From the beginning, the primary role of firearms was to serve as a battlefield tool. Later it was adopted by many civilian societies as a weapon for hunting, home protection and leisure shooting activities.
Along with firearms, the industry has also developed various gun equipment and accessories, resulting in an overflooded market with a massive selection of products.
After the ammunition, the telescopic sights are the essential part of firearms and, at the same time, probably the most confusing component of your firearm system.
In fact, there are myriads of gun optics, especially today when anyone in the gun business builds scopes with prices ranging from $20 to a couple of thousand bucks.
When speaking of gun optics, you should know that dozens of different scope types are purpose-built for various weapon platforms and applications.
One of the best grounds for testing optics is target shooting and shooting competitions because of the sheer volume of fired ammo in not-always-ideal conditions.
In the shooting sports arena, particularly demanding discipline is 3-Gun matches because of the various engagements that can be found in each tournament.
Compared to other shooting activities, the 3-Gun competitions are the fastest-growing shooting sport in the country.
Also known as multi-gun competition, it features fast-moving, practical or combat-style shooting at targets ranging from point-blank out to 600 or even 800 yards. You will shoot from positions that mimic defensive situations, such as behind barriers and around obstacles. It requires you to be in excellent physical fitness since you have to hit all targets as fast as possible, usually from non-standard stances. Unlike other competitive shooting disciplines, this sport requires proficiency with multiple guns.
As its name says, in a 3-gun competition, shooters use three types of firearms: a rifle, a pistol, and a shotgun. According to other shooting sports, the 3-gun discipline is divided into three primary divisions: Factory, Practical and Open.
By the rules, traditional iron sights and red dots are limited on pistols and shotguns, whereas rifles can have non-magnified or magnified optics.
Due to the dynamic nature of 3-gun sport, the optics for 3-gun have to be rugged and up to the practical, real-world scenarios. The best 3-gun scopes should be something other than niche-specific items but versatile ones that can work effectively on any terrain and condition.
As for the construction features, the optic for 3-Gun competition has to be lightweight and able to hold zero through some severe abuse.
Besides a compact and sleek design and a robust build to survive getting bumped around, a 3-gun scope should be made with high-quality glass to provide a bright and clear image.
Given that three-gun competitions are based on ranges with various targets at varying distances, your optics should have a manageable magnification and a limited field of view since these features could slow down your course speeds. It is advisable to look for the scopes with variable power and minimum magnification as close to 1x as possible.
Currently, the accepted scope standard for these fast-paced competitions comes in 1-6x and 1-8x configurations because these magnification settings allow aiming at a closer target and enable targeting at longer distances. The best 3-gun scopes come with an extended throw lever for quickly changing magnification.
Non-magnifying, second-focal-plane scopes are popular with Three-gun shooters as it works better at either end of the power spectrum of low-power scopes. Since the three-gun optics have to be ready for use in a wide variety of applications, the ranging reticles with multiple aiming points provide a tremendous advantage compared to simple Duplex or very complex Christmas tree-style reticles. Finally, the reticle with an illuminated center would be tremendous aid when shooting in low-lighting situations or with both eyes open at close range.
Compared to these vital features, other characteristics such as objective lens size, eye relief, or turret type are less critical and greatly depend on personal preference.
For this overview, we will introduce to you the best-magnified scopes for 3-gun competitions, while the non-magnified sights, including the red dots, holographic sights, and 1x prism scopes, we will leave for the other article.
Our Recommendations for 3-Gun Scope
Trijicon ACOG 3.5×35
There is no better way to start this guide than with the scope of legendary reputation, a Trijicon ACOG. There are a dozen variants of Trijicon Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG) scope, but their main features are low power, fixed magnification and rugged durability.
While some Trijicon sights have a battery-powered LED-illuminated reticle, the flagship models like Trijicon ACOG 3.5×35 boasts fiber optic and Tritium dual-illuminated reticle.
This combat-proven optic is based on 30mm tubes made from high-quality forged aircraft-grade aluminum for extra strength. Though relatively compact, the ACOG 3.5×35 weighs 14 ounces, which is heavy compared to other optics.
Initially developed for combat weapons like the M16/M4 family, the Trijicon ACOG is the perfect choice for modern sporting rifles like the AR-15. For any accomplished 3 Gunner, the ACOG will balance a red dot scope and an L.P.V.O.
Along with fixed-power magnification, this ACOG sports a 35mm objective and fully multi-layer coated lenses that provide extraordinary clarity and bring you a bright and accurate sight picture.
The Trijicon ACOG 3.5×35 comes in 10 reticle designs placed in a second focal plane, making it perfect for mid-range shooting and even for longer ranges.
The most popular for 3-gun shooting is their unique “Triangle Post” reticle, a green chevron (inverted “V”) and the horseshoe reticle. All of these reticles will allow you to aim and shoot with both eyes open, which is perfect for 3-Gun Competitions.
Swarovski Z8i 1-8x24mm
At the beginning of this century, the variable power riflescopes with a low end at or near 1X were rare birds at the shooting ranges and hunting fields. Today, 1-4x and 1-6x scopes are more common things made by many optics producers. Still, selecting only top-of-the-range rifle scopes like Swarovski is heartily recommended if you want a more extensive zoom range (1-8x or 1-10x).
A couple of years ago, Swarovski Optik launched their Z8i line of scopes with a true 8 times zoom range, 30mm main tube and a high light transmission rate of incredibly 93 percent.
The Swarovski Z8i 1-8×24 is an illuminated L.P.V.O. (Low Power, Variable Optic) scope that is available with four reticle types placed in the second focal plane. While some reticles are suited to driven hunting, others are perfect for sport shooting and dynamic competitions like 3-gun matches.
For 3-gun competitors, particularly interesting is a FLEXCHANGE, the switchable 4A-IF reticle. In shortest, the 4A-IF is an illuminated circle around the intersection of a duplex reticle, allowing you to change from dot to circle-dot.
As a scope with a true 1X low-end, the Z8i 1-8×24 can be used with both eyes open, but this model also offers incredible versatility due to its exceptional field of view of 127.5 ft.
Like all scopes from this Austrian manufacturer, the lenses on this 1-8x L.P.V.O. are absolutely perfect, providing a super clear image and making them very usable for dusk and dawn hunting, even with a 24mm objective lens.
Swarovski Z8i rifle scope comes with capped low-profile turrets with audible and crisp clicks and can be shipped with the optional B.T.F. or ballistic turret flex.
With specifically made reticles and turrets, the Z8i 1-8×24 is ideal in rapidly changing situations such as 3-gun stages, where it offers an easy-to-use aiming point and ensures rapid target acquisition.
Vortex Razor HD GEN II-E 1-6×24
One of the best scopes for 3-gun shooters and high-end hunters comes from Vortex optics, an American company with overseas production facilities. The Razor HD GEN II-E 1-6×24 is Vortex’s top-of-the-line scope, boasting a 6x zoom range and some of the clearest glass on the market. Compared to the first generation, which had a 4x zoom factor, the Gen II features a 6-time magnification range, allowing you to zoom in for longer precision shots.
As the main difference to the older II Generation models, the new model E (E stands for enhanced) is nearly ¼ pound lighter (21oz vs. 25oz).
Like all typical L.P.V.O. scopes for short to medium-range tactical applications, the Razor HD Gen II – E 1-6×24 is purpose-built for close-quarters targets. That said, it provides a display-like sight picture for fast target acquisition, a forgiving eyebox and a daylight-bright illuminated reticle.
While the Razor 1-6x scope is available with M.O.A. or M.R.A.D. versions of its V.M.R., a traditional duplex reticle, there is one designed with the competitor in mind. The most popular reticle with the 3-gunners is a JM-1 second focal plane reticle designed with input from the world-renowned competitive shooter Jerry Miculek.
This top-tier Vortex scope is based on a 30mm main tube built of aircraft-grade aluminum and comes equipped with premium H.D. (High Density) extra-low dispersion glass.
Due to the 1-6x magnification and intuitive reticle design, the Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E delivers versatile aiming options while facilitating shooting from point blank to 600 yards.
Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20
You don’t need high-end 3-gun scopes to enjoy this dynamic shooting discipline. The Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 is one of the highly reliable and compact scopes that will rise to the task without breaking the bank.
All scopes from the VX-Freedom series have a housing made of 6061-T6 aircraft quality aluminum and nitrogen purged for 100% waterproof and fog-proof capability. It can also withstand the shock from the recoils of high-velocity hunting rifles.
Although the Freedom lineup of riflescopes is a budget version of the Leupold brand, all scopes feature Leupold’s proprietary Twilight Light Management System, fully multicoated optics and a full lifetime guarantee.
Leupold’s relatively inexpensive tactical glass has capped low-profile turrets made of polymer. These clearly marked dials adjust the reticle in 1/4 MOA increments.
The VX-Freedom 1.5-4x riflescope offers a certain level of specialization when paired with an MOA-Ring reticle. The second-focal-plane reticle has a large outer ring for aiming at fast-moving targets and tick hashmarks for comfortable work in the 400m range and with a maximum effective range of up to 800 m.
With a magnification range of 1.5-4x and a wide field of view, this lightweight scope will be the perfect addition to your AR-15 rifle or pistol.
This simple and compact 1-inch maintube optic is designed as an entry-level unit for hunting and sport shooting in all types of weather and terrain.
Burris RT-6 1-6x24mm Scope
Another American company with affordable optics is on our list with an interesting offering. Actually, it’s about three products. The Burris combo consists of an L.P.V.O. scope, a reflex sight and a mount specialized for mounting the scope forward on an AR-style rifle.
The central part of Burris Optics RT-6 Tactical Kit is a 1-6x24mm, a low-magnification scope ideal for close to mid-distance shooting applications.
Designed for competition and tactical shooting, the Burris RT-6 is constructed from a one-piece 30mm main aluminum tube for robustness and durability.
Like most Burris scopes, the RT-6 high-grade lenses feature Hi-Lume multi-coatings that provide solid clarity and contrast.
The RT-6 sports low-profile capped turrets with standard 0.5 MOA/click adjustments along with a quick and accurate magnification built-in pull lever.
The illuminated SFP AR Ballistic Reticle offers a super-fast circle for fast close acquisition and an accurate trajectory compensation out to 600 yards.
The second part of this combo is the Fast Fire III 3 M.O.A. red dot sight mounted atop the L.P.V.O. This reflex sight is the improved III Gen of popular FastFire red dots. The upgraded version offers a top-mounted battery, enhanced windage and elevation adjustments and an automatic brightness setting. It provides users a very fast acquisition, accuracy and easy handling.
Finally, this Tactical Kit is shipped with a Burris P.E.P.R. (Perfect Eye Position Ready) mount, mainly designed for mounting on AR-15-style rifles.
The Burris optical system is ideal for tactical training, 3-gun competitions and self-defense.
Whether you buy this Burris as a combo or a standalone scope, as one of the fastest scopes on the market, the Burris RT-6 1-6×24 will upgrade your shooting experience to a higher level.
Three-gun competitions are growing in popularity, and the quest for specific gun accessories, like 3-gun scopes, can be even more complicated and confusing.
Whether you’re a budget-conscious beginner or need the best 3-gun rifle scope, you can find an optic that will push your skills to the limit. Speaking of magnified optics, you will need a scope with lower-powered magnification, compact dimensions and a reticle that your eye is able to pick up very quickly.
In conclusion, if you want to make an informed buying decision, reading guides like this will help you make the best choice.
Travis Mike is a firearm enthusiast and author passionate about all things guns. With 10 years of experience in the industry, Travis Mike has gained a wealth of knowledge on the subject. He is skilled in gunsmithing and tactical training. In addition to professional experience, Travis Mike is an avid hunter and shooter, regularly participating in local shooting ranges and hunting trips.