It’s a common misconception that scopes must primarily provide high levels of powerful magnification but in actual fact very high-powered scopes are quite a new development. Even as recently as the 70’s the Marine Corps was only using 10 power scopes manufactured by J Unertl and telescopic sights have been around as far back as the American Civil War.
The Whitworth Rifle, supplied by the Whitworth Rifle Company to The Confederacy for it’s sharpshooters was occasionally fitted with a four power scope. That four-power magnification may seem paltry compared to modern scopes but the Whitworth rifle and it’s marksmen were responsible for some incredible feats including a shot of over 1200 meters at Fort Sumter which still sits amongst the top twenty long range sniper kills ever even when measured against modern competition.
So, four power, and lower, scopes are certainly capable of precision and extreme accuracy even at long range but where they excel is in the fact that unlike very powerful scopes you can still acquire targets relatively quickly with them and they don’t require massive objective lenses to give a bright picture. This allows scopes to be small, compact and light weight, so perfect for tactical applications, practical shooting disciplines, fast-furious plinking and brush or driven hunting.
- Telescopic sights vs reflex and red dot
- Using low magnification scopes
- Top 10 Best 1-4x Scope Reviews 2019 - Comparison Table
Telescopic sights vs reflex and red dot
There are plenty of low magnification, or indeed no magnification, optics which feature a reflex design. Reflex or reflector sights have been around since 1900, it seems incredible that the technology for something which is regularly mounted on super high tech modern tactical weapons was invented that long ago.
They weren’t always as compact and light weight as they are now though and through the first part of the 20’th century they were exclusively fitted to aircraft, antiaircraft guns and other large weapons or vehicles where a sufficient electrical supply could be guaranteed to the sight. It wasn’t until LED’s and small reliable batteries were developed that this kind of sight was regularly fitted to personal weapons. Aimpoint led the way with it’s first red dot sight in 1974.
However we are focusing on telescopic sights in this article rather than optics in general so despite the value of reflex sights this article will give you suggestions and recommendations for telescopic sights in the one to four power magnification range. Some may be fixed power, while others will have variable magnification as is so popular on modern scopes.
Telescopic sights represent an older technology then reflex or reflector sights and one which isn’t quite as forgiving. Reflex sights are accurate no matter the orientation of your eye to the sight, and present an excellent, almost unlimited, field of view and no parallax issues. Scopes though provide magnification that can’t be normally be present in a reflex sight without the addition of an expensive magnifying accessory. They also don’t rely on batteries unless they have an illuminated reticle, and even then some scopes don’t need it including the tritium and fibre optic equipped Trijicon range. Scopes are also more versatile in terms of mounting options as they can be fitted with rings compatible with any mounting while reflex sights invariably have integral picatinny mounts.
Scopes give better light gathering ability than reflex or plain iron sights, even if they only have relatively small objective lenses, which helps with shooting into the hours of dusk and dawn. Additionally they can be equipped with BDC reticles and other range finding and trajectory compensating reticles, which are too complex to be projected on a reflex sight.
Low power scopes are often overlooked but they have a very important place in the arsenal of hunters, practical shooters, military and law enforcement personnel.
Using low magnification scopes
They might not be the choice of long range target shooters or for low light shooting but these low power scopes certainly have their advantages. Despite their lack of magnification they offer no less precision than more powerful scopes only a less detailed picture of the target. For this reason hitting small targets at long range with them becomes more difficult but they are really intended for shorter range work. As most of them have small objective bells combined with low power they can easily be shot with both eyes open and targets can be scanned for, tracked and engaged quickly without losing them through a scope which is too powerful.
This makes these scopes perfect for tactical applications when fitted to assault or battle rifles intended for engagement out to a few hundred yards. They are equally good for practical rifle shooting such as three gun competitions where you might be engaging targets from just a few yards out to a couple of hundred.
The smaller objective lenses common on lower powered scopes don’t offer quite the field of view of larger scopes and this may seem to be a disadvantage but they are designed to be shot with both eyes open which makes the field of view offered by the scope entirely immaterial as you retain your natural binocular vision and get the best field of view possible when you shoot with both eyes open.
In that video you can see the Swarovski scope being used has a much smaller objective lens than the kind you would see on a scope for long range shooting or for typical hunting. You will also see the shooters adopting very dynamic positions rather than being static behind a bipod, rest or set of shooting sticks. Lower power magnification is useful in these situations as high powered scopes accentuate any instability in you stance, in fact much above 10 power magnification and you can see your pulse in the scope so lower power when you are in dynamic unsupported position is useful.
This sort of dynamic shooting position is important when engaging moving targets as you have the freedom to track targets and swing to follow a running quarry which might not be as easy on a bipod or from a rest.
Not only do these low power scopes have fantastic utility for hunting they are the perfect sight of choice for high speed competition shooting and defensive/tactical applications.
We’ll cover a range of scope options including fixed and variable magnification scopes featuring objective lenses up about 35mm. There will be a range of options for every budget and I’m sure you will find something to suit your needs whether you are looking for a scope for driven hunting, tactical applications or practical competitions.
Top 10 Best 1-4x Scope Reviews 2019 - Comparison Table
Our Top 10 1-4x Scopes recommendations:
1 Trijicon RS24 AccuPower
Trijicon have recently become one of my favorite optics brands, at least for their low power optics anyway. They are so rugged and the fibre optic/tritium technology available in some of their scopes is a fantastic reliable way of providing an illuminated reticle without the need for batteries.
They might be most well known for their ACOG range of tactical optics but their scopes are well worth considering especially if you want something low powered for driven hunting or tactical applications.
The accupower range offers four reticle options including a duplex reticle that would be ideal for hunting and more advanced ballistic reticles with features aimed at combat applications and practical shooting.
2 BARSKA AC11876 4x32
Barska products are somewhat cheaper than a lot of the other scopes in this list, and it is true that they don’t offer quite the same ruggedness and attention to detail as some of the other manufacturers but they do offer a functional product at a bargain price.
I’ve used barska binoculars and other products for several years now and have been impressed by them all. This scope offers is more of a standard scope than some of the others in this list with their slim objective lenses. It does offer a greater field of view when shooting with one eye closed and does gather light a little better. If you are shooting with both eyes open though this is immaterial.
It is a fixed magnification so there is nothing to fiddle with or adjust, this could be a positive or negative depending on whether you need that 1 power option or not. It does give you tactical turrets and an illuminated reticle but you will find it’s not quite as fast for practical or driven shooting without that low power setting.
3 UTG 1-4.5 x 28 CQB Scope
UTG and Barska products come in at a similar price point and both produce some very affordable optics. This CQB scope gives you a 1-4 power zoom and a 28mm objective and is a very small, light weight package in a robust 30mm main tube.
The illuminated mill dot reticle offering 36 color and brightness settings for low light shooting and fast target acquisition is honestly a bit of a gimmick and I have never used more than one or two of the colours on offer, I have never felt the need or found the light condition that demands a pink or purple reticle. Despite the gimmiky illumination, this is a robust scope that will serve you well without breaking the bank.
4 Zeiss Conquest
Zeiss produce an incredible array of optics aimed primarily at hunters and are well known as one of the best optics companies in the world today. Despite the fact that this conquest model features a tactical elevation turret, it really is aimed at hunters. The illuminated ‘60’ reticle’ with it’s fine crosshair and illuminated centre point is ideal for shooting game on the run.
For hunters though of all the scopes amongst this list you would be hard pressed to find something better than this offering by Zeiss.
5 Steiner 5201 P3TR P4Xi
Designed specifically for military and law enforcement applications this scope by Steiner gives you long eye relief, illumination and a reticle suited to 5.56mm or 7.62 with subtensions calibrated all the way out to 600 meters.
Steiner are a great company, producing really high quality optics and this scope will serve you very well for all your practical shooting needs.
6 Nikkon P-tactical .223
Nikkon have a fantastic reputation across their range of optics, this scope is specifically tailored to the .223 round so bear that in mind if this is the scope you want, make sure you match it to the right rifle or you won’t get the most out of the bullet drop calculator (BDC) reticle.
As well as slim lines, light weight and ruggedness this optic offers tactical turrets for quick adjustments to engage targets at range without losing the versatility and quick handling that the lower power setting offer.
7 Vortex Optics Crossfire II
Vortex Optics despite being a relatively young optics company have garnered a great deal of respect and a fantastic reputation among the firearms community since their products hit the market and they now offer one of the widest ranges of optics of any company.
They produce products for the sporting and tactical markets and this is one of those products that blurs those boundaries and would be at home on a light brush hunting gun or practical carbine. It offers an illuminated centre point in a v-plex reticle making it perfect for hunting in the shade of the woods.
8 Monstrum Tactical G2
Combining a lot of great features this scope gives you tactical turrets, an illuminated reticle with multiple subtensions in MOA increments and a long eye relief for super fast shooting. It offers all this at a budget price and comes with picatinny mounts.
Full disclosure though it is marketed as having a BDC reticle, this isn’t strictly true as it’s reticle isn’t calibrated to a particular calibre or bullet unlike Nikkons BDC 600 reticle so you will need to work out your own dope for this scope and the rifle you combine it with.
9 Leupold FX Freedom
Having used Leupold scopes for so long I can’t ever compile a list of recommendations without including something from the Leupold range. This FX freedom model give you 1-4 magnification and their incredible ruggedness and fantastic build quality. You can’t go wrong with Leupold scope as far as I’m concerned. This model gives you a couple of reticle options, either of which are perfect for hunting.
10 Leupold VX-R Patrol
I couldn’t resist it, a second Leupold scope had to feature here, not only because of their supreme quality but to highlight the differences between a low power scope aimed at hunting and one aimed at tactical and law enforcement purposes.
Instead of the simple reticles offered in the FX freedom model above the patrol scope gives you several tactical reticle options for helping with range judgements and hold overs, illumination, tactical turrets and a 30mm scope tube adds to it’s utility and strength. That’s not to say it couldn’t be used for hunting but there are a lot of extra features, and cost, here that might be a necessity in a combat situation but could be skipped on a hunting scope.
I wouldn’t recommend any scopes which wouldn’t serve you well, any in this list would be a great choice. There are of course many more out there but these are the top ten representing a range of budgets and different specialisms.
Because some are clearly intended for military, law enforcement and practical uses while others have a different set of features aimed at hunters it’s difficult to pick a single scope from amongst this list as being the best.
In fact it’s an impossible task, I have used Leupolds for so long that they are a particular favorite of mine but I’ve been using a lot of Trijicon scopes recently and for a budget optic the UTG products are hard to beat. I’ll leave the final decision to you based on your budget and particular preferences but there will be something here that will be perfect for you, of that I am sure.