Have you found yourself overwhelmed and tired of searching for the absolute best rifle scope for all situations? Then let us resolve that issue right now – it doesn’t exist! You can certainly browse the Internet or ask a friend their opinion then proceed to purchase a scope. However, since you are reading this, you are someone who is looking to make an informed decision about a piece of equipment that best suits your needs.
We all have our preferences and opinions about what makes a great scope. Regardless, when it comes to hunting game or shooting at paper you want the absolute best rifle scope possible. This is where we at RSHQ can help. Our unique and interactive Rifle Scope Matrix of scopes will help you decide which one best suits your needs.
What is a Rifle Scope?
A rifle scope is an important tool that makes lining up targets much easier than regular iron sights for a more precise placement of your shot. It magnifies an image and puts your eye on the same optic plane as the image by bending rays of light through a series of lenses within the scope.
There are two kinds of rifle scopes – fixed and variable. Fixed scopes have their magnifications set at a certain power and cannot be adjusted. These scopes are usually denoted as: 4×32, where the number 4 indicates that the scope enlarges an image by 4 times the naked eye. In contrast, variable scopes are denoted as: 3-9×40. This indicates that the scope will enlarge an image between 3 and 9 times the naked eye, as well as every power in between. There are advantages and disadvantages to both which we will discuss later. However, all things being equal, if you can afford to purchase a variable scope then do so.
Additionally all scopes have a reticle which has built in markings such as a dot or crosshairs for referencing the center of the field of view seen through it. For an understanding of magnification, reticles and fields of view, you can check out the Glossary of Scope Terms. For now lets focus on selecting a scope.
How to Choose the Best Rifle Scope That Meets Your Needs
Even though we have created the matrix of scopes to make things easier for you, that doesn’t mean you should go there right away and start ogling your next piece of equipment. Experts will probably ignore this section but it will definitely help beginners and others who may be interested.
You may have heard people say, “buy the best scope you can afford”, or someone will have videos on YouTube about their rifle scope reviews. While that may be good enough for some, it doesn’t address your needs. To figure that out, you need to address the following questions:
- What will I use my scope for? Competition shooting, General target shooting, Hunting, Tactical Shooting, or some combination of the four.
- What is the intended range of my targets? 100 yards, 100 – 200 yards, or over 300 yards.
- What are my preferences for Magnification, Reticle Type, Field of View, and other technical adjustments?
Once you have an understanding of your needs, you can proceed to use the Rifle Scope Matrix to help you find the right scope for your activities.
Review of Our Recommended Scopes
The matrix will definitely have some excellent options to choose from but we would also like to point out our favorites. Below you will find rifle scope reviews on our top 5 picks based on the intended activity. Lets get to it.
Zeiss Conquest MC 3-9×40 with Z Plex Reticle
The Conquest embodies the quality design, reliability and premium performance that Carl Zeiss rifle scopes offer. From the name alone you know that the quality of glass packed into this scope is going to be the best in its class. The lenses are fully multicoated thanks to the Zeiss MC coating, which enhances light transmission. Built to withstand abusive recoil and function in demanding terrains, at 15.2 ounces and 13.2 inches in length, this rugged and lightweight scope is designed to meet the needs of every hunting condition. You can count on it being waterproof, shockproof and fogproof due to the anodized finishes and nitrogen filling. With a 40mm objective lens, it has superb light-gathering ability for wide fields of view and also provides sharp images even in low-light settings. An eye relief of 4 inches, magnification power of 3x to 9x, and adjustable settings combine to help you improve your precision. The compact design makes it ideal for shotguns, muzzleloaders or center-fire rifles. These features, combined with feedback from many users, make this scope the top choice as an all round or long range scope. We would never question a company that has been giving hunters confidence for more than a century, why should you? Choose the best all rounder in the game and experience a superior product. Click here to see Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.
Leupold VX-3 2.5-8×36 with Duplex Reticle
Do you plan on hunting in the woods, high altitudes or rugged terrain? Then look to the Leupold VX-3 for enhanced visibility and superior performance. Consistently adding to its renowned reputation, Leupold designed the new VX-3 scopes to excel in early mornings and dusky evenings thanks to its innovative Xtended Twilight Lens System. Exceptional light transmission and long-lasting clarity from Leupold’s DiamondCoat 2™ and edge-blackened lenses, improves resolution and contrast by reducing glare. The 2.5x to 8x magnification and 36mm objective means that you have a wide field of view in addition to a lockable quick focusing eyepiece with noncritical eye relief. Measuring 11.4 inches and with a weight of 11.4 ounces, this scope is great for short range big game encounters in dense areas and pretty effective for long-range competitive shooting too. Leupold rifle scopes offer a lifetime guarantee for complete waterproof and thermal shock relief as a result of being charged with argon/krypton gas. Reticles for the VX-3 include a Duplex, BDC or Boone & Crockett. These scopes are precision-engineered for solid reliability in extreme situations and are built for the long-term. You know what you are getting when you choose a Leupold, that’s why we recommended it. Click here to see Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.
Nikon Buckmasters 4.5-14×40 Side Focus with Nikoplex Reticle
If you will spend most of your time hunting short to medium range targets then the Nikon Buckmasters will help you get the job done. From the collaboration between Nikon Sport Optics and Buckmasters comes a reliable and durable scope with exceptional features at an incredible price. The rugged design means you can use your scope in the rain or in dusty climates and rest assured knowing that it will survive those conditions. The scope has also been nitrogen filled and O-ring sealed making it waterproof, shockproof and fogproof. Even with heavy recoil, the Buckmasters allows you to maintain your setting and get zeroed in faster with positive-click reticle adjustments. One look through the scope and you will find sharp images in both dawn and dusk hunting scenarios. This is attributed to the BrightVue fully multicoated lenses which enables a large amount of light transmission providing clarity on your target. Nikon offers 3 choices of reticles for this scope: Nikoplex, Mil Dot and BDC (Bullet Drop Compensation). Everyone has a preference for the kind of reticle used in a scope. Overall, at 14.4 inches long and weighing 17.6 ounces, this is scope is chosen by many for its reputation, precision and high-end optics. Click here to see Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.
Vortex Viper 6.5-20×50 PA with Mil Dot Reticle
When precision and clarity is needed for targets at long ranges, the Vortex Viper delivers. In addition to the powerful 6.5x to 20x magnification, the scope features a 30mm one-piece tube built from premium aluminum which houses the fully multicoated lenses. This means you get a scope that is durable enough to withstand recoils and moisture without sacrificing the performance that every hunter demands. You can also adjust the elevation and windage using the pop-up dials for accuracy when it counts. The dials make an audible click and allow for quick counting. Reticle choices for this scope are a Dead-Hold BDC, V-Plex Wide and Mil Dot. At 21.6 ounces it isn’t exactly lightweight but neither is the rifle you will probably be shooting those long targets with. It is also purged with Argon gas to make it shockproof, waterproof and fogproof. This 14.4-inch scope offers a lot and holds its own against some of the more expense options out there, which means that you are definitely getting great value for your money. Did we mention the excellent VIP Warranty that comes with all Vortex rifle scopes? Click here to see Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.
Nikon Prostaff 3-9×40 Rimfire with BDC 150 Reticle
Yes, we have another Nikon on the list! This should serve as a testament to the reputation and popularity of Nikon rifle scopes. The Prostaff Rimfire gives you similar features as the Buckmasters: fully multicoated lenses; nitrogen sealed for fogproof, shockproof and waterproof capabilities; precise adjustments; and same durable build. Additional features include Zero-Reset Turrets and a BDC 150 reticle. The turrets simplify your field adjustments when dialing-in your desired ranges. The BDC 150 reticle is one of the key components in this scope and is designed for the .22 LR. It allows for accuracy in the field with the 50-yard parallax setting so you can hit targets with your .22 LR. This scope is ideal for smaller game hunting at 150 yards or more. It is 12.4 inches long, weighs 13.7 ounces and packs a lot into its one-inch tube. Great build, excellent clarity, reputable and popular, its easy to see why this is an excellent choice. And in case we didn’t mention, it is also extremely affordable! Click here to see Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.
Time to Find Your Scope
We’ve discussed our recommendation process and reviewed some top choices. Now it is your turn to pick the scope that meets your needs and get ready for your next shooting adventure!