A Beginner’s Guide to Rifle Scopes: What You Need to Know

Do you want to ensure accuracy and precision when you’re out hunting?

Have you been wanting to know more about rifle scopes? Look no further! This easy-to-follow guide will help you find the perfect scope for your needs. With the right informational tools, you can become an expert shooter in no time!


As a hunter or target shooter, investing in a quality rifle scope is essential for optimizing your shot accuracy and improving your long-range shooting skills. Before purchasing a scope, it is important to fully research the components and features of riflescopes which will suit your individual requirements.

This guide seeks to impart knowledge on how to choose the right rifle scope so you can make an informed decision while purchasing one. It also provides insight on various aspects that need to be kept in mind while assembling and maintaining a rifle such as eye relief, magnification power, objective lens size, reticle pattern and more.

By the end of this guide, readers will understand the critical elements of any rifle scope, the different types available in the market and make an educated choice when buying one for their hunting needs or other purposes.

Definition of rifle scopes

Rifle scopes are optics designed to be mounted on a rifle and provide clearer and more detailed images of a target. These scopes enable shooters to aim more accurately at distant targets, allowing for improved accuracy and precision when hunting or shooting at a range. Rifle scopes come in many varieties to suit different purposes, including rangefinding and night vision or thermal image capabilities, as well as specialized scopes for long-range shooting and competition use.

Scopes are generally divided into two main types — telescopic sights, which provide magnified vision for saw distant targets with increased clarity, and reflex sights, which allow the shooter to acquire their target faster by providing an illuminated aiming point without the need for magnification. Telescopic sights typically offer higher levels of accuracy over longer distances. They usually have several interchangeable lenses that can be used depending on the distance of the target from the shooter. Reflex sights may incorporate electronic components such as infrared imaging technology or laser range-finders that allow further precision in measuring distances between targets.

Regardless of type, all rifle scopes have three common features: an eyepiece allowing the shooter to align their eye with crosshairs; elevation and windage adjustments which enable precise pointing in both vertical and horizontal directions; and reticles (or aiming points), often shaped like a plus sign or hash marks across the line of sight that help determine precise ranges when determining aiming points. Additionally, some rifle scopes may also feature parallax correction devices that compensate for any minor misalignment between both eyes while taking aim so as not to cause recoil after firing shots off-target.

Importance of rifle scopes for hunting and shooting sports

Rifle scopes are essential for hunters, competitive shooters and casual recreational target shooters alike. A rifle scope amplifies your vision by magnifying the image and adjusting the crosshairs to ensure accuracy at a distance. For hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, rifle scopes enable you to identify targets that are further away, even in challenging low-light conditions. For recreational shooters, rifle scopes can help novice marksman improve their accuracy and consistency when reaching out to greater distances.

No matter what firearms discipline you choose – hunting, shooting sports or recreation targets – rifle scopes are a key piece of equipment every shooter needs. A properly mounted scope also adds to the overall appeal of your firearm as it complements both its practical use and aesthetic visual impact.

A Beginner's Guide to Riflescope Terminology | An Official Journal Of The  NRA

When selecting a rifle scope for hunting or competition, there are key factors that need to be taken into account such as magnification power (‘x’ factor), lens construction, reticles shape & style along with adjustment turrets. Understanding the features of different scope systems will help you make more informed decisions on which one is best suited for your particular application of using firearms from hunting/shooting sports or recreational target shooting needs.

Types of Rifle Scopes

Rifle scopes come in various shapes and sizes to improve accuracy in all kinds of shooting activities and disciplines. Understanding the differences between each type will help you identify the scope that is best suited for your needs. There are six common types of rifle scopes based on their lenses, magnification levels, reticles, and size.

  1. Fixed Power Scopes: this is the most basic type of scope with a set magnification level that does not allow for adjustable zooming. These are ideal for rimfire rifles or close range shooting situations because they have a wide field of view.
  2. Variable Power or Variable Zoom Scopes: these are sometimes referred to as “zoom scopes” as they can be adjusted depending on the shooting conditions allowing for long range target acquisition at greater distances than fixed power scopes. These can also be fitted with reticles in the first focal plane (FFP) or second focal plane (SFP). When mounted properly, they provide maximum accuracy regardless of shooting distance.
  3. Spotting Scopes: spotting scopes provide high-powered magnification usually ranging from 15x to 60x and sometimes even more so that you can spot targets from a great distance away while also getting larger views of distant terrain than what binoculars can offer. They are typically used by birdwatchers or by naturalists who need to observe wildlife at greater distances than normal rifle scopes allow. They often feature porro prism designs which increase image brightness and allow for wider viewing angles without sacrificing clarity and resolution quality even when viewing at excessively large magnifications levels –up to 60x or even 100x– giving them an advantage over normal rifle scopes when it comes to observing distant objects like birds perched atop trees on the horizon line.

4 .Night Vision Scopes: tactical shooters who require an amplified vision system in low-light conditions often seek out night vision optics such as dedicated “night vision” illuminated reticles which have specialized circuitry built into them that intensifies ambient lighting so that you can take shots in almost complete darkness without needing any light source such as moonlight, starlight, etc.. Nightvision goggles can also be attached to your rifle which give you better image resolution through their advanced lenses but require battery power which usually shortens up runtime significantly when compared to their more advanced cousins like thermal imaging sights..

5 .Thermal Imaging Sights: thermal imaging sights use infrared energy waves instead of visible light waves which allows them detect heat energy emitted from objects at any given distance–regardless if there is lack of ambient lighting or not– offering increased target detection range beyond what traditional night vision systems are capable off – usually well beyond 250 yards!

6 Red Dot Sights/Reflex Sights: Unlike other optics that require batteries; reflex sights do not require any power source whatsoever instead using internal LED light technology superimposed onto a piece of glass allowing you steady aiming points regardless if it’s day or night . The user just needs to look through this glass (with both eyes open) then aim at their target using a cross-shaped red dot/reticle; making aiming easy and effortless—as opposed this method being used by traditional iron sights where one has adjust both iron sights separately so its vertical point lines up with its horizontal point then line it up with their chosen target before taking a shot – thus making it infinitely slower than reflex sight aiming due its complexity involved w/each comprehensive step taken during sighting process.

Fixed Power Scopes

Fixed power rifle scopes are traditional optical sights that do not allow for any zoom, magnification changes or parallax adjustments. These scopes offer a single magnification level and tend to be more cost-effective than their adjustable counterparts. To determine the optimal distance for hunting with a fixed power scope, it is important to identify the intended target and its associated shooting distance.

If you plan on shooting at relatively close range, a fixed scope with 1x-4x magnification should suffice. On the other hand, if longer-distance shots are expected of you, something with 3x-9x would be more beneficial. Fixed power scopes are often chosen by hunters due to their durability and economical pricing when compared to more complex rifle scopes — they are also very lightweight in comparison. Furthermore, they tend to provide higher quality glass than adjustable models in the same price range.

Fixed power rifle scopes feature an easy thumb screw adjustment for windage or elevation adjustments and do not require any battery power to operate efficiently. They typically offer maximum light gathering ability which makes them ideal for dusk or dawn hunting scenarios.

Variable Power Scopes

Variable power scopes are becoming increasingly popular due to their versatile functionality. A variable power scope allows you to adjust the magnification of the scope using a dial or knob. This means that you can adjust the level of magnification depending on the distance you will be shooting from, allowing for greater accuracy. Commonly, variable power scopes come with two numbers, such as 3-9x40mm, which indicates their range of magnification and size respectively.

A Beginner's Guide to Riflescope Terminology | An Official Journal Of The  NRA

The first number in this case – 3-9x – indicates the range of magnification available on the scope. In this case, it has a range from 3x to 9x; meaning that at its minimum setting it will magnify an image 3 times larger than what your naked eye can see and 9 times at its highest setting. The second number (40mm) is indicative of the size and construction of the objective lens; in this example a 40mm one will allow more light into the scope providing better visibility in low light situations with less aberrations or distortions in your observation.

First Focal Plane Scopes

First Focal Plane (FFP) scopes are becoming increasingly popular with shooters across a range of disciplines. They offer a number of advantages over their more traditional counterparts, Second Focal Plane (SFP) scopes. An understanding of the difference between these two types of optics is essential for any shooter looking to invest in a new rifle scope.

The most important difference between an FFP and SFP rifle scope lies in reticle location. In an SFP scope, the reticle will always remain in the same position, regardless of magnification settings. This means that your holdovers, windage and elevation adjustments will all be relative to one another. As you increase magnification, the target will become larger but these adjustments are then held relative to the reticle’s position as opposed to true mils/MOA as it appears on target at high magnifications.

Conversely, on an FFP optic your holdover marks and other hash marks on your reticle will remain true to one another regardless of magnification level, allowing you to take full advantage of variable power settings on longer shots without needing external reference points like shooter’s charts or atmospheric programs as aids for range estimation when dialing long distances through multiple power levels .The consistency also allows for consistent repeatability when changing power settings for various shooting situations.

Second Focal Plane Scopes

Second Focal Plane (SFP) scopes have become increasingly popular with hunters, target shooters, and competitive shooters alike. Put simply, SFP scopes have an erector tube assembly that positions the reticle at the rear of the scope instead of in front of it. This has several benefits. Since the reticle remains the same size relative to your target regardless of magnification, SFP scopes are more accurate than First Focal Plane (FFP) scopes when shooting at various magnifications. Furthermore, since they don’t need to calculate reticle size to match zoom settings as with an FFP scope, their internal electronics are simpler and require less power.

Another advantage of an SFP scope is that its eyepiece can be set closer to the shooter’s eye for a more comfortable viewing experience. Additionally, many SFP scopes offer additional features such as illuminated reticles and drop-compensated rangefinders for a better experience in low light conditions or long-range shooting situations. Finally, these types of scopes are typically more affordable than their FFP counterparts due to their simpler design and construction.

III. Parts of a Rifle Scope

When looking at rifle scopes, there are just a few key components that you need to know. These components include adjustments, eyepieces, objectives, reticles and tube diameters. Each component can be adjusted in order to provide a specific shooting experience.

Adjustments – Rifle Scopes come with controls for adjusting the elevation and windage (drift). The elevation is adjusted for shooting up or down at a target and the windage is adjusted for shooting left or right of a target.

Eyepieces – Eyepieces are ocular lenses that have variable magnification ability when used in combination with zoom adjustments on the objective lens. The most common sizes range from 16x to 20x in length which is measured as mm across the outside diameter of the eyepiece tube.

Objective Lenses – Objective lenses are responsible for collecting light and delivering it to the riflescope. They deliver low-light performance so they must be large enough to allow enough light gather into your scope’s tube without losing clarity over distance or getting foggy from rain and moisture intrusion. Common sizes range from 28x to 56x in length which is measured as mm across the outside diameter of the objective lens tube.

Reticles – Reticles are crosshairs used for aiming when zeroing in on targets at varying distances away from your position. There is no universal crosshair being used on rifle scopes; some prefer splines, circles or other designs with different measurements depending on how close you’d like your shots to be accurate with adjustability under different levels of recoil and dampness conditions.

Tube Diameters – Telescopic tubes come in a variety of outside diameters which determine how large all these parts can be which eventually results into more Magnification power. The most common standards range from 25mm all the way up 1 inch tubes also known as 25mm/.28 inches.

Objective lens

The objective lens of the rifle scope is an important factor to consider when selecting the right one for your needs. This lens is located at the end of the scope farthest away from your eye and its purpose is to gather light and allow you to see your target clearly.

The size and type of objective lens you select will depend on how far away your shooting target is, how much light there is available, and what kind of field of view you want.

The height and size of the objective lens are measured in millimeters (mm) and it is recommended that large diameter lenses be used when shooting at longer distances or in low-light conditions. This will allow more incoming light to reach your eye while using lower power settings, resulting in a brighter image. However, larger objectives tend to increase the weight and overall size of scopes which should be taken into consideration for comfortable use during a long day’s hunt or range session.

For shorter distances or scenarios where you don’t need as much magnification, a smaller diameter will suffice but this means less incoming light and therefore darker images at higher power settings when looking through it.

Ocular lens

The ocular lens, also known as the eyepiece lens, is located at the rear of the scope, near your eye. It functions to magnify the image created by the objective lens. If you are familiar with cameras or binoculars, this part is analogous to the zoom of a camera or binoculars. This can range anywhere from 3x up to around 30x depending on type and size of scope you have. The ocular lenses will focus for different distances depending on design and setup; you should play around with this until you get it adjusted for your desired setting.

A Beginner's Guide to Riflescope Terminology | An Official Journal Of The  NRA

The larger the magnification power (zoom) on an ocular lens, usually the more expensive it is. Make sure that if you are looking at high magnifications they are mounted securely and properly so that even slight movements will not result in an inaccurate shot as these can cause misalignment when using higher magnifications. Additionally, be aware that a higher magnification often means a reduced field of view which could limit your ability to quickly pick up on movement or scanning across a landscape if maximum situational awareness is paramount in your shooting purpose.


The first obvious decision when choosing a rifle scope is the type of tube you should go with. Rifle scopes are typically purchased in either a one-inch or 30mm tube. The larger 30mm tubes offer more strength, durability, and light transmission but also come with the drawbacks of being more expensive and heavier than their one-inch counterparts. A 30mm tube gives users a slightly wider field of view and requires higher ring mount bases.

One-inch tubes, on the other hand, are lighter, cheaper and easier to mount with lower ring mount bases. Many people especially hunters and target shooters prefer one-inch tubes as they are usually lighter in weight than 30mm tubes for easy carrying in the woods or out on the range.

Smaller shooters might prefer a one-inch tube because these models tend to be lighter than their 30mm counterparts making them easier to carry around all day without feeling fatigued. The majority of sky gazers who spend their time stargazing through telescopes opt for rifle scopes featuring an oversized 50mm objective lens as this will provide much better performance under low light conditions while still being relatively lightweight compared to most astronomical telescopes providing clear images perfect for viewing constellations inside our universe.


In conclusion, there are many different rifle scopes on the market, ranging from basic models to more complex and finer pieces of equipment. To ensure that you purchase the right scope for your gun or hunting needs, it is important to understand all the important features and specifications you will need from a scope. Knowing these features and specifications can help you select a scope that is suitable for your gun and hunting requirements.

It is also a good idea to consider the lenses, adjustments (windage and elevation turrets), magnification ranges, and reticles when making your purchase decision as these are all important factors when determining the effectiveness of a rifle scope. Lastly, be sure to budget according to your individual preferences when shopping for a rifle scope as prices can vary greatly depending on the brand you choose.

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