Home Buyer Guides Buyers Guide: Choosing Best Long Range Rifle Scope & Top Picks

Buyers Guide: Choosing Best Long Range Rifle Scope & Top Picks

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USA soldier aiming through long range optic

Rifle Optics World 4 Recommendations:

If you need a wide magnification range, choose Leupold VX-6.

If you are looking for a proven bombproof scope for your large caliber, heavy recoil rifle, choose Nightforce Atacr F1.

If you are looking to shoot beyond 2000 yards and you value precise adjustment control and illuminated reticle, choose Us Optics ER-25.

If optical clarity and wide field of view are the things you are looking for, choose Swarovski X5.

Let’s say you are in the market for a high-quality long range optic. Maybe you are a hunter on the plains of the midwest, or a you’re a beginning competition shooter looking into the sport, or maybe you are just a hand loader who wants to mix up his own long range formula. Whatever the reason you’re shooting long range, you need something that is going to allow you to stretch the legs of your rifle a bit.

When it comes to long-range shooting you can’t go cheap and expect the best results, you will need to spend a little bit of money, and if you are spending some of your cold hard cash you need to be aware of what a solid long range optic needs to succeed.

leupold vx-6
Leupold Vx-6
Nightforce ATACR F1
Nightforce ATACR F1
US Optics ER 25
US Optics ER 25
swarovski x5
Swarovski X5
Lens:7-42x56mm5-25x56mm5-25x58mm3.5 -18x50mm
Reticle:TMOA PlusMil-RMIL scale GAPMOA
Focal Plane:SecondFirstFirstSecond
Eye Relief:4.20-3.90 inches 3.35-3.54 inches3.5 inches3.7 inches
Weight:26.30 oz38 oz2.50 lbs28.6 oz
Length:15.5 inches15.37 inches18 inches14.4 inches
Product Page:Click HereClick HereClick HereClick Here

 Lenses

The lenses or the ‘glass’ is probably the most important feature on any rifle scope, but this is especially true for long range scopes. You want lenses that present a crystal clear picture at both low and high magnifications. You need this high level of clarity to be able to help read the wind.

When you shooting one thousand yards plus you need to be able to read the wind at your target, at extreme ranges the wind can be completely different at your target. Wind indicators like flags and trees blowing is great and easy to see, but you may find yourself in a situation where you’ll have to read how the dust or the grass is blowing, to see clearly that far you need good glass.

US army soldier aiming through rifle scope lense

How do you determine is an optic has good lenses? Well, light transmission can be one way, but in all honesty the best way is to simply look through different optics for a side by side comparison. This is when it becomes obvious which scopes have solid lenses and which don’t. The problem is most gun stores don’t carry a massive scope inventory and most people shop online. The best thing to do is keep the manufacturers who have proven to make clear glass n mind like:

  • Trijicon – While they are known mostly for the ACOG, Trijicon produces a variety of different optics including some truly awesome variable scopes.
  • Leupold – The company that outfitted Marine Scout Snipers for decades has always been known for its high-quality lenses.
  • Swarovski – Swarovski produces probably the clearest, most brilliant scopes on the market in terms of optical clarity, but quality comes at a price.
  • Schmidt and Bender– Schmidt and Bender produces some of the most well-known scopes on the long range market.

While I don’t have any personal experience with these companies, I’ve heard nothing but good things about,

Any one of these companies can provide you with the high-quality glass that performs well at nearly any range. These optics are well known to not only have clear glass but good performers in all categories.

Scope Body

This goes a bit into the durability aspect of firearms, but can actually affect the optic’s precision. Any high-quality scope should be made from a high quality, incredibly durable, material, which is almost always an aircraft grade aluminum.

The scope body should be a single piece design. This means the actual scope tube should be made from a single piece of aluminum. This aids in overall durability, as well as the optic’s overall precision. Single piece bodies are the standard on most high end scopes.

Reticle

Reticle choice is very important when it comes to long range shooting. There are tons of specialty reticles out there, and they work well, but all you really need is a reticle with hash marks or single dots spread vertically and horizontally. These could be MIL or MOA measurements, and, of course, should be separated evenly. These reticles allow the use of holdovers for both windage and elevation.

mil vs moa reticle
MIL and MOA

Using these dots or hash marks isn’t complicated, but takes a bit of trigger time to become an expert with. They do allow a consistent holdover for windage compensations as well as elevation changes. Some optics are more complicated, but essentially do the same thing, use a MIL or MOA scope as a baseline and build from there.

Bullet drop compensators are nice and handy for most medium range engagements but are far from perfect when it comes to long range shooting. A bullet drop compensator limits you to one particular load and cartridge and often are not suited for anything past eight hundred yards, and they often lack windage holdovers. For medium range shooting, they are great, but for long range I’d stay away.

Nikon BDC reticle
Example of Nikon BDC reticle

One final note is the turret adjustments if you are using mil dots ensure the adjustments are in mil and the same thing for MOA adjustments. It’s not uncommon to have a mil dot scope with MOA adjustments. This may not affect close and medium range shooting but once we start tossing rounds downrange at over a thousand yards any small error can result in a clear miss.

Objective Lens Size

When it comes to objective lens size a lot of people think bigger is better. A larger objective lens typically means a higher level of light transmission, and the more light the better. Unfortunately once you get to a certain size of objective lens you hit a trade off. Anything past a 50mm objective lens and you notice very little difference in light transmission.

The problem is this larger objective diameter means you need to use a higher scope mount. When you start using high rings, or high single piece mounts you start reducing the overall precision of your rifle by mounting the optic higher than the barrel. General rule of the mount height is the closer to the barrel the better. I’d say the optimum objective lenses size is between 42 mm and 50 mm. Some people prefer larger objective lenses, but I don’t believe the tradeoff is worth the minimal light difference.

Magnification Power

A lot of people focus on this more than anything else, and many believe the more naked eye to 50x magnification levelspowerful the magnification the better. This is partially true but depends on your situation, and your overall shooting goals. If your optic is super powerful, say 10 to 40 power you are stuck with long range shooting and have very little versatility.

This isn’t too big of an issue if you are bench shooting or shooting long range competition, but is a different story when it comes to hunting. If you are hunting with a 10 to 40 power scope and your game just happens to show up at 25 yards you’ll be a bit handicap. So hunters will benefit from a more versatile level of magnification.

I would advise the minimum magnification for a long range optic be 16 power, but a bit more or a bit less still works well. The Leupold Mark 8, for example, has an option in 3.5 to 25 power that offers an excellent level of different magnifications for a high level of versatility.

Focal Plane

changes in rifle scope reticle between first and second focal plane

 

Focal planes fall into two categories, front focal plane, and second focal plane. On front focal plane scopes the reticle will change size as the magnification increases or decreases. On second focal plane optics, the reticle remains the same size. Front focal plane scopes are better in my opinion because the dots or hash marks never change, they are always 1 MIL or 1 MOA apart. At the second focal plane, these dots or hash marks will need a specific zoom setting to be accurate.

Adjustment Ranges

The ability to adjust your turrets on the fly is one that is invaluable. This has more to do with elevation adjustments rather than windage, but turrets often adjust equally for both windage and elevation. Long range shooting can demand some serious elevation adjustments. Rounds like the 308 can drop over 50 inches at 500 yards, so at one thousand yards you can imagine the adjustments necessary to make an accurate shot.

So if you think 50 MOA or MIL adjustments is enough you might find yourself running out adjustments pretty rapidly. 100 MOA or MIL adjustments will often be more than enough to cover elevation issues at 1,000 yards or further.

 These Factors Don´t Conclude The List

These factors are the more important matters when it comes to precision scope options, but there may be a few options to consider depending on your rifle. If you using a more powerful weapon like a 50 caliber you may need to choose a very specific scope for it. This is due to the weapon’s recoil, which could actually break lesser scopes. Other factors may also be weight if you are looking to keep your rifle light, or the ability to work with night vision.

These are more situation specific and could apply to choosing a scope for nearly any purpose. For long range shooting, it is important to consider the lenses, adjustment range, scope body, magnification capacity, objective lenses size, and, of course, the reticle.

Knowing your scope and rifle can reach out to a 1,000 yards and beyond is a comfortable feeling, regardless of why you are pulling the trigger. Without the proper scope, though, you maybe be feeling more frustrated than comfortable.

Top 4 Long Distance Scopes By ROW

Leupold VX-6 Series

leupold vx-6 scope

The Leupold VX-6 comes in a wide variety of different magnifications and several meet the necessary long range requirements we’ve talked about before. The 7 to 42 power would be exceptional for long range shooting for targets or competition, and the 4 to 24 power would be an awesome level of magnification for hunters. The VX-6’s MOA reticle is very nice and offers windage and elevation tic marks extensively.

The VX-6 glass is brilliantly clear and boasts Leupold’s Diamond Coat 2 to provide a high level of light transmission. The Diamond coat not only makes the world available in complete high definition but protects the lenses from abrasions and scratches. The world is brilliant when looking through the optic, and one could make out the fine details of the world. You could easily see grass swaying, and dirt rustling. The VX-6 is also tough as nails and made from T6 aircraft grade aluminum, and it feels solid, and is solid. The scope is waterproof, shockproof, and argon purged to prevent any internal fog build up.

The VX-6 provides a generous eye box that makes it faster for the user to get on the scope, and on target. This is aided by the fast focus eyepiece that allows the user to adjust through a full range of diopter adjustment in a single turn. The VX-6 is an extremely brilliant scope that would be excellent for any long range shooter. The VX-6 provides a crystal clear sight picture, a tough T6 aluminum body, a simple, but thorough reticle, and the necessary level of magnification for any shooter.

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Specifications:

Magnification: 7-42x

Focal Plane: Second

Reticle: TMOA Plus

Objective Lens: 56mm

FOV @ 100 yards: 16.3 – 2.7 feet

Eye Relief: 4.20-3.90 inches

Weight: 26.30 oz

Length: 15.5 inches

MSRP: $2,499.99

Nightforce ATACR F1 – Read Our Review

nightforce atacr f1 scope

The Nightforce ATACR F1 is a scope built for long range work and designed to be used on the powerful rifles necessary for long range, The ATACR F1 is a first focal plane scope, which is where the F1 designation comes into play. The Nightforce brand is a premium one, which produces some of the best long range optics in the world. The Nightforce ATACR implements a throw lever so the user can navigate the twenty different magnification settings with ease. This is paired with Nightforce’s Xtremespeed thread for fast diopter adjustments.

The ATACR is a 5 to 25 power optic that is sufficient for most uses including hunting, and target shooting. The ATACR is suited for bolt-action or semi-automatic rifles and provides a high level of precision for calibers larger than 30. The ATACR uses ED optics glass to provide a brilliant level of clarity, and a sight picture that is second to none.

The ATACR F1 has a variety of different reticles available for it, and all of them feature either a mil or MOA compensation guide for elevation and windage. These reticles range from a simple elevation and windage design to a more complicated and detailed reticle to aid in placing rounds on target. The ATACR F1 comes equipped with the Nightforce Hi-Speed zero stop turrets that provide adjustments in either mil or MOA, and it depends on user preference. The ATACR F1 is an excellent all around optic, but really excels when it comes to thousand yards and further shots.

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Specifications:

Magnification: 5-25x

Objective Lens: 56mm

Focal Plane: First

Eye Relief: 3.35-3.54 inches

FOV @ 100 yards: 18.7 – 4.92 feet

Length: 15.37 inches

Weight: 38 oz

MSRP: Not listed on manufacturer`s page

US Optics ER 25

USA optics ER-25 scope

The ER 25 is a 5 to 25 power optic that is specifically designed for target engagement at two thousand meters. To make an optic capable at or past two thousand meters US Optics had to engineer this scope to an unbeatable point. Starting from the ground the scope maintains its optical clarity at any given magnification without a lapse. The ER 25 compensates for less than stellar weather and low light situations by providing an illuminated reticle with 12 different settings for brightness.

The ER 25 is made from a T6 aluminum body that is a one piece design, solid, and reliable. The system is purged to prevent fog and is water and shockproof as well. The scope provides 3.5 inches of eye relief, meaning you can use those powerful rounds like the 338 Lapua to reach out and touch your target. The ER 25 has a variety of different reticle options but feature a method of elevation and windage, and you choose mil dot, mil scale, etc.

The ER 25 is tough as nails and is designed to be used in a variety of different situations, including hunting, tactical, and target. The ER 25 provides users a precise and accurate optic that is designed to give long range shooters the most precision for their money. The turrets are finger tip adjustable for easy field adjustments, and the optic is truly capable of planting shots at the longest of ranges.

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Specifications:

Magnification: 5-25x

Objective Lens: 58mm

Focal Plane: First

Reticle: MIL scale GAP

Eye relief: 3.5 inches

FOV @ 100 yards: 16.6 – 5.3 feet

Length: 18 inches

Weight: 2.50 lbs

MSRP: $3,301

Swarovski X5(i) Long Range Master

Swarovski X5

The Swarovski X5(i) long range master, which we’ll call the X5 for brevity sake, is a premium optic that provides a superbly high level of optical clarity. The X5 is a 3.5 by 18 power optic with a 50 mm objective lens. This smaller lens does allow the scope to be mounted lower, which gives shooters a more precise position to take long range shots from, and reduces scope torque.

There is 116 MOA worth of adjustments in the turrets, which is more than enough to get on target. The options for reticles vary, but all provide a scale to adjust for windage and elevation. The X5 is waterproof, and submersible up to 13 feet before the scope is compromised. The X5 gives the user a way to access the farthest ranges out there with precision and ease.

The scope itself provide a high level of light transmission, 91 percent to be exact. This translates to a crystal clear sight picture that provides users with the ability to read the landscape in great detail. The Swarovski X5 provides a good field of view regardless of the magnification, and that crystal-like clarity follows at any magnification. The X5 is a durable design that is shockproof, and fog proof, as well as being built for field use. The Swarovski is comfortable at the range but is truly at home in the field.

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Specifications: 

Magnification: 3.5 -18x

Objective Lens: 50mm

Reticle: MOA

Focal Plane: Second

FOV @ 100 yards: 30-6.3 feet

Length: 14.4 inches

Weight: 28.6 oz

Eye relief: 3.7 inches

MSRP: Not specified on manufacturer`s page

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