What is Scope Eye Relief and Why is it Important

If you think you found the perfect optic but haven’t considered how much eye relief you need, hold your horses! If you don’t want to get a bleeding eyebrow from your riflescope (especially if you’ll be using powerful ammo), then take this time to understand what scope eye relief is and why it’s important.

What is Scope Eye Relief?

Scope eye relief is the distance from your optic’s surface to your eye where you have a clear full view of your target. Distances other than the actual eye relief will deliver a blurred image or a reduced field of view. Optics with higher magnification have shorter eye relief as a rule and vice versa.

What does long eye relief scope mean?

The Best Rifle Scopes

A long eye relief scope has an eye relief of at least 6 inches. Scopes with long eye relief are great for high-caliber weapons as you don’t have to worry about getting “scope eye.” 

“Scope eye” is a term used when a shooter’s eye gets smacked by a scope because of heavy recoil. This happens when the scope was mounted without setting the accurate eye relief or the shooter’s position puts them too close to the scope or offers little support for the rifle to resist recoil.

Why is Eye Relief Important?

So aside from avoiding a scope eye, what other reasons are there that make eye relief so important?

Proper eye relief distance gives you a bright and clear view of your target, which is essential in getting accurate, consistent shots. 

Being too close to your scope results in a poor sight picture. Being too far results in a black ring around your field of view or a blurry image.

It’s also critical to consider how far you’ll be shooting (short-range or long-range). Because as magnification gets higher, the eye relief decreases. If you’ll be shooting at long distances, expect shorter eye relief. And if you want longer eye relief, expect limited magnification. This won’t be a problem though, if you’ll be shooting in close-quarter scenarios.

Types of Eye Relief

There are two broad types of eye relief for scopes that are subjective. When in doubt, look at the measurements from the manufacturer to confirm the eye relief on your particular optic.

Standard eye relief

Standard eye relief scopes are ideal for shooting at long distances and in open areas because they have higher magnification. It’s more common in centerfire rifles and is 3.5 to 4 inches long. High-caliber ammo is not advised for this type of eye relief without particular care to firmly snug the stock of the gun against the shooter’s shoulder. Standard eye relief scopes also have limited field of view.

Long eye relief

Long eye relief scopes measure 4.5 inches and above. They’re ideal for shooting at short distances because of limited magnification and in enclosed spaces or uneven terrains. These types of scopes are best for powerful weapons. They also offer a wider field of view for faster target acquisition.

How Much Eye Relief Do You Need?

Aside from the shooting application, you have to consider the gun you’ll be using the optic with and how you’ll be shooting to know how much eye relief you need.


The eye relief needed in rifles depends on the area you’ll be shooting. Get a long eye relief scope if you’re on an uneven terrain like a hill because the distance between the closest point on your face to the scope shortens when shooting in an awkward position. But if you’ll be on flat ground, a standard eye relief scope is more than enough.


For shotguns, you’ll need at least 3.5 inches of eye relief. But we suggest you get a scope with a little longer eye relief if you’ll be shooting slugs and heavy load shells. Assess how powerful your weapon is and decide how much eye relief you’d be needing.


Handguns require eye relief so long that it’s measured in feet for most shooting stances. Also the magnification of handgun scopes are mostly 1x to 2x.

What does unlimited eye relief mean?

Only red dot sights have unlimited eye relief, it means you can position your eye(s) as far as you want from the eyepiece without compromising your field of view and still get a clear sight picture.

How much eye relief do I need with glasses?

If you’ll be wearing glasses while shooting, you need at least 4.5 inches of eye relief to prevent your glasses from getting hit.

Can you change the eye relief on a scope?

No, you can’t change a scope’s eye relief as it’s set during the manufacturing process.

What is the average eye relief on a scope?

Average or standard eye relief is 3.5 to 4.5 inches.

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