Best Varmint Rifle Scopes of 2018 & Buying Guide

Hunting is a fun pastime for a lot of people, and it’s a serious hobby that needs to be taken seriously. If you buy an expensive rifle, you’re going to want to keep it for as long as you can – which means you’re going to want to buy one of the best rifle scopes.

America takes hunting a lot more seriously than a lot of countries (despite having an overabundance of food available at grocery stores) and this is partly why the sport of varmint hunting became so popular It’s extremely difficult, very rewarding, and very intense – so naturally, varmint hunters take their rifle scopes more seriously than many other shooters. Your old deer rifle scope just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide to buying the best possible varmint rifle scope.

What makes varmint hunting any different?

A varmint scope is going to have to be a little bit different than what you’re probably used to. If you’re coming from an experience of sharpshooting, deer hunting or big game hunting, or long-distance shooting, then get ready to have an all new experience.

The difference between hunting varmint and other types of games is that these creatures are crafty. Most creatures that can be called predators, and most predators have most or all of the following traits.

  • They’re intelligent, so they will learn your tactics and try to avoid your future assaults by use of intellect.
  • They’re wary, so they won’t waltz right into your field of view. You’ll need a scope with good visuals to help you prepare for them or to stalk them.
  • They’re stealthy, so you’re going to want to be quiet – quieter even than they are. This means you can’t have a scope that makes noisy adjustments or you’ll reveal your position.
  • They’re cunning. Believe it or not, some non-human creatures are smart enough to pull a fast one on you. Yep, you.

Varmint hunting can be important for a number of reasons – especially for families whose main food source relies on these types of animals. For this reason, it’s important to understand that the rifle scope is more important in varmint hunting than the rifle.

Most rifle blasts will kill a varmint. That’s not the problem. The problem is making sure you can target them and hit them.

What do I need to look for in a varmint rifle scope?

Well that depends on the environment in, your shooting style, and what’s already available to you.

If you already have a rifle

If you’re buying a scope to fit a rifle, that’s going to limit your options because not every scope will work well on every rifle.

If not, you’re going to want to get a gun that shoots rounds that can hit a wide variety of varmints. Varmints can range in size and strength – raccoons and coyotes are both considered varmints and are vastly different creatures.

  • 56 NATO weapons are quite suitable for shooting varmint of all sorts of different sizes and shapes.
  • Ammo for these weapons is cheap and easily available
  • The recoil from these shots isn’t very intense so you don’t have to worry about getting a ridiculously safe scope with a half foot of eye relief

How far are you gonna be shooting?

If you’re going to be shooting varmint on your own isolated property of a few acres, then you probably won’t need to get a gun with a huge range of magnification range. Many varmint hunters function with a fixed scope with a magnification of around 5x.

However, most varmint hunters might find themselves in the wild, in different topographical areas, and facing different distances and elevations when targeting. This is why variable scopes are recommended for varmint hunting – chances are, with the speed and stealth of these creatures, that one fixed magnification won’t be enough for you.

How much light will you have to work with?

Light is a huge factor in the purchase of any scope, even moreso with varmint hunting. Varmint are particularly fond of coming out during the dusk or dawn hours when lighting conditions are less than ideal, so you’re going to need to make sure your rifle scope lets in a lot of light.

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    Check that the exit pupil lets in an above average level of light
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    Consider the size of your objective scope. Objective scopes allow in more light and can increase your field of vision, with the downside of increasing the weight and size of your gun. If your rifle scope lets in ample light through the exit pupil alone and you’re not shooting across a wide area, try to shoot for a smaller objective lens.
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    It’s pretty much vital that the optics in your scope are fully coated. Coated lenses minimize the chance of light being reflected, which does two things.
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    Reflected light can reveal your position to the varmint, giving them more time to hide
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    Reflected light means it’s going back into the atmosphere and not into your FOV, so it’s lost to you.

As for the reticle…

You’re going to want a mil dot reticle, unless you’re partial to something else. Your targets will be scampering around, hiding, jumping and doing backflips, which creates a highly dynamic environment for you to try and pinpoint them.

First focal plane reticles are the way to go, as well. A FFP reticle allows your target to retain its subjective size regardless of what your level of zoom is, even if you make adjustments after you’ve locked on. This is incredibly useful for fast moving targets.

Bushnell Banner Dusk

Bushnell Banner Dusk

Is parallax a problem?

More often than not, parallax isn’t a problem unless you’re shooting under quite a short range – likely a much shorter range than what you’ll be dealing with if you’re hunting varmint.
Still, if you’re looking at scopes and you can score something similar to what you’re considering with an added parallax adjustment for little to no extra money, you might as well grab it.

So, overall, varmint hunting requires a lot more precision than regular game hunting. If you’re not going to use one of the scopes we’ve suggested, and you have to go out to choose your own scope, a good hunter’s rule of thumb is to decide on a scope. Once you’ve decided within your budget range, get the next step up (unless it’s a massive difference.)

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You really get what you pay for when it comes to rifle scopes. Budget scopes can save you some money right off the bat, but they’ll ultimately cost you more. They could also lead to some serious danger if you’re not very sure of what you’re doing.

So what are the best varmint hunting scopes?

We’ve looked at the specs from a ton of different hunting scopes and deduced the best ones for varmint hunting based on the specs and parameters available. You’ll have to select one of these options based on your budget, so we’ve tried to include a variety of scopes for people in different financial situations.

Top 4 Best Varmint Rifle Scopes Reviews

1. Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Circle-X Reticle Rifle scope Review

Bushnell Banner Dusk

Bushnell Banner Dusk

This rifle was released with a promise of delivering extremely clear visuals through its optics, and it delivers. They’re multicoated to limit reflection and allow a huge amount of light in through the objective lens.

This is great for hunting varmint at all times of day, as indicated by the name, but it’s also got a good magnification range – 3-9x. Nothing fantastic, but enough to catch the varmints before they run beyond your range of vision. It also has a circle-X reticle allowing you to make visual adjustments based on windage or elevation, without needing to make physical adjustments.

Pros

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    It’s entirely waterproof so you can use it in all weather
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    It’s fog proof as well so you can highlight targets in mist
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    It’s easy to quickly adjust magnification on the fly
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    It works good on a lot of different rifle models

Cons

  • The crosshairs on the reticles are thicker than needed
  • You’ll have to get mounting rings yourself

2.SWFA SS 10×42 Tactical 30mm Rifle scope Review

SWFA SS

SWFA SS

This is a great optic for folk who aren’t concerned about their budgets. It’s not premium priced, but it’s more than the average fixed scope will cost. Fixed at 10x magnification, it gives you a good level of magnification for mid range shooting.

It uses a solid mil dot reticle so you can make windage and elevation adjustments without having to twist any knobs. Knobs you can twist, though, if that’s how you prefer, as there are many sturdy turrets for you to fiddle with if that’s how you like to solidify your adjustments.

Pros

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    Great rear magnification ring, easy to manipulate and adjust, even with gloves or fat fingers
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    Crystal clear image presentation through the coated optics
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    Good fixed magnification strength for varmint hunting
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    Has both a mil dot reticle and turret adjustments

Cons

  • Fairly expensive for what you’re getting

3. Crossfire II 4-12x50mm AO Riflescope Review

Crossfire II

Crossfire II

Crossfire riflescopes are known among customers for being sleek and attractive, but most of all they’re known for being durable. This unit measures about fourteen inches with a weight of 21 ounces, or a pound and a half. That’s not a shabby weight to length ratio, and when you consider the scope’s function, it works out even better.

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The zoom ranges from 4 to 12 times magnification, which couldn’t be better for hunting varmint. Much further and they’d be hard to hit, much closer and they might take a chunk out of you. The objective lens is also an ideal 50mm, which lets in a huge amount of light and allows you to shoot at dusk and dawn.

It’s a mid-priced scope with some above-average features, so for folks with a mid-ranged budget, this is a good contender.

Pros

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    Multicoated lens special made to increase light transmission
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    Eyepiece is easily adjustable even during magnification
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    Waterproof, shockproof and fogproof for ideal use in all weather
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    Has a custom made design for windage and elevation adjustments

Cons

  • Doesn’t fit with all rifles
  • Doesn’t work as good as some alternatives at dusk

4. VORTEX Optics Viper 6.5-20×50 PA Riflescope, Dead Hold BDC Reticle Review

VORTEX Optics

VORTEX Optics

This particular model by Vortex is one of their best long-range models, but don’t let that steer you away – it’s also more than capable of delivering accurate close-range shots for those varmints that like to get close to you.

It’s a little bit heavier than some of the other scopes we listed, but that’s because it’s densely packed with awesome features.  It’s not too expensive either, checking in at 300 bucks. You get a great magnification range from 6.5 to 20x with a big objective lens of 50mm.

It focuses on light transmission and illumination – the reticle is an adjustable illuminated version for better viewing at times of low light. On top of this all the optics are double coated so you won’t have any light reflection.

Worry-warts need not stress about the durability of this unit because it’s a one-piece model made of solid aircraft grade aluminum

Pros

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    Good price for a whole lot of features packed in
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    Single piece aircraft aluminum model
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    Built for light – reflection is minimized, transmission is maximized, reticle is illuminated
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    Great zoom range for the price
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    Easy twist eyepiece adjustment for adjustments on the fly

Cons

  • Some dials can be hard to turn

So which one’s the best?

For varmint hunting guns, it seems pretty clear that the Vortex Optics Viper is the winner – plus, it’s got the coolest name. It’s got a wide range of magnification, and while some folks find the quality to be a bit blurry, some is hardly all.

The whole thing is built to maximize light transmission so you’ll have a clear shot in early morning or late evening, and you won’t have to worry about it falling apart or breaking down in the weather. It’s also well protected from powerful shots.

All this for a price that pretty much whips all the other scopes out of the water.