Home Buyer Guides Buyer Guide: Improve Your Shotgun With A Scope

Buyer Guide: Improve Your Shotgun With A Scope


French SPAS12 shotgun with a mounted rifle scopeWe Recommend:

Eotech 512 (Read 340+ Amazon customer reviews)

Bushnell Trophy XLT (Read 28+ Amazon customer reviews)

Nikon ProStaff Shotgun Hunter (Read 76+ Amazon customer reviews)

The shotgun is one of the most versatile weapons in the world. While it has gone somewhat unappreciated in the last decade due to the rise of the AR 15, the shotgun has a lot going for it and a proper optic will definitely make your average shotgun even better.

However, there is a lot that goes in to choosing a best scope for your shotgun:

1. First and foremost the shotgun can be used in a stunning amount of roles, which can influence your choice of an optic. Shotguns can be used for deer and big game hunting, turkey hunting, home defense and tactical applications, duck hunting, skeet shooting, and 3 gun.

2. The shotgun is a tank that comes in a variety of different actions and types. Shotguns can be pump, lever, or bolt action, they can be break open single, double, and triple barrels, as well as semi-automatic.

3. The biggest question is how do you plan to use your shotgun? It’s intended role will influence the type and style of optic you use. The next factor is is dependent upon your load, some shotgun optics are designed to work with buckshot, and some with slugs, and while not purposely designed some optics work inherently better with certain shotguns.

eotech 512 holographic sight
Eotech 512
bushnell trophy XLT rifle scope sideview
Bushnell Trophy XLT
nikon prostaff shotgun slug gun diagonal product view
Nikon ProStaff Shotgun Hunter
Magnification:1x1.75 to 4x2x to 7x
Eye relief: Unlimited3.5 inches3.8 inches
Field of view: 30 yards @ 100 yards at 4 inches eye relief64 feet @ 100 feet (1.75x); 29 feet @ 100 feet (4x)33.4 to 9.5 feet @ 100 yards
Objective lens: -32mm32mm
Length:5.4 inches10.6 inches11.5 inches
Weight: 10.9 ounces12.7 ounces13.9 ounces
Product Page:Click HereClick HereClick Here

Mechanical Points To Consider

Ammo Issues

Some optics have a level of crossover or overlap in which the optic can work with multiple loads while others would work poorly. A magnified optic, for example, is one of the better choices for a slug gun, but wouldn’t be optimum for buck or bird shot, unless it has a 1x setting. The slug acts more like a rifle, and the magnification is king. Buck and birdshot are made for closer ranges, and a scope can cut into the time it takes to get a round off.

Certain red dots or holographic sights would work well with all three loads. Something like an Eotech would function like a champ with all three loads. Birdshot specifically would work well with an open red dot design, like a Burris Fastfire or Trijicon RMR. Birdshot specifically is made for small game at close range and needs a wide field of view, and quick and easy reticle.

Eye Relief

Shotguns come in a variety of gauges including 12 gauge, 10 gauge, 20 gauge, 28 gauge, example of eye relief distance when man shoots a rifle and aims through rifle scope16 gauge, and, of course, the only non gauge the 410 bore. Each of these rounds are quite different, and each has a different recoil.

The 10, 12, and 16 gauge shotguns need special attention when it comes to eye relief. These more powerful calibers have some significant recoil. Smaller shooters may feel the same way for 20 gauge, with 410 and 28 being light recoiling for everyone.

A short eye relief scope can leave you with a bad case of scope eye when shooting powerful buckshot or slug loads. The eye relief on a shotgun optic that is intended to be used with full power and magnum rounds should be around 3.5 to 4 inches. This little extra allows shooters to aim upwards without compromising their eye relief.


A shotgun scope has to be a high-quality piece. First and foremost, the construction must be solid. Shotguns are powerful weapons with a variety of different recoil levels.

Some powerful shotguns can destroy a cheaper optic. This is done mostly internally, this internal damage may not be noticeable outright, but something that happens slowly over periods of shooting. This can eventually cause electronics to break, reticles to slip and become misplaced , as well as internal glass cracking and leaking of anti-fog purging materials. The full powered shotgun is not one you have the ability to go cheap on when it comes to optics.

Hunting & Shotgun Loads

Deer, hog, and medium and large game hunting with a shotgun is going to use either buckshot or slugs, possibly both if a double barrel is your preference. Having a solid understanding of the range and power of different loads will influence your optic choice. Because there are so many different loads, shotguns, and shotgun purposes it’s impossible to state one particular optic is perfect for all shotguns.


nikon prostaff shotgun hunter mounted on a slug shotgun
Nikon Prostaff Shotgun Hunter is great choice for a slug gun,

Slug range depends on the slug and the gun. A dedicated slug gun, one with a rifled barrel, will have the most effective range. A good rifled slug gun has an effective range of about a 150 yards. A slug gun does typically handle shot well, and this makes it a slug gun, so close buckshot ranges aren’t an issue.

A good slug could benefit well from a fixed 4 power optic or a variable 1 to 4 power. It’s important to make sure that the scope is also capable of withstanding the recoil of a powerful slug gun, and won’t rattle the internals.

If you are using a smooth bore shotgun to shoot slugs you have a few different considerations. The range is a bit more limited with smoothbore slug firing, most shooters will be able to strike a target at 100 yards with a smooth bore, but for hunting, you’ll need to limit your slug throwing to 60 to 75 yards. For this closer range shooting a variable 1 to 4 power scope is better suited for smooth bore slug throwing than a fixed 4 power.


When it comes to using buckshot, the brush hunters favorite, no magnification is needed. A good, solid red dot is an excellent choice. The dot itself works best as a small to medium sized dot or reticle. Buckshot can be effectively used out to 40 yards, and small or medium size reticle makes it possible to maintain an easy visual on your target and avoid washout at these longer ranges. Buckshot is another powerful recoiling round, especially when you step into the 3 or 3.5-inch magnum loads. Make sure your shotgun is capable of handling it.

Turkey Shot

Bushnell Trophy XLT reticle with a circle in middle
Trophy XLT Circle-X reticle is great one for turkey hunting…

Turkey hunting is an interesting sport that uses powerful, and larger birdshot to take the big bird. The best method of preserving turkey meat is a headshot. Even though you are using a heavier birdshot. Some turkey scopes have reticles specifically designed with a circle in the middle of the duplex. Put this circle on the turkey’s head and get ready for Thanksgiving.

Small Game

Small game, whether it be squirrel, or quail is best done with lighter loads of birdshot. These lighter loads pack the smallest pellets in one shot but have the shortest range, and widest shot dispersion. Since the range is affected significantly by using a birdshot load, a magnified optic is out of place. The 1x setting on a magnified optic may be sufficient, but is not optimum since it cuts your field of view. A miniature red dot is perfect for small game. It leaves you an extremely wide field of view and makes engaging targets much faster.

Competitive Gaming

5 people in trap shooting competition, firing from shotgunsWhat I mean by gaming is shotgun sports, which are some of the oldest and most competitive sports in the firearms world. These games, of course, involve skeet and trap. Skeet and trap shooters are traditionalists and optics are not being used in major competitions, but a solid red dot sight could improve your speed on the target. A miniature red dot is an excellent choice, they leave an open field of view, and are lightweight. Lighter is better when it comes to weapons that need to point fast and accurately.

There are a certain set of characteristics these mini red dots need. First they need to be remarkable clear. The small clay pigeon flying through the air is an orange target, that means any amber or orange coatings may make it difficult to see the target.

Secondly, the dot reticle also needs to be small and precise, to make it easy to follow and shoot the small clay targets.

Tactical Considerations

Man in camouflage with a shotgun aiming with rifle optic at a targetThe shotgun has always been the primary choice for a home defense weapon. While the AR 15 has been creeping into that territory, the shotgun is still a popular choice for home defense and tactical applications. When it comes to close range fighting the shotgun is one of the most powerful weapons one could choose.

A tactical or home defense shotgun is specifically designed for close range combat. Combat inside the home, or for some police use, in buildings in general. Optics for these shotguns need to be designed for that close range environment. Because home invasions, and police calls do not happen according to a schedule, the optic should have a brightness settings appropriate enough for the dark nights, and the bright days.

The optic should feature a rapid and easy to use reticle, one in which the user can quickly and effectively get on target. An excellent choice would be an optic that can co-witness with the shotgun’s iron sights. The optic should be the highest quality, and be well made, and very durable. A tactical shotgun is one the user should train heavily with, therefore it needs to be able to withstand hundreds or even thousands of rounds.

4 Great Optics For Your Shotgun

While many may never see the need of scoping their shotguns, it does make a shotgun more effective and easier to use. An optic on a shotgun is far from heresy, and it makes using your shotgun effective in a variety of roles. If you are still wondering what specific optic is well suited for your shotgun, stick around, we’ve put together 4 optics that are excellent choices for shotguns.

Best Scope For Tactical Shotgun – Eotech 512eotech 512 holographic sight

The tactical shotgun can benefit quite a bit from an optic, and that optic should be a red dot or holographic of some type. The Eotech 512 is one of many Eotech’s optics that are perfect for the tactical shotgun.

The Eotech 512 weighs only 11 ounces, so it doesn’t weigh your shotgun down that much. the Eotech is powered by double A batteries and can last for a thousand continuous hours. The Eotech 512 is one of the older Eotech designs but is a proven choice.

One of the shotguns strong points is its ability to be fired intuitively, and the Eotech 512 allows intuitive firing with its reticle. The reticle, known as the -0, is perfect for shotgun shooting. The reticle consists of a 68 MOA circle and an internal 1 moa red dot. For a shotgun, the 68 MOA circle allows the shooter to fill the reticle with the target and instinctively fire for close range shooting. At shooting beyond 25 yards the 68 MOA circle still works rather well, but the 1 MOA red dot confirms your shot. The 1 MOA red dot can also be used when firing slugs.

The Eotech 512 is durable, well built and even waterproof. This optic is submersible up to 10 feet and is shockproof. The Eotech 512 will last round after round of birdshot, buckshot, and slugs without issue. The Eotech 512 is not limited to tactical consideration either and is a solid scope for hunting with buckshot, and could work for ground-based small game.

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Best Shotgun Scope For Turkey Hunting – Bushnell Trophy XLTbushnell trophy XLT rifle scope sideview

The Bushnell Trophy XLT shotgun scope is purpose built for shotgun hunting, and, in my opinion, is an excellent shotgun for both turkey hunting and slug shooting, especially smoothbore slug shooters. The optic has a variable power that ranges between 1.75 power to 4 power. These different levels of magnification are excellent for slugs, and the lower setting are excellent for turkey hunting. The reticle itself is quite simple, and lacks any kind of mil dot hash marks, and any bullet drop compensators.

The reticle itself is known as the Circle X reticle. The Circle X reticle is thick duplex that forms a circle in the middle, and inside the circle is a fine duplex. This makes both close range instinctive shooting possible, as well as longer range, precise slug shooting. Since the scope is built and designed for shotgun exclusively, it is tough enough to withstand the recoil from slugs.

The Bushnell Trophy XLT is a compact optic, especially since it’s a variable optic. The optic weighs mere 12.7 ounces and is only 10.6 inches long. The Trophy XLT features fingertip adjustable turrets for easy field adjustments and rapid zeroing. The scope is also quite clear and provides an excellent amount of light transmission through it’s 32 mm objective lens. The optics are fully multicoated, which aids in both light transmission and reduction of glare. The Trophy XLT is a well-made scope that works well for any shotgun hunter.

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Best For Shotgun Sports and Games – Burris FastFire 3 with Speedbeadburris fastfire III with speedbead mount

The lightest and easiest red dot to use on a shotgun is the Burris Speedbead system. Most field shotguns come from the factory equipped with a bead sight, or possibly a set of adjustable irons. Rarely does a field shotgun come from the factory ready for an optic.

The Speedbead system takes this into consideration and allows users to mount a miniature red dot optic on nearly any shotgun. The Speedbead installs between the stock and the rear of the receiver. No modifications are necessary to mount the Speedbead System.

The Burris Fastfire 3 when installed on the shotgun gives the user a red dot in place of their bead. The Speedbead and the Fastfire 3 work together to give the shooter a natural placement of the red dot. One that is incredibly easy to easy, and much faster to use than a traditional metal bead. The Burris Speedbead system is perfect for shotgun sports and games. The Speedbead is placed in the same manner a bead is, and makes instinctive shooting and target tracking simple.

The Speedbead could also be used for bird hunting, or just general small game hunting with birdshot. The system makes target transitions, especially flying targets, very simple. The Speedbead prevent the user from canting their shotgun and makes it simple for new shooters to use a shotgun. The red bead is infinitely better for people with poor eyesight. The Speedbead is easy to use, affordable, and will take the abuse for hundreds and hundreds of rounds.

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Best Scope For Slug Gun – Nikon ProStaff Shotgun Hunternikon prostaff shotgun slug gun diagonal product view

The Nikon Prostaff series is quite well respected in the hunting community for being a well built, affordable optic. The Nikon Prostaff shotgun hunter continues that tradition by giving the slug gun a solid variable option.

The ProStaff Shotgun Hunter is a 2 to 7 power optic with a 32 mm objective lens. The variable power of the ProStaff Shotgun hunter allows the slug gunner to use the weapon to it’s fullest potential.

The 2 power setting allows the slug gun to be used for big game hunting, making it easy to approach a wounded animal or stalking an animal in thick brush. The Shotgun hunter features a bullet drop compensator that is dialed in for modern aerodynamic polymer-tipped slugs with muzzle velocities of 1900 to 2000 feet per second. The bullet drop compensator uses ballistic circles to provide holdovers for 100 and 200-yard shots. The turrets can be zero reset to make adjustments easy in the field, especially for windage.

At first glance through the optic, you’ll notice the addition of a quick focus eyepiece. This aids shooters focus at all ranges. The next thing you’ll notice is how bright and how high definition the view is. This is due to the fully multi-coated lenses that provide a glare free, bright sight picture. The Nikon Prostaff shotgun hunter is not extremely versatile when it comes to shotguns, but as a dedicated Slug gun scope, there is hardly anything that touches the Nikon in terms of usability.

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  1. The Nikon Shotgun Hunter would be perfect if it were made with a -0 for the ability to shot at a running deer with both eyes open? Don’t see how 7x for a 150 yard gun, is more important than -0.