Best Riflescopes for Deer Hunting – Editor’s Awards 2018
Deer hunting requires a combination of skills, patience, and equipment. While you have a lifetime to master the first two, you need to make smart equipment purchases from day one. Choosing the best possible scope for your rifle is one of the tougher decisions you'll need to make. A lot of people breeze through this at first only to realize they've made a huge mistake once they are in the woods.
The key to choosing the best riflescopes for deer hunting is knowing what features and attributes are important when hunting deer. You then browse through the top models on the market and choose the one with the most of those features or attributes. Here are five of the best rifle scopes on the market today.
What to consider
First, we'll outline the most important features to look for when buying a rifle scope for deer hunting. Next, we'll look at each of the models listed above in detail to determine which would be the best scope for the job.
The Benefits Of A Variable Scope
One of the first decisions you'll encounter when searching for a rifle scope is whether to purchase a fixed scope or a variable scope. A fixed scope is almost always the cheaper option, which is why it attracts so many first time buyers looking to save a few bucks. In the long run, a variable scope is a far superior option and is worth the additional investment if you want a reliable and enjoyable hunting experience.
The difference between the two is that a fixed scope provides a single level of magnification. A variable scope allows for multiple levels of magnification within a certain range. This is often denoted in the product name by listing a range of numbers, such as “3-10”. The major benefit of having variable levels of magnification is that you don't need to physically move to change your view.
The magnification and field of view are changed easily on the scope, which means you can remain perfectly still. With a fixed scope, you may need to physically move to keep the deer within the field of view of the scope. That means the dear could sense your movement and leave the area.
Light can behave in odd ways when interacting with a lens. Just think of pictures you may have taken in the past with odd illusions in the background. These often occur because light refracts when it interacts with a lens. This can lead to very poor visibility. It can even cause something to appear in one spot when it is really standing somewhere else. Obviously, that's bad news when you are aiming to take a shot at a deer.
When you purchase the cheapest lens you can find you greatly increase the risk of experiencing such illusions. A high-quality lens, on the other hand, will have features designed specifically to reduce or completely eliminate those problems.
The three factors that influence the image quality the most are the quality of the lens, the coating on the lens, and the design of the tube housing the lens. If any one of these aspects is sub-par, then it could affect the image in some unwanted fashion. A quality lens with proper coating and an efficiently designed tube may cost a bit more, but it's another investment that is worth the money.
Choosing An Objective Lens Size
Another number that is often quoted in the product name is the objective lens size. It is usually a value between 40mm and 50mm. The objective lens is the lens located at the end of the scope closest to the barrel. The lens that is closest to your eye is called the ocular lens. The size of the objective lens will impact multiple aspects of the scope, including the amount of light entering the tube, the size of the scope, and the weight of the scope.
Generally speaking, a larger objective lens is superior because it allows more light to enter the tube. But the benefit of increasing the amount of light is outweighed by the inefficiency of the scope once you reach a certain threshold. Anywhere from 40mm to 50mm should be enough. There are some decent scopes with 60mm objective lenses, but they are few and far between.
As the size of the objective lens increases so too does the tube diameter. If the tube is too large it becomes impossible to comfortably shoulder your stock. Some are even so large that only the bottom of your chin will touch the stock. This leads to counter-intuitive methods being used when taking aim at your target.
Larger scopes are also a lot heavier. A 75mm scope could way as much as four pounds. That weight becomes very noticeable when you're taking aim. It's also noticeable once you spend a few hours hiking through the woods with it. And rest assured that the deer are noticing it as well.
A lens between 40 and 50mm is the best solution. With some as large as 60mm being acceptable if the tubing is designed properly.
Other Important Features
Before diving into the five best scopes on the market let's consider a handful of additional terms or features that you might encounter. For example, you'll often hear or read a reference to the field of view(FOV) of a particular lens. The field of view is the horizontal distance you can view in the scope at 100 yards. Generally, as the magnification level increases the FOV will decrease. The FOV is affected by the focal length of the objective lens as well as the design of the eyepiece.
The material of the tubing is an important consideration as well. You want a quality, durable material that can survive falling from a stand. At the same time, you don't want the tubing to be too heavy. Lightweight aluminum is what you'll find on most high-end deer hunting scopes.
Some scopes have illuminated reticles to allow for high accuracy in low light situations. It's a great feature that makes aiming much easier, but not one that should be considered mandatory.
Best Rifle Scopes for Hunting Deer
Next, let's look at the five best riflescopes for deer hunting on the market today. We'll see which of the scopes are best in terms of lens quality, FOV, and some of the other features that were covered above. You can then use that information to help you make a smart purchasing decision before heading to the woods.
The Vortex Optics Viper is an advanced scope system designed for hunters that know what they want. It is designed with a pleasant balance of accuracy, magnification, durability, comfort, and ease of use. All of which are important qualities of the best riflescopes for deer hunting. It is a variable range scope with a 4x zoom range.
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The objective lens is actually on the smaller side when compared to most of the competition. It's only 30mm in diameter, but that's more than enough to deliver enough light to the tube. And thanks to the use of extra-low dispersion glass the resolution is high, the color fidelity is increased, and the overall image quality is incredible.
The reticle for the Vortex Viper is designed to increase accuracy and decrease guesswork in windy conditions. The reticle on the second focal plan will continually hold the same appearance while the dead hold BDC reticle can be used to make adjustments to your aiming on the spot. Reference marks on the BDC reticle allow for proper compensation when aiming over a long distance or during high winds.
The VX-2 from Leupold is an affordable and functional scope. It features a 40mm objective lens, 3-9x adjustable magnification, and it only weighs 11.2 ounces. It's compact and lightweight, yet highly accurate and durable. What more could you want from a rifle scope for deer hunting?
The FOV at 100 yards and 3x magnification is 34.6 feet. That FOV is reduced to 14.6 feet when the magnification is increased to 9x. The impressive FOV and resolution of the lens make this an ideal scope for long range shooting. The resolution is thanks to Leupold's Index Matched Lens System. A lot of manufacturers use unique lens systems to improve image quality. The Index Matched Lens System is one of the best.
This Leupold VX-2 also shines when it comes to durability. It's fog proof and waterproof. There's also a diamond coat on the lens to prevent abrasion. Not only will the tubing last a lifetime, but the image quality won't deteriorate with time.
There's no denying that the Sightron SIII is one of the best riflescopes for deer hunting. It's been a favorite of many hunters for some time now thanks to the large objective lens, efficient tube design, durable construction, and extreme accuracy at long range. It's safe to say that this scope has every feature necessary to accommodate serious hunters. The higher price tag can cause newcomers to shy away, but those who understand the importance of the scope are willing to spend the money to get the best.
It's not the lightest scope on the market, weighing nearly 3 pounds, but all of that extra weight is put to good use. The 30mm body is designed from a single piece of aircraft aluminum. The tubing is twice the thickness as most other scopes on the market. It adds a bit of weight but greatly increases the durability. It's also waterproof, nitrogen filled, and fog proof. You can rely on this scope during any sort of weather conditions.
The variable range magnification on the Sightron SIII SS can settle anywhere from 10x to 50x, which is considerably more than any other scope on this list. Of course, it's also considerably larger and heavier than the others as well. The target knobs on the scope are designed to be oversized to make adjustments easier.
Nikon is well known for manufacturing high-quality entry level scopes. They are great for beginners as well as seasoned professionals who know what they want in a scope. Nikon is able to reduce the cost of the scope by cutting out some of the extra features while still implementing everything necessary to manufacture a quality device.
This ProStaff scope features a 40mm objective lens with magnification ranging from 3 to 9x. Both of those are fairly standard and many would agree that they are ideal for your average hunting experience. The lens is large enough to let in enough light without weighing down the scope. The variable range is enough to take shots from far away without completely eliminating your FOV.
The tubing is crafted from aluminum. It is completely waterproof, nitrogen sealed, and O-ring sealed. It will work great in wet or foggy conditions. The fully multicoated optical system is capable of transmitting 98 percent of available light through the tubing.
This 8-Point riflescope from Simmons is absolutely ideal for beginners. It's simple, cheap, and impressive considering its price. It relies on a fully coated optics system to deliver the maximum amount of usable light possible while maintaining high image quality.
The Simmons 8-Point has a windage and elevations system that is intuitive and easy to use right out of the box. The objective lens is 50mm in diameter and the magnification adjusts from 3x to 9x with ease. The field of view is 31.3 feet at 3x and 10.5 feet at 9x. Overall, it's above average in all of its qualities but is still outclassed by most of the other options on this list.
Choosing The Best
Choosing the best from the five options above depends on your personal preference. If you're new to hunting and want a cheap, yet reliable scope, then the Simmons 8-point is a great starting scope. But once you have a bit of experience under your belt you will want to graduate to something a little better.
The Nikon and Leupold scopes are both affordable options with their own unique advantages. The Leupold has a large FOV and an Index Matched Lens System that delivers amazing image quality. The Nikon is compact, lightweight, and extremely durable.
At the end of the day, if you want the absolute best scope from the list, then you'll have to choose the Sightron SIII. It's large and heavy, but it's also highly accurate, durable, and easy to use. It has a large FOV, an efficient tube design, and great image quality.