December 26, 2022
My buddy Eric was determined to hunt Wyoming Range mule deer with his chassis rifle. He shot it so well, out beyond 1,000 yards, and had so much confidence in its repeatable precision that talking him out of the idea of deer hunting with a 12-pound rifle was futile.
A couple of days into our horseback hunt, a coyote crossed the trail, trotting away but not yet in full afterburner flight. Eric dismounted, somehow shucked the behemoth rifle from the saddle scabbard, threw himself prone, deployed his bipod, and asked for the range. “Two-eighty,” I whispered. He fiddled with the turrets. But now the coyote was at 330. I reported the range. More turret twisting. New range: 410. The coyote, now in overdrive, was safe from the fusillade of increasingly uncertain shots.
The problem wasn’t Eric. He’s a crack shot at ranges twice that distance. Neither was it his rifle, built to stack bullets on top of each other at any reasonable range. The problem was his scope, a high-magnification, first-plane wonder that couldn’t easily handle the changing variables of a moving target intent on survival.
Eric chose his rig because there were few hunting scopes on the market at the time that could handle extreme ranges, account for wind deflection, and had the optical precision to parse antler points at extreme ranges.
Today, you can easily find a hunting scope that incorporates dial turrets and first- or second-plane reticles.
What these crossover scopes have in common is modest magnification ranges and objective-lens diameters sized for walk-about hunting scenarios and to fit low on the receivers of traditionally styled hunting rifles. Here are some of the best long-range hunting scopes on the market.
Purpose-built for Western hunters, this first-focal-plane scope has some tasty features, including a versatile magnification range, pull-to-turn elevation turret tuned to .25-MOA click values, capped windage turret, and Vortex’s intuitive XLR-2 illuminated reticle with MOA references. At only 22 ounces, it’s the perfect partner for any of the ultra-lightweight mountain rifles currently in vogue.
Some precision target shooters will want this scope in MIL/MIL turret/reticle values, but the MOA-based reticle adds plenty of speed for hunters who need to make snap shots based on holdover. For those with the time and ability to dial aiming solutions, the Razor HD LHT has 75 MOA of total internal elevation adjustment, or five full revolutions of the turret. That’s enough to make this nimble little scope a capable long-range target rig. The glass is among the best in Vortex’s line, and the controls are precise and tight. We especially like the push-button illumination that lights up the entire working center of the reticle, including the numeric drop and windage references.
MSRP: $1,999; vortexoptics.com
This “smart” scope is one of a series of components integrated through Bluetooth connectivity. Load your bullet specs into a mobile-phone app, then connect your rangefinder and BDX-enabled scope to your phone. When you range a target, the holdover value shows up as a lighted blue dot on the vertical stadia of the reticle. Making one-shot hits is as simple as holding the dot on your target and squeezing the trigger.
The BDX-powered scope has a number of revolutionary features, including what can be called a digital-plane reticle. It’s a standard duplex in the second focal plane, but the holdover references change with the magnification, so you don’t have to set the scope to max magnification to achieve reticle subtensions. The reticle also has a series of hold-off references that correspond to a wide variety of wind values. Looking beyond the wizardry of electronics, the scope is a very serviceable optic in case the batteries die. The glass is bright. The MOA-based turret clicks are positive and tight. The configuration is just right for most hunting situations.
MSRP: $1,099; sigsauer.com
Zeiss’s first first-plane riflescopes promise out-of-the-box performance at 1,500 yards and beyond. This model—along with its companion 5-25x56 target configuration—is built on a 34mm tube with a whopping 140 MOA (47 mils) of internal adjustment governed by a high, tactical-style elevation turret.
Depending on your predilection, either the MOA or milliradian reticle will serve for long-range hunting. The uncluttered ZF-MOAi features 1-MOA hashes and wind dots at 2-MOA increments.
The ZF-MRi is a Christmas-tree style reticle with holds at 0.2, 0.5, and 1.0 MRAD increments. If I was picking an LRP mainly for hunting, I’d go with the MOA reticle. The glass and coatings are crisp, and the controls are precise.
MSRP: $3,299; zeiss.com
With an enhanced ranging capability out to 2,000 yards and upgraded ballistic solutions the Eliminator Laser Scope 4-16x50 from Burris can extend your ethical shot range. The rangefinder can be activated remotely, and all ballistic adjustments are done within the scope itself so there is no need to use an external device or app. Simply input your load data into the scope prior to your hunt and at the push of a button, the scope will adjust for elevation and will even estimate wind drift. Your aiming solution is illuminated as a bright red dot on Burris’ X96 Reticle. The scope features a field of view of 33 feet (4x) and 9 feet (16x) at 100 yards. It has 50 MOA of total elevation adjustment and features a turret that has 1/8 MOA clicks for precise zeroing.
MSRP: $2,039; burrisoptics.com
Offering long-distance solutions at a fraction of the cost, Riton’s 1 Conquer 6-24x50 features 67 MOA of elevation adjustment. Equipped with the R3 Zero Stop turret, the shooter can make accurate elevation adjustments based off D.O.P.E. The scope also comes standard with Riton’s ranging reticle in the second focal plane (the scope is also available in first focal plane). The rugged construction has a fast-focus eyepiece for quick target acquisition. Bearing a waterproof and shockproof status, and an incredibly low price tag, the Conquer is backed by Riton’s lifetime warranty, that is honored with no proof of purchase or product registration. If you’re looking for a new scope that won’t break the bank, but will function in the field, the Conquer 6-24x50 may be perfect for you.
MSRP: $326-$410; ritonoptics.com
Refined over 20 years, Nightforce’s NX8 4-32x50 allows the hunter or shooter to have easy and accurate target acquisition at a variety of ranges. At 100 yards, the scope offers a field of view from 26 feet (4x) and 4.6 feet (32x). Built around ED lenses, the scope offers plenty of light transmission for the low light scenarios typically found while hunting. Measuring in at 13.5 inches with a weight of 28.9 ounces, this scope is a bit on the heavier side. The ZeroStop turret, available in either Mil or MOA adjustments, allows the shooter to make quick and accurate impact adjustments while afield. Users will also find that both the MOAR-CF2D and MIL-CF2D reticles offer accurate holdover capabilities at both 16 and 32 power. The scope also features an adjustable parallax from 11 yards to infinity to further improve your accuracy.
MSRP: $2,150; nightforceoptics.com