When reviewing the hunting scope and trying to select the best of the breed, the observer needs to consider exactly what that hunting scope is going to be used for in the field.
There was a time not so long ago that the hunting scope was the basic 3x9x40 medium sized glass tube sight that kinda did it all in the field. For the most part, this is still the basic idea behind a hunting scope because in most cases range is not to exceed 400 yards, the power level is about right in terms of gaining target image and power settings, and they come with good field ready sub tensions installed.
As a brand name and one I stand behind to the last of them are Leupold’s different hunting models in glass sights. Leupold is a gold standard in my series of field scopes and has been responsible for harvesting some massive whitetail bucks at some not so easy range limits.
- Best Hunting Scopes
Best Hunting Scopes
First up for review is the general-purpose whitetail hunters scope in the 3x9x40 series.
1. Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9X40mm
Sold at a modest price being under $400.00 ( At the time of writing ) and change this is a hunters scope of the first order when moving through the timber of the eastern states, or cross a high mountain ridge in the American west.
This scope makes use of an open turret that is a good choice for the long-range deer hunter that wants to crank MOA clicks when that trophy buck is standing at 450 yards downrange. At the same time, the turret clicks are solid enough to allow the shooter to move without thinking about the turret turning off zero With a zero stop setting the scope can be sighted in and returned to the zero setting which allows a quick observation by the shooter so as to confirm that zero before the shot if required.
These scopes are aluminum one piece tube in terms of construction, retain crosshairs as a TRI MOA design giving the shoot some MOA dots to work with when shooting from the sub tension display. The power ring is a quick grip design and is set up for speed in the field.
Leupold warranties this scope for the life of the buyer. This is one of the best in the business.
This scope is ideal for use on medium range deer rifles shooting cartridges like the 243 Winchester, 308 Winchester, and 6.5 Creedmoor by Hornady Ammunition. These examples are only a few, but they do drive home the point. I have shot this basic scope on a 30-06 Model 70 bolt action for over 65 years and never touched the zero settings. Also missed darn few deer over the years with her as well. In the day it was just called the Leupold Gold Ring, and it was a major advance in glass sights for its time.
2. Vortex Optics Crossfire II
Vortex offers some good glass a reasonable pricing.
This scope uses high-grade glass and is built on one piece tube. The scope uses an illuminated reticle making it very workable for low, or no light situations in the field.
The center dot on this scope’s reticle is illuminated as a red image. Sub tensions are standard crosshairs. The turrets are capped for rugged field applications and have the zero rest installed.
The 50 mm reticle will pull light well, and the scope is still of a reasonable size with a one-inch primary tube size. The tube is built of aircraft-grade aluminum, and the unit is O ring sealed against water.
Currently, I use two of these scopes on my field rifles, and I have no issue with the product at all. This also includes a third spotting scope offered by Vortex.
3. Leupold MARK 3HD 3-9x40mm
The Leupold MARK 3HD 3-9x40mm is a better grade scope again set up for hunting at medium range limits. Even though most shooting by scoped rifles is produced at about 6X, this scope carry’s the added edge in magnification for the long shot.
This scope is MIL-based with elevation and windage mil dots for sub tension through the lens sighting adjustments on the fly. After that, the shooter can move to turret settings as well for additional elevation. This scope’s elevation adjustment is good to 1000 yards plus.
This glass sight uses the larger 30mm tube giving the turret components an ability to be designed heavier. The reticle size is still maintained as a 40mm bell. This saves weight and still allows ample brightness for positive target acquisition. Little target fade, great light control, and no fringe blurring at the edges of the lens.
4. Leupold MARK 5HD 5-25x56mm
While some deer hunters and other related big game hunters do not like a cluttered sub tension view I love the things because I train with them and have killed all of my distance record trophy bucks with the same. When you’re hunting mountain sheep, trophy mule deer, lion, or other high country critters, the use of an advanced longer range scope makes a whole lot of sense.
Leupold offers many different higher power scopes but this scope is one I use on a 6.5 Creedmoor deer rifle when I sit the South Dakota Missouri river breaks on a high ridge overlook a mile or so of rolling bottomland.
Here the shots are almost always long and my ballistics DOPE generated data comes in handy terms of doing the math. These scopes when zeroed and blue printed for longer range targets take the guesswork out of the shooting problem. Run your clicks and shoot off the range card built for the scope and cartridge being applied. The 5-25x56mm scope in this case returns massive power for a good look at a long range target, and with the large objective lens the light gathering ability of the glass is outstanding to say the least.
Built-in the FFP first focal plane the crosshairs increase with the increase in magnification. This is a major help when that mountain goat is standing at 500 yards downrange. This scope is also set up as a PR-1 MOA graduation tension system. You can pull for elevation and your eye never leaves the viewer or the target. The scope retains 40 MOA in each direction without moving the turret ring for additional elevation.
One-piece tube construction, hand set glass versus drop and glue systems, and a lifetime warranty make this long range glass a winning system to own.
This scope is a professional grade scope, but a goat hunter that buys a hunt at that price tag also has a rifle that is in the heavy money as well, and the scope to match in this case is also no issue regarding the buyer bank account when the whole subject of hunting big game cost goes currently high in most areas of the world.
5. Zeiss Conquest V6 Reticle
Here we have a scope that I know well because it is a go to system on my deer rifles very often.
My Zeiss scope has been fitted to both varmint and deer rifles over several seasons because it is German-built, and overall production is of a high quality.
Very outstanding glass is used that makes old eyes a whole lot better in the field, and its 30mm main tube carries core parts and springs that are large, well made and deliver accurate adjustments for range and windage settings.
Built of one-piece aircraft-grade aluminum the whole system is totally water-tight, and a natural for rough high country long-range shooting. Sub tensions are calibrated from 62-104 MOA in adjusted elevation. You will never need more on a hunt.
Left side knob focal adjustment and capped turrets make up the outside design of this scope. What you’re buying in the Zeiss is German engineering and accuracy all packed into one bundle.
6. NightForce ATACR 7-35x56mm
Here is a scope and to a greater extent a company that has lived off the concept of selling high-end glass sights regardless of the type and use level. I have selected this glass because it is a good grade of scope quality, uses some good solid design concepts, and is well known among both target and game shooters.
This NightForce ATA CR is a high power optical system uses the company TReMor3 reticle which is set up in favorite the Horus Vision design (Christmas Tree) and with that sub tension design comes the ability of this optical system to stretch range with the appropriate bullet to some massive and accurate distances.
These scopes are well built, carry a high grade of glass, and will stay right with the best of the breed all the way to the trophy’s heart.
The massive 56mm objective reticle lens will pull light and return a clear target image to the hunter. This is a big open country optical system. If used in timber country it is an over designed system. More scope then is at all necessary.
The scope is designed to the point that it is a candidate for any and all ultra long range shooting events.
When the deer season is over, the mountain elk have long gone to the low lands, and the weather has turned against the man on the mountain, the owner of this optical system can still shoot off season rifle targets well out into the next zip code without a single blink of an eye.
At this point in the discussion, I have covered some very affordable scope sights for hunting as well as some ultra high end stuff in terms of price tags over the counter.
Therefore, I will try at this point to bring in some mid range glass that can do both jobs while not becoming an overweight burden to the hunter afield.
7. NightForce SHV 3-10×42
At just under $1.000 ( at the time of writing ) and change this NightForce scope is a budget model that can carry the mail, and get fresh meat to the table all season long.
This 3-10×42 retains more than enough magnification for almost all hunting situations presented from the mountains to the flat land east coast of the United States and beyond. The 42mm objective will pull light well and allow shooting late in the day or early in the almost pre-dawn time period. This scope retains varied reticle options that range from the NightForce Forceplex or the MOAR reticle system.
The main tube on this scope is a full 42mm big boy design just like the higher priced models built by this company, carries capped .25 MOA turret with a side adjustment for parallax.
8. Burris Veracity 5-25x50mm Hunting Rifle Scope
Burris optics has been a nonsense scope brand for many years. In this case, the scope is an affordable model in glass sights that can push to longer-range limits with less cost per 100 yards downrange.
The scope being considered here is a model that uses target knobs with 15 MOA rotation per full turn. The sub tensions on the scope are MOA calibrated for use to 700 yards or more depending on the exact round being chambered in a large caliber centerfire rifle.
The scope uses the Burris 5 time zoom which makes closer target display in a wider area through the lens. This scope is good for general use, big game hunting, and long range target work. One size fits all would be a good way to look at this glass sight.
9. TRACT Toric 3-15×42
Here is a scope that is standard equipment here at Ballistics Research & Development. I shoot this one a field rifle in the fast hot 224 Valkyrie, and also a model of the glass sight on the 300 PRC long range rifle (one-mile work ). TRACT is a great mid range priced unit that was developed by engineers that once worked for someone else and had a better idea for a mouse trap if you will.
Coated optics that pull light well, ED lens coating to reduce target fade and dull fringe edges around the lens surface, and SCHOTT design as a system to bring in additional light.
The scope uses etched glass versus old school made set crosshairs, and it is offered in several different sub tension patterns when meeting the needs of the repression shooter or general use hunter.
This glass sight outguns many others and is a good buy for the money set down on the sporting goods dealer counter.
10. Bushnell Engage 3-9×40
Bushnell Engage 3-9×40. Ending with this scope is just about right because it is the basic glass sight that will work for almost ever, will return massive performance for the dollar spent, carries an illuminated center dot in the sub tension system, and is built as tough as nails.
The turret caps are closed for max protection under nasty field conditions, and 40mm objective is a solid performer when pulling in light during the early and late shooting periods of the day, and at a length of 12.13 inches the scope is workable on a wide range of rifle receivers.
Illuminated function works for an adjustment knob on the left side of the turret, eye correction by a ring at the rear of the scope, and zero adjustments are produced with caps removed and a dial in system employed.
The scope’s main body is a one piece aluminum unit that is water tight and resistant to all external elements afield.
I have had some of the Bushnell products in service here at my test and development outfit for better than 40 years. Same scopes on the same test guns. Some have seen very harsh mountain conditions in rain and snow. Deep freeze testing in northern Minnesota in the dead of winter at 20 below zero, and in the heat of a Texas summer when gunning pigs. The end result is that I have NEVER been let down by a Bushnell including those that had a take home cost of $39.95 back in the day.
I have been writing firearms and outdoor material of over 50 years to date. I have hunted across the world including Russia and a great deal of time professional hunting in Australia. I currently live in the American west and hunt all across the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the Big Horn mountains. I have specialized much of my work as a load developer in shotguns and rifles. I have run a small company that builds suppressor barrels of my design, and load tests for writing purposes and consulting. My commercial names include Ballistics Research & Development / Metro Gun Systems.TM.