How to Choose a Rifle Scope – Buyers’ Guide, Tested Tips & More

how to choose a rifle scope

Choosing an appropriate scope for your rifle can definitely be daunting due to the sheer number of different varieties available. 

With that being said, there are some factors to think about that can help you reach an informed decision about which scope would be best for you. 

Quick Summary

In this post, we will list all of the factors that can help you determine which scope would work best with your rifle. 

These factors include:

  • Magnification 
  • Fixed power vs variable power 
  • Objective lens
  • Focal plane options
  • Turret types
  • Parallax

Let’s get started. 

The Essential Guide to Buying the Right Rifle Scope 

As briefly mentioned above, you need to think about what exactly you’ll be using your rifle scope for. 

Different rifle scopes are meant for different environments and scenarios. 

Hence, you need to be aware of what type of shooting you will do with the scope and what specifications will be appropriate for it. 

Let’s get started with the factors you need to think about. These are: 

Magnification 

choose a rifle scope

Magnification is fairly self-explanatory. It’s how much the image is magnified when you look through the rifle scope. 

For example, if a rifle scope has 4x magnification, then that means the image you will see when you look through it will be 4 times larger than if you were to see it with the naked eye. 

Many amateur shooters think that the higher magnification you can get on a scope, the better. However, this is not the case. 

Higher magnification rifle scopes cost more and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you may end up never using those higher magnifications. Hence, all your money will have gone to waste. 

The amount of magnification you want on your rifle scope will depend on the type of shooting you intend to do. 

In general, you should: 

  1. Get a 1 – 4x magnification scope if you intend to do target shooting or hunt small game up to 100 yards. 
  2. Get a 5 – 8x magnification scope if you intend to hunt large game up to 200 yards.
  3. Get a 9 – 12x magnification scope if you intend to hunt large games on open landscapes beyond 200 yards. 

When you look at the magnification of scopes while browsing, you may find that some of them have a single number indicating the magnification while others have a range of numbers. 

For example, one scope may say 2x while another may say 2 – 4x. 

So what’s the difference between the two? 

The difference is that one is a fixed power scope while the other is a variable power scope. 

Fixed Power vs Variable Power

Fixed power scopes can use only one magnification whereas variable power scopes can use more than one magnification.

So, which one should you go for? 

In most cases, it’s a good idea to opt for a variable power scope since they are more versatile and can be utilized in a number of different situations. 

However, if you’re confident that you’ll be using the scope to shoot from only one primary distance, then you can opt for fixed power scope since they are cheaper. 

Objective Lens 

The objective lens is the lens that is farthest from you on the scope and closest to the target. 

In general, the bigger the objective lens is, the clearer the image inside the scope will be. 

However, you should not just opt for a scope with the largest objective lens you can find. 

This is because a big objective lens can harm you because it adds excess weight to your rifle and can hinder your shot in many situations. 

In general, you should: 

  1. Go for a 28 mm or under scope if you’re going to use it for close-range hunting. 
  2. Go for a 30 mm – 40 mm scope if your rifle has high recoil and if you intend to use it for hunting in low light. 
  3. Go for a 50 mm or higher scope if you intend to shoot from long distances and/or in the dark. 

Important note: When browsing rifle scopes, you may come across numbers such as “2×30”, “3-9×40”, etc. 

The meaning of these numbers is quite simple. The number(s) before the x refers to the magnification of the scope and the number after the x refers to the size of the objective lens. 

Hence, a scope that has the numbers “3-9×40” would have a magnification power of 3 – 9x and the size of its objective lens would be 40 mm. 

Focal Plane Options

You can get scopes in two different focal plane options: First focal plane (FFP) or second focal plane (SFP). 

With scopes that are FFP, the size of the reticle (crosshairs) adjusts as you change the magnification of the scope. 

With scopes that are SFP, the size of the reticle (crosshairs) remains the same when you change the magnification of the scope. 

All you need to know is that: 

If you want to shoot at long ranges most of the time, you should go for a scope with an FFP reticle. 

If you’re not going to shoot at long ranges, then you should opt for the SFP reticle. 

Turret Types

rifle scope

Scopes are available with many different types of turrets. 

Turrets are the knobs on the scope that you can use to adjust different settings and properties of the scope. 

The most important turrets on any rifle scope are the elevation and windage adjustment turrets. 

These can be of many different types such as target turrets, ballistic turrets, etc. 

When it comes to hunting, you should always opt for ballistic turrets. 

This is because they come with caps that will protect them from being accidentally rotated due to any bumps or scratches while walking. 

For a more in-depth look at the different types of turrets, check out our post on adjusting rifle scopes left and right. 

Parallax  

Most modern rifle scopes come equipped with parallax correction systems. 

They are more relevant when shooting at long distances since that’s when the parallax effect comes into play. 

If you’d like to know how to adjust parallax correctly, you can check out our guide here

Wrapping Things Up… 

These are the factors you should think about which can help you choose the right rifle scope for your specific needs. 

It can definitely seem confusing but as long as you know what you need your scope for, you won’t have a ton of trouble reaching the right decision. 

If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below. 

Best Rifle Scopes – Top Reviews, Guide, Pros, Cons, More