Identifying the nine best varmint scopes can get a bit complicated. The simple fact is that there are a number of great scopes out there. Each one has its own pros and cons. For example, the lens glass may be sub-par or the internals not outstanding.
The best scopes have outstanding manufacturing and performance. Therefore, that group is limited. With all that in mind, I will take a look at some of the top scopes being offered to the long-range varmint hunter today. These scopes will also work well for the hunter dealing with close-in critters.
- 1. Bushnell Elite Tactical LRYS 4-5-18×44 G3 FDE.
- 2. Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44mm Side Focus.
- 3. Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28-50 P 4A-1
- 4. Vortex Golden Eagle HD 15-60×52
- 5. Zeiss Con quest, V4 6-24×50.
- 6. Zeiss Conquest V6 3-18×50 ZBR Ballistic Reticle w/BDC Turret, Black, 522241-9992-070
- 7. Steiner T5Xi
- 8. Eotech Vudu 1-6X24.
- 9. TORIC UHD 4-20×50 30mm MOA/MOA Long Range Riflescope with Illuminated Reticle
1. Bushnell Elite Tactical LRYS 4-5-18×44 G3 FDE.
When you are searching for the best scope available, you’re going to have to stop thinking about price. Good glass costs money. Great glass costs even more. My first pick is a high-priced scope, but still affordable scope. This product still returns outstanding results downrange.
The Bushnell Elite Tactical is a scope I shoot on my 338 Lapua. I use it on the one-mile course on our little range in western South Dakota.
This scope is built to return a large number of elevation clicks. It is offered in MRADS as well. The reticle is not illuminated. Bushnell does offer other products in their basic high-end line that are illuminated. The sub tensions carry the etched Christmas tree design. This means the scope is built for adjusting elevation (holdover) on the fly when that coyote walks into rifle range.
The optics used on these scopes are outstanding. Believe me, the features are worth twice the cost. There are clear image results even at a very long-range, no edge distortion or rainbow color flashes, and little if any target fade. Bushnell is known to offer good glass for everyone.
It goes without saying, but these scopes have a dead-on return to zero after make even two or three turn rotations on the elevation turret knob. The large objective lens allows light for late and early hunting. Many predators move at these times. Getting sights on them then is critical for success. The scope is lens coated for protection. It carries a good exterior protection package and gas purges for water and fog resistance. I have been shooting mine for four years on my 338 Lapua and also mounted on my 300 PRC. No issues whatsoever regarding zero return. Loose parts, or basic zero loss. The scope is a winner, hands down.
2. Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44mm Side Focus.
This is another scope I use for predator and long-range grass rat shooting (prairie dogs) out in the wide-open American West. It is like several others being used here at Ballistics Research & Development. Bullet testing and new rifle designs are in the works year-round.
This scope is mission-sensitive. It is designed with the use of multiple reticles that can be custom installed by Leupold. The reticle in a varmint scope is everything when shooting long. You also need it when shooting heavy cover in tight situations.
Woodland areas demand crosshairs that won’t blend into the background cover. Open country crosshairs need to pick up very small targets with fine crosshairs at long range. In this case, the Leupold sub-tension system will allow changes from the stock and standard sighting systems.
The scope is powered at 3-15 and uses the 44. The objective lens is flexible when gunning a deep draw that is brush-covered, or an open prairie shot on an incoming coyote. The turrets retain zero locks to enable the shooter to make a return to zero after adjusting for elevation or windage.
In addition to the illuminated reticle, the scope is set up with early morning and late evening glass. There is also lighted crosshairs that give the shooter an additional edge in this area of varmint hunting tools. The lighting system on this scope makes use of motion sensor technology. You move the scope lights up, set the scope aside, and it goes to sleep on its own in five minutes. A battery saver of the first order.
The VX-5HD can be obtained with a custom ballistics turret idle that matches the loads you’ll use in the field.
This scope is not small. It carries everything needed in a true professional-grade optical system. The length of the scope is 13.53 inches, with a weightless mount of 19.5 ounces. With an eye relief of 3.7 inches, it takes the recoil of heavy magnums and will not “ring” the shooter in the eye.
Build of aircraft-grade aluminum, watertight, and fog proof using a gas-filled tube, this well-made scope is a lifetime investment. It is always back by the American company Leupold Optics. Ask me anything. I have shot five of these scopes on varied centerfire long-range rifles.
3. Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28-50 P 4A-1
This scope was one of the very first I ever used on targets at 1000 yards. After that experience, I was hooked on long-range shooting. The scope system makes the shots almost easy. Even though this glass is a bit above my pay grade, I have never considered any other optical system its equal.
Lens quality is nothing but off-the-charts outstanding. Clean crystal is the word here. The target stands out big and brings even at ultra-long distances. You can easily hunt coyotes in wide-open country. The glass sight is a master of downrange control and owning the valley.
The scope makes use of an aluminum 30mm main tube, built in the SFF. Everything will stay consistent across the sub-tensions. It also uses capped turrets that are installed through the glass and work with the sub-tension.
This scope makes use of an illuminated crosshair for very low light shooting. For the most part, it is similar to standard German-style scopes used for stag, bore, and other related big game hunting.
If you’re searching for the very best in scope that will not require shifting settings for elevation or windage, this is the best of the best.
I have reviewed three major events in mountain country in my years as a writer. All of the participants used Swarovski scopes with spotters using matching sub tension systems.
This scope is stripped of any hash marks, etc. Models can be obtained that will use these systems and fit additional needs of the predator or varmint hunter. Why is the price so high? The answer is that the glass is some of the very best in the world. If you can’t see it, you can’t hit it.
4. Vortex Golden Eagle HD 15-60×52
Built in the second focal plane SFP, this scope is perfect for wide open shooting. Gunning prairie dogs at long range, badgers in the next zip code, or 1000 yard coyotes are jobs this glass can handle. The scope is set up in MOA hash marks through the objective ( sub-tensions). The turret style is high and open for quick elevation correction or wind allowances.
This is a target scope. Still, varmint hunters have gone hi-tech over the past few years. The scope also has advantages for the pro-grade hunter that wants a quality product.
You will love how this scope is set up in very fine 1/6 MOA clicks. Also, because of the offered second focal plane, the scope is more representative of a hunting model versus a military-designed optical system.
Lens quality is very good. It controls light the image quality well. Side focus parallax issues with ease. The larger 30mm tube allows for overbuilt internals that keeps the system working when turret settings are almost constantly in motion. Repeatability to zero is spot on. The scope meets the target standard in terms of competition. It also makes for an outstanding varmint rifle setup for open country shooting.
Vortex builds a number of good scopes for varmint hunting. I shoot two of them on heavy long-range rifles and have found everything they say about the product accurate. The brand has a 98% customer satisfaction rating over the past year.
5. Zeiss Con quest, V4 6-24×50.
This German Zeiss rifle scope is the model I shoot on several different rifles during testing and while hunting predators. The scopes have world-class quality. The glass is nothing less than ultra-high-standard German quality.
Using an aircraft-grade 30mm main tube, the scope houses open turrets. It has an illuminated reticle and is set up in tactical style MOA graduations off the turrets.
In terms of sub tension, the scope makes use of the Zeiss ZMOA-1 #93 reticle. The shooter sees what the ballistics turrets turn up top. You can shoot using the sub-tension through the sighting objective, or stay with your zero and shoot off the turret settings only.
DOPE this scope. It will work with about any cartridge or rifle design.
I have noticed that my Zeiss Conquest makes very positive use of available light. As a senior shooter, this is critical. My eyes have looked through rifle glass for the past 50 or more years and are getting a bit tired. My Zeiss glass is among my best in terms of light control, target image, and lack of target fade at long range.
6. Zeiss Conquest V6 3-18×50 ZBR Ballistic Reticle w/BDC Turret, Black, 522241-9992-070
Not to beat a good horse to death but here we have a second Zeiss that also is a standard in high-quality long-range varmint rifle scope shooting standards. This scope uses the BDC ranging reticle and retains fully adjustable open turret settings.
The scope is offered in the second focal plane SFF. It mounts a massive 50mm objective lens. The sub-tensions on the scope allow for MOA elevation and windage adjustment through the glass They also provide the ability to dial range and windage up top on the turret settings.
This scope has ample cranking elevation adjustments for 1000 yards or more. With the MOA graduated 10-40 rails, a correct rifle, and ammunition, it can be pushed to a mile downrange.
Gas filled, waterproof, with prospective lens coats, this aluminum tube Conquest is a class act all the way.
7. Steiner T5Xi
The Steiner T5Xi is a classic tactical sniper scope of the first order. This scope is run here at BR&D as a set. It is often paired with a 300 Win Mag, 22/250’s, and 6.5 Creedmoor turn bolt rifles. It retains massive turrets that carry a lot of elevation and windage clicks. The turrets are a key to this glass sight. They have second rotation indicators so the receives maximum elevation on a long shot across open country.
The 56mm objective lens is a large working sight screen. It pulls light and controls nasty issues that can confront the shooter out to 1000 yards and more.
This scope carries a lifetime warranty. Steiner will stand behind every one of them.
The illuminated reticle is an aid in low light situations. The sub-tension carries 1/10 MOA graduations for elevation and windage adjustments. Some shooters say sub-tensions like this add too much junk in the lens. However, shooters that use the system, myself included, know that training takes care of all that. I have shot running deer at over 500 yards with such a system. I have also taken down running coyotes at 400 yards without even thinking about the number of hash marks in my sight picture.
These are big scopes that are designed for the military sniper models that Steiner currently builds for the German army. The only issue I have with these scopes is that I only own two of them and sure could use another.
8. Eotech Vudu 1-6X24.
Moving away from the big guys and into brush country AR-style variant in rifle glass, we arrive at the Eotech Vudu. This scope is a short chopped bell housing system. It is set up for short action receivers and is best used east of the Mississippi in timber or lowland brush country.
Much of the coyote hunting in the eastern and southern states are at or under 100 yards. This style scope is fast. Rest assured, the model presented here is all military in terms of design.
This scope is set up in MRADS, not MOA graduations. There is also a first focal plane system, again by military-type standards. The reticle is lighted and designed for fast but accurate bullet placement. In most cases, the scope would be applied to the .223 Rem (5.56 NATO,) or other cartridges that fit the AR-15 platform.
This scope type is so good that the US Army uses a variation of it. These are squad-level weapons and will replace the ACOG sight system since these sights put more accurate hits on target at longer ranges. In most cases, varmint shots are inside 300 yards, and shooting prairie dogs is often about 400 yards maximum range. So, the 600+ range of this scope will be more than enough.
This sight is totally protected with special lens coatings, outer surface treatment, heavy turret springs, and water. It is also fog-proof.
9. TORIC UHD 4-20×50 30mm MOA/MOA Long Range Riflescope with Illuminated Reticle
The final scope being reviewed here is one that I currently have two of. I even have a third on the sidelines waiting for the new Savage straight-pull bolt system chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. This will be a coyote/deer rifle during its test phase. Using the TRACT TORIC UHD says I trust the optical system to show off the best of the rifle’s performance.
This scope is a massive glass sight. It retains a 30mm main tube. It is open adjustable on the fly turret settings It also has an illuminated reticle for full lens protection.
The accuracy level of the turret adjusts provide .25 inches per click as set up in MOAs. The sub-tensions are hash marked in MOA graduations for elevation and windage. The generous turret is another pro. An ample main tub size offers a great deal of elevation correction even without using MOA base rails.
The turrets have zero stop so the shooter won’t go past his or her correct zero points. The glass quality on the 50mm objective optic is very good. It has sharp image control well out to some extended range limits. I shoot this scope on my .224 Valkyrie mountain rock chuck rifle and also on a 6.5 Creedmoor set up for long-range open country deer. Both rifles can also fit any level of varmint application with help of the TRACT sighting systems.
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L.P Brezny has been writing and reviewing product as well as how to projects for the past 50 years. He has authored four books on shooting with three on long range, and one covering shotgunning. With 26 years on a metro police department as a street officer and the rank of SGT / training L.P. has covered all the bases regarding weapons and street survival.
During the early years in non-toxic shotshell ammunition development L.P. designed the first successful measurement system for recording the speed of shot shell payloads down range. He was responsible for getting actual shotshell velocities printed on factory load boxes. Over the years he has developed and markets MetroGun System TM, and sells his designed ammunition for subsonic sound suppressed shotgun shooting.
Current L.P. resides in the South Dakota Black Hills and spends a good deal of time working through many types of ammunition both in the field on warm targets. With ultra long range being a current specialty L.P. shots for test and accuracy at ranges as great as one or more miles on the wide open Dakota grasslands.