Photography, hunting, skiing, and spending time with my family and church are what trip my trigger.
Pick #1 is Unbeatable for Price and Quality!
Getting the Best Bang for Your Buck (or Doe)
When it comes to buying scopes, you usually get what you pay for. However, its nice to know that sometimes quality and cheap price can go together. My goal isn't to highlight scopes that are way out of budget for the average hunter, but to showcase those that are a terrific deal and also perform well in the field. As every hunter knows, your equipment often determines whether you bag that whitetail or come home empty-handed.
Maybe I haven't hunted enough years yet, but I have never missed a whitetail yet using a trusty scope that came in at about $75. It is mounted on a Marlin lever-action 30-30 that has been my go-to weapon for several years.
It may be worth mentioning that every kill with this scope/rifle setup has always been either a long shot down a field or when stalking through the timber. I have never had any close shots from a tree stand with a rifle. In fact the 2013/2014 season is the first time I have ever set in one.
That is primarily because a good friend is allowing me to hunt several areas of his that are ideal for tree stand hunting...also I purchased a crossbow several months ago and have used it in the stand. I hope you find this information helpful and would appreciate feedback from you! Leave your comments below.
My #1 Pick is only $89; the Barska Huntmaster Pro.
Check out what Amazon reviewer "Headhunter" had to say about his Barska:
I have bought Barska products in the past and I have always been satisfied with the price and quality of their products. However, this scope sets a new standard for quality rifle scopes under $100. I bought this scope for my Smith & Wesson I-Bolt 30-06. I was blown away by how well this scope is made and how great it did in the field. I shot about 8 rounds to get it sighted in and it has held its zero perfectly since. I have fired close to 75 rds with this scope on my rifle and I have not had a single problem. The IR crosshairs work superb in low light conditions making that early morning buck kill-shot a breeze. I can still shoot dead on at 200+ yards easy with it zoomed at 12x. I absolutely love this scope and I might even buy another one just to have it. At this price, it's worth it.
An overwhelming number of reviewers agree with me when it comes to this scope. The optics are clear and sharp. Also the crosshair illumination is a definite bonus and hard to find in scopes at this low price point.
Pick #2 is also a winner coming in at only $60-$70: the Bushnell Banner 3-9x 40mm Multi-X Reticle.
Here is what Amazon buyer "G" had to say about his purchase:
I have nothing bad to say about this scope. If you are the type that wants to spend hundreds on a scope then don't get this one. I think it was a great value and I was not about to spend hundreds on a scope for a $120 rifle. Fits perfectly on a Mosin Nagant M91/30. You must get a good scope mount.
Bottom line...this is a great scope for that rifle. Was able to shoot 1/2" groups @ 100 yards.
Tim, another Amazon customer, had this to say:
I put this on my 870 Slug Gun, and I'm Impressed! I've owned many scopes, but Bushnell is simply putting out some of the best scopes for the money right now. I have a trophy XT on my muzzle loader, and I don't see any difference between the two, other than the fact that the Banner was half the price. The eye relief is perfect for shotguns or any gun with a lot of recoil. Don't think twice about spending more on a scope, this one has it all.
Pick #3 is another heavy-hitter from the awesome Bushnell family: Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn 3-9x40.
Amazon buyer "gofish" had this to say about his Bushnell:
As a long time owner of hunting equipment, including a dozen or so rifle scopes, I can comfortably say that my recent purchase of the Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Riflescope is one of the best values in my collection. This scope has features that may be found in optics that are far more expensive. Fantastic clarity, Brushed finish, great crosshairs, excellent eye relief. Easily the best buy for the money. Thank you Amazon for helping me find this terrific item.
Every seasoned whitetail hunter will tell you that most deer are taken in the low light of morning or evening when the deer are moving. This winner from Bushnell is very clear and gathers light well during low light. This can mean the difference between coming home empty-handed or stocking your freezer full of deer.
Understanding and Buying the Right Scope
A Few More Important Points to Consider When Buying Any Scope
There are many important factors to consider when purchasing a scope for hunting or other recreational use. Magnification type, bullet ballistics, MOA, and focal plane need to be understood to properly choose the right scope for your needs. We will start by discussing magnification.
Magnification settings of about 10x or higher are a great starting point for many rifles. Clearly, this might be a bit overkill for lower-range weapons like a.22, but about 10x is a good overall target, particularly for inexperienced riflemen. This information won't apply anyway if you want a scope for a 22 rifle.
Sportsmen who use guns like the 6.5 Creedmoor, or even higher-range weapons, will want a magnification that can realistically match firepower. Magnification levels up to 30x are not uncommon on high end long-range optics.
Magnification--Fixed or Variable?
Some long-range scopes have only one setting for magnification. These are called fixed scopes. Optics that can flip through different zoom levels are called "variable." The difference between fixed and variable is more of a preference than a factor that will drastically change the basic function of a scope.
We would recommend variable magnification in most cases since it could be invaluable during specific hunting scenarios because you can essentially zoom back your sight and see more of the terrain if necessary. Just be mindful that you can't adjust the degree to which the scope zooms.
The objective lens size directly affects how much light is allowed inside the tube of your scope. A wide lens will gather more light than a narrower lens. Therefore, the sight picture is noticeably better also. Bigger lenses should provide a wide field of view and clear image. This is true even with magnification at its highest setting. High-power magnification scopes and a broad objective lens allow clarity and good field of view at great distances.
High scope mounts are necessary to accommodate large objective lenses. The gun will also be bulkier to carry around. A large lens may limit the types of weapons that they will easily fit on. In addition, a large objective lens will alter your firearm's weight and balance. This problem is not necessarily experienced by hunters who shoot while prone.
Try to balance your chosen scope's objective lens length for your needs. Bigger is often better, but be careful not to purchase a scope for your firearm that is too big.
Reticle Type–First or Second Focal Plane and More
The type of reticle is just as important as the above factors. For starters, on either the first or second focal plane, reticles appear.
When you toggle between magnification points, the first focal plane reticles will appear to change in size. When you increase the magnification strength of your lens, they will become smaller. This function keeps the hash estimation of the reticle marks the same relative to the target, even if the point size appears to be decreasing. They will always be the same distance.
Reticles from the first focal plane do not require you to perform quick mental math or guess about the new values of those points. At some of the more extreme magnification powers, however, they may become quite small. This can take some getting used to and can be difficult to work with on very long-range scopes.
Second focal plane reticles don't seem to change as you switch between magnification powers. These types of reticles are fixed on a given scope at magnification setting: usually the highest possible power. This design means that the reticle estimation points are only really accurate for one level of zoom.
Any other setting for magnification will require you to adjust your estimates with either rapid math or spatial estimation. Although this is not a problem with scopes that have only a few magnification settings to switch between, it can cause problems when switching from, say, 30x power to 12x power.
For these reasons, most experienced long-range hunters and shooters are more often than not going to prefer a first focal plane reticle. While they have a bit of a learning curve, they help to maintain accuracy and don't require as much guesswork. Finally, the choice is yours, but note that reticles from the second focal plane on variable scopes may be unwieldy.
Obviously, because they have only one magnification setting anyway, this point is irrelevant for fixed-range scopes.
There are also many long-range scopes with reticles that illuminate. These can be great in either low light conditions or daylight brightness for precise targeting. Check to see how many different brightness levels come with an illuminated reticle scope. Different settings allow you to fine-tune your eye's reticle.
Scopes using BDC (bullet drop compensation) get high marks from us. BDC reticles have a series of estimation points stacked directly below the center of your crosshairs in a vertical line. These estimation points match the zeroed range of your rifle and allow you to accurately place the impact point of a shot at varying ranges.
Simply put; a 100-yard zeroed rifle with a BDC reticle could have an estimated elevation point below the crosshairs that is 100 yards apart. Using the BDC elevation points, you can still shoot a shot 400 yards away; use the third marking under the crosshairs as your target and be amazed by the accuracy.
A BDC reticle is an outstanding asset to any long-range scope and has a quick learning curve for the user. Although they do not compensate for wind variations, they make elevation adjustment a breeze.
Often BDC reticles can be modified for various distances, however they are typically optimized for specific ballistics, which is a drawback. Also, you won't be able to use the same BDC scope for multiple weapons shooting different bullet calibers.
Your long-range scope's durability often dictates how long it will last. Durability is an essential factor when it comes to high-end scopes. After all, you don't want your new scope falling apart during its first hunting expedition.
You should always look for scopes made of aircraft-grade aluminum or comparable durable metal. Such materials will last much longer than cheaper metals and are often anodized or made to be rust-resistant. An anodized coating is especially good as it decreases the glare of the scope which can help camouflage your gun.
You should also test whether the scope is water, fog, or shock-resistant. In inclement weather and nearly any outdoor climate, you will be able to use these kinds of scopes without worrying about them failing you.
Durability applies to the optics as well as the scope casing. Some of the best long-range scopes will have optics made from an Armortek coating or similar material. This coating prevents the optics from scratching easily.
Some coatings added to your optics will also improve light transmission. The more light that is gathered into the lens, the clearer your sight picture will be.
Typically it is a smart idea to aim for multi-optical long-range scopes that combine the above mentioned protective coatings and light transmission capabilities. Keep in mind, however, that variable scopes will be a little more costly than scopes with only a single coating.
The eye relief is also important, particularly with rifles that have a powerful recoil when the trigger is pulled.
Try to find scopes that will give you at least 3.5 inches of eye relief. Hopefully this will prevent you from getting a nasty black eye when you lean in to take a shot. Try to find a scope with even more eye relief if you are a glasses wearer.
What about MOA?
Judging distance points is critical when it comes to long-range shooting. While both Mil (milliradians) and MOA (minute angle) are appropriate measurements to use, what do they mean to the common man?
One Mil in 100 yards is 0.36 inches, while 1 MOA in 100 yards is 0.047 inches. The calculation isn't easy to figure in your head, but both methods can be converted by multiplying by 3.43. Because of this confusion, many long-range calculations will use Mil or MOA. Both are seldom used. A few may use a combination of both, but they are rare.
Most United States hunters use the minute angle model, while in other countries individuals or military organizations use milliradians. Many shooting schools use the milliradian method as many firearms instructors follow the lead of the military.
Make sure any measurements you choose are presented in the style with which you are familiar. Otherwise, there will be a strong learning curve.
Are You a Big Time Hunter?
When it comes to hunting, are you game?
Scope or unscope?
Your Favorite Scope Brand
Tell me What You Think...
Billy on October 02, 2020:
Who hunts deer with air rifle ???
Pax Pacis from North Carolina on November 12, 2016:
Spend good money on a quality optic. The light gathering ability between a $100 optic and a $300 optic is, no pun intended, night and day. A good optic and high quality rings will take you a long way toward being a better shooter.
Georgia outlaw on June 24, 2016:
I use Nikon 50mm on my deer rifle that's all needed
Georgia outlaw on April 21, 2016:
Simmons is bout lowest on ur list but fits my budget nicely been using them on all my rifles for yrs never tried one get one & try it think u will like it
Jennifer Coyle on July 01, 2015:
Helpful, thanks! I tried to best 3 deer rifle scopes for the cheap hunter as well but found your great blog before I broke anything!
M. Victor Kilgore (author) on July 10, 2014:
@dannyscott: Thanks, glad it was a help. I'll check yours out too.
dannyscott on July 08, 2014:
That's a great post man. I'm new to Squidoo. This lens helped me a lot. I nominated this post as Lens of the Day. :)
M. Victor Kilgore (author) on March 05, 2014:
@anonymous: Thank you!!
anonymous on March 04, 2014:
I think these rifle scopes are awesome, and pretty well priced.
M. Victor Kilgore (author) on February 17, 2014:
@Zeross4: Thanks for your feedback!
Renee Dixon from Kentucky on February 14, 2014:
Great lens, a lot of hunters in my family!
M. Victor Kilgore (author) on February 07, 2014:
@takkhisa: I love the organic meat or may not do it so much...thanks for commenting!
Takkhis on February 07, 2014:
This is absolutely a great page for deer hunters but not for me though! I never imagine to hunt any animal.
opticsauthority on February 04, 2014:
Nice blog about cheap hunting scope.
M. Victor Kilgore (author) on April 02, 2013:
@Iftikhar-Hussain: Thanks Iftikhar!!
Iftikhar-Hussain on March 04, 2013:
interesting lens .. I like it :)