When the question comes up as to exactly what a sniper scope is answering the question is best approached by taking account as to what is necessary in a scope of this type, and then what brands and models match up to those requirements. Because sniper scopes are not set up for the average deer hunter, but instead favor the man hunter to put in bluntly the first element regarding these scopes is construction quality inside and out.
These scopes are costly because they use the et glass available, often are housed in the best engineering on the plaint, and as such can do what the general purpose scope even in a high grade model just can’t compete with. These are tools of war, and as such retain their own special place in the line up of shooting optics in general.
Glass quality is right up front here in that the sniper needs to see what he or she is trying to hit. Keeping in mind that this target shoots back, or at least gets the ball rolling regarding other members of the bad guy team to do so, the sniper wants glass that will spot the bad guys at very long distances, fight off glint, target fade, and soft lens edges at long range, then retain sub tensions that are best suited to the needs of the sniper.
Sniper scopes need to retain fast moving turret adjustment systems as the need to change elevation or windage can come up fast in a gunfight. For the most part, the sniper is only required to send one round on a specific target much of the time but there are those days when everything goes to hell, and when that happens that rifle and optical system need to be the best possible system that you can put in a riflemen/snipers hands.
I will cover the requirements of each scope as it presents its own design function as I review different models of sniper level scopes.
- Best Sniper Scopes
- 1. Leupold Mark 5HD 7-35x56mm
- 2. NightForce B.E.A.S.T
- 3. NightForce C507
- 4. NightForce ATACR
- 5. Vortex Optics TAZOR HD GEN II
- 6. Burris Xtream Tactile XTR III
- 7. Burris II
- 8. Swarovski Z5 5-25×52 BT
- 9. Steiner T5Xi Tactical
- 10. Athlon Optics Ares ETR UHD 4.5-30×56 FFP
- 11. Bushnell Elite Tactical
- 12. Bushnell Elite Atactical LRTS 4.5-18-44
- 13. Schmidt Bender PMII 5-25×56 L/P DT P4FMOA FFP
- 14. Replacement model Schmidt Bender SRPO52556-BGXRLCR1
- 15. Zeiss Conquest V6 5-30X50 MOA
Best Sniper Scopes
1. Leupold Mark 5HD 7-35x56mm
I term of a sniper scope I know this glass sight well because I shoot it as applied to the Browning A Bolt heavy long range rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor. The rifle and glass were paramount as lead tools when I write my third book on long range shooting a few years ago.
This is a big scope as it retains the large 56mm objective lens that with the aid of the extra high quality glass Leupold uses, pulls light well right up the to last flicker of daylight. Leupold is the only manufacture I know of that hand sets the objective lens versus glueing the lens to the main tube. This means a very tight machined fit is required and Leupold does indeed offer that level of quality in hand set lens fitting.
As set up in the FFP, first focal plane, and equipped with sub tensions designed as an H59 reticle display, the scope can allow the sniper to shoot through the lens and gain required elevation clicks by the use of the H59 hash marks, versus turning turret clicks. My scope uses the H59 in MRADS, and it is very quick to reach out well beyond 1000 yards if required by way of a couple of simple click adjustments on the elevation turret.
The scope is up to 20 ounces lighter than many other scopes in the same class, is totally waterproof and shock-resistant ( military grade ), and meets the needs requirement of police, contractor, and military snipers.
2. NightForce B.E.A.S.T
The night force B.E.A>S>T. Has been selected because it is a military grade glass sight, carries all the latest innovations in scope development that is non-electric, and is accepted by professional standards among police, operators, and military alike.
This scope retains an illuminated reticle, a 5-25×56 power, and objective lens size, works with Horus reticle designs for long range applications ( sniper grade ), and carries MRAD elevation and windage setting being again military designed. The scope is offered in the FFP install. ( First focal Plane.)
When the scope is offered in MOA graduations it carries 250 clicks for rotations as in elevation adjustments. This scope is considered one of the best NightForce offers today. I have shot this scope for ammunition and weapon evaluations with some very positive results here at Ballistics Research & Development
3. NightForce C507
This is a long range scope by design and is advanced enough for sniper applications. The scope makes use of 5.5-22×56 power and objective size pulls light like crazy even in low light situations. This scope is built of the massive 30mm tube housing. All aluminum of aircraft grade, large open turrets with zero stop 250 travel click MOA settings, and the NightForce Moar-T reticle.
This scope is large, long, and designed for locking on targets at very long ranges. With MOA rail use at one mile is possible in this case.
4. NightForce ATACR
This is a 7-35×56, objective/power setting glass sight. The main tube on this scope is a very large 34mm meaning the core design of the mounted turrets and internals is heavy duty and tough as hell.
The scope is designed for police snipers that need the “cleft” shot under the human nose, for the hostage situation brain shot. Training with members of the Minneapolis Police Department ERU units years ago we ran this practice shot on a monthly bases to 100 yards. ( Urban range for hostage situations. )
This scope can do it all in terms of stretching for the bad guy by a state trooper in the middle of nowhere, and being pinned down by a guy with a rifle, or positioned on a sniper hide on hold for the green light to take the shot on a deranged fool with a gun.
The unit retains an illuminated reticle for low light situations, full tactical MIL-XT sub tensions, and turrets ( military standard) and is offered in the first focal plane. Operator and police tested to be sure.
5. Vortex Optics TAZOR HD GEN II
This Vortex Optics TAZOR HD GEN II is sniper grade police use or operator/contractor applied.
Built in the first focal plane (FFP ) as are most sniper grade glass sights, and making use of the Horus Termor 3 ( MRAD ) sub tensions this is a shooting sight system for the one mile shot as in areas fire control., or very accurate kill shot to 1400 yards.
The L-TEC turret system carries a zero lock and retains those massive big jump MRAD click graduation for the high elevation required when going long downrange.
High quality glass as required for this type of work, waterproof and fog resistant as well this is a tough field scope. I shoot several of the Vortex brand big rifle long range scopes here in my program and I have not found any issues with them to date.
Again like others this is a professional grade or advanced hunting grade optical system. Yes, sniper approved, )
6. Burris Xtream Tactile XTR III
The Burris Xtream Tactile XTR III precision rifle scope is a solid 5x30x56mm system that will carry the mail well out to one mile depending on the cartridge selection being applied by the shooter.
During the American SHOT SHOW 2019, being the last one prior to C-19 take over of the world, I spend a good deal of floor time with the folks at Burris talking over the values of exactly this model in a rifle scope.
Burris builds good solid scopes and uses advanced engineering designs as well. All heavy aircraft grade aluminum main 30mm tube, very good lens glass that pulls light and fights target fade or reflections, and will hold up under nasty field conditions when required to do so.
The scope carries a zero stop, illuminated reticle for night or low light target acquisition and is very workable for police or operator use.
7. Burris II
In this scope, we again have a Burris product and closer to the same scope as illustrated above.
This scope is a bit less money and is built on the Gen II design. Not to worry, however as this is the same outstanding glass sight as the newer III model.
This scope carries a 5-25×50 power setting and objective lens, retains a zero stop setting for return zero on the elevation turret and uses the left side focus system for hands on through the sight adjustments. The scope makes use of the SCR MIL reticle.
This system is a good click value system for long range applications.
8. Swarovski Z5 5-25×52 BT
This scope save for using the best glass in the world as some ten to believe and I agree is designed as a stat of the art long rag system. The turret settings are built pre set up to four different range zeros at one time. However, the scope turrets can be hand adjusted to any range on the fly as well.
This scope makes use of the large tube bell in 52 MM, advanced engineering in terms of getting the best possible sight picture from the glass sight even at very long ranges, and by my standards after shooting Swarovski on several different Wyoming, Montana, and Dakota long range events I can attest to the scope being a deadly accurate distance killing machine.
I shot this scope with a group of writers and products buyers in South Dakota over the winding Bell river from a high position as in overwatch. We shot round boulders on the water’s edge to 3.4 mile with almost no excess dial in time involved. If that had been a crossing point for combatants it would have been a very bad day for that crew.
One system I like about this brand is that they offer spotting scopes set up to match the sub tension on the rifle scope exactly. That means what the spotter sees is the same image and range values the shoot is seeing through the scope lens. This makes for sold range adjustments communication. I shot Swarvosky with the aid of a spotter ( team ) for several days in Utah on the high Washach range. We went from 2000 feet to 9000 feet by way of the 308 7.62 NATO rounds and crushed every target to 1000 yards with ease.
9. Steiner T5Xi Tactical
Here we have my mainline ultra long range scope. I shoot to rifles built up as long range sniper systems and both use this scope as a gold standard for one mile or more work. In effect, with this glass sight and my 338 Lapua, I own a mile in all directions in terms of suppressive area armament applications, and pin point dead shot accuracy to 1400 yards against selected sniper grade target from a hide. I have trained industry folks here on my range in South Dakota to shoot long by way of this very sight.
This scope is offered in the FFP setup, retains the 3-15X50 SCR 34mm power, objective and tube size, retains very large turrets and indicator figures for easy adjustments in military MRADS and makes use of German glass that gets the job done at very long ranges.
Shooting a second scope of the very same design on the Ruger first-generation 6.5 Creedmoor chassis rifle( Precision model ), I own the valley to 1200 yards via Hornady 140 grain ELD ammo. Match this glass to the Ruger Precision and it is game on against anything that is warm and moving.
10. Athlon Optics Ares ETR UHD 4.5-30×56 FFP
In this sniper level scope, we have a 4.5-30X56. This is a heavyweight in long range glass with the high power and large objective lens. If your seeing some similarities from scope to scope it is because long range has its own signature, and it stands out very large in terms of engineering makeup.
The Athlon is built in the FFP, is offered in four sub tensions types and both MOA and MRAD setups.
Zero stop setting as applied to the open fast adjustment turret, advanced light control optics, and coated protection for harsh field applications.
The scope retains 110 MOA advancements and also uses the sniper level sub tensions that are illuminated. Low light shooting is workable with this scope.
11. Bushnell Elite Tactical
The Bushnell Elite Tactical Riflescope is a gold standard around here in terms of high end effective one mile glass. I shoot this scope in the Montana 1999 in 338 Lapua and have switched it around on Savage, T/C, and other chassis rifles during performance testing at 1000 to 1500 yards.
This scope carries 4.5-3-X50 glass with the Bushnell G3 reticle. I study this scope and conferred with professional snipers fresh back from the dirt pile that now work for Bushnell before getting into this glass sight.
The glass is quality the sub tensions are outstanding and the scope will grow from magnification to sub tensions to 19 MRADS for the easy to set up one mile shot regarding the 338 Lapua.
The scope has won the “King Of The Two Mile” shooting events, and countless other long range shooting events. The revolution is a clean crisp 10 Mils advancement every rotation of the turret. Zero so settings for an accurate return, and the Ed level glass as offered by Bushnell in my mind needs to be fresh from Japan being the level is so high grade. No edge distortion, target fade, or color control issues ( rainbow ).
12. Bushnell Elite Atactical LRTS 4.5-18-44
This build in the Bushnell long range series is a bit lower on magnification, carries a smaller objective lens, but by way of correct sub tension systems will do the deal well out to extreme range limits.
A solid choice in the price range it stands at for police or operator use. This is a choice I would make in terms of glass quality for the dollar spent.
Well fitted with coatings for exterior protection of both metal surfaces and glass. Will not take in water down to 3 feet of water for a period of 30 minutes.
This is a sister scope to the previous Bushnell but at a bit lower end while staying with the task of a long range shooter/ sniper when required.
13. Schmidt Bender PMII 5-25×56 L/P DT P4FMOA FFP
Here you have the apex in sniper optics and German guts and performance to the core.
This scope is top of the line when it comes to quality glass, materials, and construction.
The scope retains that massive 56 mm objective lens, very large turrets with a good deal of windage and elevation control and is custom available from Bender in several if not more sub tension options.
The exact scope illustrated here is not in current production, but Schmidt Bent can not be left out of this review. This is the gold standard of sniper grade glass period. All of the upper end long range scopes built by this company are to an exacting standard that is unquestionable. Military, police, and operator grade at the very top of the pile.
14. Replacement model Schmidt Bender SRPO52556-BGXRLCR1
Power settings 5-25X56 Gen 2 FFP 34mm main tube in MRADS, German Army sniper scope, World standard long range military systems. The elevation will jump fast for the quick sighting adjustments required of a field combat sniper. For details covering exact sub tension requested, and any special handling direct contact with the manufacture is advised.
This is not our daddy’s deer rifle scope at all. When you are on the line the Bend steps up front and center.
15. Zeiss Conquest V6 5-30X50 MOA
The is another German optical system designed for the very best results in long range shooting.
Again like others, we shoot this at BR&D as applied to a wide range of rifle calibers and types. Anything from scout rifles to the heavy stuff in one mile rifles will see the Zeiss at one time or another.
Glass quality on this scope is well above many standards. The 50 mm objective pulls light like crazy, and it is offered in the basic second focal plane SFF.
The BDC adjustable turrets make it a hunters friend, but don’t kid yourself this is not a scope I want tracking me into its crosshairs across open ground anywhere inside 1400 yards.
The recital style in this case is the Zeiss ZMOA. I have been running this glass on 1000 yard steel targets for most of the past winter here at 3000 feet above sea level and by way of the 308 Winchester 150 grain round, and Lake City military MATCH grade 168 grain 7.62 NATO rounds. Found the glass exceptional regarding target acquisition.
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.