Different Types of Scopes

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Last updatedLast updated: December 09, 2022
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In the very best shooters or users of weapons are pretty familiar with their weapons, and as a result, they recognize changes that may need to be made to their weapon (in this case, a rifle) for optimum performance.

When considering such a change in gun parts for optimum performance, there is probably no single part or accessory that leads to a more drastic improvement than the type of scope. It is to be noted that if you are currently not utilizing a scope with your rifle or if the scope you use is not very compatible with your weapon, you are most likely not shooting at your best.

This declaration is only valid because of the effectiveness of the scope in not just magnifying the target but, in some cases, also providing an aiming point within that helps to make a more accurate shot. If you are getting a scope, or are thinking of getting one, hop on.

Despite the generalization in function, scopes can come in various sizes and designs intended to provide even more functions and benefits. The sizes and designs are especially important as they affect your effectiveness depending on the shooting you plan to be doing. As such, possessing the right scope for the proper use is almost as important as knowing how to shoot, and picking the scope that offers the best value for the cost is pocket friendly. Here are the types of scopes.

1. Fixed scopes

These have a fixed magnification level and are arguably the most basic of all rifle scopes. With this, the singular magnification level means that there is no option to zoom in or out to better view the target. What you see is what you get. As a result of this simplicity, fixed focal plane scopes are cheaper than most other types of scopes.

2. Variable scopes

Just like the name implies, these scopes allow the user to vary or adjust the magnification level. This allows for more flexibility when aiming. The names of variable scopes always have a series of numbers designed to explain or indicate their characteristics. The last two digits indicate the size of the objective lens, while the first hyphenated part indicates the magnification.

For instance, in the name 5-20X56, 5-20X indicates that the scope magnifies between 5 and 200 times while 56 millimeters is the size of the objective lens.

3. Night vision scopes

If you are doing some shooting in low-light situations, a night vision scope suitable for hunting should be necessary. Such scopes may be fitted with infrared illuminators and phosphor screens to help see under low light conditions. Other night vision technologies may also be utilized in some other scopes. A recommended night vision scope that utilizes thermal imaging technology is the ATN ThOR 4 384 4.5-18X Thermal Smart HD Rifle Scope.

Different Types of Scopes

4. Tactical scopes

Though the name has been abused in the branding of many scopes, tactical scopes refer to scopes designed to aid a specific shooting type, most especially military purpose shooting. Infantry troops within armies are usually fitted with such scopes to extend their range of shooting. However, the range is not designed to be too far, and most times, their magnifications may be as low as 4X.

5. Long-range scopes

This consists of both competitive shooting scopes and sniping scopes. As the name implies, they are designed to help shooters hit long-range targets, and as such, their magnifications are always over 10X. The magnification of the scopes may be variable or fixed depending on the preference of the handler of the weapon.

6. Hunting scopes

Since hunting is not usually done over long distances, the magnification on scopes for the purpose is usually under 20X. They also tend to be less complicated than tactical scopes due to the fact that many hunters prefer easy-to-use, robust and durable scopes that would provide fewer distractions, be easy to aim, and still be durable enough to weather heavy use or harsh elements. In summary, hunting scopes are designed to provide a clear view of the target first and foremost. Every other feature comes after.

7. Competition scopes

Like the other types of scopes, the frequency of use of these scopes and the situations in which they are used heavily influence their design. Because they are mostly going to be utilized in daylight or under adequate lights, they don’t have much flexibility as regards light transition.

The fact that they are used for competitive shooting means there is a high focus on accuracy over durability.

As a result, they have very high magnifications but are too big and fragile. They are not suitable for hunting, tactical usage, or pretty much anything other than the use they have been designed for. However, disadvantages aside, they have magnifications of as much as 40X and can correctly be described as high-powered.

8. Sniper scopes

Rather than the super-powered scope that you might expect, sniper scopes tend to possess moderate magnification with reticles designed to observe images in clearer detail than other scopes. They differ from competition scopes partly because they are used within the military to observe just as much, if not more, than they are to shoot. Military-grade sniper scopes tend to have fixed 10X magnification. The popularity of the mil-dot reticle most emphasizes the need for more detail in sniper scopes as a sniping tool. This allows the handler of the gun access to more information like distance and wind direction. These scopes are designed to be used by experienced shooters with extensive knowledge of the technicalities of shooting, and it even has fine adjustments turrets to facilitate small, precise increments to aid accuracy.

Different Types of Scopes

9. Scout scopes

These are also widely considered to be military-level scopes, but they might also be utilized by hunters who tend to take extended hunting trips in the woods. They are similar to tactical scopes, but their magnifications could fall even lower to 2X though 7X is most popular among buyers of such scopes. They are usually simple though they may have adjustable turrets also.

10. Red-dot scope

These give the video game feel. These scopes have little to no magnification and confer improved accuracy by the presence of a red dot in the center of the optic. This dot serves as the aiming point and is present only within the optic rather than the more dramatic laser  sight Trusted Source Telescopic sight - Wikipedia A telescopic sight, commonly called a scope for short, is an optical sighting device based on a refracting telescope en.wikipedia.org . These types of scopes allow for quick aims and are utilized a lot in tactical scenario contests among civilians and close-quarters shooting. As implied in the description, the little to no magnification provided by such a scope means it brings no extra advantage to the long-range shooting. However, moderate range shooting could still be attempted though it would be more difficult using the red dot than when a more appropriate scope is used.

Final thoughts

Though this classification or grouping of scopes is valid, some less specialized scopes designed to provide reasonable service in a variety of situations exist. These scopes are usually made to suit many situations and shooting exercises such as long-range shooting, medium-range shooting, hunting, and even sniping. An example of such that is available at a reasonable price is Vortex Diamondback DBK-04-BDC.

The advantages presented by the use of scope in the shooting are clear even to a novice. The magnification alone is a reason to employ them, but the extra features that are usually added to improve their effectiveness make them even more indispensable.

These advantages, however, can be nullified if the wrong scope for a weapon or situation is selected or purchased. In such an event, the scope might even prove more of a hindrance to shooting than an advantage. This is why the knowledge of the type of scopes is as important to shooting as pulling the trigger is.

This knowledge has been passed along to the best of our ability in this piece, and we hope it helps make a more informed decision in your shooting endeavor.


Telescopic sight - Wikipedia
A telescopic sight, commonly called a scope for short, is an optical sighting device based on a refracting telescope
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