With the added challenge and extended hunting season and range for muzzleloaders, I decided to go spelunking to see what I could find about the these models on the market.
I took an in-depth look at the muzzleloader scope reviews and crosschecked them with LOTS of hunting websites, forums, and so on.
Here’s what I concluded (without a shred of personal bias of course):
Leupold makes the clear favorite with unreal durability, versatility, and optics. Leupold scopes live up to their reputation, and all with a mid-range price tag.
It’s top-notch and American-made, and rugged enough for every hunter. No matter your experience, it would be hard to go wrong with a Leupold scope.
OUR BEST CHOICE
Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm Compact
Top 7 Muzzleloader Scopes
How to Pick the Perfect Scope
Don’t Plan on Nice Weather
First off, don’t buy anything that isn’t waterproof. Just don’t.
Bad weather is the thing you can count on most during hunting season, and it’s 2018. Moisture-proofing is such a standard feature that its absence means poor build overall.
I won’t list anything that isn’t waterproof.
Protect Your Mug
Next, look at the eye relief.
Muzzleloaders have made a comeback in part due to the significant, satisfying BOOM, but you need to think ahead, so your scope doesn’t take off your eyebrow.
Anything at 3 inches or shorter might start to spell trouble on your next trip
Muzzleloader Scope or Rifle Scope?
That is the question.
A lot of rifle scopes will work well on a muzzleloader- you’ll just have to change out mounts and double check that your rifle scope will stand up to black powder oomph.
Plus, make sure the range matches your sport (so about 100 yards) and don’t give in to eye relief. Trust me.
Prices Too Good to Be True
Don’t be deterred by a low cost when you’re sifting through the listings. A scope is not a particularly complicated piece of technology, so a cheap price often just means low fuss, not bad quality.
If you like the specs of a value scope even though you started out looking for higher-ticket items, take a quick minute to look through reviews and the warranty policy.
Three extra minutes of the benefit of the doubt could improve your shot and minimize the cost.
Even with all of the material revolutions of late, we still can’t beat glass for clarity, light gathering, and non-warping power. It can be less fragile though, so look for lenses made of glass specifically designed for standing up to a lot of muscle.
Also, consider what you need to succeed on your trip, like anti-reflection. Chances are, there’s a lens coating for it.
A Quick Tip About Range
For most people, this will go without saying:
If you are hunting or shooting short range, skip the scope for now. Your sights will work just fine, and you’ll look a bit ridiculous with all that extra weight mounted for little effect.
These models find their sweet spot at about 100 yards for the most part, although some are talking about 300 yards just to throw down the gauntlet.
Top 7 Muzzleloader Reviews
Traditions Performance Firearms
1×32, Matte Finish with Circle Reticle
This one is definitely the top cheap muzzleloader scope. It’s uncommon in that it provides excellent clarity at 1-power.
It is compact and streamlined to be nonsense-free. With the way it keeps going out of stock, this is an every-man scope- a low price and total ease of use for beginners, and high enough quality to garner repeat customers with lots of experience.
The Traditions Hunter Series Scope provides dead-on accuracy at extreme value and a lot of features that appeal to people looking for a piece that will do the job well without any fuss.
People are Raving About: Extreme clarity and low-light capabilities
Thompson Center Universal
With Mount Kit (sort of) 3-9×40 Multi-X
The specs are all here for this scope: 4-inch eye relief, 36 foot-12 foot Field of View at 100 yards, and ¼-inch click adjustments.
I have to admit; this one is a mixed bag:
The mounts that come with the scope are not nearly as universal as they claim to be. Some people do totally fine with the included hardware, but others have changed it out for Gorilla mounts and the like. This malfunction dings the value score by quite a bit.
However, it’s a “you get out what you put in” situation. I kept the Thompson Center Scope in consideration because it’s a good one, despite the package deal hiccup. People who used different mounts were pleased with this long-lasting, quality scope.
It has fully-coated lenses and a 1-piece build to make it durable and reliably accurate.
People are Raving About: Finding zero in no time flat
Nikon Buckmasters II 3-9x40 BDC
Nikon has built a name for itself off versatility, and this product is no different.
The anti-reflection coated lens and matte black body keep it low profile while it still holds its quality in low-light settings.
The BDC Reticle is an excellent match for hunting with a muzzleloader. Their BDC setup is particularly exceptional with circles instead of dots or hash marks, and only three markers along the six-o’clock line. It guides without going too busy, which is appealing.
Designers at Nikon kept you and your firearm in mind with 4-inch eye relief, which I think is a right “sweet spot” between having your eyebrow taken off and feeling like there’s more eye relief than an actual scope. Plus, the ¼-inch click turn adjustments (at 100 yards) keep your setting locked, even with recoil.
Finally, with their lifetime warranty and O-ring obsession, they mean waterproof and fogproof (and shockproof).
People are Raving About: The Buckmaster’s ability to hold zero until the end of time
Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm Compact
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t include a Leupold scope in my gatherings (this whole list could probably be Leupold if I weren’t really going for the full array of pricing and sophistication).
We know them, and we love them, so I’ll try not to carry on too much here…
This scope just doesn’t know wear and tear. With a 1-piece body and their Diamond Coated lenses, the Leupold scope is built to last.
The Duplex Reticle is clean for fast target acquisition, and the 4.2-inch eye relief adds that extra bit of insurance when it sits atop a smokepole.
This particular scope isn’t their most expensive or cutting-edge but doesn’t fall behind others, so I would consider the VX-2 3-9×40 to be the ultimate Leupold optic (since I had to pick just one).
People are Raving About: You name it. The Opinions are more like songs.
Primary Arms 1-4X 24 Illuminated Scope
Online retailers would not let me ignore this scope, so I allowed it a spot on the list. You’ll know what it’s about when it’s plastered at the top of every page you browse. Plus, the price is nicely in the median range, so it warrants a look.
The little red dot in the center of the reticle requires a specific battery, but there are also traditional crosshairs for when you don’t want to waste battery, or don’t need to. It’s a surprisingly clean view given that its primary advertising feature is that it lights up.
As promised, it’s waterproof (extra necessary given the electronic component), and provides excellent clarity, especially compared to other variants in low light.
People are Raving About: The clarity at 1-power
(it fisheyes a little at first but it’s easy to adjust to)
Nikon INLINE XR BDC 300 Riflescope
With the debate between traditional vs. inline muzzleloaders, I decided to hunt down a scope just for the modern inline camp. Even with a shiny silver space laser blaster look, the Internet has dubbed this Nikon the greatest inline scope.
The designers issued a challenge to you by designing this one specifically with 300 yards in mind, and it’s accurate enough to help you make that shot. It zeroes in only a few shots, and the drop compensation works.
The spring-loaded turrets instantly reset zero, even after some lively recoil and ¼” MOA adjustments hold steady on smokepoles.
As usual, it’s got all the lens coatings you could dream about. It is Nikon after all.
People are Raving About: A picture sharper than real life, the way they tell it
Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7x32 Riflescope
This is another one-piece body design, which bodes well for durability and moisture proofing.
Coatings were added to prevent reflection between the tube and the glass lenses, but it didn’t deduct from its ability to pick up light for excellent clarity. Add that to the unique magnification range, and Vortex has put a very intriguing product in the running.
Just for fun, the design includes 9.45-inch eye relief. You’ll be able to use your trusty iron sights as a backup if the situation calls for it.
The reticle is plain and versatile, and the second focal plane reticle is lined up ideally.
Vortex runs a consistently excellent outfit, so those perfectionists won’t let you be unhappy with your scope.
People are Raving About: So-called superiority over Nikon AND Leupold
(but I’ll believe that when I see it)
Our Best Choice
Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm Compact
Like the Russians in figure skating, there was never a chance that I wouldn’t throw my weight behind my Leupold VX-II 3-9×40 pick as the top contender out of all of the muzzleloader scopes I combed, checked, and cross-checked.
Leupold consistently designs the most surefire scopes to make your shot, and the Leupold VX-II 3-9×40 is the perfect middle option from their line. To me, it’s lived up to its fanfare, and the all-American company is not going to stop turning out dependable quality anytime soon.
The VX-II 3-9×40 is a tried and tested fan favorite, and it’s the perfect amount of scope to mount on top of your firearm to finally make the ideal, dead-on shot when you head out for those un-crowded early days of hunting season.