While many rifles come with their own scopes already installed, others will simply come with the venerable, if shorter-range, iron sights. You might thus be curious about buying a dedicated scope for your new rifle.
Unleashing the full potential of your rifle through your scope will depend on things like your use case, the range you’ll be shooting from, rifle type, and other factors that often come down to personal preference.
While the pros of owning and using a rifle scope outweigh the cons, you should consider both before buying any kind of scope. Allow us to help you make the best purchase decision possible.
What Makes Rifle Scopes So Special?
Rifle scopes are unique because they’re designed to be used at much farther ranges than iron sights, reflex sights, red dot sights, and holographic sights.
Even if you use red dots or holographic sights with magnifiers, these closer-range optics are designed for shorter engagement distances and won’t be as effective as a dedicated rifle scope in long-range scope applications.
There are also different types of rifle scopes that can fit your specific use cases, such as fixed magnification or variable magnification, allowing you to engage targets at different ranges.
Advantages of Using a Rifle Scope
The pros of using rifle scopes definitely outweigh the cons. Here are a few reasons you should get a rifle scope if you don’t already have one.
While red dot scopes, holographic sights, and iron sights are perfectly usable up to 100 yards and a little bit farther for more advanced shooters, you’ll struggle to hit targets consistently past 300 yards.
This is because you can’t see the target well, don’t have the proper adjustment mechanisms on the scope, and will find it physically impossible to aim correctly without a zoomed-in sight picture.
Rifle scopes solve this problem by extending the effective range of your rifle to its fullest potential. Depending on the rifle scope you get, you can engage targets that are miles away, an impossible shot with any other optic.
Even from close to mid-range, rifle scopes again have the edge over typical iron sights and red dots when it comes to how accurate your shots will be.
Instead of hitting within two inches of your target at 70 yards using a red dot, you’ll consistently hit within an inch or less of your aiming point each time you aim using a scope.
This is because of the clearer sight picture that rifle scopes offer. This is especially useful if you have astigmatism, as rifle scope reticles won’t give off the same blurry effect as red dots and holos.
Great for Learning Windage and Elevation Adjustments
Adjusting for elevation and windage is part of the issue with shooting at ranges farther than your eye can typically see. These factors affect any round whose trajectory can already be altered by air and gravity.
The farther you are from the target, the more likely your round is to be affected by environmental factors, which you will need to account for when aiming. That’s why rifle scopes have turrets that allow you to adjust shots depending on the range.
These turrets are used in combination with aiming systems on the scope reticle itself, like MOA notches or BDC (Bullet Drop Compensating) reticles.
Using a rifle scope can help you train your accuracy at long range by helping you calculate for these differences in the environment so that you’re sure to hit your target no matter how far away it is.
Less Eye Strain
With the added zoom levels that rifle scopes have, seeing targets at long range is much easier. This is because the target will appear much larger in your vision than in reality.
Say you’re shooting at a target 300 yards away using a red dot. You’ll only barely be able to make out the target’s silhouette and squint a lot just to try to see it and your dot.
On the other hand, using a rifle scope at high zoom levels can make the target look much bigger and clearer to your eye, lessening the squinting you’re bound to do and the eye strain you’re bound to experience.
Disadvantages of Using a Rifle Scope
Rifle scopes also have some disadvantages. While they may be minor in comparison, it’s essential to understand them so you’ll be aware of them when purchasing your rifle scope.
Rifle scopes are much heavier than red dots, iron sights, and holographic sights. This is because of the more complicated machinery found inside.
This is especially relevant if you’re using a variable zoom optic, which needs a lot of lenses to allow you to seamlessly switch between zoom levels.
All that extra weight can get annoying, especially if you’re taking the rifle out for a hunt and will be lugging it around for hours while hiking. It can contribute to the rifle’s instability when aiming.
One thing any consumer can’t ignore is the extra cost that rifle scopes add to your weapon. While it is worth it to buy one, rifle scopes can get pretty expensive.
You can find budget options that perform very well for the price, but for the best of the best features and glass quality, you might have to shell upwards of $2000.
Tips on Using Rifle Scopes
- Buy a scope based on the features you know you’ll use
- Don’t get an overcomplicated or overpriced scope if you’re just starting out
- Always check what caliber and barrel size the scope is made for
- Practice makes perfect – you’ll only get more accurate when you shoot more often
- Check gun laws in your state to ensure compliance
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
After learning more about rifle scopes and their pros and cons, you might still have questions about how they work. We’ll answer them in this section.
What Are the Advantages of a Rifle Over a Pistol?
Rifles have a much longer range than pistols and usually have more stopping power. They’re much more accurate and easier to aim properly because of the full-body stability you receive when using them.
How Does a Rifle Scope Work?
Rifle scopes work through light passing through the objective lens at the front of the scope. It then passes through a focal point and a lens that magnifies the light, allowing you to receive the sight picture at the other end.
How Far Can a Rifle Scope See?
Rifle scopes allow you to clearly see objects 400-500 yards away. These are for standard scopes, so much higher quality and higher zoom ones can extend even further than that.
Rifle scopes are an investment for your weapon that will allow you to shoot more accurately and comfortably and make you more deadly at a farther range.
While the pros definitely outweigh the cons, you should keep the weight and extra expenses in mind when making any purchase. Remember to minimize the cons while maximizing the pros.