Shooting long range is one of the most rewarding sports that is continuing to grow in popularity. If you’ve been paying attention to the trends in modern shooting sports you will have noticed that manufacturers are offering more and more heavy barreled rifles chambered in magnum calibers suitable for long range shooting. Constant innovation and development is also injecting new and ever more efficient and effective long range and specialist precision ammunition into the market to satisfy the ever increasing demand for long-range precision shooting.
There are several areas that a shooter needs to consider that includes, but is not limited to, caliber selection, optic selection, magnification range, zeroing, first focal plane (FFP) verse second focal plane (SFP), and understanding the difference between minute-of-angle (MOA) verse milliradians (MIL). Let’s look at some of these considerations and provide you a list of the best long range scopes that you may what to continue to research.
October 2019 UPDATE: the range of long distance shooting disciplines available nowadays is so diverse that there isn’t just one scope that we can recommend so as well as giving you tips on the features to look for in an ideal long range scope, in this updates article we will discuss the best rated long range scopes available at every price point as well as a few manufacturers who are particularly well known for producing the very best rifle scopes for long range shooting. We've also chosen to add some new products in this list of the best rated long range scopes included: Primary Arms Silver Series 4-14x44 R-Grid 2B, Primary Arms Platinum Series 6-30x56mm Riflescope and Zeiss Victory V8 2.8-20x50.
If you’re in a hurry and don't have time for the details, here are our best picks for Long Range Scopes:
- 1Nightforce Optics 5.5-22x56 NXS Riflescope
- 2Primary Arms Platinum Series 6-30x56mm Riflescope
- 3Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II 5-25x50 FFP Riflescopes
- 4Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II FFP Riflescopes
- 5Leupold Mark 4 ER/T 6.5-20x50
- 6Zeiss Victory V8 2.8-20x50
- 7Schmidt and Bender PM II High Power 5-45x56mm (34mm tube)
Table of Contents
- What is Long Range?
- Selecting a Rifle
- How to Choose a Scope for Long Range Shooting?
- Best Long Range Scope Brands Worth Looking At
- Best Long Range Scope on the Market Review
- Long Range Scopes for Under $500
- Long Range Scopes for Under $1000
- Long Range Scopes Over $1000
- 1 Nightforce Optics 5.5-22x56 NXS Riflescope
- 2 Primary Arms Platinum Series 6-30x56mm Riflescope
- 3 Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II 5-25x50 FFP Riflescopes
- 4 Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II FFP Riflescopes
- 5 Leupold Mark 4 ER/T 6.5-20x50
- 6 Zeiss Victory V8 2.8-20x50
- 7 Schmidt and Bender PM II High Power 5-45x56mm (34mm tube)
- 6.5 Creedmoor vs 308 WIN vs 30-06
- How to Sight Rifle Scope for Long Range?
- How to Adjust Scope for Long Range Shooting?
- How to Shoot Long Range Accurately?
- Question & Answer
- In Closing
What is Long Range?
It’s worth defining what long range shooting is before we consider which scopes might be most suitable. 120 meters might be long range with a .22 rim fire that you might normally use at 50 meters and there are so many centre fire cartridges available now with vastly different ballistic characteristics and performances that there is no single distance that can be classed as ‘long-range’. 500 meters is long range for a .223 while a .308 can be effective in practiced hands up to 1000 meters and a .338 Lapua magnum or .300 Win Mag can reach out even further.
Selecting a Rifle
The foundation to accurately shooting long-distance is the rifle. Deciding between a bolt action or a semi-auto rifle can be difficult and should be determined on your need. If you are interested in extracting the most accuracy out of your rifle, the bolt action rifle is arguably the more accurate platform.
However, if you are more concerned with a faster firing rate for hunting or competition, a semi-auto is your best option. As mentioned, even though bolt action rifles are inherently more accurate does not necessarily mean that semi-auto rifles cannot compete. You can still get extremely precise rifles based on the AR-15 platform.
How to Choose a Scope for Long Range Shooting?
#1. Objective Lens
Every scope obviously has an objective lens but what should you be looking for in a scope for long range shooting? The purpose of the objective lens of a scope is to gather light which forms the image you see when looking through it.
The larger the objective lens the more light the scope can gather making it more useful for shooting in low light conditions such as at dusk and dawn. Also a larger objective lens gives a larger field of view making it easier to track and spot targets.
Even for long range shooting though you don’t need the largest objective lens on the market. All things being equal, a larger objective lens will provide you with better low light performance and a larger field-of-view but they can also change the balance point of your rifle and add weight and bulk. For long range shooting though this added weight shouldn’t be a major issue as generally your shots will be taken from rested positions on a bipod or rest.
#2. 30mm Tube
30mm tubes are sometimes found on some of the more expensive, high end scopes. These aren’t strictly necessary for long range shooting but the extra 4mm of tube diameter over and above the standard 26mm (1 inch) scope tubes can allow these scopes to be built more robustly and to fit larger internal lenses for improved light transmission and image quality.
They do not automatically increase brightness though, as many assume, as the exit pupil of a scope is determined by the magnification and objective lens of the scope not the diameter of the tube.
This will be a feature to consider for the really serious shooter looking for the very best scope money can buy.
#3. BDC Reticle
BDC reticles tend to be most useful on rifles intended for use at multiple ranges rather than for dedicated long range shooting. They allow quick and easy adjustment using the integrated additional aiming points for shooting at different ranges without a need to adjust the scopes zero or estimate hold-over or windage adjustments.
These reticles are designed specifically for a certain calibre though and can’t easily be switched from rifle to rifle. Many times, people have changed ammunition or found himself hunting at a different elevation and found that there aiming references were several inches off what they were expecting. This can be disastrous to a hunt or competition.
BDC reticles are most commonly produced for rifles chambered in multipurpose cartridges such as .223 and .308. If these cartridges aren’t what you shoot at long range though you can shop around for other suitable reticles and some manufacturers will produce custom reticles to your specifications.
Leupold and most custom shops will take your load data from a given cartridge and rifle combination to produce a custom turret and BDC reticle combination to perfectly suit your requirements. This is becoming more common and cost-effective all the time, don’t be afraid to take advantage of this technology.
These reticles add no measurable complexity and zero weight to a rifle scope so certainly can’t be discounted on grounds of bulk or difficulty to use. Consider though that if you are setting up a scope and rifle combination specifically for long range shooting a BDC reticle may be redundant as you won’t be switching ranges a lot and will have time to accurately range find your targets and make corrections if you do need to engage targets at multiple ranges. Bear in mind as well that the additional markings on a BDC reticle may just obscure targets at extreme long range.
#4. Target Turrets
Target turrets perform exactly the same function as the standard windage and elevation turrets on your scope except that rather than being quite small and unobtrusive and accessed by unscrewing a small cover to allow you to make adjustments they are large and marked for easy adjustment. They make adjusting for windage and elevation much simpler and once these adjustments have been made you don’t need to guess at how far to hold over or adjust for wind.
Making accurate adjustments does require that you know the exact range and wind speed that you are shooting but the same is true of a BDC reticle and target turrets combined with a standard uncluttered reticle allows for a much clearer sight picture at long range.
Range and wind calculation and adjustment is all part of the skill set of a long range shooter and finger adjustable target turrets makes the most of those calculations allowing them to input them into your scope and take a calm, considered shot without having to hold over, under or to one side of a target, once you’ve made your target adjustments you can just aim dead on. These turrets also allow you to easily return the settings to your ‘zero’ range ready for another shot under different conditions.
A potential downside is the tendency for overly large turrets to snag on your kit and undergrowth they won’t snag any more than the rest of your rifle.
While it may be awfully tempting to get as high magnification a scope as you can afford remember the magnification of a scope is not the most important feature. Being able to zoom in to a target can allow you to be more precise but it also increases the cost of your scope, makes it heavier and the higher the magnification the larger objective lens will need to be to get the same amount of low light performance. It will also mean that you have a smaller field of view when you zoom in.
With zoom ratios of 6:1 becoming commonplace on sporting scopes, and especially tactical scopes, you can take advantage of true 3-18x power scopes that will cover about all the bases you need for both close and long range shots. However, these scopes are expensive and heavy compared to contemporary 3-9x or 4-12x power scopes.
When determining how much magnification you need consider the size of your target as well as the range, shooting squirrels with a .22 long rifle might require higher magnification, maybe 12x, even if you only ever fire shots at a maximum range of 50-100 meters due to your quarry’s small size and requirements for precise head shots.
Shots taken with a .30-06 at elk and moose might be taken at twice or three times the range but the significantly larger size of your quarry means that a low power optic like 6 or 8x magnification will probably be sufficient in most situations.
#6. First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane
Finding a quality scope can seem to be impossible to wade through the mountain of products available. The first way to cut through the products that you do not want is to determine what focal plane you want your scope. In simple terms FFP scopes will have a reticle that is slaved to the magnification. As you increase magnification, the reticle will increase. In comparison, SFP scopes have a reticle that is static and will not change in size as the magnification changes.
FFP optics are best used for long distance shooting due to the ability to use the measurements on the reticle to determine distance. In addition, as you use the reticle to compensate for bullet drop and windage, you will not have to be concerned about setting your scope at a specific magnification. The measurements will remain accurate regardless to the power the scope is set at.
Some may believe that SFP scopes are not as accurate as FFP and that is just is not true. An optic is just an extension of the shooter’s eye and good fundamentals will translate into accuracy regardless of the focal plane. SFP optics are better suited for standard duplex style reticles. Bullet drop compensated reticles is a good work around for SFP scopes compared to FFP; however, you usually have to have the scope set to a specific magnification.
Leupold Live - First Focal vs. Second Focal
#7. MOA vs. MIL
The basics of MOA and MILs is that they are both an angular measurement. A MOA is a measurement is 1/60th of a degree or approximately 1.047-inches at 100-yards. For sub 600-yard shooting, MOA has been used as a 1-inch per 100-yards measurement to quickly calculate bullet drop or windage. However, the .047-inches that is left off will catch up with you after 600-yards; especially when making a precise shoot at 1000-yards.
Conversely, a MIL is 1/1000th of a radian or approximately 3.6-inches at 100-yards. For Americans, MILs can seem overly complicated since they are used to thinking in inches and yards. However, with just a little practice and patience, MILs actually can be very intuitive to use. In addition, fine tuning elevation adjustments, or dope, can be more precise at distance.
Neither are going to be better than the other simply due to how we individually conceptualize distance and mathematical calculations. MOA measurements may be easier to understand for some while MILs might be easier for other. Ultimately, you will want to ensure the measurements of your reticle match your turrets for easier calculations.
#8. Fixed vs. Variable Scopes for Long Range Shooting
There are pros and cons to both styles of scopes; however, recommending one over the other will naturally depend on the purpose of your rifle. Should you want to shoot competition or extreme long-distances, a variable optic may be a better choice as you zoom in or out transitioning from target to target. One item of concern would be the time it would take to adjust the magnification ring as you just from near to far targets.
In comparison, a fixed powered optic will do well for targets less than 800-yards for benchrest shooting. The major concern with fixed powered optics, depending on the its magnification, is acquiring near targets may be difficult. The magnification could be too great to transition to targets at, or near, 50-yards from further distances.
Best Long Range Scope Brands Worth Looking At
Schmidt & Bender
Schmidt & Bender is one of the premier scope manufacturers and won a major contract with Special Forces Command in 2011 for the Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) program. This German company has been focused on quality and consistency for 60 years that has earned S&B an ISO 9001:2000 certification. S&B specializes in producing optics for hunting, target shooting, law enforcement and military applications. One aspect that makes these scopes some of the best is that all their products are assembled by hand. While hand assembly will limit the number of scopes that can be built, it does put more emphasis on quality and reliability.
One of the major contenders to Schmidt & Bender for the SOCOM PSR program was Nightforce. Prior to the PRS trials, NightForce had received several government contracts due to them building a name as being the most rugged scopes on the market. Their quality scopes have been extremely sought after for over 25 years since the company’s inception. Shortly after the turn of the century, Nightforce unveiled their NXS series of which has been their most popular offering for military and civilian use. A point of pride for Nightforce is that their scopes have been frozen, shot with a shotgun at 7 yards, and used as a hammer and was still operable.
Producing scopes since shortly after World War II, Leupold has built a name for being extremely reliable. Marcus Leupold was extremely frustrated by missing a shot on a deer and decided he would attempt to produce the best optic possible. The company was founded in 1907 making surveying equipment and has not stopped focusing on precision since. Leupold is another company that has been seen fit to receive government contracts to equip rifles for the US Army, Secret Service, Navy SEALS and Israeli Defense Forces.
Vortex is fairly new in comparison to the other brands that are being recommended; however, that does not mean it is a lesser option. This American company manufactures a verity of scopes, binoculars, and spotting scopes. Their products have consistently provided quality and reliability for many applications. Vortex is routinely used by hunters, competition shooters, recreational shooters and military/law enforcement as the company continues to grow. A great pro to Vortex optics is that it is one of the more affordable and accurate options available.
Zeiss is a German based manufacturer of sport and hunting optics and has been producing optical systems since 1846. The Victory series is their most popular scopes and are entirely made in German. Much like Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz, Zeiss’ popularity is due to the German consistency in their manufacturing processes. One of the interesting aspects of Zeiss is that they focus on sport/hunting optics. These allows them to provide a single function optic that should be exactly what hunter needs.
Primary Arms (PA)
Primary Arms (PA) is the newest manufacturers on this list; however, that does not make them any less viable as an option. They have some of the most affordable optics on the market that will suit most budgets. Even the “high-end” options are still well below the cost of one of its competitors.
Best Long Range Scope on the Market Review
Now that you know what features to look for in a scope for long range shooting let’s look at some of the products that are out there; we’ll split these recommendations up into sections determined by budget from high end, spare no expense scopes to lower priced options that should fit anyone’s budget. We’ll start with the budget offerings
Long Range Scopes for Under $500
While scopes can be had for just a couple of hundred dollars serious long range target shooting requires a serious consideration of your equipment and any scope under $500 is a fairly cost effective option as long as it performs. These scopes punch well above their weight and offer excellent value for money.
1 Vortex Optics Crossfire II 6-24x50 AO, SFP Riflescope
This scope represents the best value that Vortex Optics has to offer long-range shooters. It inherits many of the innovative technologies that Vortex has pioneered for their more expensive models but has done something to sell this at a lower point.
All of the quality you can expect from premium products is present in this budget scope and the lenses, glass and the scope it ‘self appears to be just as durable as any high end scopes. This is a second focal plane scope and the fully multicoated lenses are amazing. It is water, shock, fog, and dust proof and features a dead-hold BDC reticle.
Great video on How to use Vortex Dead Hold BDC Recticle?
With turret adjustments and even side focus parallax adjustment, everything seems to be here. If you are after good quality scopes for under $300.00, this is probably a good place to start. These are one of Vortex’s best-selling optics for a reason.
2 Athlon Optics Argos 6-24x50 Rifle Scope
Out of left field came a company called Athlon. No one had heard of them but they were offering a scope with all of the features you would expect on a high-end optic but for a fraction of the price. As with any new manufacturer people took time to warm to them but they have now cornered the market of budget long range scopes.
Amazingly, the glass is nearly as good as some of the best scopes on the market. It is fully multicoated and paired with a huge objective lens. This combination maximized brightness and contrast for those low-light or dreary days. These are options normally seen on high dollar scopes.
The most common places for cheap rifle scopes to skip is in durability. Athlon didn’t do that with the Argos. It is fully waterproof and even purged for fog and condensation resistance. It handles shock well, even from the heavy recoil of magnum calibers. This package is very comparable with higher priced scopes but at a fraction of the price.
This is also a first focal plane scope with an etched reticle and turret adjustment. Just like all of the major long range scopes. It has a mil-dot reticle that seems to be accurate. You would be seriously hard pressed to find any other optic at this affordable price that could do the same.
3 Leupold VX-R 3-9x40 Patrol Rifle Scope
There is no doubt that this all American company produces some of the best scopes in the world. Leupold has been the go-to choice for many military units and police departments for decades. While many people think you need massive magnification for distance that really isn’t true. Most sniper rifles max out at 10x making this 9x scope a hairs width shy of rifles known to be accurate to that 1000 yard mark. For your 5.56 or 7.62x39 rifles, this is all you will ever need.
This fine optic also features a proprietary illuminated firedot reticle. This aids you with shot placement and combines very well with the low-profile turret adjustments to get you right on target. Of course, being a Leupold you will have no issues with water, fog or anything else getting inside the sealed and argon purged tube.
This scope was designed for patrol use and is tough as nails and hard wearing. One of these days, you will be passing this on to your kids in still perfect condition.
4 SWFA SS 10x42 Tactical Riflescope
If you are looking to get extra value out of your scope, this is the one for you. At this price point it is hard, if not impossible to find higher quality. This scope is a fixed 10 power scope, and by simplifying the design the manufacture can provide you with premium components at a budget price. The main tube is 30 mm in diameter, giving you plenty of room for adjustment when you plan on reaching out to extreme ranges.
This scope offers tactile and accurate turrets that allow you to make mRAD adjustments to the tenth of a mil at a time, giving you pinpoint accuracy for that first shot hit that long range shooters are looking for. The parallax adjustment is from 10 meters to infinite to further improve accuracy at extreme ranges. The reticle is relatively simple to look at which helps the shooter focus on the target, but the mil dot graduations built in do provide plenty of information for quick point of aim adjustments without moving to the turrets.
Since this is a fixed power scope, there are far fewer components that can be damaged, possibly giving this scope the title of the most rugged product on this list. A scope of this quality will be perfectly at home on a tactical rifle, a hunting rifle, or a long range precision rifle. While this scope may not have all of the features included in a variable zoom optic, you cannot buy a better built product for less money.
5 Primary Arms Silver Series 4-14x44 R-Grid 2B
Primary Arms (PA) is one of the best budget scopes available. PA has continued to increase the quality and variety of scopes to suit your specific need. The 4-14x44 R-Grid 2B scope is a great example of this and is a great starter scope. The Japanese HD glass creates a bright and crisp image that would be comparable to scopes twice as expensive. This scope is built with heavy duty 6063 aluminum and is shock proof, waterproof and is as tough as a tank.
The heart of this scope is the R-Grid 2B reticle. The Christmas tree style reticle has a mil-dot gird for precise hold overs. In addition, the R-Grid 2B reticle also uses PA’s chevron center surrounded by a horseshoe border for quick target acquisition. It also features .1MIL subtensions on either side of the horseshoe for exact holds or when using for range estimation. For the money, Primary Arms Silver Series 4-14x44 scope is one of the best values to reach out to the vaunted 1,000-yard goal.
Long Range Scopes for Under $1000
1 Vortex Optics Viper HS-T 6-24x50 SFP Riflescopes
The Viper HS-T from Vortex Optics is a 6-24x50mm scope that packs as much optical power into a package as possible. Offering outstanding value for the money, there is more proprietary technology in the scope, than most any other on the market that all comes together to make one of the best long-range shooting packages you could hope for.
This scope uses premium fully multicoated, extra-low dispersion lenses to bring out the most color fidelity and highest-quality resolution possible. The XR coatings on this scopes optics provide enhanced light gathering and the combined armor tech coating protects the lenses from scratches and where.
Exposed target turrets are constructed for precise finger adjustable clicks. The CRS zero stop system allows for reliable return to zero after dialling in temporary elevation in windage corrections. Great for a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle or for .300 Win Mag that may be used for shooting at multiple ranges and require a lot of adjustment for different shots.
The four acts zoom ratio provides as much versatility as possible while combining side focus parallax adjustment to dial in very small details for very long range shooting. The fast focus eyepiece has non-critical eye relief and allows you to quickly adjust the reticle to your eye.
The scope is made from a single piece of aircraft grade aluminum and is double O-ring sealed and hard on purged to make the scope rugged and dependable, like all Vortex products. This is a simple and reliable rifle scope that is available in three different models, a hunting model, a shooting model, and a tactical.
It offers several different reticles and one of the best long-range optics for hunting and shooting on the market, dominating almost all other scopes for under $1000.
2 Nikon Black X1000 6-24x50 Riflescope
After decades in the optic industry, it is hard to deny that Nikon knows what they are about. With more combined years making lenses for everything from cameras to telescopes, they have it down to a science. The Nikon Black is their attempt to bring all of that knowledge to a rifle scope and they have done a marvelous job!
Straight out of the gate, the optical quality of the Nikon Black series is astonishing. They have a full set of multicoated lenses combine with a perfectly sized objective lens to give you a vibrant and clear image. Combined with a massive 24x magnification, this second focal plane scope can reach as far as your rifle can.
All Nikon scopes are made to stand up to the worst conditions including rain, cold, fog, and even blowing dust. With it’s sealed and purged interior, there is no doubt that this scope will do the same. It may not be the tank-tough optics of some brands but with a little caution, you will have a scope for a lifetime.
With adjustable parallax focus, great eye-relief, and zero-reset turret adjustments combined with either a MOA or MRAD reticle, this is a purpose built tool for the long range shooter. While I would hesitate to call this a cheap long-range rifle scope, I would say it is easily one of the best values on the shooting market today.
3 Bushnell Elite Tactical 6-24x50
Bushnell has been in the optics game for long enough to have it all figured out. They produce a large range of optics, some of which have not been the highest quality. That changed when they made the dedicated Elite Tactical line of scopes.
Bushnell uses their own proprietary multicoat technology combines with good glass to create lenses that optimize light transmission and color. You get a very bright, high contrast image even in low light conditions. The lenses filter color maximizing your ability to distinguish your targets at the ranges this scope can reach.
One of Bushnell’s only first focal plane optics, this scope has an etched mil-has reticle that is perfect for beginning long range shooters. Combined with oversized turrets for easy adjustment of windage and elevation, this scope has everything you need for ultra-long range shooting. It also makes long range varmint shooting quite fun.
Not only has Bushnell upped their quality, they did the same with durability. The Elite Tactical is tough as nails, waterproof and sealed against fog and condensation. This scope will perform in places you would never willingly go. Bushnell deserves a standing ovation for what they have delivered with their best scope to date.
4 Swarovski Z3 4-12x50 BRH Reticle
Swarovski have one of the best reputations of any premium scope manufacturer and to get a scope like this for under $1000 is an absolute bargain.
While it doesn’t have the magnification of some of the other scopes listed here it is plenty for most mid to long range shooting scenarios and this model features a reticle which will aid in making adjustments for range. With Swarovski products you get glass and coating which are second to none and which will last you a lifetime.
5 Millet LRS-1 6-25x56 Illuminated Riflescope
Millet is one of those companies that you don’t hear of frequently, they seem to have fallen out of popularity. This is really a shame as their scopes have always been great quality. This does mean that you can pick them up quite cheaply at the moment.
With is 25x magnification, this is almost an overpowered scope and capable of keeping up with the most demanding calibers. If you are after something to mount on a rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor or any of the long range magnums, this is a very good choice. It happens to be a personal favorite for shooting with the .300 Win Mag.
While Millet uses glass that is not known to be as good as some premium brands, they do fully multicoat their lenses for enhanced light transition. The enhanced clarity and brightness are noticeable. When combined with the illuminated reticle, you get an optic that functions perfectly from dawn to dusk.
Like any optic should be, the Millet LRS-1 is water resistant for those times the weather might not be great for hunting but you are out there anyway. The lenses may fog if you take it from warm to cool quickly but with a little time, they usually clear up.
For a tactical scope, this is a solid performer and one that won’t break the bank. If you are for good long range scopes for under $1000, this is one you should consider.
6 SWFA SS 3-15x42 Tactical Rifle Scope
If you demand rock solid durability and crystal-clear glass from a brand you can trust, for under $1000, this is the scope for you. This optic is rated to withstand the recoil from .50 caliber rifles and will make a perfect addition to either your next precision long range set up, or your new anti-material rifle.
As with other SWFA products, this scope is often compared to comparable Leupold and Vortex products. The benefit of this scope is it is less expensive than both of those and it has clearer lenses. One of the notable points of this scope is the coating used on the lenses that is designed to enhance contrast and make spotting your targets easier.
The turrets and the reticle are both set in mRAD, so you can feel confident using both for adjustments either in the scope or on the fly. The turrets track perfectly, and SWFA states that you can get 36 mils of elevation adjustment with the turrets once you’re zeroed, but some sources say they have gotten even more than that. This means your scope will far out-shoot nearly ever rifle cartridge in current production.
At this price point, this is probably not a selling feature, but is a very nice addition. The scope does come with a throw lever for the power ring included making transitions to different targets faster while saving you an additional expense for the luxury. I would recommend this scope as an excellent addition to rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmore, .338 Lapua Magnum, and some other long-range boutique cartridges so you can take full advantage of the long range capabilities this scope provides.
Long Range Scopes Over $1000
1 Nightforce Optics 5.5-22x56 NXS Riflescope
Standing above the competition, the NXS series of scopes are the hallmark of NightForce’s lineup. They use only the toughest, high quality materials and the best technology to produce a scope unequaled by other consumer level companies. The only place you will find better is in contract companies like USA and you can expect to pay upwards of $3000.00 for such an optic.
With what is simply some of the best lenses produced today, they do everything to make sure the view is perfect. Multi-coated glass and parallax adjustment paired with a large diameter objective lens, you get the best there is. If you want big range, this is the scope you need.
Simply put, the NXS MOAR reticle is one of the fastest and most accurate you can get. It does take a little practice to read well. This is an illuminated reticle that is high contrast and easy to see making low-light or overcast shooting at long distance possibility.
Fully shock resistant up to the heaviest calibers and sealed to prevent water intrusion or internal fogging, the NXS can take the abuse. Enough so that several countries have recently opted to use these for their sniper rifles. From the punishing cold of northern Canada to the Middle East, these have seen service from hunters and military alike.
You don’t get on the top of this list by producing an inferior product. Claiming number one is a matter of doing everything right. No matter what you want to use it for or where you plan to take it, the NXS will outperform 99% of the optics available no matter the climate or conditions.
2 Primary Arms Platinum Series 6-30x56mm Riflescope
Primary Arms recently launched their Platinum Series of riflescopes to directly compete with higher end models. The Platinum Series has been a huge success for PA with the line-up capturing not only the low power variable optic market but also the long-range shooting market. The 6-30x54mm scope is a great example of that. To provide flexibility to PA’s customers it is available in 4 different reticle offerings in the DEKA, HERA, ATHENA and the ACSS HUD DMR.
The DEKA MIL set-up is PA’s take on a standard mil-dot duplex reticle with .1 MIL graduations from 0 to 2 MILs and .5 MIL graduations after. The HERA set-up is the MOA Christmas tree reticle with graduations similar to the DEKA. The ATHENA is the MIL sister to the HERA reticle. And finally, PA’s patented ACSS HUD DMR reticle which is their long-range version of the ACSS reticle.
The Platinum Series scopes were designed to give the shooter the best possible optic for half the price of the premier scope manufacturers. The Japanese HD glass provides some of the crispest and bright images available for a scope under $1500. Couple the glass with the 56mm objective lens and shooting at dawn or dusk will not be an issue. With all of these features, it is no wonder that Primary Arms is the best alternative to Nightforce and S&B.
3 Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II 5-25x50 FFP Riflescopes
Vortex Optics is one of those companies that came out of left field. They were unknown until they started dealing out scopes that were far better than the competition for half the price. While the costs have normalized to the market, they are still one of the best values in optics today.
In the case of the Viper, you get a scope that has fully multicoated lenses and an etched first focal plane MRAD or MOA reticle. These are features found in the highest end military scopes that cost thousands more than a Vortex Viper.
With the capability of taking anything from your AR 15 all the way up to the most powerful magnums out to their maximum range, this is the scope you need to maximize the ballistic potential of any cartridge. Rifles like the M1A and AR 10 are perfect candidates but this would match well with any bolt-action rifle as well.
With turret adjustments, you can narrow down your error to get you on target at the farthest ranges you will ever shoot. This combines well with some of the best glass you will ever get for the money.
Nitrogen purged and sealed, this is a fully water, dust and fog proof optic that can handle any conditions you feel up to shooting in. Simply put, it is one of the toughest scopes on the planet and backed with unusually good customer service.
If this is the first time you have heard of Vortex, I promise it won’t be the last. They are hard to beat!
4 Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II FFP Riflescopes
We asked private long range shooting instructor Shepard Humphries what he uses on his personal 6.5 Creedmoor for shooting beyond fifteen hundred yards. He said that he has been very happy with his Vortex Razor Generation II 4.5-27 scope:
When I was a police sniper team leader, we used the Leupold Mark 4 and it is a good scope, however 20 years later when I compare it to the Vortex Razor, both in glass quality and in other characteristics, the Razor stands far above.
When shooting Beyond 1500 yards, being able to dial a scope a large amount is important. With the Razor, Humphries is able to get the 78MOA he needs for a 1-Mile Shot at over 7,000 feet elevation.
This scope will not disappoint, which is evidenced by its popularity in PRS style matches. It is every bit as good as a Nightforce or Leupold, and is a much better value.
5 Leupold Mark 4 ER/T 6.5-20x50
For serious marksmen, there are few acceptable choices in long range optics. Leupold had been a welcome name for competition shooters and armed professionals who demand the highest-grade equipment available. The Mark 4 continues this legacy by offering nearly indestructible construction with perfect optical clarity and features that are demanded by the most serious shooters in the industry.
The turrets track perfectly, as should be expected at this price point, with 1/10th mil adjustments. The turrets also provide zero stop so a shooter can return to original zero extremely quickly without ever looking up from the scope. The scope uses the patented TMR reticle which gives the shooter a ton of useful information without cluttering up the view.
This scope is also known for having an incredibly generous eye relief so shooting from less than optimal positions or quickly transitioning between targets will be no problem. Another trick that Leupold does to their high-end models like this one is that they blacken the edges of the lenses; this causes the lenses to gather more light and increase the contrast through the scope.
One extra touch that is not found in most scopes is that the power ring is tactile and allows the shooter to know the magnification of the scope without raising his or her head. Maybe not a feature that would be demanded from most shooters, but a welcome addition for those who want complete control over all variable in their shooting equation.
6 Zeiss Victory V8 2.8-20x50
Zeiss are well known for producing some of the best optics on the market and this model is no exception. Every feature is tested and proven and designed to be used not just to look fancy on a bench rest. All the controls are tactile and intuitive enough to be used with gloves on and the finger adjustable turrets allow you to adjust the scope before your shot.
This reticle’s features are specialized for hunting to provide minimum coverage and allow you to see your target clearly, aim precisely for the vitals and make a clean kill at any range. Zeiss is definitely seen as the limousine of the scope market.
7 Schmidt and Bender PM II High Power 5-45x56mm (34mm tube)
This may just be the ultimate long range scope. It was developed by Schmidt and Bender when US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) needed a scope for extreme long distance shooting.
Schmidt and Bender may well be the best manufacturer of optical equipment in the world and while you do pay a premium for it if you are very serious about your long range shooting, or the stakes are very high, you couldn’t possibly go wrong with this scope.
While it may not look like it from the low profile of the scope it does feature target turrets and is available with a range of reticles for you to choose depending on your specific needs. All the offered reticles are designed specifically for ultra-long range shooting and give you features to aid with range finding and adjustments.
As the saying goes pictures are worth a thousand words and this video from Schmidt and Bender shows just what this scope has to offer;
6.5 Creedmoor vs 308 WIN vs 30-06
The argument of best caliber has been an age old discussion and will continue to be well into the future. There is a whole host of calibers that could be used for long distance shooting; however, most would agree that the most mainstream cartages are .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, and most recently 6.5mm Creedmoor. But which is the best? Here is a quick breakdown of each caliber.
Without a doubt, 308 is the most common round for long range shooting and has been extensively used by military and law enforcement. Because of its usage, there is a lot of data available to support various powder loads, bullet weights and barrel lengths to ensure accuracy. Due to its lighter recoil than then .30-06, this round is ideal for comfortable shooting for competition or hunting.
.30-06 is one of the most iconic rounds for over 60 years and has seen use in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. As soldiers came home, this round was very familiar and comfortable for them to use for target shooting or hunting. The .30-06 cartage has been in use since 1906 and, like the .308, has tons of data to support powder loads, bullet weights and barrel lengths. However, one of the most concerning aspect of this round is the recoil. Smaller framed individuals may not enjoy the punishment this round will dish out.
6.5mm Creedmoor is one of the newest rounds for shooting long distances. This round is very similar to the .308 WIN but necked down from 7.62mm to 6.5mm. Decreasing the size and weight of the projectile while maintaining the same powder charge as the .308 WIN allows for a faster and flatter shooting round. Another added benefit is that this round will stabilize for longer distances that will exceed the range of the .308. Reaching 1-mile, or further, is not going to be a problem for this round. With a lighter bullet weight, the 6.5mm Creedmoor has less recoil than both the .30-06 and .308 which is why it has become extremely popular with the competition crowd as they may shoot 40-75 rounds in an afternoon.
How to Sight Rifle Scope for Long Range?
There are many methods of zeroing your scope. With advancements in scope and optic technology, shooting long range is becoming slightly easier. However, there are a few basic points to take into consideration when preparing to shoot at distance.
The first aspect to investigate is your ammunition selection. Professionals will recommend keeping your ammo consistent from zeroing to your intended application. One way to keep the ammunition consistent is to ensure that you purchase from the same lot number. Depending on the quantity of rounds you intend to use, this could be slightly expensive. However, using the same ammunition manufacturer, while may not be as consistent, will still give you good results.
The next consideration should be understanding the ballistics of the round. Understanding the bullet drop at certain distances will allow you to help you determine what distance you may zero your rifle at. It will also allow you to quickly adjust your reticle at known distances once you are zeroed.
Finally, the distance you zero your rifle will need to be carefully considered. For most hunters, a 200-yard zero is ideal since point of aim/point of impact will vary about 1 to 2-inches between 100 to 300 yards. However, for competition shooters, a 100-yard zero may be better since the supporting ballistic data could reflect a zero at that distance.
How to Adjust Scope for Long Range Shooting?
Once you have zeroed your scope you will want to zero your turrets as well. Most high power scopes will have a return to zero option for your turrets that will not interfere with the zero of your reticle. It is typically accomplished by removing the turret caps, loosening a retaining screw, and adjusting.
While the majority of turrets will allow you to merely move the setting back to zero, there are a number of scopes that will also allow you to lower the turret to the bottom “come up” line. This will completely zero out your scope to give you the most adjustment possible.
How to Shoot Long Range Accurately?
Now that you have zeroed your rifle and adjusted your turrets it is time to get lead down range. One of the biggest and volatile aspect of shooting is you. A good rifle and optic set up will more than likely be far more accurate than you. Clinging to the fundamentals will always be your best bet on consistently impacting targets over 600-yards. But what are the fundamentals you should be focused on?
Regardless of the position you are shooting in, stability is always going to be the keystone your accuracy. When shooting from a bench, bi-pods will greatly reduce movement in your rifle as compared to using your arms/elbows to support the rifle. Should you be lucky enough to shoot from the prone position, a sturdy backpack or bag will allow you to have support and place additional gear closer to you. Using a sand sock/bag under the buttstock will also increase your stability.
Most people would believe that sight picture and sight alignment only pertains to iron sight; however, they would be wrong. When your cheek is naturally resting on your buttstock, you should be able to look through your sight properly. One way to tell if you have a proper sight picture is if there is any scope shadow. Scope shadow is a dark area that intrudes into your sight picture and denotes whether the scope is canted.
Sight alignment is just as important in scopes as it is in iron sights. The reticle should be precisely where you want it to be as you shoot. However, it can be hard to focus on the target and the reticle with parallax nulled. Focusing only on the reticle and insuring you have a sharp reticle will greatly improve your consistency when shooting long distance.
Finally, the last piece to consider is trigger control. Trigger control starts with the proper placement of your finger on the trigger. Most professionals will advise that the center of the pad or “meaty” part of your finger tip is the proper placement. Next, constant and repeatable pressure as you squeeze the trigger will ensure that round will not be jerked. In addition, once the round has gone off, continued pressure should be applied for at least another full second. This is called follow thru and is just as important as a good trigger squeeze.
Shooting Fundamentals - Long Range Shooting Technique
Question & Answer
What is the best caliber for shooting long range shooting?
This is a debate that will last the test of time. Ultimately, that will be determined on the distance you want to shoot and which caliber is the most comfortable to shoot. The 6.5mm Creedmoor has become extremely popular since it is light recoiling and highly accurate at distances over 1-mile. Other shooters prefer .338 Lapua when trying to tackle targets approaching 2,000-yards to 2-miles. However, if you only expect to shoot 1,000 or less yards then .308 WIN is a viable option that may be more budget friendly.
What is the best rifle for shooting long distances?
If money is no option then one of the best rifles to buy is an Accuracy International AX. This rifle can be configured in several different calibers from .308 to 50 BMG. Unfortunately, money is an option we must consider. For out of the box accuracy in bolt-action rifles, the Ruger Precision Rifle, Savage BA-10 and Tikka T3X are going to be your best bets. All three of these can be found between $800 to $1,200 and will be able to perform nearly as well as rifles twice their price. For semi-auto rifles, the Aero Precision M5E1 will be comparable in price to the previous 3 bolt guns mentioned. The Barrett REC10 is an awesome rifle and will be highly accurate, but there will be a price for that quality.
What long range scope does the military use?
Currently, the Department of Defense is using multiple different fixed and variable scopes. The most notable are the Trijicon ACOG, Leupold Mark 4, and Schmidt & Bender PM II. In addition, the Nightforce NXS is being used in limited capacity with Army and Marine Special Forces units.
How best to improve your long range shooting abilities?
There are two ways to dramatically improve your ability to shoot at distance. First will be to practice. Regardless if that is at home using dry-fire techniques to focus on fundamentals or at the range putting rounds on target, practice cannot be over stated. The next aspect will be your ability to read the wind. With solid fundamentals, shooting accurately will come naturally; however, where most people miss is from improperly estimating the wind speed at the target. Honing your skills in this crucial area may improve your accuracy and confidence as well.
Shooting long distance is extremely challenging but can become a passion for a lot of people. Understanding your needs and abilities will help in deciding on the right rifle and scope for you. However, once you are ready to continue down the path to shoot over 800-yards it is imperative to maintain your knowledge and fundamentals.
Choosing the best long range scope will greatly increase your ability to see the target better and there are plenty of options to facilitate that. Yet, accuracy is rooted in your fundamentals and those will always be a perishable skill.