Serious long-range skills are relatively rare in the shooting world. To consistently make precision shots on long-range targets requires incredible skill. It also takes a high-quality rifle, match-grade ammo, and a top-notch riflescope. Having an optic with long-range capabilities is a key element of the shooting equation.
But how do you find the best long range scope?
Finding the right optic for long-range shooting can be a complicated and confusing endeavor. Long-range glass is expensive and dropping a ton of cash when you don’t even know what to look for isn’t a smart idea.
If you’re feeling intimidated by the world of long-range riflescopes, you certainly aren’t alone. This informational guide is designed to cut through the chaos and explain exactly what makes an optic effective for long-range shooting. We also share some of the leading long-range models.
Choosing a Long-Range Scope
A long-range optic is a highly specialized piece of shooting equipment. A cheap, run-of-the-mill hunting scope just isn’t going to cut it when it comes to long-range shooting.
Here are some key things to consider when searching for a long-range optic.
What is Long Range?
Long range shooting is a generic term. It is often used to describe any style of shooting that stretches the capabilities of a rifle. This means .223 long-range shooting looks quite different from .338 Lapua long-range shooting.
In some shooting circles, long-range shooting begins at distances where wind and range assessment begin to affect shooting precision.
For rifles shooting full-powered cartridges, “long-range” usually means shooting targets beyond 600 yards. “Extreme long-range” shooting begins at 1000 yards.
To make accurate shots on long range targets, you need to be able to clearly see those targets. Magnification is what helps bring distant details into focus.
The first two numbers in riflescope specs indicate the magnification range. For example, a 5-25x56mm scope makes targets appear 5 to 25 times closer than when viewed with only the naked eye.
High magnification is important for long-range shooting. However, powerful magnification also narrows your field of view, which can be a handicap when tracking moving targets.
A scope with a magnification range somewhere between 5-25x allows some flexibility with shooting distance. You can dial down magnification when engaging mid-range targets and then zoom on targets at greater distances.
Although magnification is definitely important in a long-range optic, it isn’t the most important feature. Because it is hard to shoot what you can’t see, optical quality is even more important than magnification. Viewing targets through an optic with poor glass quality can feel like looking through water, especially when you dial up the magnification.
For the best image quality, look for a scope with fully multi-coated lenses and extra-low dispersion (ED) glass.
The number after the x in the scope specs indicates the diameter of the objective lens. We measure objective lens diameter in millimeters.
Large objective lenses are common on long-range riflescopes, because they are essential for producing clear images at higher magnification levels.
A massive objective lens adds some serious weight and bulk to your rifle set-up, which can be extremely cumbersome in most hunting situations.
Also, a scope with a monstrous objective requires a higher mount on your rifle. A higher mount position can interfere with your cheek weld. It can also hinder your ability to achieve a consistent sight picture. Both can have catastrophic consequences for your downrange accuracy.
SFP Vs FFP
In a variable magnification scope, the reticle is either located on the first focal plane (FFP) or the second focal plane (SFP).
An FFP scope has the reticle positioned on the front of the magnification lens. When you change magnification, an FFP reticle changes size as the magnification changes. Because the reticle maintains the same proportions in regard to the target, the BDC marks remain consistent no matter which magnification level you’re using.
The reticle of an SFP scope is located to the rear of the magnification lens. An SFP reticle remains static as you zoom in and out. Because the SFP’s reticle does not change size, its markings only hold true at one magnification level.
The SFP design works well for benchrest shooting, long-range hunting, and most law enforcement applications. SFP are slightly more popular among American shooters. However, this could be due to their availability and cheaper price. If you prefer to dial-in your windage and elevation adjustments, an SFP reticle should suit you fine.
FFP reticles work better in dynamic shooting situations where target ranges vary drastically. This design is typically preferred by military snipers, long-range hunters, and Precision Rifle Series (PRS) competition shooters. FFP reticles can take getting used to. However, if you want to make on-the-fly elevation corrections and windage holds, the consistency of an FFP reticle provides a major advantage.
A large tube can help improve image quality and brightness, although it doesn’t automatically guarantee either.
A large tube is essential on a long-range optic for one other very important reason: it supports the greater elevation and windage adjustments necessary for long-range shooting.
Look for a riflescope with a main tube that measures at least 30mm in diameter. This is 4mm wider than the 1-inch tubes commonly found on standard hunting scopes.
Just like the scope tube needs to facilitate elevation and windage adjustments, so do the scope’s turrets.
The turrets on a long-range optic are large, have clearly marked gradations, and are finger adjustable. This will help you to make quick, accurate adjustments. Clearly marked turrets also help you keep track of your holdovers, so you can return to zero or further adjust for the next shot.
Most shooting disciplines live by the “2 to 1 Rule” when it comes to optic price. This line of thinking recommends spending twice as much on your rifle than you spend on your optic.
However, in long-range shooting, your scope is your best friend. You could actually spend more on your scope than you do on your rifle.
Before you start shopping, go ahead and make peace with the fact that you won’t find a decent scope long-range for under $500. In fact, a quality long-range riflescope for under $1500 is relatively rare.
Best Long Range Scope on the Market Reviews
Here are just a few of what we consider the cream of the crop in long-range optics.
1. Schmidt & Bender PM II 5-25×56
Schmidt & Bender has one of the strictest quality management systems in the optics industry. With exacting standards and an almost despotic attention to detail, Schmidt & Bender produces long-range optics that offer unparalleled precision. The one major drawback to its meticulous manufacturing process is the company only produces a modest number of scopes annually.
As the PM acronym suggests (PM stands for “Police Marksman”), this scope from Schmidt & Bender is designed specifically for long-range tactical shooting. It is a popular choice for law enforcement and military snipers and sets a high standard for all other precision riflescopes in its class.
Although engineered with the sniper in mind, the Schmidt & Bender PM II is also an excellent performer on the competition field. It features low-profile Double Turn turrets that are probably the best design in the industry. The design is hands down the best in the industry. The adjustments are crisp and easy to feel.
Schmidt & Bender Double Turn turrets also feature a built-in visual rotation indicator. The indicator changes color after on full rotation, so you can easily keep up with your adjustments.
The PM II offers precise parallax compensation with an engraved meter index. This feature allows you to adjust for parallax from 10 meters to infinity.
The PM II also has a unique Sub Zero Stop feature that allows you to adjust below your established zero. This is a handy feature if you change ammo loads of need to bump your zero down in the field.
When it comes to optical quality, the PM II offers bright, crisp, crystal clear images that are just what you would expect from one of the top riflescopes in the world.
Is It Worth It?
The Schmidt & Bender PM II is a pretty expensive riflescope. However, there is a reason this optic is so popular with law enforcement, military personnel, and serious competition shooters. This is easily one of the best scopes to ever grace a long-range rig.
If you’re still not convince, here are just a few of the top-notch features the PM II has to offer.
- Crystal clear image quality and excellent light transmission.
- Double Turn turrets are the best in the industry.
- Visible rotation indicator.
- Precise parallax compensation.
- Sub Zero Stop function.
Mounting and Accessories
A heavy-duty scope like the Scmidt & Bender PM II requires quality mount and sturdy rings. The Spuhr ISMS 34mm Riflescope Mount is one of the best mount on the market. You wouldn’t want to trust a scope of this quality to anything less.
2. Zeiss Conquest V6 5-30×50
Zeiss is well-known in the shooting industry for their state-of-the-art lenses, and the company’s Conquest V6 riflescope certainly offers some of the best optical quality on the market today.
The Conquest V6 is made with top-of-the-line SCHOTT fluoride lenses. These lenses are designed to keep the weight of the optic manageable while maximizing light transmission.
All air-to-glass surfaces are covered in T-star six-layer multi-coatings. As a result, the glass offers an impressive 92 percent light transmission and provides some of the sharpest, brightest, most vivid images you’ll ever see through an optic.
All lenses also feature a unique LotuTec protective coating. This hydrophobic coating repels water, dirt, and fingerprints. It extends the life of your optic and provides crisp, clear images, even when the weather turns nasty.
The ballistic turrets on the Conquest V6 offer audible, tactile adjustments for precise windage and elevation adjustments possible.
Aside from the scope’s jaw-dropping image quality, one of its most notable features is the illuminated dot reticle. The reticle lines are only a fraction of the width of a human hair and cover less than 4mm of the target at 100 meters. This allows for fine aiming on the smallest targets at the most extreme ranges. Need a long range varmint scope? The Zeiss Conquest V6 is one of the best.
Is It Worth It?
The Zeiss Conquest V6 riflescope is perfect for popping small targets over broad distances, when crisp image quality, a wide field of view, and a fine aiming point are major assets. It also works well for long-range big game hunting and target competition.
Here are the features that set this scope well ahead of the competition.
- Made with cutting-edge SCHOTT fluoride lenses.
- T-star multi-coatings.
- LutoTec hydrophobic lens coatings.
- Excellent resolution across the entire magnification range.
- Quality ballistic turrets.
- Ultra-fine illuminated dot reticle.
- Wide field of view.
The Conquest V6 comes with a relatively hefty price tag. This could put it out of reach of many shooters. However, we’re honestly surprised this optic priced under $2000. It honestly performs like a much more expensive scope.
Mounting and Accessories
Hunters may want to add this Zeiss Conquest 3-Inch Thread-On Sunshade if they plan to do any midday shooting.
3. Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27×56
The Vortex Razor HD Gen II riflescope makes a perfect ultra long-range scope. It features a 4.5-27x magnification range that makes engaging extreme range targets a breeze.
The scope also comes with quality L-TEC turrets. These turrets conveniently lock into place to prevent accidental adjustments.
The turrets also have visual rotation indicators to help you easily keep track of your revolutions. This feature allows 100 percent confidence in your adjustments.
Although shooters can choose from several reticle options, we highly recommend the EBR-7C. This highly detailed FFP reticle is designed specifically for long-range competition shooting. It features a windage tree in the lower quadrant of the sight picture for rapid corrections. However, the design doesn’t unnecessarily clutter the sight picture.
This is one of Vortex’s high-end models and its stunning image quality does not disappoint. Vortex achieves sharp contrast and ultra bright images by using high-density, extra-low dispersion glass, fully multi-coated lenses, and an extra anti-reflective coating for increased light transmission.
Is It Worth It?
If you’re planning to attempt shots on 1000-yard targets, this optic will certainly help you achieve your goal. It comes with a pretty hefty price tag, but pegging 1000-yard targets is a pretty hefty goal.
Here’s what the Razor HD Gen II has on board to help you achieve that goal.
- Fast focus eyepiece.
- Side parallax adjustment.
- L-TEC locking turrets.
- 34mm tube.
- Visual rotation indicators.
- FFP reticle.
- Stunning image quality.
- Durable construction.
Mounts and Accessories
Want to protect your scope between shots? You’ll want to use the Vortex Sure Fit Riflescope Cover in the extra large size.
4. Leupold VX-3i 6.5-20×50 Riflescope
With a price tag under $1000, the Leupold VX-3i makes a fairly affordable option for beginners. This optic doesn’t quite fall into the budget category. However, it provides some of the best value for the money of any scope on our list.
Like most Leupold optics, this one is designed with hunting in mind. If you need to make long-range shots over open prairie or cropland, this is a fine tool for the job.
The VX-3i features Leupold’s proprietary Twilight Max Light Management System. The system uses unique lens coatings and premium glass to deliver razor-sharp edge-to-edge clarity while reducing glare. Twilight Max offers a bright sight picture in a wide variety of lighting conditions, but it is particularly effective for low light shooting. The company even claims it adds an extra 20 minutes of shooting time at dawn and dusk, when animals are more likely to move about.
Is It Worth It?
This optic definitely doesn’t fall into the budget category. However, it provides some of the best value for the money of any scope on our list.
Here is the bullet point list of the scope’s best qualities:
- Rugged, lightweight design.
- DiamondCoat 2 lens coating, which adds an extra layer of durability.
- Lockable fast-focus eyepiece.
- Leupold’s signature waterproofing.
- Twilight Max Light Management System.
If you’re looking for an affordable long-range optic to pair with your .30-06 hunting rifle, this is a smart option. It also makes a nice topper for .308 bolt-actions.
Mounting and Accessories
If you want to reduce reflection off your objective or protect it from rain, a sunshade (like the Leupold ScopeSmith Lens Shade) is a must.
5. NightForce Optics SHV 4-14X56
NightForce is known for producing serious optics for serious shooters. Although priced just under $1000, the SHV is actually one of the company’s most affordable models.
The SHV has an ample 56mm objective, which does a nice job of pulling in light, even in dim environments. However, the scope has a non-illuminated reticle, which could be a disadvantage in fading light.
Insanely durable, the NightForce SHV features a one-piece chassis made from solid bar stock aircraft-grade aluminum. This construction provides sturdy performance and precision that withstands the punishing recoil of heavy-hitting calibers like .300 Win Mag.
Is It Worth It?
The NightForce SHV’s sturdy construction makes it well-suited for tough environments. That includes rough tactical environments as well as the harsh elements of remote hunting locations.
The NightForce SHV’s notable features include:
- Ample 56mm objective.
- Durable construction stands up to rough use and hefty recoil.
- ZeroSet feature.
- Adjustable parallax from 25 yards to infinity.
- Exposed, quick-access elevation knob.
- Capped windage knob to prevent accidental adjustments in the field.
Mounts and Accessories
The NightForce ULTRALITE 30mm Titanium will help hold your scope firmly in place. These rings are made to handle rough use and withstand substantial recoil.
6. Vortex Viper PST Gen II 5-25×50
Vortex Optics genuinely surprises shooters by continuously churning out quality optics for half the price of their competition. The Viper PST Gen II riflescope is a premium-quality optic at a price point that won’t overly stress the family budget.
The Viper PST has solid tactical features like Armortek coated lenses, a hard anodized exterior, and a no-glare matte finish. It also features easy parallax adjustment and a user-friendly RZR zero reset.
With extra low dispersion glass and fully multi-coated lenses, the optical quality is out of this world.
The laser-etched turrets on the Viper PST are top-notch. They even have a built-in fiber optic rotation indicator, so you can easily keep track of your rotations no matter how many adjustments you need to make.
Is It Worth It?
With a mid-range price tag, the Vortex Viper PST Gen II is a smart option for general long-range shooting. It also makes an affordable topper for a tactical or competition rig. It pairs rather nicely with a Ruger Precision Rifle, especially one chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor.
Here’s the run-down of the Viper PST’s most marked features:
- Superb image quality.
- Armortek scratch-resistant lens coatings.
- Hard anodized exterior for extra durability.
- RZR zero reset function.
- Adjustable parallax.
- Laser-etched turrets with fiber-optic rotation indicator.
- Glass-etched illuminated BDC reticle.
Mounts and Accessories
For best results, mount the Viper PST to your rifle with Vortex Precision Matched Riflescope Rings.
Although the scope’s Armortek coatings help protect the lenses from damaging dust, oil, and debris, you can further protect your lenses with the Vortex Defender Flip Cap Objective Lens Cover and the Vortex Defender Flip Cap Eyepiece Lens Cover.
Summing It Up
If you’re new to long-range shooting, you should know it can be highly addictive. Whether you’re pinging steel or popping groundhogs, there is something incredibly rewarding about successfully making extremely difficult long-range shots.
Long-range shooting isn’t nearly as easy as the professionals make it look. It takes discipline and practice to consistently hit marks at 1000 yards or beyond. Even the best long range scope is no substitute for good old-fashioned practice. You’ll definitely need to master the fundamentals and put in plenty of range time before you can expect to achieve long-range proficiency.