Best Hunting Scopes Reviewed & Rated for Quality
The best hunters understand that you should only need one shot for one kill. Having a great scope on your rifle is an essential part of bagging a clean kill. When sighted properly, a hunting scope will help you get the best possible aim and allow you to aim for your target’s vital organs. Not only does a clean shot stop the animal from suffering but a quick kill also reduces the amount of time you have to spend tracking after your shot.
Hunting scopes also have uses that go beyond the kill shot. Trophy hunters may wish to take a good look at the animal through their scope prior to firing. For example, if an animal is hiding in thick brush or undercover, it may be hard to determine if it’s male or female by using your naked eye. Since a scope provides you with magnification, you can get a much clearer look at such an animal prior to firing. A scope may also help you make a better determination about the size of the animal as well. Many deer hunters like to count the number of points on a buck’s antlers to make sure it’s worth firing upon.
- Nikon Buckmasters
- Color Contrast
- Vortex Optics Diamondback
- Argon Purging
- Sniper Compact
- RF Recticle
These are just but a few reasons why many hunters choose to mount scopes on their rifles. Scopes are a useful tool that can provide you with a number of features. They all provide you with additional magnification. Many scopes have dot sites or crosshair sites that help you aim more accurately. Advance scopes may even have laser sights or systems that compensate for the bullet dropping. You can purchase scopes in a large variety of prices and features which makes it easy to pick out a scope that is just right for you are your needs. Having a good scope can turn a good time into a great time.
10 Best Hunting Scopes
1. Nikon Buckmasters
The scope is designed to help you spot game that may be blending into its background. It has features that help your eyes see different shades of colors more distinctly. This helps you spot game much easier than what you could otherwise.
The crosshairs on the scope help you account for bullet drops at a long range. There are clear circles placed below the lines where the crosshairs meet. You can use these circles to adjust your aim while firing at longer ranges.
Cost and Value
This scope has an average price which helps make it into an excellent value. It offers features found in many scopes such as waterproofing, trajectory compensation, and anti-reflection. Many consumers appreciate the lifetime warranty that comes with this scope as well.
- This scope reduces unwanted reflection by having a system of coated lenses that reduce reflection by up to 92%.
- It is completely guarded against moisture by being fully waterproof, fog proof, nitrogen filled.
- This scope is long lasting and is sold with a manufacturer's lifetime warranty.
- There is a compensating system that helps you accurately aim at your target from long ranges.
- You can get zeroed into your targets quickly by using the reticle adjustments on this scope.
- Some reviewers have experienced trouble with sighting in this scope to their guns.
- Other reviewers have reported that they were unable to mount the scope to their guns.
2. Vortex Optics Diamondback
You won't need to worry about this scope getting ruined from vibrations, the weather, or even from getting drops thanks to the fully aluminum body. It is made out of an aircraft grade alloy so that it's lightweight and durable.
The interior of the scope is filled with argon gas. This helps the scope resist fogging up which helps you get a crystal clear view of your target. The moisture resistant features allow you to use this scope in the rain.
Cost and Value
This scope has a price that is slightly higher than average. It justifies its higher price by being constructed out of higher grade materials. The body of the scope is almost indestructible and it is fully waterproof and resists fogging.
- The reticle uses a customized design that helps you compensate for wind and bullet drops.
- It is made out of a solid piece of high-quality aluminum which makes the scope durable.
- The interior of the scope has been filled with argon gas so that the scope doesn't fog.
- The lenses are fully coated so that images appear clear inside of the crosshairs.
- The zoom lens uses high-quality components which helps you smoothly magnify your target.
- Some reviewers have noted that scope does appear foggy at the 12th power.
- Other reviewers have reported that there is extreme glare if the sun hits the scope at the right angle.
3. UTG BugBuster
The crosshairs turn different colors to help you estimate the range of your target. It has nine dots in both directions so that you can accurately adjust for wind or bullet drop when you are shooting at long ranges.
This scope is sold with a variety of useful accessories. It has flip-open lens caps which allows you to protect the lenses when it isn't in use. There is also a shade that helps protect your eyes against the sun.
Cost and Value
This scope has a price that is well below the average price for hunting scopes which makes it into an excellent value. There are plenty of features found in this scope that usually come in higher priced scopes.
- This scope is sold with a number of highly sought after accessories such as lens caps.
- It has range estimating features so that you can better adjust your aim at long ranges.
- There is a red/green dial which allows you to adjust red and green light filtering.
- The scope is filled completely with nitrogen gas which makes it fog proof.
- The interior of the tube features emerald coating which helps transmit the maximum amount of light.
- Some reviewers have reported that the scope doesn't have good eye relief which makes them lean into it.
- Other reviewers have noted that the scope mounts too low to the gun which makes it hard to use.
4. Rhino Green/Red Dot
Since lighting conditions and your target can vary, you can switch this scope between red and green dots. This allows you to compensate for differences in conditions and your targets. If you have trouble with seeing with one dot, then switch to the other one.
This scope is sold with a cantilever mount. This allows you to quickly and easily mount this scope to your rifle. The result is a highly secure fit that prevents the scope from coming loose from your gun.
Cost and Value
You will see this scope sold at a price that is well below the average price of hunting scopes. It costs less because it is designed for shooting shorter ranges which results in fewer materials when compared to other scopes.
- You can switch the dot sights between both red and green colors depending on your preferences.
- This scope is sold with a one year warranty from the manufacturer.
- It comes with a cantilever mount which allows you to easily mount it to your rifle.
- You can adjust the brightness level with five different settings allow you to get the best aim.
- The scope is designed to hold up in rugged and tough conditions.
- Some reviewers have had trouble with keeping this scope sighted properly.
- There is no magnification on this scope so its not suitable for long range.
5. Bushnell Trophy
You can easily adjust the brightness on this scope thanks to the eleven different brightness settings. This allows you to adjust for different lighting conditions as needed which allows your eyes to see better through the scope.
This scope has features that help improve the life of its battery. The scope will regulate the brightness automatically based on the surrounding light. It will also power down when you attach the storage hood to the scope.
Cost and Value
This is a lower priced scope that is meant for close to medium range target. It gets its value by offering features such as different brightness settings and by regulating its power consumption automatically.
- This scope will reduce the brightness on its own to conserve battery light.
- It will power down on its own when you attach the storage hood to the scope.
- There are eleven different settings for the brightness level so you can adjust to conditions.
- It only weighs six ounces and it has a red dot sight.
- There is a protective cover and an integral mount included with the scope.
- Some reviewers have mentioned that the battery life isn't as good as what's advertised.
- Other reviewers have noted that it can be hard to see the dot in the sunlight.
6. ATN X-Sight II
You can use this scope after dark because it offers high definition day and night vision. This allows you to hunt in low light or even after dark in areas where you are allowed to do so.
The scope has a built-in camera that allows you to take pictures and record videos. This allows you to record your hunt if you so choose to do so. Later on, you can stream the recorded video to a mobile device.
Cost and Value
This is a high-end scope that has a price that is way above the average price for a scope. It justifies its high price by offering high features such as 20x magnification, night vision, picture, and video recording.
- This scope provides you with high definition resolution in both the day and nighttime.
- It has a ballistic calculator which allows you to adjust your aim for long-range shots.
- There is a built-in rangefinder which allows you to accurately estimate your targets range.
- It can zoom between five and twenty magnification so that you can zero in on your target.
- The scope is able to take pictures and record videos.
- Some reviewers have experienced technical trouble with the scope after updating the firmware.
- Other reviewers have experienced issues with customer service not responding to inquiries.
7. Sniper Compact
The scope has an RF reticle which provides you with an optimal aim. This allows you to get the perfect shot on your target so that you don't end up wasting ammunition.
Cardan Joint Platform
This scope is built on a platform made out of cardan joints. This allows the scope to remain durable and secure while it is mounted to your gun. You won't need to worry about the scope breaking from its platform.
Cost and Value
This is an extremely low-cost scope which makes it a great bargain buy. It keeps its price low by only offering basic features that one expects in a scope but it is perfect for 22 rifles or crossbows.
- This scope is built on a platform that is made out of cardan joints that are strong.
- It has an RF reticle which allows you to get a solid and optimal aim on your target.
- The lenses have a sapphire coating which allows you to get the best light.
- The tube is made out of one piece and it comes with lens caps.
- The scope is lightweight and only weighs 9.8 OZ so it won't feel heavy.
- Some reviewers have experienced issues with the crosshair knobs getting stuck.
- Other reviewers have reported that this scope doesn't have good eye relief.
8. Simmons 8-Point
The lenses in this scope are fully coated. This provides you with an image that has high color contrast which makes it easier for you to pick out wildlife that is blending in with its background.
The wind and elevation adjusters have a SureGrip adjuster. The adjuster makes a click sound so that you can hear it clicking as you adjust for wind and elevation without having to take your eye off your target.
Cost and Value
This scope has a price that is well below the average price for hunting scopes. This makes it a great value because it offers many of the features a person would expect to find in premium scopes.
- The optics on this scope are fully coated so that you see a high contrast image.
- It is both waterproof and fog proof so that you can use this scope on rainy days.
- The scope will hold its sight after you fire the gun because it is recoil proof.
- The SureGrip adjustors make click sounds so that you can hear it as it works.
- The eyepiece is designed to help you quickly find your target.
- Some reviewers have mentioned that they can't get the scoped dialed in.
- Other reviewers have reported that the scope does not hold up to recoil.
9. CVLife Hunting Scope
The scope's ocular has a dioptric lens which is helpful for nearsighted and farsighted people. The lens is adjustable so that people who have impaired vision can get a clear view of their target.
Red and Green Reticle
The Reticle has three different color options which are black, red, and green. If you are having trouble seeing the reticle due to the target's color, then you are free to switch to a color that lets you see better.
Cost and Value
This is a low-cost hunting scope which makes it a bargain purchase. It is fully waterproof so that you can use it in wet or rainy condition. The reticle has three different colors and the lens is designed for people with impaired vision.
- You can magnify your target between 6-24x magnification allows you to get a perfect aim.
- There is a dioptric lens which can be adjusted allows people with impaired vision to see clearly.
- The exterior lenses feature a coating that resists scratching so that they are long-lasting.
- The reticle can be changed between black, red, and green colors depending on your needs.
- The lens is fully coated so that you can see clear and high contrast images.
- Some reviewers have reported that this scope doesn't stay focused after firing the gun.
- Other reviewers have had the crosshairs turn around inside of the scope.
10. Barska IR Scope
This scope includes a sunshade which helps protect your eyes from the bright sun. The shade goes on the exterior lens and reduces bright light and flares that you can get when using the scope on a bright day.
This scope is fully sealed against water and fog. This allows you to use the scope in wet or snowy conditions without you having to worry about not being able to see through it.
Cost and Value
This scope has an average price when compared to other scopes. It gets its value by being a heavy duty scope that can withstand harsh conditions. The scope is durable, waterproof, and has a sunshade.
- You can use this scope on a bright day because it has a sun shade.
- The scope is fully sealed against water and resists fog so that it can be used in wet weather.
- It has from 1 to 4x magnification which make it great for short to medium range.
- It has locking target turrets that keep the scope moving when adjusting for wind or elevation.
- The reticle can be illuminated in either red, black, or green colors.
- Some reviewers have mentioned that the scope doesn't hold zero as well as they would like.
- Other reviewers have said that the looking through the scope is like looking through a fishbowl.
Hunting scopes come with a wide range of prices, features, and benefits. This allows you to easily find and pick a scope that works best for you. Some scopes are designed for short range targets and have dot sights so that you can see where you are shooting. These scopes help you find your target quickly which is ideal when you don’t have a lot of time to aim.
Other scopes are magnifying and are meant for shooting at long range. These scopes often provide you with a high contrast image which helps you find wildlife that is attempting to blend into its background. They are a great choice for scopes for when you can’t get close to your target and have to shoot from a long range. Higher end scopes will even have range finders and tools that allow you to adjust for wind and elevation.
In the end, a scope is a tool that helps you aim better. Just about every hunter can appreciate the importance of having a good aim. A good aim helps improve safety by protecting us from wild or stray bullets. It also helps make for a cleaner kill when hunting which is more humane for the animal. The scope assists with this by helping us get a good sight on our target which provides for the best shooting and hunting.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Hunting Scopes
One reason scopes are utilized is that they give the ability to line up a shot more easily than with iron sights. Of course, if one is highly skilled the statistics change, but generally, a scopes ability to give the shooter that half-second advantage is alone enough to warrant the relatively small investment. However, the price is the last factor you should worry about when looking to make a selection.
The real value, as with anything, comes from its quality, and as with anything else, cheap, affordable scopes will not perform the same, malfunction, and break well before their time should be up. You will spend over the initial investment of a quality scope with all the right features by replacing a broken affordable scope repeatedly. For this reason, we have compiled criteria that can be referred to for evaluating the best for your particular use. Also included is information regarding features and functionalities to keep in mind when choosing and/or using your acquired scope.
Bigger target, easier shot
A scope gives the advantage of magnifying distant targets which gives the shooter better accuracy, making precise shots a little more easier to pull off. There are a ton of technical factors behind the effectiveness of a sope and its lenses. There are also adjustments allow manually dialing in your scope. If you want precision, you’ll likely want as clear of a shot as possible. Here’s how you can manually adjust your scope if you have the right scope, and how to do so. We aren’t going to break-down everything but we will certainly steer you in the right direction.
If you’re able to adjust your objective lens, you can manipulate the focus of your field of view given the range coordinates with the scope. Consider this seemingly small factor when looking for a scope. Not all scopes include an adjustable dial or slider ring for the lens, but scopes can be of the highest performance even without, so the option is not necessary. However, it is something you want to consider.
Size of Lens
There are scopes with different size objective lenses. Scopes relay light to your retina and with a larger objective lens more light is allowed through it. You can manually adjust your exit pupil to allow more or less light. With more light through, the need to keep your eye dead center to get a clear field of view is lessened.
If you’re wondering which type of scope you will need, consider what you will be using it for specifically. If you may find yourself in close to your game or target, being able to adjust the power to see more in the field of view will allow for a much more accurate shot at the considered distance. In a case where animals may charge, this convenience comes in handy. If you ever need to make a long distance shot, adjust the dial upward. It may take some practice to get it right.
Fixed Power Scope
These scopes will usually have an adjustable objective lens but not much else in regards to dialing in and variables. These are great for target shooting, however, this really depends on who you’re talking to.
Variable Power Scope
Characterized by the numbers you will typically see attached to any model. These numbers will be the magnification range of the scope via its adjustable dials.
These are “arguably” the most popular type of scope used for the more typical big game animal such as elk.
This type of scope is generally used for long range, tight shots and small targets at a distance. They are characterized by their adjusting turrets, side-focus dial, and a significantly larger objective lens.
The main portion of the scope that runs through all other components and holds the build together is commonly referred to as the “tube”, although there are references that suggest many other common ways of referring to the section. You will likely find hunting rifle scopes with a one-inch tube although it’s not uncommon for some to have a thirty-millimeter tube.
Objective Bell & Lens
Assuming you have the scope mounted in the right direction or are looking through the correct end, the objective bell is the side of a scope that is opposite of your eye while peering through. It’s typically bell-shaped. This component contains the objective lens. The objective lens works by regulating the amount of light that is able to pass through to your retina.
Adjustable Objective ring
If you’re lucky, you have a scope with an adjustable objective ring. This allows adjustment of the focus.
Eye-Piece & Ocular Lens
The eyepiece is the component encasing the lens closest to your eye. Enclosed is the ocular lens.
Allows for adjustment of the magnification, if you have a variable power scope.
Windage Adjustment Dial
aka turret. Chances are there will be a cap over the actual adjustment dial, more likely on hunting scopes although you may find other scopes commonly have exposed dials. If done correctly with a properly functioning scope, this dial should allow you to move the impact point of the bullet to the left or right.
Elevation Adjustment Dial
This dial is located just off to the side of the windage adjustment and is similar. The elevation adjustment dial alters the vertical alignment of the shot.
On the opposite side of the elevation adjustment dial would be the side focus adjustment dial. Keep in mind that not all scopes will have this dial but it is common.
Illuminated Reticle Dial
This reticle dial controls the illuminated crosshair if the function is available in your particular scope.
This is the amount of clearance between the ocular lens and your eye. If you’re wondering if eye relief is at all significant, consider where the edge of the scope is going to be with the recoil of your firearm.
Field of View
The FOV or field of view is measured in feet an is the width of the area seen by the eye through the scope. We will have more information on FOV in our complete guide soon.
This is a calculation used for determining the amount of light that is allowed through the scope to your pupil by the objective lens.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the difference between long-range and short-range hunting scopes?
A: Long range scopes typically have larger objectives and are more adjustable, so you can see longer distances and adjust to the right aim. Short range scopes might be a red or green dot or a small objective with a lesser zoom. The long-range scopes are made for shooting very far distances, and being able to adjust to the drop of the bullet. With the short range scopes or red dot, you are able to point and aim, with the ability to hit your target as that red dot will rest directly where you will shoot.
Q: What do the numbers mean on a hunting scope?
A: The numbers on the rear of the scope is your zoom, on the front is the objective size and under the turret cap is your adjustment increment. Each number on the scope plays an important role into sighting the scope. With these numbers, it is important to understand which direction they need to go in to get an accurate shot.
Q: Whats the difference in objective sizes?
A: Larger objectives take in more light making long range and low light shots easier. The larger objectives also have a wider field of view. The smaller objectives are made for close range shots, so they make good target range scopes but not the best for hunting. Typically while hunting, long range scopes are ideal for the simple fact that you will be shooting long distances. While shooting at such a distance, you will want a clear shot, which is just what the long range scopes will give you.
Q: How much magnification do I need?
A: When target practicing with an AR or another short-range rifle, a 1-3 power scope is a good choice because the zoom isn’t necessary and makes for fast target acquisition. For the 100 yard hunter a 3-9 power scope is more than enough. With the long-range 200 plus yard shots, a 12-16 power is a must-have.
Q: What is the purpose of an adjustable turret?
A: Adjustable turrets were created for the long range shooter, when changing your point of impact is necessary. The adjustable turrets allow you to change your scope to a set range so you’re not guessing of the target hold over. When you are first sighting in your hunting gun, the turrets will come in handy to assist you in making an accurate shot. With the adjustable turrets, you are able to hone in on where you will want your bullet to hit.
Q: Do all scope turrets have the same adjustment?
A: No, scopes do not have the same adjustment as every other scope. Every turret is labeled, so make sure that you remove the turret cover and read the measurement, for that particular scope. Each scope is different and each scope has different turret adjustments. Depending upon the scope will depend upon your adjustment.
Q: Whats the difference between a crosshair and a reticle?
A: There is a very big difference between the crosshairs and the reticle. Scopes have crosshairs, red dots and other laser-based sights have reticles, making the largest difference. The long-range scopes are going to be the scopes that have the cross hairs, allowing better light and a better focus on your target.
Q: What is the left turret for?
A: The turret on the left of the scope is used for adjusting the clarity of the scope’s picture. This does not affect your scopes zero. But much like any optics, you need an adjustment to focus on your target.