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These days, optics manufacturing and glass quality has gotten so good that there’s an optic for just about every shooting context—from pistols to long guns—and you can use a scope for shooting contexts that you never could before.
However, getting the perfect performance is a matter of using the right optic for the job. And performance is doubly important when it comes to long distance shooting, where precision is king. Since performance is at a premium here, it’s important to know what makes a scope good for long range shooting.
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Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27x56
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Rifle Optic Breakdown
In a nutshell, high quality parts are what make a scope viable for long distance. Here’s a breakdown of the most important parts to consider when buying a long range rifle optic:
Glass Quality and Clarity
When you’re pushing your shooting game out to the very end of your rifle’s capabilities, being able to see the target is imperative. More glass between you and your target means that less light reaches your eye, since each piece of glass reflects or refracts a tiny amount of light. This means that you need the absolute clearest glass to get a clear image at the high magnifications needed for long range shooting.
This one’s easy. Even big targets look tiny at 1000 meters, so the classic 3x9 whitetail isn’t going to cut it when you’re trying to hit soda cans that are so far away that you’ll want to drive down to pick them up. Higher magnification is better.
However, remember that high magnifications with low-quality glass result in poor image quality, so be wary of very inexpensive scopes sporting high magnifications.
For long range shooting an exact reticle is a must. The clearest, most precise reticles are etched directly into the glass of the optic.
Precision Reticle System
A standard crosshair works for a vast majority of ranges. But for excellent precision at long range, you’ll want a reticle with some hash marks to help you make wind calls and adjustments.
Broad Adjustment Range
Some scopes don’t have enough adjustment to handle the huge elevation changes you need to make in order to be on target at extreme long ranges, without changing your zero.
As you can see, it’s all the important parts of your optic that matter for long range performance. It’s no surprise that this quality is reflected in the cost. When it comes to finding excellent long range rifle scopes for the money, try to work out what type of shooting you’ll be doing in detail, before you buy. That way your money goes into the things that you need most in an optic.
The last bit of advice for choosing a long distance optic is a bit subjective, but it’s worth mentioning: MOA vs milrad. As a general rule, both adjustment systems are perfectly capable.
However, the military uses milrad, and just over a half of professional competition shooters use milrad scopes. This obviously isn’t definitive proof that one is better than the other, but that’s how the numbers shake out.
With all that in mind, here are reviews of the top long range rifle scopes of 2018, from most expensive to least expensive.
Reviews: The Top Long Range Optics
Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27x56
In recent years, Vortex has become a favorite among long range competition shooters in both the open and tactical divisions, and many of the top shooters are using Vortex optics. The Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27x56 represents the cream of the crop when it comes to long range rifle scopes. If you’re wondering, “What is the top long range scope on the market?” this could be it, based on the number of top ten competition finishes this model has.
One of the big reasons for Vortex’s emergence in the competition scene is their glass quality. Vortex has some of the clearest glass on the market, and so the Razor offers the clearest image you can get.
Additionally, Vortex uses a proprietary hold-over reticle that delivers top-in-class range and windage estimation, and the most precision at extreme long ranges.
For an optic of this quality, it goes without saying, but the reticle is etched for an excellent clarity in all light conditions.
The Razor is a first focal plane optic, so the reticle remains in proportion to the target at all magnifications. There’s no extra work to do when shooting at different magnifications.
To support the excellent glass and crisp reticle, the Razor also features a 56mm objective lens which collects an absurd amount of light, so you can pick out tiny targets at maximum magnification.
The Razor has adjustment knobs designed for extreme long range shooting, and has a visual rotation indicator so you can track the number of rotations on the turret, which is vital for making adjustments between very different distances.
Of course, all the expected things are in place as well: waterproofing, nitrogen purging, multi-coated glass.
Given the capabilities of this variant, and the ballistic performance of 6.5 Creedmor, this is definitely the perfect long range scope for 6.5 Creedmor shooters, or any long range enthusiast with a high quality rifle.
Trijicon TR23 AccuPoint 5-20x50
Trijicon has an excellent reputation for their reticle illumination and glass quality. Very few companies manufacture self-illuminated optics as well as Trijicon. This is why the Trijicon TR23 AccuPoint 5-20x50 is an outstanding model for long range shooting.
The TR23 features the excellent clarity and light transmission of all Trijicon optics, and there’s no distortion, even at maximum magnification. Additionally, Trijicon uses a 50mm objective lens on the TR23 to ensure that the image quality is superior in all light conditions.
However, the highlight of the TR23 is the reticle. Trijicon offers the TR23 in three reticles: mildot, standard duplex, and Trijicon’s BAC Triangle post. The mildot is the most capable reticle for long range applications, but shooters who prefer a simpler reticle pattern should look into the BAC triangle reticle.
The TR23 requires no battery for reticle illumination, since it’s powered by Trijicon’s fiber optic illumination. Additionally, the TR23 uses a dual illumination system that automatically adjusts the brightness based on the surrounding environment, so the reticle never overpowers the image.
All the standard features are included in the package. The TR23 is waterproof to ten meters, fog proof, and features Trijicon’s proprietary multi-coating on the lenses.Additionally, the reticle illumination doesn’t project any light out the front of the objective lens.
One thing that some may not like about the TR23 is that it’s a second focal plane optic, so the reticle doesn’t retain it’s proportions when the magnification increases. However, many shooters are accustomed to this since there are a lot of second focal plane scopes on the market.
The price point might seem a little bit high, but this might be the greatest tactical long distance optic for the money. Additionally, this is the top long range hunting optic in this article, given the excellent performance in low light conditions.
Millett 6-25x56 LRS-1
Millet isn’t a hugely popular long range scope manufacturer. However, they manufacture high quality optics at reasonable prices. The combination of performance and price makes the Millett 6-25x56 LRS-1 one of the top long range models for the money.
Millett uses high quality, exceptionally clear glass for all of their scopes, but where they add the most value to their scopes is in the specs. The LRS-1 has a massive 56mm objective lens, coupled with an ultra-wide 35mm tube. This gives the LRS-1 amazing light collection and image clarity at all magnifications, and in all light conditions.
Excellent light collection and image clarity pair well with the LRS-1 magnification range. 6-25x is powerful enough for long range precision on very small targets. Additionally, the LRS-1 has no distortion at maximum magnification, which is key for precision at distance.
The reticle is an etched, proprietary design that Millett calls “Mil-DotBar.” The Mil-DotBar reticle is essentially a standard mildot reticle, with additional range bars for faster range estimation. The LRS-1 also includes adjustable reticle illumination to improve low light performance.
For easier range and windage adjustments, the LRS-1 has a come-up scale on the adjustment knobs for more precise adjustments. Related to adjustments, the LRS-1 only comes in MOA. However, the adjustment increment is .25 MOA, so it’s easy to be precise even at extreme long ranges.
Millett did their due diligence and multi-coated the LRS-1 lenses, and made the unit waterproof and fogproof.
The LRS-1 has the right price point and capabilities to be the top long range scope for 300 Win Mag shooters, and those who have solid performing, but lower cost rifles.
Mueller Target 8-32x44
It can be a challenge to find a long range capable scope under $300. However, Mueller has put together an impressive package within the budget price range. The Mueller Target Rifle Scope 8-34x44 is powerful enough to put rounds where you need them at the longest ranges, but affordable enough that you’ll still be able to buy ammunition to shoot.
The Mueller sports a respectable stat line for the money: 44mm objective lens, 30mm tube, and a top end magnification of 34x.
Starting from the top, the 44mm objective lens collects plenty of light for most light conditions. However, the Mueller features very powerful magnification, and at 34x, the image clarity suffers a bit in low light conditions. For competition shooters who do most of their shooting during daylight hours, this won’t be much of a problem. But hunters may find that the Mueller works great for them at lower magnifications once the sun starts to set.
To Mueller’s credit though, the image doesn’t distort at all, even at maximum magnification, there’s just not quite enough light collection to really get a crisp image.
The reticle is an etched mildot, which is ideal for long range shooters who want a reticle that’s going to help them with their estimations and adjustments. Mueller calls the reticle “microfine” which just means that it’s a very thin reticle that minimizes image obstruction so you can see your target better. There’s no reticle illumination, but the reticle is clear, even in low light.
Mueller meets the industry standards for being shockproof, waterproof, and fogproof. The lenses are fully multi-coated. Everything you’d expect from a high-quality scope.
Given the cost and capabilities, the Mueller is definitely one of the most perfect long range optics for .308 shooters. But anyone looking for the ultimate budget scope to get into long range shooting without breaking the bank should check this scope out.
Athlon Optics Argos BTR 6-24x50
There aren’t a ton of first focal plane scopes in this price range. However, Athlon Optics has produced an excellent first focal plane scope that will fit into almost anyone’s budget. The Athlon Argos BTR 6-24x50 is easily one of the easiest buys when it comes to long range optics.
First, the Argos has a nice wide 50mm objective lens, which collects plenty of light for the magnification range. At 24x, there’s no image distortion, or issues with image clarity.
This is largely due to Athlon’s impressive glass quality, which they’ve managed to produce at an insanely affordable price.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Argos has a 6x minimum magnification, which makes the scope very versatile. 6x doesn’t confine the Argos to strictly long range applications.
The Argos is the greatest long range scope for AR15 shooters, and here’s why: the reticle. The Argos features a very capable mildot reticle pattern that provides windage hash marks and elevation bars for faster estimation and adjustments. This, combined with the wide magnification range, provides the versatility that AR15 shooters need.
Additionally, the first focal plane reticle means that the reticle pattern is proportional at all magnifications, so shooters can easily engage at multiple distances and different magnification levels.
Next up is the adjustment options. In addition to the standard adjustments, the Argos also offers parallax adjustment. For many shooters this will be a non-issue. For shooters who need to use slightly higher magnification at shorter ranges, or who shoot from unstable positions, the parallax adjustment will help improve accuracy in those unideal situations.
The Athlon is an excellent all around scope, and could easily be used on a quality bolt gun. But the versatility also makes it excellent for AR15 owners who want an optic that will enable them to hit targets at the very edge of the AR 15 capabilities without sacrificing too much tactical viability.
Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27x56
Serious competition shooters should consider the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27x56. The price is rather high, but this one has literally won shooting championships. However, if you’re looking for a more reasonably priced alternative, the Athlon Optics Argos BTR 6-24x50 is a capable scope at a more friendly price point. Check out this guide for even more options.
Hunters will probably be perfectly served by the Trijicon TR23 AccuPoint 5-20x50. The low light performance, battery-free reticle illumination, and image clarity are ideal for low contrast environments.
Shooters seeking a good entry level optic for competition shooting, or who want a capable and versatile one for multiple shooting contexts should look into the Mueller Target 8-34x44. The combination of price and performance are hard to beat. Additionally, the Mueller is a good jack of all trades for those who want a good optic that’s not too specialized.
Trijicon ACOG 4 X 32
In general, the very high end optics tend to be aimed at competition long range shooters who need to squeeze every ounce of performance out of their optics. However, there are a lot of options for more intermediate shooters or long range hobbyists, especially once you get under $1000.
Most hunters will be very happy with a scope under $500. The most common game is big enough that optics designed to hit three inch targets at 1000 meters will likely be overkill. Additionally, hunting tends to be a bit harder on gear than competition shooting, and it might be a bit painful to go banging around in the woods with a $3000 optic.
Last, but not least, AR15 owners can safely get away with a budget model. The high magnifications of boutique scopes usually look beyond the maximum effective range of the 5.56mm/.223 round.
In fact, if you’re an AR15 owner with a slightly beefier budget, a high-quality tactical optic like the Trijicon ACOG is better suited for the AR15 capabilities. Check out this guide for more information on AR15 optics.
There are a TON of options on the market, but hopefully this guide helped narrow the field a little bit. Now that you know, it’s time to get an optic, and get your firearm out on the shooting bench for some shots.