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What Does 4 12×50 Mean on a Scope [In Plain English]

Dakota Potts | Updated April 19, 2023 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money
Image showing typical 12x50 optic

When choosing a rifle scope, you’ll notice several numbers on the box. If you’re new to the world of scopes, you may not fully understand what those numbers mean. 

Fortunately, we’re here to help. Let’s find out what 4 12×50 means specifically and how it applies to all rifle scopes. 

More Reading: Best DMR Scopes

If you’re looking for more, check out our article on the the top DMR scopes money can buy today. We cover exactly what you need to know to find the perfect optic for your needs.

What Does 4 12×50 Mean on a Scope?

The number 4 12×50 means the rifle scope has a variable zoom of 4 to 12x, with a 50mm objective lens. If you ever see three numbers on a rifle scope, it means you have a variable-powered one, not a fixed scope. 

The larger the objective lens, the more light can enter, meaning the easier it is to see. So, a scope with a 50mm lens is better for shooting than a 40 or 30mm model. 

Scope Magnification Explained

As you know, the primary purpose of a rifle scope is to magnify your image so you can see what you’re shooting. The amount of magnification varies from one scope to the next, with some models allowing you to adjust the setting manually (i.e., variable power scopes). 

But how does this magnification work, and what does that mean for your shot accuracy? Here’s a quick breakdown. 

Scopes, like other optical equipment (i.e., telescopes and binoculars), use specialized lenses to magnify an image. With a variable scope, you get a magnification range, meaning you can adjust the lenses to make the target larger or smaller. With fixed power scopes, the lenses are set and can’t be adjusted or corrected. 

You’ll also notice that the front of a scope is larger than the rear. The bigger the opening, the more light can come in, making the image sharper and easier to see. Typically, 50mm is the largest size for a rifle scope, but high-powered models can be even bigger. 

As we’ll discuss later, the magnification range of your scope tells you how many times you can make the target larger. So, a 9x fixed power scope increases the target’s size by nine times – basically, it’s as if you were nine times closer to the object. (1)

Here’s a great video explaining in detail magnification through practical examples: 

Scope Types

When comparing different rifle scopes, there are two primary varieties – fixed and variable power. Here’s a breakdown of both options. 

Fixed Powered Scopes

A fixed power scope cannot be adjusted to see your target more clearly. There is just one magnification setting, and that’s all you get. Typically, fixed power scopes are ideal for short and mid-range shooting because it’s impossible to narrow your field of view.

The primary benefits of buying a fixed power scope are that it’s often cheaper than a variable scope and provides a sharper image.  

Variable Powered Scopes

A variable power scope allows you to adjust your zoom within a specified magnification range. So, a scope with a 4-12x range allows you to magnify your target between 4 and 12 times. The higher the number, the more you can zoom in and the more accurate your shot.

Variable scopes are more expensive than fixed models, and the image isn’t quite as crisp because the lens has to move. However, these scopes are ideal if you switch between close, mid, and long-range shooting. This way, you don’t have to remove and mount new scopes for each hunting trip.

Typical magnification power scope with hunter

How to Read Scope Numbers

If you buy a fixed rifle scope, it will come with two numbers separated by an X. With variable power scopes, there will be two numbers before the X, sometimes with a dash in between them. 

Here’s what these scope numbers mean and how to read them – specifically, what they mean for a 4-12×50 scope. 

4-12x Meaning

These scope numbers reflect the variable magnification range of the scope. So, the smallest amount you can magnify the image is 4 times, and the largest amount is 12 times. However, you can adjust the scope anywhere in-between, such as 5x, 6x, 7x, and so on. 

In a fixed power scope, the lens only shows one magnification setting. So, if the scope is a 4×50, you can only see your target 4 times closer. (2)

50 Meaning

The last number on a scope reflects the size of the objective lens in millimeters. The larger the number, the bigger the lens and the more light it can capture. 

As a rule, a 50mm lens is better than smaller ones, such as 40 or 44mm. 

Rifle Scope Magnification vs Distance

Generally, 1x magnification can enlarge your target at 100 feet. High-powered scopes may offer better resolution. 

To understand how magnification affects distances, look at the number – it makes the target appear that many times closer than it is. So, if a target is 400 yards away, a 4x magnification range will make it seem like it’s 100 yards away. 

When choosing a scope, you want something that will bring your target within your desired range. For example, if you’re comfortable targeting at 100 yards, you want a scope that can magnify to the point where you feel like you’re shooting at that distance. 

That said, you also have to calculate your shot based on environmental factors like wind, elevation, and movement. So, even though the target seems closer, you still have to account for these variables. 

For more reading see our article on what a DMR scope is and what does a 4×32 scope mean.


Various rifles with optics mounted

How far can you shoot with a 4 12×50 scope?

Although there are other factors that can affect your shot (i.e., type of gun, bullet caliber, etc.), you can shoot from about 300 to 500 yards with a 4 12×50 scope. In some cases, you might be able to stay accurate above 500 yards, but again, it depends on different variables. 

How far can you see with a 4 12×50 scope?

You should be able to see at least 1,200 feet (400 yards) with a 4 12×50 scope. As a general rule, you can see 100 feet for 1x magnification. However, realistically you can see up to 500 yards and still be able to make out your target. 

What range is a 4 12×44 scope good for?

According to manufacturers, the range a 4 12×44 scope should be good for is about 600 yards, give or take. This size scope is considered “mid-range.”

How far can you see with a 4x16x50 scope? 

You can likely see up to 900 yards with a 4-16×50 scope. Because this scope has a greater variable zoom, you can realistically stay accurate at longer distances. An experienced shooter may be able to take a shot at 1000 yards under the right conditions. 

How far can you shoot with a 4 16×44 scope?

In most cases, you should be able to shoot up to 800 yards with a 4 16×44 scope. Since this scope doesn’t let in as much light as a 50mm version, your shot range is slightly lower than the 4-16×50 model. However, in the right conditions, you may be able to extend that distance a little more. 

What does 4 16×50 mean on a scope? 

When looking at 4 15×50 on a scope, the first two rifle scope numbers (4-16) refer to the variable scope magnification, while the third number (50) refers to the diameter of the optic, aka 50mm. The higher this number, the more light can come in, making the image clearer. 

Rifle scope numbers shown on typical optic

Is a 4x16x50 scope good?

A 4-16×50 scope is good for long-range shooting because you can magnify your image up to 16 times, and the scope will let in a lot of light. However, because it’s a variable zoom scope, you can also be accurate at shorter ranges, making it an excellent all-around product

What is the range of a 4 16×50 scope?

Realistically, the range of a 4 16×50 scope is up to 900 yards, give or take. When it comes to accuracy, this variable power scope should be able to stay accurate at around 900 yards, but environmental factors can also affect your shot. 

What does 4×12 mean on a scope?

On a variable scope, the number 4×12 refers to the magnification range of the scope. So, you can see at least 4x closer to your target, up to 12x closer. 

What does 4×32 scope mean on a scope? 

In this case, if there are only two numbers, a 4×32 fixed power scope means it has a 4x magnification setting and a 32mm objective lens size. This particular rifle scope would be ideal for short to medium-range shooting. 

What does 6 24×50 mean on a scope?

When reading the rifle scope specs 6 24×50, the first two numbers mean the magnification range, which is 6-24x. The third number refers to the size of the objective lens, which would be 50mm. A 50mm lens is often the largest model, although some high-powered rifle scopes can be up to 56mm. 

What does 9×50 scope mean on a scope?

A 9×50 scope means it has a magnification setting of 9x (only one power setting) and an objective lens size of 50mm. When you only see two numbers like this, that means you’re looking at a fixed power scope, not a variable power one. 

Shooter taking practice shots with AR

What range is a 4 12×50 scope good for?

Realistically, a 4 12×50 variable power scope’s range can be accurate between 300 and 500 yards. Experienced shooters can likely stay accurate at 600 yards or more, but environmental factors like wind and terrain can affect the results. 

What does 3-12×50 mean on a scope?

A 3-12×50 scope can magnify the image between 3 and 12 times, and it comes with an objective lens of 50mm. As a general rule, 1x magnification power equals 100 feet, so this scope can see accurately up to 1,200 feet or more. 

What does 3-9×40 mean on a scope?

On a rifle scope, when you see 3-9×40, the first number (or pair of numbers) means the magnification range, which would be 3x to 9x in this case. The last number is the size of the objective lens, aka 40mm. A 40mm lens is not as powerful as a 50mm because it doesn’t let in as much light. 

What power scope do I need for 100 yards?

To see accurately at 100 yards, you would need a fixed or variable power scope with a magnification setting of at least 3x. Since 100 yards is about 300 feet, the scope has to bring your target that much closer, visually speaking.  

What magnification do snipers use?

Military snipers may use variable power scopes that can magnify the image up to 25 times. So, the scope range may be 5-25×50, which is accurate for at least 1,300 yards or more. Police snipers often use less powerful scopes that reach up to 15x because they rarely have to shoot from more than 200 yards. 

Sniper looking through eye piece on optic

What scope can see the farthest?

Currently, the scope that can see the farthest is the March X Tactical Scope, with a variable power range of 8x to 80x with an objective lens of 56mm. These stats make this scope accurate at well over 1000 yards. At that distance, you can even see your bullet holes in a target, allowing you to zero out your weapon easier. 

What do the numbers on a rifle scope represent?

If you have a fixed power scope, the first number on a rifle scope represents the magnification setting, and the second number is the size of the lens in millimeters. If you’re using variable power scopes, the first two numbers are the magnification range (i.e., 4-12x). The last number is still the size of the lens. 

What do numbers on a scope mean?

The numbers on a rifle scope mean the magnification setting and the lens size. If there’s only one number in the front, you’re using a fixed power scope that can’t be adjusted. If there are two numbers, you’re using a variable power scope, and you can shift the magnification range between those two numbers. 

What does 3×32 scope mean?

Fixed power scopes only have two numbers, so a 3×32 scope has a magnification setting of 3x and an objective lens size of 32mm. This particular scope would be accurate at about 100 to 200 yards. 

What is the range on a 4-12×40 scope?

The accurate range of a 4-12×40 scope is about 200 to 400 yards, depending on various factors. Although the magnification range of a rifle scope allows you to see your target up close, the size of the lens also affects your shot accuracy. So, a 40mm scope is not as easy to use as a 50mm one. 

What scope magnification is needed for 500 yards?

For ideal accuracy at 500 yards, you need a scope with a maximum magnification range of around 12 to 15x. This setting will work for both variable and fixed power scopes.  


  1. Merriam Webster, magnification. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/magnification
  2. Steven L, Rifle Scope Number Meanings. Retrieved from https://www.opticsplanet.com/howto/how-to-rifle-scope-magnification-numbers-explained.html

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