This buyer guide is specifically about buying a long-range scope on a budget, for a complete guide to a long-range scope with performance before the budget mindset take a look at “Choosing Long Range Rifle Scope & Best Picks”.
I’ve always loved the saying teach your children to shoot and they’ll never have money for drugs. It’s a cute way of saying guns, and ammunition, and gun accessories, oh don’t forget gun safes, are all expensive. Shooters, even casual shooters, recognize that guns and everything involving guns is expensive. Scopes are no different, but one of the joys of capitalism is the ability to choose different products at different prices. It’s quite difficult to be priced out of one category or another, including long range shooting. Outside of the firearm and the shooter the most important purchase you can make is an optic.
- 1 Budget and Long Range Relativity
- 2 Features You Don’t Want To Compromise On
- 3 Don’t Waste Money On These
- 4 Best Long Range Rifle Scopes For The Money
The SWFA SS
|Reticle:||Leupold’s Long Range Duplex||Nikoplex Reticle||Mil-Dot reticle|
|FOV @ 100 yards:||20.40 feet – 9.70 feet||10.1 – 40.3 ft @ 100 yds||13 feet|
|Eye Relief:||4.90 – 3.70 inches||4 in||4 in|
|Length:||12.30 in||12.6 in||13 7/8 inches|
|Weight:||13.20 oz||16.6 oz||21 oz|
|Product Page:||Click Here||Click Here||Click Here|
Budget and Long Range Relativity
Both the term budget, or low cost and long range are both relative terms. One person’s long range shooting could be five hundred yards, while another shooter is putting round after round on target at a thousand yards. For this article we’ll set the definition of long range at five hundred yards and anything beyond. This limit was set with the idea of someone shooting on a budget, including budget ammunition, and a budget rifle.
Budget, the other relative term is difficult to pinpoint. Some people have a hundred dollar budget for an optic, and others can have a four hundred dollar budget. Hundred dollar guy might think four hundred dollar guy is spending a lot of money. However, compared to long range optics that can cost multiple thousands of dollars both are relatively small budgets. There really isn’t a good long range optic at the hundred dollar price point, so I would say a low budget for a long range optic is around three to four hundred dollars.
Features You Don’t Want To Compromise On
There are some features a long range scope needs that are completely necessary. These features are not debatable, and are a must for an accurate long range optic. Optic cost is typically defined by the amount of features and the quality of the materials used. When you are shopping for a budget long range optic you want the important necessary features to be exemplified over the features that are made for convenience.
Ability to Hold Zero
Poor quality scopes often are plagued with a ‘wandering’ zero. This wandering zero is often not that apparent because it is very slight and hardly noticeable at short and medium ranges. When it comes to long range even a slight reticle movement can throw your shot off much further than it would at closer ranges. This is where those fifty and hundred dollar scopes fail. Now a wandering zero can be caused by a number of different factors. First off the scope just might be a bad one, this is why I always say stick to well known brands.
Well known brands can certainly fail too, but brands like Bushnell, Nikon, etc have methods in place and customer service personnel available to fix an optic. More than that though, they have a huge base of users and consistently produce quality optics at tiered pricing. You’d find their two hundred dollar and up lines to be incredibly well built, even if they are basic and lack those convenience features.
You also need to purchase a scope that is rated for your caliber. If the scope is designed around the low recoiling 5.56 round it may not last when thrown at a 338 Lapua, or even a 30-06 Springfield round. Heavy recoil can destroy the internals of scopes not rated to handle the recoil. Destroyed sounds dramatic, because this isn’t something you can always see. However, it can cause your scope’s zero to wander and be out of adjustment.
When you are aiming at targets beyond two hundred yards clarity and light transmission plays a vital role. Seeing the target is one thing, and seeing details of the target is another. Long range hunters for example rely on optical quality to determine if a deer is legal to shoot by looking at his antlers. A poor quality scope will make it difficult to see these fine details on a large target. When it comes to small targets, optical clarity is even more important to actually simply see the target. Also, quality glass can assist you with right wind call.
Usually the top of the line glass is made by companies like Swarovski, and that glass is accompanied by a hefty price tag. The glass on a budget optic doesn’t need to be Swarovski to be good enough for long range shooting. When you have your hands on the scope, maybe you’re at the gun store, ask if you can take the optic outside and look at something at some distance. You’ll have a realistic use of the scope, with typical daylight conditions. If you need a real comparison, take two outdoors, a hundred dollar scope and a three hundred dollar scope and you’ll see an obvious difference.
Adjustment Range and Turret Consistency
Adjustment range is the amount of adjustments you can make in both mil and moa. This can vary quite broadly. You’ll need big enough adjustment range to compensate for some serious bullet drop at longer ranges. I advise for a minimum of 50 MOA in terms of adjustments, 50 is the lowest you should go, with a 100 or so being better.
Turret consistency is what we focus on when it comes to the adjustments and how they correlate with the reticle. If you use a MOA reticle you need to have MOA adjustments, and if you have a MIL dot reticle you’ll need turrets that make MIL adjustments.
Power 10 Or Better
If you are using an adjustable, or variable optic you need at least 10 power. 10 to 18 power is pretty solid base to make accurate, long range shots. There is no need for an optic to have a 40 power or anything crazy. Typically to have a clear and consistent high powered optic you need to spend some money, and a cheap high powered scope is not something I would trust.
Don’t Waste Money On These
There are a number of different features you really don’t need. These features at best simply add cost to the optic without enough benefit in return, and at worst actually hurt the optic performance.
Overly Powerful magnification
We touched on this topic a little above and also in some of the previous articles. A superbly powerful optic that is high quality is expensive, and a powerful optic that is cheap is typically junk. We also need to focus on the fact that overly powerful optic is not necessarily and can be too much zoom if you are using a second focal plane scope where the reticle is typically only the appropriate size when at the maximum magnification. This magnification may be too much to use accurately, reliably, or swiftly.
This is simply not necessary for a long range optic. In reality, illuminated reticles should be kept to the tactical market. Illuminated reticles can often be too bright, and wash out your target. This makes it difficult to both see your target and precisely place your shot.
Military Grade Durability
If you aren’t taking up a sniper hide in some place around the world, preparing to be in position for days at a time, providing overwatch for patrolling troops, then you don’t need an optic with military durability. There is nothing wrong with these features, but they drive the cost of an optic up. For example Trijicon makes some of my favorite optics ever, but their bullet proof nature adds to their thousand dollar price tag. Your average shooter is never going to need something that can swim with a SEAL team.
Best Long Range Rifle Scopes For The Money
Believe it or not an affordable, high quality scope by a company like Leupold is possible. The VX-2 in 4-12 x 40mm comes in at this side of affordable and provides users with an excellent myriad of options for long range shooting. The VX-2 does come in a variety of magnifications from 1 to 4 power to 6 to 18 power but with cost in mind the 4-12x is the most cost efficient. You get a very simple rifle scope that is a great option for the budget long range shooter.
Shots out to six hundred yards are more than within this scope’s performance purview. The reticle is Leupold’s Long Range Duplex, and this model offers universal bullet drop reticles that allow consistent holdovers for long range shooting. This optic makes wind calls simple, and precise. The VX-2 has very clear glass and gives your target and the area around it a brilliant clarity. The VX-2 is also quite strong and built very well, it’s waterproof, argon purged and shockproof.
The Leupold offers a generous eyebox which gives you a very clear sight picture that is fast fo the user to get behind. The eyebox gives long range shooters a lot of flexibility for making their shots. The VX-2 uses finger adjustable turrets for easy manipulations, these adjustments are also tactile and audible so the use of hearing protection will not limit your adjustment perception. The VX-2 is probably the high rider when it comes to budget long range scopes, and like all Leupold products it’s very high quality.
Reticle: Leupold’s Long Range Duplex
Objective Lens: 40mm
FOV @ 100 yards: 20.40 feet – 9.70 feet
Eye Relief: 4.90 – 3.70 inches
Weight: 13.20 oz
Length: 12.30 in
Nikon probably makes every kind of optic imaginable, from cameras to scopes, Nikon makes it. Nikon makes a wide variety of well priced rifle scopes, that are often well made. The Nikon Monarch in 2.5 to 10 power is the exact model I’d choose. There are numerous Nikon models with more magnification, but are closer to a thousand dollars. With the Monarch in 2.5 to 10 power you get the same high quality that’s in the thousand dollar optic, but less magnification.
The Nikon Monarch uses the fine Nikoplex reticle that’s thin nature makes it possible to maintain a view of your target at long ranges. The Nikon Monarch uses fingertip adjustable turrets with quarter MOA adjustments. The turrets are also spring loaded and easy to zero-reset. These turrets make adjustments very simple, and allows budget or new long range shooters to easily adjust their rifles on target. You also get 70 MOA worth of adjustment with the optic.
The Monarch eyebox allows users to maintain some distance from the scope, which would allow the use of those powerful long range calibers. This prevents getting a bad case of black eye from the scope. The Monarch is rated for magnum caliber weapons and will maintain zero even after eating the abuse of these powerful rifles. The Monarch 2.5 to 10 power gives you a wide variety of versatility as well, you’re not stuck with just long range shooting. The Monarch’s ultra clear coat also aids in light transmission and a clear sight picture.
Reticle: Nikoplex Reticle
Objective Lens: 42mm
FOV @ 100 yards: 10.1 – 40.3 ft @ 100 yds
Eye Relief: 4 in
Weight: 16.6 oz
Length: 12.6 in
The SWFA Super Sniper is a fixed power scope with a power is 10x, and a 42 mm objective lens. The use of a ten power fixed optic reduces some of an optics versatility, but prevents issues arising from a second focal plane scope. This also reduces the cost of an optic, but retains a high quality. The SWFA scope uses fingertip adjustable turrets with easy to read numbers, and they are absolutely huge and easy to read.
The SWFA SS uses a mil dot reticle for both elevation and windage corrections on the fly. A mil dot reticle is one of the best options for long range corrections, especially when dealing with wind. The SWFA SS is quite possibly the best scope at it’s price point. SWFA’s business model cuts out the middle man and allows SWFA to sell their scopes at the same lower, but profitable price point they would sell to distributors.
The SWFA Super Sniper has a very clear sight picture and the mil dot reticle is laser etched into the glass, and is simple to use. There is an option for a side focusing model for a little extra tagged onto the price point. The side focus model even received a contract from the Navy for an undisclosed amount of optics for testing. The SWFA Super Sniper has a 4 inch eye relief because it can be used for very powerful rifles. This includes the tremendously powerful 50 BMG round. The SWFA is a very strong scope, and it stays zeroed.
Reticle: Mil-Dot reticle
Objective Lens: 42mm
FOV @ 100 yards: 13 feet
Eye Relief: 4 in
Weight: 21 oz
Length: 13 7/8 inches
The Elite tactical LRS with it’s fixed 10 power magnification is another fixed power scope that offers a lot of different features for its relatively low price point. The Elite Tactical LRS is a second focal plane scope, but this doesn’t mean much since the magnification is fixed. 10 power is sufficient for most long range shooting, and the 40 mm objective lens allows it to be mounted much lower than a larger objective lens, this lends to an increased precision. Light transmission from a larger objective lens is relatively minimal over 40 mm.
The Elite Tactical LRS has big, easy to grab turrets, with aggressive texturing for a sure grip. The Elite Tactical LRS does have fingertip adjustments and a quarter MOA turn. The major con with this optic is it’s turret adjustments are not audible, only tactile. The lenses are fully multi coated and ultra wide band coated. This coating not only increases light transmission and overall clarity, but also protects the lenses from abrasions.
The Elite Tactical is also backed by an awesome warranty by Bushnell, but I doubt it would be needed. The Elite Tactical is a tough optic, it is shock proof, features Bushnell’s Rainguard HD that protects the lenses, and makes it usable in the rain. For long range shooting the optic presents a crisp and clear picture, and is the cheapest option available of all of these optics. For the price the Bushnell Elite Tactical is the best value.
Reticle: Mil-Dot reticle
Objective Lens: 40mm
FOV @ 100 yards: 10.5 yards
Eye Relief: 3.5 inches
Weight: 15.5 oz
Length: 11.5 inches