Choosing a rifle scope can be overwhelming. Especially, if you do not possess a comprehensive knowledge of guns and their accessories.
Riflescopes come in a variety of shapes and sizes and each one of them performs differently in the field. This means that just merely purchasing the most expensive scope will not be enough to ensure a successful hunting experience.
You can find rifle scopes under 100 dollars but you need to make sure you are well equipped for your skill level and expectations are also vital.
9 Things to Consider Before Choosing a Rifle Scope
#1. Why Do You Need One
Riflescopes are used to increase the accuracy of your aim. When looking through a scope that is mounted onto your weapon, you will see your crosshairs. Depending on what type of scope you have, your crosshairs will look slightly different.
However, all crosshairs will have two intersecting black lines that form right angles at the center of your scope. Crosshairs help you to center your aim on your target which in turn allows you to shoot more accurately.
In addition to greater accuracy, rifle scopes allow for long-range shots. This is possible because rifle scopes give you the ability to magnify your target and your field of view at the same time. This is done by glass lenses inside the scope that are adjusted to provide eye relief as well as different levels of magnification.
Eye relief is a type of specification on your scope that allows your eye to be a certain distance from the ocular lenses of the scope and still be able to see the entire field of view through the scope.
Being able to not have your eye right up against the ocular lenses is important, especially if your rifle has strong recoil. The kickback from your rifle when you take a shot can give you what some refer to as “bleeding third eyebrows”.
Another important feature of a scope is the magnification. Magnification on a rifle scope allows you to zoom in and out as needed.
A scope is also able to adjust windage and elevation. These two factors are important when sighting a target. The windage moves the crosshairs left and right.
And the elevation moves the crosshairs up and down. When these two factors are operating correctly, the bullet will be shot accurately through the center of the crosshairs. Because of these benefits, a scope stands as one of the most important gun necessities out there.
#2. Know What Type of Scope Will Fit Your Needs
When you are in the market to purchase anything you need, you have to know what type of merchandise is available to you and what amount of value that product can give you. This importance increases when you are purchasing merchandise that you have never bought before.
With that being said, purchasing an affordable rifle scope should involve some type of preparation. Getting to know your market will help you choose a rifle that is affordable for you.
First, know what type of rifle scope will meet your needs the best. There are several kinds of rifle scopes that have components that can be adjusted to meet any and all needs that you might have. Tactical, sniper, hunting, and competition are the names of four different types of rifle scopes.
Types of Rifle Scope
A tactical scope should have a low magnification in order for the target to be quickly located and fired upon. This is because a low magnification allows for a wider view of the field and it also makes it perfect to engage close-range targets.
A sniper scope normally has a wide range of magnification, meaning you can zoom in and out a large amount. The ability to adjust windage and elevation is extremely important with this scope.
This is because snipers work with such a large range, that the place where they aim the bullet is not where the bullet will find its target. These fine adjustments to a sniper scope can better enhance the chances of a sniper hitting the target from several hundred yards away.
A hunting scope will need to have a low magnification of 4x for hunting big game or higher magnification of 6x for hunting small game. The cardinal rule here is that the less magnification you are able to work with, the better off you are.
Having too much magnification can cause you to have a small field of view, which is not what you want. You may think magnifying the field of view 10x will make hunting easier, but in reality, your field of view will be hopping around so much due to just your breathing or your heartbeat.
And these small trembles in your scope can translate to a difference in the bullet’s trajectory 300 yards downrange.
When dealing with any type of scope, you do not want your field of view to be filled with just your target alone. If all you see is your target, you need to reduce your magnification and refocus.
By relying too much on magnifying your target to get a good shot, you can negatively impact your field of view. Now, when it comes to competition scopes, power and precision are what you want to look for.
In order to accurately choose a competition rifle, you will need to know at what kind of range you will be competing and what will be the maximum distance that you will be shooting at those ranges.
#3. How Much Is Too Much
Being in the market for a rifle scope can be a complicated experience. There is a lot of different advice and opinions out there on which scope will give you the most bangs for your bucks.
People are passionate about their weapons and that’s how you should feel when you purchase your own rifle scope. The bottom line is that it comes down to personal preference.
Choosing the type of scope that gives you the most confidence and peace of mind when you’re out in the field is the most important thing. You want a scope that you can rely on. No matter if it’s day or night, if it rains or shines, you want a scope that will live up to your expectations in the field.
Does this mean you have to spend hundreds of dollars on a scope to get one that will perform well? Not necessarily.
Buying an expensive scope will in no way guarantee better performance in the field. You need to actually be able to handle your weapon confidently and correctly in order for it to be of any real value to you. So, when searching for a rifle scope to purchase, be sure it matches your skill level and you are confident with its performance.
Tip: 2 to 1 Ratio Rule
Now, it may be pricey to purchase the rifle scope that is right for you, which is why you should use the 2:1 ratio rule. This rule says that you should spend half as much money on your scope as you did on your gun.
For example, if you purchase a rifle for $500, then you should purchase the scope under $300. This rule is really beneficial because it will help you match the quality of the rifle with the quality of the scope.
Another detail to keep in mind is to cut costs where you can. You might not really need night vision compatibility or a 25x magnification. These features could be extra costs that you would be better off spending on ammunition or range fees. You want to make sure the features that do come with the riflescope are the features that you want.
For instance, purchasing a scope that is very expensive and dubbed as a “tactical” scope could be deemed unnecessary if you will be hunting small game at close distance.
#4. Cheap vs Quality Scopes
One thing you need to be aware of is the quality of the scope. Being more expensive isn’t always an indicator of the quality of the scope. Having an idea of how your scope should operate will help you get your money’s worth.
Finding the difference between a cheap scope and a quality scope is fairly simple. You want to look out for big indicators of poor quality. One indicator could be the glass and the glass coating not being clear enough. Another indicator could be the scope of not being able to track a target smoothly.
As you can see, being able to determine the quality of your scope will require you to mount it onto your weapon and look through it to test it out.
Windage and Elevation
On a quality scope, you are going to want to be able to track horizontally and vertically, with minimal effort. This is called windage and elevation, respectively. Having these features should be a requirement on any scope that you purchase.
Another indicator of poor scope quality could be a focusing component that does not function properly. A scope not being able to focus could be due to a loose reticle.
Now, if the scope will not focus on a target, that also means that you are most likely not going to be able to magnify the target either. A final indicator of poor quality in a rifle scope is if you try to move it slightly, it will then overcorrect itself.
This is highly inconvenient in the event that you need to make a fast correction when hunting a moving target. Effectively, this leaves you with a scope that you will have to constantly be readjusted every time you spot a target.
#5. New and Improved Crosshairs
It is important to notice that crosshairs and reticles represent the same thing. They both refer to the black lines that you see intersecting the middle of your field of view when looking through a scope.
The name reticle, however, is a more modern term. Scopes have improved tremendously over the years and now we have many different variations of reticles.
For example, there is fine crosshair, which is the traditional-looking black intersecting line. Or there is also the duplex crosshair, target dot, mil-dot, German reticle, circle, old range finding, modern range finding, and SVD-type.
All of these different names describe how the appearance of the reticle visually changes depending on what variation you use.
Duplex Reticle and Dot Reticle
For example, if your rifle scope has a duplex reticle, this means your crosshairs will be thicker on the end and taper to a point at the center of your field of view. This successfully allows you to point and aim as you would a traditional fine crosshair, but with a modification.
The advantage of using a scope with this modification is that it allows you to aim in low light and it’s a lot simpler to center your scope quickly. A duplex reticle is a go-to choice for many scopes users today. Another useful modification is the dot reticle.
It is used for hunting small game. The dot is centered in the center of very thin crosshairs and has dimensions you can adjust based on what type of game you are hunting.
Do I Need These Improvements?
Now, these modifications are not strictly necessary. If you are looking for a more affordable option, having these extras removed would be beneficial to you.
But, once you do experience hunting with a scope that has these improvements, you will likely never want to go back to traditional fine crosshairs again. Everyone has their own personal preference when it comes to the type of reticle that should be used.
Make it a point to take your time when choosing a type of reticle so you don’t end up with one that you’re not comfortable using.
On top of that, don’t attempt to buy a scope purely off of someone else’s recommendation. Everyone will have their own experiences when it comes to a scope. A particular scope may work great for your friend, but when you use the same scope it may not be up to par with your expectations.
Also, everyone’s eyesight is different so keep that in mind when listening to recommendations about scopes. To play it safe, test one out for yourself so you will know if it’s the right one for you.
#6. Know What’s On Your Scope
When you look at a scope, you will see a sequence of numbers etched onto the side of it. These numbers give you information about the variation of the scope, the maximum amount of magnification the scope is capable of and the objective lens diameter in millimeters.
An example of what you might see on the side of your scope is 3-8×30. This 3 represents the minimum magnification level while the 8 represents the maximum magnification level. You can adjust your scope anywhere between the 3 and 8 to focus your target in your field of view.
Now, the X30 means the diameter of the scope in millimeters. The larger your scope diameter is the more light that the objective lens can let through. Having more light can make your target clearer and make hunting easier in low light environments.
However, having a large objective lens may lead to problems as well. A large objective lens can make the scope unbalanced. It could also create a larger chance of the sun reflecting off the lens, compromising your position.
When trying to find a comfortable objective lens size for a rifle scope, you are safest choosing somewhere between 30-44mm.
Fixed Scope vs. Variable Scope
Sometimes the sequence of numbers will not have a dash. For example, you may see a rifle scope with 8×30 on it. In this case, the magnification is not variable, it is fixed. When magnification is fixed, it means you cannot change the magnification of the rifle by zooming in or out.
A fixed scope is more reliable because it allows more light through the lenses. Because of this, you get a better and brighter view of your target.
Another benefit of having a fixed scope does not have to worry about what power to take a shot with because you only have one option.
A benefit of a variable scope would be that it is more modern and can meet more of your needs in the field. The only thing to be aware of when using a variable scope is that the point of impact shift can be compromised in a poor quality rifle scope. Don’t forget to read our review about rifle scopes under 200.
#7. How To Maintain Your Rifle Scope Lens
A rifle scope is a very durable piece of equipment. It could almost be called indestructible. The only reason why it is not so is that its longevity can be influenced by how well you care for it. A properly maintained scope can be expected to last for several years.
Scopes were designed to be able to withstand the harsh conditions you might encounter during a hunting trip like rain, mud, dust, and debris. Funnily enough, your rifle scope is more likely to be compromised by something you do, rather than any of the elements found outdoors.
So, how can you keep your rifle scope in top condition? First and foremost, you should be using a lens cap at all times.
When you are not actively looking through your scope — that is, when your scope is in storage, being transported, in the field, or while you are cleaning it — keep a lens cap on. The glass of your scope is exposed in the field it can become scratched from walking through thick underbrush.
When cleaning your scope or lens, the cleaning materials may also cause considerable damage over time to a lens, so be mindful of that.
Check the Instruction Manual!
You should be safe following the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to keep your lenses clean. When maintaining a scope, remember that the lenses can be incredibly sensitive. There is a coating on the scope lenses that you do not want to damage by using the wrong type of cleaning solution.
In order to be as delicate as possible, inspect your lenses before you clean them. Notice if there is any moisture or perhaps mud on the lenses. If there is, allow the scope to dry completely before doing anything else.
Once everything is dry you can use a microfiber towel and an air blaster to clean them. If your lenses need to be cleaned further you may use a soft brush and an air blaster.
Note that you should never put a cleaning solution directly onto the lens of a scope. Simply use the recommended cleaning solution and lens tissues instead. Keeping your rifle scope in good working condition isn’t difficult. Just be gentle and use the right products.
#8. Parallax Error
First, let us explain what parallax error is. When looking at an object from several different angles, that object appears to be moving. The question is, is it really moving?
The word parallax means that there is a difference between the position of an object when seen from two separate angles. The amount of parallax is found by measuring the angle of inclination between the two separate angles.
Parallax error can happen when you’re looking through your rifle scope. When you look at your target through your scope, your target and reticle should be on the same plane. If they are not, and your target seems to move from the center of your reticle when you move your head or eye around, you are experiencing parallax error. It’s important to know what it is and how to fix it.
When can Parallax Errors Happen?
You are more likely to experience parallax error at long distances than short distances. This is because the apparent shift in the position of your target when you move your head or eye around, in relation to the reticle, will be much more prominent at long distances.
Also, most scopes are designed to be parallax-free up until a certain distance. Once you go beyond a distance of 50 to 100 yards, you will begin to experience it.
Parallax error is a big problem because it leads to less accurate shooting. This is a common enough problem at long distances when scopes are equipped with either an adjustable ring that can be found around the objective lens or an adjustable turret found on the side of the scope.
Once you have adjusted your scope, the crosshairs of the reticle should stay centered on your target, even when you move your head or eye around when looking through your scope. This means that you have corrected the parallax error and both the target and your reticle are on the same focal plane.
#9. Compatible with Eye Relief
Eye relief was briefly explained previously but it deserves to be explained further. Some people don’t know what eye relief is and some other people believe that eye relief is not a big enough concern to talk about. However, it should be taken into consideration when choosing a scope.
Simply put, eye relief is the distance between your eye and the eyepiece of your lens when you look through it. This small distance is actually very significant. You should be able to view your target and its surroundings easily through the eyepiece without having your eye right against the lens.
An eye relief distance of about 3-4 inches should be suitable. Keeping this distance will prevent you from being hit in the eye by the kickback of the rifle when you shoot. Having the correct eye relief can make all the difference in your shooting experience.
Now, when you increase the magnification on your rifle scope, you start to lose your field of view. When searching for a rifle scope, you can find manufacturers that say they have a long eye relief scope.
These scopes can have up to 6 inches of eye relief. But keep in mind that the greater the eye relief, the lower the magnification will be.
Short or Long Eye Relief?
Short eye relief on a rifle scope can cause problems for someone who wears glasses. If you wear glasses you will want to make sure your rifle scope is equipped with long eye relief.
You will know you have the correct amount of eye relief when the visibility of your field of view doesn’t change when you take your glasses off.
Those who don’t take into consideration eye relief could end up harming themselves. Being kicked in the eye by your gun is not only dangerous, but it can also be embarrassing.
Thus, save yourself some embarrassment and remember to always be cautious of the distance you are putting between your eye and the scope lens.
Don’t Worry too Much!
We understand that all this information may be overwhelming for beginners, or even for experienced hunters. A fair amount of research into the market is to be expected if you want to buy a scope worth your money and effort.
However, the good thing is that there really is no wrong scope out there. As long as you ensure that your scope is of good quality and that you are able to operate it well, you will find the right rifle scope for you!