Shotguns are some of the most popular and versatile weapons on the face of the planet.
You can find them on the competition field, in the deer woods, inside duck blinds, and tucked under mattresses for home defense.
Despite their popularity, shotguns are often misunderstood. There is a common misconception that you don’t need to aim them, which makes the addition of a scope seem ridiculous. It wasn’t all that long ago that a shooter with a shotgun scope would be laughed off the gun range. The world of modern optics has definitely advanced over the last several decades. Today, the best shotgun scope can open up a whole new world of shooting opportunities for shotgunners.
If you’re in a hurry and don't have time for the details, here are our best picks for Shotgun Scope & Red Dot on the market today:
Table of Contents
- When Not to Use an Optic on Your Shotgun?
- Why Your Shotgun Needs an Optic?
- Best Shotgun Scope on the Market Review
- Best Scopes for Shotguns
- 1 Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40 Riflescope
- 2 TruGlo 4x32mm Shotgun Scope
- 3 Swampfox Arrowhead 1-6x24 Riflescope
- 4 Bushnell Trophy Shotgun Scope
- Best Red Dot and Holographic Sights for Shotguns
- 5 Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic (PRO)
- 6 TruGlo Gobble Stopper
- 7 Burris Fastfire III
- 8 EOTech EXPS2 Holographic Weapon Sight
- Best Thermal Scope for Your Shotgun
- 9 ATN Thor LT Thermal Riflescope
- Final Thoughts
When Not to Use an Optic on Your Shotgun?
While an optic can improve your shooting prowess in many situations, there are some circumstances where a shotgun scope could do more harm than good.
Shooting trap, skeet, or sporting clays is better done without an optic. So is shooting birds on the wing. Proper wing shooting is mostly intuitive and requires a sort of “point and shoot” technique. The best skeet and wing shooters place all of their focus on their target. They keep both eyes open while almost subconsciously leading the target and timing the trigger pull.
When shooting moving targets, an optic can interfere with this instinctive process. Instead of focusing on the target and judging the proper lead and timing, an optic can draw the shooter’s attention away from the target to focus on the reticle. Basically, an optic forces you to concentrate on aiming instead of the crucial lead and follow through necessary for effective shotgun shooting.
If you’re hunting waterfowl, doves, or other upland birds, a simple bead sight is all you need. Likewise, if you’re heading to the skeet range, you’ll probably want to leave the optic at home.
Why Your Shotgun Needs an Optic?
While you don’t want a scope for wing shooting, the right scope can be a blessing for other shotgun uses. When engaging relatively stationary targets, the right optic can quickly become a shotgunner’s best friend.
A regular riflescope, especially an LPVO (low power variable optic) or a prism scope, makes a perfect compliment to a dedicated slug gun. For deer hunters in rifle restricted states, with a well-zeroed scope and loaded with heavy-hitting slugs will increase both shooting precision and effective range.
A quality thermal scope or night vision optic can also be a helpful addition to your shotgun when hunting nocturnal hogs, coyotes, and other predators.
A red dot can also be a godsend for turkey hunters who often use tight chokes and narrow shot patterns. A turkey’s head is a relatively small target, and the right optic lets you know your exact point of aim.
Serious 3-Gun competitors can benefit from a red dot or holographic sight. These easy-to-use optics help shooters get on target quickly to make fast, accurate shots. If you’re trying to shave seconds off your course times, the right sight will help you do it.
If you use your 12 gauge primarily for home defense, you might consider adding a red dot optic. These optics are highly intuitive, especially for inexperienced shooters. They are practically foolproof and can help you use your scattergun effectively to deter a threat, especially when you’re shooting in a high-stress situation.
Best Shotgun Scope on the Market Review
The type of optic you should mount on your scattergun largely depends on how you plan to use it. Here are a few of our top recommendations, along with what they do best.
Best Scopes for Shotguns
Although we usually associate rifles and long-range shooting with the word “scope”, these optics also have a role in the world of shotguns. Modern slug technology and fully rifled shotgun barrels have greatly improved the range and accuracy of the basic shotgun.
For big game hunters with a decent slug gun, cutting-edge ammo, and a high-quality scope, quick, humane kills beyond 100 yards are now possible.
Even the best slug gun won’t have the same effective range as a centerfire rifle. This means you won’t need massive magnification from a shotgun scope. A fixed power prism scope or an LPVO in the 1.5x to 9x range should be enough.
Scopes are also gaining traction in turkey hunting. There are several fabulous options on the market that feature specialized reticles for taking down big gobblers.
1 Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40 Riflescope
The Leupold VX-Freedom line of optics are some of the best riflescopes on the market today. This is a premium line of top-notch optics with surprisingly affordable price tags.
If you’re a hunter looking for a serious optic for a serious slug gun, the VX-Freedom Muzzleloader scope is the perfect tool for the job. Although this model is designed specifically for muzzleloaders, it easily pulls double duty on your favorite shotgun. It is solid enough to stand up to harsh recoil without losing its zero. Plus, Leupold’s patented UltimateSlam reticle is perfect for both sabot and rifled slugs. Featuring BDC marks that perfectly match the drop of a standard one-ounce slug, this specialized reticle will help you make accurate shots out to 100 yards.
2 TruGlo 4x32mm Shotgun Scope
This versatile shotgun scope from TruGlo is just as suited for chasing gobblers in the spring as it is for chasing whitetails in the fall. Its fixed power, 4x magnification, awesome low light clarity, and matte camo finish make it perfect for both hunting pursuits.
The scope features a unique diamond reticle that works well for slugs, buckshot, and birdshot. And with a price tag well under $100, this scope is perfect for hunters on a shoestring budget.
3 Swampfox Arrowhead 1-6x24 Riflescope
This LPVO from Swampfox is a practical option for law enforcement, 3-Gun, and hunting applications. The Arrowhead’s 1-6x magnification range is perfect for slug gun ranges and works well whether you’re shooting in brush, around obstacles, or over open ground.
The simple spear duplex reticle also performs nicely on a dedicated slug gun. Its uncomplicated design provides a clean sight picture, and the illuminated center dot is perfect for low light shooting.
4 Bushnell Trophy Shotgun Scope
Bushnell is well-known for their high-quality hunting scopes, and this shotgun scope makes it easy to understand why. With 1.75-4x magnification, a shockproof design, 3 ½ inches of eye relief, and a simple Circle X reticle, the Bushnell Trophy Shotgun Scope is perfect for your scattergun.
The Bushnell Trophy has fully multi-coated optics that provide up to 91 percent light transmission, which comes in handy for twilight hunting, when game are usually more active.
The optic is also nitrogen purged and o-ring sealed for reliable waterproof, fogproof performance, even in the wettest hunting conditions.
Best Red Dot and Holographic Sights for Shotguns
Red dots and holographic sights allow shotgunners to get on target quickly. Since these sights rarely have magnification, they are a great option for close-quarters tactical applications. They also work well in 3-Gun classes that restrict magnified optics.
Red dot and holo sights can also be a handy addition to your home defense shotgun. They are easy to use, even for inexperienced shooters. Since shooting fundamentals often fall apart in adrenaline-pumping defensive situations, a red dot or holo sight can be a major asset in a home invasion.
A red dot optic can also be useful for deer hunters who may jump deer in the woods. The rapid target acquisition and intuitive aiming associated with red dots and similar optics make it easy to pull-off an accurate shot on a bounding target.
5 Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic (PRO)
The Aimpoint PRO is one of the best rated red dot sights on the market. This rugged little red dot is literally bombproof. It is also engineered to hold up in extreme conditions. It is completely waterproof and has a dependable operating range of -49 degrees to 160 degrees Fehrenheit.
The PRO has a bright, crisp two MOA aiming point that is as visible at midday as it is in low light. This simple reticle is also compatible with night vision devices.
With up to 30,000 hours of operating time per three-volt lithium battery, you could literally leave this optic on for three whole years without losing power.
6 TruGlo Gobble Stopper
As the name implies, the TruGlo Gobble Stopper red dot sight is tailored specifically for turkey hunting. It features an illuminated reticle in red or green to increase color contrast with early spring backgrounds.
The Gobble Stopper reticle has a ring surrounding a center aiming point. The ring represents a 24-inch circle at 30 yards, making it perfect for making head shots on big strutters with #5s.
The Gobble Stopper has incredible optical clarity. Its multi-coated optics provide 95 percent light transmission, making it easier to spot those first-light gobblers coming right off the roost. The Gobble Stopper also features a detachable sunshade to prevent sunlight reflecting off the front lens and scaring off wary toms.
7 Burris Fastfire III
The Burris Fastfire III is most commonly mounted on handguns. However, this mini red dot mounts just as easily on a shotgun with a Picatinny rail.
The Fastfire III is compact, lightweight, dependable, and easy to use. It comes in 8 MOA dot and 3 MOA dot configurations. We highly recommend the 8 MOA red dot for most shotgunning applications.
The device automatically adjusts the reticle brightness to enhance visibility in any lighting condition. You can also adjust brightness levels manually if that’s more your style.
8 EOTech EXPS2 Holographic Weapon Sight
EOTech holographic sights are some of the best tactical sights available to modern shooters. Although you’re more likely to see an EOTech holo on the top rail of an AR-15, these sights perfectly compliment tactical scatterguns.
The EXPS2 is EOTech’s most popular model. It features a 68 MOA aiming ring with a 1 MOA center dot, which works well when you’re shooting buckshot. The optic provides a wide field of view and promotes both-eyes-open shooting, which preserves situational awareness in combat situations.
EOTech’s EXPS2 is built like a tank and even works if the front glass shatters or is partially obscured by mud, snow, or debris.
Best Thermal Scope for Your Shotgun
A shotgun can be an effective tool for hog, coyote, and varmint hunting. If you live in an area that allows you to hunt these animals after the sun goes down, a shotgun-mounted thermal optic is a fun and highly effective way to keep the populations of these nuisance species in check.
9 ATN Thor LT Thermal Riflescope
Although the price of this thermal optic could send some shooters into sticker shock, the optic provides a ton of performance for the money. The ATN Thor LT has advanced heat detection sensors that allow you to see animals in complete darkness. You can also see them through thick fog and dense vegetation.
The Thor LT is lighter than most traditional riflescopes, however, it is rugged enough to hold up to harsh environments and repetitive recoil.
Whether you are loading your shotgun with slugs or shot, or you’re using it for hunting or home defense, a quality optic can make your shotgun a more effective weapon. While a good red dot or riflescope can increase accuracy, speed, and range, even the best shotgun scope isn’t a substitute for good, old-fashioned practice. No matter what you choose to mount on top of your scattergun, be sure to spend time at the range becoming familiar with your new optic/shotgun combination.