I often wonder how many gun owners don’t have a .22 or at least a .17 caliber rifle. Sure, there are some that have only a pistol or shotgun for defense but I a betting that most shooters have one.
They are fun, easy to shoot, perfect to learn on, highly accurate, affordable. If you add to one the very best rimfire rifle scope, it just gets better!
Personally, I own nearly a dozen .22 and .17 caliber rifles having started shooting them when I was probably 5 years old. Some have scopes and some do not but I love shooting them, especially the .22 which is by far the most popular rimfire cartridge.
The main reason I love them is the short range accuracy. It is possible to effectively use a rimfire scope for 25 yards. Out to 50 yards, they can be tack drivers. To 100 yards, I can hit targets the size of a tennis ball even with a stock .22. Nearing the 200-yard point, I shoot a small coffee can. I even have a custom .22 that I can hit a nickel at 100 yards if the wind is good.
There is simply nothing that beats a scoped .22 for sheer fun! But you have to get the right scope, not just for the rifle but for you.
- .22 Scope Mentality
- The Purpose Made .22 Rimfire Scope
- .22 Rimfire Scope Considerations
- Top 5 Rimfire Rifle Scope 2019 - Comparison Table
- Sighting in a .22 Scope
- What is a rimfire scope?
- Differences between a rimfire scope and a centerfire scope?
- Similarities between a rimfire scope and a centerfire scope?
- Can you use a rimfire scope on a muzzleloader?
.22 Scope Mentality
The main question you will have to answer is what you want your rifle to do. Do you want a rimfire rifle scope for target shooting or is it for hunting? What range and what size targets do you plan to shoot? Will you be using your rimfire scope for squirrel hunting? How accurate is your particular rifle?
Each of these considerations will help you pick the correct scope.
One of the best capabilities of the .22 is its ability to hit very small targets. This leads some shooters, especially sandbag or benchrest shooters to pick scopes that have very high magnification, sometimes into the 40x range.
This is what I use on my custom rifle, a 32x scope that has a big picture for tiny targets. It may seem overpowered but a dime sized target at 50 yards is a tough shot without a powerful scope.
The opposite end is more the plinking type of target shooting. For this, I prefer a scope that has a little less power, usually less than 10x but no more than 15x. This allows me to shoot at closer range but get out to 200 yards on a target around the size of a softball.
Many hunters opt for a scoped .22, this is especially popular in squirrel hunting and small varmints. The mentality of a hunter and the way they use a scope differs from a target shooter.
You won’t find many successful hunters that use powerful rifle scopes because they lack the field of view to track your target as it moves. A scope like my 32x would be horrible for hunting. Instead, I would stick with something less than a 10x. Ethical shots with a .22 are probably around 50 yards and definitely not more than 100. The .22 just lacks the power.
Matching a Scope to your Rifle
Let’s face it, some .22s just aren’t that accurate. A perfect example is the 10/22 by Ruger which is an amazing firearm but you aren’t going to get tack driving accuracy out of one straight from the factory.
This is the case with most automatic .22s that really benefit from shorter range shots and can get by with a less powerful optic. There is no reason to stick a 20x optic on a Ruger 10/22, it can’t keep up with the scope and will never be perfectly zeroed.
Many .22 bolt guns can be insanely accurate. For example, a scope for Ruger American rimfire rifles can be a little more powerful and still work well. These rifles are highly accurate though still not enough to warrant a scope in the 30x or higher. But any scope in the teens and low twenty magnification range will do well.
If you want to step it up to those 30x and 40x scopes, you need a custom gun.
The Purpose Made .22 Rimfire Scope
There are some companies that make optics specifically marketed for rimfire rifles. As long as the company is reputable, these scopes are pretty good but avoid a budget 22 rimfire scope from any sketchy companies.
Many of these specific scopes are more affordable than other scopes because they aren’t made to stand up to more powerful recoil. This can save you a little money if your budget is tight. They may also have a BDC reticle more tuned to a .22 which can be a decent feature for novice scope shooters.
Otherwise, they are no different than a standard rifle scope. Go with what works for your rifle without marketing getting in the way. I have a couple of rimfire specific scopes but most of the scopes on my .22 rifles are standard rifle scopes. I like to have the option of moving them to a more powerful rifle if I want and you can’t do that with a purpose made scope but you get features more suited to the .22 with rimfire scopes.
.22 Rimfire Scope Considerations
Your goal here is either to find a great rimfire scope for the money or the best rimfire scope that you can get. You can spend a lot of money on an optic and will usually get what you pay for but you don’t want to get a scope that doesn’t match well for your needs. Consider each of these points.
If you have decided on your purpose above, you should have a good idea of what you need out of a scope. For a more precise primer here is what I would recommend:
For scopes intended for hunting, I would look for something that maxes out between 7x and 10x. This gives you a good field of view while providing plenty of magnification for shooting even small game at modest ranges out to 50 yards or a little more.
For plinking and target shooting for fun, I would go with something between 10x and 15x. This still gives you plenty of magnification to get out to long-range but doesn’t get so powerful that you are restricted to long-range shots. This is the most versatile scope power allowing you to hunt or target shoot.
For long range shooting, I would go with the same power spectrum of 10 to 15x. The bullet drop on a .22 is alarmingly large past 100 yards and high powered scopes make holdovers very hard.
For a dedicated target gun that will shoot modest ranges at very small targets, you can safely go as high as you want. There are .22 BR scopes that have magnification in the 40+ range. This requires a very precise accurized or custom rifle. Otherwise, there is no advantage to having a scope this powerful.
I will personally say that I am not a fan of a plain crosshair reticle for any purpose. If you are just starting out with a scope they are very easy to use but you will quickly outgrow them. The only exception may be the hunter that never shoots more than 50 yards but even then, I would prefer a different reticle.
My favorite all-purpose reticle would be a duplex reticle that had markings I could use to gauge bullet drop. If it were tuned to the .22 that would be even better but few are. This allows you to judge bullet drop from anywhere around 30 yards out to over 100 without issue.
Most of my high powered scopes have a full BDC reticle. These are complicated but can be used for any purpose once you get the hang of them. They can be a little confusing, especially if you are new to scopes but work very well.
There are two types of adjustments you can get on a scope, these are often called capped or turret adjustments. Capped adjustments are intended to be a set it and forget it option where you use holdover and Kentucky Windage to put rounds on target. Turrets are made to adjust on the fly so your crosshairs are always on the target and you adjust your elevation and windage so the bullet always hits the crosshairs.
For a .22, most people will never need turret adjustments. There is little downside to having them other than cost. For a hunting rifle or a scope under 10x, I wouldn’t consider them a bonus at all.
If you shoot small targets in competitions with a high powered scope or do some long range plinking, they can serve a purpose of making you more consistent and even handling extreme bullet drop. You just have to balance the usefulness with the cost.
Ruggedness & Weatherproofing
I will opt for a rugged piece of gear every time, even if it costs more. I like to know what I have will last and function well even if it takes a little abuse. That said, most .22s don’t see much abuse and have very little recoil. You can get by with a scope that is a little less durable if need be.
The same is mostly true for weatherproofing. I always opt for fog and water resistance in my gear and rarely compromise on that. But if you shoot indoors, under cover, or only in clear weather, there is no reason you should HAVE to have these features but you probably should anyway.
Top 5 Rimfire Rifle Scope 2019 - Comparison Table
Top 5 .22 Rimfire Scopes recommendation:
1 Vortex Optics Crossfire II Rimfire
What would happen if one of the greatest optics manufacturers took one of their best optics and fitted it out for the .22 caliber round? You would get the best budget rimfire rifle scope on the market, one that can do everything you would need to do with a .22 but with all of the durability and features of a high-end centerfire scope.
The aircraft aluminum one-piece construction is incredibly tough, more so than you would need for a .22 but more is better when it comes to durability. The scope is nitrogen purged and 100% waterproof and fog proof. Even on a higher powered rifle, recoil shock wouldn’t be an issue and you get all that from a scope that weighs right at a pound.
The adjustments are a blend between capped and turret style with finger adjustments but can be covered to avoid any issues with loss of zero. The reticle is Vortex’s V-Plex which combines the simplicity of a standard crosshair with a 1 MOA gap for calculating holdover. Everything about this rifle caters to the hunter by being simple and fast with plenty of accuracy for a sure hit.
Of course, we have to mention the amazing glass in a Vortex scope. With their own multicoated lenses that absolutely shine when it comes to image quality and brightness, there are few better on the market and none at this price. No-glare and no-fog mean you can shoot anytime and anywhere in any weather, it may be overengineered for a .22 but that’s ok.
2 Bushnell Rimfire Optics 6-18x
Not to ignore those who want to reach out a little farther, Bushnell makes an outstanding scope for .22 rimfire that also functions well for .17 and even .22 mag rounds. With all of the features you would ever need to put you on target far past 100 yards, this scope is the king when it comes to budget scopes with some real power.
With a max 18x zoom and trueplex reticle designed for the .22 cartridge, even tiny targets are well within the abilities of this scope. Combine this with target turrets for .22 or .17 caliber cartridges and you can guide a hit onto targets well past the usual 150-yard mark, even out to 200 yards without much issue with 80moa of adjustment travel.
Like all Bushnell scopes, the glass is plenty clear and bright with their own anti-glare and anti-fog coating. The side parallax focus works well to clear up image anywhere form 25 yards to well past any range you could reasonably shoot. Most scopes of this power that are designed for .22 have 1/8 MOA adjustments but the 1/4 MOA on the Bushnell seem to work just fine.
Weather resistant and made from a 1 piece aluminum tube that is sealed against dust and rather resistant to any recoil this scope works quite well with lower powered rifles but keep it off anything more than a .22 mag. It just won’t hold up. This is a scope made for the range, not the woods.
3 Nikon Prostaff Rimfire II
Back around to Nikon with their dedicated rimfire scopes. Their Prostaff series has been a best-selling optic for a number of years in all calibers and markets. They are simple, effective, and highly accurate time and again. This was one of my first optics and one that I keep coming back to for the price and quality.
All ProStaff scopes have great glass that provides amazing light transmission and clear images. When matched with a huge 40mm objective lens and full multicoat, it just bets better. Add their own BDC reticle and you get a highly accurate and easy to shoot scope.
The turrets are easily adjustable and very precise, being designed for the faster shooting .22 loads. They are capped turrets but adjust by hand rather than needing a tool for adjustment. This is the best of both worlds, especially for those who never know what they may be shooting at.
All in all, this is a sturdy scope that is lightweight, waterproof, fog resistant and easily capable of lasting for a lifetime. Sight this scope in at the suggest 50 yards and the 3-9x will carry you through a variety of shooting situations and most reasonable ranges.
4 Bushnell Rimfire Optics 3.5-10x
Back again but this time to provide you the best damn rimfire scope under 100 bucks that you are ever likely to find. Though the 10x max power is lower, this is still as much as most shooters are ever likely to need. Great for hunting, plinking, and even some target shooting, this is a highly versatile scope that has a price that is nearly beyond belief.
With all the quality you would expect from a Bushnell scope, great glass, and bright clear images, this scope is a high performer that is specifically designed to work with standard velocity .22 ammunition. The Dropzone 22 optic makes holdover calculations quick and easy for the hunter but accurate enough for long-range targets once you get the hang of it.
Waterproof and fog proof with one-piece construction that is sealed and tough enough to last for years make this a scope you can dedicate to a rifle and even hand down to your kids when you are done. The multicoat provides some of the best low-light brightness you will ever get, even out of a reasonably small 36mm objective.
Dollar for dollar this is a great scope for the money, no doubt about it. If you want to get the best on a tight budget, you likely will do no better. Bushnell has always done a great job on their .22 dedicated optics and this one is just another shining example.
5 Nikon PROSTAFF RIMFIRE II 3-9X40 BDC150
To kick things off, Nikon has always made amazing scopes, especially for rifles on the lighter side of the power spectrum. For the .22, it's really hard to beat the P-Rimfire if you are a hunter or plinker. The 3-9x magnification is just about perfect for everything you could ever need.
With zero-reset turrets and a BDC reticle specifically designed for hypervelocity .22 rounds, this scope gets you on target quick with dead-on accuracy. The quality of the glass is quite good with Nikon’s own multicoat technology. Images are bright, crisp, and clear with enough power to get out to 150 yards, the max range on the reticle.
Weighing just under a pound, this aluminum and polymer scope doesn’t add mass to your lightweight rifles but still holds up quite well. It is fog and waterproof with enough shock resistance to handle a few bangs here and there and more than enough for the .22s marginal recoil.
With a good rifle and quality high-velocity ammo, this scope is capable of very tight groups and consistent impacts, one after another. For the hunter, you would likely never need more. This is a solid and durable scope that won’t break the bank, perhaps the best rimfire scope under 200 dollars in current production.
Sighting in a .22 Scope
One of the most common questions I get is what range to sight in a .22 at. There are a lot of theories about what works best and why you should use anything from .25 yards out to 1oo yards. I personally sight different rifles at different ranges depending on their use.
If you have a scope with dedicated turrets or BDC reticle, its best to always follow the manufacturer's recommendation on range to ensure those features work correctly. Most of the time that will be 50 yards which is a solid range to sight in at for a variety of uses anyway.
Hunting and plinking rifles I always sight in at 50 yards as well as any rifle that I intend to dedicate to shooting in 50-yard competitions. I would say that at least half my .22 rifles are sighted in at this range which is the shortest range I will ever sight in a .22.
Scopes that are intended for shooting at a wide variety of ranges such as plinking or varmint rifles I sight in at 75 yards. You do need to remember what range your rifle is sighted in at in this case. I usually keep a small note taped inside my lens cover with the sight in range so I can manage shorter and longer range shots accurately.
I do have a couple of rifles sighted in at 100 yards. These are rifles that I shoot nearly exclusively at that range. Bullet drop on a .22 is significant at that distance and shooting much of anything shorter is very difficult with a 100-yard sight in. These are also the rifles I use for the occasional 150 and 200-yard shots.
What is a rimfire scope?
A rimfire scope is a type of scope you can use with a rimfire rifle. A rimfire rifle is one that has the
firing pin strike the rim of the cartridge base to ignite the primer. Typically, anything smaller than a .22 will be a rimfire type rifle.
A rimfire scope is a scope that will work with this type of rifle. Any scope will allow you to see the full field of vision, without your eyes being centered. Since a rimfire scope is typically used on smaller caliber guns, this type of scope is a better bet for shooting at a closer range. Generally speaking, the rimfire scope is also a bit cheaper. It is made with different materials than other scopes since it will not be subjected to the same intensity and wear and tear that other scopes are subjected too. Another feature of the rimfire scope is the parallax. With a rimfire scope, the parallax is usually adjusted to 50 yards. You may be able to find some “rimfire scopes with parallax adjustment”. This means the side focus can be adjusted. This can help you vary your focus from 10-100 yards.
If you have chosen a really good rimfire scope, there is also the ability to use it as an air gun scope. However, in order to use your “rimfire scope on an air gun” scope, you need to be sure it can handle the recoil. This is because many air guns use a double pulse, fore and aft, momentum.
When you are considering purchasing a rimfire scope, you also need to look at the type and quality of glass that is being used in the scope. Eye fatigue is a real issue for hunters when shooting, especially when you are on the range for an extended period of time. Different brands of rimfire scopes are made with different types and qualities of glass, so be sure to thoroughly check them out before purchasing.
Differences between a rimfire scope and a centerfire scope?
There are a few distinct differences between a rimfire scope and a centerfire scope. Knowing the differences will help you to choose the right one for your shooting needs. Generally speaking, a rimfire scope will have less eye relief and will be parallax free at closer ranges. A rimfire scope will also not be able to withstand the recoil from a rifle above a .22.
A centerfire scope will usually have a focus range of 100,200,500 yards, etc. This is a much greater range than the rimfire scope. A rimfire scope might be good from 25 yards up to 100 yards. This makes it more suitable for shooting targets at a closer range.
Additionally, a centerfire scope is more likely to have an Adjustable Objects lens, or an A/O. This A/O focus feature will allow you to adjust to be parallax free at the range you wish to shoot for. You can search for a rimfire scope with adjustable objective, but they are not common. Usually you will not find a rimfire scope with A/O, unless it’s on the higher end of the price range. Since a rimfire scope generally will not have A/O, it stands to reason that you will not find a rimfire scope with target turrets. The turrets are more likely to be found on different scopes.
Another difference between a rimfire scope and a centerfire scope is the eye protection. Since a rimfire scope is meant to be used with a smaller caliber rifle, there is less recoil. A centerfire scope will have more eye protection for the user. When you are shooting a .22 or higher rifle, a centerfire scope will offer you more eye protection as you are sighting your target.
Similarities between a rimfire scope and a centerfire scope?
In some ways, both the rimfire scope and centerfire scope are alike. Both scopes are meant to be an accessory to your rifle. This accessory can help you have a more accurate shot at your target at a greater range. Both a rimfire scope and a centerfire scope can help you see a bit further than you could if you were just using your naked eye. You can expect to find both a centerfire scope and a rimfire scope with side focus. The side focus helps the user to adjust the parallax.
Both types of scopes are designed to work in a similar fashion, but at different distances. These scopes work by aiding your sight. They are often made of similar materials too. They will also attach to your rifle in a similar manner. You do need to know what type of rifle you will be using with your scope to make sure you are purchasing the correct one. A centerfire scope is generally recommended to be used with a .22 or higher rifle. If you do use your rimfire scope with a mount, be sure you are using the right mount for your rifle so that the scope will be securely attached.
You can use both a centerfire scope and a rimfire scope with a sunshade. The advantage to a sunshade is that it helps to cut down on the amount of glare that hits the light in your scope as you are trying to sight your target. You are also able to purchase a rimfire scope with bdc. A rimfire scope with bullet drop compensator works by using a reticle pattern that predicts how much a bullet will drop at a given range. is option helps you maintain accuracy when shooting.
They are often made with different materials. The centerfire scope has better eye protection since it is intended to be used with higher powered rifles. If you use a rimfire scope on a higher powered rifle, you may injury your eye when shooting. If you are intending to use your rimfire scope on an AR 15, that may not be a good idea.
1. Will a rimfire scope work on a centerfire rifle?
Technically you could use a rimfire scope on a centerfire rifle. Since the main objective of a scope is to aid in sighting, you could use this combination.
A rimfire scope is set to have a 50 yard parallax setting. If you are trying to sight out further than this, you can experience crosshair creep. This occurs when the angle you are sighting from changes. This makes the reticle move around the target and it ultimately can affect your shooting accuracy. Some users feel that you can still use a rimfire scope with accurate target hitting on a centerfire rifle with practice. A rimfire scope with illuminated reticle might be helpful in this case.
Some wonder if you can use a rimfire scope on a 30-30. This is generally considered to be a more powerful rifle, so a centerfire scope would be preferable if you choose to use a scope.
Additionally, you need to consider how well made the rimfire scope is that you are considering using with your centerfire rifle. Some rimfire scopes are made with plastic materials. This is because a rimfire scope would most likely be used on a smaller rifle. A smaller rifle has less recoil when fired. If you use your rimfire scope on a centerfire rifle, you may damage your scope if it cannot hold up to the fire power of a .22 rifle or higher. You also run the risk of damaging your eye when it kicks back.
It is possible to mount a rimfire scope with rings to a centerfire rifle. If you are considering using your rimfire scope on a centerfire rifle, proceed with caution. It is possible to be injured, you could wreck your scope and you could miss your target!
Can you use a rimfire scope on a muzzleloader?
It is not recommended to try and use a rimfire scope on a muzzleloader. The reason is simple: the sheer amount of power in a muzzleloader will be too much for your rimfire scope.
When you are using a rifle with that amount of power, you need to use the proper accessories for several reasons. The first reason here is physical safety. A muzzleloader will kick back with tremendous force. Using an inadequate scope will not protect your eye while sighting. Everyone will know you didn’t have the proper scope when you walk around with a half moon shape mark under your eye. There is also the chance that the glass in the eye piece will shatter. Getting glass in your eye is a major emergency, and one you do not want, especially when you are out in the field.
Since a muzzleloader packs such a recoil, you can and probably will break your rimfire scope if you try and use them together. A rimfire scope is designed to be used with a small rifle, generally less than a .22 caliber.
There are scopes that are made specifically with a muzzleloader. It is worth the money to purchase one if you wish to use it. This is why you usually won’t find a rimfire scope with a mil dot, a rimfire scope is not intended to be used with higher caliber rifles that are shot at greater ranges. Scope are important accessories and you should purchase the best ones that your budget allows. Having the right accessories will help you with shooting accuracy, and keep you safe. You should always use protective eye and ear gear when shooting.
Purchasing the appropriate scopes for the rifles you intend to use should be treated as an investment. It is an investment in your gun collection and an investment in your sport. If you are unsure of what you need, see your local gun shop. The professionals there can make sure you are getting what you need, they can show you how to attach and use your accessories and they can give you tips and information that will help you.
It's important to remember that getting a .22 on target at long range or even with small targets is a joint effort. The best scope in the world won’t make you or your rifle shoot any better, it just makes you more consistent. In order not to be a consistently bad shot, you need to practice and get a rifle that is capable of handling the accuracy you expect.
By choosing a scope with a power range and features that coincide with how you plan on using your rifle you can better manage your expectations of accuracy. Most people will do well with a scope 10x or less for most uses and be quite happy with it. If you plan to shoot farther or smaller, you will need to up that.