Best Rifle Scope Reviews 2017 – Comprehensive Guide
Rifle scopes commonly referred to as your gun’s eyes are telescopic sights that magnify your target. But why do you need a rifle scope?
Preciseaiming. If you’re a hunter, you need a rifle rescope. It will improve your aiming by giving you a better sight of your target. Also, having a rifle scope will help you become a better shooter in time.
Protection. Let’s face it. Rifle scopes should be attached to your guns if you want to protect your family. Unexpected situations cause us to panic. Breathing, balancing, and focusing then becomes difficult. But not if you have a rifle scope that will help you aim at your target in no time.
Higher scores. If you’re using your rifle in field practices and shooting competitions, then you should say hello to a rifle scope. Getting higher scores will boost your self-esteem. So why not get one?
Improvement of stamina and agility. Having a rifle scope will improve your adapting and adjusting skills due to greater exposure in the field.
Although all rifle scopes have all these benefits, choosing one among numerous choices makes the search uninteresting and time-consuming. But not anymore. This comprehensive guide will help you find the best rifle scope for you and your activities’ needs.
Variable power scopes allow you to choose low magnification for closer shots and high magnification for longer shots depending on their magnification power. These are useful if the magnification of the target is needed for a clean shot. These scopes come in a variety of magnification variables depending on your pursuit. Sniper rifles often use these since this type of rifles are used at a much farther distance than a normal hunting rifle.
These scopes are less complicated than variable scopes only if you know exactly what specifications you need when shooting your gun. With a fixed power scope, you don’t have to worry about fiddling with the magnification during a shot because you as a hunter already know how much magnification you have. You cannot adjust the magnification on fixed scopes like you can on variables so they are only recommended for certain occasions and for particular types of firearms.
Night Vision Scopes
These specialty scopes can be combined as a variable and fixed scope. As the name implies, these are used for shooting at night or at times of day when there is a small amount of light to see the target. Since they’re expensive and huge, you should ensure that you need to shoot during low-light hours of the day before purchasing.
To help you choose between all the rifle scopes out there, we have compiled reviews of rifle scopes in different price ranges below.
Our Top Pick
Vortex Optics DBK-10019 Diamondback HP 4-16×42 Riflescope
This has to be my number one recommendation. If I were you, I’d buy this 3×9 small scope package for its quality and mid-range price. Coming from the popular brand Vortex, this one-piece tube maximizes its strength and waterproofness by offering extremely clear lens, easily manipulated variable power ring, windage adjustment and elevation adjustment.
Because it’s made of aircraft-grade aluminum (which is extremely strong and much lighter than yesterday’s steel tubes), it’s highly resistant to recoil. It even includes a side focus/parallax adjustment that is easily accessible while keeping a trim profile and allowing optimal mounting height. If you’re looking for a 4-16x great optics that’s at an affordable price, then this is the scope you should get your hands on to.
Extra-low dispersion (XD) glass results to high resolution, crisp, and sharp images in exact colors
XR Fully Multi-coated which increases light transmission
Scale of reticle maintains the same ideally-sized appearance
Precision-Glide Erector System allows smooth magnification
Capped Reset Turrets allow re-indexing of the turret to zero after sighting in the riflescope
There’s a possibility that you’ll have a mirage problem at 14-16x magnification power.
Reticles start to rotate after taking many shots.
There may be a struggle maintaining good eye relief.
Rifle scopes can vary from $35 up to thousands of dollars depending on your budget and their quality. The brand name also affects the price of the rifle scope but buying a branded one is better than settling for less especially if you can afford the higher end rifle scope. But if you’re looking for a cheap scope and your activities do not require a high-end scope, then a $100 scope might be all you need. It’s important to know what you’re using them for because sometimes a cheaper scope almost has the same results with a higher end and more expensive scope. You can save a lot of money and still find a perfect scope by looking at our rifle scope reviews for different price ranges.
Best Rifle Scope Under $500
Nikon M-308 4-16x42mm
This modern sporting rifle optics provides up to 95% light transmission and maximum brightness from dawn to dusk. It goes without saying, this is the best rifle scope for your budget under $500. It’s matte finish, waterproof and fogproof.
It has a parallax adjustment and a spot on custom turret.
There’s no doubting its clear glass and its excellent performance in low light situations.
It’s great for long range shooting even at 1000 yards.
Quick shots are also possible because of the BDC, making the Flash a little concerned.
With Spot-On technology, using it is very simple.
Nikon Spot-On program will give all the yardages of your reticle’s aiming points after inputting ammunition load data, altitude, temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and even after adding wind speed and direction.
Its Enhanced Mount Ring Spacing provides greater mounting versatility.
It comes with just one turret for 168 G bullet unlike other BDC scopes that come with different turrets for different weight bullets
In the long run, the scope may not hold zero.
In some scopes, tube rings seem to loosen after several rounds and need to be retightened.
With it being a BDC scope, it only rotates approximately 22 clicks to either elevation direction, which is approximately 250 yards. So if the target is 300 yards, shooters are forced to use their BDC reticle even if they have time to adjust the drop and windage.
The M-308 one-piece mount that comes with it is of low quality. Some can’t return to zero with three screws.
Bottom line: Every penny will be worth it if you purchase this Nikon rifle scope. It may have a number of cons but focus on the bright side. Performance? Amazing. Price? Reasonable. It’s the best scope for your 500-dollar budget.
Vortex does it again with this clear, tough, and bright rifle scope, making it the best rifle scope under $300. It is fully multicoated thereby increasing light transmission with multiple anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces. The long eye-relief is great for specialty pistols as well.
This vortex scope is constructed from a solid block of aircraft-grade aluminum so you don’t have to worry about its strength and rigidity.
Its O-ring seals prevent moisture, dust, and debris from penetrating the rifle scope which makes it reliable wherever you shoot.
It’s fogproof and can be used over a wide range of temperatures.
This is highly recommended by military veterans, hunters, and competitors.
The clarity of its glass will blow you away.
It has an adjustable objective lens that provides image focus and parallax removal.
Its rugged construction and hard anodized finish withstands recoil and impact and helps camouflage the shooter’s position.
Its fast focus eyepiece also allows quick and easy reticle focusing so there’ll be no trouble redirecting.
Some vortex optics scopes keep moving around and have no easy zero reference.
Turrets do not have a tactical style.
In some products, the elevation lines are not properly marked.
Accompanied scope shade is impossible to attach to the scope without damaging the threads.
Bottom line: Every gadget has drawback but if your budget is under $300, don’t waste your time looking for another brand. Go for this and be done!
Bushnell Trophy XLT 3-9x 40mm – Best .22 Rifle Scope
This bulletproof, versatile, all-around hunting scope is the best rifle scope you can get for under $100. It comes from Bushnell, one of the older popular rifle scope manufacturers, known for providing the best quality to their customers.
It has fully multicoated optics and has 91% light transmission.
It’s 100% waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof.
It is dry nitrogen filled which prevents moisture from condensing inside the scope and oxidation of the scope’s internal components.
The eyepiece allows fast focus and it’s available with DOA 600 (733960XC) or Multi-X (733960BC) reticles.
This Matte finish scope is also guaranteed to be bulletproof.
With its 3-9x magnification power, crystal clear lens, and easily adjusted knobs, aiming and shooting won’t be a problem even during a slightly rainy day.
It’s great for replacing the old, local, cheaper scope and installing it is easy as pie.
It gives an exceptionally clear image even if the target is 100 yards away.
In some products, crosshairs or reticles are blurred when zoomed in.
It does not have the 4-inches eye relief as advertised. At best, the eye relief is 2.5-3 inches.
Bottom line: This cheap rifle scope is absolutely worth the money and I’m positive you won’t find another hunting scope better than this under $100.
When money is no object, all the rules of the game completely change. If you’re not worried about how much you should spend, then this rifle scope is the best on the market.
It has HD lens system and T coatings for enhanced image quality even in low light situations.
Rapid-Z 1000 ballistic reticle provides numbered holdover lines for long-range shooting (up to 1000 yards).
It has a compact tube design.
Shorter than many 3-12x scopes today.
It has a lockable target turret for easier compensation.
It’s optimized for .308-caliber for tactical or bench rest shooting.
Its simple and accurate regulation and design facilitates the shooting adjustment.
Its bright and clear vision is a remarkable feature.
This is best for those who want to reach out 500 yards or beyond.
It’s not illuminated.
It’s German assembled, not German made as what the description claims.
Bottom line: Zeiss is one of the most popular brands among those who enjoy and can afford high end rifle scopes. If you have an unlimited budget, then opt for the best. Opt for Carl Zeiss Optical Conquest.
NightForce SHV 5-20x56mm – Best Long Range Rifle Scope
This is another great scope if your budget is unlimited. With premium features including a 30mm main tube, ZeroSetTM, and multiple reticle and illumination options, the SHVTM 5-20×56 is a more than capable partner for your next long range shooting adventure.
It provides exceptional precision at extended ranges due to higher magnification.
Even at 20x magnification, it won’t have any distortion.
It provides superb clarity, crispness and color contrast throughout its entire range from low to high.
It has a perfect repeatable tracking.
Images are crystal clear because of its first class glass.
It’s very durable.
It comes with a 56mm objective lens.
The eye relief is 3.9 inches.
Turrets are easily adjustable by a finger and it has a click adjustment.
It’s waterproof, shockproof, and fogproof, making it perfect for all types of weather in any environment.
It’s the perfect choice for hunters, law-enforcement personnel, and target-shooters.
It costs around $2,250 to $2,500 but the price won’t be a problem if your budget is also not a problem.
Bottom line: This rifle scope is by far the best rifle scope you can ever encounter. Because of their products, Shooter Hunter Varminter (SHV) Product family received the 2015 Award of Excellence in the Optic Product of the Year category from Sporting Classics. And they were awarded because of one reason—EXCELLENCE. Nothing less. Nothing else.
It’s crucial to know if you’re going to use your scope for self-defense, hunting, or sport.
If you’re hunting sheep or pronghorns, then use 5x-14x since you’re more likely to take a long-range shot where magnification will help make a quick, clean killshot.
Varmint hunting demands higher magnification since shots are usually long and varmints are small.
A tactical scope is great for those who are interested in close combat shooting.
Targeting scopes are meant for long distance shooting and has a lot of adjustments involved especially with parallax and MOA. If you think they are too much, then choose hunting scopes instead.
Hunting scopes are a little less complicated than targeting scopes.
2. Changing your magnification range
People prefer variable power scopes rather than fixed ones since it has lesser moving parts and is simple even though you don’t have the ability to adjust your magnification.
Fixed power scopes have one set magnification power. Old military scopes use fixed power to ensure constant shot placement.
A lower power setting will keep your field of view and will allow you to see more of the area.
Choose 4-6x magnification power for hunting and general shooting. 9-12x power is good for long distance shooting and 20x power is great for paper targets that aren’t going to move.
A 3-9x scope is standard for deer hunters.
3. Light Transmission and Eye Relief
There are scopes that, in theory, offer 98% of light transmission. But these scopes are expensive.
Scopes that offer 95% are cheaper and are already great.
Usually, the average light transmission capability of most scopes is 90%. These scopes aren’t hard to find.
Eye-relief is the maximum distance between the eye and the scope that gives the viewer a complete image.
The stronger the magnification, the lesser the eye relief.
The longest eye relief for an optical rifle scope is about 4 inches.
The higher the recoil of the rifle, the larger the eye relief needed to avoid ‘scope bite’, that painful and humiliating cut above your shooting eye.
If you’re seeing a black circle around the actual view, it means you are not meeting the eye relief of the scope. If you begin to pull your head backwards away from the optics, the black circle should disappear as the image is taking up the complete circle.
Parallax occurs when the primary image of the object is formed either in front of, or behind the reticle. If the eye is moved from the optical axis of the scope, this also creates parallax.
High magnification scopes, or scopes for long-range shooting (beyond 10x magnification power), where even slight sighting errors would be serious, are equipped with a parallax adjustment.
Lower magnification scopes are not usually supplied with parallax adjustment because at lower powers, the amount of parallax is so small it’s unimportant for practical, fast target acquisition.
5. Field of View (FOV)
This is the amount of view you see through your scope from right to left at that distance.
FOV is inversely proportional to the magnification power. As the magnification is increased, FOV goes down. As magnification is decreased, FOV goes up.
Field of view is directly related to the construction of the eyepiece.
The FOV can also be effected by the shape and contouring of the glass inside the scope.
Scopes have pre-determined field of view ranges.
A large field of view is necessary if you’re hunting fast-moving creatures like eagles and soaring birds.
A large field of view, however, is not required if you’re hunting deer and antelopes.
6. Turret Adjustments and Minute of Angle (MOA)
The target turrets on the rifle scope assist you in sighting in or properly adjusting the scope to hit targets at whatever distance you choose.
Minute of Angle (MOA) is the basic unit of measurement on target knobs.
Most recent scopes have turret adjustments valued at ¼ MOA or .25” at 100 yards.
If you are shooting at a moving target at a known distance you may want to dial in your elevation and your wind. This will allow you to use the horizontal line for hold-off to account for leading the target.
Though it will be hard to learn the adjustments, they are necessary since shooters can’t control the strength of the wind which affects the behavior of the bullet.
7. Brand and Price
We are always affected by the price of the scope when we browse and select.
Specifications of the scope increase the price but the brand name also affects it.
Usually, the higher the price, the better the specs and results. So you can conclude that if you settle for a cheaper scope, you should expect an unstable performance.
Some features may be advertised in cheap scopes only to find out after purchase that they don’t coincide with the description.
Buying a branded scope will decrease your odds of having a low quality scope with no guaranteed performance.
The Seven Top Brands in the Industry
Running for more than 65 years, their commitment is focused on providing the highest quality, most reliable and affordable sports optics products on the market. The majority of their products are some of the more dependable and reasonably priced hunting products like rifle scopes. They also make binoculars, trail cameras, spotting scopes, GPS, and laser rangefinders. The prices of Bushnell rifle scopes vary from $40 to $2,200 depending on the specs and quality.
Since 1907, Leupold and Stevens has been one of the highest quality optic manufacturers in the world and the United States Marine Corps and Navy SEALs can testify to that. Products of this family-owned company are sold worldwide to hunters, wildlife observers, competitive shooters, law enforcement officers and special operations military personnel. The price range of Leupold products is from $180 to $1,700.
The Redfield Gun Sight Company was founded in 1909 by John Hill Redfield. The company designed and manufactured quality equipment that hunters and shooters trusted for accurate, rugged and reliable sighting. In 2008, it was purchased by Leupold but they did not acquire any of Redfield’s capability of repairing their products that were made prior to them buying the company. Until now, they’re still one of the top companies that produce great rifle scopes. They also offer a full lifetime warranty on their non-electronic products like their rifle scopes.
Founded back in 2007, Sightmark is known for making Triple Duty, Ezekiel, Wolfhound, and Pinnacle rifle scopes that excel in performance. Their best-selling products include red dot sights, riflescopes, and chamber laser bore sights. Operated out of Mansfield, Texas, they assure customers that accuracy and quality comes standard in all their products, giving you the ability to “Make Your Mark”. Sightmark rifle scopes range from $70 to $490.
Burris is best known for their scopes having lenses with larger diameters than most of their competitors. They claim to employ only the most passionate and knowledgeable engineers to manufacture their scopes, riflescopes, sights, reticles, rings and mounting systems for all hunting, tactical and competitive shooting needs. Their products are not only used by occasional hunters or sports shooters, but some of their rifle scopes are also used by professionals. Burris rifles scopes range from $129 to $1,400.
Nikon, operating for more than 90 years, is known for their highly advanced optic rifle scopes that range from $130 to $1,700. The performance of their optical products for all types of outdoor activities makes them one of the well known Sports Optics companies in the world. They deserve to be a part of the top seven brands in the industry because of their commitment to premium quality and innovation.
Barska, operated out of Pomona, California, is known for its priority products that deal with sports optics. They are committed to delivering superior quality products at affordable prices to customers around the world. Barska products can be found from the top 100 U.S. Sporting Goods Retailers to selected International Distributors in over 40 countries. Barska rifle scopes are priced from $34 to $290.
Finding the best rifle scope that will meet your standards is difficult with numerous rifle scopes on the market. But with proper knowledge and guidance, it becomes manageable. Since the scopes have been rapidly pushed throughout the recent years and products are at a very high quality, a decent rifle scope becomes necessary.
If you’re still confused among a number of scopes, then remember the acronym SCOPE to help you choose. Check the scopes’ Strength of build, Class or quality, Objective lens size, Platform or mount, and the Expense.
If you’ve already chosen one, then I suggest you read more reviews about the scope. It would be beneficial and practical for you to know the perks and drawbacks of the scope you have in mind before you purchase it.
You might have noted the specifications you need in a scope or perhaps you’re still confused with all the details you must consider before purchasing a scope. Just remember that the best rifle scope for you is the one that can satisfy your needs. Don’t settle for less and don’t go for much if your activities don’t require you to.
There are lots of price ranges and products to choose from, but hopefully, I have made it easier for you to decide.
If you came here looking for AR-15 Scope reviews, then you are lucky. We also have an AR-15 Scope Buying Guide, waiting to be read!