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When people picture shotguns, they generally don’t think of them as terribly precise firearms, but that’s a bit of an unfair characterization. Modern shotguns are incredibly accurate and precise, especially with the proper setup.
This means having the right choke or rifled barrel and having a good shotgun scope or another optic like a red dot.
A good optic makes all the difference to hunters, competitors, and even those looking to defend hearth and home with a shotgun. Let’s take a closer look at the best shotgun scopes and other optics to put on top of your shotgun.
Also Read: 7 Best Semi-Auto Tactical Shotgun
Leupold VX-Freedom 2-7×33 Hunt-Plex – Best Overall
Our overall favorite shotgun scope is the Leupold VX-Freedom 2-7×33 Hunt-Plex scope.
Leupold has an excellent reputation for making high-quality scopes, and the VX-Freedom line brings you that quality at an affordable price. It will feel very familiar to those of you already used to a traditional hunting riflescope.
Like other scopes in the VX-Freedom line, this one uses Leupold’s Advanced Optical System, offering users excellent light transmission while simultaneously reducing glare and improving resolution and clarity. The large objective lens will also let in plenty of light.
It features Leupold’s Hunt-Plex reticle, which has bold lines that taper into a fine center. The top line tapers slowly, providing a more open field of view. As you can probably guess from the name, this reticle was designed specifically for hunters.
This scope is also very rugged. It’s waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof. It’s also designed to withstand extreme temperatures and elevation changes and has scratch-resistant coatings on the lenses to keep your view nice and clear.
This scope has resettable, fingertip adjustable turrets for windage and elevation adjustment for windage and elevation adjustment. Each click adjusts ¼ MOA, and the windage and elevation turrets offer a 75 MOA adjustment range.
All in all, the Leupold VX-Freedom is an excellent general-purpose shotgun scope for hunters. It’s suitable for both a slug gun and a traditional shotgun. The 2-7x magnification will outrange your shotgun without being overkill, so you’re not paying for a bunch of magnification you don’t need.
- Very durable
- Uses Leupold’s Advanced Optical System
- Plenty of magnification without being overkill
- Turrets can be a little spongy
- 150-yard parallax setting
Truglo 4x32mm Compact – Best Budget
Truglo is probably best known for their night sights, but they also make some decent, budget-friendly scopes. The 4x32mm Compact is a great little scope for hunting turkey and deer with a shotgun.
The Diamond reticle was explicitly designed for that purpose. It’s similar to a standard duplex reticle but has an additional diamond surrounding the center where the lines thin.
The scope is fixed magnification, so you only get 4x magnification at all times.
The lenses are fully coated but not multicoated, so you get improved clarity and brightness compared to uncoated lenses, but you shouldn’t expect the same quality you’d get from a more expensive scope.
It’s also surprisingly durable for the price, fog proof, water resistant, and shock resistant. The body is made from a single piece of aircraft-grade aluminum tube, is nitrogen gas-filled, and has a scratch-resistant anodized matte black (or Realtree Xtra camo) finish.
“Resistant” is the keyword in many of those adjectives, though. Generally, we’d like to see “proof” instead of “resistant” regarding things like water and shock. But, for a scope to ring in for only about $50, you can only expect so much, and the Truglo 4x32mm Compact does give you a lot of value for its price.
It comes with weaver-style rings and a limited lifetime warranty.
- Sub-$100 price tag
- 4-inch eye relief
- Diamond reticle
- It comes with weaver-style rings
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Lenses are not multicoated
- Fixed magnification
- A bit heavy compared to most of the other scopes on this list
- Less durable than other scopes on this list
Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9×40 Muzzleloader UltimateSlam – Best for Deer Hunting
Our favorite scope for deer hunting is another member of Leupold’s VX-Freedom lineup, the VX-Freedom 3-9×40 Muzzleloader UltimateSlam. Despite the name, this scope is designed for both muzzleloaders and shotguns.
The higher magnification (compared to other shotgun scopes) makes this scope well suited for slug guns since they require more precise shots.
This scope has the high-quality glass and lens coatings that Leupold is known for, offering excellent optical clarity and light transmission, ideal for the low light settings when deer are most active. The larger objective lens, relative to most other scopes on this list, allows even more light into the scope for a brighter picture.
Like our top pick, this scope is very well made. The lenses have scratch-resistant coatings, and the body is waterproof, fog proof, shockproof, and resistant to extreme temperatures and elevation changes. Again, Leupold famously stress tests their scopes thoroughly, so this one should have no problem standing up to your shotgun’s recoil.
One thing, aside from the magnification strength and objective lens size that makes this scope different from our top pick, is the reticle.
This scope has the Leupold UltimateSlam reticle, a variation on the duplex reticle initially invented by Leupold. It’s designed explicitly for shotguns and muzzleloaders, with a 100-yard zero and aiming points out to 300 yards. Of course, you can also use it within 100 yards as well.
Parallax is set at 150 yards, which is a bit longer than I’d typically like to see in a shotgun scope but suits this particular scope well.
- Excellent for slug guns
- Highly durable
- Large objective lens
- Leupold’s Advanced Optical System
- Not great for much beyond slug guns
Vortex Optics Diamondback 1.75-5×32 – Best for Close Range
The Vortex Optics Diamondback 1.75-5×32 is excellent for those who want low magnification without going all the way to a red dot.
The 1.75-5x magnification range provides gentle magnification, ideal for the short ranges where shotguns are best. The scope’s Precision Glide Erector System allows for smooth transitions between magnification levels.
The Diamondback has fully multi-coated optics and features a Dead-Hold BDC reticle. While you don’t typically need a BDC reticle for a shotgun scope, Vortex’s is pretty simple so that it won’t be distracting or overcomplicated for your needs. The 32mm objective lens will let in lots of light.
The 100-yard parallax setting is suitable for a scope that’s not designed specifically for a shotgun.
The Diamondback is also very durable. It features a single-piece aircraft-grade aluminum body with a hard anodized finish. It’s waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof, with o-ring seals and argon gas purging.
Other notable features include the fast-focus eyepiece, 3.5-inch eye relief, and capped turrets.
The scope comes with removable lens covers and a lens cloth, plus Vortex’s VIP lifetime warranty that covers not just defective products but also accidental damage and is fully transferable.
- Low magnification
- Precision Glide Erector System
- Durably constructed
- Capped turrets
- Fast focus eyepiece
- BDC reticle
- The parallax setting is a little high
EOTech EXPS2 – Best Red Dot
EOTech’s red dots are slightly different from most in that they’re holographic sights rather than reflex sights. Without going into too much detail, these sights can project their reticle to appear on the same focal plane as the target. This makes reflex sights more accurate and easier to shoot. They’re also better for shooters with astigmatism.
But what about EOTech EXPS2 holographic sight in particular?
Well, for starters, it’s incredibly compact. This little sight measures just 3.8” x 2.3” x 2.9” (L x W x H), so it takes up very little room on your shotgun’s rail (It can mount to Weaver or Picatinny rails).
It weighs 11.2 ounces, which is on par with the lighter magnified optics recommended here. Essentially, that high weight for the size is due to the electronic components required to power the sight.
The EXPS2 utilizes a CR123 to get 1,000 continuous hours of battery life. It has 20 daylight brightness settings but is not night vision compatible.
The reticle is designed for close quarters and features a 68 MOA circle with a small 1 MOA dot in the middle. This is great for shotguns since you can line up the circle with your target at close ranges and shoot much faster than you would a single dot. You can still use the dot for more precision if you’re shooting slugs instead of shots.
- Holographic sight rather than reflex sight
- Very compact
- Illuminated with 20 brightness settings
- It can be combined with the EOTech G33 magnifier
- Designed for close quarters
- Parallax free
- Unlimited eye relief
- Pretty pricey
- It relies on a battery to function
Now let’s pivot to a more affordable red dot, the Vortex Optics Venom red dot sight.
This general-purpose red dot is widely used on shotguns and a wide variety of rifles and pistols. In my opinion, it’s one of the best-value red dots currently on the market. Now let’s talk about features.
The Venom is available in two versions, one with a 3 MOA red dot and one with a 6 MOA dot. I recommend the 6 MOA for shotguns since pinpoint accuracy isn’t as much of an issue. The larger dot allows for faster target acquisition.
To power the reticle, the Venom requires a CR 1632 battery (included). It has ten brightness settings, all daylight. On the highest setting, the battery can last up to 150 hours on the highest setting, but on the lowest, you get up to 3,000 hours.
The wide-field lens is fully multi-coated and also has ArmorTek scratch-resistant coating. It also has a single-piece chassis with a matte anodized finish and is waterproof and shockproof. Like all Vortex products, the Venom is covered by Vortex’s impressive VIP lifetime warranty.
It comes with a Weaver/Picatinny mount and takes up very little space on your rail. It’s just a hair under 2 inches long and weighs just 1.1 ounces.
In addition to the battery and mount, the Venom also comes with a T-15 Torx wrench, a screwdriver, mounting screws, a rain cover, and a lens cloth.
- Excellent value
- Parallax free
- Unlimited eye relief
- Wide field lens
- Scratch-resistant lens coating
- It weighs just 1.1 ounce
- It relies on a battery to function
Our next recommendation is the Truglo Tru Brite 30 Hunter 1-4×24. Like the Truglo Compact, this scope is budget-friendly, ringing at around $100.
This scope is ideal for close-range hunting of a wide variety of game, from varmints to hogs to deer. The 1x minimum magnification allows you to use the scope with no magnification, but you still get the benefit of up to 4x magnification when you need it.
The circle duplex reticle is exactly what it sounds like: a duplex reticle with a circle around the center for faster target acquisition. While it wasn’t designed specifically for shotguns, it’s an excellent reticle for shotguns.
The wide field of view, large exit pupil, and long eye relief help provide a clearer, brighter sight picture. This is good since the lenses are fully coated but not multicoated, and the scope’s objective lens is relatively small.
The Tru Brite 30 Hunter has the same durability issue as the other Truglo scope: it’s water resistant and shock resistant rather than waterproof and shockproof. It is, however, nitrogen gas-filled, so it is completely fog-proof. The single-piece aircraft-grade aluminum tube has an anodized matte black finish. Truglo’s limited lifetime warranty also covers it.
This scope comes with Weaver-style rings as well as flip-up lens covers.
- Ideal for close range
- Circle duplex reticle
- Wide field of view and large exit pupil
- Long eye relief
- Less durable than other scopes on this list
- Lenses are not multicoated
- Small objective lens
The Vortex Optics Crossfire II is a scope often recommended for hunting, and for a good reason. It’s a simple, no-frills optic that gets the job done, without being full of bells and whistles you don’t need on an afternoon hunt.
This particular Crossfire II has a lower magnification that is perfect for slug hunting since you aren’t reaching out to hundreds of yards with a shotgun, no matter how accurate it may be.
Eye relief is a comfortable 4 inches, which is nice on heavy-recoiling shotguns. The fast-focus eyepiece makes you’ll have an easy time getting things dialed in. This means that you can take that trophy shot quickly without giving your quarry time to make a break for it.
The scope is also plenty durable for shotgun use. It is one of our go-to recommendations for muzzleloader usage as well because of how well it holds zero under heavy recoil, especially for the price.
It’s also gas-purged and o-ring sealed, which is more than you might expect from most scopes in this price range. The water and fog-proof design are welcome for anyone who might find themselves caught out in inclement or changing weather.
- Illuminated Center Dot Available
- Lifetime warranty
- Glass isn’t as clear as some other offerings
For slug hunters, particularly those going after wild hogs, the Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 Pig-Plex is a phenomenal option. It’s an incredibly robust one-piece tube made from aircraft-grade aluminum with a handset reticle for extra durability.
The glass is crystal clear and extra scratch-resistant, as you’d expect from Leupold as one of the foremost names in hunting optics for decades.
The scope also features Leupold’s excellent Twilight Management System, designed to pull in all available light, making this a genuinely excellent hunting scope. That goes double for hog hunting, as most of those shots are taken in lowlight environments.
The extra time in the stand or the blind that this optic gives you is a huge advantage and makes it an excellent option for those early-morning or late-evening hunts.
The turret adjustments are ¼ MOA clicks, and I’ve found that this scope holds zero even after shooting 3” slugs extensively over a long afternoon of testing various rifled 12 gauges. Overall, this is a wonderful scope with what I think is the perfect magnification range for slug hunting.
- Incredibly durable
- Handset reticle
- Excellent Warranty
- A little more expensive than some
- Hard to find in stock at times
The Burris FastFire III is one of the more popular micro red dots on the market, and it’s a big hit with rifle and shotgun shooters alike. It’s a simple but robust optic that I’ve personally used on many different firearms, including several different shotguns.
The FastFire III makes a lot of sense on a shotgun because the 3 MOA and 8 MOA dot options cover both ends of what you’ll be doing with a shotgun. The 3 MOA dot is perfect for those longer-range shots with slugs, and 8 MOA is great for buck or birdshot.
I have used this optic on a 3Gun-style shotgun and found it very effective, no matter what the stage offers.
The sight has three simple brightness levels and an auto-setting that will keep you from adjusting the brightness all the time, especially in a home-defense situation. The FastFire III is a tremendous close-range optic for all situations, and the 8 MOA dot is very fast, especially when moving from target to target.
Burris also makes a fantastic SpeedBead mount specifically designed to make using the FastFire III with a shotgun, making this a perfect option for anyone looking for a red dot that will work well with their shotgun, whether or not it has a rail on top.
- Available shotgun mount
- 3 MOA or 8 MOA dot
- Limited brightness settings
Now that we’ve covered the top shotgun scope recommendations let’s go over the things you need to keep in mind when choosing a shotgun scope.
One of the most essential features of any scope, shotgun or otherwise, is the quality of the optics themselves.
Optical clarity is where you typically get what you pay for, so more expensive, high-end scopes will generally have better clarity than a sub-$100 scope. However, that’s a general rule, and there are certainly exceptions. Two scopes at around the same price point can still have very different clarity levels, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for.
Part one of good quality optics is glass quality. Unfortunately, there’s not a simple spec you can look at for glass quality, so a lot of it comes down to going with a scope from a brand known for the quality of their lenses. Leupold is one such company, earning three spots on this list.
The other central part of optical clarity is the lens coatings. Scopes have coatings on the lenses to help reduce glare, improve light transmission, and enhance the definition of the sight picture. The more layers of coatings, the more effective they are.
The best scopes are fully multicoated, meaning they have many layers of lens coatings that stretch across the entire lens surface. Lower cost scopes may be just multicoated to save production costs. This isn’t the end of the world if you have a strict budget, but it won’t give you the clarity offered by scopes with fully multicoated lenses.
Shotguns aren’t long-range firearms, so you don’t need a scope with very powerful magnification. Even 3-9x, one of the most common scope magnification strengths, is considered overkill for shotguns.
A minimum magnification of 1 to 2x and an upper magnification of 5 to 7x should cover most shotgun users. For fixed magnification scopes, you’ll want to top out around 4x, but you can even get away with a red dot with no magnification. You can always add a magnifier later on if you want it.
Also Read: 7 Best Muzzleloader Scope
As we’ve already covered, shotguns aren’t long-range weapons, so you don’t need a fancy reticle. A simple duplex reticle should work great.
If you’re not already familiar, a duplex reticle is very similar to a traditional crosshair. The main difference is that the lines thicken a short distance from the center of the reticle, all the way to the edge. This makes the reticle easier to see, while the thin center ensures that the reticle won’t block your view of your target.
Some scopes might have different or additional markings as well. For example, scopes designed specifically for use with shotguns may also have markings to help you predict the spread pattern at a certain distance. You may also see markings to help with bullet drop compensation.
Parallax is another feature that’s affected by shotguns’ short range.
If you’ve ever looked through your scope, moved your head, and noticed the reticle move relative to the background, too, then you’ve noticed the effect of parallax. Parallax occurs when the image projected by the scope is too far from the reticle.
Most scopes are made so that parallax doesn’t occur at 100 yards. The farther from that distance, the more parallax will occur.
Since shotguns are shorter-range weapons, it’s best when they have a shorter parallax setting, around 50 or 75 yards. Adjustable parallax can also be handy since it lets you set the parallax wherever is the most convenient, usually starting at as little as 10 yards.
Shotguns kick; it’s one of the things they’re famous for.
That can be a problem with scopes because behind it, right where that kick sends the scope, is your eyeball.
A scope with good eye relief ensures that your eye, and the rest of your face, are outside the danger zone.
But what is eye relief anyway?
Eye relief is the distance between the front of your eye and the optical lens of the scope at which you can comfortably view the scope’s entire sight picture unimpeded. The greater the eye relief, the more room between you and the scope, giving the scope more room to move with the recoil without hitting your face or eye.
Generally, eye relief is given as a range because the exact distance varies at different magnification strengths. The space inside this range is called the eye box.
That kick isn’t just a danger to faces and eyeballs, though. The powerful recoil of shotguns can easily damage a poorly made scope. That makes recoil resistance especially important for shotgun scopes.
Look for a scope that’s undergone thorough recoil and shock testing to ensure that it can stand up to round after round from your shotgun. Most scopes made specifically for shotguns should handle this no problem, but there are also plenty of scopes that aren’t shotgun specific that can handle a shotgun’s recoil.
Besides that, there are a few durability features that virtually any scope should have.
Scopes are out in the elements by nature of their purpose, so they shouldn’t be damaged by rain and shouldn’t fog up inside. They should be able to stand up to extreme heat and cold without an issue.
The more durable the scope, the more expensive it tends to be, but investing in a more durable scope is cheaper in the long run than buying cheap, shoddy scopes repeatedly because they keep breaking.
Turrets are a feature that’s important on any scope, and shotgun scopes are no exception.
If you’re not already aware, turrets are simply the knobs that adjust the scope’s elevation and windage settings. More specifically, the elevation knob moves the reticle up and down to help adjust it to compensate for bullet drop, while the windage knob moves the reticle to the right or left, allowing you to account for wind.
Well-designed turrets should provide both tactile and audible feedback with each adjustment, so you can easily make adjustments without looking at the turret. They should also have some feature that prevents accidental adjustments. Some turrets lock, while other turrets have caps that cover the turrets.
The mounting system matters for any scope, but it is a particular concern with shotguns because of the strong recoil.
You need mounting rings that are strong enough to hold your scope securely in place. Most scopes come with rings. However, some don’t, so you’ll need to buy rings separately.
A scope for a shotgun helps you get the most out of your gun. Scopes are beneficial if you’re using slugs or a shotgun with a tight choke since these require more precise aiming than shotguns typically do.
If you don’t want magnification, a red dot sight can be a great way to enhance your aiming without zooming in too close to your quarry.
The Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9×40 Muzzleloader UltimateSlam is our top recommendation for deer hunting since it’s got higher magnification, which is better for the more open areas in which deer hunting typically occurs.
It’s designed explicitly for shotguns and muzzleloaders and is an excellent choice for slug guns.
The excellent light transmission is also ideal for the morning and evening when deer are most active.
While some scopes are specifically designed for shotguns, many rifle scopes can also do a perfect job mounted on a shotgun. The main things to look for are low magnification levels, durable construction, and simple reticles. A low parallax setting is also nice but less essential than the last three features.
Also Read: 17 Best Thermal Scopes in 2022
Adding a high-quality scope to a shotgun is a great option for improving accuracy and extending your effective range. Our #1 recommendation, especially for hunters, is the Leupold VX-Freedom 2-7×33 Hunt-Plex scope.
We like this scope because of its durability, excellent warranty, and top-tier glass and lens coatings. It is one of the better hunting scopes on the market right now, and it’s a perfect option for anyone going after game with a slug gun.
Whichever one you go with, you can rest assured that all of the options on this list will stand up to whatever you and your shotgun can throw at them.