Given the technology that goes into making modern firearm optics, it's a wonder that decent scopes are available today for a reasonable price. Today's quality firearm optics are designed with precision-machined parts, including lenses with computer-optimized glass that's engineered for optimum light transmission and color integrity. Lenses are also designed with exceptional coatings that minimize fogging, color fringing, and light refraction.
As a matter of wallet-preserving fact, almost anyone with a rifle can own a quality scope. The same technologies that enable optics companies to build the exceptional equipment on the market today also makes it possible to streamline production and reduce overhead costs. The result? Price point optics that are — pound for dollar — better than ever before.
That's not to say that the very best optics cost only peanuts. You'll still pay more if you want performance enhancing features such as premium elevation turrets, zero-stop type adjustment mechanisms or sophisticated reticles that allow the shooter to make predictable hold-offs or range distant targets, and so forth.
Whether you want to equip your rifle with non-magnified red dots for close-range competitive shooting; to mid-range precision work with a Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) setup; to long-range ultra-accurate shooting, great options abound. As a general rule of thumb, determine how far you can stretch your budget and spend just a bit more than that. Then rest easy knowing that your hard-earned pennies bought you the best glass for your money.
Here's a look at ten vastly different optics that should provide yeoman's service at whatever task you purchase them for:
Tasco World Class 1.5-4.5X 32mm
When making meat against the coming winter is the priority, clamp this sturdy little scope atop your slug gun and go get your deer. Ideal for close-range hunting with muzzleloaders or shotguns, this Tasco World Class scope offers enough magnification at the top end (4.5x) for shots that stretch past 100 yards, and enough field of view on the low end (1.5x) to catch that buck flickering through the timber 30 yards away.
Its lenses are fully coated with Tasco's High Definition Coating (HDC) to enhance light transmission and clarity. Windage and elevation adjustments are made in ¼ M.O. A. clicks, and it's worth noting that parallax is adjusted at 75 yards; perfect for soot-sticks and punkin-ball poppers.
It's fairly compact (11.25 inches) and light (12 ounces), making it a good addition for a gun that you'll carry during a day tramping through the woods, and its black matte finish reduces reflection. The one-inch main tube makes for easy mounting with readily available one-inch rings.
Tasco 6-24X 40mm Target & Varmint
Now, I'm not going to tell you the Tasco 6-24x40mm Target & Varmint scope will perform beside a Bushnell Elite costing several times as much, but for the price it will get the job done just fine. Plus, Tasco's limited lifetime warranty gives peace of mind. A traditional parallax adjustable objective assists clarity and accuracy whatever the distance.
Built on a one-inch tube, it weighs 19 ounces and measures 16 inches long. Field of view at 100 yards ranges from 17 feet at 6x down to 4 feet at maximum magnification, and eye relief is 3 inches; perfect for low-recoiling varmint calibers. Elevation and windage adjustments are in quarter-MOA clicks.
Several finish options exist (matte black is shown) along with a mil-dot version with a 42mm objective.
Bushnell Rimfire 3-9X 40mm
Only 10 years ago, most rimfire shooters just stuck a fixed scope on their preferred .22 Long Rifle (LR) plinker and were satisfied. There weren't really any better scope options for shooting to 100 yards. Past that distance, .22LR bullets drop enough that compensating with the correct hold over is difficult.
Bushnell's 3-9X variable power rimfire scope allows rimfire shooters to stretch the distance with better accuracy. It is equipped with a side parallax adjustment and comes with three interchangeable elevation turret caps: one marked in MOA, one for high velocity .22LR holdovers, and one for the speedy little .17 HMR. Just install the cap that matches your caliber, dial up to 150 yards or whatever the distance may be, and hold on the money.
At 20 ounces, these aren't lightweight in size, but neither are they in performance. This would make a great companion optic to Savage Arms' new A17 semiauto rifle.
Weaver 4X 28mm Classic Rimfire
There's got to be one great classic among all the cutting-edge and economy-priced optics here: Weaver's 4x 28 Classic Rimfire scope is one of my all-time favorites. Robust, waterproof, very shock resistant, and featuring fully multi-coated lenses, this simple, sleek little optic is both hardy in the extreme and clear and bright optically.
There are variable-power versions, but for the sake of tradition and because I simply prefer it, the "fixed four" is showcased here. Weighing only 8.5 ounces, it is 10.22 inches long and has a one-inch main tube made of aircraft-grade aluminum. Parallax is set at 50 yards and it's rated for both rimfires and air guns (which are surprisingly hard on scopes).
You'll never need another scope for your favorite plinker.
Bushnell 1X 32mm Elite Tactical CQTS
Many shooters are minimalists. They don't want big, heavy, complex optics hanging atop their rifle. Most self-defense situations happen within whites-of-villains-eyes distances, and fact is in the continental U.S., you'd better have a good explanation for the jury if you defend yourself at long distance.
While you can spend the equivalent of a mortgage payment on a decent house for a micro red dot sight, you don't have to. Bushnell's Elite Tactical CQTS mounts to the flat top of your AR, providing just-right height for its 3 MOA red dot, and has eight brightness settings. It's waterproof and has RainGuard lens coatings to enhance wet-weather performance. A pair of rubber flip-up caps, cantilever mount, and CR2032 battery are included.
Millett Designated Marksman Scope
Millett's DMR scope provides true no-magnification on the bottom end, allowing both-eyes-open shooting for fast target acquisition and transitions.
Built on a tough 30mm tube, there are three versions available with different finishes and reticles. One of those versions features 1-6X zoom and is fit with the capable BCR-1 reticle that provides holdover marks good to 500 yards. Weight is about 19 ounces, and length is 10.5 inches (1-6X) or 11.3 inches (1-4X). Windage and elevation adjustments are 0.5 inch per click.
MSRP: $385.95 to $429.95 (depending on reticle and finish)
Millett 6-25X 56mm LRS (Long Range Scope)
Many of today's premium super-range scopes are built on 34mm or 35mm main tubes, and cost as much as a good used farm truck. Millett's LRS offers many of those features for a third the price. Built on a robust 35mm tube, it features a light-gathering 56mm objective and is available with either ¼-MOA or 1/10-mil windage and elevation adjustments.
Adjustment is generous — 140 MOA in both the horizontal and vertical planes. Millett's Mil-DotBar reticle is etched into the fully multicoated lenses, enabling proficient shooters to range targets or hold over instead of dialing for distance if preferred.
In matte black finish, the LRS will set you back $704.45. However, that includes scope rings that fit the 35mm tube — no small value.
MSRP: $704.45 to $752.45 (depending on reticle and finish)
Weaver 1-5X 24mm Super Slam Dangerous Game
A few years back I was blessed with the opportunity to hunt moose in British Columbia during late October — in grizzly country. The optic I used was a Weaver 1-5X 24mm Super Slam scope, knowing that it would perform through anything mother nature could throw at it and would enable both fast shooting on 1X and all the precision I would need at 6X.
In cold, snowy conditions I shot a moving bull at 22 yards, dropping him hard with one bullet. While we never encountered a grizzly, the scope proved ideal for the situation.
Rated as a dangerous game optic, this particular Weaver Super Slam is tough, clear, and forgiving in eye relief. A heavy duplex reticle enhances fast sighting in stressful situations. Advanced coatings maximize light transmission and clarity, and construction is waterproof, fogproof, and very shock resistant. While the rest of the Super Slam line have 1-inch tubes, the dangerous game scope is built on a heavier, stronger 30mm tube. Weight is 15 ounces, and the scope is just over 10 inches.
Bushnell Elite Tactical SMRS 1-6.5X 24mm
AR-15s and their tactical-carbine cousins are undoubtedly the hottest-selling long guns on today's market. Their tame recoil is fun for anyone, including wives, kids and girlfriends. These rifles are accurate and they make very capable personal protection tools.
Some folks run their carbines with iron sights, but shooters are realizing how much more performance their favorite rifle has to offer with a good optic mounted. Savvy shooters are noticing the versatility of a variable scope that offers no magnification for close range work, as well as higher magnification to make precision shots at mid- to long-range distances. Many of those scopes are also equipped with big ocular lenses that provide a wide field of view for fast, accurate shots on dynamic targets.
Such is the Bushnell Elite Tactical SMRS: it offers over six-times zoom on the magnification ring, ranging from a true 1X (no magnification) up to 6.5X. Plus, it comes with an on-board, folding Power Change Lever (PCL) for fast magnification changes. Built on a 30mm tube, the SMRS weighs 23 ounces and is 10.5 inches long.
Included T-Lok target turrets enable easy dialing but prevent accidentally dialing away from your zero. And get this: the reticle is a hybrid that uses both front- and rear-focal planes; as a result there's always an aiming circle big enough for fast-action work, even when the FFP milling reticle is minimized because the magnification is turned all the way down.
Bushnell Elite Long Range Hunter
Designed in collaboration with G.A. Precision's George Gardener, the Bushnell Long Range Hunter in 4.5-18X 44mm is optimized for hunting big game at distance. The very design characteristics that make it so useful to hunters wielding a precision rifle in gnarly, steep wilderness country also make it one of the best choices for practical/tactical precision use as well.
This scope weighs 26 ounces, measures just over 14 inches long and is built on a 30mm tube. Mounting length — the straight portion of the main tube — is 6.6 inches. Two front-focal-plane reticles are available, one with MOA adjustments and one in mils: both are superbly engineered. The turret has an outstanding "RevLimiter" zero-stop type mechanism that enables shooters to dial down to their 100- or 200-yard zero but allows unlimited upward rotations to maximize extreme-range capability.
With an eye for practical use, the elevation turret is kept as low-profile as possible, and has a tremendous amount of adjustments per rotation (24 minutes in the case of the MOA version and 10 mils on the milradian model), and the windage turret is capped. Once their true no-wind zero is set, savvy field shooters just use the hash tics on the horizontal crosshair to compensate for wind.
Like most other premium long-range precision scopes, the LRHS has a parallax adjustment knob on the left side opposite the windage turret. A 2-inch sunshade comes standard, and of course the scope is coated with Bushnell's exceptional RainGuard HD on the lenses.