A rifle is only as good as the shooter that wields it. However, when your target is several hundred meters away, the shooter is only as good as their scope allows them to be.
This makes the choice of rifle scope an important one. It can be the difference between success and failure on the hunt. With so many scope makers on the market, however, the choice is near-impossible.
Let’s consider the important factors when choosing a rifle scope. We’ll look at how these factors can help you find the scope for your needs.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Rifle Scope
Here are some of the most important factors every sniper, hunter, and competition shooter should consider when choosing a rifle scope. They will allow you to become the best shooter you can be.
This is the most basic factor that decides your choice of scope. A reticle is a crosshair that determines your point of aim.
It is important to put the center of your crosshairs where you want to aim on your target.
The three most common reticles on the market are:
- Mil-Dot: Dots on crosshairs indicate distance. Perfect for military, law enforcement, and long-distance shooters.
- Duplex: Simple crosshair pattern with no notches. Perfect for hunters who want minimal obstructions.
- Bullet Drop Compensator: reticle accounts for gravity for long-range shooters.
Choose the reticle that suits your activity. When it comes to hunting, the simplest option is often the best.
Military snipers may choose the scopes with the most visual input.
Day vs. Night Operations
A daytime and nighttime scope may seem the same, but scopes designed for night operations are much more technologically advanced, more complicated to use, and often pricier.
This makes the time you hunt or prowl an important consideration when choosing a scope. Investing in a night scope is best if you plan on moving in the pitch black.
Magnification is how close the target appears compared to what you see with your naked eye. The more you zoom in, the farther out you can see.
You will only need 1-4x magnification for short-range, close-quarters targets.
You will need 5-8x magnification if you’re shooting in the 200-yard range. This is the common engagement distance for military infantrymen.
Targets across vast distances will require 9-12x magnification. This is best for snipers and competitive shooters.
Fixed vs. Variable Magnification
This is how much magnification your scope offers. A fixed scope only offers one magnification setting (2x, 4x, etc.), while a variable scope has adjustable ranges (3-9x).
If you fire a fixed distance from your target, you will only need fixed power. However, variable power offers more flexibility and range for tactical situations.
The focal plane is the relationship between your magnification and your reticle. First focal plane (FFP) reticles zoom in as you magnify. This makes them better for tactical situations.
Meanwhile, the second focal plane (SFP) reticles maintain their size as you magnify the sight picture. This makes it easier for hunters or shooters who want fewer moving parts.
Field of View
This is how much you can see horizontally across your sight picture. The wider your field of view is, the less magnified you are. As you zoom in, your view narrows.
Having a clear, vibrant field of view is important throughout the scope.
This is the distance between your eye and the rear lens. Have 3-4 inches of eye relief on your scope.
This will protect you from getting punched by your scope during recoil. It also gives you a wider range to see.
However, you may need less eye relief when using night scopes. You will need to be closer to make out your sight picture.
An objective lens allows light to filter through and project into your eyes, allowing you to see your target. You must find the balance between lens size and lens weight.
The farther your shots are, the bigger your lens will need to be. A good lens must also be coated to reduce glare and increase your ability to see a pure picture.
The side and top knobs of your scope allow you to account for environmental factors that will affect your shot. They account for wind speeds and bullet drop.
Your turret knobs should produce a reassuring click while still adjusting easily and smoothly. They should make shots repeatable and help you account for the elements.
Plenty of newer scopes also account for parallax or the reticle floating as you adjust your head. This adds a third adjustment knob to your scope.
A scope is useless if the lenses break or the scope falls apart. Modern scopes are made of aircraft-grade aluminum that is lightweight yet strong enough to handle whatever damage comes its way.
Another enemy of a good scope is when it fogs up due to environmental factors or built-up gas pressure.
A good scope is also nitrogen or argon-purged to prevent gas from building up inside. This allows you to keep firing, knowing that smoke from your rifle won’t affect your shot.
Your budget is a major factor to consider with any product. With scopes, you get what you pay for.
A high-quality scope can go for $400 – $1,000 while having all the bells and whistles you can need.
That said, a good scope can go for as little as $200 or as much as $10,000 for a specialized model. It’s important to invest in a reliable scope without breaking the bank.
The best rifle scope is the one that suits your needs. It needs to be durable. It must not fog even after hundreds of shots. It should help you make the shots that count.
When choosing a rifle scope, it is important to look at these factors and how you plan on using your scope. It should work at your level and take your shots even further.