Choosing the proper gun scope is just as vital as knowing everything about your hunting rifle and shooting limitations. Selecting optics for your rifle is an important decision; in some cases, it can be more important than the weapon itself.
It would help if you were well-informed to make the best combo possible when looking for the best hunting scope. Otherwise, using the wrong Riflescope will likely slow you down or give you an uncomfortable shooting experience.
Today the gun market is overwhelmed with hundreds of telescopic sights designed for many different purposes, weapons, and shooting styles.
Whether you run an AR-15 or AR-10, deer or coyote hunting rifle, you can’t afford to choose the wrong scope due to the plenty of information from easily accessible literature and guides like ours.
What do you need to know before buying a scope?
The first thing you should consider when choosing a scope is the intended purpose you need optics for. That is a very important reason, as you can either buy an overly simple scope that does not have the needed features or purchase an overly complex scope that is too much for the job.
The second crucial factor is your budget and how much you are ready to spend on optics. You should know that high-quality optics can elevate an average hunting rifle to its full capacity and sometimes better than a competition rifle.
The general rule would be to buy the best scope you can afford for the intended application. Depending on your finances, you should spend up to half of your rifle costs minimum, but you also have to know that many experienced shooters buy optics that cost more than their rifles.
Know Your Stuff
Another very essential factor to consider is proficiency and knowledge of your gun. Familiarity with your rifle is key to selecting optics and other positive experiences. Different types of rifles demand different scope types. Scout rifles require very long eye relief scopes, whereas your AR-15 will accommodate normal eye relief scopes. There are also scopes with reticles calibrated for specific cartridges, such as .22LR, .223 Rem. or 6.5 Creedmoor. So, for your 6.5 Creedmoor hunting rifle, you can purchase a dedicated 6.5 Creedmoor scope that sports a caliber-specific reticle.
After you have narrowed down the options and selected the optics that will only apply to your hunting needs, other things are more of a technical matter, and they are more subject to your preferences and financial limits.
There are relatively few riflescopes that can dub universal, and only a couple of them are good multi-taskers.
That said, the reticle choice is the easiest part of the selection process as the three main categories of rifle scopes: hunting, target and tactical scopes can be differed by a reticle.
For the average varminter or big game hunter, the all-purpose German #4 reticle or duplex reticle will get the job done effectively and efficiently. These simple, uncluttered reticles will help you maximize your hunting potential without increasing your budget.
Magnification: Fixed or Variable
Usually, no scopes are “good for target shooting or hunting,” as most are made to do only one thing. It means you want an appropriate level of magnification for your most common hunting situations.
The scopes with fixed magnification are more robust and cheaper than scopes with variable magnification, making them a better solution for budget-conscious hunters.
Objective Lens Sizes
The size of the objective lens directly depends on the part of the day you are mostly hunting and the type of firearm. The modest lens sizes (30mm – 44mm) would be perfect for your AR-15 scope if you are shooting in broad daylight or using smaller compact rifles. Conversely, the huge objective lens size will be manageable if you prefer hunting at dawn and sunset.
Other features like turret systems, parallax adjustment or tube diameter are secondary and do not affect too much at your scope and firearm combination.
In the next part of this guide, we will present several popular hunting scopes from different categories, allowing you to pick the most preferable model based on our reviews and opinions.
Our Recommendations for Hunting Scope
Vortex Optics 3-15×50 Razor HD LHT Riflescope
The highly popular Vortex Razor HD Gen 2 line of scopes is designed for long-range shooting. Purpose-built for competitive shooters and long-range tactical shooting communities, these premium precision rifle scopes feature the best Vortex technologies and allow for nearly unlimited tweaks to any variable.
A few years ago, the long-range mania broke into the hunting world, and Vortex recognized space in the market for a hunting scope with modern features.
Following the Vortex’s tradition with Viper HST (Hunting Shooting Tactical) rifle scopes, the Razor LHT stands for “Light Hunter Tactical.” As its name suggests, the manufacturer tried to offer lightweight scope without sacrificing quality or performance.
While the Vortex Optics Razor HD II comes in six models, the Razor HD LHT series comes in either 3-15×50, 3-15×42 or 4.5-27×56.
Our “Go To” scope from the Razor HD LHT lineup is a 3-15x50mm model due to its versatility and ultra-lightweight design with just over 20 ounces.
As the Vortex Razor LTH caters to the hunter, its model RZR-31503 comes with a designed G4i-BDC reticle placed in a Second focal plane (SFP). While this style of reticle resembles the German #1 reticle, it can be illuminated and provides reference marks to compensate for drop and drift in adverse weather conditions.
This optics comes in an MRAD reticle option and is equipped with Vortex Razor Premium HD (High Density) extra-low dispersion glass. As the most advanced scope series from Vortex, the Razor HD LHT boasts XR fully multi-coated lenses for more light transmission and features anti-reflective coatings on outer lenses.
The Razor HD LHT is equipped with a low profile-capped windage turret, but the elevation turret is robust and exposed, offering solid and tactile clicks with a zero-stop feature.
Unlike many entry-level/budget Vortex scopes, this new addition to the Razor’s is entirely a lineup suitable for precision long-range shooting and hunting game at further but still ethical ranges.
Leupold Vx FreeDom 3-9×50
Another all-purpose scope comes from the legendary Leupold & Stevens, Inc., an American manufacturer located in Beaverton, Oregon, United States.
The Leupold VX-Freedom family replaced the discontinued VX-2 series with dozens of illuminated and non-illuminated riflescopes designed for a variety of platforms, including hunting rifles, rimfires, muzzleloaders, scout rifles and AR-15 platforms.
Besides standard hunting 3-9×40 non-illuminated scope, the Leupold VX-Freedom launched a 3-9x variable magnification coupled with a 50mm objective and an illuminated Firedot Twilight Hunter reticle.
The Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x has a wide power range of 3x zoom, making it great for medium to long-range shooting but also for close-range engagement.
Like other optics from the Freedom lineup, the VX-Freedom 3-9×50 doesn’t sport some high-end features such as a locking dial, side focus, or compatible custom dial. Even though Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9X50 is shipped without any accessories, it is the best hunting scope in terms of price and quality.
In fact, this completely waterproof, fog proof scope comes with an aircraft-grade single-piece 30mm main aluminum tube and has features designed specifically for low-light situations.
Along with excellent glass quality, this Leupold scope boasts the new Advanced Optical System, allowing you to stay out during the last minutes of legal light.
The scope shockproof feature paired with generous 4.2-3.7 inches of eye relief makes VX-Freedom impervious and comfortable to hard-hitting calibers like .45-70 Govt. rounds.
This rugged and lightweight Riflescope comes with military-grade glass and Leupold’s proprietary coatings to provide an extremely scratch-resistant surface.
Vector Optics Continental 1-6×24 Riflescope
Vector Optics company has been in the sports optics business for over a decade. The beginnings of this company resemble most Chinese companies working as OEM manufacturers for many world-known European and North American brands.
Along with almost every optics type, the backbone of Vector Optics’ portfolio is traditional riflescopes divided into several series. Their flagship series are Continental scopes, which come in 14 models.
Unlike classic 1-4x, we have chosen a more modern Vector Optics Continental 1-6×24 scope for this review. The objective lens diameter of this Continental riflescope is 24 millimeters, with a magnification range of 1 to 6x. By the way, all Continental scopes feature a 6x zoom factor and come with 30mm or 34mm aluminum mono-tubes.
A true 1x magnification is ideal for driven hunts and hunting in wooded areas since it will allow you to aim with both eyes open for maximum field of view and better surrounding awareness. A maximum zoom level of 6x would provide the ability to shoot accurately at medium distances.
While the LPVO 1-6x scopes are perfect for various shooting applications, this 1-6x scope from the Continental line is purpose-built for hunting. A crucial element of this Continental LPVO scope is their “German No. 4” (“plex-type”) reticle placed in the second focal plane.
The center of the reticle is illuminated in red with 6 adjustable intensity levels and sports off positions between each level. The illuminated reticle is controlled via the left-side turret, which holds the CR2032 battery. The scope offers 4.0″ long eye relief and shock resistance up to a .338 Lapua Magnum, so you can mount it on any high-powered rifle without concerns.
As Vector Optics’ “top of the line” scopes, the new Continental series uses good German glass, which is fully-multi coated to provide more than 90% light transmission rate through the entire scope.
The Vector Optics Continental 1-6×24 scope sports single piece body made of 6061 T6 aluminum tube that is nitrogen purged to eliminate any fogging.
With an overall length of 11.1 inches and weight of 16.9 ounces, this Vector LPVO hunting scope is an ideal addition to your AR-15 or any other modern sporting rifle.
UTG 2-7×44 30mm Scout Scope
In the end, we left one of the more budget-friendly options for first-time buyers or those wanting to try a legendary Jeff Cooper’s Scout concept.
The Leapers UTG 2-7×44 Long Eye Relief Scout Scope is intended for mounting forward of the action allowing the hunter to get a clearer view of what he is shooting.
The UTG 2-7x44mm is constructed around a large 30mm main tube to get more light entering the scope, making it much brighter than the one-inch scope. On the other hand, the large tube, robust construction and big 44mm objective make this 2-7x Scout scope the heaviest and largest in its category.
However, the Emerald coating on the lenses called Illuminating Enhancing System enhances the light transmission for clarity and sharpness, even unexpecting for its price class.
The eye relief is 9.5″ to 11,” making it possible to shoot with both eyes open to maintain situational awareness.
Except for the wide field of view, this forward mounting scope allows early morning and dusk shots granted to the illuminated reticle etched in the glass. Due to the UTG’s Tactical Range Estimating or TRE system, you can use the Mil-dot style reticle as a range-finding tool.
The reticle’s unique LED illumination system features a Dual-Color Mode and 36-Color Mode controlled with the EZ-Tap housing buttons.
The UTG scope is equipped with target-style windage, elevation lockable turrets, and Side Wheel Adjustable Turret for parallax adjustment.
This affordable scope is a perfect mate for a budget hunting gun, particularly when you get in a package an angled sunshade, medium profile Picatinny rings and flip-open lens caps.
In this overview, we have just scratched the top of the vast sea of riflescopes suggesting only a few typical scopes from the hunting optics arena.
Thanks to modern manufacturing techniques, riflescopes have improved dramatically, but one rule in optics is “You do get what you pay for.”
Ultimately, your preferences and your shooting style will decide what scope you will buy.
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.