You have to see the target to shoot it, there’s no way around that. If you’re blind you won’t even be able to see, let alone hit, the broad side of a barn-let alone a deer come opening day!
The best way to make sure you can see if to dial in a perfectly balanced scope for your rifle and enjoy the huge advantage that the best scopes afford. It isn’t rocket science when it comes to picking out the best scope for hunting, but it does take a steady hand, and an educated shooter to avoid getting ripped off.
This is the ultimate guide to wading through the optics market and the field manual to the best hunting scopes on the market. There’s a ton of information to share and pass around, let’s get to work explaining the magic of scope making!
First things first…
Remember What the Scope Is All About?
A scope is, at its core, a small telescope with a means t align the rifle. That telescope is powered by a set of lenses that focuses and bends the light to make the target seem closer than it actually is. It is a very cool piece of equipment that, as a hunter, you’ll never need to worry about!
Yes, it’s important to know some technical information about scopes, but just know that there are lenses, and prisms involved in the process and the quality of those lenses is what determines the price and, to a large extent, the usefulness of the scope.
People seem to get wrapped around the axle on turrets, reticles, coatings, mounts and all sorts of ancillary components and features that make up the scope, however, it all comes down to the glass.
It’s great lenses or nothing! No number of other features makes up for a lack of quality in the lenses, no matter what.
Why You Should Get a Scope?
Hunting with a scope has become so common, and you’ll not often see people hunting with only iron sights. When you do, it’s always with shotguns or in a thick brush, outside of those few scenarios the advantages a scope gives you cannot be overlooked.
Simply put, scores simplify the aiming process. Instead of trying to align a rear sight, with a front sight, and the target, all you have to do is put the crosshairs on the target and squeeze the trigger.
What They Don’t Do…
Scopes won’t make you a better shooter on their own. You still have to deliver the fundamentals of shooting. The biggest, baddest and best scope in the world won’t make you squeeze the trigger like a pro.
They also won’t make your damaged rifle shoot better. If you’ve destroyed the crown, have a pitted barrel, or have just a plain ole lemon of a gun, it’ll shoot just as poorly after you mount up your brand-new scope. Too many people automatically associate a scope with accuracy, this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Scopes simply the job of aligning the sights, and allows you to see better and get a clearer sight picture but it’s still your job to control where the rounds impact the target. There’s no getting over physics when the bullet flies.
Scopes will allow you to shoot farther with less fatigue and under worse conditions. They work wonders for new shooters because one of the hardest fundamentals, sight alignment, is done automatically, and seeing the target is much easier with the appropriate amount of magnification.
If you have a brand-new shooter, take them out with scopes .22lr and let them shoot soda cans, pine cones or what not. This is an excellent introduction because the scope does the hard work and all you have to do is line it up, and squeeze the trigger.
This simplicity and flexibility with range are why hunters have adopted scopes all over the world, and the majority of hunters wouldn’t dream of hunting without one!
How to Buy a Scope?
Buying a scope can be distilled to a few steps that you should follow before you shopping. Not only will you save money, you’ll be happier with your purchase in the end.
1.) Define What You’ll be Doing…
Varmint hunting is nothing like squirrel hunting, it needs a different scope entirely. Know exactly how you'll be using the rifle you're looking to pair with a scope before you go shopping. Carefully consider all the possible situations that you'll be using the scope in and make compromises based on the majority of circumstances the scope will be used with.
Every time a manufacturer puts together a scope they compromised, they trade compact weight and size for a lack of features, or they forgot target turrets in order to have a slim footprint on top of a rifle. The only place you shouldn't compromise with its optical quality, there are too many great scopes in the market with excellent optical quality at every budget to justify not having it.
While it's great if every scope has every feature under the sun you won't need it, only by which will actually use and you'll be more satisfied with the slim and trim design that most hunters will benefit from than you would if you bought a boat anchor of a scope that you have to carry around all day, but has every feature you can think of and more.
Likewise, don't pick an ultra-light minimalist scope if all you're going to do and sit in one spot and nail targets at long range, pick a fully-featured scope with a little extra weight to help soak up the recoil, different situations call for different scopes. Don't go on a quest looking for the one scope to do it all, just make compromises like everyone else.
2.) Define Your Budget…
Not everybody has the same budget when they go shopping. More importantly not everybody can justify spending the same amount of money on optics. We live in a renaissance of inexpensive rifle scopes we're just about any amount of money can buy a decent piece of equipment to get the job done for hunting in the back forty or planking on the range.
Know how much money you'd like to spend on an optic before you go shopping. Otherwise, you'll very quickly see the cost creep up on you until you spend more than you should or more than you wanted on a scope alone.
Consider the fact that you'll need a few accessories and money to have your scope properly mounted to your rifle and hold that cash out so that you're not waiting for the next payday after you buy your scope. You'll want to rush out and use it right away!
3.) Consider Your Personal Tastes…
When you are buying a rifle scope, remember that your opinion matters most. It is your scalp after all, and your personal taste will determine what you buy more than anything else. At the end of the day, you're the person that has to shoot it so if you read an article that tells you that a certain brand is the absolute best or a certain model is worthless and you disagree, go with your gut.
Too many people get wrapped up in the media buzz regarding new products to rush out and buy them without considering if they're going to like them or not and end up wasting hundreds of dollars in the end. Just because something is old, just because something isn't from the right manufacturer or is on sale does it mean that it isn't a quality awesome piece of optics that you can bet your hunt on.
Consider your own personal taste before you go shopping and know what you like, and more importantly what you don't like before you begin spending hundreds of dollars on equipment.
4.) Wait for the Opportune Time…
If you are buying a high-dollar scope you want to make sure that you get your money's worth. Every year each manufacturer comes out with new models and you can capitalize on this by waiting for the opportune time to purchase your scope or order it online to save money when the new models come out.
Everybody wants to new one, so if you're willing to use a scope that is a model year older or update behind you can normally save a good sum of money. Especially scopes with features that have been discontinued such as radicals or dials that have been updated by the manufacturer that is totally useful, but other people don't want because it's not the current production.
The other thing to wait for is the end of the hunting season, all hunting gear is discounted over the summer because there is a law and people getting ready for hunting season and people doing other things in the outdoors and not necessarily buying guns ammunition or accessories. This means that anywhere you can find outdoor gear or scopes will often have deals marking down the costs of this gear. Try and buy your scope at the best time possible that you can get the most for your money, quality optics are certainly not cheap.
5.) Technologies & Features You’ll Want
For each and every type of hunting or shooting, you’ll do you’ll want to do different things with your scope. Those situations will call for differences in features that can drastically change the construction, and power of the scope needed.
For instance, the best scope for squirrel hunting will be nothing like the best cope for .50 BMG. The most basic features for every scope will be needed, like high-quality lenses and a good warranty. However, the priorities of a scope have to be aligned with the task at hand.
It’s not important for a bench rest rifle to be ultralight and slim, but it is important for a hunting rifle that will be carried around for sometimes a week at a time. Make sure you have your priorities straight; the table below shows some of the most basic features that you’ll want according to the type of scope you’ll be using.
This illustrates each major category of features a scope will have and how it influences the decision-making process for both engineers and consumers. If you’re lost stick to favoring the categories marked “X” as priorities for the type of scope you’re looking for.
Types of Scopes
Long-Range hunting & Target Scope
Night Vision Scope
Long Eye Relief Scope
5.1) General Hunting Scopes
These types of scopes your classic 3-9x40mm scopes that were on your grandfather's deer rifle and will continue to dominate the sporting optic world for years to come. They're the most balanced and general use scopes that you can imagine but they've come a long way in recent years with the current technology, coatings, and lenses that are available.
Every technology that has gone to the highest end scopes has trickled its way down to these general middle-of-the-road scopes. If you're shopping for one of these to put on top of the deer rifle or for planking favorite a lightweight slim and trim design with moderate magnification so that your rifle remain easy to carry and easy to use after you add in your scope. If you plan on shooting further than 500 yards or are building a varmint gun to shoot a prairie dog town then you will need a specialized scope for that type of shooting.
These general hunting scopes are great for most hunting situations but will lack and specialized areas like bench rest shooting or a long-range shooting simply because they were not designed with those activities in mind. This is also the area that you can get exceptional deals in because this is where most manufacturers compete for your business.
Look around at manufacturers you normally would not expect to have low-end scopes and you'll find some true gems that nearly anyone can afford. You can spend as much as you like on a fully custom scope in this category. It’s all up to you and your personal tastes.
5.2) Rimfire Scopes
Rimfire Scopes need to be the epitome of slim and trim because they get mounted to rifles that are smaller and lighter than anything else. That doesn't mean that they need to be low on features or low magnification but they do need to be lighter and more compact otherwise you'll end up with an unbalanced mess of a rifle.
Don't be afraid to buy a scope with high magnification for a rimfire rifle. Especially with newer cartridges like the .17 HMR coming out of the barrel with a high-velocity long-range varmint hunting is now a possibility. Where before you would use a rimfire for small game hunting to a maximum of 50 yards, you can now conceivably snipe targets from 150 yards out of a rimfire gun.
This means you'll need high magnification and preferably target turrets to allow you to hit the small fast moving targets that you will encounter when using a rimfire rifle at long range. if you prefer you can certainly use a lightweight and trim center fire rifle scope on a rimfire rifle but it is going to be overkill and cost much more than a comparable rimfire model.
There's often a tendency to go dirt cheap when buying a rimfire scope because many people use it for planking however if you spin a lot of time looking through a low-quality scope you will end up with a splitting headache and your range time won't be as enjoyable. Get a decent quality rimfire scope, they're not that expensive and enjoy shooting and hunting with these little guns.
5.3) Long Range Hunting & Target Shooting Scopes
This is where skunks get expensive. If you were going to hunt or nail targets at extremely long ranges, meaning 700 yards out to the edge of what the new breed of super magnum cartridges can fly, you're going to want an extremely high-quality long range hunting or target shooting scope with top-notch optical quality and more magnification than you know what to do with.
The sky's the limit in price with the scopes and you're certainly going to want to have a very clear budget lined out before you start shopping know exactly what you need and what your shooting style is before you go looking at all of the models that are available for this style of rifle scope.
If you don't think you'll use target turrets don't buy them. Long range shooting is more susceptible to trends than any other type of shooting and the current trend is huge knobby target turrets that while easy to grab are expensive to produce and get caught on literally every strap and bush that you will pass in the woods.
Make sure whatever scope you buy is rugged enough to handle whichever cartridge you're shooting and the durability is there that it won't break midway through a range session because you put one too many rounds through the gun, finally breaking the scope. This includes the huge magnums like .338 Lapua and .50 BMG that while uncommon are rough on optics. Check with the manufacturer before using any ole’ scope on one of these mini-cannons.
In this arena, heavier objects are actually a good thing because they soak up some of the recoils and allow you to enjoy your range session more than if you were getting pounded with an ultra light weight build. Try and find a balance between cost and features because of the larger your objective bell, the larger your turrets, the more you're going to spend on mounting and rings. Especially when you're shooting at long range with match grade ammunition, you'll want to save every dollar you can.
5.4) Lightweight Carbine Optics
If you have an AR-15 or AK-47 that needs a scope you are going to want one of the current generations of purpose generation scopes that make the best options for lightweight carbine rifles like an AR-15 or AK-47. They feature custom-made BDC reticles low-profile lightweight designs and mounts that work extremely well with AR-15s.
With these types of rifles being the most common sold nowadays there are plenty of options for you to choose from it every end of the budget spectrum but focus your search into products that are high value with excellent quality features.
There are models out there made specifically for varmint hunting, 3 gun matches, and even bench rest target shooting but the general use scopes stand out in my mind as some of the best values for AR-15s and AK-47s. Because you have an intermediate round you don't need high magnification although a BDC reticle can help for fast follow-up shots.
You should favor a wide field of view lightweight construction and brightness over everything else because you're unlikely to be using an intermediate cartridge from a lightweight carbine to hunt big game or shoot at long range with.
Some of the most interesting designs to come out in recent years have been designed around these optics and this needs in the shooting world are growing like crazy still to this day. See if you can find a later model to save some cash because these scopes come out literally every year and are growing more and more expensive. Ordering these scopes online is definitely the way to go because there are so many to compare and choose from, and your local gun shop might not have the best optic for your needs.
5.5) Crossbow Scopes
Crossbow scopes are an oddity in the optics world. Arrows fly very differently than bullets, and at much shorter ranges. Things to look for when buying a crossbow scope include avoiding high magnification and looking for features that make it easier to use on a crossbow. Things like light weight and trim designs will allow you to move through the woods more effectively and BDC reticles will let you call your shots easier than if you had just a standard crosshair.
There is a trend of using very low-quality dirt cheap scopes on crossbows because you can find cheap import crossbows on the market a dime-a-dozen. If you have invested in a quality crossbow from an American manufacturer I implore you to use a high-quality crossbow scope. The scope on a rifle or crossbow is the only interface you have with it other than the trigger and is your primary way to make sure you are being an ethical Hunter. You cannot be an ethical Hunter if you're using substandard equipment that is putting you at risk of wounding an animal because you were too cheap to buy a decent scope.
High quality does it necessarily mean expensive and there are plenty of low-cost scopes on the market made specifically for crossbows that do an excellent job. If you find a rimfire or low-powered center fire rifle scope don't be afraid to use it. If it has to see radical it will most likely be significantly off but they will certainly work well on a crossbow if you find you don't like the models made for crossbows.
5.6) Night Vision Scopes
Night vision has come way down in price following the explosion of technology in the military. If you're looking for a night vision scope you're in luck because there's never been a better time than right now. Depending on what sort of performance you would like is going to determine the price of your night vision equipment. The unclassified versions of military equipment are going to be the best option but it can run several thousand dollars for surplus models, that are heavily used.
The civilian equivalent of these pieces of kit are excellent as well and sometimes a third the price of the surplus models and are brand new. Companies like Flier lead the way in shooting and hunting in the dark but their competitors offer way more options for hunting than they do.
A few things you should know about night vision scopes is that is extremely hard to see long distance with night vision. When looking through night vision you lose all sense of depth perception and you cannot see on a moonless night or through heavy brush. You have to have some sort of ambient moonlight to push through and get a clear medical and target picture.
If you are interested in night vision. For hunting the most common technique is to find the game with thermal and to kill it with night vision. Hog hunters down south have led the way in using low magnification thermal imaging in night vision to find and eradicate nuisance Hogs. you may want to consider ordering from a dedicated vendor for night vision to get the best options but many companies are moving to the mainstream websites that you would buy anything else. This is very much an evolving part of the shooting world that is going to get very good in the coming years.
What to Expect for Your Money?
Buying a scope for hunting or targeting shooting is a series of compromises, one of which is the budget. The amount of money you spend is not reflective of the quality of scope you get, of course, you get what you pay for, but there are great options at every level of the budget spectrum. Here’s the basic breakdown of how it pans out for outdoorsmen looking for a new riflescope.
If this is the amount of money that you have to spend on a scope don't despair. Nowadays ordering on the internet can save you a ton of money and you have literally thousands of customer reviews pointing you to which scopes are a diamond in the rough for cheap.
The truth is about scopes in this price range is that you're going to have to make small concessions on features or quality. You can often find fully loaded scopes with illuminated reticles target turrets and fully multi-coated lenses for very cheap but the quality of all of the components is very subpar. Instead of trying to find a fully loaded scope with every feature under the sun look for a specialized scope with fewer features that overall is higher quality.
For example, if you are going to be hunting at long range with a scope in this price range rather than look for a scope with target turrets or a custom dial system, look instead for a scope with crystal-clear optics through a high magnification range. That way you're not left with an occluded sight picture when you dial the magnification way up, instead, you'll just have to wrangle with holdovers or a BDC reticle for corrections in windage and elevation.
Spending this amount of money on a scope is not ideal but is a reality for the majority of hunters and shooters, use customer and shop around for sales and older models of proven scopes, it is completely possible to find the best hunting scope for your situation at this price range.
- Rely on customer feedback and reviews to find good scopes
- Make compromises that favor quality over quantity of features
- Stick to major brands
This is the price range where you can really start to get excellent scopes. The vast majority of scopes used by hunters and target shooters will be in this price range as well as the majority of scopes on the market. The great thing about this price bracket if you have above $250 to spend is the fact that it is the bread and butter of most manufacturers and you can get literally whatever you want.
Of course, the more money you have the fewer compromises you will have to make in terms of features and quality but there is something for everybody if you have at least $250 to spend.
In this area, you should always expect excellent class there is no excuse for not having crystal clear optical quality throughout the entire magnification range and no distortions on the edges of the field of view or dark spots anywhere.
In this price range will start to step up to specialized scopes made for different tasks and different rifles. Things like purpose made scopes that make the best option for an AK-47 or the best scope for an AR-15 as well as more generalized optics like a 1-6x power scope that will be equally at home in the woods or on the rifle range. If you want target turrets a high-quality BDC reticle an ultralight construction or a huge objective bell you can have it at this price range.
- Use your intuition of what your personal tastes are
- Look for deals on more expensive options
- Don’t be tempted to over spend, there’s plenty of excellent options in this price range
If you're a serious shooter and you want an heirloom quality scope that is a no compromise best on the market option this is the price range that you should be looking at. When you buy a scope that cost this much you should expect 0 compromises in quality or features. The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of scopes in this price range but there are few all around options that you could consider to be general-use scopes. The majority of scopes in this price range you're going to be tailor-made for a certain kind of hunting or shooting that was in mind when the engineers piece together each model.
Most long-range shooters and hunters will be buying scopes in this price range because when you start to get extreme magnification in scopes such as 25x power you lose a lot of field of view and optical quality. The technology and processes to counteract this loss in quality are expensive at are generally relegated to top-shelf Brands like NightForce and Leupold.
If you feel like you need a scope and this price range think carefully about making a few compromises and buying a cheaper model or looking for an older model that is on sale used or in a discount store. These models are just so expensive that they can often reach several thousand dollars simply because they are from a certain brand.
Remember, scopes in price range will generally need custom rings or bases, driving the price up significantly from just the cost of the basic scope. Make absolutely sure you get a very good warranty when you spend this amount on a scope and baby it the best you can when in the field or at the range and especially when transporting your rifle to and from.
- These are the crème de la crème, know what you want and don’t compromise
- Get a good warranty
- Don’t be afraid to wait a few weeks for a custom order, at this price range custom dials and reticle are the norm, not the exception
There are many brands of rifle scopes on the market. In fact never before has there been so many options available for hunters and shooters to choose from. The keys to identifying the brands that put out quality products for an excellent value. There are many brands out there that charge obscene amounts of money simply because they are a brand name. They put out excellent products, but are exceptionally overpriced compared to their competition.
Most shooters will want to stick to companies like Leupold, Bushnell, Vortex, Nikon, Simmons and on a rare exception NightForce. The extremely high in companies like Zeiss, Svorski and Schmidt and Bender put out an excellent product but you will pay a premium just to have their name on the side of your scope.
NightForce is the exception here because they make very high-end scopes that are priced competitively even though they are one of the boutique brands that charge for their brand name. NightForce makes extremely specialized the optics that you should consider if you are a competitive shooter or hunting at a long-range. Don't be afraid to try some of the smaller companies that have popped up in the last few years like U.S. Palm and the new offerings from Barrett.
Just because of the brand name is new does it mean they make a bad product however you should stick to one of the major houses that offer a warranty and customer support for a hard use rifle. The last thing you want is a broken optic and no customer support because you bought from a cheap Chinese import company that won't have your back when they're sub par product fails.
Don’t Forget…Budget & Accessories
Once you buy your scope there are few things that you will need so that it functions the way the manufacturer intended. Those two things include some basic accessories like a lens cloth and possibly scope covers but will definitely mean the proper rings bases in mount.
Although many rifles have a mount built into them nowadays, most hunting style bolt-action rifles will need bases that can be bought from the original manufacturer or the manufacturer of your optic. For many of the most popular rifles like Remington 700, they are cheap and available almost everywhere, including Walmart. However, you should make it a point to buy high-quality bases or mount so you know that it won't lose zero on a hunt ordering a competition.
The rings that you need will vary widely between each rifle and scope combination but you want to mount with as low a ring as possible. If you have an objective bell above 40 mm you might need medium or tall rings or if you are a large person you should consider it the medium or tall rings. The reason you want to mount the scope as low as possible to the bore axis is that the higher it is the more susceptible the rifle is to canting during a fast snap shot.
The majority of hunters shouldn't use scope caps. This is because the worst possible moment when you might need to make a quick shot the scope cap on the objective bell can fall down and occlude your vision. That means that you will miss the shot or the game animal and have to eat crow because the cheap scope caps that you bought failed you. The exception is if you're hunting with an extremely high and rifle and scope combination, as in long range hunting or you are hunting and extremely rough weather.
Driving snow, or traveling in on an ATV or UTV is a good example of when you should use a scope cap. However, be extremely wary of when they're on and when they are off, you never know when you'll get snuck up on with a shot opportunity.
Things to Consider When Choosing Your Scope…
There are a few things you could keep in mind beyond just technical specifications and customer reviews when it comes to choosing a scope. Many times, you won't know what you want in a scope until you own one or two so here are some hard-earned lessons from the field when it comes to ordering a scope.
- Ruggedness - The ruggedness and durability of your scope are nowhere to compromise. You have to know that each and every time you take your rifle out into the field with you that the scope is going to perform. It always amazes me that people will spend weeks researching a rifle making sure it is 100% reliable, and then strap on a scope that seems like it could break at any moment.
Many optics manufacturer's pride themselves on how well their scopes stand up to abuse, by from one of these manufacturers. Even if you get an extended warranty or the scope was dirt cheap you still don't want your optic to break at the absolute worst time. Possibly ruining a hunt or trip to the range.
- Reticles - There's something to be said about a plain jane old school crosshair reticle but these days nearly every scope purpose made for an activity will have some sort of BDC reticle right out of the box. The days of the complicated and hard to use BDC reticles are gone and many of the scopes today are shipping with excellent simple and easy to use reticles that actually add value to the scope.
Make sure that you know what the reticle looks like before you order the scope but nearly every situation can benefit from having a BDC reticle. They help you tremendously with holdovers and especially in hunting situations can mean the difference between tag soup and a mounted trophy. If you have to choose between a scope without a BDC reticle and one with a BDC reticle, you won't regret having the radical but you will wish you would have gotten one in the first place.
- Target Turrets - Target turrets have a time and place, mainly on target style scopes where the large protrusions won't catch on brush or straps as you're moving through the woods. Target turrets allow you to quickly and accurately dial in a given dope for a range that you are shooting at. They perform best on the range because it ain't hunting situation where you may be in an awkward position, or you will be carrying the scope all day and not have a dope when it comes time to fire a single shot, the turrets will be hard to access and essentially useless.
If you have a rifle that is going to be a dedicated bench rest or long-range target gun, go for it. They do add a high level of usability and performance that can't be obtained with a BDC reticle loan, and if you're well-trained in the use of target turrets, they offer up benefits that can't be had anywhere else.
- Coatings - Coatings on a rifle scope refer to the polishing that allows the lenses inside the scope to filter light. Any scope that you buy should be fully multi-coated to have any sort of performance in the field. These coatings make sure that the colors are not distorted as they move through the scope and that the picture stays consistent as you dial through the magnification ranges. The new generation of scope coatings are very interesting and are still developing but are centered around filtering out certain colors to allow the targets that hunters and shooters are looking for a stand out against their backdrop.
For example, Leupold has launched a new coating on their vx3i rifle scopes that filter out the color red so that deer stand out against the backdrop of brown woods. This is true innovation that helps immensely in the field. If you have the option of buying one of the new generations of scope coatings go for it! They are a very interesting way of adding usability to a scope without adding any weight bulk or complication.
- Mounting - When you set out to determine your budget for your rifle scope remember that you'll need to buy a base and a mount for your scope. Too many hunters and shooters go through the process of selecting a scope only to get it home and forget about the rings and bases that they need. Many rifles, like AR-15s, have in mounts in the way of a picatinny rail actually milled into the upper receiver, as do some tactical bolt-action rifles. However, the majority of rifles sold today still need a base, for the rings to attach and hold the scope down with.
How you mount your scope is going to be determined by your particular rifle and scope combination but a few pointers should always be followed. Make sure the scope itself is far enough away from your eye that when you fire the rifle the recoil does not slam the scope into your eyebrow. Secondly, make sure that the mounting of the scope it does not interfere with any of the operations of a rifle. Meaning makes sure that this scope’s eyepiece doesn't block the charging handle or the bolt knob of the rifle.
- Eye Relief - The eye relief of the scope is the distance from your pupil to the scope’s eyepiece. That distance puts the scope in focus. The vast majority of scopes on the market have what is called on critical eye relief. Meaning, there is a span of distance that the eye relief will work at. This is preferable for lightweight carbines or hunting rifles where you might be using the rifle in an awkward position or for a snapshot.
The other type of eye relief available on scopes is called critical eye relief. These critical eye relief scopes should be only used on bench rest or target shooting rifles because they need a consistent and precise adjustment for the distance between your eye and the eyepiece for the scope to be in focus.
Make sure when you are buying your scope to take into account the distance of the eye relief. Brands like Zeiss that are known for short eye relieve should not be used on hard recoiling rifles, otherwise, you'll get a nasty case of scope bite and embarrassing scar for the rest of your life.
- Objective Bell - Objective bell of your scope is where the magic happens. This is where the scope allows light to pass through the lenses and prisms inside the scope that allow the magnification and light filtering to take place. As a general rule the larger the objective bell the brighter the scope will be and the larger field of you'll have this is useful and hunting situations and target shooting at long range because every scope will lose field of you and brightness as you step up the magnification.
However, remember that a large objective bell will add weight and bulk to your rifle as well as move the eyepiece further up away from the bore axis. This may mean you will have to add a modification to your rifle stock to get a consistent cheek weld, avoid large objective bells on rifles that will be used for hunting or as a lightweight carbine, a huge objective bell, and large overall scope is going to be a hindrance today activity that you are doing with that rifle. For a bench, rest or target rifle and large of the objective bell can be a huge asset just remember to take into account the rifles cant before you shoot.
- Magnification - When it comes to magnification almost always less is more. For hunting, you'll rarely need extremely high magnification when you're looking to spot animals through the brush you'll rarely shoot beyond 300 yards. In fact, most deer are shot within 100 yards of a stand. Many hunters can get by with a maximum of 9x power magnification. The exception to the less is more magnification rule is when you start hunting at extremely long ranges or are competing and target shooting or bench rest Bullseye Shooting.
In these sports you need as much magnification as you can carry on your rifle. Especially when you start to range out past 700 yards having as much as 25x power magnification is a huge asset. Just make sure that you get in the habit of dialing back the magnification to its lowest setting every time you get up from the rifle. Hunting situation this can mean the difference between nailing a snapshot and passing game or a losing it at the worst possible moment because your field of view is limited by the high magnification your scope with the set too.
Always try to buy as little magnification as you can because as magnification power increases exponentially more expensive for the same level of quality.
- Size & Weight - You don't want a heavy clunky rifle scope on a slim and trim lightweight carbine. Just like you don't want an ultra-light low magnification optic on a .338 Lapua Magnum. Consider what type of rifle you have the weight limits that you want the rifle to be within and what you are going to use the scope for and then choose the best size and weight combination for the task at hand. For most hunters using standard cartridges, a 1-pound rifle scope is about as heavy as you want to carry around all day. If you have a magnum cartridge or shooting extended long ranges you want a heavy scope to help soak up some of the recoils and the sky's the limit for hardened military grade optics.
- Warranty - Any scope you buy should come with a lifetime warranty. Don't risk spending your hard-earned money on a cheap import company that won't have your back when their product inevitably fails. The American Firearms industry is known, the world over as of having some of the best customer services of any industry. Any company that advertises a lifetime warranty means it and you shouldn't try your luck with a scope that doesn't come with one. Simply put if a company is not willing to stand by their product don't bet your hunting trip or shooting match on that product.
If you’ve gotten this far into the article and feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose, take this simple advice, the best scope for hunting is the one you like hunting with. We can discuss for an entire season the technology that makes these scopes tick.
That doesn’t mean we should, at some point, good enough, is good enough and whatever you like to hunt with is going to be the best for you. There’s optics that are best for varmint hunting, and there are scopes that are best for long range shooting, but that doesn’t mean you should buy a purpose-built scope for each and every time you head into the woods.
Find a good scope you can afford, that you simply love having attached to your rifle and head in the woods! That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day, shooting, hunting and enjoying what makes us outdoorsmen.