If there’s a favorite rifle cartridge in America, it’s got to be the .308. Few cartridges can improve upon the King, the .30-06, though even the military has phased out .30-06 in favor of .308 for SDM and sniper roles. Among hunters, there’s no comparison the .308, Winchester is by far the most common hunting round in the United States.
No other cartridge is universally chambered in rifles from as many manufacturers as the .308 and no other cartridge enjoys the same number of loadings or specialized optics being made for it. It truly is the king of cartridges right now.
How to Choose a Rifle Scope for a .308?
If you’re looking for a new scope whether it’s for a short-barrelled FN SCAR, an exotic tikka ctr or your standard Browning X-bolt, there’s an excellent new scope out there tailor made for your .308. Here’s a few tips and tricks to choose the best 308 scope for your rifle and a few recommendations if you’ve never bought a scope before.
Size & Weight
Over the years optics have been getting lighter and lighter. At the same time manufacturers are able to come out with optics with larger and larger objective lenses. In fact, it’s not uncommon these days to see AR 15’s outfitted with scopes that have 56mm objective lenses. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the larger and heavier your scope is, the more of a hindrance it is going to be in the field.
Determine the relative size of the objective lens you need before you go shopping. If you have never bought a scope before this can be difficult. One of the most important things you need to know is that a larger objective lens gathers light better than a smaller one, but also remember that the quality of the glass inside the objective lenses matters more than the overall size.
The difference in performance that you gain from a 40 mm to 56 mm objective lenses is negligible if the lenses inside have subpar coatings. Same goes going for a 1-inch tube to a 30 mm, rarely is it worth the increase in weight and size for the average shooter. Though you will get more room for elevation adjustments on the turret on the 1-inch tube which might be necessary if attempting to shoot at extreme long range.
Everybody has a different tolerance with the amount of weight they are willing to carry, but for a .308 rifle anything heavier than 8 pounds isn’t necessary for most applications. Unless you are assembling a rifle solely for bench rest shooting and competition, or still hunting from a stand or blind. A lightweight rifle is going to be easier to travel with, easier to clean and at the end of the day more enjoyable to shoot. Lightweight and compact rifles are especially important for most hunters.
The budget that you set out for your rifle scope should be proportional to the rifle that you’re shooting. Obviously, if you have a new Ruger precision rifle you can afford to spend money on something a little nicer than an inexpensive fixed power scope.
The goal is to use a magnified optic to get as much performance out of your rifle as possible. Depending on the rifle you have, and the job you want to do this can require $300 or $1300 or even more. Most scopes these days cost under $500 and even the absolute best in the industry offer options costing under $1000. Many people would be hard-pressed to not find a totally usable scope for $300, though some will claim that the cost of the scope should equal the cost of the rifle.
Your budget is going to be extremely personalized but to get the most out of it consider buying for major manufacturers, not boutique brands. You don’t want to go with a cheap fly-by-night import company, but not paying for brand name is a great way to start off ahead.
Many of the major manufacturers but especially Leupold, Bushnell, and Vortex offer exceptional value priced optics all three of which have purpose made .308 Winchester scopes for under $300. These scopes can be used at ranges in excess of 800 yards. It’s all about what you are willing to use and the type of scope you want.
The great thing about shooting a .308 is that you can have literally anything you want. From holographic sights made to be as inexpensive as possible but still have BDC reticle, all the way up to extraordinarily specialized tactical, military style scopes designed to be able to hit targets as far away as the moon.
Determine what you’re going to be doing with your rifle before you go shopping. That is the best way to make sure that you stay within your budget, and that you buy a scope that you will be happy to use a year from now once the novelty has worn off. The aim is to get a scope that maximizes the usefulness of your rifle.
At a minimum, look for a scope that will shoot the distances that you want to shoot, and a package that you are willing to carry all day long. It is very easy to buy a scope with twice as much magnification as you need, but you’ll instantly regret it the first time you go hunting.
Small features like BDC reticles, rugged exterior coatings, sunshades, and other small refinements can be had for virtually no trade off in cost. Larger features like target turrets and 30 mm tubes are becoming a more common feature that are more affordable than in the past but are not very practical for hunters. Determine the features you need and keep the features you want in mind.
Our Recommendations for .308 Rifle Scope
Nikon P Tactical 308
Nikon makes the widest array of optical equipment of any major manufacturer, they use that expertise of manufacturing industrial optics to bring down the prices on nearly all their products. For the money, Nikon offers the best optics in the industry.
This is their P-308 riflescope designed around a 1-inch tube and 40mm objective lens. The fully multicoated lenses are excellent, and the entire scope is much more lightweight than competing models that offer a full 12x magnification.
By far the best part of this rifle scope is the intelligently designed BDC reticle. The BDC reticle included on the scope is what made Nikon’s optics famous. It’s a simple calibrator reticle designed to be used with a .308 rifle out to 800 yards.
If you are going to hunt with a rifle or do informal target shooting, this is an excellent scope to get plenty of performance for the money without going overboard on features. The scope is well-balanced and cost-effective for just about anybody who will be using the rifle for general shooting or hunting.
If there’s an optic company out there for quality, it’s NightForce. No other company on planet earth can hold a candle to their tactical long-range style optics. Built specifically for people who have very high demands for their equipment, NightForce provides a product that can do what others can’t.
This is one of the best scopes for people looking for a decent blend between tactical features, and cost. When it comes to long-range precision shooting, optics get more expensive than any other product needed. Forgoing custom turrets and illuminated reticle, you get this excellent scope for much cheaper than other products offered by NightForce.
The 4:1 zoom ratio tops out at 20x magnification with a 56mm objective lens at the end of a 30mm tube. This scope features a laundry list of proprietary and specialized features that can be found of the manufacturer’s website and product sheets.
The best part of the scope is the high quality, fully armored and fully multicoated lenses that are just about as bombproof as you can get, many features on this scope are only really applicable if you are shooting out to 1000 yards and beyond.
If you have a bench rest rifle set up, built around a custom Remington 700 or Savage Action taking advantage of this scope will be easy. However, if you have a common hunting rifle like a Ruger American Compact or Remaington 783, this is not an appropriate scope for those rifles.
If you’re willing to put up with the high cost and difficult learning curve of getting the most out of all the features of the scope, you will enjoy some of the best performance money can buy in the optics industry.
Trijicon has become an iconic optics manufacturer. Being one of the main suppliers of the US military and other NATO forces, their ACOG product line has become one of the most successful tactical optics in history. When it comes to outfitting an AR 10 .308 rifle with an effective and supremely reliable optic, nothing beats an ACOG.
The primary draw the scope is its rugged simplicity and bombproof construction. This model combines a highly effective BDC reticle with 3.5x magnification and 35 mm objective lens. The fiber-optic and battery backup illumination make sure that you are never without illumination.
While this is certainly much heavier than other options on the market, not to mention much more expensive, it does combine some of the most proven technology in the world with a standardized mount that makes it easy to incorporate on any standard rifle.
This optic shines in the 0 to 500-yard range on short and light carbines that need a fast optic for snap shooting. Some people find this optic to be lacking in performance for anything other than snapshots or plinking, but for a bombproof go to war optic there’s nothing better.
Nikon M Tactical
Many of the products that Nikon makes are generally good for just about everything. There M series of riflescopes are designed to be used in military and law-enforcement applications. This makes them great for target shooting and long-range hunting.
This rifle scope, in particular, incorporates a 4-16x magnification range and 42mm objective lens. Fully multicoated lenses, waterproof, fireproof and shockproof performance make this a reliable optic for shooting. What sets this rifle scope apart from other Nikon designs is the incorporation of zero reset target turrets.
This rifle scope lacks specialized features that make a true long-range and tactical riflescope but does bridge the gap between a standard optic and some of the specialized features offered on more expensive scopes. Consider this best scope at around under $500 if you are going to be shooting out between 500 and 800 yards and want a few features to make it slightly easier.
Leupold VX Freedom
Sometimes you just can’t be a classic. Leupold makes traditional bare-bones optics for people who want a classically designed riflescope with modern technology built into it.
With this rifle scope, you get a classic VX Freedom suite of features that Leupold is known for. Namely, fully multicoated lenses, high quality optical prism, and excellent simplicity for the money.
Built to run a classic and versatile 3-9x50mm layout of magnification objective lenses, you can’t get any better than this rifle scope for deer hunting or general shooting. This scope will pair very nicely with any hunting rifle, especially when targeting mid to large game under 500 yards.
Vortex Viper HS-T
Vortex make some the best hunting optics on the planet. Specifically, for hunting and tactical use, their optics are some the most rugged and are backed by one of the best warranties in the business. That alone makes them a great option when you are looking to use the rifle in hard use situations.
There are also known as being one most innovative, forward thinking companies on the market. Their Viper HS-T lineup of rifle scopes is one of their premium offerings, is also one of the best rifle scopes on the market for a .308 rifle.
Build from one piece of aircraft grade aluminum and featuring a 1-inch tube, with a 44mm objective lens and a 4-16x magnification range, this is certainly not a scope that you will use for close range plinking but is a perfect long-range hunting rifle scope.
EO Tech Vudu
EO Tech is best known for their holographic sights, but they have been making a name for themselves in the magnified optics realm with their Vudu line. These scopes are made to professional grade with the fighting man in mind.
The reticle on the scope has all of the data you need to range targets and make accurate hold-offs when a shot doesn’t afford the time to make adjustments on the turrets. Also, with the reticle in the first focal plane, all of the measurements in the scope are accurate throughout the entire range of magnification. The turrets are tactile and very precise. Lenses on this scope are among some of the best in the industry.
For a scope that will withstand the rigors of actual combat while helping you put accurate fire up to 1,000 meters with your .308, look no further.
Zeiss Conquest V4
Hunting in the North West for mule deer or elk presents a set of challenges that are not found in the rest of the country. Often times hunters can be attempting to take game from across great valleys, and experienced hunters from the area are no stranger to long shots.
The Zeiss Conquest will give you the edge you need to confidently take those long shots and hit your mark. With legendary Zeiss lenses, the image is absolutely clear to a level that many have not had the opportunity to experience.
Built with the hunter in mind, this scope has all of the durability and high-quality components you need, without the tactical features you don’t. The turrets are covered, and the scope is an uncomplicated duplex. The scope is also extremely light weight, which will help when traveling through mountainous terrain where ounces equal pounds.
Primary Arms SLx8
3-gun competitions have their own challenges that are not found when hunting or patrolling, and certain optics excel when competing in an event where you might need to engage targets from 5 to 200 yards within moments of each other. The SLx8 gives shooters the ability to use both eyes with a true 1x magnification at the lowest setting for close targets, but the ability to quickly jump up to 8x for those far targets.
The reticle features the famous ACSS reticle which has been praised by professionals and enthusiasts alike for the ability to quickly range and engage targets at a variety of distances.
Of course, the scope is shock and waterproof, with a very rugged design and high-quality lenses. If you are planning on competing in the heavy metal division, this is the scope to put on your AR 10.
For those who don’t want a magnified optic for their .308, there is no denying the benefits of a red dot optic for quick and accurate target acquisition. One of the problems with most red dot scopes on .308 caliber rifles is that they aren’t built to withstand the heavy recoil of the .308 and will often failed when put to the test.
The Aimpoint PRO is based on the military’s M68 which has been proven to be essentially bomb proof in design. The battery life is measured in years rather than hours, which has benefits for everyone but especially the home defender. The warranty on all Aimpoint products is fantastic, as well.
There truly is no better red dot sight commercially available for the .308 caliber rifle.
Best Magnification for .308 Rifle Scope
When determining the magnification for your .308, you need to keep your application in mind will help, but the fact that the effective range of the cartridge is mostly limited to 1000 yards we have some help with our decision. While there are many scopes that are capable of magnification over 16x, the clarity of lenses at that magnification will become degraded on even the highest quality lenses available.
It is recommended that you prioritize lens quality over magnification when given the option. For most applications, magnification up to 9x will be sufficient and you can be more accurate at 1000 yards that you might initially think with if you have a quality scope. It can be beneficial for some to go as 12x if identifying targets at range is too challenging at 9x.
A caveat to that rule might be for hunting applications. If you plan to hunt large game and expect to be taking shots up to 800 yards, it can be helpful to use extra magnification to clearly identify the target and find the relatively small vital area. Even hunters will find that using less than maximum magnification can actually help a shooter, rather than hamper abilities.
Red Dot VS Fixed Power VS Variable Power Optics for .308
- Red Dot Optics – Red dot optics on .308 rifles are not commonly seen, but they are not unheard of. If you are using an AR10 in competition or home defense, this might be a smart way to go. The same should be said for prism scopes and holographic sights as well. If you are a 3-gun competitor and shooting in a variation of the factory or heavy metal divisions you might need to resort to one of these optics. Outside of that, most .308 shooters are going to be shooting at further ranges where a magnified optic will be beneficial.
- Fixed Power Scopes – are a fantastic way to maximize the quality of optic you can get for your dollar. Some of the best made scopes on Earth are fixed power, and you can expect them to be exceptionally rugged with very clear lenses. The magnification you need will be based on your application; the M14 was used to great success by the US Army in Iraq with the 4x ACOG where ranges rarely exceeded 300 meters. Some competitive shooters and professional long-range shooters use fixed 8x scopes to very high levels of success.
- Variable Power Scopes – are going to be the most popular option for most people shooting .308. They give the shooter the benefit of making targets at a variety of different ranges with a simple adjustment to the power ring. While variable power is a great feature, keep in mind that these scopes are more complicated internally than their fixed counterparts; this means that there are more precision-made components that can potentially break, and increased complexity often equals increased cost.
Nikon M 308 VS P 308
At a distance, Nikon M series and P series scopes look nearly identical, but there are a couple of differences you should know about before making a purchase. The first thing you might notice is that the P series is consistently about $200 less expensive than the M series.
The P series is a great scope and there is a lot of value built in, but the M series does have some upgrades that you should be aware of. The M series has a better grind on their lenses making a clearer a brighter image for the shooter, especially at long ranges. The M series also has a focus knob on the left side of the scope; this isn’t just for helping to clear the image, but it is also a parallax adjustment that will help to correct any unintentional point of aim shifts that can happen at varying ranges by a less-than-perfect cheek-to-stock weld.
Both are great scopes but if you are looking to make consistent hits over 500 yards you will probably want to upgrade to the M series. Most hunters will probably use the P series for years without ever missing the upgrades found on the M series though.
Features You’ll Want
Depending on the type of rifle you have, and the particular type of job you have it in mind for you’re going to want a number of different features to get the most out of your scope. The market is littered with specialized and proprietary technologies that make scopes more effective in the field and make rifles easier to use. Here’s a list of some of the features that you may want on your scope:
#1. Specialized Coatings
The new frontier of scope customization is proprietary and specialized coatings. What this means, is that manufacturers are now incorporating the designs is the filtering the light that allows you to better see your target space in which will be shooting at.
For example, a scope marketed specifically for a deer rifle will have coatings that filter out red wavelengths better so that you can see brown colored animals easier in the brush. For target shooters, this means a filtering of light that better allows you to see shades of black and gray at long ranges in low light.
These specialized coatings are not available from every manufacturer, and only on select models but if you are going to buy a high-end rifle scope made for a specific purpose, this is a feature that you will definitely want to take advantage of. It may seem like a small detail, but it can certainly make a difference at the very edge of shooting light or during competitions.
#2. Target Turrets
Target turrets are difficult to recommend. Mostly because they have a steep learning curve that many shooters never master. The use of target turrets in competitions is standard practice but for hunting they are nearly never used. Depending on the type of hunting or shooting that you are going to be doing, the use of target turrets may be extremely important.
Take into account the skill level of the average shooter. Most people can get by with standard turrets because the associated weight, bulk and cost of adding even standard target turrets to a scope outweighs any benefit they provide.
However, if you are willing to put the time in to properly learn how to use target turrets and are willing to invest the money, especially a custom set up like Leupold can provide, you can have greatly increased precision at long-range.
#3. BDC Reticles
If there’s one feature that you should never pass up on given the opportunity, it’s a BDC reticle. A BDC reticle is designed to utilize the site picture on your scope to allow you to reliably predict the arc of your bullet at known ranges.
While they are never dead on, even when custom-made, they provide a reliable point of aim at multiple known ranges. In years past, they were difficult to use under pressure but many of the designs being used today are very easy to pick up on an offer an easy way to range out.
The BDC reticle rarely adds any weight, bulk or cost to a Riflescope and for .308 Win the designs have been all but perfected for use in the field and on the battlefield.
Unless you will be shooting with large custom target style turrets, opt for a BDC reticle that is easy to use and clean in appearance. When you first start shooting you may not appreciate the utility of it, but over time once you start shooting further distances with holdovers, you’ll love it.
#4. One Piece and Quick Detach Mounts
Depending on the type of rifle that you have, be it a Remington 700 or DPMS LR you’re going to need a mount and ring combination that works for your rifle. In the old days, this might have been a dovetail style mount made for your rifles action, and a set of rings.
With the advent of everything tactical we have access to excellent one piece, quick detach mounts on the market. If you are shooting a long-range AR style rifle, consider a quick detach mount that you can easily transition to backup iron sights. For anyone shooting a precision rifle, a one-piece mount is highly recommended.
A one piece features rings and base milled from one solid piece of material. This leads to tighter tolerances and less moving parts in your set up. It allows you to bed the mount to your rifle action securely and get the best performance from your set up. They’re not much more expensive than high-quality legacy designs but are well worth the money.
#5. Fast Focus Eye Piece
Get a rifle scope with a fast focus eyepiece and generous eye box, this refers to the position of your eye in relation to the objective hole of the scope. If you ever look through a scope and seen a black donut ring rather than a clear sight picture, you know exactly what this is. Having a fast focus eyepiece with generous eye box means that you won’t have to have your eye perfectly aligned to get rid of all parallax.
Scopes with very precise eye boxes are difficult to shoot through because you have to be extra sure each and every time you shoot that you are positioned directly behind the scope, perfectly. Small differences left and right, or up and down in relation to your eye in the scope can lead to being off target by several inches at long-range. Avoid this by using a scope with an easy to use eyepiece and eye box. In all but the most critical long-range rifle setups, you won’t notice any degradation in performance.
#6. Generous Eye Relief
If you’re not going to be using your rifle solely for bench rest shooting, get a scope with generous eye relief. This is especially important if you are going to be using your scope on a scout rifle setup like you would for an M1A. Having generous eye relief means that you can have your head positioned at varying angles on the stock and still get the same effective sight picture from your scope.
This is exceptionally important if you’re going to be using your rifle for hunting, or as a lightning fast carbine. Having critical eye relief means that you have to set up each and every shot the exact same with your cheek weld. This can get very tedious and may slow down your shooting if you are not always going to be shooting from a very stable rest.
Scopes with critical and close eye relief are more likely to lead to scope bite and injuries due to the scope hitting you during recoil. Choose a scope with generous and noncritical eye relief for anything other than a sniper style rifle setup.
#7. Warranty & Customer Service
Nothing in terms of outdoor equipment gets quite as expensive as optics. Small differences in quality and features can amount to several hundred dollars once your scope is installed on your rifle. If you’re going to invest that amount of money into your equipment, make sure you’re going to protect it.
Most every major manufacturer on the market offers some sort of warranty to back up their product. Make sure the company that you are going with is well-regarded terms of customer service and honoring these warranties. The last thing you want to do is buy from a cheap fly-by-night import company that is going to leave you hanging when your scope breaks.
The American firearms industry is known throughout the world as one of the best in terms of customer service and support, take advantage of domestic manufacturers whenever possible.
How to Zero a Scope for 308?
The most common zero for a .308 rifle will be at 100 yards or 100 meters, depending on whether you prefer MOA or mils. This is a simple starting point for most shooters as the majority of hunters will either have shots within 100 yards or be able to base any adjustments on that distance. Zeroing at this range is relatively straight forward as long as your first shots are on target.
Shoot groups of 3-5 rounds to establish the point of impact, using the middle of each group in relation to the bullseye to make adjustments with. If you are not on paper and are having trouble determining the point of impact to make correction on, it might be beneficial to zero on a 25-meter targets before confirming at 100.
Zeroing a 308 Rifle Scope at 25 Yards or Meters
Zeroing at 25 meters is an easy way to quickly sight in a rifle. Since the target is so close, it is unlikely that the point of impact would be so far off as to miss the paper target completely. You will use the same procedure to shoot groups and make adjustments as before, but you should have the benefit of very tight groups at this range.
The most important thing to remember though is that you should be aiming for the center of the target, but you want your final impacts to be slightly below the target. Measure the vertical distance from the center of the scope to the center of the barrel and apply that same measurement to the difference between the bullseye and the desired point of impact.
Zeroing a 308 Rifle Scope at 10 Yards or Meters
Zeroing at 10 meters or yards can be an effective and expedient way to zero a rifle if you are in a hurry and there is no time or location to get a proper zero. Set up a target or use something like a tree as a target roughly 10 meters away from your shooting point. Measure the vertical distance from the center of the scope to the center of the barrel again and make two dots on your target with the same distance between them. Aim at the top dot and after each shot, make adjustments until the bullet impacts with the lower dot.
At this range, there should be almost no spread to any groups, so shooting more than one round per adjustment would be a waste of time and ammunition. This zero will not be the one I’d want when taking 500 yards shots at trophy elk, but it will be much better than nothing in a pinch. This would probably be the method I would use if I had to replace a broken optic at a defensive or offensive training course.
How to Mount a Scope on a 308?
When mounting a scope onto your .308 it must be assumed that you are looking to achieve maximum accuracy. There are enough factors that can be inconsistent in long-range shooting such as the shooter’s skill, the quality of ammunition, and the condition of the barrel, that you don’t need a poorly mounted scope making things even more complicated.
- Choosing The Right Rings – Choosing the right rings to mount your scope on is the first step. Cheap rings will not hold the scope as solidly as you need for real precision. The material the rings are made of should ideally match the material the scope is made of as well; this is because different metals will change size and shape in changing temperatures at different rates which can cause your scope to shift point of aim.
- Mounting The Rings – is the first step. Lightly mount your rings on the rifle, with the scope and ensure that the scope will fit well, and you will have the appropriate eye relief when mounting the gun. Remove the scope and tighten down the rings to the rifle. Use a thread locker to make sure they do not come loose.
- Lapping The Rings – is an often-overlooked step for the amateur. Once the rings are installed, use a lapping rod and lapping compound to remove any inconsistent surfaces and ensure the rings are perfectly parallel. Take this step slowly and check your work regularly so as to not remove too much material from the rings.
- Leveling The Scope In The Rings – is the next step. Place a small level on a flat spot on top of the scope to help make sure the reticle is perfectly level when installed. This is usually going to be on the elevation adjustment; remove the any cap on the elevation turret if applicable to help remove any possible error by an uneven cap.
- Lock Down The Scope – Lock down the scope with the top half of the rings. As you tighten the screws, tighten each one a few rotations at a time to help put even pressure all the way around the scope. It is recommended that you use proper torque specs as recommended by the ring manufacturer to achieve the final tightness. Also, don’t forget to apply thread locker to the screws before you get started with this step.
If you follow these steps, you will have a scope mounted the same way professional gunsmiths do the job. Mounting a scope the proper way will not only help your scope to perform, but it will also help you as a shooter to have confidence in your equipment.
For more details on mounting your .308 rifle scope, check out this video:
When it comes to choosing a rifle scope for your .308, there are a multitude of different decisions to be made. Before you go shopping, carefully consider the type of rifle that you have in mind and the job that you want it to do.
With the amount of products on the market today, it’s difficult to understand the differences between each and every one of them. Each scope is going to allow you to do different things with your rifle, be it hunt in the thick brush or shoot out beyond 1000 yards.
In the end, riflescopes are very personal decision and are as much an art as they are a science. Knowing how a riflescope is going perform in the field while sitting in the showroom can be difficult if you are inexperienced. Your preferences will change over time and that’s okay.
After all, who doesn’t want an excuse to buy more equipment? Just get the best scope for .308 that you can afford, get it on your rifle and get in the field. The best scope in the world won’t do you any good if it’s sitting in your gun safe.
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.