A Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Rifle Scopes
Even if you’re a beginner hunter, you’ve likely been told how vital having a rifle scope is. Having a scope will allow you to take longer range shots with far greater accuracy than if your rifle was naked without one.
However, the dilemma that most new hunters who are shopping for a scope face is that the market is flooded with choices. There are now many different scopes, all with different gadgets and numbers attached to them which can be difficult to understand.
To clear things up for you and make purchasing a rifle scope easier, we thought we’d dive deep into the world of rifle scopes and provide a comprehensive buying guide that will help even the most novice of shooters better understand the basics so they can make an informed purchase.
It’s also never a bad idea to read through online scope reviews to not only get input on the performance of variance scopes but also to match up your hunting style with a scope that is designed for that style.
What Is a Hunting Rifle Scope?
A rifle scope is an optical device that mounts onto a firearm and helps a hunter to improve accuracy by magnifying the target. The scope works by focusing light from different distances onto a single focal plane, which allows for clearer images of objects at varying distances.
This equates to eliminating a great deal of complexity when it comes to shooting game in the field. Scopes have also come a long way in the past few decades and now often feature a number of potential upgrades to make hunting even simpler.
A scope features a series of magnification lenses along with a reticle which uses fine lines, fibres, or dots often in a crosshair pattern to better target your game. The bigger your budget, often the better quality scope you will be able to get. Spending more often gets you better quality glass lenses, increased light transmission, and possible things like waterproof and fog-proof protections.
Of course, not all hunters will need a bunch of upgraded features on their scope and as a beginner you may just complicate things trying to buy too extensive of a scope at first. As we said, there are countless scopes on the market today and the first step is narrowing down the choices by looking only at those that align with your specific needs.
Types of Hunting Rifle Scopes
There are a number of different scopes used on firearms. Hunters often choose between fixed power scopes and variable power scopes. Fixed power scopes are best for shooting at a stationary target or when you regularly hunt game at a specific length or narrow range of length, whereas variable power scopes provide more flexibility for hunting targets in different conditions and at variable distances.
- Fixed Power Scope: The fixed-power scope has a single magnification setting that cannot be adjusted or changed. This type of scope is most suitable for short to medium-range shooting and is less expensive than variable power scopes.
- Variable Power Scope: Variable power scopes provide more flexibility when shooting at targets in different conditions, as they allow one to adjust the magnification level of the scope from a low to a high setting. This type of scope is best for hunters who need more versatility and are willing to spend more money.
For a long time, hunters preferred fixed power scopes for their greater consistency in terms of regularly maintaining the same impact point. Nowadays, variable power scopes have become more advanced and excluding them as an option could limit your hunting abilities in many ways.
Hunters often cannot predict what the conditions may be, so having the option to dial up or reduce magnification means you can adapt to different lighting conditions and target distances should game be on the move.
Other types of scopes include night vision scopes which may not always be legal for hunting game or specific types of game. The military use tactical scopes and those shooting at great distances often go with a long range scope with high magnification. Sniper scopes often have reticles which display more advance features than your average scope will have since they need to factor in things like wind speed. .
Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Rifle Scope
There is a lot to consider when purchasing a rifle scope, and to better help you narrow down the things you should be focused on, here are some important aspects of scopes you should be aware of.
Magnification is the first factor to consider when choosing a rifle scope. The magnification level required depends on the type of hunting you will be doing and your target range.
You have already learned there are scopes with fixed magnification length and others with variable magnification. Most beginner variable power rifle scopes offer 3X-9X magnifications, which should suffice for most hunting needs.
When reading scope reviews on platforms such as Bang inc, don’t forget to check the magnification of the scope you want to invest in. It could make or break your hunting expedition.
And keep in mind that more magnification doesn’t necessarily equate to a better scope and won’t always mean you will be able to shoot better at greater distances. Many hunters choose a simple 3×9 power magnification because it allows them to zoom in 3x for those close shots and take advantage of the 9x power which is usually more than enough for the longest distances most average hunters would shoot at.
You will find that as magnification is increased, you will notice when looking through the scope that your movements are more exaggerated and this makes keeping the crosshairs on your target more difficult which can actually reduce your accuracy.
The reticle is often referred to as the crosshairs that are located inside the scope and this is used to help aim at a target. Reticles come in many different varieties such as non-illuminated, illuminated, duplex, dot, mil-dot, Leupold, BDC, and MOA.
One of the best reticles for hunting is the duplex reticle which has been popular with hunters for many years. It uses a crosshair design where the lines become thinner as they intersect. This allows your eye to better focus on the center of your target and is also effective with moving targets.
The best reticle to choose will depend on the type of hunting you plan on doing, as some reticles are better suited for certain types of shooting. Non-illuminated reticle scopes will be cheaper and are fine to use in direct daylight, but you will find they will limit you in darker conditions such as hunting at dawn, dusk, in thick dark forests, or under heavy cloud cover.
Some crosshair patters can be too bold which can obscure your target, while thinner crosshairs can be difficult to make out in certain backgrounds or lighting conditions. Some reticles also feature hashmarks that allow you to compensate for wind drift.
Two other common hunting reticle options include BDC and MOA. Of these two, the BDC is a bit simpler in design and features a series of hashmarks that correspond to bullet elevation drop. A guide will help you determine which hashmark in the reticle to choose based on your bullet choice and shooting distance.
MOA reticles are more complex. Minute of angle (MOA) is the unit used to measure various adjustments and is based on a 1/60th circle. MOA is used to measure how much an adjustment will move the point of impact up, down, left or right when making a change
The objective lens is the lens that is placed at the front of the scope and gathers light to produce a clear image. Generally, larger diameter lenses (measured in millimeters) are better for hunting at longer distances and allow more light transmission into the scope which in turn allows you to shoot with better accuracy.
Most beginner hunters go with a scope offering a common objective lens size of 40mm. You can drop down to something like a 32mm objective lens if you wish to have a more lightweight and compact scope but these offer a narrow field of view. Stepping up to a 50mm objective lens will add weight but allows more light to pass through the scope which can aid you when hunting in darker conditions.
Eye relief is the distance between your eye and the scope’s eyepiece when looking through it. It should be comfortable enough so that you can see the entire field of view without having to strain your eyes. Longer eye relief scopes are better suited for larger calibers and recoil, as they provide more distance between your eye and the scope.
You may need to fine-tune the scope to enjoy an optimal level of eye relief. The main focus is on making sure any recoil won’t force the scope to make contact with your eye which of course could do some serious damage. That is why having a safe eye relief is so important.
The mounting system of the scope is also an important factor to consider. Most scopes come with a Picatinny rail mount, which is compatible with most firearms. This is the most secure option for mounting a rifle scope, as it has multiple contact points between the mount and the rail.
However, not all firearms come with Picatinny rails, so be sure to verify the type of mounting system your rifle requires before purchasing a scope.
Field of View
The field of view (FOV) is the area visible when looking through the scope. Generally, scopes with higher magnifications will have a narrower FOV, while lower magnification scopes will have a wider FOV.
The field of view is important, as it will determine how much of the target you can see while using the scope. It’s also worth noting that a wider FOV makes it easier to track moving targets.
When hunting in wet or humid environments, one should make sure to purchase a waterproof and fog-proof scope. These scopes are designed to stand up to the elements and will ensure a clear image even when hunting in inclement weather.
Purchasing the right rifle scope can be daunting for beginner hunters, but it’s important to ensure you do thorough research in order to get the right one for your needs. With a quality rifle scope that aligns with your specific needs, you’ll be able to benefit from greater accuracy and confidence the next time you go hunting. This means more successful hunts and less chances of simply wounding animals and watching them get away which isn’t ideal for you or the animal.
We hope the information provided above has brought you more clarity on what to look for in a hunting rifle scope and why having a scope is something you’ll definitely want to invest in.