The Ultimate Guide to Different Types of Rifle Scopes Which One is Right for You


Rifle scopes are a must-have for hunters, target shooters and other recreational users of rifles. But there are so many to choose from! This guide covers all types of scopes, their features & benefits, and tips on which one is best for you.

You can get variable or fixed-power scopes, red dot, reflex or holographic. Parallax adjustment, illuminated reticles and other features make accurate shooting much easier. Consider your budget when selecting the ideal scope – some come with extra features that might be too pricey.

Choosing the right scope is key to successful and precise shooting. We'll start by going over some basic terminology before discussing the various types:

Different Types of Rifle Scopes

Rifle scopes exist in many varieties. They can be used for target shooting, hunting, or tactical operations. Each type has its own special qualities, so it's essential to comprehend your choices before buying.

We will explore the various types of rifle scopes, their characteristics, and the scope that best fits your needs in this guide:

Red Dot Scopes

Red dot rifle scopes are favored amongst tactical rifle shooters and shooting sports enthusiasts. A series of red dots are projected through a lens in front of the shooter's eyes. This provides a quick way to aim and shoot, allowing the shooter to focus on their surroundings and target quickly.

These optics feature minimal magnification for accurate shots at close range without needing to adjust focus or parallax settings like other scopes. Red dot scopes also increase target acquisition speed. By using red dots and ranging reticles, shooters can identify, engage, and hit targets without adjusting focus or parallax.

The most popular types of red dot rifle scopes are:

  • Reflex sights
  • Holographic sights
  • Prismatic sights
  • Tubeless reflex sights
  • Non-magnifying optics (NMOs)
  • Magnified optics (MOs)

These optics are designed for close-quarter combat but can also be used effectively in hunting scenarios when accuracy is key.

Holographic Scopes

Holographic scopes are beginning to be used by hunters. They project a “red dot” view for aiming. Lasers are built-in, making aiming more accurate and easier. They offer unlimited eye relief and a broad field of view. However, they tend to be heavier and require batteries that need replacing often. Thus, they aren't as popular.

These scopes have illuminated reticles. They use one dot or multiple dots and lines for aiming according to the user's needs. They are great for quick target acquisition in low light. The reticles can be adjusted according to the shooter's abilities and the range of the target.

Though not as versatile as conventional rifle scopes, they can be a great option for experienced shooters. They provide quick target acquisition without the drawbacks of larger caliber rifles or rifles with higher velocity sights.

Prism Scopes

Prism scopes are a cool type of scope. They use prisms to direct light from the objective lens to the shooter's eye, creating clearer images than traditional scopes. Plus, they are small and lightweight, so they can fit on a Picatinny or Weaver rail without needing mounts or bases.

But, there are some downsides: prism scopes are dimmer than traditional scopes, and they may have less magnification range.

Still, they are great for short and medium-range target shooting up to 150 yards, and they work well for mid-to-long range varmint hunting. Speed and portability are key benefits.

Fixed Power Scopes

Fixed power scopes are the simplest. They usually have one magnification, such as 8x or 12x and no variable zoom. This makes them great for short to medium range shooting. They are perfect for target shooting or hunting when you know how far away targets will appear.

The image quality on fixed power scopes is good to excellent. They are lightweight, so hunters and marksmen can carry them around easily. They are often more affordable than higher end variable models, making them a budget-friendly choice.

The downside is you can only use one magnification level. But, if you know what type of terrain you will be in and what targets you might encounter at any range, fixed power scopes can be a great asset.

Variable Power Scopes

Variable power scopes come in two varieties: variable and adjustable. Variable axial scopes have a zoom mechanism adjusted by rotating the eyepiece. This lets you change the magnification while keeping the target in sight. They're used for short- and long-range shooting.

Adjustable axial scopes use a rotary dial or lever to make adjustments, then lock them into place. They usually come with two-to-three magnifications, ideal for moderate range hunting.

Variable power rifle scopes offer a wide range of magnifications, from 3x to 15x or more. They're great for long-range target shooting and varmint hunting. Some models feature open turrets that let you adjust the windage and elevation (horizontal & vertical positions) plus the parallax setting. Others have closed turrets that allow precise adjustment without worry of accidental changing. The lenses usually have multi-coated optics that reduce glare and distortion, while providing an exceptionally clear image at any magnification setting.

Night Vision Scopes

Night vision scopes, also known as thermal imaging scopes, are a new tech invention for firearms. They provide shooters with visibility in the dark. There are two types of night vision scopes: image intensified and thermal. They take natural light sources like the moon and stars and amplify them.

Image intensified scopes use incoming light to be seen through an eyepiece. This works when there is ambient light present. Thermal imaging scopes detect heat from targets and convert it into visible images even without natural light. This is great for hunting animals active at night.

There is a variety of night vision scopes available. They range in type, range, and budget. These optical devices can give you top-notch shooting performance in any condition!

How to Choose the Right Rifle Scope

Shopping for a rifle scope? Lots of options! Fixed or variable magnifications, ranging reticles and more. Get the most out of your scope by considering the right one for your gun and shooting style. Here's a guide to help you make an informed decision.

Factors to consider when selecting a scope:

  • What will you need?

Consider Your Budget

When picking a rifle scope, think about your budget. Rifle scopes come in different prices. Don't choose low quality just to save money. Expensive scopes don't always mean high quality. Look for value, not cost.

Research companies and read reviews. Check if they offer a warranty in case of defects. This gives you good value for your money.

Understand Magnification

Choosing a rifle scope requires knowing magnification. It can range from 3x to 40x or more. Factors such as the range and target size affect the decision.

Low-powered scopes (3x-6x) are best for short-range targets or quick acquisition. High-powered scopes can be used for farther distances but limit field of view and acquire time, and can muddle up images.

For most hunting, a scope with 12x-20x magnification optimizes distance and accuracy without sacrificing maintainability. Twilight performance too should be considered when selecting a scope's magnification – higher powered scopes sacrifice brightness in lower light.

No matter the type of scope, ensure it has enough power for precision shooting without compromising maximum range too much.

Consider Eye Relief

Eye relief is the distance between your eye and the rifle scope's rear lens. It must be considered when shopping for a scope to have a safe and comfortable experience. Most scopes are designed for a certain amount of eye relief.

Long eye relief scopes (4” or more) are ideal for glasses wearers or those who hunt in awkward positions. They usually offer wider fields of view and better mid-to-high power performance.

Standard eye relief scopes (3”-4”) are lightweight and compact. They work great for fast action and hunting smaller game where accuracy isn't key.

When choosing an eye relief length, consider what you plan to do with the scope most often. Mid-to-long range shots or close quarters shooting will determine which type of eye relief is best.

Think About Reticles

Reticles come in various shapes, sizes, and styles. They are a key element of scope setups. Generally, they fall into two types: Duplex (Fine Crosshair) or Carpet (German #4). Knowing their advantages will help you pick a rifle scope for hunting.

  • Duplex (Fine Crosshair): It has a thin middle line with thicker edges. It's ideal for hunters who want accurate shooting with minimal setup and size. It aids sighting in low light because of the thick exterior posts and helps shooters quickly find their target in busy hunting spots.
  • Carpet (German #4): This reticle has thick lines crossing at right angles in a rectangular shape. If you need to target distant objects precisely, go for this type. It offers advanced features for making adjustments while keeping accuracy over distances. The downside is that it requires more settings than Duplex, making sighting it difficult.

Consider Durability

Durability is key when it comes to choosing a rifle scope, especially for hunting. Check materials like aluminum and other alloys for shockproof construction, plus premium coated lenses for scratch protection.

Waterproofing is a must too. Many scopes are designed to withstand wet conditions, so they won't fog up in the rain.

On a budget? Plastic scopes are inexpensive and lightweight, perfect for new hunters. But be aware: plastic scopes may not be as durable as metal ones, so if ruggedness and longevity matter, invest in a metal constructed scope.

Consider Weight

When picking a rifle scope, consider the weight and diameter. Generally, the bigger the scope, the more accuracy options. But that may mean less portability and comfort.

Scope weights range from 6 ounces (171 grams) for small models to 25 ounces (700 grams) or more for larger ones with extended magnification. Weight is also linked to different magnifications; 20x to 40x, for instance. Higher power scopes need stronger components and bigger lenses – leading to more weight. Materials like aluminum are heavier than carbon-fiber housings. Heavier may mean more stability and precision, but with extra strain. Lighter materials like carbon fiber or polymer may be costlier, but offer portability without losing accuracy.

Think about how you'll use your rifle before deciding on a scope. Hunting or range shooting? That'll affect your decision, both financially and ergonomically.


Choosing a rifle scope involves many factors. Your rifle type and shooting style matter. Knowing the purposes of the different scopes helps decide which one's right.

Beginners should consider accuracy, field of view, magnification, durability, and accessories. Ask an experienced shooter or gunsmith for advice based on your needs. With knowledge of the scopes, you can make an informed decision that ensures satisfaction.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What are the different types of rifle scopes?

A1: There are several types of rifle scopes, including fixed-power scopes, variable-power scopes, and night-vision scopes. Fixed-power scopes have a single magnification setting, while variable-power scopes have multiple magnification settings. Night-vision scopes use infrared light to allow the shooter to see in low-light conditions.

Q2: How do I choose the best rifle scope for me?

A2: When choosing the best rifle scope for you, consider the type of shooting you will be doing, the distance of the targets, and the amount of light available. Quality, durability, and features should also be taken into consideration. Your budget should also play a role in your decision.

Q3: What are the benefits of using a rifle scope?

A3: Rifle scopes provide an improved field of view, allowing shooters to quickly acquire targets at longer distances. Rifle scopes also provide increased accuracy, as they allow shooters to make adjustments for windage and elevation. Night-vision scopes allow shooters to see in low-light conditions, and thermal scopes can detect targets in total darkness.

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