Best Hunting Rifle Scopes of 2018 & Buying Guide

Buying a rifle scope can be a tricky process because they come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. A lot of manufacturers make a lot of scopes for different reasons, and it can be hard to figure out exactly what you need.

Fortunately, as a hunter, your quest for the perfect scope isn’t going to be as difficult or expensive as someone who exclusively needs to shoot targets from long distances. Hunting rifle scopes don’t have to be terribly expensive because they don’t have to have a huge amount of extra features built in. Let’s get started.

What makes a rifle scope good for hunting?

A sniper who’s in the military isn’t going to need to use the same scope as someone who’s in the woods beyond the train tracks hunting for deer. They could use the same scope, but chances are, an everyday hunter isn’t going to want to spend thousands of dollars on a long distance rifle scope.

So, first and foremost, the function of your rifle scope what determines whether or not you’ll get something suited for hunting.

The magnification level of your scope plays a huge factor. Assuming you know what you’re going to be hunting, ask yourself how far you want to be from whatever creature you stalk. If you’re hunting deer, for example, you don’t really need to worry about them being too close to you.

If you’re hunting bears, on the other hand, you’ll want a scope with some distance on it.Magnification level is assessed in the description of your scope. For example, a scope that’s labeled as 3x-9×45 would mean that it has a zoom range between 3 and 9, and you can adjust and choose from a magnification level between these parameters

Some scopes, known as fixed scopes(as opposed to variable scope) don’t allow you to change the magnification on your scope. Fixed scopes are a good option for casual hunters because they still provide you with a good field of vision and tend to cost much less than variable scopes.

The second number in that label, the 45, indicates the diameter of the objective lens. The objective lens is important for a number of things.

The objective lens determines how much light will be admitted into your field of vision. Bigger objective lenses allow more light in, which sounds great, but they also weigh more and can offset the balance of your gun.

If you plan to be hunting at dusk or dawn, you’ll want to get a scope with a big objective lens.

Another number that you might see listed in the description for your scope is the FoV@100 or the Field of Vision @100 meters. This number shows you exactly how much you’ll be able to see through your scope at that distance which allows you to plan which kind of scope you’ll buy based on its visibility.

UTG 3-9X32 1″ BugBuster

UTG 3-9X32 1″ BugBuster

The eye relief is a very important stat that you should check out before buying a scope. Eye relief indicates the distance in between your eye and the nearest piece of the scope when you’re aiming. Without enough eye relief, a shot that’s too strong could end up taking your eye out with the rebound.

The scope should describe its weatherproofing. Some scopes are internally coated or filled with nitrogen to make them fogproof so the instruments don’t take damage from accumulated moisture. Some guns are shockproof and can survive during lightning storm, and even most of the basic budget scopes should be waterproof or at least water resistant.

Once you’ve got the basics down, you can start picking the features and nuance that you need. These things are almost entirely up to personal preference.

Adjustable objective lenses aren’t necessary but they allow you to make adjustments to the focus to clarify your visuals at any of the magnification levels. These are helpful for people who struggle with parallax, an irritating issue that’s usually encountered in mid-range shooting in which the reticle appears to move during aiming.

ATN X-Sight II

ATN X-Sight II

Adjustable objective lenses aren’t necessary but they allow you to make adjustments to the focus to clarify your visuals at any of the magnification levels. These are helpful for people who struggle with parallax, an irritating issue that’s usually encountered in mid-range shooting in which the reticle appears to move during aiming.

Reticles come in various forms with different markings, but all are essentially the same thing: a crosshair.

Duplex reticles are the most traditional form of reticle and simply feature a crosshair – two lines intersecting in the middle. The lines are thinnest toward the center and wider toward the edge.

Mil dot reticles use a series of measured dots that are added to the crosshair. These dots allow you to determine the distance of your target.

The tube length affect the weight and size of your scope. Bigger tubes are meant for bigger guns and allows you to have a bigger field of vision, make more adjustments for wind and elevation, as well as providing durability. However, unless you absolutely need these things, stick with a smaller tube because the weight can easily offset the shooter’s accuracy.

Tube typically come in 1 inch, 30mm, 34mm or 35mm diameters.

Nightforce Optics

Nightforce Optics

Optical coatings help ensure that you get ample light in your field of vision. One of the biggest detriments to having a good shot is the amount of light that’s reflected off the glass – this makes it difficult for you to see when you’re staring through the view piece.

Some reticles are illuminated which provide an extra level of lucidity when targeting in dim light

Top 4 Best Hunting Rifle Scopes Reviews

1. Nightforce Optics 5.5-22×56 NXS Riflescope Review

Nightforce Optics

Nightforce Optics

Let’s start off the list with a high-tech, expensive, and extremely high-quality scope. Nightforce is known for making scopes that fit the previous sentence, and this development continues to prove that they’re incredibly good at building stylish, high-functioning gun scopes.

While this scope doesn’t have the largest zoom range, it’ got one that’s more than sufficient – 5.5-22x. While many scopes do have magnification ranges greater than this, most of them have the problem with the image quality being reduced as you zoom in more and more. Nightforce has eliminated this problem, and the focus remains crystal clear throughout all the different zoom ranges of this scope.

Despite the name Nightforce, this scope doesn’t actually have night vision. However, the objective lens is massive, coming in at 56mm and allowing a huge amount of light to enter the field of view. This makes this a great device for shooting at both dusk and dawn.

The scope uses mounted turrets for adjustment. These click into place firmly, but can be a bit trickier to adjust than knobs. The whole unit is very durable, with a 33mm tube that’s built to withstand the recoil from intense shots.

Pros

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    Made to withstand strong blows from powerful guns
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    Has a great objective lens
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    Uses multi coated lenses to ensure maximum light absorption
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    High-quality magnification and visual quality

Cons

  • Expensive

2. ATN X-Sight II 5-20 Smart Riflescope Review

ATN X-Sight II

ATN X-Sight II

This is one of the coolest, most cost-efficient and innovative scopes on the market, period.  It’s been nicknamed the HD scope, because everything it provides is high-def: the screens, the lenses, even the display on the scope is in high-def. It’s redefined the way we look at (and through) rifle scopes.

To add to the impressive technology, this scope has also been fitted with WiFi and is bluetooth compatible. This means you can link it up to your smartphone to adjust it from a distance, as well as send audio and video clips and stream them live to your friends over social media. It’s got a built in GPS sensor as well, which can come in very handy if you end up getting lost.

The defining feature, for me, is that this scope comes with night vision as if that wasn’t a huge deal. Most night vision scopes cost you thousands of dollars, but this one’s significantly less than a thousand bucks. This means you can shoot all day and all night with just this one scope.

Pros

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    HD everything for a prime viewing experience
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    WiFi and Bluetooth compatible
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    Live stream your experience to your friend
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    Comes with night vision
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    Great range of magnification

Cons

  • The GPS is known to malfunction
  • It can only be mounted with its rings onto Picatinny rails

3. UTG 3-9X32 1″ BugBuster Scope Review

This is the epitome of a budget scope. It doesn’t look like it, though – in fact, the Bug Buster’s physical design is quite sleek and attractive and looks like it belongs on a scope that’d cost you at least $500 instead of just under $100.

The first thing of note is that it comes with a very nice flip open lens cap of a quality that’s usually reserved for more expensive scope. This means you’ll be able to keep your lens clear from scratches if you use this responsibly.

It’s a pretty heavy scope which can be a bit unappealing. Heavy scopes throw off the balance of your guns. Fortunately, in this scope, the heavy nature is just the price you’re paying for having a very sturdy scope that’s affordable for a fraction of the price.

The lenses are emerald coated and the objective lens isn’t too big, but the clear coated lens allow for a lot of light to be let in. On top of that, the reticles are illuminated, unheard of in a scope of this price range. Overall, this is a pretty great scope for use at anytime during the day that you’ll hardly even have to pay for.

Pros

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    Incredibly cheap
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    Emerald coated lens ensures good image quality
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    Reasonable zoom range
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    Durable and strong

Cons

  • Heavy

4. Nikon MONARCH 3 BDC Riflescope 4-16x Review

Nikon MONARCH

Nikon MONARCH

The first time I saw that Nikon was making rifle scopes, I was surprised, but it quickly began to make sense. If a company makes reliable camera optics, why not make optics for rifles?

This scope is both compact and lightweight, coming in at just over a pound and not being so long that it’ll completely change the shape of your gun. The magnification range isn’t huge, but like our first contender, this score doesn’t compromise the quality of your field of vision when you zoom in or out. You can see targets at 500m just as clearly as you can at 50m.

An easy adjustment feature is that the turrets have zero reset switches which allow you to undo your adjustments and return them to baseline with a simple push. It can be very difficult trying to change your adjustments while you’re on the fly, trying to hit a target.

Pros

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    Made by a well-known optics maker
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    Impressive quality of visuals throughout all magnifications
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    Easy to adjust or change settings
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    Switch to return the settings to their original level easily
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    Good range of magnification

Cons

  • Flip up lens is sloppy
  • Adjusting the magnification itself is tricky

So, which is the best?

The last entry, the Nikon Monarch, wins this round. It may be a bit tougher to adjust the magnification in this scope, but that’s hardly a reason to cast it aside when you consider everything else it does well.

It’s got a good range of magnification and the visual quality doesn’t change as you switch through the different levels of zoom. There’s a zero reset switch which adds an incredible amount of convenience to someone who wants to switch their settings back to the originals without having to stop in the field.