Top 10 Best Hunting Scope (Jan. 2020) : Review & Buyer’s Guide
- Erik Himmel
When in the field, your senses heighten; you strain your eyes to spot the prey or lean the ear to get the faintest whispers. While you may trust your vision, you can sight the target from a far distance with greater accuracy with the help of a proper hunting scope.
After your weapon, the next most vital item in your kit is the scope. They have specialized features that allow the hunter to hit the target at distances of 300 to 1000 yards and beyond.
But how do you know which one is right for you? The answer is before your face. We’ve made things easy for you. This buying guide is packed with lots of information to help you choose the best hunting scope that can meet your needs.
Desirous to learn about these devices? Keep reading!
What You Will Get Here
- Things to Consider When Buying a Hunting Scope
- How Did We Pick the Best?
- Our Top 10 Product List
- Overall Best: Vortex Optics CF2-31015 Crossfire 2 4-12x44 Riflescope
- Best for Low Light Conditions: CVLIFE 2.5-10x40e Red & Green Illuminated Scope
- Best for Hog Hunting: ATN X-Sight II HD Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope w/1080p Video
- Best for Varmint Hunting: Simmons Truplex .22 Mag Riflescope
- A List of 5 Other Products We Reviewed
- A Quick Guide to Different Hunting Scope Terms
Things to Consider When Buying a Hunting Scope
How Are You Hunting?
Responding to a fast-moving target could be difficult if you’re hunting in a dense forest. To beat this, you’ll only need low power scopes. But if you’re preying on robust species like bears, hogs or buffalo, optics with high power is the perfect option to buy.
Compatibility with Your Weapon
Scopes are created differently and therefore; you could suffer severe consequences when using optics that are not specific to your firearm. Large amount of energy is released when firing a rifle. This generates shock which travels through anything that attached to the weapon including your arms and mounts. Ensure that you’re buying a scope that can withstand such enormous power from the firearm.
Besides, the scope’s crosshair and reticle should match with the caliber and you must know how to use the reticle to make easy adjustments per round. Since it involves massive spending, it’s perfect for getting a rifle you’re compatible with before buying a scope.
Hunting Range and Necessary Magnification
Knowing your shooting environment beforehand will direct you on the right scope to buy. This is because new long-range shooters might fall into the temptation to purchase scopes with more magnification power than they’ll need. Note that there are significant differences in target acquisition and shot accuracy for both range and field hunting.
Too much magnification results in delays in spotting a moving animal and could also frustrate the processes of sight restoration. Most long range target shootings could harness distances up to 1500 yards so you’ll need a scope with variable power to be able to adjust the magnification. However, keeping the scope at low setting will allow you to spot animals at close range easily.
For calibers like a.22, a 2x – 6x scope should do the job since you’ll only shoot from at most 50 yards. A 3x to 9x unit should work with a large caliber like a.243. But if your distant shots, a 24x magnification will be perfect for you.
Besides, if you’re using a low caliber rifle like the Ruger Mini-30, it’s perfect to opt for a moderate power scope. Calibers of this category cannot hit targets at a far distance, so you’ll not need a powerful sight. However, a powerful rifle like the Remington 7mm will need high-power scopes to perform well.
Power or Magnification
While a lot of factors will determine the right scope’s power for you, it’s also ideal to understand the magnifying levels of these scopes. For example, a sight with 3-10x rating implies that objects will increase in size by 3 times when at its lowest setting and can magnify objects 10 times when at its highest level of adjustment. Higher magnification is excellent for long-distance targets but results in a smaller field of view.
Fixed or Variable Magnification
Most Scopes offer either fixed or variable power levels. A fixed scope has a single level of magnification, while a variable scope allows you to change levels to suit the situation at hand. For example, it’ll be challenging to shoot from a distance of 200 yards with a 25x scope than with a scope that can easily switch between 6x to 25x.
The millimeter at the end of the magnification (6x10mm) gives us the diameter of the objective lens, which determines the level of light that is transferrable to the image.
A much larger lens will allow more light through the glass, resulting in a brighter image though it comes with some challenges. First, it’ll take much space on the rifle as it’s mounted higher than standard leading to issues with accuracy and uncomfortable viewing posture. Also, it’s heavier than standard sizes and can be unfriendly to most users.
You can’t possibly neglect the relationship between the size of objective lens and the unit’s power. For example, the image becomes unclear if the magnification is high but the lens is small. With this in mind, the scopes with high power often come with larger glasses. Nevertheless, the quality of the lenses also plays a role in the clarity of the vision.
The ratio of the diameter of lens to magnification gives us the exit pupil. This value determines quantity of light reaching the eye under poor light conditions. You don’t need much exit pupil when shooting on daylight since your pupil already becomes smaller. This value shouldn’t be less than 4mm for any standard scope
The maximum allowable distance between your eye and the window without disrupting the field of view is the eye relief. A short eye relief could affect your opinion when you're too far from the eyepiece. Hunters with glasses or powerful firearms need scopes with more extended eye relief to compensate for the distance.
There are lots of crosshair types and rein hunting scopes such that finding the right one for yourself becomes difficult. Each of them has their applications which you’ll learn as you progress. For now, we’ll discuss the standard, target, and measure types.
- Standard – These types trends among short-range shooters as they appear like a cross in the image and are often easier to spot.
- Target - Target crosshairs have a dot or circle at the center of the cross and are mostly applied when the lighting is deficient or in rifles with low firepower. They’re not ideal for distance targets since the dot could blur the vision.
- Measuring - They have short markings on the cross to let you know your distance from the target.
The term focal planes refer to the position of the reticle in the tube which is either at the rear or front of the lenses. It’s pretty important since it’ll significantly influence your sight’s accuracy. You’ll either find scopes with first or second focal planes.
- First Focal Plane (FFP) – This means that the point of the reticle is at the front of the lens. At this position, the size of the reticle changes with the level of magnification. It makes it easier to spot or shoot objects at a far distance.
- Second Focal Plane (SFP) - Reticles that are at the rear of the lenses are referred to as second focal plane. They’re perfect for short distance targets as the size of the reticle remains the same despite changing the magnification.
Using scopes with Bullet Drop Compensator (BDC) reticles can create a whole new experience for different category of hunters as it helps to remove uncertainties in the distance. Shooters will have better ammunition drop compensation over span across varying range settings.
Number of Adjustments
The various dials or clicks on the tube are collectively called turrets. By inspecting the scope’s exterior, you’ll notice about two to three turrets which can handle about four to five settings.
Each manufacturer may decide to alter the configuration, but you’ll always locate elevation at the top, windage on the right, and parallax adjustment settings on the left of the scope.
- Parallax errors can create a substantial negative impact on your performance so the need for their compensation. Most of the high-end scopes don’t have parallax issues, enabling you to view the reticle from any angle.
- Elevation adjustment setting determines how high or low you can acquire the target. It’s mostly applied in ranges with varying terrain.
- Windage effects come handy when targeting moving objects. Each click is equalled ¼ MOA (Minute of Angle). At 100 yards, one MOA equals an inch, and this ratio is the same despite the distance.
- Ocular ring - You can adjust the reticle’s focus to your desire using the ocular ring, which is close to the ocular bell. This should be your first adjustment immediately you’re at the range. And once you’ve got it right, they’ll be no need to alter the setting. Wrong reticle adjustments could cause headaches and other discomforts.
- Power ring - The last setting is referred to as the power ring, which controls the magnification of a variable power scope.
Tube’s Design & Construction
Most scopes have thin tubes that house both the ocular lens and objective lens at each end. The main body of the scope is mostly an inch thick though this might vary. The weight of the tube increases with the size though larger containers offer better magnification and light transfer.
Also, the tube’s thickness will determine the size of the mounting ring, space, and position of dials or clicks.
The exterior of top hunting rifle scopes is built from sturdy metals like aluminum to prevent corrosion and also withstand the shock from recoil. It should also keep the lens and reticle from harm.
Purging and Sealing
Purging refers to the act of sealing the tube with O-rings and also treating with special gases to enhance its lifespan. If a scope isn’t purged nor made with corrosion-resistant materials, then it’s of poor quality.
High-end scopes have different layers of chemical treatments on the lens to improve the clarity of the image you see. It prevents the formation of fog on the glass which often causes blurry images. Besides, it also acts as antiglare for both the picture and the lens. As this affects the quality of the image, it also plays a role in its cost.
Since you’ll use expose these scopes to dust, rain, and sun, it’s crucial to get one that offers top protection against these forces of nature. Besides, scopes that are purged with nitrogen or argon gases will protect the lenses from fog or condensates, which would mar the image.
Mil or MOA?
Your country or education background will determine if you need the Mil or MOA systems. The Minute of Angle (MOA) uses the imperial measurement system, which is for shooters that are familiar with them, especially those from the USA. Most rangers living outside the USA prefer the Metric Millaradians (MIL) dimensions. Also, you’re buying a scope that both turret and reticle have the same unit of calibration.
How Did We Pick the Best?
We selected our top 10 products through rigorous testing, research, and expert opinion. However, we can’t say that all the models were perfect; but we focused our analyses on special features like magnification, coatings, brand, eye relief, build quality, and much more.
We spent 20 hours checking out the most popular scopes on the market and then listed out the best 20 after analyzing over 14 of their features. We bought these products and then tested them ourselves though we had help from a team of volunteers.
To arrive at our top 10 picks, we consulted with expert shooters and also checked Amazon for the comments/ratings from the buyers. After gathering the data, we could choose our overall best. Also, we categorized them depending on their features or areas of application.
Our Top 10 Product List
This Vortex Optics Crossfire II has the highest number of positive features among the products we tested. It offers top-notch performance than any other scope within its price category.
It’s available in many power options so you’ll only pick the one that suits your hunting style. It features the BDC MOA reticle design that helps to improve performance by eliminating guesswork during windage adjustments. It also boasts of the SFP eyepiece which allows you to change the magnification without changing the size of the reticle resulting in better shot accuracy and reliability.
It wasn't the most powerful on this report but provided a magnification of 4-12 x 44. This means you can easily adjust your target distance for achieving both near and distance shots. To boost the image quality, it features anti-reflective and fully multi-coated lenses.
This scope has a single piece tube build from high-grade aluminum material to ensure that it’s durable and resistant to shocks. It’s purged with nitrogen and sealed with O-ring making it perfect for all weather conditions.
The Crossfire II offers a long eye relief which combines with the well-designed window that helps you to acquire the target with ease. Its autofocus eyepiece ensures that you easily spot the reticle and can return to hunting without delay.
When comparing the Crossfire II with other models we’ve analyzed, it got the highest average Amazon user rating of 4.6 stars from 1492 reviews at the time of the research. At less than $170, it falls into the mid-price range.
Though not cheap, this scope is made to a high specification that outweighs our expectation. It’s highly rated than other models on this list. Looking beyond the price, it’s a reliable option for achieving excellent marksmanship in mid-range hunting.
Much like the Vortex Optics, the CVLIFE is a brand with a difference. This model is one of the most advanced on the market at this time. It’s packed with top-quality features like red & green reticles allowing you to perform under any light condition. The laser on it is a great bonus, though not more transparent at daytime; but functions better as darkness approaches. Fortunately, it’s powered by a long-lasting CR 2032 battery but makes it a little heavier than our first choice.
This tactical rifle scope is available only in the 2.5 – 10x40mm power option making it the best model for short range shooting. The glasses are fully multicoated offering over 90% light penetration resulting in clear and precise image formation.
It comes with a 20mm scope mount that enables you to attach or detach it from your rifle easily. Its other fantastic feature is the windage and elevation settings that allow you to shoot at moving targets by rotating the dials.
This scope has a short eye relief of 2.5 - 3 inches; from our observation, it’s perfect for low recoil rifles.
It was also a popular choice on Amazon, having scored 4 stars out of a total of 1844 reviews when we last checked. It costs around $40, so it’s, therefore, cheaper than our top pick and is worth the money.
This product is affordable and ideal for short-range target shootings. It comes with great features like laser and color reticles for achieving precise shots. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly scope with advanced features, you can’t go wrong with this one.
The UTG BugBuster should be one of the first brands to come to mind when searching for a dependable scope. This one offers impressive features and performs at such high level you’ll not expect for a model under 100.
Its most separating feature is the adjustable finger knobs with a locking system that prevents you from accidentally changing the position of the dials. It means you can always shoot with confidence knowing that you’ve got those settings right.
This scope boasts of a parallax-free view from a distance of 3 yards to infinity. Like our second pick, this UTG BugBuster has both red and green reticles allowing you to use it under any lighting condition. It uses the mil-dot reticle which pairs with the Tactical Range Estimating (TRE) technology to improve your performance and accuracy in many ways. It has an excellent 3-9x magnification and a 32mm objective lens. It’s designed for quick target acquisition, making it an ideal long-range scope for shooting fierce animals at greater distances.
You may experience slight issues with the alignment of the reticle when adjusting the windage and elevation settings. But this can’t be a turn-off to us since the misalignment is doesn’t matter.
We also noticed that the magnification knob was too tight for us. But since it’s a budget option; everything can’t be perfect. It costs a little above $90.
It was among the trendiest options on Amazon having scored 4.3 stars from 2352 users at the time of the research.
The scope’s quality was superb; it never failed throughout use. It’s a dependable gear when hunting for fast-moving animals or deer.
Recommended for hog hunting and long-range tactical shooting, the ATN X-Sight II delivers clear images at any time of the day. Sold a little under 500 bucks, it features smart HD optics technology that allows you to pick up targets at both night and day.
It’s equipped with a Recoil Activated Video (RAV) technology. This feature enables the hunter to record and save the videos in an SD card where you can post online or share with your loved ones. There is a built-in range calculator that provides you with the target’s distance for achieving the perfect shot.
Amazingly, this ATN X-Sight II model can interface with your smart devices allowing you access to features like ballistic calculator and rangefinder from a remote location. You can use this spotting scope with a rangefinder to make the best use of this model. It also features an extended range infrared light that pairs with the night vision capability to illuminate the hunting area. This model comes with an impressive field of view measuring at 240 feet at 1000 yards.
It’s powered by 4 AA batteries with a 22-hour runtime, meaning you can enjoy all the features without the need to recharge or replace the battery. Also, the scope has a micro USB port for an external power source.
This product measures at 11.6 x 3.4 x 3.1 inches and weighs 2.15 pounds, making it pretty heavier than most models we’ve got. We discovered that it held up substantially on smaller rifles than high caliber ones. So far, it got many positive reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.1 stars from a total of 1345 buyers at the time of we checked last.
This one comes with superior features and functionality, which you’ll only find in most high-end brands. It’s designed to perform in both day and night making it one of the best scopes for pro hunters.
Created in 1983, Simmons has been in the pursuit of flooding the market with affordable and technologically advanced hunting scopes. This Truplex scope series surpasses other models they’ve released in lots of ways. It has a single-piece construction making it light, durable, and easier to handle.
This one has a magnification of 3-9x32 which pairs with eye relief and high-quality glass resulting in brighter and sharper images. The scope is resistant to shock, water, and fog, making it perfect for all hunting missions. The lenses are coated to improve the image quality while eliminating color distortions.
It features a parallax correction preset which is an excellent innovation from the company allowing you to achieve accurate reticle alignment irrespective of your distance from the eyepiece. We’ve noticed that most users complained against its limited eye relief and the difficulty in adjusting the elevation or windage dial without using a screwdriver.
This Truplex model comes with SureGrip designs on its turrets to reduce slip when operating under unfavorable weather conditions. Included in the package is a set of dovetail mounting rings but you’ll need to purchase a different mount if it’s not compatible with your rail.
It’s also a popular option on Amazon and has received 4.2 stars out of 1502 users at the time of writing. Finally, it’s sold around $40, so it’s cheaper than most models on sale today.
These scopes are sturdy and have been adopted by many hunters for preying on big games like a varmint. They’re affordable though without top-notch features like lasers and night vision which are common in most expensive models.
A List of 5 Other Products We Reviewed
Here is another product from Vortex making our top ten. This Diamondback series is more expensive than our top pick; therefore, you can expect the quality to be up there too. It’s ideal for big games and long-range applications.
It has a versatile 3.5-10x magnification with large 50mm objective lenses that combines with special glass coatings to maximize your performance. It comes with the Vortex lifetime warranty, which is indicative of the company’s commitment to customer’s satisfaction.
It’s purged with argon and sealed, making it durable and free from fog or water. It features metallic turrets that allow you to reset to zero after sighting. Besides, you can make the necessary adjustments without any special tools.
It currently retails around $250, so it’s a little pricier than our first choice. It scored 4.1 stars from 727 users on Amazon.
This one is easy to use, and you wouldn’t need tools for the adjustments. It may cost more than most of the modes here, but you’ll enjoy excellent performance and durability, so it’s worth the money.
If our 6th pick seems expensive and your desires are for a pocket-friendly option, you can always choose this CVLIFE Riflescope. It’s in the same price range with our previous CVLIFE model, but this one has a power of 6-24x and objective lens of 50mm making it ideal for long-range shootings.
The zoom turrets on this scope were tricky to us at first, which was the reason most users had issues with the image quality, but we had a way to clear things up. It’s three focus settings must align with each other before we could obtain a good view. These are the Adjustable Power Magnification (APM), Quick focus, (QF) and Adjustable Objective (AO). First, we picked a target with an unknown distance keeping the AO at infinity, APM at maximum and QF at the most precise position before viewing the image. At this time, what we saw was still blurry, so we had to reduce the APM level until the vision became clear.
Its Mil-dot reticle was outstanding. Besides, you can calibrate the range finder to suit the type of weapon you're using though it could be complicated for most users.
This product comes with two dovetail mounts, but we’ll recommend your buy better quality mounts if you’re using it on high caliber rifles. We’ve used in diverse environmental conditions and didn’t experience any clarity issues.
It was also a popular option on Amazon with many positive reviews. It was given 4.2 stars out of about 2076 customer ratings at the time of the research.
This is a well-built scope for the price, and as long as you’re using it correctly, it should provide you with many years of pleasure.
This is one of the sturdiest models we’ve come across during our search for the best hunting scopes. This scope has a durable design. It’s completely sealed and purged with nitrogen gas making it proof to shock, rain or fog.
The reticle is thick but still clear enough to spot the target under dim light. The lenses are fully coated for perfect illumination and maximum clarity. It comes with an Illumination Enhancing Technology (IET) for the reticle, providing you with 36 color options which you can easily change with successive clicks of a button. This is an excellent relief for shooters with eye problems since they can always find a suitable color for their eyes.
The focus knob allows you to hit the target easily even when you’re at 15 yards or 200 yards away. Zeroing was pretty easy, and once we’d locked it, it could handle over 200 rounds without the need to alter the settings. It’s compact, measuring at 26.4 x 4 x 5.3cm and packaged with 30mm Picatinny rings for easy mounting on recommended rifles.
It’s in the $100 price range, which means it’s still an affordable option for many persons. On Amazon, it gained an average rating of 4.2 stars from 1077 buyers at the time we checked last. It shows that this product is among the favorite ones for a lot of hunters.
This is a valuable scope with great performance. It’s portable, durable, and affordable, so you’ll have no issues using it anywhere. It is a great choice in this price range but it doesn't perform well at night. For amazing hunting experiences at night you should spend more and get a good quality thermal scope.
The Plinker-22 is among the trendiest optics from BARSKA, and is specifically engineered for .22 caliber rifles. It’s highly versatile and robust enough to withstand any abusive environmental condition. Having a magnification of 3x to 9x, it’s a good deal for taking short range shots.
The windage and elevation adjustment knobs were pretty easy on us, offering 0.25 inch per click which made it more useful in areas with varying terrains. The 13-foot field of view at 100 yards wasn’t so great to us though we couldn’t expect more when considering its price.
Other products in the package include a limited lifetime warranty, lens cover, mounting rings, and cleaning cloth. Though the cheapest on our list, at around $30; it had an average score of 4.2 stars from 523 users.
The Plinter-22 scopes are fantastic with excellent features for easy mounting, sighting, and modifications. They’re one of the best-priced models on the market today though they still need a few upgrades.
You get more than what you pay for with this one; great view at all levels of magnification holds zero, and quick target acquisition. It has a solid construction and can perform in any weather condition. Like other models from CVLIFE, this one features fully-multi coated lenses delivering about 95% light transmission ensuring that you don’t miss any detail in the picture. The glasses have scratch-resistant coatings that protect it from dirt and oil stains.
It’s equipped with a 20mm Picatinny Mount which can fit your AR rifles but you’ll need a separate mount for quality revolvers with .22 cal. It has a smart design that controls the interaction between the adjustments for the inner and outer tubes to prevent unnecessary changes to the reticle. The scope adjustments are ¼ inch per click and you’re confident of enjoying clear images even beyond a 200-yard range.
It’s sold around $25, so it’s a real bargain for considering its outstanding features. Finally, it scored 3.9 stars from a total of 1171 reviews at the time of the research.
This scope may lack most of the high-end specs, but this is compensated for in affordability being that it’s the cheapest on our list of top 10. So, if you’re looking for a basic option, you won’t go wrong with this one.
A Quick Guide to Different Hunting Scope Terms
- Ocular lens – closest lens to the eye.
- Field of View (FOV) – The total area which you can see through the scope
- Coatings – special chemical treatments on the glasses to prevent scratching or fogging
- Bullet Drop Compensation (BDC) – Adjustment knob for your caliber to enhance the impact by estimating the distance from the target.
- Elevation Adjustment – Adjust up and down movements of the reticle
- Windage Adjustment – Moves the reticle to the right or left
- Reticle – The cross-like object on the scope that aligns with the target.
- Parallax – This is the probability that the reticle misaligns with the target without shifting the scope.
There are many scopes on the market as you would discover when taking a quick internet search. We hope that our best hunting scope reviews will provide you with the clues to choosing the perfect option for you. Our products are user-friendly and suited for diverse weather conditions.
If you’re still unsure of the right model to choose, you can opt for our top pick. It comes at a reasonable price and suitable for both hunting and shooting applications. If you’re going for a highly sophisticated option with night vision and recording capabilities, you can’t go wrong with our 4th choice.
Once you’ve got your ideal shooting technique, then you’re ready to purchase your perfect optic. While your budget and preference matters, remember that you’ll only maximize the use of these scopes if you adhere to the instructions of the manufacturers.