Ultimate Guide: The Best Rifle Scope Review Guide in 2016
21 Rifle Scopes Compared!
The economic growth of guns in America has experienced remarkable growth over the years. Just in the last couple of years, the gun market has seen unprecedented growth.
In 2016 it's no different.
The natural progression for hunters, shooters, police, military, and really anyone with experience using rifles, is to start looking for the best rifle scope in 2016. These days it's very rare to see a rifle without a rifle scope on it.
The gun market is hot right now, and because of this, consumers now have a wide variety of rifle optic options. In the rifle optic market you can get iron sights, laser sights, variable rifle scopes, hunting scopes holographic optics, and red dot scopes. With all of these options, it allows people to customize their weapons for their specific needs and be able to use the weapon as it was really intended for.
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Optic Terminology To Understand
- Fully Multicoated
- Fully Coated
A Brief Overview of 3 Different Sights
Here is an overview of the 3 different types of sights:
- Iron Sights
- Laser Sights
- Red Dot / Reflex Sights
Iron Sights are the old standard for firearms. Iron sites had a place on every rifle, handgun, and shotgun for hundreds of years. Every rifle should have a set of iron sights.
Honestly, a quality set of iron sights are very hard to break and a perfect back up for a rifle scope.
Iron sights are typical on rifles and a variety of models come available with iron sights that can flip up and down so that they don't get in the way of your rifle scope.
Iron sights offer a number of advantages over optics.
- More dependable due to its durability over optics
- No need for batteries
- No glass to break
- Completely waterproof
- Not affected be extreme conditions
- Can be used for both short and medium range
- AR 15 iron sights can reach out to 500 yards and hit a man sized target
- Not as effective or as quick as an optic
- 500 yard shot with iron sights will require lots of adjustments, potentially taking a long time to hone in the sights for an accurate shot.
- Can be obstructed by the environment and difficult to see at close range
- Low light situations make iron sights difficult to see without tritium inserts.
Laser sights are not like traditional sites that you look through. With laser sights you are looking for the sight. Laser sights emit a laser that the user places on the target. They are especially good for low light situations.
With lasers, you don't need to use the sights on the gun. A laser allows a shooter to take a sure and confident shot in the dark.
On rifles, lasers are a bit less common, but are still used routinely by some. A good laser on a rifle can work hand in hand with night vision optics as a hunting tool.
The downside of the laser is the face that it is nearly impossible to see during daylight. It's purely limited to nighttime shooting or hunting. Lasers, like anything electronic can also fail and if a shooter trains themselves to only use the laser dot to hit their target, it will have major setbacks
Also, when considering costs, lasers are much more expensive.
Red dot / Reflex Sights
The red dot optic is a solitary tube that uses a simple red dot as a reticle. It's perfect to use any time of the day as the red dot is very simple to use and is one of the best choices for close range shooting and hunting.
Red dot sightings on optics are the quickest and most effective close range optics. They rely on a very simple concept and are east to use with little instruction and training. Though it's very difficult, you can hit targets within 200-300 yards, but at close range the red dot makes it as simple as putting the dot on the target and firing.
You can get red dot sightings in optics in a variety of sizes and can be used on nearly every rifle imaginable. Some red dot sights act as the primary optic on a rifle.
Small red dots can be mounted on handguns too for both defensive shooting and hunting. Even crossbows!
The simplicity of the red dot sights make them a limited application and restrain them to close range as home defense or tactical uses. At long range, the red dots are pretty hard to use, because they don't have a correct reticle made for medium or long range shooting.
3 More Types of Scopes
- Variable Scopes
- Fixed Power Scopes
- Holographic Optics
Variable scopes are the classic rifle scopes. These are the rifle optics that are most often found on the rifles of hunters and marksmen. They allow the user to find tune the magnification for the job and range at hand. These scopes typically vary from short to long range as well as size. Size will usually determine the power level of the variable scope.
You can find a very wide variety of power selections, which can range from 10 to 40 power down to 1 to 4 power. Variable scopes allow users to shoot accurately at a variety of different ranges while seeing the target very clearly.
Variable scopes come in two different sight planes:
- First Focal Plan
- Second Focal Plane
First Focal Plane - Have reticles that will grow and shrink as the scope's magnification is changed. What this does is keep the measurement accurate for the entire magnification range. First focal plane scopes also allow shooters to accurately measure and utilize distances and compensate for bullet drop and windage at any range.
Second Focal Plane - The reticle does not adjust as the magnification is increased and decreased. This affects the scope's use of MIL dot or bullet drop compensators and means that they are only accurate at one specific magnification level. Second focal plane scopes are usually cheaper and more common and are best used with known distance courses or environments.
The biggest problem with variable scopes is the fact that they are very fragile when compared to other options. High-quality variable scopes are also very expensive ranging from several hundred dollars to several thousand.
Variable magnification scopes (far more popular nowadays), as opposed to fixed magnification are shown as: minimum magnification – maximum magnification x objective lens. A classic variable power scope for long rifles of 3-9x40 means that the minimum magnification is 3 times, the maximum magnification is 9 times, and it has a 40mm objective lens.
Fixed Power Scopes
Fixed power scopes are magnified optics that feature a single level of magnification. This magnification can be used as both a rifle combat optic or as a sniper scope. Some example scopes include:
- Bushnell Elite G2 - a 10x fixed power optic
- Trijicon ACOG - a 4x fixed power optic, used by the Marine Corps
With fixed power optics, the focal plane doesn't really matter since the magnification range isn't an issue at all. What this does is allows for a high-quality scope to be available and affordable.
The lack of variable magnification allows the rifle optic to be effectively sealed and much tougher overall.
The only issue with a fixed power scope is that it is not as versatile as a variable optic.
Holographic optics is another variant of the red dot sights. The difference is that they are square in shape rather than a tube design like the red dot sights. They are also more open and can have more of a complicated reticle.
These reticles are designed to do specific positions and are often proprietary between scope companies.
Holographic optics are identical in almost every way to a red dot sight. And even though the more complicated reticle makes the holographic optic much more versatile, they have a battery that drains much faster than a traditional optic.
Holographic optics are also a lot less durable and can't be submerged as deep in water or exposed to extreme temperatures.
Advantages of Shooting and Hunting with a Rifle Scope vs Iron Sights
I get this question all the time, “Should I use iron sights, or buy a scope for my rifle?” Now, before getting carried away and buying a $500 Leupold, make sure you are comfortable using iron sights and shoot confidently at 100 yards.
It would be awfully embarrassing to be out in the bush on a hunt with the guys only to have your scope fail and not be able to make a routine 75 yard shot at the prized target with the ol’ irons.
And honestly, using iron sights builds confidence and helps a shooter understand the basic mechanics of shooting and lining up your target using angular measurements which will help when you finally do decide to buy a riflescope.
A scope improves accuracy and allows you to see your target with clarity, even at long distances. Technology and improvements in rifle scope design have allowed even entry level scopes to improve accuracy at longer distances possible. With the increased confidence, you will find yourself more productive on hunting trips and having more fun target shooting.
Rifle Scope and Spec Guides
Let's back track for a moment. If you are new to shooting and want to know even more basics, I have a few guides that may be of interest to you:
- Sighting in your rifle scope doesn't have to be a challenge. I get a lot of viewers asking for tips and tricks for sighting in their rifle scope. See more on how to properly sight in a rifle scope.
- Some people aren't aware at all of gun safety. If you are brand new to firearms or even if you are an experienced shooter in a need of a safety refresher course, I have a guide of gun safety rules made just for you.
- There is a big variety of scope rings to choose from and it can get overwhelming. But I've got you covered. I've written a guide to help you choose the right scope rings too!
- With so many different types of rifle scopes, it's no wonder that there are a wide variety of different objective lenses as well. Choosing an objective lens all depends on how you plan on using your rifle. What size of objective lens is right for you?
- Magnification is another one that can get overwhelming. How do you choose the right rifle scope magnification? I've written a guide on choosing the right magnification as well.
- Nikon is a big rifle scope company, one of my favorites actually. With so many different options, how do you know which reticle to choose? I've written a guide for this as well. Learn which Nikon BDC reticle is right for you.
Considerations for Choosing Your Rifle Scope
Determine the Application
Is this your first riflescope and you’re interested in getting into sport target shooting? Are you an avid hunter looking to take down larger game at longer distances? These types of questions help determine where to begin and it’s important to be realistic with yourself! A fixed magnification scope may be just fine for you if you are shooting small varmint or plinking, whereas some of you hunting folks may require some magnification and possibly an adjustable objective.
Determine Rifle Size
Will you be mounting the optic on a .22 or a 7mm – 300 Win Mag? The size of the rifle will impact which scope (and price range) will fit your needs. Low recoil firearms don’t require the same quality of scope as the force of the bullet exiting the barrel doesn’t dislodge or loosen the scope rings. Shooting at shorter distances also doesn’t require the same magnification as shooting at long distances. As you increase magnification, you decrease field of vision. Less is usually more when it comes to riflescopes.
Determine Your Budget
Determine your budget and set your expectations. You can get a good quality scope for $300-$500. And there are manufacturers who produce solid riflescopes for under $200. And if you want to invest in an outstanding rifle scope, consider spending a little bit more for something nicer. Rifle scopes up to $1,000 are expensive but worth it, especially for more experienced shooters.
Determine the Optic Brand(s) You’d Consider
There are dozens of rifle scope brands from all over the world producing rifle scopes. Most of them create a product that is solid and “you get what you pay for” while some you may want to flat out avoid. Check out some of the most popular rifle scope brands here.
Other Things To Consider When Choosing A Scope or Optic
The most important factor when choosing your rifle optic is what you intend to use it for.
Once you've decided what you plan on using your rifle for, you can then get the correct right rifle optic.
Outside of choosing the right type of optic, there are some other things that you will need to remember. For example, is the rifle optic designed for your rifle and caliber? There are some scopes that are actually designed to be used with certain types of rifles and with a certain caliber, barrel length, and loading length.
So be sure you get a rifle scope that is compatible with the rifle you have.
Other things to consider are:
- Coated Lenses
- Batteries and battery Life
One of the most important things when choosing the perfect optic is its durability. Look at the reviews of the scope. What have other users said about it? Also, if you are going to be using your rifle optic more seriously than recreational plinking, you really need to invest in a quality optic. When purchasing an optic, take note of a few things:
- Is it shock proof?
- Fog proof?
- Any special batteries?
If your optic isn't durable and can't withstand the types of use you plan on using it for, you will need to invest in a quality scope as it will last much longer. This is more of a concern with cheaper and lower priced optics. Mid and high range optics from manufacturers like the ones stated above are rarely a concern in terms of durability.
Coated lenses are something you should definitely look for when choosing a rifle optic, especially fully multi-coated glass. This coating helps the scope capture more light and help in low light situations.
Another feature is the size of the objective lens.
Optics can be fragile, some more than others. Remember that you are really just using pieces of glass and aluminum. So a huge factor to consider when buying your next rifle scope is to look at the warranty. What kind of warrant does the company or manufacturer offer on the optic? A good warrant can protect you from losing out on your investment.
Batteries and Battery Life
Your optic might require batteries. If it does, what kind of batteries does the optic require? Some optics with an illuminated reticle may also be glass etched and not require any batteries at all to work, but some rely entirely on batteries to work properly.
Top 8 Rifle Scope Reviews
Now that you have a good understanding of scopes, including their construction and features as well as access to a list of some of the most popular brands, it's time to review my top rifle scopes on the market today.
Leupold is a legend when it comes to building quality scopes that others can't beat for the price. They have some of the best technology and rugged dependability at an affordable price. Their glass and clarity is consistently better than most scope manufacturers. All of their rifle scopes are oxygen-purged and nitrogen-filled for a long life of waterproof, shockproof, and fogproof performance.
The VX-1 is perfect for hunting rifles including a 30-06 or .308 however it is at such a reasonable price that it is affordable for .22lr set-ups. This scope exceeds all expectations and is a fantastic scope for the money.
This riflescope has clear glass and is easy to set up and sight in over a few rounds at the range. I would suggest that if you are mounting this on anything larger than a .22 long rifle, that you should consider upgrading the scope rings. The VX-1 is likely one of the best hunting scopes for the money.
Objective Lens: 50mm
Tube Diameter: 1"
The Nikon P-223 is one of the top selling and highest rated hunting scopes on the market today, and for good reason. Built for an AR platform in mind, it has a generous, consistent eye relief which keeps you safe from getting scoped. Nikon's BDC 600 Reticle offers shooters and hunters unique open circle aiming points and hash marks from 100 to 600 yards.
The P223 reviewed has Zero-Reset Turrets positive click which gets you zeroed in quickly and allows you to maintain your setting. It is designed for the trajectory of a .223 Rem/5.56 Nato round with a 55 grain polymer tip bullet.
I found it crisp and sharp in low light conditions due to its light gathering ability and it was comparable to the Leupold VX-2 in terms of quality and ability. Nikon makes durable, long lasting riflescopes which makes this scope a top pick!
Objective Lens: 40mm
Tube Diameter: 1"
The Nikon ProStaff 4-12x40mm features a multicoated optical system and a versatile magnification range at 4-12x with a 40mm objective lens capable of transmitting 98% of the light, making this the ultimate riflescope for hunting and shooting in low light conditions. At under $200, this scope is good for the price which is why it is one of the most popular and reviewed riflescope on Amazon.
It has all of the same features as Nikon's Prostaff 3-9x40mm with additional magnification which allows the shooter to feel confident with some of those longer shots over 300 yards. Not all guys need or want 12x magnification but if you do, this riflescope is a great deal and I would consider it one of the best value scopes today.
With a consistent 3.7" eye relief, I have this scope mounted on one of my 30-06s and punch tacks at 300 yards at the range.
Objective Lens: 40mm
Tube Diameter: 1"
Bushnell's TRS-25 Red Dot allows for fast target acquisition in dim conditions and its Amber-Bright technology allows the shooter to distinguish easily between a brown tree and a brown critter. The TRS-25 is durable and 100% waterproof which makes this optic great on shotguns or on an AR platform.
The scope mounts easily on any Weaver or Picatinny rail and also comes with the CR2032 battery. The TRS utilizes a crisp, sharp red dot reticle and has easy to use features like a control knob to adjust the red dot power setting.
I'd like to point out that the Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Sight is not an Aimpoint. What I mean by this is that the riflescope doesn't have all the same features or quality of a $500+ red dot, however for under $100 this is the best selling red dot in 2015. Although the battery life isn't as good as Aimpoint products, I was presently surprised by its performance and quality.
Objective Lens: 25mm
Simmons, manufactured by Bushnell, produces exceptional scopes for the money and would be consider an entry level brand. They produce great scopes for beginners or people just looking for a decent quality scope for their hunting rifle but don't have the budget for an expensive optic.
The Simmons 8-point 3-9x50mm is similiar to the 3-9x40 riflescope except with a bigger objective lens which does make it slightly larger and bulkier but does allow for a higher light transmission which will provide a clearer more defined image in low light conditions. It features fully coated optics and is waterproof, fogproof, and recoil proof which makes it a great multipurpose riflescope. This rifle scope is definitely a step up from Simmons 3-9x32mm 22 mag optic.
For the money, Simmons 3-9x50 can't be beat. For under $50, this scope is a steal! Whether it be for plinking, shooting paper, or hunting, the 3-9x50mm is a great buy and I would recommend this to anyone.
Objective Lens: 50mm
Tube Diameter: 1"
The Simmons 22 Mag 3-9x32 is built for plinking and designed for the .22 lr (long rifle). It is inexpensive and an affordable scope for those beginners or those looking for a cheap scope for their 22 lr. Although some say that they have mounted the scope on larger calibre rifles and it continues to hold zero, I don't recommend it. If you are looking for a scope for a larger rifle for hunting and don't want to break the bank, consider the Simmons 3-9x50.
This riflescope is one of the most reviewed scopes on Amazon today for under $50 so there is a reason it continues to get strong reviews. The Simmons .22 Mag 3-9x32 is worth the money on your 10/22 or Marlin 22.
Objective Lens: 32mm
Tube Diameter: 1"
Bushnell has built the BTR-1 rifle scope to exceed expectations through accuracy and reliability under every tactical scenario. The scope's precision and rugged reliability are a must for any AR Platform. The BDC provides accurate ranging and aiming for up to 600 yards which is more than enough.
The scope has quality optics and I was impressed with how clear and bright the glass was. The scope can be used as a red dot at 1x and if you need to reach up further, simply increase the power of the magnification.
Objective Lens: 24mm
Tube Diameter: 30mm
Are you looking for a great hunting or target shooting riflescope for the money? The Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40mm is currently one of the best value optic on the market. It features a fully multicoated optical system that transmits up to 98% of the light which allows this scope to work well in low light conditions such as dusk and dawn. Being nitrogen filled and O-ring sealed allows it to also be waterproof and fogproof.
Featuring the BDC reticle, the Nikon ProStaff 3-9 is compact and yet it has plenty of magnification for most hunting and shooting applications. It has a generous and consistent eye relief at 3.6" so there won't be any rough kickback from heavy recoil cartridges or lightweight rifles.
The ProStaff 3-9x40mm is easy on the budget which is one of the best features of the scope and is suitable for all sorts of different rifles from a .22lr, .308, and even on a 7mm Rem Mag. Based on my experience and review of this riflescope, it is a great product for the money and even comes with Nikon's lifetime warranty.
Objective Lens: 40mm
Tube Diameter: 1"
With so much to consider in terms of finding the best rifle scope in 2016, it can be difficult to figure out which rifle optic is the best for your circumstances.
Hopefully as you look through our website, you will find the scope that you need based on our thorough reviewing process of each 2016 rifle scope
Check back next year for the best scopes coming in 2017!!