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How to Choose the Right Rifle Scope

How to Choose the Right Rifle Scope

When it comes to choosing a rifle scope there are a plethora of features and functions to consider. In all honesty there are too many to consider them all. The first step in deciding what you are looking for in a rifle scope is understanding what the various features bring to the table. At that point you can start making an informed decision based on which features are important to your style of hunting or shooting and which features you don’t need to prioritize. 

We have compiled a list of notable features to consider and broken them down so you can be as informed and knowledgeable as possible when making your next purchase. We will also cover topics that you should know to get the most out of your current scope like how to mount it to a rifle properly and how to boresight to save some time at the range. Here are just a few of the most important features that we will cover. 


Magnification is largely preferential but, speaking practically, the riflescope you choose for a varmint gun chambered in .17 HMR will probably not be the same as the one you choose for a big game rifle chambered in .300 WM because these rifles serve two very different purposes and the cartridges themselves have very different capabilities.

Outside of personal preference, the cartridge of the host rifle should be the determining factor in how much magnification is suitable.

Reticles and Ballistic Turrets

Do you want to have an adjustable turret on the scope or will you be relying on a BDC type reticle to compensate for distance?

There are a variety of ways to solve the same problem when it comes to ballistics, so it really ends up being a matter of preference. Some folks prefer a simple reticle to keep their view of the target unobstructed at full magnification. A custom ballistic turret would be ideal for someone with this preference. For those who prefer to hold for windage or elevation adjustments, bullet drop compensating or BDC reticles are the clear winner. 

Available Elevation Adjustment

If you are going with an adjustable turret make sure to decide on the type of distance you want to achieve. Remember to take into consideration the type of rifle you will be using. A .30-378 will require much less adjustment to hit 800 yards than a 6.5 Creedmoor.

Illuminated or Non-Illuminated Reticles

Most riflescopes have the option for an illuminated reticle. This can be an extremely helpful feature if you find yourself taking shots early in the morning or later in the evening. Though most would say the difference is negligible, it is worth mentioning illumination options typically add to the weight of the riflescope.


Is the scope going on a lightweight mountain rifle or a bench rest competition rig? When shooting from a bench or not far from a vehicle, the weight and size of a rifle or scope are not as big a concern. Contrarily, with a rifle you’ll be bringing into the backcountry, the size and weight are of the utmost concern.


Using the system you’re most familiar with is typically the best option unless you’ve made a deliberate decision to switch. Regardless of the unit of measurement, MOA vs MIL, try to consider the mental gymnastics of making your ballistics calculations in the field. Will you be hunting with a buddy? What units is he/she using? Are you ranging in yards or meters?

Rifle Scope Base


Most riflescopes designed for hunting feature second focal plane reticles – meaning the reticle is etched on a static lens such that it does not change in scale at any magnification. The marks on a second focal plane reticle are typically calibrated for the highest magnification on a variable power scope (ex. on a 5-25 power riflescope, the reticle would be calibrated for 25 power). This means that at half-power (15 power on a 5-25 scope) the reticle measurements will be twice what they are at full power. For example, if each mark is measured in .25 MOA increments, the same marks at half-power will be .5 MOA.

On the contrary, first focal plane reticles increase in scale as the magnification is increased. As a result, the reticle marks represent the same measurements at any magnification. A .25 MOA reticle marker is a true .25 MOA at 5 power, 6 power, 7 power, and so on. 


first focal plane vs second focal plane ffp vs sfp


Understanding what parallax is and how it can affect the outcome of your shooting is very important. Most riflescopes above a certain magnification, most of the time around 9 to 12, have a parallax adjustment but you may not need one for the type of shooting or hunting that  you plan on doing. 

rifle scope parallax

Mounting a Rifle Scope

To some people this may be a task that you have always entrusted to your local gunsmith or gun shop but with the right tools and a little bit of reading it can be mastered by anyone. Mounting your own rifle scope properly on your own can increase the trust you have with your entire system. The one downside is now you have no one to blame when you miss that gong at 500 yards. 

mounting a rifle scope

Rifle Scope Main Tube Size

A larger or smaller main tube can change the entire look and feel of your rifle scope but what does the measurement really mean and is it something you need to worry about? 


rifle scope tube size

Scope Bases With MOA

Scope bases are not always necessary and scope bases with built in MOA are only needed in a very specific situation. Understanding when to use one can actually increase the usability of your current set up. 

Shooting Tips and Pointers

This may not be something you need to know in order to choose the rifle scope that is right for you but we aren't the type of people to take your money and then never talk to you again. We won’t leave you waiting by the phone just wondering when we're going to call. We are here for you and want to help you after the purchase with anything you need. We will show you some tips on building a good shooting position, the process of taking a shot, and cleaning and caring for your riflescope. 

Our goal is to prepare you for the buying process and educate you as much as possible in hopes of alleviating some of the stress that comes with a large purchase. That being said, we here at Outdoorsmans promise to always do whatever it takes to provide you with the best possible customer service and buying experience. Give us a call, we are here to help with any questions you may have.

Rifle Scope Shooting Tips

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