By Shepard Humphries
I am frequently asked about the Best Scope for Long Range Precision Rifle shooting. There are many factors to consider. Long story short, if you spend more than $1,000 on a scope, you will be OK. If you spend more than $2,100 you will be great. Heck, I even like one scope that only costs $300! If you are willing to spend some additional time reading about scopes, click the PRB link at the bottom of the page.
First of all, what distance is “long range?” To an East Tennessee deer hunter, 200 yards might qualify. To a man with a 10 million acre ranch in West Texas that owns a $15,000 custom Cheytac .375, two miles will seem pretty long. I generally break it down as follows:
- Mid Range – 200 to 600 yards
- Long Range – 600 to a 1500 yards
- Extreme Long Range – Over 1500 yards
For the sake of this article, let’s say the average shooting distance will be 750 to 1200 yards.
Budget & Personality matter. As a Wyoming long range shooting instructor, it is easy to repeat the old adage and tell someone to “save your pennies and get good glass.” This is very true. It is best to spend a few thousand dollars for a good scope. You should consider how much you will be shooting, and how important the shots will be.
I will use myself for an example. As a small business owner working an average of 80 hours a week, I do not find/make much time to shoot. I am typically looking through a spotting scope calling my client’s shots, and I shoot very little. Additionally, I have very little “natural shooting ability.” My primary “long range rifle” is a Ruger Precision Rifle that cost about $1k. My favorite shooting is in the 1200 to 1800 yard range, and if I am shooting in high winds at 1750 yards with a 6.5 Creedmoor and I get three hits out of 60 shots, I will be grinning from ear to ear. If you have a “precise” personality, and like to spend 10 minutes scratching your head and beating yourself up for your miscalculations before taking a second shot, you would be frustrated with my “sloppy” shooting. You might chastise me for not buying a 10-set Wind Sensor Array. With my fun-loving cheerful attitude, I never found it worth it to purchase a high end scope. (My wife finally pulled the trigger for me and bought me a Vortex Razor Gen II in September 2017 for our anniversary.) I have a Sig Kilo 2000, not a RAPTAR S.
The long paragraph above was about ME. Who are YOU? What is your personality? How well can you read wind? How important is glass clarity for you? Are you very well off? Are you middle-class, and prefer to focus on value instead of price or is price more important? Know thyself. 🙂
Purpose. Are you riding a horse deep above the treeline on a 2-week trip hunting for sheep? Are you always going to be within 25 yards of your vehicle or ATV? Do you live in a region with wide open spaces or in a treed and hilly area? Are you going to be shooting from a solid cement shooting bench? Are you hoping for half-inch groups at 100 yards, or is performance at 1500 yards more important?
I just wrote a proposal for training to a businessman from the East coast that has neck issues requiring him to shoot from bench rest position. He does not plan to hunt or compete in PRS. He knew of Brian Litz, but was not the “engineer-type” who enjoyed and understood every page of Applied Ballistics. He will never hand load.
I got the feeling he does not have two $60-million jets for personal travel, however he has a few homes in different states and seems financially “comfortable.” Based on my assumptions of his price preferences, this is what I sent him.
Best Scope for Long Range Precision Rifle ideas:
- I suggest a scope that gives you at least 18 power at highest magnification, 25 is even better, more is kind of useless for a 6.5 Creedmoor.
- Before buying, decide if you like MIL or MOA better. I prefer MOA, but it isn’t any “better” and it comes down to what the friends you will shoot with most frequently will be using. It is kind of like measuring in metric or imperial, just a preference.
- I like the idea of buying a LaRue detachable mount, and a good scope, then you can move it quickly from your 6.5 to your AR15 to your 375 Cheytac etc. If money is not a worry, then it is preferable to buy a different high end scope for each rifle. So, for a person that saves money for two years to buy a Vortex Razor for $2500, it is worth switching scopes around versus having 3 different $800 scopes. For those that are comfortable buying a Razor, Schmidt & Bender or Nightforce for each of their guns, great!
- An article worth the read: http://precisionrifleblog.com/2017/03/03/long-range-scopes-pros-use/
- I suggest this Vortex Razor scope: http://amzn.to/2hrwoxA
- This is a popular scope that has been a favorite for some years: http://amzn.to/2feuEH4
- This scope costs a bit less than half of the above scopes and is very similar to what I use: http://amzn.to/2v5g1ty
- I prefer MOA but if you prefer MIL, this is a good scope: https://swfa.com/swfa-ss-hd-5-20×50-tactical-30mm-riflescope-1.html
- You will need a bubble level that fits your tube diameter, depending on what scope you choose. http://amzn.to/2wduwvs
- A cosine angle indicator is wise: This one: http://amzn.to/2htLeDL or this one; http://amzn.to/2htQszr
So, the above are what I suggested for THAT particular client. YOU will have a different set of needs, perhaps budget is more of a concern? Perhaps details of your equipment are of great import? Bill Roberts, Idaho Sniper Challenge grand champion in 2017 suggested that if a shooter chooses to use quick detach mounts, that they should be tested to make sure there is not any movement. He has observed several quick detach mounts that have not been secure. By the way, Bill uses Leupold scopes and is a big believer in lapping scope rings.
I promised to recommend a high quality scope for $300. It is NOT a Schmidt & Bender or even a Razor, but if you have a limited budget and want to get going now before you have saved your pennies, it is a good option. Yep, the fixed magnification Super Sniper. 12 power is a great starter, if you go much higher, you will lose some other important things.
I used one of the SWFA Super Sniper fixed reticules on a 50 BMG for over 500 shots and it is still running strong!
Best Scope for Long Range Precision Rifle – Recommendations by price
The tactical matches I compete in have rules precluding the use of a laser rangefinder. We must use our scope reticle for ranging. This makes a First Focal plane (FFP) scope important. This kind of shooting also make a ‘busy Christmas tree” reticle preferable. Few people shoot in matches of this nature, so not everything below is perfect for “old school” ranging type matches and use, but most are.
PRS Competitor Brian Prax points out that, “what you are getting for your money when buying the more expensive scopes, besides better glass, even more importantly, is better machining to tighter tolerances. This results in more precise tracking of the reticle when dialing elevation (exponentially more important when engaging targets beyond 800 yards). This also results in a scope that is less likely to fail with use over time (there is always someone at a PRS match with their scope failing – bummer).”
Up to $500 budget
Buy the fixed 12x SWFA Super Sniper. $300-ish
Up to $650 budget
Buy the Second Focal Plane (not preferable) Vortex Viper.
Up to $1100 budget
Buy the Vortex Viper PST Gen II.
Up to $1500 budget
I have never used this scope, but based on their non-HD versions, Super Sniper (SS) is a great bang for your buck and if you are planning to use MILs rather than MOA, this SWFA Super Sniper HD could be a great option.
From $1500 to $2000
Not really anything that is THAT much better than a Viper or SWFA
Up to $2100 budget
This Nightforce NSX is a very popular scope for long range tactical shooters. Competitor Greg Merrell appreciates that the reticle lines are thinner than Vortex, which allows him to range better.
Up to $2500 budget
This is what I just started using, and I love it! This Gen II version of the Vortex Razor is a great scope from a great company!
Above $2,500 budget
I asked legendary competitor and long range tactical match organizer Elden Dalley his opinion, and this was his awesome response:
Again, Cal Zant also has a brilliant blog, click below to read more!