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 12 Long Range Rifle Scope Reviews 2019 - Comparison Table
- 1 Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II
- 2 Nightforce Optics NXS
- 3 Nightforce Optics 5-20x56 SHV Riflescope
- 4 Vortex Optics Viper PST FFP
- 5 Millett Illuminated LRS
- 6 Nikon Black X1000
- 7 Vortex Optics Viper HS-T Second Focal Plane Riflescopes
- 8 Vortex Optics Crossfire II
- 9 Vortex Optics Diamondback
- 10 Athlon Optics Vargos
- 11 Leupold VX 1
- 12 Nikon Buckmaster II
- Long Range Rifle Scope Tips
What Exactly is a Long Range Scope?
When we think of shooting for distance, when does it become long range? Is it 50 yards? That would be long range for a .22 rifle. Is it 100, 150, 200? At those ranges, a scope helps but are they truly long range? Maybe it is 500 yards when many calibers start to lose their effectiveness.
There is not an exact definition for long range but we need a value to understand what kind of scopes we are looking at here. I think the best way of assigning that value is based on when iron sights become ineffective for shooting. Though the Marines shoot at 500 yards but very few manage to make those shots.
The 300-yard mark is about the last point where all but a few experts will score hits. I would consider this the start of long range marksmanship and the point where we should start considering long range scopes. As far as a maximum, I think we leave that alone. There is a point where it turns into extreme range and the scopes may be a little different but any scope that will hit at a thousand will hit at 300.
So what is a long range scope then? Something that can hit at a minimum of 300 yards consistently but that should be able to go well past that. To get that far, you are going to need the scope to have a few features to make it an appropriate tool for the job.
Here are some minimums that you probably should have: A scope of at least 10 power. Good optics with parallax focus. Turret adjustments and a BDC reticle. Anything else is extra. This is exactly what the military would look for in a long range sniper scope.
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 12 Long Range Rifle Scope Reviews 2019 - Comparison Table
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Our Top 12 long range rifle scopes recommendations:
1 Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II
Vortex makes a number of scopes but what people fail to realize is the overall quality of different models differs. They offer three ranges of optics of increased quality and their Razor series is the best by far. They are more durable, optically superior, and have much better quality control to avoid any issues down the line.
The specific razor we are interested in for long range shooting is the version in 4.5-27 though they offer this scope in a variety of powers capable of getting to extremely long range, past 1000 yards in most cases. It isn’t only the power that makes this possible but their amazing ED Prime glass which is simply as clear as glass can be. To further the image quality, the lenses get a full multi-coat treatment including their scratch resistant Armorteck finish.
The reticles on the Razor series are all a version of MOA or Mill Radian which is perfect for getting the bullet right on target at longer distances. This combines with their locking L-TEC turret system to dial in precisely on targets. The combination is perfect for the long range shooter. These are becoming one of the favored scopes among hobbyist and professionals alike.
If you are more than just a hobbyist, you will need some durability features and the Razor has them all. It is sealed and dry argon-purged to prevent water intrusion and fog. It is shock resistant up to a .50 caliber. The exterior is hard-coat anodized over a single piece scope tube. This adds durability, rigidity, and keeps everything properly aligned. If you are after the best, this may have some equals but likely none better.
2 Nightforce Optics NXS
Much like the Vortex, Nightforce is a company with no compromises. This is especially true of any scope in their NXS series, the premium line of optics offered by Nightforce. They are actually made in the same shop in Japan as the high-end Vortex optics and are at least as good in every way. Any differences would be so minimal as not to matter.
The NXS does come in a few models and powers but the 5.5-22x version with the MOAR reticle is probably the best for long range shooting. When paired with the absolute premium glass offered by Nightforce with its own multi-coat technology, you get an optically perfect scope. The lenses are scratch resistant and fully anti-glare.
To help you get to long range, the illuminated MOAR reticle has MOA markings that correspond to the turret adjustments. The turrets themselves have zero-reset and a very nice, solid click as you adjust them. While that is good, the truly amazing thing is that this scope has 100 MOA of internal travel. This means you have over 80 feet of adjustment range at 1000 yards.
On durability, Nightforce is second to none. Their scope walls are thicker, the hard-coat is harder, and their warranty is better. Everything is water, shock, and Fogproof and sealed against dust and debris. Breaking a Nightforce scope would take effort. It isn’t something you do by accident. And if you do, they will probably still replace it.
3 Nightforce Optics 5-20x56 SHV Riflescope
If the previous Nightforce sounds good but you need more of a budget-friendly option, you can always go with their second-tier scope, the SHV. It has much in common with the more expensive NXS model but has been scaled back in a few key areas to save precious dollars. And don’t think that this is an inferior scope because it isn’t Nightforce’s top of the line, it will still beat almost every other optic out there.
Like with the NXS, we are going to go with the MOAR reticle but this time it has been changed to a second focal plane scope. The power has decreased as well but not by much. The SHV comes as a 5-20x scope and has near the same optical quality. The multi-coat is identical and the lenses are very, very close. Unless you spend a lot of your time behind a scope, you are unlikely to be able to tell the difference.
The turrets on the SHV match the reticle and have the same zero reset feature. They may have a little less internal travel but it will be enough to get you to 800 yards with most caliber rifles. The reticle is illuminated at the center point for low light shooting and has MOA hash marks for getting perfect shot placement.
When it comes to durability, you may get a little less out of the midrange Nightforce scopes. They don’t have the thicker walls and the quality control is not as stringent. If there is a problem, this still has the Nightforce warranty so you will be taken care of. It just isn’t as convenient. The scope has all of the same shock and weatherproofing as well. It is tough as you would ever need a scope to be and you can save a little by giving up a few of the extras.
4 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.
5 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!
6 Nikon Black X1000
Nikon is a well-known name in the world of rifle optics with decades of experience putting decent optics on rifles for the hunter and target shooter. But decent is no longer good enough so they have upped their game to produce a premium quality scope. With the Black series, they definitely succeeded. It far surpasses any other scope they have ever released.
When it comes to the basics, the X1000 is a powerful 6-20x scope with premium glass. The lenses themselves are the best that has ever been used by Nikon and are on par with the best glass used by many higher end companies. Like all Nikon’s, it is multi-coated on all air-to-glass surfaces which greatly improves the color and contrast of the scope image.
The reticle in the X1000 comes in either MOA or Mill Radian but the turrets are only available in MOA. You are probably better off to get matching reticles and turrets. Parallax adjustment is on the erector for adjustment without losing your sight picture. This handy feature is one of the X1000’s greatest changes from previous Nikon models.
The scope is fully waterproof, shockproof, and rugged enough for any mission. Lenses are sealed and the interior is purged for fog free performance. This is a tough scope if not so tough as scopes designed for military use. Still, there are some police departments who have adopted this scope and done well with it. It has proven useful to them and could easily hold a place in most of our arsenals.
7 Vortex Optics Viper HS-T Second Focal Plane Riflescopes
As we move into the mid-tier of Vortex optics, amazingly the quality stays high. Though it isn’t as good as the Razor or Viper PS-T, the HS-T is still a very good scope and can be bought for half the price or less of any of the higher end Vortex models. You will still get quality and the accuracy you need for long shots but may miss a little of the polish of the higher end products.
The HS-T is an amazingly powerful 6-24x and has every bit of optical quality you would need to get to extremely long ranges with accuracy. The multi-coat is exactly the same as on the high-end models and if there is a difference in the lenses, it’s very hard to tell. When combined with parallax adjustment, which is necessary with this scope, longer shots are possible with distances to 800+yards.
For this optic, a straight MOA reticle is by far the best bet as it matches with the turrets. Though they don’t have the same level of adjustment as higher-end models, you can still get plenty out of the turrets. They do feature a zero-stop and zero-reset feature and the reticle is glass etched on the second focal plane.
For durability, this is still a tough scope and has the same warranty as any Vortex model. The interior is sealed and argon-purged to keep out water and fog. Everything is stable and shockproof. While it may lack over some of the higher end models, it doesn’t lack in toughness. This is one of the best scopes you can get for the money.
8 Vortex Optics Crossfire II
While we are on the topic of Vortex, we should probably go ahead and talk about one more from the budget line. These scopes are a far cry from the astonishingly good Razor series and are a little below the Viper series. However, they are without a doubt the best in their price range. They are more durable, better quality, and have more features than any other scope for this price.
For power, you have a few different options in the Crossfire II but the best for distance would be the 6-24x. Most other scopes that reach for this level of power for this price fail. Not Vortex! Their Crossfire is optically superior with good lenses and a world-class multi-coat. These scopes are bright, clear, and crisp.
Where you start to lose some of the high-end features is the reticle and adjustments. The reticle comes in two varieties, a duplex and a dead hold BDC. Neither of these are perfect for extreme ranges but the dead hold is much better. The adjustments are MOA and can be adjusted by hand. But they are not made to use on the fly. They are capped and intended to stay that way after zero. All that said, you should still be able to get 400-600 yards out of this optic.
For durability, very little has changed from any of the other top of the line Vortex scopes. The walls of the tube are thick and ridged and have the same scratch-resistant multi-coat. The lenses are also scratch resistant. The Crossfire is manufactured the same way as the Viper so it is fully sealed and purged. If you are after a great scope that will last for years but need to save a few bucks, this is a strong choice.
9 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.
10 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.
11 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.
12 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.