Want the best shotgun scope out there but not sure where to start?
Don’t worry, my 50+ years of firearm experience went into writing this article.
I included the same scope I used to bag a leopard, one of Africa’s Big 5.
Rest assured, you’re in good hands.
- Vortex Crossfire II – Best Shotgun Scope of 2023
- Leupold VX Freedom 3-9x40mm – Best Value
- Bushnell Banner 3-9×40 – Best Budget Shotgun Scope
- Zeiss Conquest V4 3-12×56 Rifle Scope – Best High End Scope
- Burris FastFire III – Best Reflex Shotgun Sight
- Holosun HE503CU 2 MOA – Best Red Dot Shotgun Sight
- Comparison Table
- Variable Power Shotgun Scopes
- Shotgun Scopes vs Rifle Scopes
- Red Dots vs Reflex Scopes
- How To Choose The Right Optic For You
- Conflict of Interest Disclosure
- Our Top Pick: Vortex Crossfire II
Vortex Crossfire II – Best Shotgun Scope of 2023
- Very likely costs less than your shotgun
- Lifetime warranty. If they cannot fix it, you get a new one
- Waterproof and fog proof
- Very accurate
- Not optimal in low light conditions
- Fixed parallax at 100 yards
- Heavier than some competitor models
- Limited reticle choices
Among other things I do not understand is how Vortex can pack so much awesomeness into one scope with the price tag as found on the Vortex Crossfire II.
When it comes to shotgun scopes, this is my top choice. The Crossfire II sits on the cantilever barrel for my Mossberg 500.
The 3-9×40 is the best choice for a shotgun scope.
You get plenty of front bell (the objective lens). It gathers more light than the 32mm, which makes the image brighter and lets you shoot more accurately.
You do not have so much scope that you need high rings for the 1-inch tube. That keeps the scope low on the gun, making it comfortable to line up quick shots.
The 9x magnification is enough to pick out a rabbit at 100 yards, so getting on a deer’s or bear’s vitals is easy.
If you’re using this on a shotgun, 9x is PLENTY for anything you’ll be shooting.
The glass in this scope is superb. Today’s Vortex scopes can hold their own with the best glass from Germany and Japan.
The clearer the glass, the more accurate the shots.
You get 4 reticle choices. The Christmas tree is simple, with 4 hash marks, which is all you really need for a shotgun scope.
There is an illuminated reticle available as well. This gives you more versatility for various shooting situations and it is particularly nice if you plan on doing low-light hunting.
Sight your gun in at 50 yards and then shoot at 75, 100, and 125 yards, making a mental note where the hash marks line up.
This one has a fast-focus eyepiece. Those critters don’t stand a chance.
It has an eye relief of 3.8 – 4.4”, giving you plenty of space to line up your shots.
You need to be especially careful with shotgun scopes, as the recoil means you don’t want your face too close. But that’s not an issue here.
The field of view at 100 yards ranges from 34.1ft at 3x to 12.6ft at 9x, giving a good range that makes finding the target fast.
I weighed it right at 15 ounces out of the box and measured the tube at 11.9”, which isn’t the lightest on the list, but I found it manageable.
Heavier scopes can lead to more fatigue and make aiming more difficult, so it’s something to consider.
This scope is also tough.
It will stand up to magnum cartridges and Dangerous Game guns. It will handle anything your shotgun gives, including a 10 gauge. That also means it will last a long time.
Parallax is set to 100 yards, which is really all you need in a shotgun scope.
Click values in the turrets are 1/4 MOA and you get 60 MOA in each.
That’s all you need for a shotgun scope.
I am moving all my traditional optics to Vortex except for my .50 BMG, which has different needs than my other rifles and shotguns.
You just can’t go wrong with this scope.
The Crossfire II is currently on-sale through our certified supplier until December 11, 2023. Use the link below to get the discount:
Leupold VX Freedom 3-9x40mm – Best Value
- Leupold = lifetime warranty. If they can’t fix it, you get a new one.
- Waterproof, shockproof, and fog proof
- Choice of reticles
- Cheap for a Leupold
- More precision than you need
- The Tri-MOA reticle is too much for a shotgun scope
Most people see the word Leupold and immediately think wallet-buster. Not so with the VX Freedom 3-9×40. This Leupold hits the register at less than a new Mossberg 500 and not much more than a good used Remington 870.
The VX Freedom takes 1-inch rings, the most common size.
The variable zoom starts at 3 and goes to 9, meaning the object you see in the scope is 3 times as large as what you’d see with your plain eye. It can go up to 9 times as big.
The 40mm front bell splits the difference between small and large for scopes. Bigger front glass gives you more light-gathering capabilities and drives the price up. You may also need high rings for the bigger bell.
The windage and elevation are 1/4 MOA clicks with 60 MOA in each one. That is more than you really need in a shotgun scope.
Even with really good slugs and a high-end barrel, slugs are a 100-yard shot round. Yes, I know critters are routinely killed at greater distances. But at 150 yards with slugs, accuracy falls way off and only gets worse.
Parallax is fixed at 150 yards.
Ethical hunters take ethical shots, and shooting slugs past 100 yards is pushing the ethical limit. The ability to reach beyond the limits of a shotgun is the only reason this logs in at No. 2.
Leupold is one of the toughest scopes in the world.
Their testing process will crush cheap scopes. This one will stand up to the .50 BMG, so a shotgun is no problem.
I recommend sighting in at 30 yards and then using the adjustable elevation to dial it out to 100 yards. The scope is capable of that.
I have one Leupold on a 7mm Mag and will never replace it unless it breaks. Then I’ll get another Leupold. If I ever get into 1,000-yard shooting with anything other than .50 BMG, I’ll get a Leupold.
WARNING: If you buy Leupold, make sure you get it from a licensed dealer.
Chinese companies are making Leupold counterfeits that will not last more than a few shots. If you send one of these to the Beaverton, OR, headquarters, it will be sent back without being fixed.
Make sure to use the link below to guarantee you’re getting genuine products.
- Good in low light settings
- Generous objective lens
- Good in low temperatures
- Not as tough as the above scopes
An 8-point whitetail hangs on the wall at my house.
It was the first deer I ever killed in my home state. I killed it with ammo my daddy loaded 15 years before (he died when I was 18) and I killed it with a rifle I bought from Dad’s best friend.
I got the bullet back too.
It had a Bushnell scope on top. The Banner 3-9×40 was not yet in the Bushnell lineup.
I have Bushnells on several of my guns, including deer hunting guns.
Bushnell’s Dusk & Dawn Brightness (DDB) multi-coated lenses enhance your sight picture in the twilight hours.
The difference, compared to uncoated lenses, is 5-10 minutes more time in the stand, which may be your only chance to get that wall-hanger.
The 40mm front bell is a good size on a shotgun scope. It allows in sufficient light without putting the scope too high off the gun. That keeps the shooting position comfortable.
The Banner is tough.
It’s waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof. That keeps your image crystal clear and prevents cracking after prolonged use (or an accidental drop).
This scope will hold up to the belted magnums, so it’ll work on a 10 gauge. So, you can swap this out easily to any shotgun (or rifle) you’d like.
I would not put this on a dangerous game rifle, but that’s just about it.
The tube is charged with argon which keeps the internal glass clear even in very low temperatures. Argon is better than nitrogen for this purpose.
That means you can use this in all weather situations without worrying about the image fogging.
It has a ¼ MOA click value, which is very generous for a shotgun scope. You get 60 MOA in windage and elevation.
The eye relief is at 3.3 inches. That’s a little tight, so you’ll want to practice more on the range if you’re concerned with shotgun recoil. I don’t find it to be an issue.
The field of view is a generous 40ft at 3x and 14ft at 9x, giving you excellent vision. That’s particularly helpful when you need to point and shoot fast.
It has a 1-inch tube that’s 12 inches long. The scope weighs in at 13oz, nice and light.
Parallax is fixed at 100 yards. That’s all you need for a shotgun.
And now the price.
This one should cost you around as much as a case of high brass birdshot shells.
Frankly, it’s incredible how much scope you get for the money. So, affordable price? Definitely.
With a fast-focus eyepiece, it makes it easy to point and shoot quickly.
As noted, I have used Bushnells. I still have some. I still use them. But as the scopes wear out, I will replace them with a Vortex because of the glass quality.
Zeiss Conquest V4 3-12×56 Rifle Scope – Best High End Scope
- Zeiss is one of the world’s best scope makers
- Lifetime transferable warranty
- This is literally far more scope than you need on a shotgun
- It is expensive
- 30mm tube means rings are also more expensive than 1-inch rings
Zeiss rounds out the list of top shotgun scopes in this category. It is the final one for two reasons: price and precision.
The Conquest V4 is really an entry-level Zeiss, but it will still set you back more than the cost of your shotgun.
Shotguns are called scatterguns for a reason. This scope belongs on a rifle, but some people insist on getting the absolute best.
If you want to get the best and price is not an object, get the Zeiss.
Some people say you should spend as much on the optics as you do on the gun. Where rifles and precision handguns are concerned, I agree.
With this scope, you get the best glass around; it’s better than a Vortex.
You get 90% light transmission down the tube, which is phenomenal. This helps you in low-light situations and makes the image super clear.
Though Vortex and Bushnell don’t give out their light transmission, to me, it seems to be about 10-15% higher than the others on this list.
So when everyone else is squinting trying to get the shot, you’ve already bagged your trophy.
Regarding clarity, I was blown away when I took this one out on the range. At 100 yards, it was SHARP. At 500 yards, it was crisp as well.
For a shotgun, this is overkill.
The Zeiss has ¼ MOA clicks and a total range of 70 MOE in both windage and elevation adjustments.
Again, that’s more than enough for a shotgun, as you’re rarely shooting more than 100 yards.
And honestly, the 12x magnification is more than you need in shotgun scopes. The other scopes on this list are topping out at 9x, which is all you need for a shotgun, in my opinion.
However, if you want a bit more or if you plan on using the scope on another firearm, it’s a good option.
Plus, this scope has a lifetime transferable warranty. If they can’t fix it, you get a new one, even if you’re not the original owner. You might be passing this thing down to your grandkids.
All that said, if you’re shooting a custom slug gun designed for rifled bores and sabots, this could be just the thing you’re searching for.
Custom guns will cost you much more than this scope.
This scope uses the Zeiss Z-Plex system, capped elevation and windage turrets, and retains a fixed parallax. The scope is built as a one-piece 30mm aluminum main tube unit, carries super high-grade German glass, and allows detailed longer-range clear imaging of targets at a distance.
The Zeiss is the best in light transmission, and the 12x zoom is certainly enough for any shotgun.
Parallax is set at 100 yards, enough for a shotgun scope.
Now, let’s talk about weight and size.
It weighs in at 18.2 oz and is 33 inches long. That’s pretty bulky for a shotgun scope.
The 44mm objective lens is also the largest on the list, which makes sense given its light transmission.
It’s waterproof up to 400 bars of pressure. So you can take it scuba diving if you’d like.
Before you ask, this one will stand up to any shotgun you can mount a scope to. In fact, .50 BMG shooters use Zeiss.
Lots of scopes are only tested up to .308 Winchester rounds. So that means the Zeiss can withstand substantially more recoil.
You’ll find few scopes in the world that are this tough and you will be paying a premium price for this. Short of pounding this scope on your bumper or something equally stupid, you will not break it.
Shotguns are no problem whatsoever.
This is one of the world’s best scopes. Pick one up and you won’t regret it.
Burris FastFire III – Best Reflex Shotgun Sight
- Super fast target acquisition
- Can see entire area as well as target
- Shockproof, handles up to 1,000 Gs
- Unlimited eye relief
- Parallax free to 50 yards
- Less than 1oz
- Auto-adjust dot brightness for the conditions
- Needs a battery for the red dot to work
- 1 MOA adjustment
When you have to get on target as fast as possible, you have 2 choices in shotgun sights: the simple bead sight on the front barrel or a reflex scope.
Both are faster than iron sights and a regular shotgun scope.
The Burris FastFire II Reflex is better than a bead sight because you’ll know you’re correctly lined up on the target.
A reflex scope does not have a tube like a true red dot sight. A reflex just has a frame around a single piece of glass. That gives you a large clear image to aim with, perfect for quick point-and-shoot situations like when you’re bird hunting or shooting clay pigeons.
While I don’t currently shoot a reflex on my Mossberg, I do have them on three carbine rifles, a .45-70, 10mm, and .45 ACP. All three are 100 yards and under guns, just like a shotgun with slugs.
In the past, I have used reflex sights with great success in duck hunting.
And when I get another slug gun in 20 gauge, it will have a FastFire.
Even a novice shooter can get a correct shooting solution in a hurry with the scope.
I really liked the auto brightness adjustment too. You don’t have to mess around with the settings – it adjusts to the right brightness automatically.
That means you have the perfect dot brightness, every time.
Also, because you’re essentially looking through a window frame, you won’t lose sight of the surroundings.
If you’re out in the woods, this can be very helpful to keep you aware of your surroundings without losing sight of the target.
That makes it much easier to know what you’re shooting at and removes all “tunnel vision” you can get with traditional scopes.
It weighs 0.9 ounces and won’t weigh you down at all. You actually don’t even feel it, keeping fatigue to a minimum.
What’s more, it’s waterproof, so no need to worry about bad weather.
You can choose between the 3 and 8 MOA dot models. Go with the 8 if you want it bigger. This is really a matter of preference as you do lose some of your vision with the biggest dot.
A good shotgun and ammo can shoot a tighter group than that. However, that is also bigger than a deer’s breadbasket. So if you center that dot on the deer or bear and do your part, you’ll have something to take home.
As it’s a 1x zoom, it’s not for long-range shooting.
However, this sight is great for tactical situations. So it’s not a bad choice if you want to keep it mounted on your scope for home defense when you’re not hunting.
Be sure to buy an extra CR2032 battery. They say it lasts up to 5 years, but I switch them out way before that.
If you are looking for one of these wide-view reflex sights (it is not a true red dot), this is the optic for you.
These are not as tough as tube scopes, but you still don’t need to worry about babying them.
If you need help wing shooting, this is the perfect addition to your shotgun. With the wide field of view, you can see everything as if you don’t have a scope, meaning you can keep one eye on the dot and the incoming birds at the same time.
If I hunted ducks anymore, this is what I’d use. Just do not have enough ducks around here to hunt them.
Holosun HE503CU 2 MOA – Best Red Dot Shotgun Sight
- Co-Witness capable
- 2 MOA dot
- Solar power
- One tough red dot scope
- Not suited for cantilever barrels
- Must use Holosun mounts
- Needs battery or enough sun for solar panels
A lot of people will wonder why I placed the Holosun HE503CU below the Burris. The sole reason is because of the mounting system.
The Holosun will not mount directly to a Pic or Weaver rail. You must have a Holosun mounting system.
Yes, the Burris also requires a plate, but given the cost of the Holosun, it should come with a way to mount to a Pic Rail.
I want my shotgun optics to mount to the rails I already have. This is even worse if you want to mount this to a cantilever shotgun barrel.
Notice how the rail rises above the barrel on this Remington 870l. This already adds height to the scope. The Holosun’s mount adds even more height. That means you may be holding the shotgun lower on your shoulder than is comfortable.
But you can look at this from a different perspective. If you have a receiver mount rail, the scope will not be that high. If you have tall enough iron sights on the shotgun, you can co-witness through the Holosun. That can be handy, depending on how close the target is.
If the Holosun would direct mount to my rail, it would be No. 1 for the red dots.
It has a ½ MOA click value, moving the dot ½ inch at 100 yards.
That’s plenty for a shotgun scope and the 2 MOA dot.
A smaller MOA dot means a more precise shot at longer distances. To put it in perspective, a 2 MOA dot covers 2 inches at 100 yards, i.e. it “covers” two inches of your target.
At range, this decreases your margin of error as the target isn’t as “covered” by the red dot.
It has a 65 MOA ring around the dot, which is roughly 65 inches at 100 yards. If you’re good with estimating, you can use the ring and the dot to get a good idea of how big the overall target is.
This can help you quickly identify the target, which greatly speeds up reaction time in quick target acquisition situations. Perfect for a shotgun.
It’s also parallax free, which is perfect for a shotgun as you’re shooting at relatively close ranges.
It uses a CR2032 battery. Holosun says the battery will last for years. I say replace it at the beginning of every hunting season.
What’s more, it has a solar panel. The combination makes the battery last a lot longer, and honestly, it’s a unique and very cool feature.
This is a true red dot. You have to look through the tube. If you hunt turkeys, you can use this.
If you hunt fast-flying birds, this is far more of a hindrance than a help.
Holosun is the premium red dot scope maker today. These things can take plenty of abuse and keep working.
They’re robust, reliable, and accurate as hell. If you’re looking for a red dot sight, this is the one you want.
|Name||Zoom||Type of Sight||Best…|
|Vortex Crossfire II||3-9x||Variable Scope||Best Shotgun Scope of 2023|
|Leupold VX Freedom||3-9x||Variable Scope||Best Value|
|Bushnell Banner||3-9x||Variable Scope||Best Budget Shotgun Scope|
|Zeiss Conquest V4||3-12x||Variable Scope||Best High-End Scope|
|Burris FastFire III||1x||Reflex Sight||Best Reflex Shotgun Sight|
|Holosun HE503CU||1x||Red Dot SIght||Best Red Dot Shotgun Sight|
Variable Power Shotgun Scopes
All the traditional scopes in this list are variable power or have a fixed magnification level. Some shotgunners will say that’s not necessary because even the best shotgun and the most accurate ammo will have a 2-3 inch spread at 100 yards.
I like being able to zoom in, even with shotgun scopes. My old eyes cannot make out details like they could 30 years ago. Getting up close with a zoom means when deer hunting, I can tell if that buck is a 6-point that should walk or a basket 8-point that is probably never going to have a bigger rack.
Shotgun Scopes vs Rifle Scopes
What is the difference between a rifle scope and a shotgun scope? Well, none. A good scope can serve on a rifle and a shotgun equally well.
Traditional shotgun scopes are ones that have a long tube with elevation and windage turrets. Unless it has a lighted reticle, no battery is needed. If the battery dies, the scope functions just fine.
Red Dots vs Reflex Scopes
Red dot scopes, which can actually be separated into 2 categories, red dot sight and reflex sight, need a battery to work. No battery, no reticle. Red dots offer a much faster sight picture than traditional scopes and are even faster than a true red dot sight.
If you’re looking for the best shotgun scopes, red dots have to be considered. They’re exceptionally ideal for turkey hunting.
Reflex scopes have the best light transmission of any optic, delivering nearly 100 percent of the light. Red dots, which have a tube, are not quite as good at light transmission.
How To Choose The Right Optic For You
When you get ready to stick an optic on your shotgun, you need to know a few things. Some of these factors for the best shotgun scopes may be obvious, and some not so much.
Ask: What Will You Use It For?
When I ask what will you use the shotgun scope for, I mean what are you going to hunt? If you are deer hunting or bear hunting from a tree stand or ground blind, any of these scopes will do just fine.
If you know you’ll be shooting 50 yards or more, get a traditional scope with a zoom.
Budget: How Much Can I Spend?
Here’s my advice. Spend enough to get a good shotgun scope.
You can go to one of the Chinese websites and buy a cheap scope that will break when you’re sighting it in. OR you can get a scope from a proven shotgun optics maker. The best shotgun scopes will not let you down.
Brand: Which Should I Choose?
If you are hunting to impress, get the Zeiss. If you are hunting to bring something out of the woods, get a brand you like. I have yet to hear any animal complain about the scopes I’ve used when hunting.
Wild animals do not care what brand your scope is.
Example – Years ago, I went on a quail hunt with some gents who shot European double-barrel shotguns that started at $30,000. The guns looked amazing. I had a Browning pump 12 gauge which cost $350 new in the 80s. I brought home more birds than they did.
Reticle: Do I Have a Preference?
Having a reticle preference is different than having a reticle choice. I like plain duplex reticles in my tube shotgun scopes. Some scopes do give you a choice. But getting a precision long-range Christmas tree reticle for a shotgun is a waste of money.
Reflex and red dots give you a choice of how the dot appears – a dot, triangle, >DOT< and some others possibly. In that case, pick the one you like best.
I have a reflex on a .22 that has a skull and a smiley face as reticle options. It is strictly for the amusement factor.
How Do I Mount It?
How you mount the scope depends on both the scope and the gun.
Some shotguns let you put a rail on top of the receiver. Others either have to be tapped or use a cantilever barrel.
As noted above, my Mossberg has a cantilever. This way, I can swap barrels without removing the scope.
Because the scope is mounted to the barrel, not the receiver, when I put the barrel back on the gun, it’s still sighted in. The shell fits fully inside the chamber in the barrel, so nothing changes with the alignment.
Conflict of Interest Disclosure
I did not accept any money or free products to feature any scope in this review. All items mentioned here have been selected based on their merit alone. I have tested every product on this list and these are my opinions.
For more info on how BarrettRifles.com makes money, see our “Affiliate Disclosure” link at the bottom of this page.
Our Top Pick: Vortex Crossfire II
I have been writing firearms and outdoor material for over 50 years to date. I have hunted across the world, including Russia, and a great deal of time professional hunting in Australia. I currently live in the American West and hunt all across the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Big Horn Mountains. I have specialized much of my work as a load developer in shotguns and rifles. I have run a small company that builds suppressor barrels of my design and load tests for writing purposes and consulting. My commercial names include Ballistics Research & Development / Metro Gun Systems TM.
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