Rifle Scope 101: Unlimited Guide & Top Pick In 2017

Buying a rifle scope is almost as important as buying the rifle itself. The rifle scope allows you to make your aim, to change your magnification, to find light in dim situations where you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see, and a dozen other things. Unfortunately buying a rifle scope isn’t as simple as going to the store and ordering a coffee – especially if you’re trying to get the best rifle scope for your money.

There are a lot of different qualities to a good rifle scope and even more optional features that you’ll have to decide whether or not you really need. That’s why we’ve put together a little ‘Rifle Scope 101’ guide, so you can figure out what the best rifle scopes for you are.

Choosing a rifle scope

Choosing a rifle scope involves assessing your shooting style, your goals, and your environment, because these all have a huge impact on the kind of scopes you’ll be able to use. Each of these individual pieces affects one of the major functions of a rifle scope.

Seeing your target

One of the most important functions of the rifle scope is to ensure that you can properly see your target, so a good rifle scope will provide the necessary magnification, field of view, and light admission.

Magnification is described, in a product name, by the first set of numbers you’ll see, and the objective lens’s size will be displayed second. For example, a scope that’s labeled 3×9-40 means that the magnification range will be between 3 and 9x, and the objective lens will be 40mm in diameter.

Magnification is important because it determines how far you can zoom. For example, if you’re shooting deer 500 meters away, you’ll be able to see them through any type of scope, but you won’t be able to get a clear, focused shot unless you have a scope that magnifies to the appropriate level.

Scopes typically come in one of two types: variable scopes have adjustable levels of magnification and can be adjusted on the fly. Most scores these days are variable, though fixed scopes are cheaper. Fixed scopes have a single magnification range that the shooter will have to work with. These won’t work well for long-range combat.

The objective lens is important because this is what determines the size of your field of view, which is what you’ll be seeing through the scope. The size of the objective lens also determines how much light admission the scope will have. It’s important to have a scope that lets in lots of light if you’re going to be shooting at dawn or dusk.

When shooting, you also have a choice of reticles to use. These are basically the crosshair units you see when you see someone playing a first person video game shooter.

Other types of reticles include dots or lines for wind or elevation adjustment, which also eliminate the need to make manual adjustments to the scoe. These kinds of reticles and mil dot reticles are great for long distance shooters or for those with fixed scope.

Protection and weather safety

Rifle shooting can be a dangerous business, no doubt, and any good hunter will be safety minded when considering the purchase of their scopes. This is why it’s important to understand your shooting style and your need when you’re buying a scope – it’ easy to make a mistake.

Attention: If you don’t absolutely need a wide field of vision, avoid getting a scope that’s too bulky with a huge objective lens.

For example, buying a scope with a huge 50mm objective lens sounds great because of the wide field of vision it provide, but if your gun is too small to handle the heavy weight you’ll be off-centered and have difficulty aiming. In this case, an important term to know is the FoV@100 or the Field of Vision at 100 yards.

The FoV@100 will tell you how much you’ll be able to see with your scope from that distance. The size of the objective lens, the power of the scope, and the design on the eyepiece all impact the FoV@100 rating, and typically the larger the rating, the heavier your scope is going to be. 

Check out the eye relief rating of your scope. This is the distance between the views peace and the eyeball, and is an important deciding factor as to whether or not you’re going to lose an eye during the kickback from one of your shots.

An eye relief of at least 3 inches is generally recommended for average shooters. If you’re using heavier bullets or more powerful guns, expect to search for scopes with 4+ inch of eye relief.

Your scope will mention its weatherproofing ability. Many are coated internally with nitrogen or something similar to make them fog proof so the moisture doesn’t damage the internal. Other scopes should be shockproof and waterproof or at least resistant. Some military grade scope can even be totally submerged underwater.

The MoA, or minute of angle is a measurement that determines how far astray your bullets will go from a target at 100 yards distance. For example, if your scope lists its MOA as a quarter inch, the bullet will impact a quarter inch in whichever direction you adjust your MOA turret to sit at.

So what are the best rifle scopes?

The best overall rifle scope for you is probably not going to be the same as the best scope for the next guy, but we’ve still taken the time to put together this list.

These rifle scopes are a great combination of function, feature and fashion and they all come in at a reasonable price. From everyday hunters to long range snipers, everyone is bound to find a scope that suits their needs in this list.

1. Burris XTR II Rifle scope Review

We’ll start off the list with a powerful, beautifully designed, and attractive scope. It’s not cheap by any means, but nor is it as mind blowingly expensive as some scopes – it’s just over five hundred bucks, and you get your money’s worth.

First, you’ll open your package and find an instruction manual and a custom made little wrench for adjustments. The turning ring on the scope for magnification is textured so well that you can turn it even when wearing glove, but this doesn’t compromise its function. Speaking of zoom – this scope only zooms from 1-5x, but the quality of image that you get is unbeatable.

The 30mm main tube has an adjustable illuminated reticle to ensure great vision. It’s a lightweight model and it comes with a lifetime warranty, so if you bang it up, you can replace it and make sure you’re getting good value for your cash.

Pros

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    Lifetime warranty
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    Lightweight
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    Sleek attractive black design
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    Made from durable material
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    Crystal clear images
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    Illuminated reticle

Cons

  • More expensive than other models of similar zoom
  • Stiff turrets

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

Chances are if you’re using rifle scopes you’ve already heard of Nightforce. They’re one of the most impressive companies out there in the scope market and all of their products reflect their efficiency and genius, and this one is no exception.

This is one of the best rifle scopes for long range shooting, period. It may not have as wild of a zoom range as some 45x scope, but the image quality hardly takes any compromise whether you’re shooting at 200 yards or 2000.

The tube is 33mm making it pretty big, but it’s capable of taking heavy shot from powerful rifles made for long distance. The turrets are simple to turn even if you’re wearing gloves.

Pros

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    Smooth and attractive
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    Super durable
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    Quite possibly the best magnification clarity
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    Shock and waterproof
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    Almost 4 inches of eye relief

Cons

  • Much more expensive than other models

3. ATN X-Sight II 5-20 Smart Rifle scope Review

This is rifle scopes in HD. This piece of technology is a marvel and is definitely one of the most interesting and advanced scopes out there. First off, it’s got HD everything – sensors, optics, lenses, even an HD display. It takes HD videos. It even has a wifi connection capability. And Bluetooth.

Another extremely awesome benefit is that this scope actually has night vision built into it. Typically if you’re buying a night vision scope you’re going to have to shell out a couple thousand dollars, but not with this one!

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It’s got a GPS system you can use as well as smartphone control capability so you can make adjustments from a distance or live-share your hunts to your friend on social media. The zoom range is impressive and transitions are smooth.

Pros

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    1080P HD visuals
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    Wifi and Bluetooth connection capability
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    GPS system
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    Automatic rangefinder
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    Night vision
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    Good price

Cons

  • GPS is flawed
  • Rings only work with PIcatinny mounting rails

4.Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20×50 Rifle Scope Review

If you’re looking for a scope under five hundred buck that’s loaded with features, Vortex has you covered. It’s got a fairly huge objective lens at 50mm, which provides lots of light and a great field of vision for your shots, even at a long distance – the magnification range of this scope goes up to 20x, making shots at almost 2 km not too hard to make.

It’s easy to make adjustments with the slick speed of the turrets but they click nicely into place, ensuring your adjustments won’t change mid-shot.

Pros

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    30mm tube, waterproof shockproof and fogproof
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    Can handle powerful rifles with lots of shock rebound
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    Provides great clarity

Cons

  • Not great for short-range shooting

5. Vortex Optics Diamondback 4-12×40 scope Review

Of course, we have to include one budget option on the list. This scope’s priced at under two hundred bucks before tax, and it’s made to be attractive, highly functional for the price, and durable.

It’s made from aluminum so it’s not going to fall apart on you and it has fully coated optics for allowing in tons of light. The reticle has been designed you can compensate for windage and elevation without needing to make manual adjustments! However, should you choose to, the turrets are well-designed and easy to work with.

Pros

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    Cheap and affordable even on a tiny budget
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    Made from strong aluminum
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    Fully coated optics
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    Decent zoom range and objective lens size
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    Reticles compensate for wind and elevation

Cons

  • Parallax around the 50 yard mark can be very hard to see around

So which one’s the best?

That depends on your budget, really. Budget shooters should go with the last entry, the Vortex Optics Diamondback. It may not be the most powerful gun scope out there, but considering it’s hardly going to put a dent in your wallet, it’s worth the purchase. It’s good a competitive range of magnification, well coated optics, and a good make and body.

If budget isn’t a concern, the ATN-X Sight is the best thing you’ll see on this list. The fact that it has night vision alone makes it a great contender, but its range of magnification and the size of its objective lens further solidify the power of this scope. It’s really not that much more expensive than the Vortex Diamondback either, so if you can afford the few hundred extra bucks, this is the scope to go with.