Ever since the advent of the rifle, shooters have wanted to push the extremes of how far they could shoot. From the first telescopic sights used on cap and ball rifles all the way to the most modern scopes today, our interest in reaching farther and farther has never waned.
If your goal is to reach out past 500 yards, you are going to need the best long range rifle scope you can get. The first step is to understand exactly what that means.
What is a Long Range Scope?
While any scope can be used to increase range, we are looking at a specific tool designed to engage targets out past 500 yards or more. That means you are going to want certain traits in that scope that make it not only possible to shoot that far but to simplify the process as much as possible. Ranges approaching 800 yards become very difficult and out to 1000 yards, nearly impossible without a specialized setup.
At a minimum you want magnification of 10x which is what the military uses on their .308 rifles out to 800 yards. You may want to go a little more powerful if you want to cross that 800 yard barrier. I have had good luck with scopes into the 24x range and prefer these. Just remember you will need a sizable objective and multicoated lenses to preserve image quality at that power.
More than likely you are also going to want a BRD reticle to make the most of your scope. This is a huge plus at long range, especially if you like to practice holdovers for windage. You probably shouldn’t hold over for elevation unless you can’t help it.
A good match for that reticle are target turrets that are adjustable on the fly for windage and elevation. This is trait that is not only common on dedicated long range scopes but nearly universal. Once you reach a bullet drop of 12 feet or more, holding over is no longer a viable practice. You need to be able to dial in that range to get everything right. You can skimp on dialing windage once you have a good grasp of estimating it but usually your hold will be very small. In strong wind, use your adjustments.
Principles Of Use
A long range scope is not a universal scope for anything you may want to shoot. Understanding the limitations of the equipment is central to its effective use. You also shouldn’t rush out thinking that you will be immediately making 800 yard shots. It takes time and skill to pull that off and some people never take the time to get good enough to do it.
Over my years as a shooter, I have gotten decent at 800 yard shots and can hit most of them with my preferred .300 Winchester Magnum but I have only succeeded at 1000 yards maybe 1 out of 50 times I have tried it if not less. Even with todays super calibers, a 1000 yard shot is rare and VERY difficult.
There are two principles you really need to understand before you buy a scope.
Understanding MOA Rifles
When you buy a rifle intended for long range shooting it will often say it’s a 1 MOA rifle or maybe less if it’s a high quality weapon. What this means is that the rifle is capable of shooting with that level of accuracy. One Minute of Angle is around 1” at 100 yards so any shot you shoot at 100 yards will strike within an inch of your intended location if your shot is perfect. That’s pretty reasonable.
But when you expand out to 500 yards, that’s 5 inches. At 1000 yards that’s 10 inches. If you are shooting a 10 inch plate at 1000 yards, even a perfect shot may miss. You scope can’t help you at all with this. You just need to get a rifle with a better MOA guarantee.
We haven’t talked much about field of view in this article but its important to consider when choosing the power of your optic. The more magnification you have, the less area you are able to see through the scope. This is fairly unimportant when shooting at targets but for hunting where you may have to deal with a moving animal, it becomes quite an issue.
Not only will finding your target be harder through a higher magnification scope but following it as it moves will be too. If you plan on using your rifle for hunting you are much better off with something in the mid-teens for maximum power. There is a reason the military prefers scopes between 10 and 15x for all uses. It has to do with field of view and spotting targets. You can safely go a bit higher but it will cause you problems.
The 6 Long Range Scope Recommendations
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Best Long Range Scope Under 1500
1. Nightforce Optics BR Series Rifle Scope
When you start shopping at this level, you have to expect the best. What you don’t want is a redesigned hunting scope but something that is purpose built for long or even ultra-long range. That is where the Nightforce BR series comes in. If there is any scope out there that can get you to 1000 yards or more, it’s this one.
There are no sales gimmicks with Nightforce, they are simply the most rugged optic on the planet and with a quality to match. This scope is an astounding 42x at its highest magnification with multicoated lenses and a large 42mm objective to keep things bright and visible. The parallax is also adjustable so you get the best image possible no matter what range you shoot.
With target turrets and a BDC reticle, this is the scope to have for shooting ultra-long ranges and probably the best long range scope for 6.5 Creedmoor, .338 Lapua, or any of the other flat shooting calibers. I will admit to a little bias as this is the scope I have used on my 6mm BR rifle for almost a decade.
2. Trijicon TR23 AccuPoint
When most people think of high end optics, Trijicon probably comes to mind but maybe not in the realm of long range shooting. Long known for their ACOG, few people have realized the quality and potential of a Trijicon rifle scope with some serious magnification. This is a scope that certainly has 1000 yard capabilities, even if it is half the power of the Nightforce.
Like the ACOG, the TR23 has an illuminated reticle for low light visibility that is zero forward emission. With several options of base reticles available, all have some for of BDC and are second focal plane. No batteries are need for the illuminated center which will only cause long range issues with the smallest targets. Should you shoot at small targets, the go to trick is to set your elevation one mil higher than you need and use the dot below the illumination to aim but this should rarely be needed.
This is a quite powerful optic, maxing out at 20x with a perfectly matched 50mm objective. Of course, all of the lenses are multicoated as you would expect for this level of quality. Though they may not be specifically known for it, Trijicon makes great lenses with high quality glass. There may be better but not many and not by much.
Best Long Range Scope Under 1000
3. Vortex Optics Viper HSLR
If you are into long range shooting, the Vortex Viper is probably a scope you have heard of but the HS LR edition takes it to a whole new level. This scope was designed with distance in mind and with its 6-24x magnification, multicoated optics, and 50mm objective lens, shots out to 1000 yards or more are attainable with this scope.
This is an FFP scope with a BDC reticle and target turrets designed for the long-range shooter. No gimmicks or fluff, just pure quality. For the price, you are getting one of the best long range scopes for the money on the market today. There may be a few that equal the VIPER HSLR but you would be very hard pressed to find one that could top it.
4. Millet LRS-1
From the get-go, Millet dedicated themselves to producing great optics and with perseverance, they have made a name for themselves in the optics world. The LRS-1 is their long-running flagship scope for those who feel the need to really reach out to their targets and with the max 25x magnification and outstanding lens quality, it will certainly do the job.
The massive 56mm objective on this scope lets in a ton of light so you can be sure to have the brightest picture and amazing resolution. Designed for the most potent ranged calibers including the .50 BMG round, you should have no problem with range or durability. While it may not be one of the biggest names in optical sights, Millet has been around long enough to have it figured out.
Best Long Range Scope Under 500
5. Nikon P-308
If you are looking for the best long range scope for 308, you should consider one specially designed for the task. Made by legendary optics company, Nikon, the P-308 is designed from the reticle up to be well suited to the most popular long range caliber in the world. And since it is a Nikon, you still get their amazing glass and a solid 40mm objective lens on this 4-12x scope.
With Nikon’s own BDC 800 reticle and matching turret adjustments, getting on target is easy. From that point on it's you but everything this scope has will help you in your quest to get out there to 800 yards or more. You won’t find better for the cost, in fact, this is probably the best long range rifle scope on a budget.
There are a number of scopes sold under the Banner line by Bushnell and all of them have the best quality glass that Bushnell has ever produced. Everything about this scope is quality beyond what you would believe for the price making this a great scope for those new to the sport. With its powerful 16x magnification no reasonable range is out of the question.
With its proprietary MOA Centerfire 500 reticle and matching MOA turrets, this behaves like a much more expensive scope for a price that is pretty unbelievable. You won’t hurt for quality or durability either. All of the Banner line are outstanding optics, this is just the one you want for those long-range shots.
The choices above are all contenders for the best long range scope 2018 has to offer in their respective price range. Each will do the job; just realize you get what you pay for. When it comes to best value, I would put my money on the Viper HSLR though I know that the Nightforce BR series has won more competitions than any other scope on the market right now.