Last update on 2021-04-22 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Rifle scopes are optical instruments used to identify and aim at a target from a distance.
They are essential for a wide range of outdoor activities including hunting, target shooting, or airsoft.
But how to choose the best one?
If you need to understand all of the terms better and what they mean, check out our article about how to choose a rifle scope first.
Then, take a look at our rifle scope reviews and read our buyer’s guide to find out which are the best rifle scopes on the market.
Our Reviews Of The Best Rifle Scopes
#1 Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40mm Riflescope
Combining state-of-the-art illumination with an exclusive reticle called UltimateSlam, the Leupold VX-Freedom is a versatile and dependable scope designed to deliver absolute user satisfaction.
The scope is manufactured by a family-owned company and their optics stand among the best in fields such as shooting sports, law enforcement, and wildlife observation.
Check our complete review of the best Leupold Tactical Scopes.
The VX-Freedom 3-9x40mm riflescope boasts high-quality multi-coated lenses designed to provide superior precision and accuracy.
The coating is responsible for excellent light transmission and also protects the lenses from abrasion.
The magnification is typical for a tactical short-range instrument, the adjustable magnification power ranging between 3 and 9X.
The reticle is without a doubt the most attractive element of this scope.
The reticle itself is simple but it boasts unique features such as increased precision at longer ranges.
Apart from that, its reticle stands out against cover in low light, as it’s equipped with the Twilight Light Management System. This amazing technology increases minutes of shooting light up to 10 minutes. It also and reduces glare for superior quality images.
The instrument is also perfect for short-range aiming and shooting, responding to the demands of those working in the military and law enforcement field, but also the demands of the passion of target shooting.
As you would expect from every Leupold scope. the VX-Freedom riflescope is waterproof, fog-proof, and scratchproof.
If you’re looking for the best 22-250 scope, we highly recommend the Leupold VX-Freedom.
#2 Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical Riflescope
If you are looking for an optical instrument built for long-range shooting and hunting, the Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical Riflescope is the scope you need.
What makes the Diamondback ideal for long-range shooting is its side parallax knob and exposed tactical turrets. These knobs allow smooth adjustments under the harshest conditions.
Featuring extra-low dispersion glass, multi-coated lenses, and an impressive magnification power, this scope will become your trustworthy companion.
The Diamondback is equipped with a glass-etched, first focal plane reticle, giving it accuracy like no other.
In addition, its lens system boasts a fabulous magnification power that ranges between 4 and 16X.
The Diamondback’s zoom lens also features a precision-glide erector system that guarantees hassle-free magnification changes in any situation.
This extremely reliable but affordable scope is also equipped with a fast-focus eyepiece for quick target acquisition.
We also love how the Diamondback is ruggedly built to survive the harshest recoils and impacts.
Its list of awesome features doesn’t end there, though.
Aside from being shockproof, the Diamondback is also purged with nitrogen and is equipped with durable o-ring seals. This means a waterproof and fog-proof performance is guaranteed.
#3 UTG 4-16X50 Hunter Scope
Another tactical riflescope with excellent characteristics but is cheaper compared to the Diamondback is the UTG 4-16X50 1″ Hunter Scope.
This scope features a 50mm objective lens and a 1-inch tube that is compatible with a wide variety of rifles.
Designed for varmint and predator hunting, the UTG Hunter Scope boasts an adjustable magnification power between 4 and 16x.
Apart from this, the wide objective lens delivers exceptional brightness.
For optimal light transmission, the scope’s lens is fully multicoated with an Emerald coating; so the images delivered are extremely crisp and clear.
Its Mil-Dot reticle is also equipped with the EZ-TAP Illumination Enhancing System with different color modes to accommodate all lighting conditions.
You’ll be able to correct windage and ranging in a breeze with its premium zero locking mechanism and its zero resetting target turrets.
Aside from all the features already mentioned, this optical instrument is waterproof, fog-proof, and scratchproof. The scope also allows parallax adjustment from 5 yards to infinity for improved accuracy.
The UTG Hunter Scope also comes with a 3-inch sunshade, flip-open lens caps, and Picatinny rings.
#4 Nikon P-Tactical .223 3-9×40 Matte BDC 600
If you are looking for a reliable yet affordable scope, an excellent optical instrument with a more than decent price is the P-223 model by Nikon.
Produced by a manufacturer famous for its precision optics, this scope certainly impresses with its characteristics.
With a 40mm objective lens and a magnification power between 3 and 9x, the P-223 is an excellent short-range instrument developed specifically for tactical purposes.
This scope can be an excellent choice for those who need a tactical optical instrument for leisure activities, such as airsoft or target shooting.
As expected from such an instrument, the P-223 comes with a reticle adjusted between 100 and 600 yards.
The reticle was developed specifically for .223 Rem rifles and 5.56 NATO firearms, featuring a unique open-circle aiming points. The reticle type is BDC.
This high performing instrument is waterproof and fog-proof.
Boasting extreme precision, the scope is characterized by a ¼ MOA hand-turn and zero-reset turrets with click reticle adjustment.
The parallax is inexistent at 100 yards and it can be easily adjusted thanks to the easy to use reticle.
#5 Vortex Optics 4.5-27×56 Razor HD Gen II Riflescope
We reserved our last rifle scope review for a scope that can easily be defined as the high-end of the high-ends.
Razor HD by Vortex Optics is one of the ultimate tactical instruments available on the market, an optics able to deliver superior image clarity, multiple target adjustments, and many other features.
Razor HD impresses with an HD lens system and a fully multicoated coating designed to deliver the highest level of light transmission.
The apochromatic lenses use an index-matched feature to correct the color across the visual spectrum. The magnification varies between 4,5 and 27x.
Razor HD boasts a reticle with an intricate design protected by two layers of glass. The reticle is illuminated and it boasts an FFP scale with hash marked ranging.
The type of the reticle is EBR-2C MRAD, a tactical design suitable for a wide range of activities.
This optical instrument is made of aircraft grade aluminum and it is coated with ArmorTek, a ultra-resistant anti-scratch layer that protects the exterior of the lenses.
Furthermore, the instrument is waterproof and fog-proof.
Rifle Scopes Buyer’s Guide
Rifle scopes are certainly ancient inventions.
The first attested optical instrument used mounted on a weapon dates back to the 1500s and even if the actual scope was extremely different from what we expect from a scope today, its use was basically the same, help to target and magnification of the field of view.
This type of scope consisted of a simple, flat convex lens with a diameter of about 1,2 inches that was fixed in a calcium stem and attached to the rifle.
Are you curious which is the most expensive rifle scope available on Amazon? Check it out here!
With time, the various companies worked on improving all the aspects of the tactical optical instruments, beginning with the magnification power, construction of the tubes and accuracy.
As a result, most of the instruments available on the market today provide exceptionally clear images, they are parallax free, resistant and weatherproof.
Nevertheless, the main question that arises especially among amateurs, is what to look for in the best rifle scopes?
Let’s understand how the rifle scopes work, what types of rifle scopes there are and what to expect under different price ranges, among many other useful things.
How Do Rifle Scopes Work?
Riflescopes are designed to meet two specific needs, zoom a target and help the eye of the shooter focus both on the target and on the shooting point at the same time.
The human eye cannot focus on two points at the same time, therefore trying to see a target and aim without using a scope is impossible without blurring one of the points.
Targeting and aiming with accuracy is essential in many fields, such as hunting or professional tactical activity, and to help the human eye achieve this, the scopes are made of three optical elements: an objective lens, an ocular lens and an optical system positioned between the two lenses and responsible for the enlargement of the image.
The objective lens captures the light emitted by the target and converges it in a First Focal Plane.
After the light passes through the first focal plane, the lens system diverges the image, turning it upside down.
To turn it back in the original position again, the scope uses a Second Focal Plane point that delivers the real image to the eye.
Between the two focal points, there is another set of lenses, typically two, that magnify the image.
Usually, the distance between these two lenses can be adjusted from a turret, the scope having, in this case, an adjustable magnification power that varies widely between the various types of the scopes.
The whole lens system is enclosed in a rigid tube, usually made of metal, and various turrets and adjustment rings allow the user to make different adjustments to the focal plane, magnification, and ocular lens, correcting in this way the parallax or other temporary variations such as the twilight myopia.
Between the ocular lens and the magnification lens system, there is positioned the most important tactical element of the scope, the reticle.
The reticle is a non-magnifying lens with markings that help the eye target and aim at the same time, helping the eye stay focused on two points contemporarily by aligning them.
The simplest model of the reticle is the crosshair but the most advanced scopes have superior reticles with different patterns that help to estimate the distance, correct parallax and focus on the target, some of them allowing the adjustments both vertically and horizontally.
All manufacturers use a succession of numbers when referring to the power of the scope, for instance, 4×30 or 4-20×30.
The newbies often wonder what they mean and what is their importance.
The first number or numbers designate the magnification power that can be either fixed or adjustable. For example, 4x means a fixed power that will magnify the target four times.
4-20x means that the magnification power is adjustable and you will be able to magnify the target between 4 and 20 times.
The last number, 30 in our example, refers to the width of the objective lens expressed in millimeters.
The wider the lens the more light is absorbed into the scope, delivering clearer images and better performance in low light conditions.
Another characteristic of the tactical scopes that confuses the users is the eye relief.
To understand it, think how you would normally use a magnifying instrument such a microscope or telescope.
In both cases, you would look through the system with your eyebrow almost attached to the ocular lens.
This is not possible in the case of the rifle scopes because the recoil of the shot would stick the scope in the user’s eye, hurting him.
For this reason, the image must be focused from a safe distance that should be at least 75 millimeters from the eye.
For rifles with strong recoils, it is advisable to search for scopes with wide eye reliefs.
Many have heard of parallax but few know what it means. We talk about parallax when the axes of two optical systems meet at a given angle.
The point where these two axes meet is parallax free, therefore an object will be seen identically by both optical systems.
When using a tactical scope, the two optical systems involved are the lens system of the instrument and our own eye.
To eliminate parallax and see an object with accuracy, the eye must be focused exactly on the center of the lens system.
When the eye is perfectly focused on the center of the lens, the target acquisition and aiming are extremely accurate, regardless of the distance.
For the various types of scopes, there are various types of reticles that can be easily adjusted to eliminate parallax and that are designed to meet various tactical needs.
Read our Rifle Scope Reticles Explained article for a comprehensive insight.
Types Of Scopes
Tactical ScopesDesigned specifically for professional tactical activity, this type of scopes is the one preferred by the law enforcement and military forces all over the world. Tactical scopes are characterized by adjustable turrets that allow a fast and precise target acquisition and aiming, and they are usually built with fixed magnification that allows a quicker reaction in combat.
Target Shooting ScopesAs the name suggests, this type of scopes is designed specifically for target shooters, although they can also be used with success for varmint hunting. The scopes in this category boast excellent magnification and fine adjustments to allow an accurate aiming and shooting at small targets positioned at various distances, they have a wide eye relief and usually crosshair or BDC reticles.
Hunting ScopesThe choice of most hunters, the scopes in this category usually have standard magnification powers between 3 and 9x, decent eye relief and large fields of view. The wide field of view is an essential characteristic of a hunting scope as it will allow you to secure targets with ease. The reticle of choice, in this case, is the Duplex reticle. Read our review of The Best Hunting Scopes.
Night Vision ScopesUsed for tactical and leisure purposes, the night vision scopes are designed to allow shooting in the dark. The scopes are usually equipped with infrared sensors that provide simple images of the field of view and illuminated reticles that allow a simple target acquisition in the dark.
How To Choose A Rifle Scope?
Choosing a rifle scope is far from being simple.
Apart from deciding what type of scope you need, there are also other things to consider.
As a general rule, a quality scope should have excellent lens quality, a resistant structure and it should be at least waterproof and fog proof. One of these brands is Armasight scopes.
In addition to these considerations, here is what you should check:
Depending on the purpose, you should choose a model with fixed magnification or one with adjustable magnification.
Based on the characteristics of each model, the scopes can be divided into:
- Short-range: with fixed or variable magnification of up to 6x, these scopes are ideal for activities such as airsoft, short-range target shooting or professional law enforcement and military activity.
- Mid-range: the magnification of these scopes usually vary between 3 and 9x. Most of the scopes in this category are ideal for hunting.
- Long-range: with magnification powers up to 25x or more, these scopes are probably the most versatile when it comes to target shooting, varmint hunting and other types of activities that require long-range targeting.
MOA Or MRAD
All scopes must be adjusted before use and the various manufacturers equip their instruments with two adjustment systems, MOA and MRAD.
MOA is probably the simplest to use. 1 MOA corresponds to an inch when targeting at 100 yards.
The adjustments are simple to make thanks to a click system and all MOA scopes have adjustments smaller than one to allow a precise zeroing.
MRAD is more complicated to adjust as 1 MRAD corresponds to roughly 3,6 inches at 100 yards.
However, this system provides a more accurate adjustment for long-range scopes although they are more expensive and heavier.
A scope will certainly add some weight to your rifle, therefore choosing a lightweight instrument is a must.
Tubes made of alloy or aluminum are lighter than the steel ones and are really durable.
What To Expect Under Different Price Ranges?
The most inexpensive but also the simplest models of scopes, ideal for the amateur hunters or for those enjoying target shooting every now and then.
The scopes in this range provide basic magnification powers and adjustments but they are usually equipped with lower quality lenses and they are rarely weatherproof.
The scopes in this price range are very similar to the ones described above but they come with coated lenses, weatherproof features and they are more durable.
The scopes in this price range are perfect for frequent use.
In this price range the enthusiast hunters and shooter, as well as the law enforcement professionals, will be able to find exceptional instruments designed for easy targeting in all light and weather conditions.
These scopes are usually customizable and the reticles are usually illuminated.
The high end of the tactical scopes includes the finest optical instruments designed with impressive adjustments and the highest quality of the lenses.
These scopes are built for precision, are versatile, accurate and extremely durable.
Top Rifle Scope Brands
Vortex gained a reputation for manufacturing some of the best scopes for the shooting and hunting industries.
The brand is committed to offering exceptional outdoor optical instruments, its standards were some of the highest on the market.
Leupold is synonymous with innovation in the field of the rifle scopes, its first tactical optical instrument being the first fog proof instrument built in America.
Leupold’s scopes can be fully customized, they come with a wide range of reticles and unmatched specifications.
A brand committed to delivering the highest quality at affordable prices, Barska is a popular manufacturer of precision optical instruments among other unrelated products.
Barska manufactures scopes for a wide range of outdoor activities, including hunting and target shooting.
The clarity specific to Swarovski crystals combined with precision engineering of finest optical instruments creates some of the best scopes on the market.
Swarovski’s range of rifle scopes is dedicated to hunters, but the quality of these instruments come at salty prices. Check out Top Swarovski Rifle Scopes.