Rifle Scopes Explained

Suppose you fancy being a true sportsman and an avid hunter. In that case, you can never go wrong with a rifle scope. Understanding rifle scopes and how they work can save you valuable time, money, and energy. In addition to these, you get to aim correctly and hit targets with ease. In this article, you’ll learn all there is about rifle scopes and factors to consider when choosing one. 

Understanding Rifle Scopes 

To understand rifle scopes, you need to know what they can do for you. One of the primary uses of a rifle scope is magnifying or enlarging your target. This gives you a much clearer picture than you would have with your naked eye. For example, with a 300 win mag scope, you can shoot much more accurately at your prey over a greater distance. These devices also enhance safety as you can better see your target and what lies right behind it.

scope magnification

A 30-30 scope with impressive laser sight gives you much more hunting time, both early and late in the day. These are prime periods when the big games move to and fro from bedding areas or sites. But with iron sights, you won’t have enough ambient light to enable you to make ethical shots. However, rifle scopes are so powerful that they gather the available light, making it possible for you to take accurate shots, even in low-light conditions. A rifle scope also gives you a much higher precision level than traditional or conventional iron sights.  

For instance, at 100 yards, an iron ramp sight covers up the target in as much as 6 inches. Accurate bullet placement is critically limited by the large area of the target that is covered. Even so, rifle scopes use various reticles – otherwise known as crosshairs – that only cover up to 1/8 inches at 100 yards in the latest target models.   

Rifle Scope Magnification and Lenses

The scope magnification is a physical property defined by the material, thickness, diameter, and curvature of the lenses and their coatings. Magnification enables you to see targets that are far away. A knowledge of what magnification to look out for is crucial when buying a rifle scope.  

High rifle scope magnification is in demand, though you won’t need all those extras that come with it in many cases. Veterans will tell you that the more powerful a rifle scope is, the more handicapped it can be to increase mirage, heft, bulk, visible shake, and even price.  

The variable-power scope is the ultimate as it genuinely offers users a helpful degree of flexibility. You can follow this quick or brief rifle scope magnification guide to learn the power ranges that work best for you: 

  • For a big or dangerous game less than 200 yards away from your position, set your scope to 1-4x. 
  • For most big games, set your scope at 3-9x. 
  • If you are hunting varmint, set your rifle scope at 6-24x. 

The 6X multiplier is one of the most recent cutting-edge developments today, i.e., it is a scope that offers up to 6 times more power at its top-end than its low end, and it extends the traditional 2.5-10x to 2.5-15x.  

A 3-9x rifle scope is considered one of the best scopes for hunting deer. This is because 3 power is low enough, with a field of view – and large enough exit pupil – for close shots in most applications. And 9 power will give you lots of magnification for much longer shots.  

Lenses inside a rifle scope are designed to perform three essential functions: 

  1. Magnify the image: The objective lens captures rays of light reflected from the target and then bends them to create a highly magnified target image. Some rifle scopes also feature multiple lenses to magnify the target. 
  1. Focus the image: The ocular lens focuses the magnified image and flips it right side up for your eye. This ocular lens’s diameter determines the eye relief – i.e., the distance between your eye and the ocular lens bell.  
  1. Inverts the magnified image: The image the objective lens generates is inverted. But an erector assembly – which contains two lenses – flips the image right side up. 

scope magnification

Old Technology vs New Technology 

Many old scopes – such as the old Leupold ‘Mountaineer,’ the El Paso-built Weavers, the Denver-built Redfield scopes, etc.– were good rifle scopes. 

But today’s riflescopes are several light-years far ahead of these old rifle scopes. New technology has made it possible for contemporary rifle scopes including the ruger 1022 takedown scope and others to come with features such as 

  • Generous eye-relief 
  • Permanently-centered reticles 
  • Tolerances 
  • Lens coatings 
  • Sealing 
  • Adjustments 

These are much better now than they were about 0-50 years ago.  

Scopes Differences 

There are various types of scopes out there on the market. Knowing the types offers you a clean shot at understanding scopes. For instance, a rifle scope within the 3-9 magnification range is ideal for a whitetail deer gun. A 4-12x or 4.4-14x is not too much for mule deer, commonly used in Western states.  

For long-range target or prairie dogs shooting, a 6-20x or even 8-25x rifle scope is perfect with just the right power. But bear in mind that heat waves and mirage can make high-powered rifle scopes nearly unusable on hot days. 

Here are scope differences and prey they are perfect for: 

Animals to Hunt  The Ideal Scope Magnification 
Antelope/ mule deer  4-12x or 4.4-14x 
Whitetails  3-9x 
Prairie dogs  6-20x or 8-25x 
Squirrel  4x (Fixed) 

Choosing a Rifle Scope. How to Avoid Mistakes 

It is pretty much easy to make mistakes when choosing a rifle scope. Just as it is vital to learn how to use your firearm, it is similarly imperative you know factors to look out for when choosing a rifle scope. Before you get to the basics of how to buy a rifle scope, here are some mistakes you should avoid: 

Choosing the Wrong Scope 

There are three kinds of scopes: hunting scopes, target scopes, and tactical scopes. But don’t get carried away by the labels or tall claims. Choosing a scope is a function of its application. 

  • Buying a complex gun scope 

As a hunter, you should be wary when it comes to maxing out on features, especially when the intended use doesn’t match. If you buy more options on a rifle scope, they may become needless distractions to your intended purpose. 

And this may result in not hearing the satisfactory sound of ringing steel as you put rounds in your target. 

  • Cheap lens 

Cheap lenses are always the bane of rifle scopes, and they usually come disguised as tremendous or excellent value. But they manifest as warped or hazy images that can be so bad that higher magnifications become virtually useless. 

Take it from a professional: a low-quality rifle scope with low magnification, but superior glass always beats a rifle scope with high magnification. 

Other mistakes to avoid include: 

  • Buying too simple a rifle scope 
  • Not considering fixed vs variable scopes 

Choosing high magnification 

More scope magnification is not always better, as most newbies think. On the contrary, cheaper rifle scopes usually come with unusually high magnification numbers. This, however, happens at the expense of cheap glass. On the other hand, if it comes with high-quality glass, the field of view decreases as you increase the magnification. This makes the rifle scope too narrowly focused on a minimal field of view.  

This detriment can be felt, especially in a short-range shooting. You will waste time zooming out and in, trying to put the glass right on target. 


There you have it; gun scopes explained in simple terms to help you hit targets with extreme ease. Given there are various types of scopes out there, you’d want to pay attention to features that meet your primary needs when choosing a rifle scope. This, of course, includes scope magnification, among other features. Remember, you can always count on a rifle scope magnification guide for proper tweaking and adjustments, whether for short or long-range shooting