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Learn To Pick A Best Air Rifle Scope For Money & Read Reviews

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two spring powered airguns with mounted rifle scopesAirgun scopes present a dilemma to the airgun uninitiated, because airguns are quite unique when it comes to their needs, and how the scopes are constructed. An experienced firearm optic’s enthusiast can even find themselves somewhat lost when it comes to airgun scopes. A firearm enthusiast may get this idea that they can throw on one of their favorite firearm scopes and call it a day. Depending on your airgun, this can be disastrous.

The airgun scope world is one where there is no one size fits all answer. Different air rifle combinations out there have different optical needs. I am sure this Airgun scope buyer’s guide can answer your question and help guide you to a quality optic for your airgun. At the end of this buyer’s guide I’ll have a portion dedicated to the top 4 scopes designed for airguns.

utg bug buster
UTG Bug Buster
daisy winchester airgun scope
Winchester By Daisy
Magnification, Lens:3-9x324x32
Length:8.11 inches12 inches
Weight:13.9 oz15.2 oz
Parallax free:3 yards to infinityAdjustable objective
Rating: 4.4/54.1/5
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Does My Air Rifle Even Need A Scope?

An airgun is like any other gun in terms of optical enhancement. An airgun with a scope is going to be easier to shoot, more precise, and easier to strike targets at longer ranges. Like with any rifle, scoping an airgun isn’t necessary, but it can be an improvement. This applies to all realms of airgun shooting, from plinking to competition, to hunting, a scope can be beneficial. A scope allows easier shot placement, easier target viewing, and a more enjoyable experience.

Do All Airguns Need A Scope?

The majority do, but some subsets of airguns are quite useless with an optic. Break barrel designs make an optic quite difficult to use. These airguns have a constant shift in barrel, every time the weapon is cocked, the point of aim can move. This is an important to remember, because buying a scope for a break barrel, or buying a break barrel airgun with the idea to scope could be a bad financial decision. Break barrel works best with simple iron sights.

Why The ‘Airgun’ Rating Is Important?

When you see a scope with the term ‘Airgun’ that means it is rated for airguns. There is a very distinct reason this rating is important for airgun scopes. If you are firing a spring piston airgun this is a critical rating you need to follow. Spring piston airguns use a lever that is often the barrel, or underneath the barrel to cock the airgun’s spring. When the shooter squeezes the trigger this releases the spring and sends the piston down the cylinder of the airgun. This compresses the air in front of the piston, and propels your round.

The spring piston action creates a back and forth recoil effect. Most rifle scopes are designed to withstand rearward recoil, and built for it. The forward recoil of a spring piston is akin to mounting your average scope backwards on a rifle. This will damage the optic, force it to lose zero, and eventually rattle it to pieces internally.

If you are using one of the alternate air guns, like those that are precharged pneumatic, multi stroke pneumatic, or simply CO2 powered, then you can really mount whatever scope you desire, However that airgun rating can still be handy and something to look for. It’s not necessary, but airgun specific scopes are generally superior on airguns.

Parallax

Keep in mind an airgun is not going to have the same range as a firearm. Many airgun ranges are limited in range, and are often rarely beyond 50 yards, and the NRA airgun competitions are shot at 10 meters. Hunting is typically done less than 40 yards by most experienced air rifle shooters. This is where the airgun rating is typically preferred due to parallax adjustments.

graphic showing the parallax adjustment

Most rifle and firearm scopes in general are regulated to 50 to 100 yard parallax settings. This can make accurate airgun shooting difficult. Since airguns are used under 50 yards, a 50 yard parallax setting is rather difficult to use on an airgun. The majority of airgun scopes with adjustable objectives allow users to adjust parallax from 10 yards to infinity. Adjustable objectives come in the form of a ring around edge of the scope, or a side focus knob near the turrets.

Magnification Settings

Your needs for magnification is based around your needs as an airgun shooter. Airguns are used in a wide variety of different shooting sports. This can range from competition shooting, general plinking, or even hunting. Depending on what you are trying to do will help determine the magnification you need as an airgun shooter.

Plinking – You have the greatest selection of scope choice when you are a simple plinker. The plinker has nothing riding on his or her shooting, so they have total leeway in deciding their scope options. If you are doing some basic soda can killing, a 3 to 9 power optic will do you well.

Hunting – Hunters are best suited with a lower powered optic, fixed or variable. Anything more than 4x can be a bit too powerful, making finding targets difficult. The lower powered scopes allow for a wider field of view while tracking a moving target, and scouting for game. Higher magnification is not always better.

Competition – Competition shooting often involves a small, stationary target, and ranges can vary between competitions. A nice variable scope on the high side of magnification will often work best. Unlike hunting, that small black bull’s eye stays right where it’s posted. A 4 to 20 power is a solid choice for most competition shooting.

Objective Size

The argument between large and small objective sizes in the airgun world is almost identical to the firearm objective size argument. Objective size is important, and you have to compromise between a few different factors. A large objective lens provides the users with more light transmission, which gives a clearer and brighter picture.

A large objective lens also means a larger, and heavier scope. Airguns are extremely light, and easy to use, and a heavy optic can make the weapon less comfortable to fire and inaccurate when fatigue sets in. The benefits of a smaller objective lens is the ability to mount the scope lower, and of course lighter weight.

Reticle

Airgun optics do come with a quite variety of reticle choices, and of course a rifle scope comes with even more options. For an airgun user there are only a few optical reticles they need to pay attention to. Optics with built in range finders, and overly complicated reticles have no place on an airgun. The same goes for bullet drop compensators.

The reticles to focus on are the:

  • different duplex style, including thin, the German duplex reticle.
  •  mil dot reticle.

duplex reticle

The thin duplex trigger allows users to see small and fine targets at close and long range, as well as seeing your target at different magnifications. The standard duplex is sufficient for most plinking and even target shooting, but a poor choice for pest hunting.

 

Barska 3-12x40 air rifle mil-dot reticle
Barska 3-12×40 air rifle mil-dot reticle

 

 

Mil dot scopes can be used to aid shooters in adjusting for longer range shooting. At 50 yards you can expect some significant bullet drop from your airgun. You can use these mil dots to make field calls when shooting at different ranges. The projectile an airgun fires is superbly lightweight, and can be affected greatly by wind. The horizontal mil dots will allow the shooter to compensate for windage, as well as range. These mil dot reticles can take time to learn, and that time involves trigger time.

 

 

Mounting Hardware

Along with airgun scope you should look into airgun mounting system, especially for those devilish spring piston action scopes. That back and forth recoil can create a forward motion on the scope rings, which can cause them to shift forward. When they shift forward, your point of aim is placed off center. Other airguns can cause a similar effect, but not as bad a spring piston actions.

To prevent these scope mounts from being pushed forward you should look into scope mounts and rings equipped with stop pins, or stop plates. These keep the mounts locked in place and prevent any shifting, regardless of how much shooting you do.

In terms of using two scope rings, or a one piece scope mount that will be a personal decision, but it’s important to know the difference. Two piece scope rings are the most affordable option, and work very well in general. One piece scope mounts are more expensive but are often more stable over a long period of time. Here is a longer discussion between benefits and drawbacks of both mounting systems.

4 Good Airgun Scopes

There is no reason to consider an airgun scope a lesser scope than a traditional rifle scope. Airguns may not have the same range, and effective power levels or a rifle, but they do deserve quality scopes. An airgun scope has the same responsibility of a rifle scope; get your shots on target. Now, without any more delay I have my four choices for airgun scopes.

 

Under $50 – Daisy Winchester 4×32

winchester airgun scope by daisy outdoor

The Daisy Winchester is a perfect starter optic for those looking to scope their first airgun. The Daisy Winchester is designed by the famed Daisy airgun company, and it rated to withstand the front and rearward recoil of spring piston actions.

  • The Daisy Winchester is a fixed power optic, with 4 power magnification. This makes it an excellent optic for hunting, and its 32 mm walks the line of compromise between light transmission and small, light size. One of the main benefits of a fixed power optic is its smaller, lighter weight, and in general they are tougher.
  • The price is tough to beat, and the scope is hard to break. The scope is fog proof, shockproof, and color corrects, an impressive array of features for a sub fifty dollar optic.
  • The lenses are very clear, and the 32 mm is a good choice for the 4x magnification. The scope has a 1 inch tube diameter so there are a wide variety of rings on the market for it.
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The scope proved to be easy to mount, and easy to zero at 10 meters. Stretching out the range to 30 meters I was capable of busting the 30 mm NRA bull’s eye targets with ease, leaving a mess of shredded paper in my wake. I really appreciated the scope’s simplicity and find it to be a perfect match for a casual shooter, or even a child. The Daisy Winchester works on any type of air rifle, but is affordable enough to outfit a small collection.

 

Under $100 – Leapers UTG Airgun Scope

QD rings and bug busterBuilt with the classic 3 to 9 variable magnification the Leapers UTG airgun scope is a classic design that is quite versatile due to its magnification. Thrown on the average plinking air rifle the 3 to 9 will allow the casual shooter to plink tin cans, bull’s eye targets, or clay rocks with ease. The more powerful 9 power magnification allows a nice clear view of whatever you’re shooting, and the 3 power gives you close range plinking and a wider field of view.

  • The Leapers UTG Airgun scope is versatile enough that even competition and hunters can use and appreciate it.
  • The optic features parallax adjustment from as close as 5 yards to infinity. A five yard parallax opens a lot of options for close range shooting, which includes hunting. You never know what range you may be popping pests at.
  • The Leapers UTG is no indoor scope, and secured against water, and shock, and is internally purged for fog.
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  • The turrets are finger tip adjustable, and can be reset to zero for in the field adjustments, and long range dope dial in.
  • The reticle is perfect for longer range shooting, and gives the user a mil dot option for windage and elevation adjustments.
  • The reticle is illuminated for low light shooting, but may prove poor for competition. The illumination may washout the small bulls eyes used for competition, but it can be turned off easily. The Leapers is a step up from a starter scope and allows shooters to fill a variety of roles. Full review here…

 

Under $150 – Barska Airgun Rifle Scope

 

barska AO air rifle scope

With the Barska Airgun rifle scope we are moving up in magnification power. This 3 to 12 power optic starts dialing in on higher power, but at an easily affordable price point.

  • The Barska Airgun scope has a 40 mm objective, one of my preferred objective lens sizes. The tube is 1 inch in diameter, so rings are readily available.
  • The Barska Airgun scope does have an adjustable objective for parallax correction from 10 yard to infinity.
  • The Barska scope has capped turrets, and a non illuminated scope reticle. The reticle itself is a mil dot reticle for long range corrections, and is very fine and easy to see both your target and your reticle on small targets.
  • What is really surprising is just how clear the Barska lenses are. The glass is quite impressive for a budget friendly optic.
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When mounted to a Hatsan airgun I began shooting at closer, 20 yard ranges with ease. I stretched the legs of the rifle, and my personal skill level, by shooting squirrel silhouette targets at 30 yards. After I got my bearings and corrected for drop I was able to strike round after round into my poor squirrel target’s head and chest. I found the perfect drop at 30 yards with the mil dot reticle and made sure to write it down for later shooting. You can find the Barska for under 60 dollars on average, and for that price it’s hard to beat an optic with a 12 power magnification.

 

Under $300 – Swift Premier Airgun Scope

swift premier airgun scope

The Swift Premier airgun scope is one of the higher end airgun scopes. If I was going to be serious about competition shooting I’d be diving into the Swift Premier. The Swift Premier is quite powerful, and capable of amazing accuracy.

  • The gun is airgun rated and has a magnification range of 6.5 to 20. We are talking about some serious magnification for an airgun!
  • The 44mm objective lens is a good size for the powerful magnification and allows solid collection of light in both indoor and outdoor ranges.
  • Even though the magnification is high, the scope is only a little over 15 inches in length. Some smaller and more affordable airguns may be too small for this scope, so take precaution when purchasing. If this optic is too long, the Swift 3 to 9 power scope is probably better.
  • The internals are all brass, and this lends to the scope 23.6 ounces, but makes the scope incredible durable and long lasting. What also helps is the coil spring system installed on the scopes that makes the scope capable of withstanding the heaviest amounts of recoil.
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I can’t say I was surprised by the clarity and brilliance in the sight picture, because at 200 dollars I expect quality on my airgun sights. With that being said, the clarity is remarkable, and gives the shooter a bright, high definition view of the world in front of you. The quadraplex reticle is an excellent option, and is quick and easy to use. The stadia lines are remarkably thin, and perfect for bulls eyeing tiny targets. The Swift is an expensive scope, and is for serious airgun shooters.

 

 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Hello, you can advise me a quality scope for my pcp air rifle. Daystate air ranger 80 guardabosques. I want this
    rifle for the hunting of rabbit and partridge. This rifle has power to make shots beyonds 200 yards. I want it to be
    simple to use, but quality scope and not chinase scopes.
    I want only the rifle for hunt. I do not want to go wrong on
    my nex purchase. There will always be some hunter ha-
    ppy with its scope, but I still do not. Does anyone know of
    sightron SIII 3.5-10X 44 DLMR/CM (25125) this is for 10 yard parallax down. The SIII SS LRIRMOA. (25124) have parallax control under 10 yards or 25 yards??? This scopes
    are better for my hunt???? You know the athlon midas or
    hawke frontier. I need your help. Thankyou

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