How to Choose the Right Rifle Scope

Guide to Choosing a Rifle Scope

Choosing a rifle scope is no easy task. Not only are there dozens of different types of scope, each with their own unique features and innovations, but there are also many different manufacturers out there, constantly adding to an increasingly crowded marketplace.

In short, there are lots of scopes to choose from and the average consumer can easily become overwhelmed by the sheer variety of items on offer. In this article, we’ll try to help you narrow down your choices and become more knowledgeable about scopes in general. With this information, you should be much better-equipped to make smart purchase decisions the next time you go shopping for a scope.

rifle scope features

Types of Scopes

Let’s begin by looking at the main categories of scope. We’ve mentioned that there are actually lots of different types, but you can usually class a scope into one of the following varieties: variable and fixed. Variable scopes are the most common and, as their name suggests, they offer variable levels of magnification, effectively allowing you to zoom in or out on a target, as though you were looking through the lens of a camera.

You’ll often find these scopes on sniper rifles, as different levels of magnification are required for effective sniping. Fixed scopes have only one set level of magnification. They are easier to use since you don’t actually need to make any adjustments yourself, but they are much less versatile. In general, a variable scope is the way to go.

The main thing to remember is to choose a scope that is appropriate and relevant for the sort of hunting you plan on doing. If you pick the right scope for the job, you can easily and quickly become a much more efficient shooter. With a good scope, you’ll have no trouble lining up kill shots on all sorts of prey. On the other hand, if you make a bad choice and use an inappropriate scope for your weapon or target, you can actually hinder yourself. Before you buy any scopes, it’s therefore important to know what rifle you’ll be using and what you’ll be shooting at. This is the simplest way to narrow down your search and avoid wasting money.


Comparing a Rifle’s Price to It’s Quality

Speaking of money, many people often believe that the most expensive items are always the best. This can sometimes be true, but isn’t necessarily the best way to shop. The most expensive rifle scopes often feature high levels of magnification, but if you’re just hunting deer then you don’t really need anything higher than a 4-12x scope.

So not only would you be losing money unnecessarily by buying a more expensive model, you’d also be getting a scope that is simply too powerful for you to use effectively. This is a point we have to keep reiterating; pick a scope that is relevant to your needs, rather than the one that looks the best or costs the most money.

options with rifle scopes

How a Rifle Scope Works

Next, let’s look at how scopes actually work. You’ll probably have noticed that scopes have various little numbers written on them. You’ll need to understand what those numbers actually signify to make a smart purchasing decision for yourself. Let’s say we’ve got a 3.5-10×40 scope. The 3.5-10 is the range of magnification that this scope is capable of.

At its lowest level, this scope will show objects 3.5 times closer than they actually are, and at its highest level it will show them 10 times closer. Scopes with wider ranges often cost more, but as we said earlier, you don’t always need the widest range or the highest magnification levels. So how about the 40? The 40 signifies the diameter of the lens, in millimeters.

Going a step further, when shopping for scopes or talking about them, you may have heard various terms like ‘eye relief’, ‘exit pupil’, or ‘light transmission’. When you first hear these terms, you might have no idea what they mean, so we’ll give a brief definition of each one.


Additional Features Worth Considering When Purchasing a Rifle

Eye relief is the term given to the distance at which your eye can be from the lens while still being able to see the full picture. Rifles do have recoil, so it’s good to choose a scope with a nice amount of eye relief to keep yourself from getting injured. Four inches is currently the best eye relief you’ll be able to find.

The ‘exit pupil’ can be seen by holding a scope in front of you and looking for a little dot of light. Big exit pupils can be seen from wider angles and the scopes that have these exit pupils are easier to use.

Finally, we come to light transmission. This term is used by manufacturers, sometimes quite sneakily, to make customers think that their scopes are more effective. You’ll usually see light transmission given as a percentage, and this represents the percentage of light that is being transmitted through the lens itself.

No lens is actually capable of transmitting 100% of light, in fact the best rating is around 98%. Naturally, the higher ratings are the best ones, as these scopes are the most accurate, but certain manufacturers use their own scales to measure light transmission and can be quite misleading with the figures they quote, so don’t believe everything you read on the box.

The last aspect of a scope to consider is the diameter of the lens. This usually varies between 40 and 44mm. You might find some lenses that are even bigger, but bigger isn’t really better when it comes to lenses.

In fact, the larger ones tend to be more unwieldy and harder to balance, so you’re better off purchasing a smaller lens. The general rule is that the smaller the lens is, the easier it will be for the shooter to manipulate his weapon, so try to get as close to the 40mm mark as possible. We hope that this information will help you to choose the best rifle scope to suit your needs.

About the author

Mike Paris

Mike is the editor of NWT Outfitters and as you may expect, an avid outdoorsman... When Mike isn't logged into the NWT backend, he's camping, climbing, hunting, fishing, or doing some combination of the four.

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