Top 5 Best Varmint Scope Rifle Reviews & Buying Guide

best varmint scope

The traditional hunter is still of applied clad deer hunter heading out on Thanksgiving morning or the upland game hunter stylishly walking through the woods following his dog. The truth is there a ton of different opportunities out there and one of the fastest-growing sectors of the hunting industry is targeting small game varmints.

There are many reasons to hunt varmints. From the ecological impact of managing the species, to the social and lighthearted atmosphere that a varmint hunt can provide, at the end of the day it’s just plain fun.

Your hunt won’t be as fun if you are constantly fighting with your equipment while trying to call corrections or make shots. It is not uncommon to shoot for four or six hours on a prairie dog town and expand several hundred rounds of ammunition per shooter.

Sometimes hunting varmint species, is just as demanding and taxing order shooting skills as a trip to the range. You’ll want the very best varmint scope you can get your hands on so you are constantly worried about if it was you or your rifle that missed the shot!

Best Varmint Scopes - Table Comparison

​How Will You Be Varmint Hunting?

Varmint hunting means different things to different people. It has become a catchall term for shooting anything from prairie dogs on up to coyotes. The vast majority of hunters who will be shooting varmints will be shooting small game like woodchucks or prairie dogs, and using rifles that are suitable for game up through foxes and coyotes anyway.

It’s important to know what you are going to do with your rifle and how you’re going to hunt before you buy a scope. Scopes made specifically for varmint hunting are typically high magnification rifle scopes made to take advantage of the flat shooting varmint cartridges and extended ranges that varmint hunters typically work around.

If you are going to use a flat shooting cartridge like .22-250 or .220 Swift you’ll appreciate having a BDC reticle made for your cartridge. If you are going to be hunting mainly coyotes with a AR-15, you’ll want to keep that in mind. Different situations will call for different scopes, even though they are all technically varmint hunting scopes.

​Our Pick for the 5 Best Varmint Scopes

1. Vortex Optics Diamondback Dead-Hold BDC Reticle​

Vortex Optics Diamondback 4-12x40 Dead-Hold BDC Reticle

The basic design of the scope is pretty standard. It has a 1-inch aluminum two and 4-12x power and 40mm objective bell that doesn’t seem all that special on the outside. However, this scope inherits all of the ingenuity and innovative designs that vortex is known for and packages altogether in a combat scope that gives you plenty of magic magnification and brightness for varmint hunting.

This scope is easy to adjust and out with back medication because the large tactile Finn just forward of the eyepiece that is easy to grasp even while wearing gloves. This vortex varmint scopes does not however have target turrets. The lack of target herds is made up for by the excellent BDC reticle, which you should have no trouble using.

The dead hold BDC reticle in the scope is perfect for varmint hunting because it takes the guesswork out of holdovers and when corrections at long-range. The reticle itself is intuitive and easy to use and displays the right amount of options and information that you can shoot quickly without getting bogged down with trying to figure out what the reticle is set up for. Vortex is known for having some of the best BDC radicals for hunting.

If you want a high quality literally bombproof scope that comes with one of the best warranties in the industry this is an excellent option. However, if you need something the target turrets and more magnification than 12x power offers there are better options for varmint hunting, this is just an excellent all-round scope that does well in varmint-hunting applications.

Pros
  • Extremely rugged
  • Excellent warranty, excellent value and quality
Cons
  • Heavy
  • Large

​2. Nikon P-223 3-9x40 Mate BDC 600

Nikon P-223 3-9x40 Mate BDC 600

Nikon is the best of the current companies putting out low-cost high-quality scopes with excellent optical quality. This is one of the best scopes, that was designed for the air 15, but features a BDC reticle purpose made for the .223 cartridge that is very common for varmint hunters. You get a standard of 3-9x40mm objective bell and a one-piece all aluminum body and a BDC reticle that reaches out to 600 yards.

This is of course the very edge of the .223 cartridge’s effective ballistic range and things can happen when you try to stretch the balls out that far. To help compensate for this the excellent BDC reticle allows for fast follow-up shots and when corrections and hope as well as holdovers, but the real star of the show with this scope is the oversized and tactile target turrets.

The target herds on the scope are excellent especially for scope of this size. It feels good in your hand and are large enough to grasp with a glove on but not too big that they catch and snag on everything in sight. If you simply must have target turrets but, want as compact a rifle and scope as possible, this is about as good as it gets.

Pros
  • Good reticle
  • Excellent optical quality
  • Good value
Cons
  • Polymer construction
  • Huge target turrets

​3. Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Multi-X Reticle

Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Multi-X Reticle Adjustable Objective Riflescope

Bushnell is known for being the low-price leader and a giant in the optics manufacturing industry. Their products can be found on the guns of elite military units and on the shelves of Walmart. They are a stable of hunters and shooters looking for a low-cost high-quality alternative to the boutique high dollar brands that are becoming more and more common.

What you’ll find on their scopes is that instead of adding a ton of superfluous features that are very high quality, they have chosen to create scopes with simple but effective features that perform well in the field. This bushnell varmint scope is an excellent example of one of their scopes from the dawn and dusk lined with a multi-X reticle that performs well for varmint hunting in general shooting.

The feature that says the scope apart from others in the same price range is the low light performance. The large objective bell and fully multicoated lenses work together to provide a clear and crisp target picture even in dark timber and on the edges shooting light. If you will be shooting varmint from a long distance just before sundown, which is often the case, you will appreciate the performance of this value driven scope.

Pros
  • The ideal level of quality vs price
  • Excellent low light performance
  • Good reticle
Cons
  • Huge objective bell and overall size

​4. Tasco Varmint 2.5-10x 42mm True Mil-Dot Reticle

Tasco Varmint 2.5-10x 42mm True Mil-Dot Reticle

This Tasco varmint scope is a great compromise scope for people who are just getting into varmint hunting, and want a high-quality scope but don’t know exactly what they need. This is a basic scope that has excellent features and outstanding level of quality for the price.

You get a very good 2.5-10x power magnification with this long range varmint scopes, that should be plenty for just about every varmint hunting situation. You get an oversized 42mm objective bell that gathers light well that paired with the fully multicoated lenses and fast focus eyepiece is easy and comfortable to use for hours at a time.

Finally, you get a true mil dot reticle for calling corrections and estimating holdovers at long ranges, without the complication of a proprietary BDC reticle or custom turrets set up. If you are a beginner and want a plain Jane scope to mount up to rifle and head out hunting, this is an excellent scope for that job. If you are looking for a feature packed scope and are a seasoned hunter who knows what they want, look elsewhere this is a pretty basic scope that does its job well but it will be missing features for a season varmint hunter.

Pros
  • Large objective bell
  • Huge target turrets
  • Comfortable eyepiece
Cons
  • Low optical quality

​5. Simmons 656245 Predator/Varmint Series

Simmons 656245 Predator/Varmint Series TruPlex Reticle and Side-Parallax Adjustment Riflescope

Simmons is got a bad reputation. Many of their products are very low costs but you’ll be hard-pressed to find an example of a scope they produced that is not worth the money. Especially their high dollar offerings, you can depend on the scopes to get the job done and deliver an excellent balance of performance and cost.

This is one of the purpose driven scopes for the performance and varmint series. It is designed around shooting varmint size targets at long-range. It has the very largest of practical objective bell size, any bigger and you defectively have a spotting scope! That huge objective bell gives it outstanding lowlight performance and an exceptional field-of-view.

The scope is easy to dial in and out of its huge medication range with a large adjustment Finn just forward of the fast focus eyepiece. The glass throughout is fully multicoated and does a great job of filtering the light coming through the scope and the targets pop out nicely.

This scope shines in situations like shooting over prairie dog towns. You can see plenty of targets with outstanding detail with just the smallest amount of ambient light at your disposal. Small amenities like target turrets make this scope easier to use in the field, but the real reason to get this scope is the gigantic field-of-view and excellent light gathering ability.

Pros
  • Excellent low light performance and field of view
  • Good reticle
  • Purpose made design
Cons
  • The very largest of practical objective bell

​The Importance of High Quality Glass

When it comes to varmint hunting high-quality optics are exceptionally important. If you think about how the average hunter uses their scope you’ll quickly realize that the vast majority of hunters only look through their scope for seconds at a time.

They might use their spotting scope for a few hours, their binoculars for a few minutes, but very few hunters look through their scopes for longer than 30 seconds at a time. However, it varmint hunter might look for their scope for several hours digging out small rodents from the background of their target and trying to see the washout from their bullet while it is in flight.

This means that there can be no compromises in optical quality on a scope used for varmint hunting. Any defects in optical quality the lead to a splitting headache and a ruined hunt. Take it from personal experience, you’ll want a scope, as a bare minimum, with fully multicoated lenses and as large an objective bell as you can get away with. This will increase your field-of-view and make seeing smaller targets easier as well as filtering light through the scope so that it is less harsh on your eyes.

Whichever scope you settle on, also make sure it carries a decent warranty. Some scopes have the tendency for lenses and prisms to move slightly as they are broken in. Small differences in how the parts engage can cause defects in the optical quality as the scope wears in. You also want to be aware of any scratches or dings to the objective bell, if your scope is still under warranty you should have no problem, if not it’s time to retire that optic.


​Conclusion

If you’re going to commit yourself to hunting varmints on a regular basis, get the very best varmint scope you can get your hands on. Not only will you be a better hunter, you’ll enjoy your hunts more not having to fight with the equipment or getting a splitting headache from inferior optics.

After all, the goal is to enjoy your hunt and be the best hunter you can be. Without the proper equipment, you’re not going to enjoy being in the field and you’ll always wonder what would happen if you had better gear.

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About the author

    Brandon Cox

    I'm Brandon, and with a passion and love for all things hunting, I have invested much time and money bringing myself up to speed with the latest and best hunting Intel. Through my hunting website, I want to share and excite all on the intricacies of hunting whether you be an amateur or a professional.

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