The question you have to begin with when selecting a rifle scope is, “what’s the main purpose of the scope”? Is the scope for target shooting, hunting or both?
Optics are designed with specific features for each shooting discipline and it’s good to know which of these features will be important for you. An example is some scopes having capped elevation and windage turrets.
Magnification is how much closer you can see the target through the scope compared to the naked eye. An optic set at 10x magnification means that the object is 10x larger than the naked eye can see it.
The below dot points are a guide to help you understand how much magnification you may need:
- Shooting out to 100m/100yards 1-4x
- Shooting out to 200m/200yards 5-8x
- Shooting past 200m/yards 9-12x
- Long range shooting, between 20-35x
If you are looking at a long range shooting rifle scope checkout the magnification ranges on the best premium long range shooting scopes on the market.
Hunting scopes will often have screwed on caps over the turret dials to prevent the dials from turning when in the field. On the other hand, the majority of target and tactical style scopes will have exposed dials for the purpose of more easily making changes in elevation and windage without removing a protective cap from the dial. Capped turrets also suit hunters shooting at closer ranges and those that prefer to use hashmarks or a bullet drop reticle that allows for adjustments to be made through holdovers.
Exposed turrets allow the user to quickly dial changes in elevation and windage without removing any caps from the turrets. Things to look for when selecting a scope with exposed turrets are good quality tracking within the optic and a zero-stop function, to help returning to the rifles zeroed distance after dialing up.
Adjustment Types MIL & MOA
Each of these is a unit of measurement that’s used to help calculate the travel of a bullet.
Below is a great comparison photo showing the differences in the size of the measurements of MIL’s (Milliradian) and MOA (Minute of Angle). The image demonstrates how much the travel is in each ‘click’ of the scope turret.
One miliradian at 100 meters is equal to 10cm. One minute of angle at 100 yards is equal to 1.047 inches, which is commonly round down to 1 inch. MOA scope turrets are often adjustable by 1/4 (0.25) MOA increments (1/4 inch at 100 yards). Milliradian scopes are often adjustable by 1/10th (0.1) MIL increments (1 centimeter at 100 meters).
When choosing an optic in either of these measurements a good starting point is asking yourself what does your own mind measure in? If it’s centimeter and meter then use MILs or if you measure in inches and yards use MOA. If you already use the measurement system it ends up being a lot easier to make adjustments without doing conversions along the way.
With either MIL or MOA, unless you’re limited by operational reasons, I wouldn’t convert back and forth to linear measurements. Stick with the system you already use and choose a scope based on that.
There are two major things that will change how the reticle functions overall. Whether the optic is Second Focal Plane (SFP) or First Focal Plane (FFP). FFP means that the reticle in the scope changes size when changing the magnification ranges in the scope, this ensures the reticle hashmarks stay in the same focal plane as the magnification level of the scope. This is an important function when utilising ranging functions built into some reticles.
SFP scopes means that the reticle will stay the same size no matter what magnification the scope is set to. This will mean that the reticle hashmarks will only be accurate at one specific magnification. This specific magnification is usually marked by a dot on the magnification ring.
Using a scopes reticle’s hashmarks to range a target is a way of determining your distance to target without the use of a rangefinder. A FFP scope will be priced higher than a SFP scope because of its ability to assist in ranging,
Reticles provide a point of aim and a hunting reticle will have a more simple reticle than a target rifle. This is due to hunting reticles being designed for quickly identifying a target and taking the shot.
Target shooting reticles will often include a variety of hash-marks to help the user make shots at longer distances. Shooting long distance has greater effects on the projectile from gravity as it travels. Wind will also effect the travel of the projectile. Hash-marks on the reticle can be used to offset the bullet drop and wind effect, by holding over at a lower point in the reticle.
Utilising hold-overs can be a quicker alternative to dialing windage and elevation changes on the scopes turrets.
Optic maintubes will come in three main sizes, 1”(25mm), 30mm and 34mm.
The size of the maintube is important to know as you will need to buy the right sized scope rings to fit the rifle scope.
1”(25mm) maintube sized scopes are the smallest scopes and are more suited to short range rimfire rifles. Smaller maintubes mean that the weight of the scope will be less and there will likely be a smaller magnification range.
The most common scope maintube size is 30mm. This is the standard size for centerfire rifles that allows for more elevation and windage adjustments to be made inside of the scope.
Long range premium optics will be made with 34mm maintubes. This is to help with having an even larger magnification, elevation and windage adjustment range. Consequently 34mm scopes will be more expensive and heavier.
The better the quality of glass in the optic, the more you are going to pay. A common method of determining a price range for your rifle scope is to spend as much on the optic as you did on the rifle. This isn’t an exact rule but more of a guide.
Lenses within optics are usually coated to help light transmission and contrast. There are multiple types of coatings which also effect the price.
There are 4 basic lens coating types:
- Coated – One layer on at least one surface.
- Fully Coated – A single layer on all exterior glass surfaces.
- Multi Coated – Several layers on at least one surface.
- Fully Multi Coated – Several layers on all exterior glass surfaces.
Having the reticle illuminated allows the user to see the crosshairs more easily is low light conditions. Illuminated scopes usually display either the center dot or the crosshair in red. This offsets looking at a dark object in low light and trying to see where the center of your crosshair is.
Optics without an illumination function, the reticle will stay black. Non-illuminated reticles will often be cheaper that illuminated reticles. Consider getting a scope with illumination if you intent to use your rifle in the early morning or late evening when sunlight can be limited.
Parallax happens when the target and the reticle are on different planes within the optic. Keeping the reticle on the same focal plane is achieved through adjusting the parallax.
If you aren’t shooting past 300 meters you are not going to need to worry about a scope with a parallax adjustment. Taking shots past 300 meters, it helps to have an optic that lets you adjust parallax.
If you have any questions about choosing a scope either comment below or send us an email and we will do our best to help you out!
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