If you’re looking to push the boundaries of those lame “effective range” stickers or for a long range scope to destroy targets at 1000 yards plus, this guide is for you!
Long range shooting is one of the most exciting and coveted skills in the world of firearms, but it comes at a price.
Having a high-quality scope with long range capabilities makes all the difference, but what qualifies a scope as a long range scope?
To a Canadian Special Forces operative equipped with a McMillin TAC-50 .50BMG, a long range scope meant having a Schmidt and Bender 5-45x56mm atop his rifle to set the world record in longest recorded kill confirm shot. This operative was able to neutralize an enemy ISIS combatant at a staggering 3540m!
The Schmidt & Bender series of optics implement state of the art technology and top-tier glass quality. To successfully neutralize targets further than a squint away, scopes like these are almost a must. At 3540m, it isn’t even possible to make out a human silhouette without good optics, let alone take an accurate shot that considers bullet ballistics. Without long range optics, the shot taken by the record holder would have likely not been possible!
In this guide, we’ll discuss what makes a scope effective at long distances, why you need high-quality glassware atop your rifles, and where to find these elusive creatures!
- Here Are the Best Long Range Scopes (Listed by Price)
- 1. Vortex Optics Strike Eagle (Best Under $500)
- 2. Athlon Optics Argos BTR
- 3. Barska AO Mil-Dot (Cheap)
- 4. Vortex Optics Viper HS-T
- 5. Nikon Black FX1000
- 6. Burris Eliminator 3
- 7. Rudolph Optics Tactical Series
- 8. ATN X- Sight 4K Pro
- 9. Millet LRS-1 Tactical
- 10. Vortex Optics Golden Eagle HD (Editor's Choice)
- 11. Burris XTR II / F-Class MOA Reticle
- 12. Swarovski Z5
- 13. Leupold LEU Mark 5
- 14. Nightforce Optics ATACR 5-25x56mm
- 15. Schmidt & Bender PMII MSR FFP MRAD CCW
Want to Learn More Before Pulling the Trigger on a Scope? Keep Reading!
The Skinny on Long Range Effectiveness
First and foremost, if you want to shoot like a sniper, you have to train like a sniper. There is NO replacement for dedication, training, and flat out failing until you get it right. It takes snipers in the Marines hundreds if not thousands of hours studying, practicing and putting rounds down range horribly wrong until they get it right. Shooting long range is a whole new field of firearm fun and will almost always set the men apart from the boys.
So what do you need to sling bullets further than the human eye can see? Accurate data and the right gear.
Before we talk about gear and really anything to do with long-range firearm effectiveness, you need to understand that this is no place for the poor. Sorry guys, but you’re going to need some serious cash to burn if you want to be taking accurate shots exceeding medium ranges. Cheaping out on anything from the rifle to the optics to the ammunition will almost always likely end in frustration and subpar performance.
Of course, there are those guys that will claim “I used my 60-year-old Winchester with a Walmart scope to fell a buck 1500m away in the rain with 60mph winds! You don’t need fancy shit you just need to be a man!”
Whatever, dude, the truth is, if you want consistent accuracy at extreme distances, you need gear that is ready to play in the big leagues. At the end of the day, if you take the same shooter and the same rifle and allow them to fire on targets with no scope at 1000m and then hand them a decent scope, they will, without a doubt, perform significantly better.
I’ll throw some cheap scopes on the buyers guide for those of you who would like to play around and maybe even compare them to higher end scopes later down the road, but in all reality, the BUY ONCE CRY ONCE mentality is at play here more than in any other article on this website.
If you are planning to take your outdoor sporting events to the next level, I highly recommend saving your pennies and opting for the absolute best gear that is attainable for your situation. If missing out on a season or two is what you have to do to save up, then so be it, it’ll be worth it when you’re at the range impressing your buddies by shooting tight groupings at 500m+.
Understanding your firearm, its accessories including optics, and its ammunition is absolutely vital in long-range engagement. If you don’t know how to use your fancy 25x optics, you most certainly will spend the entire day (or perhaps entire season) shooting everything BUT the intended target.
Furthermore, wind speed, temperature, the angle of elevation, bullet drop, and much more must be considered. At short ranges, these things may not matter as much. Shooting at 200m will almost never require significant adjustment for most ammunition’s bullet drop, and wind speeds will likely not affect the rounds trajectory unless they’re abnormally insane.
The point here is that shooting difficulty becomes exponentially harder as range progresses. Long range shooting is a totally different ball game requiring an entirely new set of skills that even trained short to medium ranged professionals may have a hard time grasping.
Long range capable scopes are much more than just some glass glued to the end of a tube. To a shooter, long range capable scopes are as powerful as a computer. These scopes will come with turrets capable of fine-tuning your scope to specific ranges and elevations. Furthermore, most long-range scopes come equipped with some kind of range finding instruments and reticles which help determine bullet drop at each level of distance. Most high-end long-range scopes also come with zero-stop mechanisms, allowing adjustments to be made and then reverting back to your zero a breeze.
Dialing In the Scenario – Choosing the Right Scope
Before we get started on tacticool scope tech, we first need to identify our scenario. The scenario you’ll be using your rifle in will heavily impact which scope will be best for you, so identify exactly what you require of an optic BEFORE buying one!
Long range target shooting and long-range hunting are two totally different worlds when it comes to marksmanship. The very terms “long range” are subjective and will likely depend on much more than just a general category of “firearms”. Long range for hunting is considerably different from target shooting and competitive shooting will likely also set scopes apart significantly.
Long Range Hunting is typically going to max out at around 400m (although some highly trained hunters do take shots from over a mile out). 400m is roughly the maximum distance most hunters will fire at while maintaining an ethical hunting code. In hunting, just hitting the target isn’t good enough, you need a clean kill shot and achieving this is difficult to do with an unpredictable moving target.
Another thing to consider is the speed at which you can acquire and line up a clean shot. Having too much magnification can make spotting an animal on the move extremely difficult and even the slightest movements can make reacquiring a sight picture frustrating.
Eye relief and even objective lens size are crucial components in hunting. Having a scope that can harness the available light in many different situations is necessary for hunting.
Regarding hunting and trekking through your stomping grounds, you may also want to be thoughtful of the scopes overall design. How heavy is the scope? How durable and is it waterproof? You don’t want to lug around extra weight if you know your sweet spot is several miles uphill both ways and let me tell ya, glass is heavy and definitely adds up quickly.
Getting caught in the rain or falling into a stream are also possibilities that you wouldn’t want to risk thousands of dollars of gear on, so ensure your hunting gear and the scope you choose is durable and waterproof!
Long Range Target Shooting, however, is much more forgiving than hunting and allows for unlimited possibilities when it comes to scopes. Bench rest shooting and even lying down can easily yield shots over 2000m with the right training and gear. Typically, in a long-range competition, you’ll find stationary targets exceeding 600m meters.
Since target shooting largely exceeds the definition of long range for hunters, there will be more factors to consider, such as wind speeds, bullet drop compensation, temperature, and many more factors. This generally means you’ll have a more dialed in scope with a higher level of magnification and a lower level of eye relief as the trade-off. Scopes for long range target shooting may also exclude features such as waterproofing but will likely come with some handy ballistics’ tools.
Reticles: The Dots, The Hashmarks, The Crosshairs
As mentioned before, scopes act as a shooter’s calculator and the number one thing enabling the shooter to make calculations is the reticle inside the scope. Choosing the right reticle with intuitive features makes a world of a difference. For example, bullet drop compensator reticles (BDC) will help the shooter compensate their ammunitions drop over distance to several different range settings.
We aren’t going to go into a full-blown guide on crosshair explanations as there are tons of different styles, colors, tools, features, etc. There are also a bunch of proprietary branded crosshairs that you’ll find across major scope brands that you’ll simply have to study up on. The point here is that there are hundreds, if not thousands of different variations and sometimes choosing the right scope comes down to which houses a crosshair that you are most comfortable with.
Here are a few tips that I have to offer you!
Some shooters implement a “full system”. A full system is defined as a rifle, a specific load, and its optics. These shooters typically have a full system that is set up to their liking and they know exactly what to expect of its behavior. In this case, special reticles and crosshairs aren’t usually necessary and may actually hinder the shooters ability to see the target clearly.
Having access to tools is typically a good thing but remember, the more in your way of the target these tools become, the less sight picture clarity you’ll have. Some shooters simply prefer a thin crosshair and that’s it! Some shooters prefer a full HUD inside of their scopes.
Take special notice of caliber specific crosshairs and reticles. Caliber specific scopes are great for making quick and easy adjustments on the fly and will come equipped with a ballistic reticle which is optimized for a specific round. These reticles have built-in calculations for bullet drop and ballistic curves.
If the scope isn’t optimized for your specific ammunition, it will throw you off severely. Ammo, even in the same caliber range, can vary drastically in bullet drop, how it reacts to temperature, ranges, elevation, etc. This makes changing rifles difficult as you’ll also likely need to buy new optics, so plan ahead and marry a rifle you know you’re compatible with before taking the plunge into expensive optics.
A Mil-Dot reticle is comprised of dots, or half dots, that are evenly spaced throughout the reticle field. Because the dot distance is evenly and consistently spaced, it cannot account for the ballistic curve of a bullet at long range. The Mil-Dot can, however, help to aid the shooter in finding ranges. There are some complex mathematical equations you can use to calculate exact ranges but that’s probably better suited for a different article.
Illuminated reticles perform wonders for people shooting in awkward light conditions and may help for snappier target acquisition. However, there is a massive tradeoff in using an illuminated reticle. For hunting, illuminated crosshairs may help a great deal, however, in long range target shooting, illuminated reticles have a washout effect which makes the center point difficult to visualize and can reduce the sight picture quality. Some scopes come with an illumination option and an etched reticle option, giving the shooter the option of either or. I would go out on a limb and say that if you do choose an illuminated reticle, ensure it has an etched option, otherwise I would stay away from it.
As the last tidbit of advice I can think to give you here, consider the subtension of the reticle. Subtension is the amount of target that is shrouded behind the goodies on the glass. Thick subtension may be great for odd light situations or people with less than perfect eyesight but this also means that you will have less visibility of the target. At extreme ranges, this could be the difference between seeing and not seeing your target at all.
Compensation: MOA Vs. MILS
Minutes of Angle (MOA) and Metric Milliradians (MILS) main differences lie in which you simply prefer. MOA compensation tools implement the imperial measurement system while MILS uses the metric system of measurements.
That’s pretty much it! Many shooters make this out to be more complicated than it really is. If you live outside of the USA its pretty likely that you’ll want to use a MILS compensation tool. If you live inside the USA, MOA is probably going to be more comfortable.
As far as what they actually do, MOA lines up with 1.047” (the 0.047” part is generally disregarded) at 100 yards. MILS measures up at 10cm at 100m. This means at 200 yards, you’ll be looking at 2” and at 200m you’ll be looking at 20cm and so forth.
At extreme distances, MILS is generally spot on but MOA may take some tweaking and validating (due to that pesky 0.047”) with drop charts and various other tools.
As a pro tip, before pulling the trigger on the Amazon buy box, ensure the scope’s turrets are built for the reticle the scope houses. It baffles me, however, that scopes are sometimes manufactured with MOA turrets and a MILS reticle. What the…?!?
Also, since this article is about long-range shooting, ensure your reticle has some kind of placeholders or identifiers. It’ll take you forever to squeeze off the shot if you have to count over 20 MOA on a scale with no numberings and it’s easy to miss one or forget which line you were using.
Magnification: How Many X’s Do You Need?
Firstly, understanding the X’s and the M’s that come along with any magnified scope are a must.
Example: 6-25x 60mm
The first numbers are the power of magnification. In our example above, this means targets will appear 6 times larger than normal (eyesight) at the scopes lowest possible settings. When there are 2 numbers together with a hyphen this means the scope is capable of a range of magnifications. This example shows us the scope is capable of a minimum magnification power of 6x all the way up to a maximum power of 25x.
Finally, the last number that is given in millimeters tells us the diameter of the objective lens. Remember, this will determine how much light will be transferred to your picture but will also result in a much heavier unit with a higher price tag.
More magnification usually always sounds like a good thing, but if you’re using your rifle to hit moving targets or perhaps hunting, too much magnification may hinder your ability to acquire targets quickly and plan for incoming obstacles.
Higher magnification results in a much smaller window of sight but much further distances. If you’re perched on a shooting range, the high magnification is great as you have all the time in the world to find those targets and you know exactly where they’ll be.
Some high-end scopes will offer variable power, which means you can cycle through magnification levels. These may be especially handy for scouting out targets and then focusing more in depth once you have identified their location.
Shooting 100 meters away with a 25x scope isn’t going to be enjoyable nor practical, but if you can switch between 5x and 25x with the flick of your wrist, you’ll be well equipped for a wide range of distances.
For long range rifle scopes, you’ll generally see the range of 5-25x with any combination of variable or fixed magnification power levels.
Eye Relief: No More Making Up Stories About How Someone Punched You for Outshooting Them!
Simply put, eye relief is how far away your eye(s) can be away from the lens and still maintain a clear sight picture. In dealing with long range high magnification scopes, the truth is that eye relief is usually pretty low on the spectrum of hoots given. With a high level of magnification, the picture is bounced from mirror to mirror and put through a tube that helps to capture light. The higher the magnification, the more the light has to travel and be redirected, resulting in a smaller and smaller sight picture each and every time.
Eye relief is typically highest in 1x optics such as an EOTech holographic sight, where you can use it with both eyes open several inches away and still maintain perfect sight picture. As you move up in magnification, eye relief usually gets significantly less, all the way up until your eye is essentially touching the edge of the scope.
Scopes in this guide will all have high levels of magnification which will likely result in very low amounts of eye relief. Of course, the size of the lenses and the overall construction play a role in this but as a general rule of thumb, the more magnification, the less eye relief the scope will offer.
Pairing scopes that come equipped with low levels of eye relief with a high-powered rifle means your jelly bags will sit very close to the scope. If you’re a newbie, heed my warning! The scope can and will sock you right in the face, so be careful!
The ultimate test of a scope’s quality is typically administered by the quality of its glass. Glass is the most important aspect of price (besides brand, sometimes) and will ultimately determine how well the scope performs and creates a sight picture. Just because a scope says it has (insert level of magnification) doesn’t mean that it will perform at that magnification well.
Another thing to consider in the world of glass is the coatings that come on top of it. There are many different kinds of coatings with some brands even having proprietary coatings.
Coatings usually serve multiple purposes. Firstly, coating the lens can protect it from damage and even help to shed off water and fog. Secondly, coating the lenses can reduce glare for both the sight picture and glare coming off the front of the scope. If you aren’t using this scope in combat, glare emanating from your lens probably won’t matter.
Coatings can also impact both positively and negatively the amount of light and also what shades of light are allowed into the lenses.
Objective lens: Does Size Really Matter? What The Hell Is Exit Pupil?
The objective lens will dictate how much light is transferred into the tube resulting in your sight picture. The larger the objective lens, the more light the scope is capable of using to create a clear sight picture.
This plays an especially huge role in low light situations, specifically at dusk and dawn. An objective lens that is too small to pull in light will not produce a clear sight picture.
On the other end of the spectrum, an objective lens that is too large will simply be a hassle and a waste of money. This especially holds true if you’re hunting or doing any kind of physical activity while holding the rifle. Glass weighs a ton so try to get a scope that has enough of a lens to capture the light you need but isn’t so heavy that you can’t maneuver well.
Objective lenses also play a big role in the power of magnification. At high levels of magnification, if the objective lens is too small the image will be blurry and unclear. This is why its pretty standard for a scopes objective lens to be larger when it has high levels of magnification.
Exit Pupil is determined by dividing the objective lens diameter by the magnification level. Exit pupil plays a significant role in low light settings. I typically advise nothing less than 4mm of exit pupil diameter. This provides your eye an adequate amount of light when it’s dilated in darker light conditions. During brighter conditions, your eye’s pupil constricts, which means you’ll need a smaller exit pupil.
Tubes: Length, Construction, Purge, Etc
Most scopes will have a thin tube on the side facing the shooter with it tapering out to accommodate the increase in the size of the objective lens. This increasing taper is known as the “objective bell”. On the flip side, the tube portion containing the ocular lens is known as the “ocular bell”.
The center portion of the scope is called the “main body tube” or “erector tube”. Generally, these are 1” in diameter though they may range in several different sizes. Popular sizes above 1” include 30 or 34mm tubes. Obviously, the larger the tube the heavier the scope will be, however, a larger tube diameter allows for better performing magnifiers and light transmission.
Tube diameter will determine which mounting rings you will need to pay attention!
The exterior of the tube is where you’ll find space for your mounting rings and is also home to the turrets and adjustment rings. Some scopes can be modified with things like throw levers, levels, aftermarket turrets, additional optics (like a 1x), glare hiders and other goodies.
The interior of the tube is what contains the real magic. The lenses and reticle assembly hide away safely inside, so it’s important to have a strong and sturdy tube design.
Most tubes on high-end scopes will be made of corrosion resistant aluminum. A lot of them claim to be made of aircraft aluminum but that’s mostly just to sound tacticool and doesn’t really matter so much as long as the tube is well designed and durable.
Purging a tube means completely sealing it, usually with O-rings, and completely emptying it of all matter and replacing it with something like nitrogen, argon, or mixes of special gases. Some brands even have proprietary mixes. Regardless, having a purged tube is absolutely necessary as this keeps water vapor from leaking inside and fogging up the glass.
If a scope isn’t completely sealed and purged, don’t buy it. It’s junk. Finally, something simple!
Focal Plane: First vs. Second
The reticle can be mounted either at the front or rear of the magnifying lenses. Where the reticle is mounted makes a huge difference in how the reticle is perceived by the shooter.
First (sometimes also referred to as front) focal plane (FPP) means the reticle is mounted at the front of the magnification lens. The reticle will change size as the magnification increases. This is especially useful in keeping what you see through the scope a consistent size despite which level of magnification is being used. Front focal plane scopes make range estimation and long-range shooting easier and more intuitive.
Second (sometimes referred to as rear) focal plane (SFP) means the reticle is positioned at the rear of the magnifying lens. The reticle does not magnify with the object as the magnification is changed.
Most hunting scopes are SFP scopes while the majority of long-range scopes are FFP.
Adjustments: Clicky Clicks and Turny Turns
The adjustments found on the exterior of the scope are typically in the form of turrets.
Generally, you will find either 2 or 3 turrets which all adjust different settings with a total of 4 or 5 adjustments.
Although the configuration may vary, you can usually find the parallax adjuster on the left side, the windage adjustment on the right side, and the elevation settings on top of the scope.
Elevation: This setting determines how high or low your firearm will shoot and is usually dependent on your angle relative to the target and distance.
Windage: Using click adjustments, one click equals ¼ MOA on most scopes. Minute of Angle (MOA) is a ratio that remains constant at different distances. One minute of angle at 100 yards is equal to one inch.
Parallax: The change in sights depending on the angle of your eyeball relative to the reticle. If you look at the reticle from different angles and the crosshair seems to move around and point to different things, you’re witnessing the parallax effect. Parallax is dangerous as it will throw off the accuracy of your shot. If your scope has parallax it might have an adjustment for this that you will simply need to play around with and practice until you get it right. Some scopes don’t come with a parallax adjustment and simply have a preset level of parallax compensation.
The ocular focus ring, found near the rear of the ocular bell, is to help focus the reticle and is adjusted to the shooter’s preferences. This is also sometimes referred to as a diopter. To adjust your diopter, look through the rifle scope at a plain background closer than 20 feet. Adjust the diopter until the reticle is perfectly clear. Once the diopter is set, do not adjust it even if you adjust other settings. As a general rule of thumb, this is the first thing you should adjust. Pro tip: if you’re suffering from headaches due to using your scope, your diopter settings may be the cause!
There may also be another adjustment found on your scope known as the power ring. This is usually located just in front of the ocular bell and is what you will use to change the level of magnification (if your scope is variable powered).
Shock and Awe: Will it Survive?
Buy a scope that matches the rifle and load it will be used with. Simple as that. Scopes can and do explode. Okay, maybe they don’t explode, but a scope meant for a 5.56 NATO will likely not hold up to the sheer shocking power of a .50BMG.
When firing a rifle, large amounts of pressure are exerted on more than just your shoulder. Everything touching your rifle will experience a portion of the shock (and even things not touching, but close).
DOUBLE TRIPLE QUADRUPLE check that the scope you are buying is tough enough to be used on the rifle of your choice! Not all scopes are created equally!
Enough with the small talk, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is and throw some lead down (very lengthy) ranges!
Scopes in this guide are scopes that I believe lead the market in quality versus cost. I will attempt to add scopes in at every level of budget, however, please keep in mind that I haven’t gotten to use every single scope that’s ever been designed so if I’ve left something formidable out of the list, don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation about it in the comments section!
Budget Bin: Long Range Scopes Under $500
If long range to you means sending your AR15 5.56s out to 400m, these scopes will probably work for you. If long range means 1000m+ with 1 MOA groupings, keep scrolling. Scopes here will have low grades of glass and likely wont be as durable as their more expensive counter parts, however, there are some sweet optics for sale on the low that make great placeholders until you can pony up further!
Here Are the Best Long Range Scopes (Listed by Price)
1. Vortex Optics Strike Eagle (Best Under $500)
Price Range: Under $500
My Review: If you’re familiar with the optics game, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Vortex has one of the best long-range scopes in the budget category. At 5 big ones, this scope is jam-packed with critical repeatable performance that no other budget scope can match. Before we really crack into this scope and what its capabilities are, you should know that the Strike Eagle line has 3 compadres: 1-6×24, 3-18×44, and 4-24×40. Since I wanted to find the best scope for long range shooting it’s only fair that I reviewed the most powerful one, the 4-24×40 EBR-4. Of course, this is also the most expensive one but if you like the Strike Eagles and would like to save a little cash, the less powerful options are still great!
The Strike Eagle (is it me or should it be named Eagle Strike?) comes with both an etched reticle and illumination options making this budget scope incredibly versatile for both high and low levels of light at both short and long-distance shooting. Of course, it does struggle a bit at its maximum levels of magnification, but this is to be expected if you wish to save some money. By no means, however, is the sight picture unusable at its top levels, its just a little foggier than I would like to see. All in all, I would say this is the best long range rifle scope under 500 bucks. It offers everything you would need with nothing you don’t in a rather small and lightweight package.
- 30mm single piece tube constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum
- Nitrogen purged
- Water and fog proof
- Multi-coated lenses
- 3.5” eye relief
- Glass etched SFP EBR-4 MOA reticle
- 11 brightness settings
- Parallax knob on the side
- Illuminated reticle with 11 brightness settings
- Zero resettable tactical turrets
- Above-average eye relief
- High levels of versatility with low levels of price
2. Athlon Optics Argos BTR
Price Range: Under $500
Note: You can also get this scope with the ATMR MOA Reticle here.
My Review: Athlon Optics should be one of the first brands you consult with when trying to find optics on a tight budget. These scopes often have incredible glass quality compared to others in their price ranges and offer many features that I wouldn’t expect to find on scopes so cheap! Of course, there is a tradeoff and with this scope, it’s weight. Not only is it a bit heavier than other scopes but it is also top-heavy. Nothing you’ll notice if bench shooting but it makes a difference when steadying the rifle while standing!
The Athlon Optics BTR scope line comes in a few different variations so make sure you get the one that fits your needs the best. This model, in particular, is the cheapest in the lineup and offers the lowest level of magnifications. For the money, this scope is nearly impossible to beat and checks all the boxes for “must-haves”. The lens coating is also quite nice but I would recommend ponying up the $30 for the add on sunshade as it makes a huge difference in direct sunlight.
- 30mm tube diameter
- Argon purged one-piece tube design
- Athlon proprietary wideband multi-lens coating for increased light spectrum and transmission
- APMR MIL reticle that is both illuminated and etched
- 6061T6 Aircraft grade aluminum construction in matte black
- Includes lens caps
- Glass quality that matches higher end scopes
- Lifetime warranty
- Heavier than most scopes I’ve reviewed
- Turrets don’t lock
3. Barska AO Mil-Dot (Cheap)
Price Range: Under $100
Note: With this scope, keep in mind that you generally get what you pay for.
My Review: The Varmint line from Barska is built to focus upon exactly what the name suggests. These aren’t critically precise long-range competition-ready scopes but they will help clear your fields of pesky little critters while maintaining respect for your bank account. The scope is waterproof and completely sealed offering a great deal of durability in case you get caught in the rain during your prairie dog apocalypse. In full disclosure, this scope does feel cheap and will not pass off as a more expensive scope when you show your buddies! The scope is capable of magnification power 40x, however, the glass is not nearly high quality enough to provide crystal clear sight pictures at its highest levels of power, so keep in mind. Clarity is just fine between the 10x and 20x settings and becomes exponentially foggier the further past 20x you get.
It is, however, a perfect “Get R’ Done” set of optics that will likely help guide you in what you would like to purchase out of better optics. The Barksa Varmint is a good place to start if you don’t want to empty your savings account on something you’re unsure about. Barska is also not made in the US but rather in China, which isn’t a deal-breaker but I always tend to enjoy the US-made products a bit more.
- Mil-Dot reticle
- Fog proof
- 1” tube
- 1/8 click MOA adjustments
- Parallax adjustments
- Multicoated lenses for increased light transmission
- Includes lens caps
- One of the cheapest long-range capable scopes available
- Lifetime warranty (double-check sellers product page)
Tried and True: The Best Long Range Scopes Under $1000
These are scopes that will likely get the job done in just about every scenario other than competitive shooting. I always recommend buying top-quality products, especially when it comes to optics, however, not everyone needs to throw a $2-3k scope on a $500 rifle. Most of the time, the major difference between scopes here and scopes in the top budget ranges will be the quality of glass and the weight of the scope. Most mildly priced scopes can achieve similar magnification levels to those at the top end but fail to provide flawlessly clear images while maintaining low weight and durability. Usually, you will be sacrificing in one of those categories with scopes in this price range but you’ll still manage to find very useable and well-designed optics!
4. Vortex Optics Viper HS-T
Price Range: Around $650
My Review: As always, you can expect some pretty high-quality optics for ridiculous prices from Vortex Optics. They never really disappoint but they never really hit home as a top contender, either. That’s fine, though, seeing as you can get features in their affordable scopes that, for a long time, were only found in scopes well over the four-figure level.
The Viper has four different variants for you to select from including the 4-16×44 or 6-24×50 VMR-1 MOA, and 4-16×44 or 6-24×50 VMR-1 MRAD magnification and reticle configurations. I like the MOA reticle with a 50mm objective lens but each of these are just fine and mostly personal preference.
These come with the CR5 zero stop and exposed target acquisition style turrets that are incredibly easy and quick to adjust and fine-tune out in the field and provides excellent parallax adjustments as well. As with many of the Vortex Optics scopes, you’ll also find the Viper has the single piece fast focus eyepiece that hosts several inches of eye relief, being comfortable and effective at the same time!
If you were wondering, the HS-T stands for Hunting, Shooting, and Tactical purposes and to me, this scopes cute little acronym actually holds pretty true as I’d certainly recommend this scope to anyone participating in any of the three activities listed above, although this might be a tad overkill on magnification for most hunters, but hey, better to have more magnification than you need than not have enough, right? Plus, each of the variants contains a wide level of adjustable levels of magnification power so really, these scopes are exceptionally versatile and have earned their HS-T acronym sufficiently!
5. Nikon Black FX1000
Price Range: Around $600
My Review: The Nikon Black FX1000 is one of the cheapest and minimalistic optics you can get with incredible long-range capabilities. With optical strength at either 4-16×50 or 6-24×50 and your choice of the Matte FX-MOA, Matte FX-MRAD, illuminated FX-MRAD or illuminated FX-MOA configurations and a price tag a couple of bucks under the $600 mark, this is an excellent choice for those of you looking to push the limits of your rifles without completely destroying your bank account.
The turret system really stuck out to me on this one as it’s claim of being “high speed” is actually right on the money. This is one of the easiest and quickest turret systems I’ve seen on a scope like this and I really enjoyed the integral zero stop as it makes readjusting just so darn easy!
The tube is 30mm in diameter and matched with the 50mm objective lens, you can expect decent light transmission and better sight picture resolution than what is to be expected on a cheaper scope, but hey, that’s kind of what Nikon specializes in so no surprise here!
If you choose the illumination version, which I highly recommend, you’ll get 10 different intensity settings with the option to toggle these settings with a turret on the left side of the scope, a turret that matches the high quality of the others and really gives the scope a nice and clean reciprocal look.
The reticles all help in finding and compensating for range, target size, elevation, parallax adjustment, holdover limits, and windage. The scope is fairly durable and rather rugged despite its minimalistic styling and offers fairly decent waterproofing and the lens seems to be free of fog no matter the environmental conditions.
Another major aspect that really stood out to me was the 3.5” of effective eye relief. It’s incredible honestly despite such high levels of magnification and is extremely easy to use for those of you wearing glasses or protective gear. This is actually one of the best levels of eye relief on a scope capable of 50x magnification I’ve gotten to review!
6. Burris Eliminator 3
Price Range: Under $1000
My Review: The USA crafted Burris Eliminator is a buck under the four-figure mark and although that might sound expensive to the amateur shooter, the Eliminator is worth the extra dollar to hit the thousand mark!
First off, if you hate lugging around multiple pieces of gear, you’re in luck because this bad boy is ready to rock and roll with an integrated inclinometer and laser rangefinder capable of up to 1200 yards for those of you who dislike finding range via reticle. Burris has always made some pretty decent rangefinders so my expectations were high and needless to say, I’m pretty happy with what Burris has going on in this scope.
To use the incredible technology stuffed into this set of optics, you can opt for a remote cable instead of using the onboard controls, which basically allows you to move the controls back and mount them on your rifle, enabling quicker toggling of the rangefinder and built-in ballistic software. Speaking of the software, the scope has profiles for most centerfire, rimfire, slugs, and muzzleloaders so you’ll be able to fine-tune long-distance shots according to the exact rounds you’re using and you can swap the scope quickly and easily without worrying about whether the software is compatible with your other firearms.
The Eliminator III comes in as a 4-16x50mm platform with low profile turrets that aren’t great. That’s my only complaint, that the turrets are a little awkward to adjust and certainly take some time getting used to if you’re used to the silky smooth turrets found on Nikon or Vortex products.
7. Rudolph Optics Tactical Series
Price Range: Under $1000
My Review: If you’ve read my content throughout the site then you know I am heavily biased towards US made gear, especially when it comes to optics. With this said, however, I will note that the Japanese are capable of some amazing design feats! Teaming up with Rudolph Baard in South Africa, the Rudolph T1 immediately shows off its Japanese inspired design with a unique and smooth throw lever (optional) and incredibly clear Japanese crafted glass. Something else I found was an actual shock test that rated the scope at 1200 G’s! This means this set of optics is insanely durable and also comes completely purged and waterproof. Another slight addition to this scope is the pop-up capped turrets that are of the smoothest application on the market today. The clarity of the glass is impeccable, rivaling scopes that cost more than double what this one costs.
Overall, this is the scope to have if spending 4 digits isn’t on your to-do list. They are sometimes a little tough to get your hands on as they aren’t as popular in the US as they are in other places, such as South Africa and the UK, but of course, utilizing the power of the internet, I’m sure you’ll find one eventually! (Maybe on amazon, maybe not, as stock is limited).
The scopes Rudolph offers, while only 9 in total, have many variations in features. Some will be a T1 model with a T6 reticle, for example. I recommend doing some research and figuring out exactly which one will fit your needs. They are typically built to be optimized in four categories: hunting, hunting HD, tactical or varmint shooting.
- 30mm tube diameter
- T6 MOA reticle
- ¼ MOA click adjustments
- Included sunshade, neoprene scope coat, throw lever
- Fully multi-coated lenses for increased durability and light transmission
- One-piece aluminum nitrogen purged tube
- Fog proof
- Shock proof up to 1200 G’s
- 3.7” eye relief
- No questions asked lifetime warranty
- Incredibly lightweight and small for the power it produces
8. ATN X- Sight 4K Pro
Price Range: Under $1000
My Review: The ATN X-Sight is a feature packed scope that has the feel of a little miniature rifle mounted computer. Looking through this thing is like peering through the HUD display of a fighter jet. With on-screen wind speed, humidity, temperature, ballistics, range, etc you will be completely clued in to take the perfect shot whether its day or night. Alongside these features comes with some incredible battery life capabilities and some smartphone apps that come in quite handy when using the recording functions. The scope comes with an attachable 20000mAh battery pack and an X-Trac remote control and is mounted via an ATN quick detach mount that is all included in this package. The new version allows for dual recording, both to the SD card and to a mobile device!
I added this scope on this list because I figured some of you shooting long range may really enjoy recording capabilities. The NV functionality is also really cool! I believe this is one of the best value scopes with all of the functionality it comes with, but this is by no means the only one like it available. Just a teaser if you will on this otherwise none NV/recording long range rifle scopes page.
- 3-14x or 5-20x models
- HD 4k Sensor with Obsidian 4 dual-core processor
- Simultaneous mobile device streaming and SD capture recording
- Recoil activated video (RAV) technology
- 120fps video recording
- Built-in rangefinder
- Ballistic calculator
- E-Compass and barometer
- 18+ hour battery life
- Built-in IR illuminator
- Jam-packed functionality alongside long-range capabilities
- Provides the shooter with more than enough information to take well informed shots
9. Millet LRS-1 Tactical
Price Range: Under $1000
My Review: Recommended for long-range hunting and target shooting, the Millett 6-25x56mm LRS-1 Long Range Rifle Scope offers incredible levels of brightness and outstanding repeatable accuracy. This rifle scope by Millett is built for marksman who are ready to step into advanced long range marksmanship. These scopes are massive and built with a one-piece 35mm tube and a multicoated 56mm objective lens. The Millet 6-25x56mm LRS-1 Riflescope w/ Mil-DotBar Reticle features precision controls with 140 MOA adjustment and a Mil-DotBar reticle for enhanced accuracy. The Millet 6-25x56mm LRS-1 Long Range Tactical Scope is among the best versatile scopes on the market in this price range.
I would like to consider the Millet LRS-1 as a top choice in the world of high-end optics while still maintaining a friendly price tag. Anything with the level of quality that this thing has to offer is going to run you well into the 4-digit price range, but this bad boy can be had for a bargain at roughly $800.
- Oversized objective lens for a wide field of wide and bright sight picture
- Large one-piece 35mm diameter tube to complement its large objective lens
- The come-up scale on windage and elevation settings
- Illuminated and etched Mil-DotBar reticle on SFP
- 140 MOA elevation adjustment
- ¼ MOA click adjustments for windage and elevation
- T6 aluminum construction finished and anodized in matte black
- Comes with 35mm scope rings, sunshade, and scope cover
Optimum Performance: Best Long Range Scopes Under $2000
Scopes in this category will generally exceed what most hobbyist shooters will ever require in a set of optics. You’ll find top-quality glass matched with the best engineering in optics found around the world. They won’t come cheap, but optics in this range aren’t just top glass contenders, they’re also top in durability as well! Most of the optics in this category are actually combat tested and used even today throughout several of the worlds most prominent military forces.
10. Vortex Optics Golden Eagle HD (Editor's Choice)
Price Range: Under $1500
My Review: The more Vortex products I review, the more I realize how incredible this brand really is. It’s like they figure out what the people want and then manufacture their products around those expectations. Crazy, right?
The Golden Eagle HD is by far one of the most consumer-friendly scopes available and is likely the highest level of optics the average casual hunter/shooter would need. The picture is crystal clear all the way out to maximum magnification and it tracks perfectly in elevation. Eye relief is above average making this scope very friendly and easy to acquire targets on the move, even at high levels of magnification.
All in all, if you’re looking to spend no more than $1500 on a scope that does it all, stop here and pick up the Golden Eagle HD. It’s well worth the money and anything past this scope is adding small amounts of luxuries and large amounts on the price tags. Before buying, though, remember that it comes with either the SCR-1 or ECR-1 (I reviewed the ECR) reticles.
This scope is primarily designed for F-class shooters and adheres to most standard regulations.
- High-density apochromatic lenses
- XR Anti-reflective lens coating
- Tech applied XRP+ proprietary lens multicoating system
- 30mm tube diameter
- Machined aircraft aluminum construction
- Argon purged one-piece configuration
- Lightweight at only 29.5oz
- Best bang for your buck
- Competition ready
11. Burris XTR II / F-Class MOA Reticle
Price Range: Around $1100
My Review: The Burris XTR at $1250 is an incredibly friendly price tag for what you get. Just like I said in the intro to this section, these scopes are battle tested and used by multiple military forces around the world. The Burris XTR was actually developed to be used on large caliber rifles during vehicle transports and patrols. These scopes are no joke and offer some of the highest levels of durability on this list. For our .50 BMG fans, pick one of these up and clobber the hell out of it! I want to know if you’ll ever even get to reap the benefits of the lifetime warranty with how tough this thing is. It even comes with a reinforced tube which is roughly 25% thicker than standard 34mm tubes and is completely purged for water and fog proofing. The glass found in this scope is beautifully crystal clear. I made several comparisons to other high-end scopes with similar magnification and this was on par or equivalent at maximum magnification.
TLDR: This scope is one of the top choices for long range shooters all over the world and comes with unmatched durability, incredible light transmission, and very user-friendly capped turrets. If top-class performance without ridiculous price tags is what you’re after, stop right here and pick this bad boy up!
- 34mm tube diameter with a 25% thicker tube construction for added durability
- Ultra-high shock absorption for usage with large caliber rifles
- Hi_Lume multi-lens coating for optimized target resolution and low light performance ability
- Zero click stop adjustment knobs with 1/8” MOA precision adjustments
- F-Class MOA illuminated reticle
- One of the most durable long-range scopes on the market
- Lifetime warranty no questions asked
- It’s certainly heavy, but this is also a good thing for durability
12. Swarovski Z5
Price Range: Around $1400
My Review: Incredible accuracy at long distances is made incredibly easier when using the Austrian made Z5 5-25×52 L. The lateral parallax turret with the familiar optical perfection of SWAROVSKI OPTIK makes this riflescope a pioneer in its class. The compact 1-inch rifle scope is most definitely the right choice for shooting over long distances while maintaining friendliness for maneuverability. Not too heavy, not too light, not too long, not too short. This scope is by far one of my favorites for the simple fact that it provides crystal clear sight picture at the perfect size to be usable during hunting or long range target shooting. SWAROVSKI OPTIK delivers performances that have only rarely been achieved previously by any other rifle scope of the 30 mm class. The lightweight and compact Z5 rifle scopes are designed for harsh everyday usage.
- 4W reticle SFP
- Nitrogen purged 1” tube diameter
- Aluminum-alloy construction finished in matte black
- 9.6-2.1 exit pupil diameter
- 21.5 apparent field of view
- 90% light transmission
- SWAROTOP multicoating to optimize light transmission
- External lenses have been coated with a scratch-resistant SWARODUR protective lens film
- Waterproof up to 13ft/4m
- Extreme levels of adjustability
- Excellent low light transmission despite a small tube
Optical Yacht Club: $2000+
These are scopes that won’t leave much on the table other than maybe your jaw after seeing your shopping carts total. You don’t NEED any of the scopes in this category, however, if you’re the kind of shooter who is willing to spend the money on any and all extra tacticoolness, by all means, throw some dough at these bad boys! They’re expensive, but they are well worth the money if you can spend it. A lot of the scopes in this list are those which are issued to special forces units around the world and include the most up to date and cutting-edge manufacturing technologies. Just about all of them have proprietary tube designs, lenses, lens coatings, turrets, etc.
13. Leupold LEU Mark 5
Price Range: Under $2500
My Review: If you’re going to spend $12,000 on a rifle like a Barret M107A1, you may as well find you a scope that is worthy of sitting atop such a beautiful piece of machinery. The Leupold LEU Mark 5 is a battle-tested and thermal shock hardened warrior of a scope that may just be what you need to sling those large-caliber rounds into the 4-digit zone with ease. It’s hard to really review a scope like this and make it sound worth it with just words, so excuse me if I fail to get you excited, however, this scope is an absolute masterpiece. Most of what goes into its construction is the result of 40+ years of research by Leupold. You can tell that there were absolutely no sacrifices here. The glass is as clear as it would be if there were no glass at all and the sight picture looks like something out of a movie.
Something I especially enjoy is that the reticle set on the First Focal Plane (FFP) as opposed to the more traditional Second Focal Plane (SFP), the crosshairs enlarge and contract through the magnification scale parallel to the perceived image through the scope. This allows for holdovers and adjustments to be consistent throughout the magnification range rather than require separately collected data.
- 35mm tube diameter purged with a proprietary Argon and Krypton mix
- Constructed of 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum
- European style fact-focus eyepiece
- Illuminated and etched Mil-Dot TMR reticle
- Max HD Leupold Light Management System
- Flip-up lens covers included
- Water and fog proof
- Total weight: 30oz
- Lifetime warranty
- The battle-ready Mona Lisa of scopes. Sleek, brilliant, and smooth
14. Nightforce Optics ATACR 5-25x56mm
Price Range: Under $3000
My Review: The ATACR is the predecessor to the coveted combat tested Nightforce NXS, which you’ve probably heard of before if you’re a firearms enthusiast or in the military. These scopes are quite popular in special forces around the world and have quite a reputation among precision shooters. The ATACR was designed with tactical mission-critical features like their patented ZeroStop technology and up to 120 MOA /35mils of elevation adjustment. The housing is built like an armored vehicle and may even be able to withstand as much abuse as one too!
This is really the first scope I’ve reviewed that has such silky smooth adjustments. Everything down to even the “XtremeSpeed” diopter has some special “speed and precision” technology behind it that makes this scope really feel like the Cadillac of long-range scopes.
- F1 Digillum illuminated MOAR reticle
- 34mm diameter tube that is a one-piece design and argon purged
- Power throw level
- 3.54” eye relief
- Weighs 30oz
- Fully multi-coated lenses featuring proprietary ED light transmission technology
- Tenebraex flip covers included
- Combat tested and battle-ready
- Unmatched durability, weight, and precision with incredibly smooth adjustments
15. Schmidt & Bender PMII MSR FFP MRAD CCW
Price Range: Under $5000
My Review: A German manufactured god among optics, the S&B optics are among the most prestigious long-range capable scopes on the market today. In fact, this very scope is likely the one used in the world record for the farthest confirmed kill (talked about earlier in this article). The PMII is at the top of the price spectrum just as it is the prestige spectrum, though, and likely out of the budget range for most casual shooters. This scope is for those whose lives depend on being the most precise you can possibly be with a firearm.
- Premier Gen 2 XR reticle
- 34mm tube diameter
- Fast focus S&B eyepiece
- Top tier thermal shock resistance
- Stunning glass quality
Corporal Wabo is a former Infantry Squad Leader with 3rd Bn 4th Marines that specialized in Mortars. In his free time, he enjoys hunting, hiking, running, shooting guns, and reviewing gear. He started this website while transitioning out of the Marines, and since has recruited several other Marines to help him work on the Marine Approved website. We are currently looking for former Marines to join the team who are interested in writing about tactical gear, survival gear, hiking supplies, etc. For more information about us or joining the team, check out the “About Us” tab.