How to Choose a Rifle Scope

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How to Choose a Rifle Scope

The most important element of a rifle is the accuracy of its sight. Very often it is advisable to buy a less expensive rifle and invest more money in the scope. The range is enormous and is a minefield of options; there is also the terminology, which can be very confusing to anyone that does not have an extensive knowledge of such things.

A scope needs to suit:

  • the job it is to do
  • the rifle it is sitting on.

The buyer needs to focus on understanding:

  • what quarry he needs the scope for
  • the conditions in which he or she will be using the rifle
  • the calibre of the rifle
  • broadly the range or distance of target.

Once these questions are answered then the options narrow. Probably the most important element of the buying choice is budget. The most expensive scope can be totally wasted for certain situations and a much simpler and often cheaper alternative may be a better tool for the job.

Before looking at the specifics then it is as well to acquaint oneself with the various technical aspects of a riflescope, particularly the different elements of the scope. The terminology is often confusing so here are some basics:

  1. Eye Piece

    This is the fitting closest to the eye and holds the ocular lens. It is the point at which the eye meets the scope when you take aim

  2. Ocular lens 

    This is the front lens that is closest to the eye.

  3. Eye Relief 

    This is the distance between the end of the scope and your eye. With big rifles it is important that this is not too short as the recoil from the rifle can bring the scope edge into the eye and cause serious pain.

  4. Eye Bell 

    This is the housing around the eyepiece that holds the lens into the tube of the scope.

  5. Power Ring

    A variable power riflescope will have a ring that allows the operator to adjust the magnification of the scope. Adjusting this will alter the amount of light getting into the scope and therefore the light refracted.

  6. Wind Adjustment 

    When ‘zeroing’ the scope, this is the horizontal adjustor. It generally works to a quarter of an inch adjustment per click at 100 yards. Be careful to keep the cap for this as if lost it can be very hard to replace and will mean that the adjustment dial is left exposed to the elements.

  7. Elevation Adjustment 

    Again, when ‘zeroing’, this is the vertical adjustor. The ratio of click to distance changed is the same as on the horizontal. Some manufacturers actually have the elevation dial calibrated to a specific calibre of rifle.

  8. Tube  

    This is the casing for the lens and workings of the scope. The scope is really just a tube within a tube. The internal tube holds the lenses that refract the light and the outer casing binding this all together protects the vital internal workings. Tube sizes in the US tend to be smaller that Japan and Europe.

  9. Objective Bell 

    This is the housing for the objective lens and attachment for the main tube.

  10. Objective Lens   

    This is the lens at the front of the scope that gathers all the light. Generally the higher the magnification of the scope the bigger the objective lens needs to be. Bigger scopes with large objective lenses tend to be used for conditions where the light is at its worst.

There is some general terminology relating to scopes. Knowing what it means will help you make the right choice.


All scopes offer a degree of magnification. In other words, the image through the scope will be increased to a certain level. Some scopes have fixed magnification, which means that they cannot be adjusted to increase the size of the image through the scope. In this case a 4x scope will increase the size of the image by four times.
There are also variable power scopes where the scope can be adjusted to increase the size of the image when distance and light requires it. This does have its dangers as any movement by the handler will increase in impact as the size is increased. Variable power scopes tend to be more expensive than fixed and the variation is not something that is always required. They also tend to lose their ‘zero’ more easily than fixed scopes as the shooter is constantly changing the parameters in the scope. Good quality variable scopes do work very well and are particularly useful in changing conditions and situations. Variable Power scopes will have descriptions such as 3-9 x 50mm. This means that the image can be increased from 3 times the size, which is the default setting, to 9 times at its greatest setting. 50mm refers to the size of the objective lens. A variable scope allows the hunter to work ground in the morning that may be really thick and dense. Then he or she can hunt over wider, bigger spaces with a greater magnification requirement in the same day with the same scope.

In general the magnification of a scope should be chosen as follows:

4x -Small Quarry

Squirrels, rabbits and rats at short range in close surroundings

1.5- 4 x

Larger game in dense or wooded surroundings

3-9 x

Larger game in fairly open country

4-12 x or 6-18 x

Larger game in big, wide, open spaces


This refers to the centre of view or aim point through the scope. In the olden days it was called the cross hairs and was simply that. Nowadays there are many different types of reticule including the Duplex and the Dot and Post. There are even specially lit reticles, which are designed to give the hunter an even better level of accuracy particularly in low light conditions.

Reticle choice is as much about your personal preference as it is about science but be sure not to over-complicate the process.


This is a fundamental term in scope choice. Too much resolution and the range of the scope will be limited. With too little resolution the image will appear grainy and be particularly difficult to make out in bad light conditions.

Be wary of manufacturers’ claims on resolution as there is no certified measure. Suffice to say that the further the range of the image and the less light that comes into the scope, the worse the resolution becomes.

Lens Coatings

All scopes are coated in various different materials to protect against scratches or improve resolution. Always buy coated lenses as this does protect and improve them.


Make sure the choice of scope is well-sealed and will not allow water into it. Water damage takes a great toll in scopes and affects the ability to see and accuracy will be impeded.

General Rules of Buying a Scope

Providing the right scope is chosen for the right rifle, quarry and conditions, the buyer will get what they pay for. Where the choice can prove expensive and unsatisfactory is when an over magnified scope with too many extras is bought and really the job that needs to be done doesn’t require such huge magnification.

  • Consult a local expert on what is required, what rifle is being used and what the conditions generally are. From there make a measured evaluation of the options available and the budget.
  • Buy the best scope within budget
  • Make sure the mounts are strong; be prepared to spend a little more to obtain a well-mounted scope.
  • Get expert help, if unsure, on zeroing and getting the scope adjusted correctly. Even the most expensive scope with great magnification and resolution is a waste of time if it isn’t shooting straight.
  • Look out for good, reliable brands. The very best and most expensive are Swarovski, Zeiss, Leica, and Schmidt and Bender. They have a huge range of scopes for all conditions and quarry. On a more accessible price level are the Japanese brands like Nikon and others such as Bushnell and Leupold. Do not buy super-cheap it will not be a good investment in the long term.

How to buy a Rifle Scope on eBay

Now that you've worked out which rifle scope you want, find them quickly on eBay. While you shop, don't forget Gun Cases, Targets and Sights & Scopes. To start shopping, go to the Sports and Leisure category. Click the Sporting Goods portal and click hunting.


The Categories list on the left side of each page will help you narrow down your listings by item type. You'll find links for Accessories, Cartridge Bags, Catapults, Clay Pigeon Shooting, Clothing, DVDs, Falconry, Footwear, Gun Cabinets, Night Vision, Shooting Sticks and Other Hunting. As you refine your search you'll be able to narrow down your choice by subcategory.

Product Finder

Use the Rifle Scope Finder to quickly narrow down item listings by brand, model and condition (new or used).

Keyword search

Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, if you want to find new hunting equipment, type the keywords "hunting equipment new" (without quotation marks) into the Search box. Click "Search title and description" to expand your results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.

If you can't find exactly what you want, try browsing eBay Stores or tell the eBay Community what you’re looking for by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a matching item becomes available.

Buy a Rifle Scope with Confidence

Make sure that you know exactly what you’re buying and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know your item

  • Read the details in the item listing carefully.
  • Remember to add delivery costs to your final price. If you’re buying a high value item, check that the seller will insure it until it is delivered to you.
  • If you want more information, click the “Ask seller a question” button on the seller’s profile or the “Ask a question” link at the bottom of the item listing page.
  • Always complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy it Now or Best Offer) otherwise you will not be covered by eBay Buyer Protection.
  • Never pay for your eBay item using an instant cash wire transfer service like Western Union or Moneygram. These are not safe ways of paying someone you do not know.

Know your seller

Research your seller so that you feel safe and positive about every transaction.

  • What is the seller’s Feedback rating? 
  • How many transactions have they completed?
  • How many positive responses do they have?
  • What do buyers say in their Feedback? 
  • Are they positive about the seller?

Most top eBay sellers operate like retail shops and have a returns policy.

  • Do they offer a money-back guarantee? 
  • What are their terms and conditions?

Buyer protection

In the very unlikely event that you do not receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection your purchase price plus original delivery cost.


Overall, the more that is understood about what the scope is required to do, the better. Be absolutely clear about what will be expected of the scope and the choice will become very much simpler.

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