When it comes to bolt guns, it’s easy to get caught up in putting all the best hardware on the rifle, really dialing in the trigger, and perfectly balancing the whole chassis. Then it comes time to put a scope on it, and you’re left feeling a bit overwhelmed trying to find the perfect optic for your perfect long gun.
This can be a bit of a conundrum, but there’s a good method for choosing a scope that will match your rifle and meet your needs. Here’s how you do it:
Choose a scope based on your shooting context
Chances are, you bought a rifle that has some sort of specialty. The goal of adding a scope to your rifle is to enhance the characteristics that make your rifle specialized. Look at the main things you want your bolt gun to do, and attach a scope that makes it do those things better.
For instance, if you’ve built a rifle for extreme long range target shooting, look for a scope with strong magnification and a reticle that will help you make range and windage calculations.
A good place to start when selecting a scope is with the round that your rifle fires. Some rounds have longer maximum ranges than others, and flight paths vary from round to round. Getting a scope that matches the performance of your round will help you really focus your optics on the shooting context your rifle specializes in.
This way, you’ll get a scope that does all the things you want, without paying for features you won’t use. Another guideline that will help you in this area is to spend up to half as much on your scope as you did on your rifle.
If you need more details on scopes, you can check out our guide .
With that all dialed in, let’s check out which scopes are best for each of the most common rifle rounds!
Best scopes for a .308 rifle
The .308 Winchester is a solid all-around rifle cartridge for hunting medium to large game, and has been a favorite for military and hunters alike for a few decades now. Here’s why this round is so popular:
Good long range capabilities
The .308 isn’t quite as high performance as the .300 Win Mag or the 7mm Rem Mag, so a good scope is a wise investment if you plan on shooting .308. Overall, the .308 offers a mix of value and power that’s great for most medium game hunters and target shooters.
Best value scope for a .308 rifle:
Nikon Buckmasters II 3-9x40 BDC. H4
Nikon has been making lenses for a long time and has a reputation for ultra-clear glass, which is what you want in a rifle scope. The Nikon Buckmasters II 3-9×40 BDC offers Nikon clarity and quality at an outstanding price.
The first thing that stands out in this scope is the clarity. Nikon uses their own proprietary lens system and multicoating to deliver 92% light transmission and an incredibly bright and clear image, even in the dusky light. The clear glass combined with an ample 40mm objective lens makes this scope a solid choice for hunters and competition shooters who often shoot in low light.
The Nikon also has a BDC reticle that’s designed for rapid target acquisition and range estimation, which is perfect for hunters who need quick and easy shots at multiple distances.
The eye relief and zeroing system are more than adequate for a .308 rifle. With the long eye relief, this scope could easily be mounted on a rifle with heavier recoil and is tough enough to hold a zero even if you’re the type who’s rough with their gear.
The Buckmasters scope is also completely waterproof and nitrogen purged. This means the lenses won’t fog, and water won’t get inside the scope even if you frequently hunt in bad weather or wet climates.
The only drawback of the Nikon is that it’s difficult to focus at ranges under 30 yards. Even at 3x magnification, the image isn’t very clear at short ranges, so this is probably not the scope for shooters looking for versatile, tactical performance.
Nikon prices this one far below half of what any .308 rifle costs, but the Buckmasters scope is perfectly capable for hunting the medium game that the .308 round is best for, and hitting targets at the far end of the .308 performance curve.
Best overall scope for a .308 rifle:
Vortex Optics Diamondback HP 4-16x42
Over the last decade or so, Vortex Optics has become a major player in the rifle scope world. Their quality control and glass clarity is impressive, and rivals that of major lens manufacturers. Vortex Optics delivers outstanding scopes at quite reasonable prices, which is one of the reasons the Vortex Optics Diamondback HP 4-16×42 scope is king for .308 rifles.
The Vortex has incredibly clear glass and great image quality at all ranges and magnifications, which is perfect for hunters who hunt small and medium game and competition shooters who need to engage multiple sized targets at varied ranges.
Another thing that gives the Diamondback great image clarity is the large objective lens. 42mm is wide, and lets in a lot of light for good dawn and dusk shooting capabilities.
For a reticle, the Diamondback employs a BDC reticle. Vortex uses hash marks instead of circles for their BDC reticle, which is nice because it’s less obstructing to the field of view. The BDC reticle is excellent for shooters who use overholds to shoot at multiple ranges quickly, without making range adjustments.
The eye relief is 4 inches, which is comfortable for any type of stock, and long enough that this scope could be mounted on a high-recoil rifle. The Diamondback is sturdy, and holds its zero well, which is just another thing that makes this scope a good fit for larger calibers.
Something else that’s nice is the adjustment options the Vortex offers. In addition to the standard adjustments, the Vortex also offers adjustable parallax, which is a nice perk for a scope in the Vortex’s price range.
One drawback of this scope is that it’s pretty heavy. For hunting and competition shooting, this isn’t too much of an issue, but if you’re going to be running around with your rifle a lot, you may want to look into a lighter option.
The last thing to note is that Vortex uses very durable and thick lens coatings, which is good. However, the multicoating does give the lenses a very slight green hue. Most of the time, this is a non-factor. However, in low contrast, brushy environments, it can be a bit tricky to focus the scope.
The Vortex comes with an unbeatable warranty, and is definitely the most bang for your buck when it comes to optics for a .308 rifle.
Best scopes for a 30-06 rifle
The 30-06 round was the standard U.S. military rifle round for several decades before the .308 replaced it. However, the military didn’t drop the 30-06 because it lacks power or performance. The 30-06 round is still one of the most popular hunting and sporting rounds. The long Here’s why this round has persisted since the early 1900’s:
- Good ballistics and long range trajectory
- Powerful enough to hunt most species of game.
- Manageable recoil for most shooters.
The 30-06 is capable of reaching out to pretty long ranges, and it’s unlikely that you’d be able to really capitalize on the capabilities of this round without decent optics, so mounting a quality scope on your 30-06 rifle should be a priority.
The Vortex Optics Diamondback HP 4-16×42 is a good choice for a 30-06 rifle as well, but here are a couple other options to broaden your horizons:
Best value scope for a 30-06 rifle:
Nikon 6729 Prostaff 4-12x40
Nikon shows up a lot in the search for good optics. The Nikon 6729 Prostaff 4-12×40 is one of Nikon’s core scopes that offers an attractive blend of performance and value built with the quality you’d expect from a manufacturer as storied as Nikon.
The Prostaff offers the superior glass clarity and image quality that you’d expect from Nikon, with a lens system and multicoating that transmits 98% of the collected light to the shooter’s eye. This, combined with a wide 40mm objective lens, provides excellent low light performance and focus in low contrast environments.
Nikon fitted the Prostaff with their standard BDC reticle, which features an unobstructed field of view, and quick range estimation for shooters who frequently take shots at different ranges and need to shoot faster using overholds rather than making range adjustments.
The eye relief is 3.7 inches, which is plenty for the 30-06 recoil, and rifles with custom stocks. Additionally, the Nikon adjustment turrets are locking, and won’t drop a zero even if you roughhouse with your rifle.
4-12 magnification is high enough to take advantage of the range capabilities of the 30-06 round, and the Prostaff presents a clear image at all magnifications and ranges. This is ideal for hunters and competition shooters who need to use their rifle at shorter ranges without any degradation in performance.
The Prostaff comes with industry standard nitrogen purging and waterproofing for dependable, fog-free use in humid climates and rainy or snowy weather. This is especially useful for hunters who have year-round hunting seasons.
One last perk of the Prostaff is the inclusion of Nikon’s Spot On Ballistic Match Technology, which is software that calculates the exact aiming points on the BDC reticle at various ranges for your specific round. This means easy zeroing, and flexibility to use the Prostaff on multiple rifles if you need a one-and-done scope for all your hardware.
The Prostaff hits a sweet spot for scopes in terms of price and performance that’s ideal for shooters who might be on a tighter budget but still want a high-performance scope.
Best overall scope for a 30-06 rifle:
Leupold VX-2 3-9x40 Compact
Leupold is one of the oldest and most reputed rifle scope manufacturers in the world, and has been a favorite of the military for decades. Leupold scopes are equipped with the clearest glass and best lens coatings available, and their quality control is impeccable. The Leupold VX-2 3-9x40 Compact is part of Leupold’s flagship line of scopes, and brings a lot to the table.
The VX-2 is designed specifically for outstanding image clarity and brightness. Leupold index matches their lenses, so the VX-2 has incredible light transmission and presents a sharp image that makes it easy to focus even in low contrast environments, and in low light conditions.
Additionally, the VX-2 lenses are coated with Leupold’s proprietary DiamondCoat. This multicoating makes the lenses scratch resistant as well as anti-reflective. This is good news for shooters who are hard on their gear.
The reticle is the Leupold duplex reticle, which is designed to present an unobstructed field of view. The reticle is more compact than a standard duplex reticle, so it doesn’t interfere with target acquisition, while being clear enough to make accurate shots.
Although the duplex reticle isn’t as ideal for overholds as a BDC reticle, the VX-2 has a custom dial system of raised elevation dials so that you can make quick range adjustments when you need to take shots at different distances.
3-9 power magnification isn’t as great as some other scopes, but 9x is adequate for use with a 30-06, and 3x is low enough that short range shots are easy. For competition shooters and hunters who need versatility more than they need extreme long range performance, 3-9x magnification is ideal.
Leupold uses an argon/krypton purging process to waterproof and fogproof their scopes, which they say also prolongs the life of their scopes because the gases are more inert than nitrogen. The VX-2 is a good choice for shooters who need all-weather performance, and could even outlive your rifle.
In the end, the VX-2 wins because of the performance and durability it delivers within a very accommodating price range.
Best scopes for a 300 Win Mag rifle
30 caliber is kind of the sweet spot for long range rifle rounds, and there are a number of options to choose from, but very few have the range and power of the 300 Winchester Magnum. Winchester introduced this round in 1963 as a more powerful alternative to the venerable .308 and 30-06 cartridges. Here’s what makes the 300 Win Mag ideal for large game hunting and tactical applications:
- Excellent ballistic performance
- Long maximum range
- Powerful enough for long range big game hunting
The 300 Win Mag has an exceptional reach, and with good shooting skills is capable of reaching the 1000 yard line. In order to experience this sort of performance, though, a good scope is essential.
Here are the top scopes for a 300 Win Mag rifle:
Best Scope for a 300 Win Mag rifle:
NightForce SHV 5-20x56
NightForce is one of the boutique scope manufacturers and specializes in producing scopes that offer top of the line performance for high dollar rifles and extreme long range shooting. The NightForce SHV 5-20×56 definitely fits into the boutique scope category.
NightForce is known for their glass clarity, and the SHV follow this trend. The image is sharp and bright at all magnifications, and there’s no distortion even at the edges of the lenses. This presents easy focusing in low contrast environments and is especially nice for spotting game at long distances.
A 56mm objective lens is huge and gathers tons of light for low light shooting. Exceptional light transmission makes this scope ideal for shooting and dusk and dawn and contributes to outstanding image clarity at maximum magnification, which is great for extreme long range enthusiasts.
NightForce offers a huge selection of reticles for the SHV, both illuminated and non-illuminated. Most of the reticles are variations of a standard duplex reticle. There is a MOAR reticle option with an illuminated center for shooters who want a reticle that has range and windage estimation hash marks.
Magnification is also a talking point for this scope. The 5-20x range is excellent for big game hunters and competition shooters who primarily work at very long ranges. 5x is low enough for medium range shooting but might be just a tad too powerful to be comfortable for short ranges.
The SHV offers an incredible diversity of adjustment options. Everything can be adjusted. Eye relief, parallax, and illumination (if you get an illuminated reticle) can all be dialed in to suit your shooting style.
The eye relief maxes out at 3.54 inches, which is plenty adequate for a 300 Win Mag with any custom stock options, even if it is shorter than some lower priced models.
In conclusion, the NightForce is definitely the scope for you if you’ve built a boutique rifle designed to hit small things from very far away.
Best scopes for a 300 Blackout rifle
The 300 Blackout was designed to improve on the performance of the ever popular .223/5.56mm round without necessitating too much modification of a .223/5.56mm rifle such as an AR 15. The 300 Blackout delivers a bit more power than a standard .223/5.56mm round, with the added benefit of being better suited for use with suppressors. The 300 Blackout has seen increased use by military and law enforcement in recent years, and is becoming a popular civilian sporting and 3-gun round as well.
Here’s why the 300 Blackout is gaining popularity:
- Can be used with almost all standard AR 15 parts (except barrels)
- Excellent performance in both supersonic and subsonic applications
- Increase power over the .223/5.56mm
Since the 300 Blackout is more of a tactical round than a long range round, it requires less powerful optics, and some shooters might prefer an unmagnified sight. Since most 300 Blackout rifles are AR style long guns, it’s possible to use a standard AR 15 scope on your 300 Blackout rifle.
Can link to the “Best AR 15 scopes” article here.
Best Value Scope for a 300 Blackout rifle:
Nikon P-300 SuperSub Reticle
Nikon designed the Nikon P-300 SuperSub Reticle for use with subsonic and supersonic rounds so that you can add a suppressor to your 300 Blackout rifle without needing to change your optic. This is handy considering that the 300 Blackout is one of the best rifle rounds for subsonic use.
The P-300 lenses are fully multicoated and as clear as you’d expect from Nikon glass, delivering 98% of gathered light to the shooter’s eye. Even though the P-300 isn’t a high magnification scope, a sharp image is key for fast target acquisition and tracking in the high-speed tactical shooting.
For a short-range tactical scope, the Nikon has a fairly wide, 32mm objective lens. This lets a lot of light in and provides ample low light performance for dim tactical environments. Additionally, the generous light collection means a crisp image at maximum magnification for situations that call for long range precision.
The reticle is Nikon’s proprietary BDC SuperSub Reticle which is optimized for performance with both supersonic and subsonic ammunition. For shooters with detachable suppressors that shoot both types of ammunition, this will save a lot of time. It should be noted, that you will still need to zero the scope for both types of ammunition.
Nikon keeps the magnification low for better tactical performance. 2-7x is low enough that short range shooting shouldn’t be an issue, and the most powerful setting should be plenty for the capabilities of the 300 Blackout round and most tactical shooting. To support the 7x magnification, the P-300 reticle also has aiming points for ranges out to 600 yards.
Another thing that Nikon added to make the P-300 more tactically viable is a quick focus eyepiece for quickly bringing the reticle into focus when you shoulder the weapon quickly. This is ideal for shooters who need to move and shoot a lot.
Like all Nikon scope, the P-300 is compatible with Nikon’s Spot on Ballistic Match Technology, so you can easily determine the zeros for your subsonic and supersonic rounds.
The P-300 is a very affordable scope with a lot of value in terms of versatility and the tools that Nikon provides with the hardware. Additionally, this is a great scope to hot swap on your standard AR 15.
Best Scopes for a 22LR rimfire rifle
The 22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge is one of the oldest rounds still in use. The 22LR was developed in 1887, and is still wildly popular, despite the hundreds of other rounds that have come and gone since the 22LR was born.
Some find the fact that the 22LR persists a bit baffling because it’s viewed as underpowered for most shooting contexts. However, the 22LR has a few characteristics that make it hard to give up. Here’s why the 22LR has been around for over 100 years:
- Really cheap.
- Incredibly manageable recoil that’s great for competitors and beginners.
- Excellent versatility as a training round.
The people who shoot 22LR the most tend to be beginners and competitors. 22LR is super easy to shoot, and not intimidating for new shooters. Competition shooters love the 22LR for the price and controllability.
Some competitors use conversion kits on their 9mm or .45 competition pistols so they can use 22LR as a cheap training round to save money. Then, for certain types of pistol competitions, 22LR is a good choice because it’s accurate enough for pistol ranges and easy to control.
One of the most popular rifles in the U.S. is the Ruger 10-22. This is the most common 22LR long gun, and it’s a great sporting rifle if you’ve got the right optics. Here are some great options if you want to get the most out of a 22LR firearm:
Best value scope for a 22LR rifle:
Bushnell Optics Drop Zone-22 BDC Rimfire Reticle
Bushnell is a household name in the shooting industry. They’re known for delivering high quality optics at affordable price points. So, it’s unsurprising that the Bushnell Optics Drop Zone-22 BDC Rimfire Reticle offers the best value when it comes to scopes for 22LR rifles.
While the 22LR isn’t considered a long range round by any stretch of the imagination, it’s still capable of making shots at 100-150 yards with the right optics. Bushnell glass is clear enough to use at much longer ranges than 150 yards, so the Drop Zone is perfect for anyone looking to do some serious plinking.
Most people don’t really use the 22LR as a low light hunting round, but if you like to get to the range early or maybe stay a bit late, the Drop Zone has a 32mm objective lens that collects plenty of light for any casual (or even serious) low light shooting.
The thing that makes the Drop Zone special for 22LR shooters is that it has a BDC reticle that’s specifically designed for the 22LR round, so it’s easy to zero and use the range marks for precision shooting out to 150 yards. Using the BDC reticle also makes it easy to shoot at varied ranges without making range adjustments.
The Drop Zone has a fairly long 3.7 inch eye relief, which is far more than enough for the minimal recoil of the 22LR. However, the longer eye relief does make it easier to bring the reticle into focus. To make it even faster to focus on the reticle, the Drop Zone also has a fast focus eyepiece, which is super handy if you use a 22LR gun for rapid fire competition shooting.
There are also a lot of adjustment options on the Drop Zone. This is a really nice feature for a scope at this price point. In addition to the usual elevation and windage adjustments, the parallax is also adjustable. This a real perk in a value scope, and makes it even easier to hit small targets at long ranges. Varmint hunters and competition shooters will appreciate the parallax adjustment.
The Drop Zone is o-ring sealed to protect the internals of the scope from bad weather, and nitrogen purged to prevent fogging. However, Bushnell hasn’t rated this scope as waterproof, so it may not be the best for shooting a lot in really bad weather.
For the money, the Drop Zone is the best bet for any 22LR long gun, and will help you get the most from your 22LR shooting excursions.
Best scopes for a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle
6.5 Creedmoor is one of the rising stars of the extreme long range shooting game. The 6.5 Creedmoor was originally designed as a long range competition round. For this purpose, the 6.5 Creedmoor is the cream of the crop.
However, the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge has also become a favorite of deer hunters and tactical shooters as well. What’s more, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a solid round for beginners, and they’ll never outgrow it. Here’s why the 6.5 Creedmoor is rapidly gathering a fanbase:
- Ballistically superior to the .308
- Ballistically equivalent to the 300 Win Mag
- Manageable recoil
- Powerful enough for tactical shooting and hunting
The 6.5 Creedmoor has some impressive capabilities, and even though it’s becoming more popular, it’s not a particularly cheap round. So you definitely want to be getting the most from every shot. In order to ensure that you’re getting the most from this specialty round, it’s a good idea to invest in a quality scope.
Here are the top options for 6.5 Creedmoor rifle scopes:
Best value scope for a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle:
Vortex Optics Viper HS-T 6-24x50
The 6.5 Creedmoor is a long range specialty round, so it makes sense that the scope you put on a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle should be a specialty optic. So even though the Vortex Optics Viper HS-T 6-24×50 is a bit on the pricey side, it’s the best value in terms of getting the most from your high-performance rifle.
Vortex markets the Viper HS-T (Hunting Shooting Tactical) as a multi-purpose scope that can fill a variety of shooting contexts. The Viper holds up to this claim. To start, the glass is high quality and the image is clear at most magnifications, more on that below. However, even if it’s not perfect, the Viper is still an excellent choice for medium to large game hunters and competition enthusiasts.
For light collection, the Viper employs a big 50mm objective lens, which brings in enough light for excellent low light performance, even in low contrast environments. Conversely, the Viper also comes with a sunshade to reduce glare during daytime shooting. Hunters will have no problem spotting animals through the Viper.
As for magnification, the magnification range itself is excellent. 6-24 power is plenty for even extreme long range shooting, and more than enough for typical tactical and hunting engagement distances. However, at the higher magnifications—18x or so—there is a bit of image distortion. In most conditions, the distortion isn’t an issue.
Extreme long range competition shooters might find that this makes it tricky to hit small targets while using the scope at maximum magnification, and hunters may experience some trouble identifying game in the very low light.
Vortex offers MOA and MRAD versions of the Viper, and they both use the VMR-1 reticle, which is Vortex’s version of the MOAR reticle. The VMR-1 reticle is good for windage and range estimation and makes it possible to shoot using overholds for quicker shots, but it does obstruct the field of view just a bit.
The eye relief on the Viper is 4 inches, which is perfectly adequate for the 6.5 Creedmoor recoil, and custom stocks. Additionally, 4-inch eye relief is comfortable for shooters who spend a lot of time looking through their scope to spot game or make range and windage calculations.
Vortex nitrogen purges and waterproofs all their scopes, so the Viper delivers fog-free performance in humid climates and wet weather, which is perfect for avid hunters and shooters who get out on the range, rain or shine.
Even though the performance isn’t perfect, the Viper offers excellent performance and is specifically tuned for 6.5 Creedmoor ballistics, so it’s a slam dunk for any 6.5 Creedmoor rifle.
Best scopes for a 17 HMR rifle
The 17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire was designed in 2002 as a more powerful and more accurate alternative to 22LR. The 17 HMR is build on the old 22 WMR casing, and is one of the most powerful and accurate rimfire cartridges on the market today.
17 HMR isn’t a large game hunting round by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s excellent for target shooting and varmint hunting. Here’s why the 17 HMR has become popular in recent years:
- High velocity
- Flat trajectory
- Longer range than 22LR
- Necked casing offers improved reliability
While the 17 HMR has several performance advantages over the 22LR, it’s more expensive, and louder than the 22LR. However, for competitive sporting and small varmint hunting, the 17 HMR is definitely a round that should be on your radar.
The Nikon Buckmasters II 3-9×40 BDC is an excellent option for 17 HMR rifles, but it’s already been mentioned, so here are the scopes that will help you get the most from your 17 HMR rifle:
If you’re concerned about the price of a scope, keep in mind that most scopes can be mounted to any rifle, as long as they are zeroed correctly. The only exception to this rule is scopes that are designed for specific rounds.
So, as you evaluate scopes and look for the best scope for your particular setup, it’s often a good idea to get a scope that you can put on more than one rifle, which will save you a bit of money.
In the end, even the best hardware can’t overcome poor shooting. If you’re on the fence about which scope to buy, buy based on your budget, and use the extra cash to buy more ammo for training to maintain your balance between skill and equipment.