullet drop compensation information for popular .223/5.56mm cartridges and features a 3.5″ eye relief. The horizontal MOA holdover lines enable you to estimate the distance to targets up to 600 yards easily.
The capped turrets on the 1-6×24 Strike Eagle are low-profile and offer a 140 MOA windage and elevation range with a 1/2 MOA impact point correction.
Another scope type known as wide-angle, or LPVO optic sight currently is a rising star in the shooting world. LPVO is an abbreviation for the Low Power Variable Optic and it represents a middle ground between traditional scopes and common red dots.
The wide-angle riflescopes are immensely popular among the tactical community. Still, they are also widely taking place in shooting competitions, such as 3-Gun, and in some types of hunting like a driven hunt.
Like the red dot sights, this innovative low power variable optic will enable tactical shooters to aim the target with both eyes open while maintaining a high level of situational awareness. The LPVO also will allow professional shooters to engage distant targets without changing weapons quickly.
For use at a distance, unlike a typical red dot that will obscure your target and prevent you from taking a precise and clean shot, an LPVO optic sight with zoom power of 1x up to 4x, 6x, 8x, or 10x will allow you to take longer shots at targets out to 800 yards with ease.
Suppose you are a sportsman or hunter and need to make quick shots on fast-moving targets at close range, such as shooting at the driven game (moving targets). In that case, LPVO scopes with a true 1x magnification are perfect because they allow for fast target acquisition for targets nearby.
Although the LPVO riflescopes are slightly specialized scopes, they perfectly suit both the beginner and the high-end professional shooters. The reason is that wide-angled scopes make it super easy for them to aim the target precisely and upgrade their hunting experience.
4. Swarovski Z6i 1-6×24 SFP 4-I Riflescope
Swarovski Optik offers Z6i 1-6×24, their 2nd Generation riflescope, that it is the best in its class of lower power-adjustable scopes. Though this Austrian company is focused exclusively on the hunting market, this scope is very interesting for sports shooters in 3-Gun and Tactical shooting competitions.
Whereas the 1x magnification provides the opportunity for real both-eyes-open target acquisition without losing the wide field of view, a powerful 6x magnification provides the finest detail during twilight or low-light conditions.
Swarovski Z6i 1-6×24 comes with the highest possible glass quality to ensure superior resolution at high magnification and low lighting.
Built on a 30mm main aluminum tube, the Z6i 1-6x scope boasts High Definition lenses treated with Swarotop proprietary lens coatings and protected with a Swaroclean coating to ensure that dirt can be washed away with ease.
At 1x magnification, the scope is turned into an unmagnified red dot, allowing you to acquire the close-range targets with both eyes open. Using a throw lever to crank power to 6x magnification, you will get a realistic view for medium shooting distances.
The Swarovski Z6i 1-6×24 69138 model is equipped with an illuminated 4-I reticle consisting of three heavy posts placed at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock optimized for rapid shots moving targets such as the driven hunt.
The scope utilizes Swarolight technology, which enables automatic on-off reticle illumination for battery conservation.
The initial scout rifles were chambered in some mid-powered calibers and designed to be lightweight and easy to carry and maneuver. To keep these features, the original idea of the scout rifle optics was to be outfitted with a low-powered scope as they offer a wide field of view.
While the first scout rifles were equipped with fixed power 2x magnification scopes, today, many gun authors agree that a magnification range of 2-7x is an ideal sweet spot to settle on.
Unlike traditional rifle scopes featuring an eye relief between 3.5 inches to 4 inches, the scout scope mounted on further down the rifle must have at least 9 inches of eye relief on the low end of magnification.
Since the scout rifles are compact and handy, scout scope should have a compact and low profile to add to a scout rifle’s functionality.
5. Burris 2-7×32 Scout
A typical representative of this category that ticks all the boxes is the 2-7×32 Scout riflescope from Burris Optics. Burris 2-7x32mm Scout rifle scope is built from a single piece 1-inch aluminum tube and is nitrogen-filled for water and fog proof performance.
Featuring a versatile magnification range of 2x-7x, this optics is excellent for short to medium-range shooting. While the magnification on the higher end enables you to engage distant targets 300 yards away, the low 2x setting allows you to keep both eyes open when shooting.
With its low-profile form and eye relief that ranges between 12” and 9.2”, the Burris 2-7x32mm scope is a perfect match for scout rifles of any caliber with the harshest recoil.
This Burris scope 200261 Scout model has a Ballistic Plex duplex crosshair with thick posts that are easy to see in dim light, making it ideal for hunting and mounting on light scout rifles carbines.
However, like other small objective models, this Burris has some light transmission issues, especially in dark light conditions.
Nowadays, many gun owners use optical sighting devices not just on their rifles and shotguns, but also on handguns.
Pistols equipped with red dot sights are relatively usual pictures at shooting ranges and tactical missions, but in hunting fields, a powerful handgun equipped with the scope is not such a common practice.
However, mounting a scope to your hunting revolver or single-shot pistol can increase accuracy and precision in aiming and shooting, especially in longer ranges.
Since the handguns have different recoil actions from the rifles, you will need a scope with longer and more generous eye reliefs that range from at least 9 inches to 35 inches.
Another consideration is the scope magnification. Typically, handgun scopes don’t need the extra power seen in rifle substitutes because they are more suited to close-range shots and hunting.
In a fixed variant, these scopes come in 2x, 4x, or 6x magnifications, whereas in variable models, you can find scopes with 8x and even up to magnifications more than 9x.
Besides lower magnification settings, the pistol scopes also feature smaller objectives ranging from 20-32mm and scope body with 1-inch main tubes.
Though similar to the scout scopes, the handgun scope differs from the scout scope in the parallax setting. In contrast to the scout scopes with parallax usually set at around 100 yards, handgun scopes parallax is set to about 25-50 yards.
6. Leupold VX-3 Pistol Scope 2.5-8x 32mm
A Leopold 2.5-8x 32mm pistol scope from the VX-3 series is one of the best variable optics purpose-built for the handgun used.
For the dedicated handgun sportsmen and hunters who intend to shoot and hunt at close-to-medium range distances, Leupold VX-3 2.5-8x 32mm pistol scope is the most powerful optics.
The scope body is a standard 1-inch single-piece aluminum tube, O-ring sealed and purged with a mixture of krypton and argon gases.
Leupold VX-3 Pistol Scope is shockproof and with a generous eye relief of 15-inches, your brow would be safe even with a kickback of the heaviest .44 Magnum loads.
Like any scope from the Leupold VX-3 line, these handgun optics have lenses treated with Xtended Twilight lens technology, allowing you to clearly see targets and providing you with 20 extra minutes of shooting light.
The exterior glass surfaces are also protected with the DiamondCoat 2 lens coating for better abrasion resistance.
The Leupold VX 3 pistol scope boasts one of the largest 36mm objective lenses in this category that provides crisp and bright images in those critical final minutes of fading light.
The Leupold scope 67825 model comes with a popular Duplex reticle, which aids in quick target acquisition and stands out even in low light.
Home Defense Scopes
Home protection is a specific field of optic use and since you’ll be engaging targets at close range, the red dot or holographic sights are the obvious choice.
You will find little use for a scope indoors because you don’t want magnification, but you want a wide field of view. In our opinion, the traditional optical scope would be useless for the short ranges in a home defense situation.
The red dot style optics clearly show a time and accuracy advantage in close-quarters combat, enabling the shooter to keep both eyes open while using an optic sight.
From the construction point of view, there are two distinctive style categories: tube style and reflex-style.
For home defense, you have a vast choice of reflex sights ranging from the first-tier makers with high-end, expensive holographic models, made to hold up on a battlefield to the more affordable red dots that are great for home defense.
While you want to avoid some cheap knockoffs from Asia, you should choose the mid-price ones that are pretty good for your home defense weapon.
7. Bushnell TRS-25
If your primary home protection gun is a rifle or shotgun, many shooters will recommend the Bushnell TRS-25. Like the best red dot sight for its price class, the
Bushnell TRS-25 has a durable all-metal construction and a 25mm objective lens.
TRS-25 is a tube-style red dot sight designed for mounting on rifles, shotguns, or muzzleloaders. However, due to the smaller size, the TRS 25 is perfect for the AKs and ARs’ pistol versions.
Bushnell model number 731303 comes with a 3 MOA dot reticle that floats in the center of your sight picture while keeping the shooter’s peripheral vision unimpeded for quick shots. The reticle’s illumination intensity can be adjusted through the 11 positions to match ambient lighting conditions.
The red dot housing is O-sealed and filled with nitrogen and water and fog-proof performance.
The lenses feature an amber-bright high-contrast coating, which reduces flare and glare, giving the shooter a crisp dot in almost any light condition.
Best Scope For Your Budget
Advancements in technology and modern production processes hardly influenced market prices in almost every type of industrial goods and optical products are no exception.
Currently, you can definitely find optics priced under $100, but in our opinion, a new, useful riflescope with minimum acceptable glass and build quality you can’t buy for much less than $175. Actually, our price ceiling for a riflescope with a decent optical system and mechanism is established around $300 mark.
Yes, you can buy riflescopes for less than $100 and even for 50 bucks, but to be honest, that would probably be a toy or piece of junk that can cause you more problems and frustrations than you ever think.
There is a golden rule a wise shooter usually follows. It says you should spend at least half as much on the riflescope as you have on the rifle itself.
Generally, the scopes can be managed in several price categories, ranging from budget to high-tech glasses over $1,500. However, our advice would be to invest as much as you can on a quality optic, and you wouldn’t be disappointed or regret it.
These scopes are well suited for beginners and new shooters and come with all the standard models’ basic features. These optics don’t have a very sturdy construction, but they have multi-coatings on the lenses and deliver waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof performance.
You can often find lower-priced models equipped with multi-color illuminated reticles, or even with bubble levels and giant turrets. However, you should be aware that all the bells and whistles in this price category are mostly cosmetic and gimmick, making the scope a less usable and more complicated product.
In short, if you are on a shoestring budget, then opt for a straightforward scope that is easy to use and comes from a more reputable brand.
8. Athlon Optics Argos HMR Rifle Scope 2-12x 42mm
Athlon scopes have comparable product lines that match up against Vortex. In our opinion, they have better prices and features, but Vortex does have better glass. Argos series of rifle scopes belong to the Athlon entry level designed for sport shooting.
The Argos HMR rifle scope with 2-12x 42 configuration is designed for close to mid-range hunting and target shooting. It is offered in 3 options with and without an illuminated reticle, and our suggested model is one of exactly 300$.
The scope features a clean and concise BDC 600, a non-illuminated reticle, with a bullet drop compensation system integrated into the cross-hairs.
Argos HMR Rifle Scope 2-12x has features that are usually found only on more expensive scopes. So, you will find a 5 times magnification range and an advanced, fully multi-coated glass system for a pure, crisp sight picture.
The Argos HMR scope is built of aircraft-grade aluminum and has a one-piece tube construction. This compact and durable hunting scope is based on a waterproof, shockproof one-inch diameter tube, and argon purged to be fog proof.
This is a solid all-around riflescope for standard hunting conditions, and if a budget is your concern, you will be OK with an Athlon.
This group consists of some of the most popular riflescopes, including highly versatile scope models that work for practically any hunting situation and environment.
Since competition is extremely large and strong in this segment, scopes are usually built to last and equipped with features you wouldn’t expect from an optic in this price range.
Excellent value for the money, the scopes of this price range are perfect for budget-conscious hunters and mainstream shooters.
9. Leupold VX-3i 4.5-14x40mm AO Riflescope (Duplex, CDS)
Besides classic hunting 3-9x scopes, modern-day sportsmen can opt for the upgraded riflescopes with a somewhat wider zoom ratio, like 3-12x, 4-12x, or 4-14x.
For this review, we chose a Leupold 4.5-14x40mm from their VX-3i series. Belonging to the lower mid-price range, the Leupold VX-3i rifle scopes come with the name says, 3 times magnification ratio, extremely popular among hunters and sportsmen.
Like all Leupold VX-3i rifle scopes, the 4.5-14x40mm is made around a 1″ diameter main tube machined from 6061-T6 aluminum alloy. The scope is filled with a mix of argon/krypton gasses to prevent internal fogging at low temperatures. The robust housing is waterproof and shockproof for extreme hunting conditions and any hunting caliber.
Along with resistance to impact, the Twin Bias Spring Erector System also ensures adjustment repeatability.
The Leupold VX-3i rifle scope features fully multi-coated lenses and the Twilight Max Light Management System to enhance light management and outstanding performance in low-light conditions.
Furthermore, applying a DiamondCoat 2, an ion-assist lens coating, the Leopold VX-3i has scratch-resistant lenses with enhanced surface hardness and durability.
This scope has a 40mm objective bell, paired with an optical system and blackened lens edges, reduces glare from stray light and provides clear images in challenging light conditions such as dusk or dawn.
The Leupold with 170698 number comes with a non-illuminated Duplex reticle set in the second focal plane and a push-button Zero Lock system, eliminating accidental dial movement.
The scope comes with capped, 1/4 MOA finger-operated turrets that can be altered with optional Custom Dial System (CDS) target turrets.
Additionally, this model has an adjustable objective (AO) parallax corrector for easy parallax focusing from any shooting position.
Scopes in this price range come with features you would only expect from a high-end optic. Scopes from this price category usually buy people who know exactly what they want.
Riflescopes with this price tag feature extra-low-dispersion glass that will provide the best brightness and enhance image sharpness, contrast, and color fidelity. These features make them useful, particularly for hunting in a low-light environment, providing you with added minutes of shooting light at the end and beginning of every day.
Suppose you are more experienced with shooting and you decided to buy a scope from this price range. In that case, you will get not only better scopes that buy you time in the field, but you will get, as the standard, fully multi-coated lenses, a choice of reticles, locking turrets, and a side focus parallax adjustment.
10. Meopta MeoStar R1r 3-12×56 RD Rifle Scope
Meopta is one of the most underrated names in the optic industry and an underdog optics company that offers some of the best and most advanced hunting rifle scopes in the market today.
The Meopta R1 3-12×56 rifle scope from their MeoStar R1 series is also called by some gun authors a “Low-Light Legend” and represents an optimized instrument for low-light use.
The Meopta 3-12×56 MeoStar R1r RD riflescope combines an oversized 56mm objective lens with fully multi-coated glasses and a 30mm main tube for reliable low-light performance.
While the broad 3-12x magnification range provides the ability to scan wide areas, the MeoStar R1 3-12×56 has a comfortable 3.5″ eye relief.
Using the proprietary MeoBright 5501 ion-assisted lens multicoating, the scope delivers bright and clear views and contrast of the picture.
The exposed glass surfaces are multi-coated with a MeoShield abrasion-resistant coating that protects in extreme conditions.
The Meopta MeoStar R1 rifle scopes have 4 times zoom factor, making this series extraordinarily versatile and helpful for most hunting activities.
The model with the abbreviation ˝RD˝ has an illuminated reticle, and a small “r” in the name means the partially illuminated 4C duplex crosshair reticle is set on the second focal plane. The illumination control is placed on the left scope side as a dedicated side turret.
As a real hunting scope, this Meopta has low-profile capped turrets. Posi-click finger-adjustable MeoTrak II turrets offer adjustments with a 1/4 MOA per click impact point correction and a 50 MOA windage and elevation adjustment range.
For shooters with an unlimited budget or firearm enthusiasts who are eyeing for a premium scope that offer premium performance, a $1,500 mark might be a lower threshold.
Since the high-end rifle scopes come with superb glass and lens coatings, they bring incredible clarity, and versatility and offer impeccable image quality.
All of that is followed by fantastic magnification ranges, incredible adjustability, and rugged durability.
Considering all their unique features and technologies, the pinnacle models of top-of-the-line scopes are worth the risk for long-term investment.
Our Reviews For Rifle Scope
Today a number of optics companies produce quality rifle scopes with product warranties that are beneficial not only to the customers but also to the business owners.
Choosing adequate optics can become challenging, but it depends on your shooting or hunting style and your preferences.
Like other consumer products, the scope industry is positively influenced by technological advancements. However, you will probably agree that with countless models and technical details, researching is time-consuming and frustrating, so we hope this optics overview will make it easier to decide which scope to purchase.
Dakota Potts is a gunsmith, armorer, and gun rights advocate with nearly 10 years of experience. He is well respected in the industry and his work has appeared on various industry leading firearm publications. He enjoys learning about firearm history and technology. You can follow Dakota Potts on Youtube or see his Facebook.