Home Buyer Guides A Guide To The Best Hunting Scope in 2016

A Guide To The Best Hunting Scope in 2016

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tree hunting with a rifle scope

Judging by the increasing number of firearms and hunting licenses purchased by hunters each year, there can be no doubt that hunting is rapidly growing in popularity among outdoorsmen. In fact, with such a wide range of game species available raging from varmints like Prairie Dogs and Coyotes, to medium sized game species such as Feral Hogs and Whitetail Deer, to large game such as Elk and Brown Bear, hunting is now a year around sport.

However, different sized game species require different sized calibers and cartridges to hunt them effectively and thus, the optics industry has responded to this widely increasing demand for quality optics with specialized hunting scopes designed to handle any caliber or cartridge ranging from a .22 LR to .458 Winchester Magnum and beyond in order to enable hunters to more successfully pursue their chosen quarry.

In fact, in addition to the traditional long range optics, there are now hunting scopes calibrated to specific calibers that calculate and compensate for the bullet’s arced trajectory, scopes designed specifically for hunting dangerous game species in thick cover, and even scopes with integrated laser range finders that display the range to the target on the inside of the scope’s objective lens.

Consequently, modern hunting scopes have evolved so far beyond their original counterparts that comparing a vintage hunting scope to a modern one is like comparing a antique car to a modern Mercedes Benz.

Rifle Optics World Recommendations For Hunting

Scope for 100 to 600 yards – Nikon Monarch 3-12×42 ( Read 9+ Amazon customer reviews )

Scope for stalking in bush, up yo 100 yards – Aimpoint H34L

Scope For Hunting Hogs – Leupold VX Hog 1-4×20 ( Read 6+ Amazon customer reviews )

Most versatile hunting scope – Redfield Revolution 3-9×40 ( Read 49+ Amazon Customer reviews )

 

Comparing All The Recommended Hunting Scopes

Nikon Monarch
Nikon Monarch
Aimpoint H34L
Aimpoint H34L
Leupold VX HOG
Leupold VX HOG
Redfield Revolution
Redfield Revolution
Type:Variable ScopeRed DotVariable ScopeVariable Scope
Objective Lens:42 mm47 mm19 mm40 mm
Zoom:3-12x1x1.4-4x3.8 – 8.5x
Length:13.1 in9 in9.50 in12.3 in
Weight:18.7 oz9.2 oz8.1 oz12.6 oz
Rating:4None55
Price:$$$$$$$$$$$$
Product Page: Click HereClick HereClick HereClick Here

What Type of Hunting Scope Meets Your Needs?

The first thing you should do is to identify and answer a few questions. What kind of weapon are you using? What kind of ranges are you hunting at? What kind of hunting are you doing? (Tree stand, stalking, blind etc.)

 

Compatibility With Your Weapon

hunting rifle with a scope ready to shoot in a winter

When it comes to the weapon you need to recognize it’s max effective range. For example rounds like the 30-30 and the 300 Blackout are not designed for long ranges, so is a 18 power scope really necessary for these rounds? However the 338 Lapua or a 30 06 can surely reach out at these ranges.

Powerful rifles require a more durable scope, a powerful rifle can destroy a weak scope, and can rattle it to pieces. A smaller caliber rifle in something like 223 or 243 doesn’t need an incredibly durable scope, and this can aid in saving both money and weight. A scope designed to be used with a 375 H&H magnum is plenty capable but is it necessary? In most cases probably not, but hunting with the 338 Lapua, 338 RUM, the 45-70, etc do need something that won’t rattle to pieces.

Shotgun, bow, and pistol hunters can even use and appreciate optics from companies like Aimpoint and Eotech. These 1x optics on these short range weapons reduce the time from on target to on trigger and make transitioning to multiple targets much easier. Optics like the Aimpoint H-1 can be used on either a shotgun, handgun, or bow with ease, and is specifically designed with the hunter in mind.

You may also be using a nontraditional weapon that does not allow for a ‘regular’ scope. These weapons range from the Mosin Nagant, the Springfield M1A, and, of course, handguns. These scopes need what’s known as eye relief scope. Eye relief on a scope is the distance between your eye and the rear lenses of a scope. Some weapons, like the Mosin, make it difficult to mount a traditional short eye relief scope due to a number of different factors. These rifles require a scope mounted forward of the action, and this requires a long eye relief scope to work.

When shopping for a scope pay special attention when you see the term bullet drop compensator or BDC. These are often designed for a specific caliber and weapon in mind. If your weapon and caliber does not match the scopes, your bullet drop compensator will be useless.

 

 

Hunting Range and Necessary Magnification

rifle scope zoomed in

Similar to our first question, but a bit more in depth. You see a 300 Blackout in an AR platform can be used effectively to 300 yard easily, but you might not be hunting at that range. A blind with 50 to a 100 yards of view is perfect for the short range red dot, but a tree stand covering a few yards of maybe more suited for a 3-9 power variable optic.

3 to 9 power optics are often suitable for most hunters, but not always. Hunters who are stalking or simply brush hunting, need something with a lower variable magnification, more akin to a 1 to 4 power optic. Too much magnification has its own problems, for example it means you simply won’t be able to see your target, and when you can you might not be able to know exactly what part of your target you are seeing.

Long range hunters are going to need a good enough long distance rifle scope to not only see their target but the area around it. They need a level of magnification that allows the hunter to see the small changes in the environments to determine wind calls. So at long range you need enough scope power to see the dirt and dust blowing, or which direction the grass is moving, this gives shooters an appropriate wind call. Another consideration is the legality of the kill, some states have restrictions on the antler length of deer. If you can’t effectively see the antlers of the deer, how would you judge them?

Long range hunters also need a reticle that can allow them to make longer shots with ease. This can be a bullet drop reticle or a mil-dot reticle, hopefully you already know how to use them. Bullet drop compensators have to be specifically dialed into a certain caliber, barrel length, and even bullet weight. Mil-dot reticles are more universal, but require the shooter to understand the bullet drop of their weapon at different ranges.

 

How Are You Hunting?

These questions all go hand in hand with each other and as you’ll see a hunting method can utterly change the range rapidly. If you are stalking in the bush you’ll need an optic that can rapidly be placed on target, like an Aimpoint Red dot, a Holographic Eotech, or a fixed lower powered optic like the ACOG. Stalking in the fields or mountains however may require a variable optic with both close range settings, and an extension into long range like the Leupold VX-1 with 2-7 power.

tight forest, tree stand, open field for hunting
Different environment requires different optics.

In a tree stand you may desire a simple fixed powered optic hat has a wide objective lens. The Millet TRS has a 50mm objective lens, and what this large lens does is gather and use light effectively. If you are hunting in a tree stand in the woods you are likely to have a canopy above you which will block light in already low light prime hunting time. You’ll need all the light you can gather in these situations to make an accurate and effective shot.

Stalkers, especially those using a handgun, have to be fast. We talked about how short range hunters need less magnification. Overall though they need lighter optics for a variety of reasons. The first and foremost is the fact that a lighter optics makes the weapon lighter, faster, and more maneuverable. Next, long eye relief or zero magnification optics make it easier for shooters to instinctively point the weapon at the target and actually be on target.

 

Essential Scope Features For Hunting

Something that ties into all optics and all ranges, and all hunting styles is durability. You should look into an optic that has a certain of features that can aid in protecting your optic and give it a long, and nice life. Another factor to consider is the features included with your optic, which can add to a higher overall optic quality and greater satisfaction.

 

Waterproof – This comes in different levels from rain proof to Navy Seal proof. What kind you need depends on where you’re hunting. Hunting in swamps and marsh you might want something a little stronger. Hunting in normal woodlands? Then something simple works. Either way you’ll want some form of waterproofing. Look for o-ring reinforced seals, and take special note if nothing is mentioned regarding waterproofing. If it’s not mentioned, it’s probably not waterproof.

 

Shockproof – Hunting can be a sport full of walking, running, jostles, drops, and falls. Where you go your weapon follows. If your scope isn’t shockproof and takes a small tumble you might now have a useless aluminum tube at worst, and a bad zero at best. Losing your zero is something you can expect on an optic not featuring a shockproof element.

 

Fogproof – Maybe not a durability feature but let’s face it, the prime hunting times are morning and evening. In the morning as the sun comes up and you’ll be facing evaporating dew or as the sun goes down you could be facing a rolling fog. Both can cause an internal fog that doesn’t wipe away.

 

Construction – Here you’ll be looking for the actual materials needed to build the optic. Is the construction from plastics and polymers? Is it from aluminum, or air craft grade aluminum. Another major construction feature is single piece construction. This means less area of overall weakness, giving you a stronger scope.

The main point of single piece construction is the fact the tube is carved from a single piece of aluminum, which reduces failure points. The scope is also more rigid and less prone to flexing and the inaccuracies associated with flex.

 

Lense Coating – Coating reduces glare and aids in presenting a clearer and brighter picture. There are a variety of different coatings and the better the coating, the better picture you’ll achieve. . These coating ratings have a variety of different meanings, and involves the difference between coatings on one side or both sides of the lenses, and how many lenses are actually coated. The different coatings listed in order from least to best are,

Coated

Fully Coated

Multicoated

Fully Multicoated (The best you can get)

 

Adjustment Turrets – Some adjustments may require a coin, a tool, or a bullet casing to adjustment. This isn’t a big deal for short ranges, but at medium to long you may need to dial in your dope. This requires an easy adjustable turret that is both tactile and audible for every adjustment. Without those small clicks to count you’ll have focus every bit of your attention on your adjustments. Your adjustments also need to match your reticle. If your scope is in mils, but your adjustments are in MOA then you are going to know how to convert and use this setup.

 

Reticles – Reticles are actually quite important when it comes to hunting. A target crosshair is often thin and very easy to see which is great when you’re putting rounds into a white paper target, not so great when you are hunting an animal. Your reticle needs to be thick and easy enough to see in a variety of different environments at a variety of different times of the day.

You’ll also be looking at multiple, primarily dark colors that make up the coat of your chosen game. You need a reticle that is clear, easy to see, and big enough to be eye catching. A good reticle will allow you to take shots without having to make adjustments using the turrets.

 

Recommended Scopes For Variety of Hunting Situations

Best Scope For 100 to 600 yards:

Nikon Monarch 3 -12 x 42mm Side Focus Rifle Scope

nikon monarch 3-12x42

Nikon is a well known and highly respected optics manufacturer with a long standing reputation for building high quality rifle scopes and their Monarch series is their flagship line.

Featuring a 33 percent more magnification than a 3-9 x 40mm scope combined with an extra large ocular lens, a wide field of view, and the maximum amount of light transition, this scope is an excellent choice for hunters who commonly hunt game at ranges of 100 to 600 yards.

Also, Nikon has designed an optical system that provides the shooter with an extra bright, extra sharp, and incredibly flat sight picture with light transmission up to a theoretical maximum of 95% to enable hunters to hunt from dawn to dusk.

Plus, the Nikoplex duplex reticle provides a simple aiming point that can still utilize Nikon’s Spot On Ballistic technology and an easy-to-reach, side focus, parallax adjustment provides an unmatched sight picture from any shooting position.

Furthermore, the easy to operate reticle adjustment turrets feature 1/4 MOA click-stop moves that enable you to both feel and hear the adjustments without the backlash that can make your shot creep off target and, positive click adjustments enable get you zeroed in quickly and maintain your setting even under repeated recoil.

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Specifications:
Magnification: 3x – 12x

Objective Lens: 42 mm

Exit Pupil: 3.5 – 14 mm

Field of View: 8.4- 33.6 ft. @ 100 yd.

Eye Relief: 4 in.

Eye Piece Outside Diameter: 49.3mm

Parallax Setting: 50 yd.- infinity

Reticle: BDC Carbine

Overall Length: 13.1 in.

Weight 18.7 oz.

Waterproof/fogproof: Yes

 

 

Best Scope For Stalking in the Bush, up to 100 yards:

Aimpoint H34L Reflex Sight 

Aimpoint hunter series H34L

The Aimpoint H34L reflex sight (aka red dot) is one of four sights that comprise Aimpoint’s Hunter series of sights introduced in 2010. Designed to emulate the look of a standard rifle scope, it is the perfect choice for hunters who hunt fast moving and/or dangerous game at ranges out to 100 yards but, it is especially useful when hunting at close ranges in thick cover since the lack of magnification combined with a 2 MOA red dot reticle and a complete lack of eye relief provide extremely quick target acquisition.

Also, the unlike the H34S which is specifically designed for use with lever actions and short actions, the H34L is specifically designed for use with standard and long actions and is specifically designed to withstand the pounding recoil these rifles generate.

Featuring an extra large 39mm, multicoated, objective lens combined with rugged 34mm tube walls and a top mounted 12 position push button brightness adjustment pad, the Aimpoint H34L sight is fully waterproof to enable hunters to hunt in any type of weather. Last, Aimpoint’s ACET technology allows you to turn this sight on and leave it on for up to five years on a single battery!

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Specifications:
Magnification: 1X

Objective Lens: 47 mm

Field of View: N/A

Eye Relief: Unlimited

Illumination Settings: 12 manual daylight settings

Parallax Setting: Parallax free

Reticle: 2 MOA Red dot

Overall Length: 9 in.

Weight 9.2 oz.

Waterproof/fogproof: Yes

 

Best Scope For Hunting Hogs:

Leupold VX HOG 1-4 x 20m Rifle Scope

Leupold VX hog specific scope

Designed with input from Brain “Pigman” Quaca, the Leupold VX HOG 1-4 x 20 mm rifle scope features Leupold’s exclusive, non-illuminated, Pig Plex reticle which is a pig specific reticle designed to provide quick target acquisition and thus, it is ideally suited for framing fast-moving hogs.

Also, this scope employs Leupold’s Quantum Optical System which features lead-free optical glass with a geometry that is maximized via a combination of Ze-max design software and Leupold’s Zygo Interferometer to increase resolution for razor sharp imaging in all light conditions.

In fact, by preserving the mechanical aspects of the popular Vari-X system while repositioning the optical elements and incorporating new lens coatings, the Quantum Optical System delivers up to 94 percent light transmission for superior resolution.

In addition, the large eyepiece makes it easy to find the correct eye relief and to acquire fast moving targets while also making it easier to achieve a full sight picture that completely fills the eyepiece which makes it the perfect choice for hunting dangerous game species in thick cover.

Last, with a tactile power selector, a lockable Fast-Focus Eyepeice, and 1/4 MOA finger click adjustments for windage and elevation, this scope is easy to zero and quick to focus.

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Specifications:
Magnification: 1.4x – 4x

Objective Lens: 19 mm

Exit Pupil: N/A

Field of View: 29.8- 74.7 ft. @ 100 yd.

Eye Relief: 3.8 – 4.2 in.

Eye Piece Outside Diameter: N/A

Parallax Setting: N/A

Reticle: Pig Plex

Overall Length: N/A

Weight 8.1 oz.

Waterproof/fogproof: Yes

 

 

Most Versatile Hunting Scope:

redfield revolution 3-9x40

Redfield Revolution 3-9 x 40m Rifle ScopeOur Review

Redfield is now back in business to the joy of many avid hunters who have owned Redfield scopes in the past! However, they have raised the bar a bit with their new Revolution series rifle scopes. Manufactured at their new facility in Oregon, the Revolution 3-9 x 40mm scope incorporates state-of-the-art American design and manufacturing.

Featuring Redfield’s Illuminator Lens System, the Revolution series combines premium, optical glass, lenses combined with cutting edge, multilayer, vapor-deposition coatings to provide unparalleled image quality, a wider usable field of view, and superior light transmission. Also, extensive research and design has resulted in Redfield’s exclusive Rapid Target Acquisition (RTA) eyepiece which eliminates the eye relief “sweet spot” which results in quick and accurate target acquisition.

In addition, it features your choice of either the 4-Plex reticle or the Accu-Range reticle which provides hold over points out to 500 yards with matchless simplicity and deadly accuracy, while the AccuTrac™ adjustment system ensures the ultimate in reliability and repeatability.

Furthermore, the Redfield Revolution 3-9 x 40mm features a lockable eyepiece and it is completely waterproof, fog proof, shock proof to enable hunters to hunt in any type of weather with any caliber of firearm that they choose without having to worry about creep.

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Specifications:
Magnification: 3.8x – 8.5x

Objective Lens: 40 mm

Exit Pupil: 4.7 – 12.1

Field of View: 13.1 ft. – 32.9 ft. @ 100 yd.

Eye Relief: 3.7 – 4.2 in.

Eye Piece Outside Diameter: N/A

Parallax Setting: N/A

Reticle:

Overall Length: 12.3 in.

Weight: 12.6 oz.

Waterproof/fogproof Yes

 

Go To Best Rifle Scope Guide in 2016

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. My son and I are planning our first Muley/Elk hunt in Montana in October of 2017. It is on a private ranch that backs up to a high mountain range for spot and stock with a guide.

    My son will be shooting a 7mm Savage for the Elk, and a custom 30/06 for deer.
    I have a choice of weapons. A Browning auto 7MM, 264 Winchester Mag,(which is one of my favorite caliburs for power and range), and a Custom 270 Mauser action. I have older leupold 3-9 scopes, but I am considering more modern scopes with a range tower so there is no guess work. Your description of the Redfield Scope was quite enthusiastic, even over Nikkon Scope. I don’t think we are going to be making any shots over 400 yards, but this is are first hunt so I am not sure what to expect. Our history hunting wise has always been in the Sierra Nevada’s packing in with horses for Black Tail deer for which I have a world class trophy from 1974. (4 pointer, no eye guards, 29.5 inches wide and perfectly balanced.) When two of us hauled him on to the pack horse, his nose hit the ground on one side and his back hooves hit the ground on the other, he was so huge.
    As you explained, every shot was under 250 yards in the Sierra Nevada’s and my old Weaver 4 power worked excellently. But this is a different kind of hunt for me, and we are novices.

    What Scope would you recommend for the magnum rifles that is “bullet proof” with everything you want to avoid going wrong, with a range tower, clear optics, and all the other proofs? We are willing to spend the money within reason for the last scope we will ever need to buy!

    • That must have been massive deer you caught in 1974, I wonder how your pack horse even managed to carry it?

      First I like to point out our other resource that is more aimed towards finding a scope for a big game like the deer or elk hunting: http://rifleopticsworld.com/buyer-guide-big-game-hunting-scope/.

      Secondly, by “range tower” I assume you mean range finder. This changes the selection quite a bit, because generally I recommend having scope and rangefinder separately just because of lighter weight, lower cost and wider selection. Many usual optic brands that have proven quality and durability like Leupold, Vortex, Zeiss, which I would otherwise recommend, simply do not product optics with rangefinders.

      There is not that many rangefinder scopes on market, but Burris Eliminator ( our review: http://rifleopticsworld.com/burris-eliminator-lll-4-16×50-review/) and Bushnell Yardage. However, their problem is quite high cost, weight and excessive magnification you do not really need. 7 – 9x are max you really need for big game hunting.

      If you decide to change your mind, then from non-rangefinder scopes I recommend checking out: Minox ZA 5 and Leupold VX-3 is great for stalking.

      Almo

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