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best long range scopesAs newer and more powerful rifle cartridges develop, the need for better optics that can match the performance of the cartridge. In this guide, we are going to identify the best long-range scopes.

Distance is something every hunter or sport long gun shooter thinks about constantly. 

What is a Long-Range Scope?

best long range scopesFor most shooters, the maximum distance they are comfortable with iron sights is about 300 yards. For many of us, especially older shooters whose eyesight is beginning to get a little sketchy, that distance can be much shorter.  But for now, 300 yards is a good starting point.

So, anything over 300 years is our benchmark for long-range shooting.  For hunters, this is well within your needs. Very few sportsmen will take a shot on most North American big game animals at more than 300 yards. On the other hand, if you are a competitive long-range shooter, 800 to 1000 yards is often a distance you will encounter in a competition.

Standard Scopes vs. Long Range Scopes

Standard Scopes vs. Long Range ScopesStandard scopes used for hunting usually have a lower magnification range and a hunting reticle without hash marks. The turrets on standard scopes are much lower profile and are usually covered with caps to prevent accidental movement after bringing the rifle to zero.

The primary use of long-range scopes or precision scopes is where the range to the target is known, and adjustments to the scope are made based on several factors such as wind direction, elevation, and bullet characteristics. Precision scopes feature high magnification and fine calibration increments. Most precision scopes have the reticles in the first or second focal plane of the scope.

The Need for Magnification

Beyond about 300 yards, most shooters cannot effectively use iron sights for hunting or precision shooting. The use of magnified scopes brings the view of the target closer to the shooter’s eye and allows much more precision in shot placement. 

Unfortunately, as we age, our eyesight becomes incrementally worse. For many older hunters, the use of a magnified scope at ranges less than 300 yards is a common occurrence.

Best Long Range Scopes

1.Athlon Optics Argos BTR Best Long-Range Scope for the Money

Athlon has been building a reputation over the last few years as a rising star in the optics markets. Their glass is as good as anyone else’s available in scopes costing three or four times as much.

Athlon hasn’t skimped on any of the other features.  Their scopes are durable and tough, capable of standing up to the rigors of shooting the biggest calibers in the toughest conditions. One feature sets this scope apart from every almost every scope in this category.  The Athlon Argos BTR scopes come standard with a First Focal Plane reticle.

That means that no matter the magnification, your reticle will stay sharp, clear, and the same size. If you are looking for a scope that will perform like one costing three times as much, you must check out the features on the Athlon Optics Argos BTR line of scopes.

  • First Focal Plane Reticule etched on the glass.
  • Illuminated reticule
  • One piece 6061 T6 Aluminum tube, heat-treated for maximum strength
  • 30mm tube diameter
  • Side parallax adjustment
  • Waterproof
  • Fog proof
  • Shockproof
  • Argon purged
  • Multi-coated optics for the best light transmission qualities

What We Like

  • Very clear optics
  • First Focal Plane Reticle
  • Illuminated reticle

What We DisLike

  • Turrets need to be cleaned of excess grease.
  • Not enough internal adjustment for elevations

2.Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate BDC 600 Best Long Range Scope for an AR

Long-range shooting with an AR is a challenge in itself.  The semi-automatic rifle platform is certainly capable of distances well beyond 5oo yards if it is properly set up and has the proper scope. 

The challenge has been finding a scope that will fit the AR platform and perform at those kinds of ranges. Nikon designed the P-223 3-9×40 BDC 600 from the ground up with the AR platform in mind. 

From the mounts which put the shooter’s eye in the correct relationship with the scope to the long eye relief and rugged construction, the Nikon P-223 meets the requirement for long-range shooting on an AR platform.

Considering the features that Nikon includes with the P-223 and you may well agree.

  • Designed specifically for the trajectory of the .223 Remington/5.56 NATO 55 grain bullet
  • 100-yard parallax preset.
  • Long eye relief
  • Tactical style turrets
  • Zero Reset Turret Technology
  • Waterproof
  • Nitrogen purged
  • O-Ring sealed
  • Lifetime repair/replacement warranty

What We Like

  • When matched with P-mounts, eye relief and placement is almost perfect
  • Zero-reset turrets make returning the scope to zero effortless.
  • Easy to use
  • Sturdy Construction

What We DisLike

  • The reticle can become hard to see at some lower magnifications
  • No parallax adjustment beyond 100 yards
  • Can’t be used on larger caliber firearms

3.Nightforce Optics SHV  – Best Long-Range Scope for 300 Win Mag

The 300 Win Mag cartridge delivers a lot of energy downrange.  It is this feature that makes it one of the most popular calibers for hunting the larger North American game animals. 

Unfortunately, it also delivers a lot of energy in the form of recoil to the shooter and anything attached to the gun, including the scope. For this reason, you need a scope that can take a fair amount of abuse. If accurate long-range shooting is your goal, you won’t go wrong with the Nightforce Optics SHV series of scopes. 

Nightforce rivals any scope maker in the market for the quality of their glass. And the ruggedness of their scopes. The Nightforce attention to detail in the manufacturing processes is unrivaled as well. 

Features are never a lack of Nightforce.

  • Second Focal Plane reticle
  • Turrets match the reticle style
  • Zero reset turret technology
  • Illuminated reticle
  • Aircraft-grade aluminum tube
  • Fast focus eyepiece
  • 30mm tube
  • Waterproof
  • Fog proof
  • Multi-coated lens treatments

What We Like

  • Unmatched clarity
  • Ruggedly built
  • Easy to use
  • Great warranty

What We DisLike

  • The illuminated reticle can be hard to see in bright light.

4.Nikon M-308 4-16×42 BDC 800Best Long-Range Scope for the .308

The .308 is another large caliber that packs a huge punch on both ends. Whether you shoot a traditional-style rifle or an AR-style platform in 308, any scope not designed for the higher energy recoil is going to give you problems.

Nikon has answered the call with the M-308 rifle scope.  At home on a traditional rifle, the M-308 excels when mounted on an AR-style platform chambered for 308.  

The scope is re-calibrated for shooting the 7.62×51 168 grain NATO bullet. Coupled with Nikon’s standard list of features, the M-308 is the perfect selection for long-range shooting.

  • Mounts included with the scope
  • NikoPlex reticle
  • Rapid Action turrets
  • Ultra-Clearcoat optics
  • Zero-Reset turrets
  • One-piece machine tube
  • Waterproof
  • O-Ring sealed
  • Nitrogen purged
  • Fog Proof
  • Shock Proof

What We Like

  • Excellent light transmission through the scope.
  • Rugged and well built.
  • Holds zero reliably

What We DisLike

  • The included mounts may not work with some rifles
  • Lack of internal elevation travel makes longer range shooting hard

5.Vortex Optics DiamondbackBest Long-Range Scope for a Budget

Cheap scopes are no bargain.  The quality of the optics and manufacturing is where most cheap scope manufacturers cut corners. 

Not so Vortex. The Vortex Diamondback line of scopes offers the buyer the chance to get Vortex quality in a scope that can fit almost any budget.

Not many scopes in this price range will offer a second focal plane reticle and such a wide range of configurations to fit the needs of any shooter. If you want reliability and excellent optics at a reasonable price, the Vortex Optics Diamondback series of scopes should be on your shopping list.

Standard features from Vortex include:

  • Dead-Hold BDS reticle
  • Second Focal Plane reticle
  • Multi-coated optics for the best in light transmission and protection
  • Fast focus eyepiece
  • Capped turrets
  • One-piece aluminum tube
  • Sealed optics
  • Argon purged
  • Waterproof
  • Fog proof

What We Like

  • Easy to sight in and holds zero
  • Crystal clear optics
  • Great light transmission
  • Rugged and well built

What We DisLike

  • Doesn’t come with mounts
  • A rather short eye relief
  • Turrets feel mushy

6. Vortex Optics Crossfire II Best Long-Range Scope Under $500

Vortex Optics needs no introduction.  Their scopes have been industry leaders now for many years and their reputation for quality optics keeps growing. 

The Vortex Optics Crossfire II series of scopes may be the best buy for the money if you can live without a couple of features. The Crossfire scopes have a second plane reticle instead of a first focal plane. The other missing element is the turrets.   

The Crossfire II scopes come with capped turrets which can make adjustments in the field difficult. However, most hunters don’t make turret adjustments in the field and on the fly.

On the plus side, you get all the Vortex benefits of extremely high-quality optical glass and all the other features for which Vortex is well known.

  • Dead-Hold BD reticle
  • Adjustable object provides image focus and parallax adjustments
  • Multi-layer optical coatings for the best in light transmission
  • Long eye relief
  • Fast focus eyepiece
  • Single-piece aluminum tube
  • Argon gas purged
  • Waterproof

What We Like

  • Quick and easy to set up and bring to zero
  • Rugged and tough.
  • Solid enough for even large caliber rifles
  • Remains clear even out to 12x magnification

What We DisLike

  • Short eye relief
  • Narrow field of view can be a problem

7.Nikon Monarch 3 4-16x42mmBest Long-Range Scope for Hunting

The Monarch line from Nikon Optics has a long history of success as a hunting scope for long-range shooting.  

Its simple, straightforward design makes it almost bulletproof in the field. The Monarch 3 s a touch scope that once zeroed will perform over and over.

Nikon optics and construction are second to none and the Monarch doesn’t abandon that tradition. Clear glass, precise optics and quality manufacturing with an eye to precision equal scopes that provide value for the price.  

Nikon’s list of included features is impressive as well.

  • Monarch 3 Eye Box Technology 
  • Extra-long eye relief
  • Quick focus eyepiece
  • UltraClearCoat Optical Systems for 95% light transmission
  • Low profile capped turrets
  • Optimized for use with the Nikon Spot on Ballistics Match Technology
  • Nitrogen purged
  • O-Ring sealed

What We Like

  • Excellent low light capabilities
  • Very good glass remains clear under all conditions
  • Rugged.  Quality of manufacturing is apparent

What We DisLike

  • Supplied lens covers are cheap and rattle
  • Edges of the image get fuzzy at higher magnifications
  • The supplied instructions are hard to follow

8.Nightforce Optics NXS Best Long-Range Scopes for $1500

If accurate extreme long-range shooting is your goal, you won’t go wrong with the Nightforce Optics NXS series of scopes. 

Nightforce rivals any scope maker in the market for the quality of their glass. The attention to detail in the manufacturing processes is unrivaled as well. 

Nightforce is as well-known as its main competitor, Vortex, but the quality of their product shouldn’t come as a surprise. Manufacturing of the Nightforce scopes happens in the same plant as the Vortex scopes. The excellence of their manufacturing shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Nightforce competes favorably in the range of features incorporated into the long-range scopes.  

  • Second Focal Plane reticle
  • Premium optical grade glass
  • Multi-coated lenses 
  • Scratch-resistant coatings
  • Glare resistant coatings
  • Illuminated reticle
  • Ser reset turrets
  • 100 MOA of internal travel
  • Thick-walled aircraft-grade aluminum construction
  • Waterproof
  • Shockproof
  • Fog proof

What We Like

  • Top of the line optics and light transmission
  • Rated up to 50 caliber
  • ZeroStop feature is a real plus

What We DisLike

  • Expensive

9.Vortex Optics Viper HS-TBest Long-Range Scope for 6.5 Creedmoor

The 6.5 Creedmoor round shoots fast and flat.  To work this round out to its maximum range, you need a quality scope with enough magnification to take you the distance.  

The Vortex Optics Viper HS-T scopes can meet the requirements of shooting the 6.5 Creedmoor. With the second focal plane reticle and matched reticle and turrets, the Vortex Viper HS-T packs a lot of features into a moderately priced scope. 

Vortex optics’ reputation for quality and performance support the choice of the Viper HS-T scope for your 6.5 Creedmoor rifle.

Take a look at the standard Vortex features.

  • Second Focal Plane Reticle
  • Illuminated reticle
  • 30mm single-piece tube
  • Advanced Optical System
  • Wide and easy to use eye box
  • Tactical turrets
  • Parallax adjustable
  • 50mm objective lens
  • Waterproof
  • Shockproof
  • Fog proof
  • Argon purged
  • O-Ring Sealed

What We Like

  • Lifetime warranty
  • Rated for large calibers
  • Great value for the price
  • Excellent glass

What We DisLike

  • The image can get fuzzy a high magnification
  • Doesn’t include lens caps
  • Short eye relief

10.Nikon Black FX1000Best Long-Range Scope for the 30-06

While not as punishing as some of the larger calibers, the 30-06 can certainly dish out some punishment on a scope. 

The 30-06 is considered by some to be the most popular hunting rifle caliber in the US. It has enough range to be considered a serious long-range shooter. A good scope is essential.

The Nikon Black Fx1000 series of scopes come in several different configurations that allow you to pick a scope that best fits your needs. Each configuration comes with the standard Nikon list of features that keep Nikon consistently in the top picks for rifle scopes.  

The Features  

  • First Focal Plane reticle
  • MOA and MRAD reticle styles
  • Illuminated reticle
  • High-quality Nikon Optical Glass
  • Return to Zero turret design
  • Parallax adjustment knob for easy image adjustment
  • Long eye relief
  • Waterproof
  • Fog proof
  • Shockproof
  • O-Ring sealed
  • Nitrogen purged
  • Multi-coated lenses
  • Aircraft-grade aluminum tube

What We Like

  • Incredible value in a long-range scope
  • Easy to use the return to zero feature
  • Quick setup and quick zero at the range

What We DisLike

  • Stops on the turrets are a little mushy
  • Zero Stop is hard to set up initially

What Scope did Chris Kyle Use?

What Scope did Chris Kyle UseThe US Military employs several different rifles, calibers and scope configurations for long-range tactical engagements. In his book, Kris Kyle spoke of several rifle platforms. He doesn’t say what configuration of gun and scope he used specifically. 

In truth, he probably used several different combinations. Many experts believe that the scope most likely used and preferred by Chris Kyle was the Nightforce NXS 8-32×56.

Final Words

I hope that this review of long-range rifle scopes has given you a clearer picture of what to look for in long-range rifle scope and some of the options in the market.