If you’re looking for an optic for your handgun, you’ve come to the right place. In this article we dive into the details of how to choose the best handgun scope. We even share some of our favorite models. Use this handy guide to help you find the perfect partner for your pistol or revolver.
- Leupold FX-ii 4×28 Handgun Scope
- Burris 2-7×32 Handgun Scope
- Burris 3-9×32 Handgun Scope
- Hammers Elite Compact 2×20 Handgun Scope
- NcStar Pistolero Series 2-7×32
- NcStar 2.5×30 Pistol Scope
- Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7×32 Scout
- Trijicon RMR Type 2 RM07 Reflex Sight
- Leupold DeltaPoint Pro Reflex Sight
- Burris FastFire 3 Red Dot Sight
Table of Contents
- Why Mount a Scope on Your Handgun?
- What to Look For When Buying a Handgun Scope?
- Tips and Tricks for Using a Handgun Scope
- Best Handgun Scopes on the Market Reviews
- 1 Leupold FX-ii 4×28 Handgun Scope
- 2 Burris 2-7×32 Handgun Scope
- 3 Burris 3-9×32 Handgun Scope
- 4 Hammers Elite Compact 2×20 Handgun Scope
- 5 NcStar Pistolero Series 2-7×32
- 6 NcStar 2.5×30 Pistol Scope
- 7 Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7×32 Scout
- 8 Trijicon RMR Type 2 RM07 Reflex Sight
- 9 Leupold DeltaPoint Pro Reflex Sight
- 10 Burris FastFire 3 Red Dot Sight
- Final Thoughts
Why Mount a Scope on Your Handgun?
Because handguns are short range weapons, it can seem counterintuitive to mount a magnified scope on your sidearm. A magnified optic can simplify handgun shooting and extend your accurate range.
An optic simplifies aiming by removing the need to line up three separate objects – the front sight, rear sight, and target. Aiming with iron sights can be problematic because it is impossible for the human eye to focus on three things at the same time. When aiming properly with iron sights, you end up with a clear front sight and a fuzzy target. Blurry targets make precision shooting difficult. With an optic, you only need to align a reticle with your target, which speeds target acquisition and allows for more precise bullseye shooting.
The firearms world is also seeing an increase in pistols and revolvers chambered for powerful cartridges like .44 Magnum, .480 Ruger, and .457 Magnum. These cartridges are large and powerful enough for hunting big game. If you’re up to the challenge of taking whitetails, mule deer, or even elk with a pistol, a handgun scope will help swing the odds in your favor.
If you don’t want a magnified optic for your pistol, a red dot or reflex sight promotes rapid target acquisition and provides a simple aiming point for more precise shooting.
What to Look For When Buying a Handgun Scope?
Finding a good scope for any shooting endeavor can be a major headache. However, finding the right scope for your handgun can be an even bigger headache.
Handguns require very specific features from their optics, which definitely complicates the selection process. Here are the most important things to keep in mind when shopping for a handgun scope.
Because handguns are held at arm’s length, any scope you use needs to have extra eye relief. Too little eye relief will make it impossible to get a good sight picture. For best results, you’ll need an optic with at least 12 inches of eye relief. Shooters with longer arms will need even more.
Many handguns don’t come optic ready, which can make properly mounting a scope problematic, if not impossible. Before you decide on a model, check to make sure the optic is compatible with your handgun.
Tips and Tricks for Using a Handgun Scope
Shooting with an optic on your handgun presents some unique challenges. Here are a few tricks of the trade.
Overcoming Unbalance and Instability
Getting a steady sight picture through a handgun scope can leave you feeling like a seasick sailor. As the scope magnifies your target, it also magnifies even the tiniest body movements. Even the simple act of breathing can make it difficult to keep your crosshairs on target.
The extra weight of a forward-mounted optic can also leave your feeling unbalanced when you take on your standard shooting stance. This adds to the feeling of instability when shooting a scoped pistol.
One way to overcome the instability is to lean against a tree, wall, or other supporting structure. A sturdy pair of shooting sticks can also take most of the wobble out of your sight picture.
Carrying Your Handgun/Optic Combo
The majority of holsters on the market are made for naked handguns. If you mount any type of optic on your pistol or revolver, carrying your weapon, either for self-defense or hunting, it makes finding a suitable holster a bit more complicated.
You’ll need a holster that can comfortably accommodate your optic. If you’re using a magnified scope, you also need to worry about protecting your optic. Heavy bumps to the scope could make you lose your zero.
Many hunters prefer to carry their handgun in a shoulder rig, since carrying a scoped weapon in an IWB or OWB holster can feel bulky and is often impractical.
Best Handgun Scopes on the Market Reviews
1 Leupold FX-ii 4×28 Handgun Scope
Leopold’s optics regularly make the top of our “best of” lists, and it’s easy to see why. Across the board, Leupold scopes provide bright, crisp, vibrant optical quality. Their scopes are also tough as nails.
The Leupold FX-ii Handgun scope is perfect for hunting. It features a lightweight, minimalist design and fixed power, 4x magnification that are perfect for a pistol or revolver.
Built to handle rough environments and heavy recoil, the FX-ii Handgun is made from a one-inch tube of machined, 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum. The housing is nitrogen purged and o-ring sealed. Its construction is designed to resist internal fogging and provide reliable waterproof performance.
Serious hunters will also appreciate Leupold’s proprietary Twilight Light Management System. This system of coatings and high-quality glass provides impressive low-light brightness and clarity. The Twilight Light Management System can actually extend shooting light near dawn and dusk, when deer and other game are more active.
2 Burris 2-7×32 Handgun Scope
This versatile handgun scope from Burris offers variable magnification ranging from 2x to 7x. This wide, flexible range makes it perfect for everything from plinking to big game hunting.
Burris handgun optics undergo rigorous testing to ensure they are capable of withstanding the heavy recoil associated with Magnum revolvers and big bore pistols. This scope is crafted from sturdy, aircraft-grade aluminum. The main tube is nitrogen-filled and o-ring sealed, making it completely fogproof, waterproof, and shockproof.
This Burris Handgun Scope features a Ballistic Plex reticle. Specially designed to compensate for the lobbing trajectories of handgun loads, the Ballistic Plex reticle is ideal for handgunners. Once you’re familiar with the subtensions and the characteristics of your specific loads, this reticle will help you drive tacks at distances you didn’t think possible.
3 Burris 3-9×32 Handgun Scope
This compact, lightweight scope with extra eye relief offers all the same rugged, reliable performance as the previous Burris handgun scope on our list. However, the extended 3-9x magnification range on this model extends your long-range capabilities even further.
As an added bonus, this model also features parallax adjustment, to further increase shooting precision, no matter what the range is to your target.
4 Hammers Elite Compact 2×20 Handgun Scope
If you’re in the market for an affordable optic to top your handgun, the Hammers Elite Compact has plenty to offer. It definitely offers the best value for the money of any of the optics on our list.
An ideal entry-level handgun scope, the Hammers Elite Compact features premium, multi-coated optics, a fast focus eyepiece, and finger adjustable turrets.
With a generous, 12 ½ inches of eye relief and an ample field of view, this scope works well with almost any handgun. The package includes a pair of vertically split scope rings that fit onto any weaver scope base and rail.
5 NcStar Pistolero Series 2-7×32
Another option for budget conscious handgunners is the NcStar Pistolero Series. With a generous 10 ½ inches of eye relief, the Pistolero Series pairs well with big handguns. It also makes a fine addition to your scout rifle, just in case you want your optic to pull double duty.
Notable features include multi-coated lenses, variable power magnification, an anti-reflective matte finish, and a simple, etched-glass crosshair reticle.
6 NcStar 2.5×30 Pistol Scope
This fixed magnification handgun scope from NcStar has an ample 30mm objective lens, which helps deliver bright images even in less-than-stellar lighting conditions. The scope also features unique blue lenses that help reduce eye fatigue and provide a crisp, clear sight picture.
For shooters who appreciate simplicity, this scope comes with an uncomplicated, non-illuminated Plex reticle.
7 Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7×32 Scout
Although the Vortex Crossfire II Scout isn’t specifically designed for handguns, it fits the purpose quite well. While Vortex advertises almost 9.5 inches of eye relief, personal experience and customer reviews extend that to nearly 12 inches without any negative effects. The eye box is ultra-forgiving, which means this handy, high-quality scope sits nicely on a wide range of handguns.
The Crossfire II Scout features capped, reset, finger-adjustable turrets, which makesighting in your optic a breeze.
Hunters will also appreciate the fast focus eyepiece and versatile V-Plex reticle. Popular among outdoorsmen, this simple SFP (second focal plane) reticle works for a variety of shooting applications, including tactical, hunting, competition, and recreational shooting.
The scope’s main tube is made from a single piece of hard anodized, aircraft-grade aluminum. The housing is nitrogen purged and o-ring sealed for reliable performance, even in rugged environments.
8 Trijicon RMR Type 2 RM07 Reflex Sight
If you’re apprehensive about using a magnified optic on your handgun, you can always opt for a non-magnified sight. The Trijicon RMR micro red dot offers a solid aiming point without enlarging downrange objects.
Like all Trijicon optics the RMR Type 2 is super rugged. Built for the battlefield, these little red dot sights are built for the extreme conditions of the battlefield.
Even at first glance, it’s easy to tell the RMR Type 2 isn’t your run-of-the-mill red dot. Featuring a unique housing shape and a robust frame, the shape of the RMR Type 2 diverts impact force away from the optic’s lens. The housing is also crafted from a military-grade aluminum alloy that is insanely durable.
Suitable for military, law enforcement, hunting, or serious competition, the Trijicon RMR Type 2 Red Dot has a 6.5 MOA, brightness adjustable reticle.
9 Leupold DeltaPoint Pro Reflex Sight
If you want a leg up in pistol shooting competitions, this reflex sight will definitely give you a competitive edge.
When it comes to reflex sights, the Leupold DeltaPoint Pro has the clearest glass and largest field of view (FOV) we’ve seen. Leupold uses a DiamondCoat aspheric lens to widen the FOV. This design also helps prevent problematic surface scratches so you’ll enjoy a crystal clear sight picture for the life of the optic.
One of the best features of the DeltaPoint Pro is its battery-saving motion sensing technology. This technology automatically deactivates power during periods of inactivity. When movement is detected, the illuminated reticle reacts instantly, so your optic is always ready to go when you need it.
10 Burris FastFire 3 Red Dot Sight
For shooters searching for a reliable and affordable optic for their handgun, the Burris FastFire 3 is a top-notch option.
The FastFire 3 has a lightweight, sturdy construction, a practical 3 MOA dot reticle, and an automatic brightness sensor that instantly adjusts the reticle brightness to ambient lighting. The optic also offers an impressive battery life of up to 5 years, largely thanks to its auto-turnoff function.
Hunting big game with a handgun presents a serious challenge. A quality optic can help bring you one step closer to success. However, even the best handgun scope is no substitute for practice. Ultimately, your best weapon is proficiency with your handgun/optic set-up. The best way to achieve proficiency is to send plenty of lead downrange.