The world of airguns is growing steadily every year and for good reason. Air rifles and pellet guns can offer distinct advantages over traditional firearms and for some shooters may even replace firearms altogether.
If you’re getting into airguns, you may have run into scopes that are called air rifle scopes or “airgun rated scopes” and found yourself scratching your head wondering how exactly they differ from traditional scopes.
The truth is they don’t much, it’s mostly a marketing ploy, but there are several features on “airgun” scopes that make them inherently better suited for air rifle and pellet gun use.
Let’s outline the most important features you should look for when shopping for a new scope as well as my top recommendations for every budget. After going through this review, you might also want to check out my favorite PCP air rifles and pellet guns.
- Finding the Perfect Air Rifle Scope (Buying Guide)
- Here are the Best Air Rifle Scopes in 2020
- 1. SWFA SS 10X42 (Fixed Power)
- 2. Leupold VX-3i 6.5-20X40 EFR Target
- 3. UTG Accushot 4-16X44 (Best Under $100)
- 4. Hawke Airmax 4-16x50 AMX IR
- 5. Bushnell Banner 4-12X40
- 6. Nikon Prostaff P3 Target EFR
- 7. Vortex Optics Strike Eagle
- 8. Discovery VT-1
- 9. Hawke Sidewinder 6.5-20x42
- 10. Hawke Airmax 4-12x40
- 11. Hawke Sport Optics Vantage 4-12x50
- 12. Winchester by Daisy AO 2-7x32 (Cheap)
- 13. Tasco MAG39x32D (Cheap)
- 14. UTG 3-9X32mm Hunter
- 15. Nikon Force1000
- 16. Burris Fullfield II
- 17. AEON 3-12X50
- 18. Leupold VX-2 2-7X33
Finding the Perfect Air Rifle Scope (Buying Guide)
This section is for those of you who want to learn more about air rifle scopes before jumping into reviews! We’ll cover optimal magnification ranges, what the numbers related to scopes mean, bidirectional recoil, parallax adjustment, reticle options, and more! If you already know all about air rifle scopes, feel free to use the quick navigation menu above or simply keep scrolling to skip straight to the reviews.
Airgun Rated and Bi-directional Recoil
While there are many advantages to picking features on a scope that are related to airguns, the terminology airgun rated means that the scope is structurally able to withstand a phenomenon called bi-directional recoil. Bi-Directional recoil is exclusive to spring-piston powered air guns and won’t be a problem with the other power plants such as multi-pump pneumatics, C02 or Pre-Charged pneumatics (PCPs).
When a spring-piston airgun is fired, the compressed mainspring releases its energy causing a typical recoil into the shoulder. However, this also causes the piston to shoot forward and slam into the end of the compression tube where the transfer port is located. The piston has a seal which acts like a plunger and forces the air out of the compression tube launching the pellet out of the barrel, while also causing a forward recoil. The whole firing process is actually quite violent and can easily destroy scopes of any quality that are not built for this type of recoil.
I’ve fielded more than one frantic caller who’s spring-piston rifle destroyed a costly Leupold scope or has outright shaken the mounts and scope right off of the rifle! We have to remember that airguns are a fairly new niche within the American sporting market and even high-end scope makers can neglect spring-piston shooters. The good news is that there are more scopes designed to withstand this bi-directional recoil than ever before with most manufacturers fielding “airgun rated” optics in all price ranges.
However, you might be asking yourself, “I have a good quality scope already but how do I know if it’s rated for airgun use?” Usually, I recommend calling the manufacturer directly with your scope model number for confirmation, but occasionally they won’t be of much help. The quickest and most sure-fire way to tell is to look through the objective part of the scope (the large end) and try to see if there is a large diameter coil spring within the scope tube. Typically, this spring is located within the first couple of inches behind the objective lens and is fairly obvious once you know how to look for it. The coil spring acts as a sort of shock absorber similar to shocks on a car or truck and negates the harm of bi-directional recoil. If you’re purchasing a new scope “airgun rated” will typically be on the package or product description as it’s a selling point, but again when in doubt give the manufacturer a shout.
Another feature that is important to airguns of every power plant is the ability to adjust parallax. Parallax is an optical error in which the focal plane of the scope is offset from the reticle, meaning you might not be aiming where you think you’re aiming. An experiment to illustrate this error is to take scope without parallax adjustment and slightly bob your head while looking through the scope (this needs to be done on sandbags or a bipod) and if the target is not within the scopes parallax range the reticle will appear to move or bend.
On typical firearms hunting scopes the parallax range is fixed at 100 yards and anything outside of this range will cause reticle distortion and perhaps a misplaced shot. Greater reticle distortion occurs at closer ranges (100 yards and below) and can cause issues with airgun shot placement as the ranges are often below 50 yards and targets are smaller allowing for a smaller margin of error.
Parallax adjustable scopes adjust out this optical error and allow for much more precise shot placement. Scopes with adjustable parallax have two common methods of adjustment depending on the scope in question. The most common is that a scope will have an adjustable “bell” on the objective end of the scope. The adjustable bell will also have a range of numbers indicating different distances in which the scope should be parallax free and you can simply turn the bell to the desired range.
However, these ranges are not always accurate, and some shooters will wrap a small piece of tape around the bell and write in the accurate markings for each yardage. When in doubt, turn the objective until both the reticle and target become crystal clear at which point the scope should be parallax free. An interesting note is that if you’re willing to make a custom tape for your objective bell the scope can essentially become a very accurate range finder at airgun distances as when the reticle and target are clear at a set distance then you’ll know for sure you’re at say 30 yards. If the target is still blurry, adjust the bell more and when the target is clear simply look at your bell and you will have a solid idea of how far the target is. The process can be time-consuming but in the end is well worth it, especially if you’re not able to afford a laser rangefinder or simply don’t like to carry one.
The second most common adjustment method is through an adjustable “side wheel or side focus” which resembles an elevation or windage turret but is usually located on the left side of the scope. These parallax side wheels are usually found on long range or tactical style scopes but are becoming very common on scopes intended for airgun use. I personally prefer the side wheel to the objective bell adjustment as it’s simply smoother and easier to adjust.
The side-wheel will also allow for adjustment while the rifle is still shouldered making it the superior choice when quickly adjusting for variable ranges as well as moving targets. In many cases, especially for airguns, these scopes will have an optional larger side wheel attached via set screw or tension fit that allows for a much more precise adjustment and greater surface area to wrap your parallax range tape. It’s vital for scopes intended for airgun use to have parallax adjustment down to as low as 10 yards while many firearms scopes with parallax adjustment will begin at 25 yards. On a final note about parallax, if you’re attempting to use the optical clarity as your “rangefinder” make sure the adjustment is made while on the highest magnification that you’re scope allows since higher magnification…well, magnifies the parallax error more allowing the shooter to more finely adjust in that perfect parallax free range.
Air Rifle Reticles
When I’m shopping for an air rifle scope one of the most crucial features I look for is reticle type. While you can get away with the plain ol’ Duplex style reticle, I find that having a reticle with a few reference points to be very handy when dealing with the rainbow trajectories of airgun velocities. Imagine this scenario: You’ve spotted a squirrel at 47 yards but your rifle is zeroed for 35 yards. Logic dictates that you’ll need to aim a bit higher to account for the drop of the pellet over the additional 12 yards. With a duplex or plain wire reticle, you’ll pretty much have to eyeball it which can be inhumane to your quarry if indeed you misplace the shot. However, reticles like Mil-dots, MAP-6, ½ Mil-dot are all extremely useful reference reticles. While initially these reticles were developed to help long-range shooters estimate target ranges, for airguns they can provide aiming points to deal with both wind drift as well as projectile drop.
One important thing regarding spring-piston air rifles and reticles is that you should be shopping for a scope that has an etched glass reticle as opposed to a wire reticle. The vibrations from the spring-piston rifles can snap the wire reticles, while etched reticles are lasered directly onto the lens so you needn’t worry about reticle damage.
A pet peeve of mine is the absolute market flood of a feature called illuminated reticles (IR) and are particularly abhorrent on low priced scopes. The idea is that a small LED will illuminate the reticle and allow the shooter to see the reticle in low light conditions. However, the target tends to get blurred out even on the lowest brightness settings. The IR also adds unnecessary weight and more moving parts to the optic. I’ve shot both firearms and airguns in very austere, low light, dreary conditions and have never felt the need for IR within my scope. Higher quality optics and glass are the only thing that will allow better target and reticle clarity in low light. However, when shopping for air rifle scopes it’s almost an included feature these days on many scopes and has that “tacticool” appeal… just be aware they may not work the way you’d like.
Magnification, Tube Size and Objective
When it comes to scopes you’re going to run into either variable magnification or fixed magnification. Each style has their pros and cons with variable magnification being the most popular choice for most people today.
With a variable magnification, the range is typically represented by the first two numbers followed by an objective size such as 3-9X40mm; The 3 indicates 3x normal (vision) magnification up to 9x with the magnification wheel being very easy to see and adjust on the fly. The number 40mm indicates the size in millimeters of the objective lens of the scope. Typically, the larger the objective, the more light the scope is going to allow into the scope translating into a brighter image. However, keep in mind that with large objectives you will need to mount the scope in higher mounts so that the scope will clear the barrel. Bigger isn’t always better and you may find that when the scope sits higher it becomes difficult to attain a good cheek weld and consistent shooting positions. Also, the closer the scope axis is to the center axis of the barrel the less you’ll need to adjust for trajectories (there is some complicated mathematics to this, but the closer the better). I’ve found that I prefer scopes with objectives ranging from 32mm to 44mm as this gives the best compromise of optical brightness and keeping the scope close to the barrel.
Airgun targets tend to be smaller and may require more magnification than a typical 3-9x40mm that’s usually at home on a deer rifle. Scopes with magnification up to 16x or even 20x can be just the ticket for airgun use. Be careful, though, as high magnification doesn’t necessarily mean high quality. Low quality-high magnification scopes can be a nightmare to use as the edges of the scope maybe become blurred or hazy.
Fixed magnification scopes are just that, the magnification is fixed and not “zoom-able”. While they’re a bit less versatile than a variable, these scopes often weigh MUCH less. Due to less moving parts fixed magnification scopes are extremely durable and tend to hold their original zero very well. So how the hell do you know which preset magnification to pick since you only get to choose one? My best advice on this front is to start with a variable magnification scope (if you’re new to scopes) and play with different magnification ranges for the various scenarios you shoot in. Personally, 6X and 10X cover most of my uses from hunting to informal plinking.
Finally, you may be wondering what tube size is best; 30mm or 1”. The tube is the non-tapered area on either side of the adjustment turrets and is where your scope rings/mounts will go. There is a lot of hoopla on the internet saying that 30mm is inherently brighter than a 1″ tube, however, brightness is actually a product of exit pupil diameter (this can be a whole article in of itself) and brightness claims are largely inflated. The main advantages that a 30mm tube offers is a thicker and more durable tube wall as well as bigger internal lenses which can increase optical performance. Though, a lot of manufacturers will use 1” tube lenses inside of a 30mm tube so that the shooter has more “clicks” to work with effectively increasing the usable range of adjustment. For airgunners, 30mm became a popular choice as these tubes are usually used on tactically oriented scopes with mil-dot reticles, zeroing target turrets, higher magnification ranges and all the infinitely adjustable goodies that are perfect for improving airgun precision.
Here are the Best Air Rifle Scopes in 2020
1. SWFA SS 10X42 (Fixed Power)
Price Range: Around $325
My Review: If you’re looking for a high-quality fixed-power scope, look no further than the SWFA SS series of scopes. There is quite the back story on the Super Sniper series and I highly recommend reading the history here.
I first came across the SS series when I was looking for a quality scope for a .308 long range rifle build. One day I threw the scope on an airgun for giggles and have since enthusiastically purchased several of these scopes in various magnification ranges. They’re just about the perfect fit for an airgun as they feature the incredible Mil-Quad reticle, are completely shockproof (safe for springers!) and have super quality glass.
The SS fixed power scopes also feature a really unique way of adjusting parallax. Instead of utilizing the AO or SF on most scopes since the SS is fixed power it replaced the magnification wheel as the parallax adjustment.
It takes a few shooting sessions to get used to but is by far my favorite parallax adjustment method. The mil-quad reticle is superb with the crosshair being extremely thin allowing for precise shot placement.
Instead of mil-dots which can obscure the target, the Mil-quad reticle utilizes see-through squares and dashes. I simply can’t gush enough about how awesome this reticle is. To be honest, the SWFA SS 10X42 should be so much more expensive than it is, it’s truly a diamond in the rough. If you don’t have one of these fine fixed-powers, you’re missing out!
You can find the most models on Amazon, including the 6×42 version here.
- Fixed-power from 6×42, 10×42, 12×42, 16×42 and 20×42 to suit any need
- MIL-QUAD reticle
- 30mm tube
2. Leupold VX-3i 6.5-20X40 EFR Target
Price Range: Around $850
My Review: If competition target shooting is your game then it’s definitely worth taking a look at the Leupold VX-3i 6.5-20X40 Target. The Leupold features an extremely fine duplex reticle that is so thin it’s nearly impossible to obstruct the target. Side focus parallax adjustment is standard and focuses down to an airgun friendly 10 yards. The target turrets are HUGE, very easy to read and have positive clicks. Additionally, the turrets are able to be zeroed out once your final settings are in place and though the turrets don’t lock they come with large threaded turret caps to keep your settings safe. While I don’t use this scope for competition, I’ve found it’s incredible for accuracy testing my rifles. The extra clarity, magnification, and superfine reticle make it easy to squeeze out every bit of accuracy a rifle has to offer!
- Large target turrets
- Fine target reticle
- Turrets are amazing and can return to original settings easily and accurately
3. UTG Accushot 4-16X44 (Best Under $100)
Price Range: Around $100
My Review: The UTG Accushot is easily the most feature-laden scope in the $100 price range and has remained a top choice for the discerning air gunner for many years.
The Accushot sports a mil-dot reticle, zero reset-able locking target turrets, side focus parallax adjustment, a generous 44mm objective, and a hefty 30mm tube. It’s literally every feature that an air gunner could want in an air rifle scope and a bargain at that! If that wasn’t enough, the scope comes equipped with flip-up scope caps to protect your lenses and a set of 30mm Picatinny rings.
One of the only drawbacks to the scope is that the optical clarity isn’t as bright as a similarly priced scope like the Bushnell Banner.
The illuminated reticle also tends to be a little bright and can wash out and distort the reticle. Overall, I can’t say enough good things about this optic and would recommend it to anyone.
I’ve owned scopes a lot more expensive, but I always keep an Accushot in my stable since they’ve been so reliable for me.
- Mil-Dot reticle
- Lockable and Zeroing Target Turrets
- Side Focus parallax adjustment
- Extremely feature-laden for the price
- Durable; perfect for all power plants
- Terrific Bargain
4. Hawke Airmax 4-16x50 AMX IR
Price Range: Around $400
My Review: If the Vantage doesn’t cost enough to get your rocks off, Hawke Sport Optics has a more expensive offering, the Airmax, roughly double the price of the Vantage while offering improved magnification levels despite starting at the same 4x but reaching up to 16x instead of 12x as the Vantage has.
This scope has traded out the traditional MOA reticle for an AMX reticle. For the new shooter, this reticle is not advised as it’s very complicated to use but offers great flexibility and versatility, especially for taking your air rifle hunting and trying to get ridiculous distances out of it. The spacing of the AMX is at 10x MIL Dot and is glass etched to ensure stability and protection from that evil multi-directional air gun recoil we all know and love.
These optics have added an additional 5 layers of coatings over the 11 found on the Vantage totaling 16 layers of protection and performance. I never thought the Hawke Sport Optics was top of the line but they do take care of the glass inside and somehow they’ve managed incredible light transmission out of a rather low cost set up.
The turrets, although kind of ugly in my opinion, are actually rivaling those of top brands. They are a bit small for my liking but these are lockable and have a very nice feeling haptic click with a quick reset function. I forgot to mention earlier that this scope has a red illumination via stepless configurable rheostat. This illumination really helps at dusk which is usually when I’m at the range anyways!
Now, this scope isn’t “cheap” by any means and it is priced in a very competitive price range, but I do think it’s worth a look if the AMX reticle is something that tickles your fancy. These scopes were purpose-built for air rifles and that really shows and it makes me happy. A lot of scopes are “air gun compatible” but not many are actually designed with the mechanics of an air gun as the main focal point. Of course, you can use these with other rifles as well but I’d mainly recommend this just for high powered air rifles alone.
- Variable magnification levels at 4-16x with a 50mm adjustable objective lens
- 16 layers of coatings ensuring protection from the elements and optimum light transmission
- Red illuminated etched AMX reticle
5. Bushnell Banner 4-12X40
Price Range: Under $100
My Review: The Bushnell Banner is one of my favorite scope series under $100. It’s a no-frills 4-12X40mm (also available in 6-18X40mm) scope with a duplex style reticle and an adjustable objective for parallax. The beauty of this optic is in its simplicity. It’s not weighed down by illuminated reticle devices or the extra moving parts of lockable target turrets. The lack of these features allows the manufacturer to put extra money into the glass and the Banner line is optically sharper than many other scopes in this price range.
The Bushnell Banner is also a good choice for spring-piston air rifles. 4-12X gives a very versatile magnification range with a 40mm objective being a good standard for most air rifle applications.
Bottom Line: In my opinion, this is the best air rifle scope under 100 dollars. It’s a reliable scope, just keep in mind that you’re not going to get top-tier quality for under $100!
- 4-12X magnification
- Adjustable Objective (AO)
- Multi-X reticle
- No frills simplicity
- Great optical clarity for the price
6. Nikon Prostaff P3 Target EFR
Price Range: Around $185
My Review: When I hear Nikon I immediately feel my wallet start quivering in fear because the truth is, I generally only like spending money on Nikon products when they’re of the expensive variety. This scope, however, being well under two hundred bucks gives other scopes at this price point some serious competition and is definitely worth a look or two!
The magnification here is a very air rifle friendly 3-9x and the objective lens is a 40mm adjustable set up with all the proprietary Nikon lens coatings you can think of, including their legendary dusk to dawn light transmission technology.
The spring-loaded auto zero-reset turrets are adjustable at increments of ¼ MOA and sit atop a very nice aircraft-grade aluminum body. The overall build quality of this scope really feels of higher quality than its price tag and that surprises me, we all know Nikon loves to ask big money for their products but this scope seems to be extremely fair in cost and value. The eye relief is also amazing and that is a result of their large aluminum quick focus eyepiece.
The reticle isn’t fancy and sometimes that’s a good thing, especially for someone new to airguns. It’s called the Precision Target Reticle and its main job is to help you take the shot without being annoying or obscuring anything in the sight picture. Simple, sweet, rugged, light, and gets the job done, that’s what you get from Nikons Prostaff line at incredible prices!
- Spring loaded instant zero turrets
- Parallax-free focusing from 10 yards to infinity
- 3-9x Variable magnification with multi-coated 40mm objective lens
7. Vortex Optics Strike Eagle
Price Range: Under $400
My Review: Vortex Optics never disappoints any of us here at Marine Approved and they always consistently provide excellent value with each and every one of their scopes. I really like that Vortex Optics has gone out to provide scopes in pretty much every price range and since the scopes they make are of excellent build quality and some are quite affordable, that means we can find great air rifle scopes offered from Vortex. Vortex doesn’t specialize or even really focus on the air rifle market but since their scopes are of such great build quality, they should handle just about anything the air gun market can throw at them and I think that’s the perfect remark for the Strike Eagle series of optics.
The Strike Eagle is a mid-tier rifle scope with a second focal plane glass-etched BDC reticle in MOA. What makes them great for air rifles is their insanely compact and durable design that lends them to being waterproof and the like, but also able to withstand the constant shock you may get from an air rifle. Don’t get me wrong, there are many Vortex Optics scopes that would work wonders atop a nice air rifle, however, I chose this scope because I think it’s one of the best pairings for the most popular air rifle users as it’s lightweight, it’s tough as nails, it’s priced fairly, has a good dosage of magnification and its of ridiculously high quality!
The Strike Eagle is a variable 1-6x or 1-8x magnification powered scope which makes it great for the standard ranges of an air rifle. You’re still getting that up and close capability with magnification power that just abouts maxes out some of the farthest shooting air rifles you can buy. The 24mm objective lens does an excellent job of using ambient light to create beautiful sight pictures but it isn’t too big that it weighs down your rifle. Of course, everything you get from Vortex Optics is fully multi-coated including their HD glass coatings, anti-scratch coatings, water shedding coatings, and more.
I mentioned before that there are two models: the 1-6x (SE-1624-1) or 1-8x (SE-1824-1) magnification and I’ve gone on to recommend the 1-6x because, honestly, I rarely would use the 8x function on just about any air rifle i’ve owned and to save around a hundred bucks to shave off magnification I likely won’t need is something I’m totally okay with doing. The only other real difference between the two is the original BDC reticle featured on the SE-1624-1 being changed to the BDC2 reticle on the SE-1824-1, which really isn’t an attribute I’d use to determine which model i’d get. Either way, both scopes are incredible and more than worth the price tag!
- 1-6x or 1-8x magnification configurations both with fully multi-coated lenses and a 24mm objective lens
- Illuminated glass-etched BDC reticle with 11 illumination options and an extra battery storage area under the windage cap
- 3.5” of eye relief with a true 1x capability
8. Discovery VT-1
Price Range: Around $110
My Review: This is an amazing looking scope for a ridiculously low price that performs completely unexpectedly! The Discovery VT-1 is a very odd scope with magnification starting at 4.5x and is variable up to 18x and sports a 44mm adjustable objective lens.
Despite being relatively inexpensive, this scope offers a whole lot of value at its roughly hundred dollar price tag. Something that I really enjoyed was the 4.5” eye relief that far better than most scopes at this price point.
The reticle is etched and the scope is equipped with an erector support system ensuring its safe from the abusive recoil of an air rifle and offers both red and green illumination options with five different brightness settings. The turrets offer adjustments at ⅛ MOA and feel rather smooth and offer a locking option and quick zero resets.
In the deal comes a sunshade, some flip-up lens caps, a cleaning cloth, and an Allen wrench. Keep in mind that the illumination is battery-powered by one of those little saucer batteries and unfortunately they don’t throw that in with the scope, so you’ll need to make sure you pick one of those up! Overall, this is one of the best air rifle scopes for the money.
- 4.5-18x magnification with a 44mm adjustable objective lens
- Tons of shock absorption including protective coatings, glass-etched reticle, and an erector support system
- Both red and green battery-powered illumination with adjustable brightness control
9. Hawke Sidewinder 6.5-20x42
Price Range: Under $500
My Review: Picking up where the AirMax and Varmint line left off, the Hawke Sidewinder Tactical is the pinnacle of quality and features for many airgun shooters. The 6.5-20 is damn near the perfect magnification range for target shooting or hunting and the 42mm objective lets in plenty of light while allowing you to mount close to the bore. The scope sports a sidewheel parallax adjustment and every Sidewinder come with an extra large aluminum side wheel to mount of the SF turret. The turrets are lockable and have the ability to re-zero once your settings are in place. The Sidewinders are equipped with Hawke’s ½ Mil-Dot reticle, which a regular mil-dot but has expanded its usefulness with dashes between each dot allowing for even more aiming points. The reticle is also illuminated with the battery and settings integrated into the side focus turret; I don’t mind this IR so much and it seems to do the job much better than other budget models. The Sidewinder is also shockproof making it perfectly suitable for spring-piston rifles. Overall, if you can handle the weight, it’s one of the highest quality air rifle scopes on the market
- Unique ½ Mil-Dot reticle
- Compatible with Hawke’s Chairgun software
- 30mm tube
10. Hawke Airmax 4-12x40
Price Range: Under $250
My Review: Hawke Sport Optics has been a name synonymous with quality and has catered to the airgun demographic for years with features we all want. The Airmax line is perfect for shooters wanting to step up to higher quality glass and a reticle specifically designed with air rifles in mind. The Airmax 4-12x40mm is perfectly at home on a heavy recoiling spring-piston rifle and even comes with a set of 9-11mm dovetail Hawke mounts; which are actually quite good! The AMX ranging duplex reticle is unique to Hawke and is terrific for airgun use. The scope is compatible with a free BRC software called Chairgun. After you plug some data into the software the program can very accurately show you where you pellet will land in the reticle. The user can even print out a small reticle chart to glue or tape inside your scope cap as a quick reference. The Hawke Airmax is a notable upgrade from the UTG/Leapers line of scopes and is even a solid choice for rimfire rifles.
- AMX Ranging reticle
- Adjustable Objective to 10 yards
- Compatible with Chairgun software
- Built to withstand bi-directional spring-piston recoil
- Great glass quality
11. Hawke Sport Optics Vantage 4-12x50
Price Range: Around $190
My Review: I like Hawke Sport Optics and it always surprises me how many people have never heard of them! If you’re on a budget and looking for something that gets the job done without fancy extras that you likely won’t use anyways, Hawke Sport Optics has several scopes I’d highly recommend taking a look at. Now, they don’t really stack up to top tier brands but you do get a ton of value from their products and, as I said, for budget seekers, Hawke Sport Optics should be near the top of your list.
The Vantage is a variable magnifying 4-12x with a 50mm objective lens that fits the range of a decent air rifle perfectly. These are rather tough scopes and handle the multi-directional recoil of an air rifle quite well so there’s little worry there. Of course, air rifles tear up even the best scopes eventually but I’d say in terms of durability, these are right in line with some of the best.
The optics are drowning in coatings with 11 different types ensuring a reduction in glare and the rigidity and performance of the glass itself. The tube is a rather small 1 inch deal with a pretty familiar and traditional looking style. Inside that tube is an etched MOA reticle and outside the tube, you get smooth fingertip turrets offering ¼ MOA adjustments and the AO aspect of the scope means the objective lens is configurable for parallax.
These come in at just under two hundred bucks and at that price, I actually wouldn’t expect too much, however, these scopes perform far over that price tag. If you don’t prefer the 4-12x magnification set on this particular model you can check out the other scopes in the Vantage line that are all the same but with different levels of optical magnification and some of the models have the smaller 40mm or 44mm objective lens.
- Variable magnification of 4-12x with a 50mm objective lens. Other options available such as smaller objective lenses
- Etched illuminated reticle ensuring protection from air gun abuse
- Smooth lockable turrets at ¼ MOA adjustments
12. Winchester by Daisy AO 2-7x32 (Cheap)
Price Range: Around $45
My Review: If you’re looking for the cheapest scope to get the job done, Winchester is your best friend. They’ve been making optics since most of our readers were born and offer up a fantastic budget line of scopes. It’s hard to complain about a scope that simply works and is under $100.
This scope comes with a magnification level of 2-7x and an objective lens of 32mm which is a pretty standard offering for air rifle optics. Furthermore, this scope has the basic level of durability features such as being fog proof and shockproof. This scope can certainly take a beating and seems to hold up very well, especially against its competitors.
All in all, this is probably one of the best economical options for an airgun that a minor will be operating or something to just throw on and go plink around in the backyard. It’s not exactly ideal for hunting but I suppose you could get away with it!
- Crosshair reticle
- Single piece proprietary Daisy design
- Adjustable objective (AO) feature
- Products from Winchester are tried and true, you know you’re getting what you paid for
- Winchester has an easy and efficient return process
13. Tasco MAG39x32D (Cheap)
Price Range: Around $40
My Review: I know, forty bucks seems like a pipe dream for a solid scope on your air gun and yeah, it is. With that said, however, the Tasco MAG is a solid choice if you need something quick while spending the absolute least amount of cash money as possible. These are cheap, these don’t have fancy features, these are not built out of high quality materials and these will not survive abuse whatsoever. What they do is serve as an excellent beginner scope or placeholder until you can save up and get the optics you really want.
I know, that first paragraph is pretty offputting of our pals at Tasco but hey, it’s the truth! The other truth is that not everyone has tons of money to shell out and would be happy with a barebones “get r’ done” product. That’s where the MAG comes in with a 3-9x variable zoom and a 32mm objective lens. It will withstand the brunt force of that air gun bi-directional recoil as it’s purpose-built to survive rimfire rifles which pretty much has the same recoil destruction on scopes not capable of handling that.
These are surprisingly great scopes for a weeks worth of beer money. They will hold their zero and they will refute that nasty air gun recoil quite nicely. They have coated lenses, although coated is pretty much where they stop in terms of defining that and you can’t tell what coatings are on the lenses in person so i’m not much help here. Despite not having the information on lens coatings, I can say they are definitely coated with something and they do transmit the light that I would expect a cheap 32mm objective to transmit so that’s okay. The lenses are also magenta and the overall appearance of the scope is, of course, cheap, but it’s not bad and it doesn’t look like a toy or anything like that.
These scopes have quite a reputation for being incredible at such a low price. Tasco is widely known among air gun owners and overall, they seem to have provided excellent low cost optics to many newcomers and budget seekers around the world.
- Multi-coated 32mm objective lens with variable 3-7x magnification range
- Aluminum body with a matte black finish and magenta lens color
- Encompasses a basic crosshair reticle and is purpose-built for rimfire and bi-directional recoil
14. UTG 3-9X32mm Hunter
Price Range: Under $75
My Review: While for most shooting scenario’s I recommend sticking with a scope at least $100 and up, if you’re on an extremely tight budget you would be served well by the UTG 3-9X32mm Hunter. The UTG Hunter features many desirable features like a mil-dot reticle, adjustable objective, and zeroing lockable turrets. Just like the Accushot the Hunter comes standard with flip up scope caps, and 1″ dovetail rings with a stop pin. One of the cool features that UTG included in this scope is their “TF2” turrets. Gone are the days when you need a coin to make elevation and windage adjustments.
Simply pull up on the turret that you want to adjust and push down to lock it in place. The turrets are also “zeorable” so in when you dial in your final zero you can set the turret dial to “0”, making counting clicks a lot easier.
- TF2 locking turrets
- Mil-dot reticle
- Adjustable Objectives
15. Nikon Force1000
Price Range: Around $300
My Review: Nikon makes a lot of cool stuff for rifles as i’m sure you’re well aware but did you know the Nikon Force1000 is just a tad above three hundred bucks and yet rivals scopes in the $500-$600 range and is an absolute beast on top of an air rifle?
I highly recommend variable magnification with ranges of 1-4x which is exactly what the Force1000 encompasses. Why? Well, air guns are fun and aren’t usually purchased to do one specific thing like a hunting rifle might be used for. Air guns are capable of being used at many different ranges and as such, you need a scope with versatility, however, you don’t want to go overboard and get more magnification than an air gun can even use, and that’s why I think the 1-4x is the sweet spot. Mix that sweet spot magnification with a 24mm multi-coated lens system and one of the best compact scope designs we’ve seen thus far and that roughly three hundred dollar price tag starts to seem miniscule.
Many scope manufacturers have done designs similarly to what Nikon went for on the Force1000 and there’s a lot of good reasons like durability, compactness, lightweight, etc. This form factor is brilliant, especially for air guns, but I must say, I think the Force1000 has done the best job in terms of visual appearance while using this design. I often think the design is kind of odd and I prefer the bell shape of traditional optics, however, this is one sick looking scope that mends well with a more tactical style build and, of course, some of those Futurama lookin’ air rifles we got nowadays.
It’s Nikon so, yeah, good features and high quality materials is something you should already expect to see, even on their budget models. What you get here is a 1-4x24mm scope with anti-reflection and ambient light transmission coatings as well as a very rigid 30mm aircraft grade aluminum body with a type III anodization coating. These scopes really are as tough as they look and yes, they are waterproof for some good air gun fun in the rain.
- 1-4x24mm optical configuration fully multi-coated with the illuminated Nikon SpeedForce Reticle
- 30mm Aircraft grade T3 aluminum body and tube with black anodized coating for ruggedness and durability
- Spring-loaded instant reset turrets with excellent ergonomics
16. Burris Fullfield II
Price Range: Around $150
My Review: Burris is a company I’ve always liked dealing with and not because they’re the best or the highest quality but more so because I get consistently offered the gear that I pay for and expect with little to no fussing. Sure, most of there stuff is on the “cheap” side of things, but sometimes that’s all you need to get the job done and there’s nothing wrong with that. When I need a piece of gear real quick for something small and something I likely won’t do very often, I look to Burris to see what they have going on! With that said, this is a recommendation for an air rifle scope on the low spectrum of the budget for those of you that might just like to plink in the backyard for fun or occasionally use it to hunt and not something I would recommend for competition shooting or anything like that.
What you get for a buck fifty ($150) is a 2-7x adjustable magnification configuration with a 35mm objective lens coated with a bunch of protective and light enhancing coatings that come out to a nice magenta color. Usually on cheap scopes like this, the glass will lack quality and may even have some impurities but in my research and experience, this never really happens and Burris has done a great job of quality control. Usually, on scopes like this, the bulk of the development money is used in creation of a scope durable enough to survive the bi-directional recoil of an air gun, but you can see they spent special attention on the glass quality too.
Dollar for dollar, this is probably one of the best scopes for an air gun you could ever buy being on a budget. It has a nice sleek design that is rather neutral in that it doesn’t look too rugged but it also doesn’t appear cheap and flimsy either. It’s got clear glass, it’s effective at each of the magnification ranges given, it’s got smooth turrets albeit lacking features, and its overall just a very well made scope at this price point.
- 2-7x35mm optical configuration fully multi-coated including Hi-Lume
- Constructed of aircraft grade aluminum
- Waterproof, fog proof, shockproof due to nitrogen purging
17. AEON 3-12X50
Price Range: Under $200
My Review: The Aeon scopes are a line of scopes from China (like most scopes under $500) that have completely blown me away for the price. The 3-12X50 is one of the best all-around models and features zeroing target turrets, side focus parallax adjustment down to 10 yards, and an insane “trajectory reticle”…or at least that’s what they call it. I’ve had an AEON 3-12X50 on my KalibrGun Kricket .25 caliber for 5 years now and the zero has NEVER drifted. The glass is incredibly clear for a sub $200 scope and easily destroys any other competition in its price range. The trajectory reticle will seem a bit crowded or busy to some initially, however, the lines are thin and easy to navigate once you spend some time behind the scope. The etched trajectory reticle allows me to have several aiming points within the scope so I can quickly adjust my hold over to a myriad of ranges. Once you have it paired with a rifle you’re confident with you’ll discover a match made in heaven. I have not observed a recoil mainspring in this scope so I’m not confident that it will be suitable for spring-piston rifles
- Trajectory Reticle
- Side Focus parallax adjustments
- 30mm tube
- A terrific reticle for airgun use
- Extremely stable with a good ability to hold zero
The only cons I see:
Target Turrets don’t lock so keep an eye on your settings
Not suitable for spring-piston air rifle use
18. Leupold VX-2 2-7X33
Price Range: Under $300
My Review: If you have spent any time shooting rifles equipped with scopes then there’s a great chance you’ve heard of Leupold. Leupold has built their name on the quality of their optics and the VX-2 2-7X33 scope is a perfect example of everything that’s been done right with a scope. While the VX-2 doesn’t possess as many of the whiz-bang features of the optics already discussed, it doesn’t really need them. The glass quality is top notch, the adjustments stay in place without fail and the 33mm objective lets in plenty of light. I feel that the 2-7X33 is at it’s best atop air rifles intended for 60 yards or less, such as the Beeman R7 or an accurate C02 platform like the Crosman 2240. Personally, I’ve had mine mounted on an FWB 124 and it’s been an awesome match. While the scope features a duplex reticle, Leupold offers just about any reticle you’d like through their Custom Shop if you’re willing to pony up the extra dough. The VX-2 2-7X22 is an excellent representation of the quality that is consistent with Leupold products, you certainly will not be disappointed if you choose to add one to your collection.
- Adjustable Objective
- Diamond Coat lens coating
- Duplex reticle
- Extraordinarily sharp and clear image
- CDS custom dial system
Derek Goins is a former 0311 infantry team leader and Designated Marksman with 3rd BN 5th Marines. He served a combat tour in Sangin, Afghanistan in 2010 in Helmand Province as well as a tour in the Pacific with the 31st MEU.
After serving with the Marine Corps, Derek got an education at one of the top gunsmithing schools in the nation and has worked as a gunsmith for firearms and airguns since 2013. Derek is also an avid hunter, traditional archer, outdoor photographer, and obsessive gun nut.