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Beginner’s Guide to Choosing Rifle Scopes

Last Updated: 24.06.24


If you’re a keen hunter, you’re undoubtedly in need of a good rifle scope. This is the device that will help you determine the exact position of your target and significantly increase your chances of success in spite of the quality of your gun and your overall level of skill.

It’s good to know that even if you choose the best rifle on the market, combining it with a less than satisfactory scope will not result in any success on your part, so it’s a good idea to invest in this tool first if you don’t yet know your way around the hunting equipment market.

Reading the manufacturer’s description

The first thing that you’re likely to notice when you’re looking at a description file from a manufacturer that designs hunting gear like this is the magnification of the scope. Unlike for binoculars, in this case, two numbers will appear, and it means the scope can magnify at any level between the two values.

Also, the number after the x is the dimension of the lenses, which will be important later on. These factors significantly influence the price of the product that you end up buying and its quality overall.


Magnification power

This is indeed the aspect that determines your choice. If you find yourself frequently hunting in situations like dense forest landscapes where you are in need of sharpshooting capability, perhaps a 4x magnification would be a good choice for you.

If you’re a fan of idle bench shooting, a scope with a higher magnification power might be a good choice for your needs. You’ll benefit from finer details of distant objects the higher the magnification power is. However, this means that the lens will grow in size and it will become difficult to carry.

So if you’re planning on sitting still and waiting for the target to approach you, this shouldn’t be a problem. But if you’re going to be trekking, you need to be stealthy and to move around freely.


Size of the lens

Once you’re done with choosing the optimal magnifying power for your needs, you can move on and start considering the diameter of the glass. The main difference is that the lenses influence the amount of light that enters the optical system and small objectives can make it difficult to see in low lighting conditions.

A large size of the lens will require a more massive and overall more burdensome mounting system, which will result in a rifle scope that’s difficult to carry.

As a general rule, you should know that as the magnification power increases, so does the diameter of the lens. A bigger lens will offer you significantly increased visibility and detail quality, but it may also be more expensive.

Exit pupil and eye relief size

Not only the diameter of the lens is essential, but also the exit pupil, which can influence the level of comfort of the overall experience. The exit pupil is the circular image presented to your eye through the scope. The larger it is, the brighter the image will be, which is essential in low light.

Wearing other eye accessories such as glasses, for example, might prevent you from using specific scopes if their eye relief is too short. You’d surely want to get a scope that comes with a long enough eye relief so that you’ll be able to benefit from the entire field of view even if you’re wearing glasses.


Choosing the reticle

Otherwise known as crosshairs, the reticle consists of two intersecting lines forming a cross. Its primary purpose is to centralize the aiming point and give you a sense of direction to make sure you don’t miss your target.

You can choose from various brands, including Original, Duplex or Ballistic. However, the most commonly encountered alternative is the Duplex, since it’s suitable for low-light environments and it will allow you to extend your range.

The crosshair in the case of the Duplex reticle is quite thin, and it’s most useful during shootings. Other alternatives available include the Mildot reticle, which is based on the Duplex, only it delivers great effects if the size of the target matches the range at which the aim is present.

Details about focal planes

Knowing how focal planes work can come in handy when you want to change targets in a short amount of time. Using first focal planes instead of second focal planes can help you significantly increase your chances of success, and it works best for long-range targets.

Also, it can help the hunter change targets fast and change the focus without losing clarity of the image. Unfortunately, the price for a first focal plane is a lot higher than it is for a second so that most inexperienced hunters might prefer the latter option.

It is a cheaper choice that requires less knowledge and is usually better suited for those who are not experienced in hunting or don’t have too much information about optical devices, but given that it’s reasonably priced, it’s a favorite item.


Overall advice and other details

When choosing a good scope for your rifle, perhaps the budget plays a more important role than other secondary factors. If you’re a keen hunter and you know your way around this type of gear, perhaps you can afford to invest more money in proper equipment.

This means you can try more advanced gear and enjoy the benefits of having further knowledge on the field. If you’re thinking about taking up this sport, maybe you should start by using less expensive items, just to get the hang of it and see if it fits you and your interests.

The main factors that should influence this decision are the size of the lenses, the type of reticle, and the magnifying power of the scope, as previously discussed. However, there are other aspects to consider, like whether you need night vision or not or the measurement of minutes of angle.



Ioana Moldovan

Ioana’s professional experience in the optics field has helped her understand the value of passing her knowledge forward. Her curious personality helps her gather useful information for her readers and her goal is to make technical information fun and accessible to everyone.

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