Almost every gun owner is guaranteed to own a .22 rifle. For most of us, it was the first rifle we ever owned and the one we grew up shooting. It was the foundation of our learning and for that reason, we will always love the .22. Combing this caliber with the best .22 scope is a natural progression.
A scoped .22 is such a versatile choice for small game, shooting practice, and just having fun. No shooter should ever be without one.
Vortex Viper HS
Leupold VX Freedom
Bushnell Drop Zone 22
Nikon Prostaff Rimfire
What makes a good .22 Scope?
There are couple of ways you can go with a .22 scope and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. It all depends on what you want your rifle to do. This is the most important aspect to understand before you make a choice.
For the hunter and recreational shooter, you are simply looking to improve your shot placement over distance. Since the .22 is a lightweight, lower powered round, it drops significantly and is highly susceptible to wind at greater distances. For this, a scope that is of reasonable power to shoot to distances around 100 yards is more than enough.
For those who want to get the highest level of precision over shorter distances of 50 yards or less and don’t care about speed, a more powerful scope can be used. This is common for shooting competitions such as sandbag or benchrest. Often for the hunter, this doesn’t work out well as it can be very hard to find and follow a target.
You can attempt to blend the two disciplines but will often end up with an optic that doesn’t do either in a way you will be happy with. If you are very interested in both, you really are better off investing in two scopes and probably two rifles. This is expensive but most .22 rifles are very affordable.
.22 Rifle Scope Buyers Guide
The goal is to cover both possible uses for a rifle scope. You want to make the best possible choice and we want to help you. All of the information below is simply a suggestion of what is known to work. Make your decision based on what you want but this guide is a great place to start.
The magnifying power of a scope is the whole reason we want one in the first place so this is the normal place to start. You need to be aware of everything else that goes into a scope but starting with the magnification you want is the perfect way to narrow down the options.
For a hunter or recreational shooter, high powered scopes are not a great option. It simply takes too long to get on target. For these shooters, something in the 7 to 14x range is usually more than enough. Any of these scopes will easily get you to the 100-yard mark and beyond that, the .22 is pretty ineffective.
For those interested in the ultimate precision, no power is too high. It's common to see scopes as high as 40x on .22s for sandbag and benchrest rifles. These are often high dollar options but for the job they do, they are worth the money. Just be aware that these are nearly impossible to shoot a moving target with and are best used at no more than 50 yards, often less. That said, these are the scopes that can put one round on top of another all day.
Fixed and Variable Power Scopes
The world of variable powered optics has grown significantly over the past 30 years to the point where finding a fixed power scope is often difficult. For most shooters, a variable powered optic is a great choice.
Fixed powered optics are more durable but for a .22 this hardly matters. If you don’t want to deal with having to mess with power, look for one. Most people with a variable power scope tend to set them on the highest magnification and leave them anyway.
The reason most people used to shy away from variable powered scopes was cost. With modern scopes, this is hardly a concern at all. The price difference is insignificant.
Most people go with a reticle far more complicated than they need for a .22. Usually, this doesn’t cause much of a problem but having a simple reticle makes shooting more natural and less complicated. The last thing you need is lines clogging your scope image when you never use them.
There are 4 types of reticles common to all scopes:
These are the plain crossed lines and are often a great choice for a .22. They are simple and fast with no additional information clogging up your view. Sure, they have no way of measuring bullet drop but for most shooters that will never matter. A modified crosshair called a Duplex reticle has thicker lines for easier visibility.
There are many varieties of holdover reticles but all share the trait of having a small set of markings to account for bullet drop. These are my preferred option as they maintain almost all of the simplicity of a crosshair but allow you to judge bullet drop to some degree.
Shaped reticles will often have a circle or chevron shape that marks the bullet impact. Their main strength is speed but they are less precise. One of these scopes can improve your shooting speed but are best used at very short ranges.
Mil or MOA
Fully measured Mil or MOA reticles have measurements as a part of the reticle to help you judge distance and bullet drop to a great degree. For a .22 these are often overly complicated and unnecessary. The only time one of these makes sense is for practice. There is nothing wrong with them but you are unlikely to ever use them to their full advantage.
When you adjust a scope, there are two types that are common. For the .22 the less complicated capped adjustments are the most popular, affordable, and simple option. For these, you zero the scope and that’s it. Any adjustments are made by holdover and Kentucky windage.
For high powered precision rifles, most people use a turret adjustment system that allows you to dial in for range. If you want a scoped .22 to practice for a precision rifle, get one of these. Otherwise, they are just one more thing to deal with and won’t do much to improve your shooting or hunting experience.
Focus and Field of View
Though these are unrelated, we are going to cover them together as they both apply to how you plan to use your scope.
Focus, in this case, parallax focus, will determine how close a target can be and still be in focus for the scope. Scopes with excessive power may have very long parallax focus ranges which will limit their usefulness for many distances that are commonly shot at with a .22. Anything that prevents you from shooting at targets closer than 20 yards is not a good choice for a .22.
If you are a target shooter that needs precision, just make sure the focus distance is less than the range you commonly shoot at or you will end up with a useless optic.
Field of view is the measurement of how much area you can see through your scope at a specific range. Usually, this will be measured in a number of feet at 100 yards. This is what makes a very high powered scope a bad choice for hunters with a .22.
The field of view may only be a few feet at ranges you plan on hunting. This makes following the target or finding it in the first place very difficult. This is fine for target shooting and can help you focus on your bullseye.
For a hunter, you want the highest field of view you can get. For a target shooter, smaller is often better.
Most scopes are made to be quite durable and are far more than what you would ever need for a .22. The only time durability will be a strong consideration is if you hunt at times when the weather may be very poor or when there is a lot of dust in the air.
Since the .22 rifle has such a low recoil, having a shockproof scope hardly matters. It's still nice in case you drop or bang your rifle into something. Most scopes will be more shockproof than you will ever need.
You do want a scope to be weatherproof. I strongly recommend scopes that are sealed and atmospherically purged so they do not collect moisture. This will also prevent dust from getting into your scope which can cause severe damage over time.
There are a ton of other durability features such as scratch resistant lenses and coatings. All of these are good to have and should be treated as extras. Get them if you can but if they add too much cost, leave them be.
Top .22 Rifle Scope
Leopold is legendary and with the growth of competition in the shooting world, they have become more affordable than they ever were. For those of us who demand the ultimate in quality, this is some of the best news we could have! Ammo prices may have gone up but great scopes are coming down.
What makes Leupold so great starts with their glass. On this 3.5-10x variable powered scope, the glass is nearly perfect. So crystal clear that it’s like looking through nothing at all. This combines with a great multi-coat and large 50mm objective lens for unparalleled brightness for low-light shooting.
For the hunter or target shooter, this scope is actually far more durable than you would ever need it to be. Not only is it shockproof but with Leupold’s second-gen waterproofing, it is purged and airtight. This means no fog, condensation or dust issues. This scope is built for a lifetime!
Vortex Viper HS
Right now there is a revolution in the optics world for scopes that are highly affordable but still have the utmost in quality. This revolution is being led by Vortex. Their optics are state of the art, top notch, have an amazing warranty, and come in far below what we are used to paying for this level of quality. They are not alone in the revolution but they are the best by far.
The 2.5 to 10x power of the Viper is perfectly suited for a .22 when matched with a reticle that will give you some estimation of holdover. This is all built into finely crafted Japanese lenses that are ultra-crisp. The extra-low light dispersion makes everything bright and sharp for any shooting at any time of day. These scopes are phenomenal!
Not only are they optically amazing but they are built like a tank. Purged and O-ring sealed, they are shockproof to almost any weapon you would want to put them on. They are also 100% waterproof and dustproof. No issues with fogging or anything else. This is a part of the Vortex guarantee and is covered by the best warranty in the optics world.
Another Leupold option, this time a little lower in price but that does mean a slight degradation of quality. Most shooters will never notice the difference, especially on a .22, but it is there. While this scope is still one of the industry leaders, it is very hard to call it top of its class. Instead, it is just a damn good scope for a damn good price.
The 3-9x power is a perfect choice for most .22 applications from hunting to range shooting. You won’t get the most distance out of it but plenty enough for this lower caliber round. While the glass is second to the higher VX series scopes, it is still far better than most optics out there. It is clear, bright, and offers amazing contrast for easy target identification.
Like all Leupold optics, the VX-1 is nitrogen purged and sealed for perfect performance over a lifetime of use. The lenses are scratch resistant and the whole optic is shockproof up to magnum caliber rounds. This means your little .22 will have an optic that will last a lifetime or more. Likely you will be passing along this scope to your kids and even grandkids.
We are going to throw one last Leupold into the mix. This time we want something more suited to the hunters. Those who need a little better-aiming speed but don’t need all the power of a range scope. For this, you want something with a little less magnification and better weight. The Freedom is the perfect choice for the hunter. It has everything you are likely to need and nothing to get in the way.
The Freedom tops out at only 4x magnification. This may seem light on power but target acquisition and field of view are greatly increased. For the hunter, this is what matters most and with a touch of skill, you can still pull off shots out to 50 yards. For a .22 you wouldn’t want much further range than that to ensure a clean kill.
This has all of the same legendary features you are used to in a Leupold. The glass is perfect with no faults and ultimate clarity. This is a tough as nails scope that will last for generations of hard use. While most people may want more power, if you can go with less, this is absolutely the scope to have! You can’t break them and they will always perform, no matter the weather or conditions you find yourself hunting in.
Nikon has always made great optics and they have improved many times over in the last couple of decades. Their Prostaff line offers a wide variety of powers, reticles, and features but the consistent quality is what makes these a great choice for the budget conscious. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get something worthwhile.
At 3-9x this still falls in that sweet spot for a versatile .22 scope. It has a huge 50mm objective and high-quality glass to ensure good light transmission. This adds up to a very capable scope at a very good price, especially if you can find them on sale. You would be hard pressed to find a better optic at a better price anywhere.
Nikon offers a lot of great features on this scope. A BDC reticle, quick focus eyepiece, and zero-reset turrets are things you often find on higher dollar optics. In total, everything about this scope is just solid value. It’s tough as nails, fog and waterproof, and capable of standing up to some serious use in the field. The capability of seeing in low-light makes this a great hunting option but it would do very well on the range instead.
This is the first scope we have featured that was designed from the ground up for the .22. While this does limit what rifles you can use it on, if you are a dedicated .22 man and want a dedicated .22 scope, the Bushnell is hard to beat and offers an amazing value. What more would you expect from a Bushnell scope? They have been the bestselling brand of scopes for a generation.
Optically, this Bushnell is everything it needs to be to ensure good accuracy for the .22. Its power is a little lower at 7x max but that falls well into about 60 to 70 yards with a .22. Well within hunting range but not so powerful, you lose the ability to track a target. Optically, the Drop Zone is very clear with no focus issues. You can shoot as close or far as you need to and never have to worry.
This scope has full parallax adjustment for keeping things clear close up and at a distance. The reticle is pre-marked with estimated bullet drops for the .22. Once you have it sighted in, you are good to go. This process is far easier on this scope than many others. The fact that it is made for this caliber is just the icing on the cake.
Nikon Prostaff Rimfire
Much like the previous Prostaff, this is a great scope all around but unlike the previous Prostaff, this scope was designed for the .22 caliber round. This can make all the difference if you are really wanting to get accurate shots at a distance. Of course, you will never be able to accurately use it on any other caliber. There is always a tradeoff and that lack of versatility is the only thing that places this lower on the list.
The magnification is the same on either Prostaff at 3-9x and the optics are essentially the same. This means that you get the same clarity and crispness. The reticle is where things get different. The Prostaff .22 has a BDC reticle designed for the purpose. Specifically, this if for hyper-velocity rounds so you need to keep that in mind.
The construction of the .22 variant is also similar but less robust. You still get the waterproofing and fog resistance but you lose out on some of the shock resistant properties. This is a slight downfall. So why would you choose this scope over a different Prostaff model? Price! The cost of this scope is significantly cheaper than on other variants. If you want a serviceable product at a great price, this is the option for you.
The Banner series by Bushnell is one of the leading scopes on the market today. It does come last on our list but this is a list of the best and you definitely won’t find anything to beat this scope its price range. There isn’t even anything close to this for a comparable price. Especially when you factor in customer service and warranty.
Power on this scope is perfect at a max of 9x for most .22 applications. It works for hunting, sport shooting, and range time. The Multi-X reticle is a simple but effective choice that doesn’t over complicate matters. Despite the price, the glass is the same high-quality stuff you find on any Bushnell scope.
While the scope is not the most rock-solid, it is definitely enough for a .22 rifle. It may not have high shock resistance but it is waterproof and dustproof. This is a field ready scope with scratch resistant finish and good overall durability. If money is a little tight and you are on a budget, this is a great choice that will serve you well!
There is more fun to be had with a .22 rifle than most people ever realize. Ammo is cheap and guns are readily available. Adding a scope to your .22 rifle is a natural next step to take your shooting. There are many options out there, more than you could ever hope to fit into a single article. We selected those above because they have been tested and proven many times over for the avid small-caliber rifleman. They are options that work and will never do you wrong.