Best Rifle Scopes Reviewed and Tested
When it’s time to go hunting, you want to ensure you have everything you need to make an effective trip out. You need to schedule your trip, especially if you are going with a group of friends. You need to look over all of your clothing, and ensure it still fits after another year. You also need to look over all of your stuff and make sure that it is in great shape. When you do this, you might notice that your eye site is starting to look a little off, or it takes longer to get your rifle calibrated, or maybe it just doesn’t fire like it used to. If this is the case, and you are looking for a new rifle scope which is on the list for best rifle scope reviews for this year, then you have found the most comprehensive review and guide to help you pick the right rifle.
When it comes to choosing the best rifle scope, there are a multitude of options for you to decipher through, and attempt to figure out if it is the right one for you. Have you used a steel tubed rifle scope before? If so, what is the difference between steel and aluminum? There are scopes which are shiny, and others which have a duller finish – does that matter? How much are you “really” going to need to adjust the rifle? The answer to that depends on how far you plan on shooting, which is important to know, as you for sure do not want to buy a rifle with too short of a scope, but you also don’t need one which is well beyond the measurement you will ever shoot.
Within this very comprehensive guide, you will learn about all the different variables that goes into a rifle scope, and why each one is important for you. Once you figure out what your needs are, you can fully dial into the few different models which meet your needs. We will also show you ten different rifle scopes available on the market today, what their benefits are, and their cost, so you can compare them and see how much your new rifle might end up costing. There is a section which covers Frequently Asked Questions, all in an aim to give you as much information as possible, in a clear and understandable fashion, so you can choose the rifle scope that is best for you.
Our Top 3 Picks
- Nikon Buckmasters II 3-9×40 BDC
- Brighter anti-reflective system of multicoated lenses
- Simmons 511039 3 - 9 x 32mm .22 Mag
- Parallax correction preset from 50 yards to infinity
- CVLIFE Tactical 3-9x40 Optics R4
- Coated fogproof, shockproof and waterproof lenses
What makes a Rifle Scope the Best Rifle Scope?
There are many components which go into what makes a good rifle scope. And with the advent of the new technologies which are available, there are more options available today compared to any other time in history. Listed below are some of the components you need to ensure you are familiar with as you start on your quest to find your next rifle.
This is one of the most varied parts of your rifle, and can really help determine what kind of rifle you are going to have. Within each rifle scope, there are, on average, up to eight different lenses. However, what makes up the lens is just as important, if not more so, than the number of lens you have. The quality of the glass within the lens, the shape of the lens, and even the quality of the coating which was put on the glass are all vital on how good a lens is.
One of the biggest components you should consider when picking a lens is what kind of weather do you typically hunt in? The more you hunt in the rain, the more you will need a lens which has a coating on it which helps disperse the rain in a way where it doesn’t distract your shot. If you hunt in an area where this is a lot of fog in the morning, then you need a lens that can look through the fog, and still find your target.
You might look at the costs for a lens, and think that you don’t need anything more than a low-end model. Although there have been some great strides made in low-end lens over the last decade, if you compared a low-end model to a high-end model, there is no comparison still between the two. Not only this, but it is highly possible you will pay more for a lens than you will for your rifle – this should actually be expected, not the exception. If you spend more on a rifle than a lens, you might have a rifle which can shoot well, but will still be inaccurate shot. Picking out the right lens is vital to the success of your entire rifle.
There are a lot of different adjustments within each scope which can be made, and how much you need to adjust each of those aspects should determine what kind of scope you need. The major adjustments within each scope is accounting for elevation and wind. The change in elevation allows you to change your shot on a vertical basis, and the wind is typically on a horizontal basis. These two lines meet at a cross hair, and the cross hair can also be adjusted based upon your own eye.
Typically, both the adjustments for wind and elevation are controlled by knobs, or dials, and each adjustment is mean to move the cross hair by ¼” for every 100 yards. What you have to be aware of is that is standard, and does not always hold true for every scope. Once you have your scope, you will need to spend time shooting at a range to completely figure out what each click actually represents, so you know as you are in the field.
In addition to this, you can adjust the focus, or commonly referred to as the parallax. Just like with binoculars, you can change the focus to make any shot clearer. The average scope is set for a clear shot between 150 and 175 yards – if you want shorter or longer, you need to ensure your scope will be capable of providing you with that clear of a shot. If it can’t, then when you shoot, your shot will be off, and not go where you intend it to go.
One thing which can help give you some forgiveness with your shot is finding the right reticle within each scope.
There are a variety of reticle line options for you to think about as you pick out the scope which is best for you. With recent technology available to all hunters, manufactures have started making reticle lines which light up in a LED format, making the lines stand out even more than they used to. Of course, these LED lights run off a battery, so you need to ensure you can operate the reticles without the LED lights in case the battery ever dies out on you – you can also just ensure you carry extra batteries with you.
Another feature among some reticles is that they will show you where you need to hold your shot by using various dots or circles. Not only will it show you the distance you are wanting, but it will also add another 100 yards onto your shot automatically, so you can see where you need to aim in order to hit something at that distance. By having this capability, it allows you to make quick adjustments on the fly for any length of shot (typically up to 600 yards). In order to know the distance you are shooting at, it is highly recommended that you have a laser rangefinder available, to accurately gauge your distance. Once you have the distance dialed in, you can make the necessary adjustments, and you should have a true shot.
Tubes and Bells
Rifles used to be made completely out of steel, which would rust and corrode over time. Lately, most manufactures have shifted over to aircraft-grade aluminum, which means your rifle will be more durable long-term, and will be much lighter. However, aluminum is typically very shiny, so you need to ensure that if your rifle is shiny or if the scope is shiny, that you rough up the surface, as you do not want a gleaming light giving any prey any warnings about where you are, and spooking them.
Each scope comes with two different bells, which house the lens within each scope. The bells for the scope will vary in size, depending upon both the power of your rifle, and how much light is let into your scope. The ball is typically between 30mm and 60mm. The size of the bell is important to determine as you are buying a scope, as you do not want a bell that is too big for you to handle, but also not one that is too small which causes you to squint too much. Your shooting eye should determine the size you need.
You will see numbers on the side of your scope, which say 4x, or 8x, or 10x, and this will show you how much of a magnification your scope can go. The more magnification you need, the blurrier your site becomes, unless you make a lot of adjustments as you magnify. It is much harder to get a very clear shot, using the reticles and cross-hairs properly, when what you are looking at is magnified up to a much higher amount (say twenty-five) times your normal view.
Once again, it all comes down to your shooting eye, and what works best for you. The only time you might need a magnifier that is higher than 4x is when you are hunting rabbit and squirrel – you for sure should not need that for deer. If you do think you need it for deer, you might want to consider moving your tree stand to get in a better line of path for deer.
10 Best Rifle Scopes
1. Vortex DBK-04-BDC
- Clear glass
- Great BDC reticle
- Hazy in low light
- Fragile lens
2. Aim Sports JTR432B
- Compact scope
- Magnification is 4x
- Objective is 32 mm
- Aiming may not be as precise
3. Bushnell 613948
- Quality Materials
- Great design
- Eye relief too short
4. Beileshi 6-24x50mm
- Magnification: 6-24X
- Quality material
- Good price
- Difficult adjusting it to zero
5. Simmons 510513
- Trueplex reticle
- Coated optics
- Not accurate enough
6. Monstrum 3-9x32
- Adjustable 3-9 times magnification
- Adjustable reticle illumination
- Adjustable objective lens Ð or AO
- Difficult mounting it to zero
7. CVLIFE 2.5-10x40e
- Magnification from 2.5 to 10x
- Powerful Laser
- Clear lens
- Cheap build
8. CLIVFE 2-9x40
- Magnification 3-9
- Low quality materials
9. Simmons 511039
- Ensures a clear sight picture
- High-quality fully-coated optional glass lenses
- Eye relief too short
10. Nikon Buckmasters II
- Bright anti-reflective system
- Lifetime warranty
- Difficulty in maintaining zero after a few shots
How to choose the Best Rifle Scope for you
When looking at rifle scopes, you need to have a checklist of items which are most important to you. Once you have that figured out, you can start narrowing down your options of the scopes which are out in the marketplace, to find the right one for you. Buying any scope that you see, just because it is on sale, or looks cool, might seem like a fun idea at the time, until you get out into the field and find out the scope doesn’t meet your needs at all. Taking your time to thoroughly research scopes will ensure you are not frustrated with your choice once you have made it.
When it comes to lenses, there is a significant difference between your low grade and higher grade lens. If you compared these two, you can easily tell which one is the more expensive, and which one is cheaper. As stated before, it is perfectly acceptable to spend more on a scope than you do the actual rifle. It may not seem right, but the type of scope you have is much more important than the kind of rifle you have. If you are going to have limited time for research, then you should spend that time on the lens of a scope, compared to any other feature with a scope or a rifle.
What makes the lens so important are a couple of features. One is the coating that is used on the lens; you need a lens which will provide you as much of a glare free look as possible. No matter where you are perched at, if you have a lens which lets in light and causes a glare, then your shot will be altered, which will cause you to be frustrated. You don’t have to get a very high-end lens, but you do not want a lens which is not coated with anything.
The second feature you need is one where the lens does not fog, no matter the weather. There is no doubt there will be times where you will be out hunting in rain, or high humidity, and when this happens, you need a lens which will stay clear. Most lenses have an option where they can be charged with either nitrogen or argon gas, which will help the lens stay clean and clear. However, if you get a scope which doesn’t have this option, you can always hope a cleaning cloth will take care of this issue. What can also affect this issue is how tight the rings are around the lens – if you notice any kind of give with the rings around the lens, then you might need to look at a different scope.
With each scope, you have the option of adjusting your shot based both on elevation and wind. However, how you are able to adjust for those factors can be a key trigger on which scope you should purchase. Most adjustments are made by either a knob or a wheel, and there are preferences for both. You need to know what kind of mechanism you want to use when you are making those adjustments, and which one you are most comfortable with. You also need to know if you the adjustments can be easily made with gloves on, especially if you hunt in colder weather.
Another thing to consider is what you want your cross hair to look like. With the advent of the LED technology within scopes, it helps light up your look with either green or red lasers, which can also help you figure out the right distance for your shot. The reticles are a very important part for each scope, as if you are distracted by what you are seeing, then you will not be focused on your shot, which will cause you to shoot erroneously.
How far you can make adjustments for is also a key factor. If you can make adjustments, but they only go out for 100 yards, and you need a shot which can go 300 to 400 yards, then it’s not the right scope for you. You need to ensure that when you make the ¼” adjustments, that they will take hold for shots which are longer, if that is what you need. If you only need shots that are 100 yards or less, then you should be able to use adjustment system you are comfortable with.
Lastly, you need to also concern yourself with Magnification. Although a scope says it will go up to 25x, is that really beneficial for you? It truly depends on what kind of game you are hunting. If you are looking for birds, then a 25x might be what you need. If you are shooting deer, a 25x scope would let you see their pulse, which might be just a little too close. Most scopes have magnification between 3x and 10x, but even those will vary a little bit, due to how far out the scope will go. If you have a scope which only goes out 200 yards, and you magnify 10x, it will look differently than a scope which has a 400 yard range, and you magnify it by 10x. You should know what your typical shot will be, and then always get a scope which can go a little further than that. If you only need a 4x magnification, you might want to consider going up to a 6x magnification – going up one step is the recommendation.
As you will see within the marketplace, there is a large variety of scopes available to you. You can find some which are $50, and you will see some which are $1,500, with a very wide assortment in between. Knowing that you might spend just as much, if not more, on a scope compared to a rifle, it is not too hard to fathom that you might get a little crazy and spend a little bit more than you should.
The recommendation is this – figure out how much you want to spend on a scope, and then add $50. By looking at scopes that are just above your range, you might find one with a few more bells and whistles on it, which will make your life easier while out hunting. Plus, there are times where you can find those scopes on sale, so you can still get a great scope within your price range.
You shouldn’t just buy a scope as an impulse buy – there needs to be a fair amount of research done, and then you watch and wait and see what happens. You might still pay full price for your scope, but at least you take your time and make sure it truly is the right scope for you at the right time.
Q: If I don’t like the way the reticle looks, can I have it changed?
The short answer to this is yes, if you buy a scope, and you like everything but how the reticle looks, it can be changed. However, this should only be done at a professional custom shop, and not even all of those places can do it right or well. If you are going to have someone work on your scope that you paid good money for, you should ensure they are a very reputable and solid company. You should also check out their warranty, and ensure they stand by their work for the long-haul, and not just 30 days.
Q: If I have a scope, but want to change the finish, can that happen?
As of right now, there is no service available which can change the finish that is on a scope. Most older models are made out of a steel material, and have a little bit more of a shiny surface. You can scuff that up, but be careful when you do so, because the finish can be repaired. Even if you have a part on the scope which has a ding, or a scratch, there isn’t anything that can be done professionally. You can buy some paint and paint over it, but then your scope will have a different look to it. If you want a different finish on the scope, then you’ll have to purchase a new scope.
Q: My scope has 2 different reticle planes – what does this mean?
Within a scope, you might have two different reticle planes, a front focal and rear focal plane.
A front focal plane has very strict features, in order for it to be effective. By having both a front and rear reticle plane, this allows you to have a wide range of magnification options, so you can find the magnification which is best for you. If you only have one reticle plane in your scope, you will more than likely not have a front focus reticle plane
A rear reticle plane allows the reticle you have within your scope to show up heavier and bolder when you have a smaller magnification, but it will become thinner as you increase your magnification. By having a thinner line, it will allow your look to be more precise, which leads to better accuracy over a long ranged shot. If you are hunting while there is little light out, then the rear reticle lines will also appear to be bolder, which makes them easier to see and allows you to have a better shot. If you are shooting while there are a lot of tree branches or grass/weeds on the ground, then having a heavier reticle line will allow you to figure out where exactly you are shooting at.
Q: Why does my Scope seem to adjust differently on different Rifles?
When you purchase a scope for your rifle, you might get it fully tuned in to where it gives you the best shot each and every time. However, if you take that same scope and put it on a different rifle, it may not adjust the same way that it does on your current rifle. You might be thinking that it is your scope, but that may actually not be the case.
Anytime you put a new scope on a rifle, there are a variety of issues which can come up which can cause your shot to not be solid. Each component on a scope and a rifle are made out of many moving parts, which can all then compound with each other, leaving your flustered and bewildered as to why you’re your rifle is not shooting well.
Another issue can be when you have a scope that can go 300 yards, yet you put the scope on a different rifle, and the shot peters out before it reaches its target. You might think that there is something wrong with the elevation adjustment on your scope. However, it is possible that the rifle you are using just needs a different adjustment level than your other rifle.
There is a reason why, when you line up 12 seemingly rifles which are the same – same manufacturer, same year, same model, that when you put a scope on each of those, the adjustment is not the same. How is this possible, you ask? Even though the rifles are made from the exact same line, there are little nuances within each rifle which will cause the trajectory of any shot to be slightly off compared to another. The same with scopes – although they are all made on the same line as well, there are very slight differences in each, which means you will not have an exact replica of any rifle or scope. Due to this, you will never be able to just save your adjustment on your scope, and apply it to a different rifle.
Because each rifle shoots differently, you will need to spend the necessary time with each rifle and scope before you shoot. Taking a new rifle or scope (or both) to a range ahead of time will help you feel the differences compared to what you are used to, and will ensure you will have a better shot when out in the wild. There is no shame in going to a range, and practicing. Just like with any sport, the more your practice, the better your execution will be when it counts.
Q: Can I have features added to my scope after I purchase it?
Just like with your reticle looks, you can have features added to your scope, but it is much more difficult to do. The most common feature which is added onto a scope is called a bullet drop compensation. With this feature, you can add different features, including ones which deal with your environment, especially for rain and higher winds. If you are hunting on ground which has a great variety of landscape changes, you can get a feature added which gives you a laser distance marker, so you know how far away the land elevation change. By knowing how far away a land elevation is, will allow for you to adjust your own shot accordingly, to ensure you have an accurate shot each and every time.
Q: Should I wear my glasses when I use my rifle scope?
If you wear glasses on a daily basis, overall, it is actually recommended that you don’t wear your glasses when using a scope. If you do wear glasses when looking through a scope, you are basically adding in another lens, which will alter your shot. The reason for this is that your shot might look true, but because you are adding in another dimension, more than likely your shot is off, and it will show. If you wear glasses, you should practice shooting without them at a range, and ensure you can still get off a clear shot.
Q: Should I use one eye or two eyes when I am sighting my shot?
This is all about personal preference. Most people, when they hunt, shut the one eye which is not looking though the scope, as they believe it helps them focus more on the shot they are taking. However, there is some evidence to suggest that using two eyes can be just as effective. It really is a matter of taking some test shots, and seeing which method works best for you. Just because a buddy of yours does it one way does not mean you have to follow suit. The idea when you are out hunting is to actually shot an animal, and not just look like everyone else. Whatever you need to do in order to hit your shot while out in the wilderness is what you need to do.
Q: My rifle and scope is off, even though I have used the same ones for years – what might be wrong?
If you take your rifle and scope out, the same ones you have been using for a couple of years, and you notice your shot is off, there is no need to panic. You don’t need to rush out and buy a new rifle or a new scope right away. The first thing you actually need to look at is the mounting hardware on your rifle. When the mounting hardware is misaligned, then it throws everything else off. So, even if your rifle looks like it is mounted correctly, it is best to take everything off, and start over again.
After you have then re-mounted your scope onto your rifle, and it still looks off, then it might be time to replace the scope. Although most scopes are very durable, they are not indestructible, and if they are not stored properly, the lens inside the scope can get jarred, and there is no way to get it back to where it was. This is why it is vital that when you store your rifle and scope, you do so in a way where they can be undisturbed.
If you have determined it is time to try out a rifle scope for the first time, or that you need a new one, hopefully this guide has helped you figure out what is important to you, and what you should be looking for within a scope. There really is no wrong choice when it comes to picking a scope, but there are choices which can be better for you compared to others.
After looking through all the choices you have, it can be daunting. However, all you need to do is make a checklist of what you need, and once you have created your list, you can begin to narrow down all the choices available to you.
- How much magnification do you need?
- How far do you need your scope to see, so you can shoot at the distance you want?
- How long of a scope do you need?
- What will the reticles within the scope look like?
- Do you need a matted finish?
Once you have these questions answered, as well as others, then you can find the right scope for your rifle. And once you have the right scope, all you have to do is attach it, and take it to a range to get acquainted with it. Once you have it figured out, then you can grab your gear and tree stand, and head out to go do some hunting.
Hunting is intended to be a way to get away from the stress of life, while also getting to enjoy some good meat from what you kill. Hopefully once you have your new rifle scope, you’ll be able to accomplish this as many times as you want during each hunting season. Happy hunting!