Best Tactical Rifle Scope Reviews of 2018 & Buying Guide

Buying a rifle scope can be quite an experience, even when you’re just looking for a typical scope for an everyday rifle. Unfortunately, buying a scope for a tactical rifleuser can be even more of a task, because your selection is limited to a much smaller range of products made for this specific reason.

Still, there are resources out there to help take some of the stress off your shoulders. Fortunately for you – we are one of those resources! We’ve compiled a buying guide for tactical rifle scopes and done some comprehensive research to figure out the best five rifle scopes that you can buy today.

What makes a good tactical rifle scope?

Buying a tactical rifle scope leaves you with a few options. You can buy a high end rifle scope if you’ve got the finances, but budget tactical scopes aren’t the most common occurrence in today’s market. Still, we’ve isolated this information for those with a more tactical mindset who want to figure out the best air rifle scopes for their needs.

Naturally, the first thing you’ll want to do is consider your needs. Are you…

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    Using the rifle for military or law-enforcement? Anything professional might require different specs than what you’d get for a recreational rifle.
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    Using it for recreational use? Consider further – are you doing long-range shooting, close-range shooting?

Regardless of the type of use you’re going to get out of it, you’re going to need to assess some details as well.

  • How far do you expect your average shots to be? Go in a ballpark – three-quarters of your shots, will they be 1000 yards plus? Or a couple hundred yards? This is hugely important.
  • What is your maximum shooting range going to be? If your average shot’s going to be within 200 yards but you’ll need to regularly blast off shots 1000 yards away you’ll need a very specific scope.
  • What lighting will you be shooting in? Do you shoot in the early or late hours of the night, at dawn or dusk, or do you expect to have an artificial light source?
  • What’s your rifle like? Consider the caliber, the weight and length.
  • Do you need night vision in addition?
  • How are your finances? If you bought a nice rifle, are you still able to afford a comparatively nice scope?
Bushnell Elite Tactical

Bushnell Elite Tactical

All these things are important to consider because there’s no such thing as a one-fits-all tactical scope. Each one comes with their own benefits and their own detriments, and you need to completely assess your shooting style and understand your weapon before hoping to make a relevant purchase.

Types of scopes

Your first major decision is as to whether you need a fixed or variable scope.

  • Fixed scopes come with a single range of magnification and can’t be adjusted. However, they’re typically cheaper, they make use of fewer lenses which provides a better view and more light, and they’re also easier to make weatherproof.
  • With a variable score you can adjust the magnification. They come with a spec listed something like 3X9-35 which would mean the magnification can be adjusted from 3x to 9x with an optic of 35mm. Honestly, variable scopes have become much more widely available and affordable and it looks like the days of fixed scopes are coming to an end – why buy a fixed scope when you can get an adjustable one for a comparable price? The versatility is well worth it.
  • A full 4x magnification – the lowest setting on many scopes – gives you a clear visage at 500 meters. 10x works pretty good up to a thousand yards.
  • This doesn’t mean higher magnification is only useful for long distance shooting. If you’re looking for a difficult target at 500 meters, you’re probably going to want to zoom into a smaller field of vision and scope the area in more detail.

For those of us who plan to shoot in times other than bright daylight – which is a lot of us – it’s important to take into play the exit pupil size.

A good exit pupil allows you to find and identify whatever targets you’re seeking out in your range. In low light, you generally want to have an exit pupil of something near 6mm.

To figure it out, divide the diameter of the objective lens by the magnification – for example, a 40mm objective lens in a scope that’s set to a level of 10x magnification will give you a 4mm exit pupil, which isn’t optimal for low light.  If you lower the magnification by half however, you get an exit of 8mm.

Tube diameter

You typically have a choice between a 1 inch, 30mm, 34mm, and 35mm tube. The bigger the tube, the more adjustment it will most likely be able to provide. Unfortunately, this also means it’s going to be heavier which will offset your balance and could impede accuracy.

A 30mm tube is considered the best for general use and provides the best balance of feature and function.

NightForce ATACR

NightForce ATACR

Adjustment turrets

You want your adjustment turrets to be clearly indicated, to make clear noises when you make any adjustments so you can be mentally aware of what you’re doing, and situated in a position that makes them easy to access on the fly.

Making the best decision

It’s important that you evaluate your needs, your intentions, and your level of skill before making a purchase. Once you’ve determined the sort of specifications you’re looking for, you may be able to think of a scope that already works for you.

Don’t leave yet, though. We’ve compiled a list of what we found to be the best tactical rifle scopes on the market right now. They combine a great balance of function, form and fashion and can be used in a ton of versatile situations. Look at these before you make a final decision.

Top 4 Best Tactical Rifle Scope Reviews

1.Burris XTR II 3X-15X-50mm Illuminated FFP G2B Mil-Dot Reticle Riflescope Review

The Burris XTR was one of the best purely tactical scopes on the market, and now the reliable and well known company has outdone themselves by refining the scope, upgrading it and providing a much slicker, more effective version – the XTR II.

It’s not a cheap model but that’s because it’s designed for serious, long range shooters who need precise aim and clarity of sight.

It’s a hefty(ish) model coming it around two pounds with a solid 34mm tube. Many of the internal parts are oversized for increased stability, as well as the tube being quite solid – adds a couple ounces, adds a couple years of reliability.

The eyepiece has a quick focus adjustment (though it tends to be a bit stiff.) Fortunately this means it won’t shift out of place after you make any adjustments, though! These, along with tactically designed reticles, ensure that you can hit targets at long range without losing any of your accuracy. This scope’s developed for low light compensation so you can use it 24/7, it’s got spring loaded shock protection and a vibration resistant body.

Pros

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    Solid design, guaranteed sturdy and stable
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    Quick focus adjustment stays in place
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    Low light compensation
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    Good magnification range
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    Tactically designed reticles

Cons

  • Pricy
  • Stiff adjustment knob
  • No rubber on the eyepiece in case of rebound

2.NightForce ATACR 4-16x42mm F1 ZeroHold .250 MOA DigIllum PTL MOAR Review

NightForce ATACR

NightForce ATACR

Nightforce has long since evolved from an intermediate contender in the scope world to one of the most reliable and efficient producers of both tactical and competition shooting.

One of the issues with NightForce scopes that people have complained about(even in glaringly positive reviews) is that their entire eyepiece rotates when adjusting the power which makes it annoying to use standard scope caps. However this discrepancy comes with the added bonus of more durability and a fewer part count! Aside from that it comes with its own customized flip cap cover lens so unless you’re overly attached to your own lens cover this won’t be much issue.

It’s got a 34mm tube with 3 and a half inches of eye relief. It’s a heavy beast shipping at 3.3 pounds altogether but it’s super durable and will last you a long time. The scope offers great optics and has been revered for working even with shooters who have bad eyesight.

Pros

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    Very clear sight range and pinpoint accuracy
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    Strong and durable unit that can withstand intense shooting
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    Small part count
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    Made by one of the most reliable companies for tactical shooters

Cons

  • This is a very heavy unit for the job
  • Some people will find the rotating eyepiece to be an irritation

3. Bushnell Elite Tactical DMR 3.5-21x 50mm G2 FFP Reticle Riflescope Review

Bushnell Elite Tactical

Bushnell Elite Tactical

Bushnell was never known for being developers of tactical rifle scopes in years past. They were also never known for building cheap products – but that sure hasn’t changed. The elite tactical DMR is a prime example of Bushnell’s desire to continue innovating, providing quality products, and gouging your wallet. (It’s worth it.)

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The scope comes packaged with the regular instructions and a warranty, as well as a sunshade. This is one of their most respected elite models, and it offers quite a lot. The magnification can be adjusted from 3.5 to 21x and there’s a whopping 50mm objective lens so you’ll have no problem blasting targets that are really far a way.

There’s a rainguard coating to protect your viewpoint in dangerous weather or storms, and while it has awesome ability for long range shooting that doesn’t compromise its ability to target things close to you. The scope itself isn’t terribly long though it does carry a lot of weight to it (go figure, it’s got a 34mm tube – purged with argon!)

The whole device was developed by military and law enforcement professionals so you can be sure that the best minds in the business went towards the DMR’s creation.

Pros

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    Carries the same durability and technical prowess as Bushnell’s other scopes
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    Rainproof and pretty much weatherproof
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    Argon coated 34mm tube
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    Can easily adjust for long and short range shooting
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    Developed by military and law enforcement

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Heavier than the average scope

4. Hensoldt ZF 4-16×56 FF Matte Black Riflescope Review

Hensoldt ZF

Hensoldt ZF

You might have heard of the brand Zeiss – they’re known for developing quality rifle scopes with an assurance of durability and function. Guess what? Zeiss has a military division and its known as Hensoldt

This is a top-of-the-line military and law enforcement scope that’s quite possibly the best you can get. It’s so high tech that even when ordering it on Amazon you have to go through their special sellers, and it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg. Here’s why:

  • Attractive design that fits a 34mm scope over most rifles with elegance
  • Large knobs for adjustments with deep turrets that stay in place when you switch them and make a nice loud click to let you know you’ve made the switch
  • Elevation and Windage knobs each go up to 120 clicks
  • Fully adjustable illuminated reticle with a setting that allows for continuous rotating adjustment
  • Knobs all have different sizes and textures so they can be easily memorized
  • Uses US army standard parts so quality is assured

There’s enough about this scope alone to probably fill an entire article but rest assured that you’re getting your money’s worth (all three grand of it) if you’re able to find one in stock.

Pros

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    Incredibly strong make
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    US standard pieces make the scope
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    Incredible range
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    Ease of adjustability
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    Everything else

Cons

  • You’re gonna need a big bank account to even consider this

So which one wins?

For pure function, of course, the Hensoldt ZF blows everything else away (ha.) It’s got more technology jammed into it than any of these scopes and quite possibly two or more combined and it’s made with military standard materials so you know it’s going to last a long time.