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Can You Use a Rifle Scope on a Shotgun? Is a Shotgun Scope needed?

There are some occasions where you can use a shotgun to fulfill the job of a rifle. However, when we’re taking a look at add-ons, there are more factors to consider. If you’ve ever wondered if you can use your rifle scope on your shotgun, we’re to help.

Can You Use a Rifle Scope on a Shotgun (1)

There are a few things you need to take into account:

The Recoil

In simple terms, the heavier the bullet, the greater the recoil. If you use a shotgun to fire slugs (larger bullets that have a similar impact to those shot from a rifle) it creates greater recoil, sometimes even bigger than that of a rifle.

You might be wondering what recoil has to do with your scope but a high recoil directly impacts your scope. The impact of the recoil shakes the scope in its place, which over time can affect the accuracy of your aim.

When you’re using a shotgun, you generally need a specific shotgun scope with large eye relief. Such a shotgun scope is usually stronger and less prone to being impacted by the recoil. Since rifles don’t have that much recoil, rifle scopes generally can’t handle the shock and also often don’t have long enough eye relief.  

In order to avoid damaging your scope or affecting its accuracy, you need to gauge the recoil of your shotgun to see if your rifle scope is good enough or you need to obtain a shotgun scope. In most cases, you’ll be better of getting a shotgun scope as you reduce the risk of damaging your riflescope from the forces it’ll experience on a shotgun.

The Eye Relief

Eye relief essentially means the distance between your eye and the scope when you have a full field of view. The eye relief of a rifle scope is shorter than the longer eye relief you get with a shotgun scope. This is because the shotgun has greater recoil and to account for its impact, the eye relief distance has to be designed longer for use on a slug gun.

Since the eye relief of a rifle scope is shorter, if you use it with your shotgun, you run the risk of the scope hitting your eye because of the impact of the recoil. Longer eye relief pushes the scope forward and farther away from your eye.

Check Out Vortex’ Diamondback HP Rifle Scope Series

Scope Bite from too little eye relief

The Range

This is the effective range, or the distance to which your weapon can fire with accuracy. This is determined by the type of weapon and type of bullets being used. On average, shotgun scopes provide accuracy up to a hundred yards, whereas rifle scopes offer accuracy of over three hundred yards.

Since rifles are great for long range shooting, rifle scopes are designed to offer greater levels of magnification. Based on the range they’re more suitable for, the reticles of the rifle scopes are also designed differently. If you use a rifle scope for a shotgun for short-range shooting, the accuracy of your aim will suffer due to unnecessarily high magnification and spaced out crosshairs on your lens.

The Reticle

A shotgun is not built and used to put a single bullet into a target at a large distance. The accuracy you can achieve with a shotgun or slug gun compared to a precision rifle is dismal.

Therefore, having a reticle on your shotgun scope that is designed for precision long-range shooting simply won’t cut it. Due to the rather limited effective range and the spread you achieve with slug guns, you want a simple reticle that allows for quick target acquisition. A straightforward duplex reticle can work very well on your slug gun scope.

The Parallax Adjustment

Parallax error occurs when your target and the crosshairs on your lens are not aligned. The result is a distorted and blurry image.

Some scopes have a built-in parallax adjustment whereas for others you have to adjust your scope manually. Shotgun scopes have parallax adjustment for around seventy five yards or maybe even fifty yards. Rifle scopes offer adjustment of a hundred yards or even more.

Since parallax adjustment is usually a problem in long range shooting, using a rifle scope with your shot gun for short range shooting will not affect the accuracy of your aim.

The Distance

Rifles and shotguns have been designed for different uses. Rifles are generally used for long-range shooting and even over distances, such as a thousand yards! Shotguns are ideal for short-range shooting for a couple of hundred yards. The clarity of your view is affected by the scope you are using.

The Magnification

Magnification varies greatly in rifle scopes and shotguns. Riflescopes offer higher levels of magnification to allow for accuracy in shooting over long distances. If you’re dealing with a fixed scope and the amount of magnification is high, it’ll be difficult to use this scope over a shorter distance.

Shotguns are generally used for shorter distances and don’t need such a high level of magnification. Therefore, shotgun scopes require less power to allow you to aim at nearby objects. They may have a magnification of around 3X whereas the magnification of rifle scopes may go up to 20X because they are generally used for long-range shooting.

The magnification level also determines the complexity of your reticle. This basically refers to whether your reticle simply has crosshairs and a target point or your reticle also allows for factors such as Bullet Drop Compensation (BDC). You don’t need a BDC reticle to fire at short distances.

Rifle Scope on Shotgun

The Shotgun

When determining whether or not you can use your rifle scope on a shotgun, you have to consider the weapon itself. If you’re using a good quality, high-powered shotgun, a basic rifle scope will likely just crack and break, or have a damaged lens.

The Shotgun Load

The kind of bullets you use and the type of shooting you’re involved in can help you determine which sort of a scope to use. If you’re dealing with a moving target at a distance and firing with slugs, a riflescope on your shotgun will help you aim more accurately because of a greater level of magnification.

When using buck shots, a rifle scope can work with your shotgun but will offer an unnecessarily high level of power and magnification. For smaller targets at shorter distances, the magnification level of a riflescope is too high and will blur your view.

Competitive Shooting

For competitive shooting, you want to be able to aim and fire quickly. Shotgun scopes frequently have a single red dot for focusing and you can fire instantly to hit your target – some of them can allow you to aim while you have both eyes open. Since a rifle scope requires a little extra effort to focus, it takes longer to make your shot, so in this case, it is not preferable to use a riflescope.

Mounting a rifle scope on a shotgun

Are There Specific Shotgun Scopes?

While shotgun scopes are available on the market now, they weren’t always an option. In the past, people made use of rifle scopes on their shotguns to fulfill the same job.

The Final Verdict

The overall consensus is that even though a riflescope can be used on a shotgun, it shouldn’t be a first option. You need to take into consideration the magnification, the power, the eye relief and shooting range.

Especially for amateur shooters, it is preferable to use a shotgun scope for more comfortable eye relief and a clearer image.

Ideally, you should have a shotgun scope on hand because you don’t want any problems such as a damaged rifle scope.

Aaron Bennett