If there’s a favorite rifle cartridge in America, it’s got to be the .308. Few cartridges can improve upon the King, the .30-06, although from a military perspective the .308 (7.62x51mm), and the 5.56 is just too tiny to take the top slot. Among hunters, there’s no comparison the .308 Winchester is by far the most common hunting round in the United States.
No other cartridge is universally chambered in rifles from as many manufacturers as the .308 and no other cartridge enjoys the same number of loadings or specialized optics being made for it. It truly is the king of cartridges right now.
Table of Contents
- How to Choose a Rifle Scope for a .308?
- Best Scopes for .308 Rifles - The Best of the Best on the Market
- 1 NightForce SHV 5-20x56mm Riflescope
- 2 Nikon P-308 4-12x40 Riflescope, Matte, BDC 800
- 3 UTG 3-9X32 1" BugBuster Scope, AO, RGB Mil-dot, QD Rings
- 4 Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35 Riflescopes
- 5 Nikon M-308 4-16x42mm Riflescope w/ BDC 800 Reticle
- 6 Bushnell AR Optics 4.5-18x40mm Rifle Scope
- 7 Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm Compact Riflescope
- 8 Vortex Optics Viper HS-T 6-24x50 SFP Riflescopes
- Features You’ll Want
- The Verdict
How to Choose a Rifle Scope for a .308?
If you’re looking for a new scope whether it’s for a short-barrelled FN SCAR, an exotic tikka ctr or your standard Browning X-bolt, there’s an excellent new scope out there tailor made for your .308. Here’s a few tips and tricks to choose the best 308 scope for your rifle and a few recommendations if you’ve never bought a scope before.
Size & Weight
Over the years optics have been getting lighter and lighter. At the same time manufacturers are able to come out with optics with larger and larger objective lenses. In fact, it’s not uncommon these days to see AR 15’s outfitted with scopes that have 56mm objective lenses. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the larger and heavier your scope is, the more of a hindrance it is going to be in the field.
Determine the relative size of the objective lens you need before you go shopping. If you have never bought a scope before this can be difficult. One of the most important things you need to know is that a larger objective lens gathers light better than a smaller one, but also remember that the quality of the glass inside the objective lenses matters more than the overall size.
The difference in performance that you gain from a 40 mm to 56 mm objective lenses is negligible if the lenses inside have subpar coatings. Same goes going for a 1 inch tube to a 30 mm, rarely is it worth the increase in weight and size for the average shooter.
Everybody has a different tolerance with the amount of weight they are willing to carry, but for a .308 rifle anything heavier than 8 pounds isn’t necessary. Unless you are assembling a rifle solely for bench rest shooting and competition. A lightweight rifle is going to be easier to travel with, easier to clean and at the end of the day more enjoyable to shoot. Lightweight and compact rifles are especially important for hunters.
The budget that you set out for your rifle scope should be proportional to the rifle that you’re shooting. Obviously, if you have a new Ruger precision rifle you can afford to spend money on something a little nicer than an inexpensive fixed power scope.
The goal is to use a magnified optic to get as much performance out of your rifle as possible. Depending on the rifle you have, and the job you want to do this can require $300 or $1300 or even more. Most scopes these days cost under $500 and even the absolute best in the industry offer options costing under $1000. Many people would be hard-pressed to not find a totally usable scope for $300.
Your budget is going to be extremely personalized but to get the most out of it consider buying for major manufacturers, not boutique brands. You don’t want to go with a cheap fly-by-night import company, but not paying for brand name is a great way to start off ahead.
Many of the major manufacturers but especially Leupold, Bushnell, and Vortex offer exceptional value priced optics all three of which have purpose made .308 Winchester scopes for under $300. These scopes can be used at ranges in excess of 800 yards. It’s all about what you are willing to use and the type of scope you want.
The great thing about shooting a .308 is that you can have literally anything you want. From holographic sights made to be as inexpensive as possible but still have BDC reticle, all the way up to extraordinarily specialized tactical, military style scopes designed to be able to hit targets as far away as the moon.
Determine what you’re going to be doing with your rifle before you go shopping. That is the best way to make sure that you stay within your budget, and that you buy a scope that you will be happy to use a year from now once all of the newness has worn off. The aim is to get a scope that maximizes the usefulness of your rifle.
At a minimum, look for a scope that will shoot the distances that you want to shoot, and a package that you are willing to carry all day long. It is very easy to buy a scope with twice as much magnification as you need, but you’ll instantly regret it the first time you go hunting.
Small features like BDC reticles, second focal plane reticles, rugged exterior coatings, sunshades, and other small refinements can be had for virtually no trade off in cost. Larger features like target turrets and 30 mm tubes can double or triple the cost of the scope and make it much more difficult to carry in the field. Determine whether or not it’s worth it to you.
Best Scopes for .308 Rifles - The Best of the Best on the Market
1 NightForce SHV 5-20x56mm Riflescope
If there’s an optic company out there for quality, it’s NightForce. No other company on planet earth can hold a candle to their tactical long-range style optics. Built specifically for people who have very high demands for their equipment, NightForce provides a product that can do what others can’t.
This is one of the best scopes for people looking for a decent blend between tactical features, and cost. When it comes to long-range precision shooting, optics get more expensive than any other product needed. Forgoing custom turrets and illuminated reticle, you get this excellent scope for much cheaper than other products offered by NightForce.
The 4:1 zoom ratio tops out at 20x magnification with a 56mm objective lens at the end of a 30mm tube. This scope features a laundry list of proprietary and specialized features that can be found of the manufacturer’s website and product sheets.
The best part of the scope is the high quality, fully armored and fully multicoated lenses that are just about as bombproof as you can get, many features on this scope are only really applicable if you are shooting out to 1000 yards and beyond.
If you have a bench rest rifle set up, built around a custom Remington 700 or Savage Action taking advantage of this scope will be easy. However, if you have a common hunting rifle like a Ruger American Compact or Remington 783, this is not an appropriate scope for those rifles.
If you’re willing to put up with the high cost and difficult learning curve of getting the most out of all the features of the scope, you will enjoy some of the best performance money can buy in the optics industry.
2 Nikon P-308 4-12x40 Riflescope, Matte, BDC 800
Nikon makes the widest array of optical equipment of any major manufacturer, they use that expertise of manufacturing industrial optics to bring down the prices on nearly all their products. For the money, Nikon offers the best optics in the industry.
This is their P-308 riflescope designed around a 1-inch tube and 40mm objective lens. The fully multicoated lenses are excellent, and the entire scope is much more lightweight than competing models that offer a full 12x magnification.
By far the best part of this rifle scope is the intelligently designed BDC reticle. The BDC reticle included on the scope is what made Nikon’s optics famous. It’s a simple calibrator reticle designed to be used with a .308 rifle out to 800 yards.
If you are going to hunt with a rifle or do informal target shooting, this is an excellent scope to get plenty of performance for the money without going overboard on features. The scope is well-balanced and cost-effective for just about anybody who will be using the rifle for general shooting or hunting.
3 UTG 3-9X32 1" BugBuster Scope, AO, RGB Mil-dot, QD Rings
For people who are looking for the ultimate budget .308 riflescope, this is one of the most proven on the market. It is loved because of its low price and high functionality. For people who buy lower price rifles like the Ruger American, they don’t necessarily want or need a very high-quality scope.
With this scope, you get all the benefits of a magnified optic but get an extremely simple fully multicoated design out of the box. It includes quick detach rings and an illuminated red, green and blue mil dot reticle.
Designed to run a 1 inch tube and 32 mm objective lens this scope is also slightly smaller than many other similarly strong riflescopes. Use this rifle scope if you’re looking for the cheapest option out there and a great value for the money. Any of the other scopes that come in at less than this one in cost and often do not have the durability needed for a .308 calibre rifle.
4 Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35 Riflescopes
Trijicon has become an iconic optics manufacturer. Being one of the main suppliers of the US military and other NATO forces, their ACOG product line has become one of the most successful tactical optics in history. When it comes to outfitting an AR 10 .308 rifle with an effective and supremely reliable optic, nothing beats an ACOG.
The primary draw the scope is its rugged simplicity and bombproof construction. This model combines a highly effective BDC reticle with 3.5x magnification and 35 mm objective lens. The fibre-optic and battery backup illumination make sure that you are never without illumination.
While this is certainly much heavier than other options on the market, not to mention much more expensive, It does combine some of the most proven technology in the world with a standardized mount that makes it easy to incorporate on any standard rifle.
This optic shines in the 0 to 500 yard range on short and light carbines that need a fast optic for snap shooting. Some people find this optic to be lacking in performance for anything other than snapshots or plinking, but for a bombproof go to war optic there’s nothing better.
5 Nikon M-308 4-16x42mm Riflescope w/ BDC 800 Reticle
Many of the products that Nikon makes are generally good for just about everything. There M series of riflescopes are designed to be used in military and law-enforcement applications. This makes them great for target shooting and long-range hunting.
This rifle scope, in particular, incorporates a 4-16x magnification range and 42mm objective lens. Fully multicoated lenses, waterproof, fireproof and shockproof performance make this a reliable optic for shooting. What sets this rifle scope apart from other Nikon designs is the incorporation of zero reset target turrets.
This rifle scope lacks specialized features that make a true long-range and tactical riflescope but does bridge the gap between a standard optic and some of the specialized features offered on more expensive scopes. Consider this best scope at around under $500 if you are going to be shooting out between 500 and 800 yards and want a few features to make it slightly easier.
6 Bushnell AR Optics 4.5-18x40mm Rifle Scope
Bushnell is known for making some the most cost-effective and cheap rifle scopes on the market. You can always count on Bushnell to provide you with value for your money. Many of their riflescopes feature proprietary designs and technologies that you can take advantage of for not a lot of money.
This scope is a perfect example of the years of experience the Bushnell has in creating purpose driven optics, put into a single scope. Made specifically for AR 15 an AR 10 pattern rifles, or any semi-automatic tactical carbine, this is an exceptional rifle scope for anyone looking to range out with a .308 calibre modern sporting rifle. Whether you have a Bushmaster, DPMS or Daniel Defense rifle, you can get this scope on there and enjoy the performance upgrade.
Designed with innovative features like a proprietary BDC reticle made for fast follow-up shots, and a massive 40 mm objective lens not common to scopes made for AR 15’s, this is a great option for someone looking for a forward thinking and innovative design.
7 Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm Compact Riflescope
Sometimes you just can’t be a classic. Leupold makes traditional bare-bones optics for people who want a classically designed riflescope with modern technology built into it.
With this rifle scope, you get a classic VX-2 suite of features that Leupold is known for. Namely, fully multicoated lenses, high quality optical prism, and excellent simplicity for the money.
Built to run a classic and versatile 3-9x40mm layout of magnification objective lenses, you can’t get any better than this rifle scope for deer hunting or general shooting. This is a great riflescope for anyone looking for the best scope to shoot under 800 yards.
8 Vortex Optics Viper HS-T 6-24x50 SFP Riflescopes
Vortex make some the best hunting optics on the planet. Specifically, for hunting and tactical use, their optics are some the most rugged and are backed by one of the best warranties in the business. That alone makes them a great option when you are looking to use the rifle in hard use situations.
There are also known as being one most innovative, forward thinking companies on the market. Their Viper HS-T lineup of rifle scopes is one of their premium offerings, is also one of the best rifle scopes on the market for a .308 rifle.
Build from one piece of aircraft grade aluminum and featuring a 1 inch tube, with a 50mm objective lens and a 6-24x magnification range, this is certainly not a scope that you will use for close range plinking but is a perfect long-range hunting rifle scope.
Features You’ll Want
Depending on the type of rifle you have, and the particular type of job you have it in mind for you’re going to want a number of different features to get the most out of your scope. The market is littered with specialized and proprietary technologies that make scopes more effective in the field and make rifles easier to use. Here’s a list of some of the features that you may want on your scope:
#1. Specialized Coatings
The new frontier of scope customization is proprietary and specialized coatings. What this means, is that manufacturers are now incorporating the designs is the filtering the light that allows you to better see your target space in which will be shooting at.
For example, a scope marketed specifically for a deer rifle will have coatings that filter out red wavelengths better so that you can see brown colored animals easier in the brush. For target shooters, this means a filtering of light that better allows you to see shades of black and gray at long ranges in low light.
These specialized coatings are not available from every manufacturer, and only on select models but if you are going to buy a high-end rifle scope made for a specific purpose, this is a feature that you will definitely want to take advantage of. It may seem like a small detail, but it can certainly make a difference at the very edge of shooting light or during competitions.
#2. Target Turrets
Target turrets are difficult to recommend. Mostly because they have a steep learning curve that many shooters never master. The use of target turrets in competitions is standard practice but for hunting they are nearly never used. Depending on the type of hunting or shooting that you are going to be doing, the use of target turrets may be extremely important.
Take into account the skill level of the average shooter. Most people can get by with standard turrets because the associated weight, bulk and cost of adding even standard target turrets to a scope outweighs any benefit they provide.
However, if you are willing to put the time in to properly learn how to use target turrets and are willing to invest the money, especially a custom set up like Leupold can provide, you can have greatly increased precision at long-range.
#3. BDC Reticles
If there’s one feature that you should never pass up on given the opportunity, it’s a BDC reticle. A BDC reticle is designed to utilize the site picture on your scope to allow you to reliably predict the arc of your bullet at known ranges.
While they are never dead on, even when custom-made, they provide a reliable point of aim at multiple known ranges. In years past, they were difficult to use under pressure but many of the designs being used today are very easy to pick up on an offer an easy way to range out.
The BDC reticle rarely adds any weight, bulk or cost to a Riflescope and for .308 Win the designs have been all but perfected for use in the field and on the battlefield.
Unless you will be shooting with large custom target style turrets, opt for a BDC reticle that is easy to use and clean in appearance. When you first start shooting you may not appreciate the utility of it, but over time once you start shooting further distances with holdovers, you’ll love it.
#4. One Piece and Quick Detach Mounts
Depending on the type of rifle that you have, be it a Remington 700 or DPMS LR you’re going to need a mount and ring combination that works for your rifle. In the old days, this might have been a dovetail style mount made for your rifles action, and a set of rings.
With the advent of everything tactical we have access to excellent one piece, quick detach mounts on the market. If you are shooting a long-range AR style rifle, consider a quick detach mount that you can easily transition to backup iron sights. For anyone shooting a precision rifle, a one-piece mount is highly recommended.
A one piece features rings and base milled from one solid piece of material. This leads to tighter tolerances and less moving parts in your set up. It allows you to bed the mount to your rifle action securely and get the best performance from your set up. They’re not much more expensive than high-quality legacy designs but are well worth the money.
#5. Fast Focus Eye Piece
Get a rifle scope with a fast focus eyepiece and generous eye box, this refers to the position of your eye in relation to the objective hole of the scope. If you ever look through a scope and seen a black donut ring rather than a clear sight picture, you know exactly what this is. Having a fast focus eyepiece with generous eye box means that you won’t have to have your eye perfectly aligned to get rid of all parallax.
Scopes with very precise eye boxes are difficult to shoot through because you have to be extra sure each and every time you shoot that you are positioned directly behind the scope, perfectly. Small differences left and right, or up and down in relation to your eye in the scope can lead to being off target by several inches at long-range. Avoid this by using a scope with an easy to use eyepiece and eye box. In all but the most critical long-range rifle setups, you won’t notice any degradation in performance.
#6. Generous Eye Relief
If you’re not going to be using your rifle solely for bench rest shooting, get a scope with generous eye relief. This is especially important if you are going to be using your scope on a scout rifle setup like you would for an M1A. Having generous eye relief means that you can have your head positioned at varying angles on the stock and still get the same effective sight picture from your scope.
This is exceptionally important if you’re going to be using your rifle for hunting, or as a lightning fast carbine. Having critical eye relief means that you have to set up each and every shot the exact same with your cheek weld. This can get very tedious and may slow down your shooting if you are not always going to be shooting from a very stable rest.
Scopes with critical and close eye relief are more likely to lead to scope bite and injuries due to the scope hitting you during recoil. Choose a scope with generous and noncritical eye relief for anything other than a sniper style rifle setup.
#7. Warranty & Customer Service
Nothing in terms of outdoor equipment gets quite as expensive as optics. Small differences in quality and features can amount to several hundred dollars once your scope is installed on your rifle. If you’re going to invest that amount of money into your equipment, make sure you’re going to protect it.
Most every major manufacturer on the market offers some sort of warranty to back up their product. Make sure the company that you are going with is well-regarded terms of customer service and honoring these warranties. The last thing you want to do is buy from a cheap fly-by-night import company that is going to leave you hanging when your scope breaks.
The American firearms industry is known throughout the world as one of the best in terms of customer service and support, take advantage of domestic manufacturers whenever possible.
When it comes to choosing a rifle scope for your .308, there are a multitude of different decisions to be made. Before you go shopping, carefully consider the type of rifle that you have in mind and the job that you want it to do.
With the amount of products on the market today, it’s difficult to understand the differences between each and every one of them. Each scope is going to allow you to do different things with your rifle, be it hunt in the thick brush or shoot out beyond 1000 yards.
In the end, riflescopes are very personal decision and are as much an art as they are a science. Knowing how a riflescope is going perform in the field while sitting in the showroom can be difficult if you are inexperienced. Your preferences will change over time and that’s okay.
After all, who doesn’t want an excuse to buy more equipment? Just get the best scope for .308 that you can afford, get it on your rifle and get in the field. The best scope in the world won’t do you any good if it’s sitting in your gun safe.