Best Rifle Scope of 2016 – In-Depth Review

Whether you’re hunting for survival, or shooting for fun, buying the best rifle scope will increase your chances of hitting the target. As you zoom in on your target, it becomes easier land the shot. The thing is, there are dozens and dozens of rifle scopes on the market. How can buy the right one? That’s what we’ll talk about in this article. Our guide will show you how to buy the best rifle scope for needs. We’ll also show you the different types of scopes and what makes them special. That way, you can make a more informed decision when shopping for one.

How Scopes Work

A rifle scope relies on the same basic principles as telescopes. As light passes through the objective lens, it gets focused towards a single point within the scope. The ocular lens then magnifies the light from the focal point, allowing you to see distances from further away. So whenever you look through a scope, you’re basically seeing ultra-magnified light. As you’ll learn about later, all rifle scopes come with some type of reticle (usually a crosshair), which is designed to help you hone in on your target much more easily.

Best Rifle Scope

Benefits of Buying the Best Rifle Scope

The main feature of a rifle scope is that it magnifies the thing you’re shooting at. This makes you feel like you’re closer to it, making the shot easier. Note, rifle “sights” are different than rifle “scopes”. A sight, like a red dot sight, does NOT magnify the target. So while it sometimes might be listed as a rifle scope, know that it’s not. Here are some of the main benefits to buying the best rifle scope:

Better Accuracy

Best Rifle ScopeThe first and most obvious advantage to shooting with a scope is that you’ll be much more likely to hit your targets. Lining up a target with a scope is way easier than doing it with stock iron sights. In the beginning, shooting with a scope might feel a bit “awkward”. But over time, you’ll come to realize the full potential of your scope. It will make you a better shooter overall, and this is one of the main reasons why people buy them.

Greater Confidence

Best Rifle ScopeAs you practice more and more with the best rifle scope, you’ll subconsciously become a more confident shooter. Having a powerful scope on your rifle is like wearing iron knuckles during a boxing match- you’ll feel very confident. As you zoom in closer and closer to the target, it might feel like you can reach out and touch it. In other words, it increases your chance of pulling off the shot. This is a huge advantage to buying the best rifle scope.

Longer Shots

Best Rifle ScopeWith regular iron sights, you’re limited to short-range shots. But with a rifle scope, you can now hit targets from very far away. So now when you’re hunting, and you see a deer 75+ yards away, you can take the shot without worrying about missing. It’s this kind of optic power that will make you a more efficient hunter in the wild. Heck, with a good rifle scope, you can even hit a target from 150 yards (450 feet)- longer than the length of a football field!

Rifle Scope Buyer’s Guide – What to Look For in a Rifle Scope

Buying the best rifle scope won’t be easy if you’re a beginner. But once you’re finished with this section, you’ll know how to separate the good from the bad. Write these tips down, because they will help you. Here are some features to watch out for when shopping for a quality scope:

Magnification

Scope MagnificationA scope’s magnification will tell you approximately how much closer the target will appear when looking through the scope. For example, a scope with 10x magnification will make it seem like the target is 10x closer. So if you’re shooting at a target 100 yards away, it will seem like it’s only 10 yards out!

Scopes can have either fixed or variable magnification. If you’re going to use a scope with variable magnification, then get a model with lower magnification. Why? Because higher magnification for a close range target is going to reduce your field of view, making the shot harder rather than easier! Here are the pros and cons to both:

MagnificationAdvantageDisadvantage
Variable (e.g. 3x to 9x, etc.) Allows you to cover a greater range of distances. Isn't as reliable as fixed magnification.
Fixed (3x, 4x, etc.) Better reliability and easier to use. You're restricted to only one type of shot.

Field of View

Scope Field of ViewWhen shopping for the best rifle scope, you also need to look at the scope’s field of view. The field of view is the area that’s visible through the scope. In general, a wider field of view is considered a good thing.

Keep in mind that field of view (often abbreviated as “FOV”) will change with magnification. As magnification goes up, FOV goes down (and vice versa). Take for instance, a 3-9x variable scope. This model might have a 10-meter field of view at 3x, but at 9x, the field of view might drop to under 5 meters. Don’t worry if all this sounds confusing- you’ll it will become second nature after buying the best rifle scope.

Reticle

The purpose of the reticle is to provide you something to aim with. It can also help you estimate distance. There are many different styles of reticles to pick from. Some are simple, while others are a bit more complex. The most common reticle that you’ll see is the crosshair. This is simply made up of one vertical line, and one horizontal line (which can be “thick” or “fine). But it’s not the only one. Refer to the following chart to see other popular styles:

Reticle TypeDescriptionBenefit
Duplex The article is thicker towards the edges and thinner towards the center. The thinner center allows for more precise aiming.
Mil-Dot Similar to the duplex, with the major difference being that it has "Mil Dots" at the center to help assess distance/range. All of the benefits of a duplex with the added benefit of being able to assess distance/range.
Etched Contains additional circles and dots to help the shooter make a more accurate shot. Estimate things like drift, range, and even compensate for bullet drop.
Illuminated The reticle is lit with an LED that doesn't require a battery. Will help increase your precision/visibility when lighting conditions aren't optimal.

Light Transmission

All scopes all the transmission of light. However, some scopes allow more light to pass through than others. Very advanced scopes can achieve a light transmission rating of 95% or more. The average scope will only go as far as about 90% depending on its magnification. When shopping for the best rifle scope, try to buy one that has good light transmission.

Advanced Scopes
95 %
Average Scopes
90 %

Having good light transmission will allow you to hunt in conditions where the sun isn’t fully out. Even in fully lit conditions, the image through your scope will be clearer and brighter with good light transmission. Scopes with poor light transmission tend to have foggier images, especially as the sun begins to set. This is just something else to think about when shopping for the best rifle scope.

Parallax Adjustable

There’s something called a parallax adjustment that will allow you to hone in on distance targets more precisely using very high magnification settings. When you’re shooting at distances longer than 150 meters, and you’re using very high magnification, even a slight error could result in massive inaccuracy. This video will explain it in more detail:

Best Rifle Scope – Comparing Different Priced Models

Not everyone is going to have the same budget when buying a hunting scope. That’s understandable and expected. For this reason, we’re going to review the best rifle scope for each individual price range (under $100, under $200, etc.). That way, no matter what your budget is, you’ll still be able to find something that suits your needs. Rifle scopes can cost as little as $40, to as much as $2000. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Let’s check out the best model for each level of pricing.

Important Note: Keep in mind that the price of rifle scopes is always fluctuating. I’m giving you the current prices that I see as I write this article. Later on, the prices may increase or decrease, which may cause a discrepancy in what you see here. So if you see any pricing differences between this article and its real price, I apologize.

Best Rifle Scope Under $100

Best Rifle ScopeFor under $100, the best model you can buy is the Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Multi-X Reticle Rifle Scope. It’s 12 inches long, comes with 3.3 inches of eye relief, and is 100% waterproof. This low-light rifle scope comes with 40mm objective lens, and 4-12x magnification. It’s fog-proof construction and multi-x reticle make it worth every bit of $100. It’s also a well-reviewed model that’s backed by a reputable brand. If you’re looking for something that’s reliable, durable, and precise (for under $100), then this is the scope to buy. It might not be the best rifle scope overall, but it’s definitely one of the best in its price range.

Check It Out On Amazon.com!

Best Rifle Scope Under $200

Best Rifle ScopeIn the $200 category, you’re going to find a lot of quality models. But my favorite has got to be the Redfield Revenge Rifle Scope. There are a few reasons why this is a good model. First, due to its quality building material, it’s a very durable model. It offers 3.8 to 11.7 actual magnification, and offers excellent field of view and image quality. Countless customers have praised this scope for being “easy to zero” and “easy to mount and adjust”. When shopping for the best rifle scope under $200, you won’t be disappointed with the Redfield Revenge Rifle Scope.

Check It Out On Amazon.com!

Best Rifle Scope Under $300

Best Rifle ScopeMoving up in our price range we have the $300 models. For this range, the winner is going to be the Nikon PROSTAFF 5 Rifle Scope. This scope comes with magnification from 3.5x to 14x, as well as a 40mm objective lens. Thanks to the scopes signature “Spring-Loaded Instant Rest Turrets”, you’ll be able to make adjustments quickly and easily.

Also, since this is a Nikon product, you can buy with confidence knowing that you’ll be backed by a reputable brand. If shooting long distances is your goal, then this is the scope to do it with. It definitely qualifies as the best rifle scope you can buy for under $300.

Check It Out On Amazon.com!

Best Rifle Scope Under $500

Best Rifle ScopeI’ll- choosing the best rifle scope in this category was hard. There are so many good options for under $500, but I managed to narrow it down. For this price range, buy the Vortex Optics Viper Rifle Scope. Not only does the name sound pretty cool, but its features are amazing. For example, it’s made out of aircraft grade aluminum, ensuring maximum durability. There is also a side knob parallax adjustment that will increase your versatility in the field. The model has a 5-out-of-5 stars on Amazon, which really says something.

Check It Out On Amazon.com!

Best Rifle Scope Under $1,500

Best Rifle ScopeNow we’re going to talk about the most expensive model on this list- the Carl Zeiss Optical Conquest Rapid Z Ballistic Reticle Rifle Scope. In short, this thing is the real deal. If you’ve got the funds, and are someone who takes shooting your gun very seriously, then this is the scope to go with.

To begin, it’s got an impressive 5-25 magnification, along with a 50mm objective lens. But it doesn’t stop there. The scope offers a 3.5-inch eye relief in order to help protect your face during recoil. It’s built to last, offering some of the strongest materials in the industry. If you’re looking for the best rifle scope under $1,500, then this is it. You’ll definitely get what you pay for (and more) with the Carl Zeiss Optical Conquest Rapid Z Ballistic Reticle Rifle Scope.

Check It Out On Amazon.com!

Best Rifle Scope – Bottom Line

Whether you’re in a survival situation, or are shooting for fun, it helps to have the best rifle scope that you can have. A good scope can make far away targets feel like they’re right in front of you. This will give you more confidence, as well as make it more likely that you’ll hit the target. Keep in mind that we’ve only scratched the surface. There are many more models out there that we didn’t cover in this article. When shopping for the best rifle scope, always read reviews and specifications. This will ensure that you find something that suits your budget and shooting style.

Resources

  1. Complete Guide to Riflescopes (Field and Stream)
  2. Best Rifle Scope (Outdoor Hill)
  3. Rifle Scope Reviews (Optics Planet)
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