If your goal is to consistently hit targets at 1000 yards, you’re going to need a quality rifle, precision match-grade ammo, and a high-performance optic. There’s just no way even the best marksman can accomplish high-level precision by simply point shooting. Precise distance shooting is impossible without a high-quality scope.
However, finding the right optic for distance shooting is no easy feat. Riflescopes are expensive, and you don’t want to invest a ton of money, only to discover your optic isn’t suited for the job. That’s why we’ve compiled this informative guide. Use it to help you choose the best long-range scope for your shooting needs.
|Best Long Range Scopes||Best for|
|Schmidt & Bender PMII 5-25×56||Tactical|
|Leupold VX-3i LRP 4.5-14x50mm||Hunting|
|NightForce ATACR F1 7-35x56mm||Competitive Shooting|
|Vortex Optics Diamondback 4-12x40mm||Best Budget|
|Zeiss Conquest V6 5-30×50||Most Versatile|
|Steiner T5Xi 5-25×56||Editor’s Pick|
Table of Contents
- What is a Long-Range Scope?
- Best Long Range Scope on the Market Review
- 1. Schmidt & Bender PMII 5-25×56 – Best Tactical Long-Range Scope
- 2. Leupold VX-3i LRP 4.5-14x50mm – Best Scope for Long-Range Hunting
- 3. NightForce ATACR F1 7-35x56mm – Best for Competitive Long-Range Shooting
- 4. Vortex Optics Diamondback 4-12x40mm – Best Budget Long-Range Scope
- 5. Zeiss Conquest V6 5-30×50 – Most Versatile Long-Range Scope
- 6. Steiner T5Xi 5-25×56 – Editor’s Pick
- Things to Consider When Buying a Long Range Rifle Scope
- Long Range Scope Brands Worth the Money
- Finding the Best Long-Range Scope for Your Cartridge
- Long Distance Tips and Tricks
- Long Range Scopes – Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Long-Range Scope?
Long-range is usually defined as a distance that requires elevation and holdover adjustments to make an accurate shot.
Long-range shooting can mean different things to different people. For example, different firearms have different maximum ranges. What is considered long-range shooting for a .22 long rifle, is quite different from long-range shooting with a .338 Lapua.
What is considered long-range, also depends on why and what you’re shooting.
Shooting living targets is quite different from shooting paper or steel targets. While you might be able to hit a whitetail at 800 yards with a .30-06, the bullet might not be carrying enough kinetic energy to penetrate vital organs once it gets there.
Some hunting cartridges allow for ethical shots at longer ranges than others. However, most hunters keep their shots inside of 500 yards to ensure quick, humane kills.
The amount of magnification needed for long-range hunting is relevant to your target size. Shooting large game animals like moose, elk, or bighorn sheep at 300 yards doesn’t require the same level of magnification that popping groundhogs from the same distance requires. Generally speaking, the smaller your target, the more magnification you’ll need from your scope.
Long-Range Shooting Competition
There are several types of competition that stretch the limits and skills of excellent long-range shooters. Benchrest shooting events feature targets that range between 100 yards and 1000 yards.
In F-Class competitions, shooters compete in matches of 10 to 20 shots at targets that range between 600 and 1000 yards.
Precision Rifle Series (PRS) is a long-range shooting sport that is rapidly gaining popularity. PRS competitors collect points from matches spread across the United States. Top-ranked competitors then compete in the Precision Rifle Finale. Matches are scored by hit or miss shots on steel targets, which can be placed at any distance from 100 to 1800 meters.
Scopes for long-range competition must have razor-sharp optical clarity and serious mechanical precision.
Tactical Long-Range Shooting
Many law enforcement guidelines prohibit officers from taking shots at extreme ranges. Most police sniper shots occur within 100 yards, especially in urban environments. A scope with 4x to 10x magnification is suitable for most tactical long-range shooting.
Best Long Range Scope on the Market Review
Here is a list of what we consider the best long range scopes available to the modern shooter.
1. Schmidt & Bender PMII 5-25×56 – Best Tactical Long-Range Scope
This Schmidt & Bender scope has a well-earned reputation for being the best of the best in long-range scopes. The “PM” in the scope’s designation stands for “police and military,” so it should be no surprise that this scope is a popular option for tactical shooters.
Honestly, we think this optic sets the industry standard for quality and reliability.
Magnification and Parallax Adjustment
The PMII has a generous 5-25x magnification range, which is ideal for mid- to extreme-range shooting. That broad range adjustment works well for PRS competition, and you’ll find this scope topping plenty of rifles on the competition field.
The PMII also provides parallax compensation with an easy-to-use setting wheel.
The thing that impresses us most about the PMII is its image clarity.
Schmidt & Bender uses high-quality glass and an advanced optical coating to maximize the scope’s light-gathering ability. This translates into crisp, bright resolution, even in low light.
We’ve fallen in love with this scope’s beautiful, well-lit sight picture at 25x. The edge-to-edge clarity is absolutely perfect.
You can choose from a range of reticle designs available in first or second focal plane options.
We highly recommend the FFP H2CMR. Similar to a standard Mil-Dot, the H2CMR reticle makes counting holdover and corrections super simple. The reticle is adequate at the lowest magnification, but it really sings at 25x.
The PMII has just over 3 ½ inches of eye relief. While this is fairly generous, we like a little more room when shooting hard-recoiling cartridges like .28 Nosler or any of the .338 Magnums.
The Schmidt & Bender PM II was chosen by the United States Marine Corps for its sniper rifle optic 13 years ago.
This one is tough enough for Marines.
The low-profile Double Turn turret design is hands down the best in the industry. Not only are adjustments crisp and easy to feel, but there is also a visible rotational indicator that changes color to indicate one full rotation.
Mounting & Rings
The PMII features a 34mm tube, which provides plenty of adjustment range. There is one major drawback to the generous tube size – it limits the number of commercial scope rings that will properly fit.
We recommend Badger Ordnance’s 34mm Scope Rings. These are some of the toughest scope rings on Planet Earth.
Is It Worth It?
This scope is the cream of the crop in long-range optics. Once you’ve used this scope, you’ll wonder how you ever managed shooting with a lesser quality scope.
In a perfect world, we could all afford an optic of this quality. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world.
The price tag on the PMII is substantial. The expense is enough to keep this optic out of most shooters’ hands.
However, if you can afford it, we promise you won’t be sorry you bought this one.
Here’s the list of the PMII’s most notable features:
- Fast focus eyepiece.
- Zero stop function.
- Double turn turret design.
- Generous magnification range.
- Impeccable optical clarity.
- Easy-to-use parallax adjustment.
- Durable construction.
Although this scope was engineered for military and law enforcement snipers, serious competition shooters also love the PMII for its generous magnification and broad range adjustment.
It also has better optical clarity than any other long-range scope we’ve ever looked through.
- Quality German engineering.
- Best glass on the market.
- Loaded with high-end features.
- Wide variety of reticle designs to choose from.
- Hard to find quality, well-fitting rings.
- Limited eye relief is unsuitable for some harsh-recoiling cartridges.
2. Leupold VX-3i LRP 4.5-14x50mm – Best Scope for Long-Range Hunting
Leupold began making riflescopes after founder Marcus Leupold missed a big buck because his scope fogged up. “Hell! I could build a better scope than this!” Leupold hollered as the deer bounced away.
We don’t know if there’s any credibility to the story, but we do know that Leupold makes some of the best hunting optics on the market today.
The company’s VX-3i LRP is perfect for hunting extended ranges. Heck! Long Range Precision (LRP) is right there in the optic’s name, and this thing really delivers.
Magnification and Parallax Adjustment
The 4.5-14x magnification range works well for a variety of hunting applications. Although big game hunters will rarely use the upper end of the range, varmint hunters will certainly take full advantage of it.
The VX-3i LRP also has a handy side focus that easily adjusts the scope’s parallax. It not only makes the reticle clearer, but it also reduces perceived movement when you’re shooting at different distances.
The VX-3i LRP offers unbelievable image clarity, even in the murkiest light. This scope allowed us to see so well at twilight, that we felt like nocturnal predators. We couldn’t find this kind of low-light performance in any other scope.
How does Leupold manage this kind of low-light clarity? Their proprietary Twilight Max Light Management System.
Twilight Max is designed to eliminate glare, providing maximum edge-to-edge clarity. It also extends shooting time by gathering available light for better visibility in low-light shooting situations, something big game hunters love.
The FFP reticle magnifies with the image for easier range estimation. Hunters can choose from several reticle designs.
We’ve fallen in love with Leupold’s CCH (Combat Competition Hunter) reticle. Although it looks a little complicated at first glance, it is perfect for on-the-fly adjustments and provides serious precision at extended ranges.
The VX-3i LRP offers 3.6 – 4.5 inches of eye relief, which is plenty of room to accommodate recoil from a .300 Win Mag or .338 Lapua.
Perfect for rugged hunting environments, the VX-3i LRP features a durable, ultra-lightweight main tube. O-ring sealed and filled with a mixture of krypton and argon gases, this scope is completely waterproof and fogproof, even in the wettest weather conditions.
Plus, the lenses are scratch-resistant, so there’s no need to worry about scuffing up your glass in the field.
Offering match-grade repeatable accuracy, the VX-i LRP features easy-to-read, zero-stop adjustment dials. We love the target-style click turrets, which provide simple tactile adjustments for windage and elevation.
The scope also features a revolution indicator so you never lose track of your adjustments.
Mounting & Rings
Leupold takes their scopes seriously. They take them so seriously that they make their own mounts and rings to go with them. For best results, we suggest using a set of their quality 30mm rings.
Is It Worth It?
While the VX-3i LRP isn’t exactly a budget scope, it is hands down the best-rated long-range scope for under $1000 you could possibly mount on your rifle.
Not only is this scope relatively affordable, but it is also jam-packed with features you would only expect from a more expensive model.
- Side focus parallax adjustment.
- FFP reticle.
- Twilight Max Light Management System.
- Zero stop function.
- Revolution indicator.
- Throw lever for instant magnification changes.
From Twilight Max to rugged durability to a near-perfect magnification range, this scope has everything serious hunters dream of.
- Lightweight design.
- Scratch-resistant lenses.
- Incredible low-light performance.
Although we’ve fallen in love with the Leupold VX-3i LRP, there is one thing we would change. We really wish this scope had an illuminated reticle.
- Non-illuminated reticle
3. NightForce ATACR F1 7-35x56mm – Best for Competitive Long-Range Shooting
The NightForce ATACR F1 is THE long-distance precision riflescope for serious competition shooters (or novice shooters with money to spend). It has everything you would expect from a high-end optic and then some.
Magnification and Parallax Adjustment
The ample 7-35x magnification range of the ATACR F1 combined with top-tier optical quality let us push the boundaries of modern hot-rod cartridges like 6.5 Creedmoor and .300 Norma Magnum.
The ATACR F1 allows for parallax from infinity down to 10 yards, which makes precision shots easy, even on up-close targets.
NightForce uses extra-low dispersion (ED) glass with multiple broadband coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces.
NightForce also hand-aligns each internal lens so it aligns perfectly with its partners. The technique is called optical indexing. While we don’t completely understand the engineering or science, we do know that the result is jaw-dropping clarity, even at maximum magnification.
The ATACR features an illuminated FFP reticle, which is perfect for long-range shooting in low-light situations.
NightForce offers several reticle designs for the ATACR F1, including the relatively simple MOAR (which works well for moving targets and varmint hunting) to the intricate Christmas-tree-type Horus TREMOR 3 (which is designed for precision shooting at longer ranges).
Although the ATACR F1 only offers 3.6 inches of eye relief, it’s more than enough for most long-range cartridges.
The 34mm main tube of the ATACR F1 is machined from solid bar stock 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum alloy. It is almost three times thicker than most other scopes.
Solid engineering means less overall stress and greater thermal stability. It also means this scope holds its zero like there’s no tomorrow.
The ATACR F1 has detailed target-style turrets that offer crisp, precise adjustments, even when you’re wearing gloves.
The scope also has one of the best ZeroStop features in the industry. This low-profile mechanism holds the elevation adjustment at zero until released with the push of a button.
The feature also allows an instant return to zero after adjustments have been made. It even allows you to dial below zero for close-range shots.
Mounting and Rings
With a generous objective, you’ll need to mount this one pretty high. We opted for the NightForce 34mm Magmount. It’s made by NightForce for NightForce scopes, so it was really a no-brainer.
Is It Worth It?
We get it – the price tag on this one is pretty steep.
However, if you’re looking at that price tag and feeling a little skeptical, consider this: Five of the top seven open-class winners in the National Rifle League’s 2019 NRL22 division ran this very same optic.
While the price tag may be enough to frighten off most, it is well worth the investment. In the world of optics, it is generally true that you get what you pay for, and it is certainly true in this case.
Here are the features that make this scope stand out from the crowd.
- Illuminated FFP reticle.
- Zero stop function.
- Throw lever for instant magnification changes.
- Fully multi-coated ED glass.
- Wide field of view.
It’s hard to argue with results. This scope may be the perfect optic for 10/22 shooting, especially in serious competition.
However, if you’re thinking this might be overkill for a rimfire .22LR, keep this in mind: The United States Marine Corps uses this riflescope for their sniper system. If it’s good enough for elite military snipers, it will make a fine coyote scope.
But this one really shines on the competition field.
- Impeccable clarity.
- Wide FOV makes tracking moving targets super easy.
- Best ZeroStop in the industry.
- The illuminated FFP reticle stays true to the target at all magnification levels.
- REALLY expensive.
- The 56mm objective allows in plenty of light and provides a wide field of view. However, it is bulky, requires a higher mounting position, and can get in the way if you need to tote your rifle around in the field.
4. Vortex Optics Diamondback 4-12x40mm – Best Budget Long-Range Scope
Unfortunately, we don’t all have an unlimited budget to spend on optics. If you want to impress your buddies with your long-range shooting skills, but don’t have a ton of cash to drop on a high-end riflescope, the Vortex Diamondback is the answer to your prayers.
Magnification and Parallax Adjustment
With a 4-12x magnification range, the Diamondback is a solid option for big game hunters.
The scope does not feature any parallax adjustment, which is one way Vortex keeps the price low. I needed to keep a solid, consistent cheek weld to prevent shots from peppering all over the place.
Vortex uses fully multi-coated glass in their Diamondback riflescope, which delivers surprising clarity for an optic in this price range. It’s definitely adequate for most medium- to long-range shooting applications.
Just don’t expect the same quality you would get from the other scope’s on this list. Although great for a budget scope, the clarity goes a little fuzzy around the edges, especially when dialed up to full magnification.
The Diamondback features Vortex’s exclusive DeadHold reticle. Located on the second focal plane, the rather simple reticle is easy to use and doesn’t clutter up your sight picture.
Because this is an SFP scope, the subtensions are only calibrated to one magnification. However, the crosshairs work wonderfully no matter what magnification you have dialed in.
With only 3.1 inches of eye relief, this might not be the perfect match for heavy-hitting cartridges. However, when we kept a solid cheek weld and shoulder position, it gave us enough room to prevent scope bite, even when we were shooting .30-06 and 7mm Rem Mag.
The Diamondback is made from a solid piece of aircraft-grade aluminum with a hard-anodized finish. Its solid construction allows this optic to shrug off rough handling and magnum recoil without breaking a sweat.
Vortex finishes things off with argon purging and o-ring seals, making the Diamondback completely fogproof and waterproof.
The Diamondback features capped turrets. They are finger-adjustable and the clicks are fairly quiet. This works well for hunters but could be a struggle for target shooters used to keeping track of their adjustments with their ears.
The turrets only allow for 60 MOA of windage and elevation adjustment, which is fine for most hunting distances, but will leave extreme-range shooters wanting more.
Mounting and Rings
We used the one-inch Vortex Optics Pro Series Riflescope Rings. Because this scope has a modest 40mm objective, we went with medium height rings to keep the mount compact and practical for hunting.
Is It Worth It?
After spending time shooting with high-end optics, this one feels only slightly disappointing. While it doesn’t perform like a top-tier scope, it does perform well beyond its price point.
Here’s what you can expect:
- Decent optical quality.
- Decent turrets.
- Compact, durable construction.
Although this optic doesn’t really hold a candle to the top-tier scopes on this list, it is still one of the best-performing scopes in its class. If you need an affordable optic for hunting, the Diamondback does not disappoint. However, if you’re heading to the competition field, you may want to wait and save up your quarters.
- Affordable price tag.
- Sturdy construction.
- Better than budget optical clarity.
- The simple reticle doesn’t clutter the sight picture.
- The sight picture is slightly fuzzy at the edges, especially at full magnification.
- SFP reticle subtensions only work at one magnification level.
- Turret adjustments are not very audible.
- Only 60 MOA of adjustment.
- No parallax adjustment.
5. Zeiss Conquest V6 5-30×50 – Most Versatile Long-Range Scope
Zeiss is famous for producing some of the best optical equipment in the world, and their Conquest V6 riflescope makes it easy to understand why. Not only does this scope offer knock-your-socks-off optical clarity, but it’s also super tough, user-friendly, and works well for a variety of shooting applications.
Magnification and Parallax Adjustment
The Conquest V6 has a massive 5-30x magnification range. With true 6x zoom, this scope is one of the most flexible optics on this list. Offering incredible flexibility, the zoom is ideal for mid to extra-long range hunting and competitive shooting.
The scope also has a side parallax adjustment.
The Conquest V6 features state-of-the-art, high light transmission glass (92 percent) with T star six-layer multi-coatings, fluoride lenses, and a wide field of view. This means you’ll experience crisp, high-contrast images even when you’re shooting at twilight.
The Conquest V6 also has a special LotuTec protective lens coating that repels water, fingerprints, and dust, so you have a crystal clear, unhindered view in all kinds of weather.
For extreme distances, the Conquest V6 has an ultra-fine SFP reticle that produces minimal target coverage, even at the strongest magnification level. Only a fraction of the thickness of human hair, this reticle operates on a fiber optic system for serious precision on the smallest targets at the greatest distance.
The Conquest V6 has 3.5 inches of eye relief, which is pretty standard for a long-range scope. While we like a little extra room when we’re using magnum cartridges, this is plenty of room for most long-range loads.
The exterior of the scope is built for tough weather conditions. Made with both a hard shell and hard core, the Conquest V6 has a high-quality seal to protect your optic from rain, snow, and sweat.
You can trust this scope to operate reliably even in extreme temperatures, whether you’re shooting in the sub-Saharan desert or on the Arctic tundra.
The latest version of the Conquest V6 features Zeiss’s new Ballistic Turrets, which offer 1/4 MOA click adjustments with 80 clicks per rotation.
These are solid turrets that are easy to manipulate, even when you’re wearing hunting gloves. We found the adjustments to be fast, tactile, and easy to track.
Mounting and Rings
Although you can use any standard 30mm rings to mount the conquest V6, we’ve fallen for Zeiss’s Precision Anti-Cant Rings. These rings have an integrated bubble level that is perfect for making those tough long-range shots.
We also recommend the Zeiss throw lever. This heavy-duty aluminum collar attaches to the body of the Conquest V6 so you can make quick magnification adjustments in the field.
Is It Worth It?
Some shooters will consider the Zeiss Conquest V6 a pricey optic. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find this level of durability, clarity, and performance anywhere else for under $2000.
Here are just some of the reasons we love this scope:
- A superfine reticle that offers minimal target coverage and allows for precision shot placement.
- Rock-solid construction.
- LotuTec lens coverings.
- 92% light transmission.
- Flexible magnification range with true 6x zoom.
The Conquest V6 makes a fine varmint scope, although it works just as nicely for plains game and long-range big game. It even feels right at home zinging steel and busting bullseyes in competition.
- Ultra-fine illuminated reticle.
- True 6x zoom.
- Versatile magnification range.
- Incredible image clarity.
- High light transmission.
- Side parallax adjustment.
- SFP reticle. (Although some long-range shooters prefer them, we’re partial to FFP reticles for most long-range applications).
6. Steiner T5Xi 5-25×56 – Editor’s Pick
We couldn’t wrap up this list without including this first-class long-range scope from Steiner. The T5Xi is built for tactical applications, but we believe it’s one of the best long-range competition optics on the market today.
Magnification and Parallax Adjustment
The T5Xi has a 5-25x magnification range, which works well for hunting, competition, and tactical applications.
We love the tapered magnification ring, which is angled so you can easily see your magnification setting when you’re behind the scope and ready to shoot.
The T5Xi also has a low-profile knob for parallax adjustment.
The T5Xi is made with premium, fully multi-coated glass. It provides nice edge-to-edge clarity, although it does start to blur ever so slightly at the top of the magnification range.
We really love Steiner’s exclusive illuminated reticle on the T5Xi. It’s called Steiner’s Special Competition Reticle (SCR), and this etched glass FFP is designed for serious precision shooting.
The scope also has an extended illumination area, so you can easily engage targets in low light.
With 3.5 to 4.3 inches of eye relief and a generous eye box, the T5Xi is incredibly forgiving. I never needed to reposition my eye when making magnification changes.
This thing is crazy rugged and built to survive tough conditions.
The main scope tube is milled from solid high-grade aluminum. With no welds or seams, you get serious strength and durability that endures rock slams, freezing cold, and gritty sand without breaking a sweat.
You could drag this scope 100 miles through the mud, and the view will be crystal clear, and the zero dead on, when you get there.
The T5Xi has a generous 34mm main tube that provides plenty of room for adjustments.
The windage and elevation knobs are refreshingly stiff and tactile. They are also slightly larger than average and have an easy-to-grip non-slip finish, so you can trust them for military precision and accuracy, even at targets beyond 1000 yards.
To help you keep track of your revolutions, the numbers on the scale change automatically.
Mounting and Rings
Our go-to rings for scopes with a 34mm main tube are almost always Badger Ordnance.
Is It Worth It?
This thing is rugged, versatile, and offers tack-driving precision. It’s also relatively affordable, at least in the world of quality long-range optics.
The T5Xi’s top features include:
- Rock-solid one-piece main housing.
- SCR Special Competition Reticle.
- Low-profile side parallax adjustment.
- Resettable zero stop.
- Large, non-slip turrets that offer tactile adjustments.
- Rotation indicator.
- Locking diopter (prevents accidental rotation).
- Angled magnification ring.
From top to bottom, the T5Xi is built for long-range shooting. It makes the perfect partner for a long-range precision bolt gun.
- Consistent eye relief and generous eye box.
- Easy-to-use Special Competition Reticle.
- Insane durability.
- Top-notch low-profile, resettable turrets with locking diopter.
- Image clarity, but only if we’re being supercritical. Honestly, the clarity only degrades slightly at the top of the magnification range. Most shooters won’t even notice.
Things to Consider When Buying a Long Range Rifle Scope
Not all rifle scopes are created equal. Some are better at distance shooting than others. So what makes a scope suitable for extreme distance shooting? Here are some things to look for.
It’s hard to hit what you can’t see. If you want to ping targets at distance, you obviously need to be able to see those targets. A magnifying scope helps you do just that.
The first one or two numbers on a scope’s label indicate its magnification. These are the numbers that precede the x in the scope’s designation. Bigger numbers before the x mean you can zoom in closer on distant targets.
However, the amount of magnification needed for long-range shooting is often relevant to your target size. Shooting large game like moose, elk, or bighorn sheep at 300 yards doesn’t require the same level of magnification that popping groundhogs from the same distance requires. Generally speaking, the smaller the target you’re shooting, the more magnification you’ll need from your scope.
Magnification is often the first thing shooters consider when buying a scope. While magnification is an important feature in a long-range optic, it isn’t the most important feature. Remember, you can’t hit what you can’t see.
Buy a cheap scope with poor glass quality, and it might look like you are peering through the bottom of a milk glass, especially when dialed in to the highest magnification. Magnification is nothing without resolution, so don’t think that big magnification numbers automatically mean you’ll be better able to see those distant targets. In addition to magnification, look for a scope with high-quality glass that is fully multi-coated.
Fixed vs Variable Scope for Long Range
A fixed power scope offers one level of magnification and one level only. When looking at the label of a fixed power scope, you will see a single number before the x. This number indicates the scope’s one level of magnification.
Fixed power scopes are typically less expensive than their variable power cousins. They also tend to be less complicated and offer a much more forgiving shooting experience for inexperienced shooters.
Variable power scopes offer a range of magnification, allowing you to zoom in or out for different shooting conditions. The magnification range on a variable scope will have two numbers separated by a dash preceding the x. A 6-12x scope has a magnification of 6 times at its lowest setting, and the image will appear 12 times larger at full magnification.
Not only do variable scopes cost more than fixed power scopes, they are also much more complicated to operate. They can be harder to zero in and require parallax adjustment. Variable scopes are also bigger and heavier than the standard fixed power optic.
So why would you want a variable power scope? First, they are incredibly versatile, allowing you to fit a wide range of shooting “jobs.” Variable scopes are also well-suited for long-range shooting because they have a wider field of view (FOV), increase light transmission for brighter twilight shooting, and are handy for eliminating mirage distortion (which can be a serious issue as heat comes off your barrel).
The number that follows the x on the label indicates the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters. The objective lens (located at the end of the scope closest to the target) is usually larger than the rest of the scope.
The job of the objective lens is to let in light. Just like large windows brighten a room, a large objective lens creates a brighter image, especially in low light conditions.
Large objective lenses (50mm or larger) are common in long-range shooting because a big objective lens improves the image quality at the high end of the scope’s magnification range.
However, large objective lenses do have some drawbacks. Scopes with a large objective lens are large and heavy, which just isn’t practical in many hunting situations. Their large size also requires you to mount the scope higher. Because of the scope’s height, getting a proper cheek weld and a good sight picture at the same time can be hard, which can cause major accuracy issues.
There are several reticle styles that are useful for long-range shooting. Which style works best is largely a matter of personal preference. Whatever design you choose, make sure it has MIL or MOA marks of some sort. These marks will help you effectively compensate for windage and range.
MIL vs MOA for Long Range
MIL and MOA are angular measurements that are highly useful in long-range shooting. Here are the basics:
- MOA (Minute of Angle) is a measurement of 1/60th of a degree
- MOA is equal to 1.047 inches at 100 yards.
- MIL (milliradians) is 1/1000th of a radian.
- MIL is equal to 3.6 inches at 100 yards.
The argument on MIL versus MOA is relentless, and since each has its own dedicated fan base, this argument won’t be resolved any time soon. However, the truth is that one isn’t any better than the other. They are basically two different ways of expressing the same thing. Just be sure you know which system your scope uses.
First Focal Plane vs Second Focal Plane for Long Range Shooting
The location of the reticle within the scope is important for long-range shooting. A first focal plane (sometimes referred to as “front focal plane” or FFP) reticle is bound to the scope’s magnification. This means that if you zoom in on a target, the reticle grows proportionally to the magnification.
A second focal plane (SFP) reticle doesn’t change size with the magnification. Because it is static, an SFP reticle is only valid at one magnification.
Most long-range shooters prefer an FFP reticle because they can use it to effectively compensate for bullet drop and windage across the optic’s entire magnification range.
Раrаllах is the optical effect that occurs when your reticle seems to shift when you move your head. This effect makes the target’s position appear offset from the reticle center.
Parallax usually happens when using a scope at higher magnification, and it can be a serious issue at distances over 250 yards. Without adjusting for parallax, you can easily miss important shots.
Some scopes are “parallax free,” meaning the parallax is set up internally and locked in place for all ranges of magnification. However, parallax-free scopes are usually designed for low-range shots (less than 400 yards).
When shooting long range with a variable power scope, you need to adjust for parallax, usually with a knob located on the side of the scope. When parallax has been adjusted properly, the reticle will be locked in place, no matter which way you shift your head.
All riflescopes have windage and elevation knobs to help you zero the optic at a set distance. However, the turrets on most scopes are small and have a low profile.
If you plan to shoot long distances, a scope with target turrets can be a major asset. Target Turrets are specialized turrets that are tall, easy to turn, make tactile or audible clicks, and have external markings to represent MOA or MIL. Long-range shooters use target turrets to make fine adjustments for wind and range.
Long Range Scope Brands Worth the Money
If you aren’t sure where to begin your search for a quality long-range optic, start with these reputable brands. These companies consistently produce some of the best optics that money can buy, and their premium long-range scopes are some of the best in the world.
Schmidt & Bender
Schmidt & Bender is a German, family-owned company that designs and manufactures premium riflescopes for hunting, competition shooting, law enforcement, and military shooting applications. A Schmidt & Bender long-range scope won the Precision Sniper Rifle Program of the US SOCOM (United States Special Operations Command), which resulted in a $34 million contract with the US military.
This company’s manufacturing processes are some of the strictest in the industry (meeting ISO 9001:2000 Quality Management). All Schmidt & Bender scopes are assembled by hand to guarantee quality. The one drawback to the company’s attention to detail is that they can only produce a limited number of quality optics each year.
Leupold & Stevens, Inc.
Leupold has been designing and manufacturing high quality, American-made optics for five generations. Founded in 1907 by German immigrant, Fred Leupold, the company originally focused on repairing survey equipment. They branched out into riflescopes after Fred’s son, Marcus, missed a shot on a deer because his scope fogged up. He allegedly shouted, “Hell! I could build a better scope than this!” He did, and the rest is history.
Known for their reliability and impressive glass quality, Leupold scopes are among the best in the world. Even US Army snipers, Navy SEALs, and Secret Service agents trust Leupold scopes to top their rifles. Iraeli Defense Forces also use Leupold’s Mark 4 and Mark 6 series of riflescopes.
Swarovski Optik, headquartered in Austria, is part of the Swarovski group of companies. While the Swarovski name is best known for its crystal and gemstone jewelry, the company is focused on “capturing the natural magic of light,” which is exactly what Swarovski Optik does with its high-performance riflescopes.
Swarovski optics have some of the best glass quality in the world. When you look through a Swarovski scope, you will see an image brighter, sharper, and clearer than anything you will ever see with the naked eye.
Carl Zeiss AG
Zeiss is a German manufacturer of high-tech optical systems and optoelectronics. Founded in 1846 by optician and scientist, Carl Zeiss, the company designs everything from microscopes to telescope. Currently, Zeiss is designing optical components for the James Webb Space Telescope, which will take the place of the famed Hubble Space Telescope sometime in 2021.
Zeiss riflescopes are well-known in the shooting industry for their high-quality lenses. The company brings the same quality and cutting-edge technology to their rifles scopes as they do to the components designed for the Space Telescope.
NightForce riflescopes are some of the most rugged optics in the shooting world. Built to perform reliably in any weather condition, NightForce scopes are thoroughly tested to withstand saltwater, wind, dust, and mud. Their accuracy is even proven in extreme temperatures, ranging from -80 degrees to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
The company attempted to charm top-tier military groups (like the Navy SEALs) with their NXS series of precision optics. While they lost their bid for the US military’s Precision Sniper Rifle to Schmidt & Bender in 2009, they were awarded a $25.8 million contract to make scopes for US Special Forces and Marine Corps snipers the following year.
Finding the Best Long-Range Scope for Your Cartridge
There are plenty of scopes on the market designed for specific cartridges. Most cartridge-specific scopes provide BDC reticles calibrated for specific loads.
The most common options feature hash marks finetuned for the ballistics of popular cartridges, usually .223 Remington or .308 Winchester.
Most quality scopes designed specifically for long-range shooting have reticles with more universal markings, usually MOA (which stands for minutes of angle) or Mil (which is short for milliradians). Both are angular units of measure.
Shooters use the dots, dashes, or marks on an MOA or Mil reticle to compensate for wind drift and bullet drop.
That means you can use the same long-range scope whether you’re shooting 6.5 Creedmoor, .300 Win Mag, or .338 Lapua. You’ll just need to understand how your specific load behaves at specific ranges and in certain conditions. You’ll use a solver or dope card to get your data, and then dial in the adjustments before making the shot.
Long Distance Tips and Tricks
When shooting long distance targets (especially those out past 1000 yards), precision is key. Even the smallest inconsistencies can have negative effects that intensify with every yard of distance. Here are a few tips and tricks to help improve your long range shooting.
Don’t Skimp on Your Scope
You might find it hard to spend big bucks on a riflescope, but quality is essential in long distance shooting, and quality costs. Your scope is the most fragile and complicated piece of shooting equipment you will own. You just aren’t going to find a decent long range riflescope for under $500.
If you want to really excel at long range shooting, plan to spend more on your optic than you did on your rifle.
Learn to Breathe
Every time you take a breath, your body moves. Although slight, every inhale and exhale creates a shifting of your rifle sights. To minimize the effects of these tiny movements, squeeze the trigger on the natural respiratory pause (the space between breaths at the bottom of the exhale).
It can be tempting to jump off the weapon after the shot. However, after the shot breaks, stay with your weapon. Maintain your cheek weld and continue the trigger squeeze. Follow the shot all the way to the target.
Zero to a Higher Standard
Most deer hunters making shots under 300 yards are happy if they can get three shots in an 8-inch circle (about the size of a deer’s vital area) at 100 yards. Precision long range shooters won’t be happy with that level of precision.
If you want to be a successful long range shooter, hold your zero to a higher standard than the average hunter. The goal should be 3 consecutive rounds within a 1-inch square at 100 yards.
Choose the Right Ammo
Consistent accuracy requires consistent ammunition. Many serious distance shooters choose to hand load their own ammunition to ensure it is loaded to very exacting standards.
If you don’t have the time or desire to load your own, at least opt for loads that feature a Sierra MatchKing projectile. These are some of the most precise bullets ever made.
Long Range Scopes – Frequently Asked Questions
What scopes do the military use?
Different countries and units use a variety of scopes.
US Marine Corps snipers use the NightForce Advanced Tactical Riflescope (ATACR).
The Leupold Mark 4 is used on the Army’s M-24 sniper rifle.
Do military snipers use FFP or SFP?
Both the Leupold Mark 4 and the NightForce ATACR have reticles located on the first focal plane.
What size scope is needed for 1000 yards?
If you want to hit a pie-plate size target at extreme distance, having extra available magnification and more elevation travel are major assets.
A scope with a 30-34mm main tube will offer plenty of room for turret adjustments.
If you bank on the “1x per 100 yards” magnification mantra, you’ll need a variable scope that maxes at 18x or more.
What scope do snipers use?
The preferred scope for long-range snipers is the Schmidt und Bender 5–25x PMII scope.
What magnification do snipers use?
Preferred magnification varies from rifle to rifle, sniper to sniper, and even from shot to shot. However, through much of military history, snipers used 10x fixed power scopes.
What scope has the longest range?
There are thousands of scopes on the market today, and many of them feature pretty powerful magnification. The most powerful scope we’ve been able to track down is the March Scopes High Master Genesis. This optic has a mammoth 6-60x magnification range.
Shooting long-range targets is a thrilling challenge. Whether you’re busting paper bullseyes, pinging metal targets, or dropping big game animals, long-range shooting is incredibly addictive.
While professional snipers and serious competitors make hitting marks at 1000 yards look like a piece of cake, accurate long-range shooting isn’t nearly as easy as it looks. However, choosing the best long-range scope for your shooting discipline will make it a whole lot easier.
You can’t go wrong with any of the high-quality long-range scopes on this list.
To recap, if you’re looking for a reliable long-range optic for hunting, go with the Leupold VX-3i LRP.
Our recommendation for serious long-range competition is the NightForce ATACR F1.
If you want a versatile optic that you can use to ping steel and pop groundhogs, you want the Zeiss Conquest V6.
Don’t have a ton of cash to drop on an optic, but still want to make accurate shots at long range? Get the Diamondback from Vortex Optics.
If money isn’t an object, the Schmidt & Bender PMII should be at the top of your list.
John Gross says
Clear, concise, easy to read, informative, and enjoyable. Alice makes a complicated subject down to earth and obtainable for both novices and experienced shooters alike. If this lady shoots as well as she writes, we all have something to aspire to.
Very much enjoyed reading this article well written with a lot of valuable information behind it. I would love to try a Schmidt & Bender and might just have to buy one for my rifle build in 6.5 Creedmoor. Thanks for the helpful information
Glad that we could help!