Whether you are a hunter or just a sport shooter, sometimes you need to reach out a little farther than normal sights will allow and its time to go telescopic. The fun and challenge of taking shots in the hundreds or even thousand yard range is hard to describe but it’s a step that every shooter need to take in his or her shooting career. If you are ready to take that step and get the best long range rifle scope for the money you can, we are here to help!
- What Exactly is a Long Range Scope?
- Rifle Scope Considerations
- Top 6 Long Range Rifle Scope Reviews 2018 - Comparison Table
- Best Long Range Scope Under 1000
- Best Long Range Scope Under 500
- Best Long Range Scope Under 300
- Long Range Rifle Scope Tips
What Exactly is a Long Range Scope?
What we call a scope started as slang for a telescopic sight. Telescopes and rifle scopes have much in common. The function the same way and with very similar technology in the internal workings of each devise. The primary difference is that we think of telescopes as looking upwards where a rifle scope will be more concerned with terrestrial applications.
Rifle scopes may work on the same principles but are far less powerful than a normal telescope to make them useful for the shooter. Having a scope that magnified things hundred or thousands of times would be impossible to use unless it were secured to the ground. Even a 40 power scope is very shaky and hard to aim in the best of conditions.
Of all the optical devices out there, rifle scopes are often the least powerful. This is because of stability and size. The goal of a scope is just to make the target appear larger not to be able to see every detail. Even a military grade long range sniper scope is usually only about 10 power with very few exceptions.
Rifle Scope Considerations
When looking for a rifle scope, your primary consideration will likely be the level of magnification. It is very common for new long range shooters to pick a scope that is far more powerful than their needs so learn to moderate that desire. Magnification is not the only feature of a scope that will determine how well you will be able to shoot with it.
Some scopes are fixed power and some are variable. A fixed power scope may be written as 10x35mm which is a 10 power scope and the image through the scope is magnified 10 times. A variable power may be written as 5-15x30mm which means the magnification can be anywhere from 5 times to 15 times.
When picking the maximum power of your scope, you will need to think of how you intend to use your new optic. Remember that most military scopes are only 10 power. You can do a lot with a little if you are planning on using the scope for hunting. The more the scope is magnified, the smaller the area or Field of View you will be able to see at once. This can make spotting targets difficult.
Some people opt to use very high power scopes for .22 competitions because the targets are very small. Some of these scopes may be greater than 30x. which works well for the target range but would do very poor in the hunting field.
Consider these extremes and pick what best suits your intentions.
I the example on magnification, the second number in 10x35mm is the size of the objective lens which is the on the end of the scope opposite where you place your eye. The larger this lens the more light will be allowed to enter the scope and the brighter the image through the scope will appear.
An overly large objective lens can actually be a setback. It will have to be mounted higher on the rifle and that can cause issues with accuracy no to mention discomfort from having to keep your head so high above the stock of the rifle.
All else equal, a larger objective lens will have a larger field of view and will have an image that is clearer and brighter but it is not the only consideration to the clarity of the image through the scope. In the end, the quality of the glass will be just as important if not more so.
Lens coatings are chemical treatments that help correct for things like glare and mirage, ultimately making the image through the scope clearer and easier to see. Some lens coatings will even filter light in a way that makes the image appear brighter and crisper.
There are four levels of lens coating we are concerned about:
- Coated lenses have a single chemical coating on the objective lens
- Fully Coated lenses have all outside optical surfaces coated with a single chemical
- Multi-Coated lenses have a cocktail of chemicals or multiple layers of chemicals applied to the objective lens.
- Finally, fully multi-coated lenses have the layers of chemicals applied to all of the glass in the scope.
Each of these represents a step up in the quality of the image as well as a step up in the cost of the scope. This is a tradeoff that is often worthwhile as good quality optics can actually make images appear brighter and clearer than they would with the naked eye.
Occasionally you may encounter an optic that uses multi-coat of full multi-coat as a sales gimmick for otherwise poor quality optics. If the glass is bad, no coating is going to make it any better. Be careful of optics that claim advanced coatings that are cheaper than normal, non-coated optics.
There are a large variety of reticles available in rifle scopes that have distinct advantages and uses. Picking what one you prefer can be a huge challenge. For the beginner this can be simplified into three classifications of reticles for ease of selection. You can learn the use of each as you grow used to shooting with it.
Standard crosshairs are a simple cross in the scope that you align with your target. These are often the easiest to learn to use and are most commonly used by hunters or those shooting shorter ranges of a known distance.
Target Crosshairs differ very little from standard by the application of a dot or circle in the center rather than a simple cross. These are often used in lower powered optics or those intended for use in lower levels of light. They can be problematic at long range where the dot can obscure the target.
Measuring crosshairs have some sort of measured markings on the reticle to help in determining distance. Learning to use these correctly can take time but is very rewarding. For new long range shooters, the very busy reticle can be a distraction.
Eye relief is the distance you can hold your eye away from the eyepiece and still get the full field of view. Any eye relief that is very short risks the scope impacting your eye when you shoot. Some scopes come with specifically longer eye relief for use out of high powered magnum rifles. Otherwise, most scopes are adequate to use with most standard paowered rifles.
If you wear glasses opt for a scope with longer eye relief to compensate for the extra space you will need.
A good scope is quite an investment and keeping it protected is an important consideration. You will be taking this fine-tuned piece of equipment into the field where it may get wet or dirty. It could be subjected to very hot or very cold temperatures. It needs to be protected in some fashion to deal with these issues.
In addition to weatherproofing or waterproofing, many scopes will be nitrogen or argon purged which will prevent the formation of fog or condensation on the inside of the lenses. This is a great feature to have in a scope.
Top 6 Long Range Rifle Scope Reviews 2018 - Comparison Table
Vortex Optics Viper PST FFP
Water and Fog Proof
Millett LRS 1
Water and Fog Proof
Vortex Optics Diamondback
Water and Fog Proof
Athlon Optics Vargos
Water and Fog Proof
Leupod VX 1
Water and Fog Proof
Nikon Buckmaster II
Water and Fog Proof
Best 5 long range rifle scope recommendations:
Best Long Range Scope Under 1000
1 Vortex Optics Viper PST FFP
For those seeking the best, there are a lot of options. Many can run into multiple thousands of dollars but to get that quality, you can find a way to spend less. The best way is to go with an optic from Viper who has become renowned for offering some of the highest quality scopes at a fraction of the cost you would normally pay.
Take the Viper PST for example. This scope has super clear low dispersion glass that is fully multi-coated and so bright and crisp, it’s hard to tell you are even looking through an optic at all. There are few scopes that manage to achieve this level of brightness even in they have a comparable 50mm objective lens. When it comes to pure optical quality, the Viper can’t be beat!
All of Vortex’s optics are waterproof and argon purged to keep the lenses clear of fog and condensation but many scopes to do that. What those other scopes don’t do is provide such an amazing list of features that normally reserved for scopes costing $3000.00 or more for a fraction of that price. Try to find a scope that combines a first focal plane illuminated reticle, parallax focus, quick adjustment turrets, and a hard anodized finish for the same price.
If you want quality, you want the Vortex Viper. For high powered or magnum rounds, this is the go to choice and is a very common scope for scope for 300 win mag long range hunting to get those extra long shots.
2 Millett Illuminated LRS
Millett has been a respected name in optics for a long time but they have been content not to make waves with their products and are often overlooked as the quality scopes that they are. Because of their less than well-known status, you can often get a bargain on scope that will outperform most of their competitors.
While there is nothing truly outstanding about a Millett scope, the combination of features adds up to a superb optic that is both rugged and powerful. Their LRS (Long Range Scope) series of optics is a perfect example that offers an amazingly bright image thanks to a very high quality multi-coat and huge 56mm objective lens. Most companies would stop there but Millett takes it a step farther with excellent quality optical glass that makes images pop even at a 1000 yards or more.
It’s not all about the glass with Millett though. They have a reputation for tough as nails construction intended for some of the largest rifle calibers available. Many people have used this exact optic on rifles chambered in .338 Lapua and even the punishing .50 bmg. Thanks to their rugged, reinforced 30mm tube, a Millet scope can handle the abuse and keep on going.
Like most scopes the LRS is purged and sealed to be weather tight for any environment but unlike most scopes, they have added in some premium features like a side focus adjustment and variable illuminated reticle. If you are buying for name, you can probably skip on Millett but if you are buying for quality, they are definitely a brand to check out!
Best Long Range Scope Under 500
3 Vortex Optics Diamondback
I could almost make a guarantee that you could never find an optic better than Vortex for the price anywhere. Their quality is up there with some of the best optics on the planet while their price is low enough that they could comfortably fit in anyone’s budget. How they manage it is a mystery but they have taken the shooting world by storm.
All Vortex scopes are fully multi-coated with a special recipe of coatings that give all of their glass unparallel light transmission and clarity and this is on top of the already amazing optical quality that vortex offers. You combine that with the large 42mm objective lens and you have a scope that will shoot great even in the lower light of the evening. Believe me when I say you want a vortex scope for long range shooting, the more than adequate 4x to 16x magnification will get you every bit of range you need.
Not only is this scope waterproof but it is argon purged and sealed to remain forever free of fog and condensation. Never doubt that this is one of the finest long range scopes made in its price range and will probably outperform optics that cost many times more. If you are looking for a long range rifle scope under 500 bucks, you have hit your mark here.
4 Athlon Optics Vargos
Following a similar recipe for success as Vortex Optics, Athlon has been knocking the socks off shooters with their line of extreme long range rifle scopes for the past few years. The features this scope offers are unlike any you find until you start looking at looking at scopes costing more than a grand.
So, what makes the Athlon Vargos so great? Well, firstly it’s the glass which is on par with some of the best glass put in rifle scopes today. Sure, you can get better but at nowhere near this price. Once you add fully multi-coated lenses and a massive 56mm objective lens, you get a scope that is clear, bright, and crisp with no issues with glare to get in your way. All around, this is an amazing optical tool.
Of course, you have to have some protection, like a fully water proof and purged fog proof scope tube that is shock resistant and as durable as any scope on the market. But none of that really matters if you can’t get out to your target. But that won’t be a concern with the Vargos’ max 34x magnification making it the only scope on this list to consider if you want a long range rifle scope for 1000 yard + shots.
To add a little more, this scope is a rare 1st focal plane optic meaning that no matter the zoom, your shots are going to be accurate and with the mil-dot reticle you have one of those sought after long range rifle scopes with rangefinder capabilities. You would be hard pressed to find any other long range scope under 500 bucks that offered these features.
Best Long Range Scope Under 300
5 Leupold VX 1
Oh, the glory that is Leupold, one of the most respected and beloved makers of long range hunting scopes to ever make an optic. There are few companies that can compete in either quality or reputation and it is all very well deserved. If you have never had the opportunity to look through Leupold glass, you need to check some out as soon as you can.
Sure, this isn’t the most powerful scope on this list at a max of 9x and the lenses aren’t even fully multi-coated like the other optics but believe me, that doesn’t matter. The quality of Leupold’s glass and the multi-coat recipe will blow away most other glass including any other optic on this list. Even with a 40mm objective lens, this is one of the brightest scopes in this price range and the image is crisper and clearer than a hunter could need.
All Leupold scopes are waterproof and purged to get the best fog proofing you can have. The VX 1 is also shockproof and beyond rugged. This is a scope for a lifetime with just a little casual care and maintenance. If you want a long range scope for 308, 30-06, 270 or other hunting calibers, this is one of the most popular choices by some of the best hunters around.
6 Nikon Buckmaster II
Much like Leupold, Nikon has been producing quality optics of generations and their Buckmaster series has probably been on more rifles that have taken deer and elk than just about any other thanks to their outstanding quality and very comfortable price. This may not be the most powerful optic but it is a solid choice that will do all most long range shooters will ever need.
Why is Nikon so popular? Well their glass is superb quality with their Monarch series of scopes being one of the best selling of all time. The only reason the Buckmaster beats it out for this list is the durability which it has in spades. Not only is the tube reinforced to provide excellent ruggedness but the glass is seated in a way that it is shock proofed. Purged with nitrogen and sealed, this scope is both rain and fog proof for life.
Like Nikons best selling scopes, the Buckmaster series has phenomenal brightness and clarity thanks in part to the quality glass but also because of Nikon’s industry leading multi-coat technology which is applied to every glass surface of the Buckmaster. These scopes are bright and the view is absolutely top notch.
This may not be the most powerful scope on the list but with its durability and reputation this would make a fine optic for those more powerful magnum rounds or perhaps as a long range scope for 6.5 Creedmoor or .338 Lapua. If your fundamentals are good, this scope should be able to get you out past 500 yards with ease.
Long Range Rifle Scope Tips
Learn to Shoot Without It
If you want to be a truly great shot with a scope the first thing to do is nail down all your fundamentals and the best way to do that is to learn to shoot without the scope first. When you are so tuned in to your target it is easy to forget trigger discipline and jerk your shots.
Start small and work your way up. The time invested in learning a strong foundation for marksmanship will pay off in spades if you take the time to do it right. Even the greatest snipers in history started off without their optic and only moved up to the longest range shots when they had proven they were expert marksmen.
Be Mindful of the Sun
Just like a magnifying glass can be used to start a fire, light magnified through a scope can be very intense. Be mindful of glare and light colored objects that can reflect bright light into your scope. Protect your vision or even the best optic on the planet won’t help you.
If you have to take a shot into the sun, use a sun shade or even lay your hat till the bill sticks out past the top edge of the objective lens. It isn’t perfect but it will help.
Practice Proper Scope Care
Like your firearms or other fine tools, an optic needs care and attention or it can be irreparably damaged. Keep the lenses clean and use covers any time the optic is stored to avoid scratches on your very fine glass. Use a microfiber cloth that is clean and dry to clean you lenses. It they should become smudged, a drop of vinegar and water wiped gently across the lens will usually take care of the problem without streaking or staining.
Use caution when storing your rifles in a gun safe. Inadvertent banging and pressure can cause issues with a scope and can eventually knock the lenses out of alignment. You have invested in getting a good scope, make sure it’s taken care of.
Shoot from a Stable Position
Most people use a scope from a tripod but sandbags or a shooters vice will also provide you with a stable base that will greatly improve your accuracy at long range. Attempting to shoot a scoped rifle from an unsupported position is almost impossible unless you are using it at very close range.
Part of the proper use of a scope is learning how best to make it stable and prevent the crosshairs from drifting off the target when you pull the trigger. Practice as much as you can and opt for sandbags whenever possible. They’re more reliable than other support methods.
Learn to Sight in your Own Scope
Even if you have someone sight in your scope to a perfect zero for you, you will eventually need to develop the skill to sight in your scope yourself. It is a universal truth that no scope holds its zero forever.
Temperature changes, bumps and bangs, and just natural settling of the scope can cause it to drift off by a small amount. The better the scope the less of an issue but all scopes will have issues. Sighting in a scope should be the first thing you do when you first break it out. Unless you have a constant companion to help, you are going to have to zero the rifle yourself at some point.
Give your Eyes a Rest
Using a scope for long periods of time can cause a lot of eye strain and leave you with a blinding headache. While shooting is always fun and even more so with a quality scope, you need to give your eyes a break every now and then.
This is especially true if you spend a long time looking through the scope between shots. Anything more than about 5 solid minutes can cause discomfort and strain.
Long range shooting is a very exciting hobby that is full of challenges. This is even more true of long range hunting. You may think it all starts with a quality scope but it doesn’t. Nothing will be strong shooting fundamentals as a first step in learning to make those really long shots. With a decent scope, anything under 300 yards is fairly easy but if you want to stretch out there past 500 or even 1000 everything you do leading up to a shot needs to be perfect.
Once you have a strong base of shooting technique, then its time to add a good optic. It’s quite alright to plan ahead. If you want to keep shooting exciting, go ahead an make your purchase but don’t use it as a crutch to make up for any lack of accuracy on your part.
Remember even the best long range rifle scope can never be better than you can use it.