A majority of shooting enthusiasts today install an optic or some sort of sighting product on their rifles. There are so many rifle scopes on the market today, so we are going to discuss the best rifle scope to help you determine the best one for you in 2021.
Short On Time? Here Is The Bullet List
- Long Range Rifle Scope: Schmidt & Bender PMII DT Scope
- Budget Rifle Scope: Barska IR Huntmaster Pro Riflescope
- Rimfire Riflescope: Simmons Truplex Reticle Rimfire Riflescope
- Rifle Scope for a .30-.60: Vortex Optics Diamondback HP 4-12x40 Riflescope
- Rifle Scope for a .308: No products found.
- Rifle Scope for an AR-10: Nikon M308 Riflescope
- Sniper Rifle Scope: Trijicon Accupoint Sniper Scope
**Below are our more detailed reviews. Click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.
While first learning how to shoot with iron sights is important so that you’re not totally helpless if anything happens to your scope, there’s simply no denying that a scope can dramatically boost anyone’s shooting performance.
The reason why a scope is important is because a scope allows you to zoom in on a target at far distances and make precise shots on that target. It’s also less complicated than learning iron sights. With iron sights you have to line up your rear sight with your front sight before you make the shot. With a scope you simply line up your crosshairs to the target, which appears to be much closer than it actually is, and then you make your shot.
There are a great number of different scopes and optics available on the market and the manufacturers of each of them are probably claiming that they’re the very best of the best. In this article we’re here to answer this question for you. We’re going to learn about the ins and outs of a scope and discuss each of the different features that you must have on it, such as durability, magnification adjustments, low light capabilities, and more.
After we discuss the details of a rifle scope, we’re going to tell you what the best rifle scopes are for each of the major categories: best scope for the money, best scope for an AR-10, best long range shooting scope, and more. By the end of this article you won’t just be extremely knowledgeable on scopes and know what your scope has to have if you do want the best of the best, but you’re also going to know the top recommended scopes currently available on the market by category.
We also have created specific scope buyers guides that offer more options. This article covers the over all best scope in each category but if you are looking for a specific type of scope like best spotting scopes check out the individual buyers guides.
- .308 Scope Buyers Guide
- .30-06 Scope Buyers Guide
- AR-10 Scope Buyers Guide
- Rimfire Scope Buyers Guide
- Sniper Scope Buyers Guide
- Budget Scope Buyers Guide
- Long Range Scope Buyers Guide
- Scope Mounts Buyers Guide
- Scope Rings Buyers Guide
Before we proceed, there is one very important question that you have to ask yourself:
Related Buyers Guides:
- Deals! 4 Of The Best Rifle Scopes For The Money 2021 [Cha-ching]
- Got Spindrift? 5 Best Long Range Rifle Scopes 2021 [Zoom & Boom]
- 1 Shot 1… 3 Best Sniper Scopes 2021 [Hobby or Battlefield]
- Sling Lead! 3 Of The Best Scope Rings 2021 [Stay Accurate]
- Rimfire! 4 Of The Best Rimfire Scopes 2021 [Budget To High-End]
Why do you Want a Rifle Scope?
This is a very important question to ask yourself that unfortunately too many shooters on the market for a scope don’t do. Are you buying a scope because you want one or because you need one? Will it be for recreational use or for a hobby such hunting or competition shooting?
Once you have a general idea of why you want or need in a scope, the next question then naturally becomes this: What are you going to use the scope for? The answer to this question is equally important because it determines the type and/or class of scope that you need to get. A scope that is intended for competition shooting is going to be different than a scope for hunting for example. A scope for a rimfire .22 rifle is arguably going to be different than a scope for a larger centerfire rifle. The type of scope that you buy determines how accurate it is, how close and far it can zoom, how quickly you’ll be able to identify a target, how quickly it can re-acquire a target after the recoil of the previous target, how durable it is, and how well it will hold up over the years.
How to Choose a Scope – Key Features to Look for in the Best Rifle Scope
There are specific features that you need to look for when on the market for a rifle scope. Remember that you’re looking for the best rifle scope that you can possibly get. The best rated scopes not only come with each of the features that we are able to talk about in detail, they actually exceed them in more than one area.
How do you choose the best rifle scope for you? The answer is it must have each of these features at the very least:
Wide Magnification Range and Objective Lens
If you’ve been researching rifle scopes for a while now, you’ve no doubt notice that the labels on the scopes include the following formula: #-#x#mm.
An example of this formula would be the following: 3-12x50mm. The first part of this formula, the 3-12x, is the magnification power of the scope. 3x is the least amount of magnification range and 12x is the highest. The 3x means that the image you are viewing through the scope is three times closer than it actually is, and the 12x means that it is twelve times closer.
The very fact that his hypothetical scope can have its magnification adjusted means that it is a variable scope, which is a feature the best rifle scope should have. Never go with a fixed scope or one where the magnification cannot be adjusted – it simply won’t offer the same performance as a variable model can. You will obviously pay more for a variable scope that has a wider magnification range. Depending on your purposes for owning the scope, it can be very well worth the extra cost. While there are some people who prefer fixed variable scopes for the reasons that they have fewer moving parts and are cheaper – if you want your scope to be top performing it needs to be a variable scope.
The last number on that formula, the 50mm, means that the objective lens of the scope is fifty millimeters in diameter. This is actually a very large objective lens for a scope since the standard and the one favored by many hunters in particular is considered to be around 40mm. 30mm would be an example of a small objective lens.
There are two primary factors to consider when it comes to optical lens size: The weight and size of the scope and light transmission. The overall diameter of your scope is directly tied to the diameter of your optical lens. Many shooters dislike a 40-50mm optical lens, for example, because of the added weight and space it takes up on their rifle and makes it less convenient for packing. On the other hand the wider your optical lens is, the more clear the image will be due to the enhance light transmission. It is this topic that we will now discuss in greater detail soon.
An objective lens size of 40mm is considered to be pretty standard for a scope, and much larger objective lens sizes exists. Even though an objective lens diameter of 50mm is considered to be large, there are ones that measure up to 75mm in diameter. You don’t need a scope with a 75mm diameter objective lens or anywhere close to it, even if you want the best rifle scope on the market that you can get. Sure that 75mm objective lens will transmit plenty of light in the scope and make it easy to view targets in dim conditions, but it’s not going to do you any good when you’re trying to pack a rifle around with an enormously large and heavy scope on it. Plus, you can make perfectly accurate shots at long distances with a 40mm to 50mm objective lens scope.
Don’t forget that the larger your objective lens is, the higher your scope will need to be mounted in order to accommodate that increase in height. This is nothing that a taller scope mount can’t handle, but it is still something to keep in mind. It's important to remember that the larger your scope becomes, the more unbalance and heavy it’s going to be. A heavy scope is far less comfortable to shoot and causes the time to bring it up to fire to be slower. This can ultimately make the difference between whether or not you bring home the meat or not, so find the right balance between size and weight with magnification power and lens diameter.
High Quality Light Transmission
As we have just mentioned the diameter of your scope’s optical lens directly impacts the quality of the light transmission. Is it the only factor impacting the light transmission? No, but it is certainly one of the larger factors. The best rifle scopes on the market all have high quality light transmission. To do that, they will need an optical lens diameter of at least 40mm.
Many people believe that rifle scopes are able to gather light in order to make the image through the lens visible. The reality is that the scope doesn’t gather light, but that it transmits light through the lenses to make the image through the scope visible to your eye. A majority of the scopes on the market have a light transmission rated at 90%, but if you want the best long-range shooting riflescope you can get for the money, it should have a light transmission rating of closer to 95%.
You can now understand why the size of your objective lens directly impacts the light transmission of the scope because the larger your scope’s objective lens is, the more light it will be able to transmit.
If you’ve ever held a scoped rifle up at an arm’s distance from you before, you may have noticed a small bit of light in the scope. The higher you turn on your scope’s magnification power, the smaller the exit pupil gets. The reason for that is because the farther that you zoom in on your target, the smaller your field of view gets. Field of view is another topic that we will be discussing shortly as well.
Plenty of Eye Relief
Eye relief, when it comes to scopes, is defined as the physical space that exists between the lens of the scope and your eye when you take aim with the scope. To be more specific, the distance that your eye needs to be from the lens in order to get a full image through the scope.
As it currently stands, the most amount of eye relief that exists for a typical rifle scope is four inches. That may not sound like much, but the truth is that four inches is more eye relief than you will probably ever need. Most rifle scopes don’t even have that four inches and instead only offer around three to three and a half inches of eye relief.
Longer eye relief is important especially in heavier calibers that deliver more recoil. For a big gun such as the .300 Win Mag or the .338 Lapua, the best rifle scope on the market that you can possibly get is going to have to have that four inches of eye relief. Scope eye is a term that refers to a cut or a bruise that can be inflicted on a shooter when the recoil from the rifle slams back into their eye and leaves a mark.
Keep in mind that the longer your field of view is, the more limited field of view that you’re going to have on your scope as well. Field of view is another important scope topic that you should understand that we will get to soon.
Before we move on, take note that the eye relief distance of your scope is important to know when actually mounting the scope onto your rifle. While placing your scope in a position where your neck will be the most comfortable is important, what comes first is that you mount your scope so that you don’t have to move your neck or head in any way to get a better field of view. The scope needs to be moved so that it fits with your eye, and not the other way around.
High Quality Lens Coating
The first rifle scope that was completely filled by nitrogen was introduced by Leupold in the late 1940s. A major problem that had been encountered with scopes before then had been the issue of fogging, which greatly impeded the ability of the shooter to look through the scope and especially caused problems in poor weather conditions. Filling up the scope with nitrogen is one way to protect the scope against the environment by removing it of oxygen.
Practically every scope that you see out on the market today will claim to be fog proof as well as waterproof. The reason why is because not only have practically every rifle manufacturer since the 1940s adopted Leupold’s nitrogen filled/oxygen purged scope technology, but in some cases manufacturers have even come up with their own anti-fog and waterproof technologies that work even better.
If you’re going to be putting your scoped rifle through its paces, meaning it’s going to inevitably be put through harsh or unusual conditions, it needs to be prepared to withstand those things. That means the outside needs to be durable and the lenses need to continue to work as well. Lenses that are multi-coated tend to work the best in humid and wet conditions, in that they reduce glare and blurriness, to the point that every scope manufacturer has now installed their scopes with multi-coated lenses.
Single coated lenses also exist, but they rarely can outperform the multi-coated variations. Generally the only time that a single coated lens will outperform a multicoated one is if the single layer lens is comprised of the utmost high quality and the multi-coated lens is comprised of multiple poor quality coatings – the overwhelming majority of the time this is not the case.
One of the biggest enemies of light and visibility when it comes to scope is light reflection. One of the purposes of lens coatings is to help reduce this glare, as well as to harden the glass against scratches.
Wide Field of View
Field of view, which is sometimes abbreviated as FOV, is measured to every hundred yards and is defined as the distance that you can view from your scope from left to right. The more you increase the magnification of your scope, the less field of view you get. As a general rule of thumb, a magnification of 3x yields a field of view of thirty to thirty five feet, while a magnification of 9x will yield a field of view of 12 to 14 feet.
Easy Turret Adjustments
The turret adjustments on the side of your scope will be made in MOA, or minute of angle, that translates to roughly one inch at one hundred yards. Since most turrets can be adjusted for every ¼ MOA, this means they can be adjusted to every twenty five yards. So each time you click your windage or elevation turrets, it will have a point of impact of roughly twenty five yards. Not all scopes are this way, since some have clicks of ½ or even the full one inch, but a strong majority of scopes are adjustable by ¼ MOA.
Let’s apply this information that we have learned to if you were to sight in your gun. Let’s say that you’re target shooting at a distance of approximately one hundred yards and the hole on paper from the bullet you just fired is about four inches low. Assuming that you’re using the scope with the ¼ a minute click, you would need to turn the ‘up’ arrow turret sixteen times.
The turrets on your scope will be located in a place that is known as the turret housing. The turret housings stick slightly out of the top and usually left side of the scope. Their size and how they can be adjusted vary by the scope, and there’s no ‘right way’ for either. Sometimes they are large enough that they can be turned and adjusted by your finger, but other times you will need to use something smaller and thinner such as a quarter in order to turn them. The advantage to larger turret housings is that they are easier to turn; the advantage to a smaller turret housings is that they are not in the way with a smaller profile and thus have a reduced chance of becoming damaged.
What is important, however, is that the turret housings be protected with a cap or an O-ring of some kind to prevent debris and/or moisture from getting in and damaging or clogging them up.
Your scope has to be durable. Your rifle is going be thrown, dropped, tossed around, and maybe even buried sooner or later. We don’t intend for these things to happen to our rifles, but they can happen. Furthermore, the weather and environment has a huge effect on the rifle and scopes too. If you’re out hunting or on a tactical mission, there is very little that you can do to keep your scope protected until you get back home. That’s why you need your scope to be durable, so that it can withstand the elements without help from you.
There are a lot of durable scopes out there but there are also a lot that are not durable at all. Do your research and find the ones that indisputably are. We’re already going to help you with this because each of our recommended rifle scopes that we’re going to be talking about shortly have been proven to be durable.
Last but not least, everything comes down to price. Scopes come in a very wide variety of price ranges. There are some that literally cost as little as $25 to those that cost over $5,000. As a word of advice, plan on spending between $100 to $500 for your first scope.
Remember that there are a lot of great scopes out there in every price range. In our list of recommended scopes by category we’ve even included a budget scope that costs less than a hundred bucks and yet offers many of the same precise and durable features like we’ve just talked about. Obviously the best of the best scopes are going to be in the highest price range, but you can still find an excellent scope to fit your needs for just a few hundred dollars.
More Related Buyers Guides:
The Importance of Scope Mounts
Something else that you have to buy along with your rifle scope is a scope mounting system. Without the mount, it will be impossible for you to attach your scope to your rifle to begin with. Many shooters will invest a lot of time and effort into researching the best rifle and scope to get but not so much in the scope mounts. Make no mistake: the scope mount is equally as important as the rifle and scope and it’s vitally critical that you get one that meets the dimensions of both.
The best scopes for modern tactical rifles use quick detachable mounts, which are comprised of two main parts: a scope base and a scope cover. There are also several different kinds of scope bases and scope covers each. However, the best kinds of bases are those that are made out of only one piece. Two piece bases are also available. The reason why is because a one piece base can keep your scope together better and more securely than a two piece base can.
As for the scope rings, they will need to match the dimensions of your scope base and your actual scope. Rings are constructed out of either aluminum or steel. Between the two, aluminum is lighter but steel is stronger. For more information on scope mounts, please review our article on the best scope mounts.
Best Rifle Scopes in 2021
Best Long Range Rifle Scope:
If you plan on doing long range shooting, which we’re going to define as shooting done at 1,000 yards or greater, then you absolutely need a high quality scope that is designed for the task. Schmidt & Bender is easily one of the most highly regarded scope manufacturers of all time. One reason why it is regarded as the best long range rifle scope is because many professional shooters consider the glass that they use for their lenses to be the highest quality scope glass that is currently available on the market.
The Schmidt & Bender PMII scope is the best long range rifle scope not only because of the quality of the glass, but also because of the extremely high magnification power of the scope as a whole. You’ll notice that the scope is very heavy when you pick it up so expect it to add some weight to your rifle. On the other hand, the trade off to that weight is a dramatic increase in durability over other scopes in the same class. Learn more about the best long range scopes here.
- Eye Relief: 3 ½ inches
- Illumination Settings: 11
- Length: 16 inches
- Weight: 44 ounces
- Windage Adjustment Range: 14 MOA
- Elevations Adjustment Range: 64 MOA
Best Budget Rifle Scope:
One of the best rifle scopes for the money and a perfectly viable option for those on a budget is the Barska IR Huntmaster Pro Riflescope. Despite the relatively low price of this scope, Barska invested heavily into the lens quality of the optic, and you’ll notice that just by looking through the scope. The crosshairs stand out even in dim conditions, which is something that many other budget scopes can’t do. The Barska IR Huntmaster Pro scope simply provides you with incredibly value for the money, considering that it is sold in just the 75 dollar range. Admittedly the scope is built for hunting rather than tactical purposes as the name suggests. Learn more about the best budget scopes here.
- Eye Relief: 2 ½ inches
- Weight: 21 ounces
- Fog Proof
- Elevation and windage adjustable
- Multi-Coated lenses
Best Rimfire Riflescope:
The .22 LR round and rimfire calibers in general are among the most popular calibers in the United States thanks to the low cost, small size, limited recoil, and versatility. A rimfire rifle deserves a scope just as much as any centerfire rifle does. One of the best rimfire scopes for the money is the Simmons Truplex Reticle Rimfire Riflescope.
While this scope was designed by Simmons with the .22 Magnum specifically in mind, it will still work very well with all other rimfire rounds including the .22 Long Rifle. Simmons markets the TruPlex as a budget minded rimfire scope even though it delivers the same goods as a higher priced scope would. For example, you would be paying a little more than 50 dollars for a scope that delivers a limited glare through the lens, no blurriness out of the box, and even sturdy mounting rings that you would otherwise have had to buy separately. For a rimfire scope, there are few scopes out there that can provide the same value as the Simmons. Learn more about the best rimfire scopes here.
- HD Clarity Optics
- One piece tube construction for lightweight and durability
- Fully coated lenses
- Fog proof
- Ships with mounting rings
Best Rifle Scope for a .30-.60:
Vortex, though being around for a briefer amount of time than other highly regarded scope manufacturers such as Leupold, Bushnell, or Schmidt & Bender, has proven that they can build some of the highest quality scopes on the market today. If you’re looking for the ultimate riflescope for your .30-06 bolt action rifle, the Vortex Diamondback scope is one of your best options.
The biggest standout of the Vortex Diamondback scope is the lenses. Vortex has not only made the lenses multi-coated (as most scope manufacturers do), but they have also constructed them using a low dispersion material that hugely improves resolution and captures more light to make visibility better in darker situations. This, combined with the durability of the scope and its high magnification power, is what makes it one of the best .30-06 rifle scopes available. Learn more about the best scopes for .30-06 here.
- VIP warranty
- Low dispersion glass
- Anti-reflective coating
Best Rifle Scope for a .308:
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One of the most popular rifle centerfire cartridges in the whole world, if not the most popular, is the .308 Winchester round. It largely replaced the use of the .30-06 in the U.S. Military (in addition to 5.56x45mm NATO) and has proven itself to be a capable round in making long range and precise shots. A rifle chambered for .308 Winchester would be immensely well served with the aid of a high quality scope, and the best scope for the .308 would be in the name of the Leupold Mark AR Mod 1 Rifle Scope. This is a tactical scope that is intended to be used on .308 semi-automatic rifles but it can also just as easily be used on bolt-action rifles too.
One thing that is very unique about this scope is how the tube has been purged of nitrogen and argon, which translates to the scope being completely fog proof, shockproof, and waterproof. The lenses are multi-coated to boost clarity and reduce glare and blurriness, and the MilDot reticle is easily adjustable. This is a scope manufactured for precision shooting, no more and no less, and will serve you well for tactical purposes, for competition shooting matches, and for hunting alike. For more information on the best scope for .308, please click here.
- Argon and nitrogen purged tube
- Matte black finish
- Quantum optical system
- Tactile power selector
Best Rifle Scope for an AR-10:
They may be more well known for their high quality photography cameras, but their scopes are of a no lesser quality. Nikon’s M308 riflescope was designed and tested specifically as a precision scope for the AR-10 rifle. As one of the best AR-10 riflescopes on the market, Nikon has constructed the M308 riflescope with Nikon’s Clear-Coat Optical system that further enhances the multi-coated lenses that you would already expect there to be on the scope. This scope has been specifically tested with an AR-10 by Nikon to shoot very accurately at distances of over 800 yards. You can see with this scope as closely as you want thanks to the ¼ MOA adjustment. Learn more about the best scopes for AR-10 here.
- Installed with Nikon’s Clear Coat Optical system
- Wide magnification range
- Quick focus eyepiece
- Fog proof, waterproof, and shockproof
Best Sniper Rifle Scope:
Trijicon is a name that is most commonly associated with the ACOG scope that is most commonly used on AR-15 rifles, but their Accupoint scope is even better for sniping purposes and long distance shooting. This is a scope that was not made with hunting or competition shooting in mind. It’s a scope that was made with fighting and sniping on the battlefield in mind.
Two qualities that a sniping scope has to meet, with no questions asked, is high durability and the ability to shoot precisely at long ranges. The Trijicon Accupoint scope effortlessly delivers on both of these two points. This scope has been subjected to Trijicon’s harsh torture tests to ensure that it’s ready for the battlefield. This isn’t a scope that’s just waterproof and shockproof. It’s a scope that can be thrown around on the ground and still run like a champ afterwards. The reason why the Trijicon Accupoint is so durable is because it is made out of a single piece of sealed aluminum that keeps all water out at depths of up to 10 feet.
Trijicon may build their products to last, but something else the Accupoint excels at is accuracy. You’ll get the clearest image possible through the glass thanks to the multi-coated lens. With an objective lens that is a little over 50mm, glare is minimized and light transmission is maximized.
You can probably guess that the Trijicon Accupoint scope doesn’t come cheap, but then again, no serious sniping scope does either. The Trijicon Accupoint is simply the best long range sniping scope on the market there is. It’s proven its worth in military combat operations all over the globe, and it simply won’t fail you no matter what you put it through. Learn more about the best sniper scopes here.
- All weather rugged construction
- Multi-coated lenses
- Zero distortion
- Fiber Optic technology to adjust brightness level in low light Conditions
- Tritium Phosphor lamp
- Battery free illumination
- Aircraft grade aluminum outside material
Best Rifles Scope Conclusion
The information in this article is intended to tell you everything you need to know about scopes, what to look for, and then the highest recommended models in each category of scopes for you to take a look at. Remember that there are different purposes for scopes and not all scopes are made for the same reason. If you’re on a budget, for example, the Simmons scoped that we talked about will be one of your best values. If you need an AR-10 scope, Nikon has specifically tested their M308 scope for the AR-10 so they’ve been proven to go hand in hand.
Trying to find the best rifle scope for your rifle can be a challenging process, but it is not at all an impossible one. As long as you conduct enough research, you will be able to find what you need. Much of your research is already completed just by reading this article. In due course, you will find that a scope on your rifle greatly increases your overall shooting performance. You’ll be able to shoot longer distances, and shoot at those distances more accurately than before.
Thank you for visiting Reloadingpresso.com. If our article has helped you make a decision about the best rifle scope for you, please click through to Amazon using one of our buy buttons. We are an Amazon Affiliate website and how we keep our website running is through the small commission we receive when you purchase a rifle scope from Amazon after visiting our site. There is no extra expense for you – the price is the same as if you went to Amazon directly. If you're looking for more than just the best rifle scope, please review our Best Reloading Kit Buyers Guide and our Best Gun Safe Buyers Guide.