Features to Consider While Choosing A Rifle Scope

Scopes are undoubtedly some of the most important attachments one can get for their weapon. 

However, if you’ve never bought a scope before, it can be really easy to make the wrong choice.

Scopes are complex devices, and unless you already understand how hunting optics work, choosing a scope can be challenging.

But don’t worry – I’ve got you covered.

Here’s a list of features to consider while choosing a scope.

#1 Weight

If you’ve never bought a scope before, you may think that every scope weighs more or less the same.

You’ll likely be considering a 30mm or 34mm scope for your weapon. While these scopes are larger and do a better job managing light, they are also considerably heavier.

Your hunting approach likely involves long hikes, and exerting yourself as less as possible is key to a good hunt. Keeping the weight of your weapon as less as possible is key. 

If weight isn’t a factor, though, 30mm and 34mm scopes are your best options. However, if you need to make your gun as compact and light as possible, getting a one-inch scope is the best way to go.

But you must keep in mind that one-inch scopes can be a lot more delicate than the bigger scopes. You will need to be careful when you use them.

#2 The Exit Pupil

The Exit Pupil is essentially the bright spot you see when you place the scope about 30cm away from your eyes.

But the Exit Pupil is also a measure of how good the scope performs in low-light conditions.

Getting a scope with the right exit pupil is critical to being able to aim accurately at night.

You can calculate the exit pupil of any scope by dividing the diameter of its objective lens by the magnification it provides.

Ideally, you want to get a scope with an exit value of around 4mm, since it provides the eyes with the right amount of light in dark conditions.

You will also be able to use the same scope in the daylight – the low exit pupil measure ensures that it doesn’t hurt your eyes when it’s bright.

#3 Adjustment Options

You may think getting a scope with several internal adjustment options is the right way to go. 

However, the adjustments typically turn into crutches that help make up for poor mounting technique.

The abundance of adjustment options in a scope often causes more issues in riflescopes than anything else.

Your goal should always be to ensure that the turrets don’t need any adjustment when you mount the scope.

Keeping it simple and getting a scope with minimal adjustment options is the best way to ensure you have a good hunting/practice session every time.

#4 Diopter Range

Every scope on the market allows you to adjust its diopter. The right diopter setting will ensure that your entire field of view is clear and not blurry.

However, not everybody has the same faculty of sight – your eyes may be stronger or weaker than the average Joe.

Before you buy any scope, it is essential that you try and adjust the diopter and see if the scope meets your needs.

Setting the diopter is easy – all you have to do is look through the scope to a wall with a plain background, ensuring that the wall is less than 20 feet away.

Adjust the diopter to see if you are able to view the reticle clearly. If the reticle is clear, you won’t suffer from headaches or strain your eyes even if you use it all day.

Once you’ve set the diopter, there’s no need to adjust it again. If you like the clarity the scope offers, buy it. If not, then avoid it.

It’s important to note that unless the scope has a side-focus feature or an AO, the diopter is not for adjusting target clarity.

#5 Reticle 

The type of reticle that the scope has can make a massive difference to your shooting ability.

Ballistic reticles have recently gained a lot of popularity among hunters and shooters alike. These are easy to use and accurate, which makes them the average shooter’s go-to choice.

If you’re trained in the Mil system, though, you also have the option of getting a scope with a Mil-dot reticle.

Since you can calculate the dot distance using the magnification, it will help you be a lot more accurate – regardless of if you’re on the range or in the fields.

However, most shooters aren’t trained in the Mil system, and there’s too much calculation involved to make it a viable option for regular use.

Ballistic reticles give you insight about the ballistic curve of a bullet – it’s easier to get a feel for how the drop decreases as the round loses velocity.

Mil-dot scopes, on the other hand, have dots and half-dots that do not give you information about the ballistic curve. It’s best-suited for advanced users only.

#6 Severity of Parallax Error

Both Adjustable Objective (AO) and side-focus systems allow you to fix parallax errors. 

The parallax error isn’t a focus issue and can be fixed by ensuring that both the reticle and the target lenses are on the same plane.

If the scope doesn’t have a parallax error, the reticle and the target will move together as you move your head.

However, even if you find that your scope has a slight parallax error, it won’t make a big difference in hunting situations.

Here’s what I’m getting at – if you need a scope to hunt, you don’t need to worry about parallax errors and can steer clear of these models.

However, if you need a scope for precision shooting, getting either of these two types of scopes can be incredibly beneficial. 

#7 First Focal Plane 

The difference between a regular scope and a first focal plane scope is that FFP lenses adjust the reticle’s size on magnification.

On the other hand, the reticle won’t be affected by magnification on a regular scope.

FFP scopes are significantly more expensive than regular scopes. However, if you’re using your weapon for precision shooting, getting one is worth it.

This is me, Steve Coffman. I'm the Chief Editor of IGFA. I'm retired military personnel who is now into shooting and hunting. As an outdoor expert, I have experience in dealing with all kinds of guns, from light to heavy firearms. Currently, I'm spending my time hunting, shooting and writing on my blog.