Expansive Range - Small Price Tag
Some rifles are insanely proficient bits of gear with mechanisms so well designed that their capabilities far exceed the limits of human ability.
They can fire rounds beyond 800 meters, between 600 and 5000 feet a second. The human eye and aim are rarely good enough to keep up with these capacities.
A good rifle scope, however, changes everything. The enhanced optics give you the required abilities to use the full potential of your weapon. The only problem is that they can carry some pretty hefty price tags.
Not to worry though, sharpshooters. In this article, we’re going to be reviewing and rating five of the very best rifle scopes under the $1000 mark.
We’re even going to fix together an in-depth buyer’s guide and brief FAQ section giving you the lowdown on what you should be looking for in a scope.
In a Hurry?
No problem. Here’s our top pick straight away.
OUR TOP PICK
Bringing you face to face with your target at our number one spot really is the ultimate riflescope you can get for under $1000.
Let’s begin with the lenses. They provide high definition, fast focus clarity at all times, and thanks to the Twilight Max HD Light Management System between them, you can expect around 30 minutes of extra light on a hunt.
Protected by a patented Guard-Ion coating, the VX-5HD’s lenses can withstand some pretty rugged treatment, making them perfect long stalks in the wild. Water, dirt, and even fingerprints simply shed from the surface of the lens.
If you do a lot of exceedingly long-range shooting, you’ll be excited to know it has a parallax adjustment as well as the CDs-ZeroLock2 elevation dial, and popup Rizero windage adjustment.
But this thing’s not just great for long distances. With a very versatile 3-15 magnification range, you get some really nice short to mid-range applications as well. Keep it on 3 to track close up fast-moving targets such as birds taking flight.
Generally speaking, this scope is an awesome build. It’s durable and completely water, shock, and fog-proof, so there’s no need to be precious with it, and the cherry on top is that it only weighs 2lbs.
- Coating protects lens from fingerprints, water, and dirt
- ZeroLock elevation dial allows customization to fit your rifle and ammo
- Versatile and powerful 3 -15 magnification
- Light management system protects your eyes from glare and brightens shot
- HD fast focus lens
- Solid build
- Looks amazing
- Large objective lens
- Nearing the price limit
Coming in at number two is a scope that goes toe to toe with our number one pick in performance but lacks some of the clever patented technology that really makes the Leupold shine.
The fast focus, multi-coated HD lens made from low dispersion glass completely prevents blurs caused by chromatic aberration.
Although it has a greater 16X magnification range than our top spot, at its limits, the clarity isn’t edge to edge, peripheral or close range obstacles falling slightly out of focus.
That said, the precision glide erector system makes for some seamless transitions between magnification settings, and the first focal plane, glass-etched reticle, makes for exquisitely consistent subtensions throughout.
You also get a similar side parallax dial as our first pick, which is perfect for the extra range.
This is by far the best bang for buck rifle scope on our list. It’s a solid, one-piece construction, and at 1.4lbs it’s insanely lightweight, and it’s completely water, shock, and fogproof to boot.
- Great value for money
- Impressive range
- Glass etched reticle makes for consistent subtensions across all magnifications
- Fast focus HD lens
- Low dispersion glass prevents chromatic aberration
- Solid build
- Uber lightweight
- Not quite as equally focused as our top pick
Coming in at our number three spot is a scope that would probably give you some pretty good visuals of Saturn or Neptune, let alone a buck at the other end of the prairie.
The Athlon is our most powerful pick so far with a devastating zoom 25 times more powerful than the human eye, pretty impressive really.
Not to let the power side of things down, the lens is a super high-performance HD glass designed for optimal contrast and clarity.
The glass is also multi-coated to eliminate the play of reflected light in your vision whilst emphasizing transmission, offering a crisp and bright shot.
The general clarity deteriorates a little bit, developing a smoky haze at the limits of its range. It’s not going to ruin your shot, but it’s definitely not ideal.
We really love the zero stop function of this scope that keeps things swift and accurate.
In addition, you can expect a similar erector system as our number two pick, that facilitates perfectly smooth magnification transitions.
In terms of build quality, we can’t fault it. It’s solid as a rock, which is surprising because, at 1.33lbs, you won’t even notice the extra weight on your rifle. It’s as if it’s made of the air itself.
- Massive range
- Multi-coats prevent interference from reflected light
- Reticle shrinks and grows with zoom
- HD lens provides amazing contrast
- Seamless magnification transitions
- Zero stop function lets you return to your zero mark with speed and precision
- Lovely build
- Really big objective lens
- Develops a haze near full magnification
Our number four spot is the most affordable and popular riflescope on our list, perfect for younger marksmen to cut their teeth on.
The big difference between this scope and our other picks is range. With 1-6 x24mm, this scope is the shortest reaching on our list by a long shot. Lack of versatility will put some off, but a scope with short-range specifications can be a real credit to your arsenal.
Lens-wise you still get some pretty good quality materials. The knurled eyepiece dial allows for really fast focusing, and all exterior glass surfaces have anti-reflection coating that brightens up shots in dwindling light.
The ‘true’ 1X isn’t quite as transparent as you’d like, but only at point-blank range as it fisheyes slightly. Anything beyond point-blank seems to actually be true 1X, or close enough that you can aim naturally with both eyes open.
Overall this is an awesome scope for the money. You don’t exactly get edge to edge clarity on mid to full magnification, but you can expect to pay a much higher price for that kind of flawless performance.
- Super affordable
- Great for a beginner to learn on
- Top-notch for short distance shooting
- Near enough true 1X
- Coated exterior glass to reduce play of reflected light and brighten shot
- Fairly good reticle
- No long-range capacity
- Loses periphery focus at mid to full power
- Small objective lens
Allowing you to make acquaintance with the horizon in our final spot is a powerful, mid-market scope popular for steadfast reliability and clarity.
This scope maxes out 25 times the power of the average human peeper- same as our number three pick, but it’s not quite as versatile in the low power end of things.
There may be a small amount of peripheral blurring right at the feazing of its limits but nothing to moan about.
Much like our other picks, the glass is multi-coated which is going to give you some extra shooting time in dusky visibility.
It has zero lock capabilities, and the push-pull locking turrets are a pretty innovative feature, stopping any accidental windage or elevation.
We like the idea, but some good quality firm turrets with a lovely click will achieve the same ends without adding fiddly extra steps.
Once again, we can’t fault the build quality. It’s water, fog, and shockproof, perfectly reinforced to handle the weather and some serious recoil.
If you’re looking for $1000 quality without the scary price tag, this is probably the one to go for.
- Huge range
- Coated glass fights reflected light
- Zero lock function
- Pull-push locking turrets
- Good value for money
- HD clarity
- Not as proficient for short-range
Best Rifle Scope Under $1000 Buying Guide
Riflescopes are pretty complex bits of gear.
It can feel like there are a million things to consider, but stick with this guide and you’ll be filled in on all the fundamentals.
We know, we know... if you’d known you’d need to deal with numbers when you got into shooting, you’d have paid more attention in school, us too, but it’s really not that complicated once you know their meanings.
The first thing you need to know is that the numbers all work together to express the power of the scope as compared to normal human eyesight. If that still sounds confusing, don’t worry. We’ll break it down number by number.
Let’s start with our top pick’s numbers as a point of reference to learn from.
The Numbers - 3 - 15 x 44
First Number - The first number - 3 in this case - refers to the minimum magnification the scope offers. This is basically the scope’s 0. Let’s say you’re looking at a tree. Putting your eye to the scope would magnify the tree by three times the size it was when you were using your plain old human eyes.
Second Number - The second number - 15 in this case - follows the exact same principles as the first, only this time, it’s the scope's maximum power setting. Here, the image of the tree is 15 times larger than it looks through the naked eye.
Fixed and Variable - Fixed sites will only have one of these numbers, as it can’t zoom any further. Riflescopes have two because they’re variable, meaning they have many different magnifications.
The Last Number - The last number, also known as the objective, measures the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters, and it’s less to do with power, and more to do with light and clarity. Before we continue, the objective lens in any form of scope, be it a telescope, a microscope, or a riflescope, is the lens closest to the thing you are observing. So, using our tree from earlier, the objective lens is the one closest to the tree, rather than your eye lens.
Larger objective lenses tend to let in far more light which brightens up a shot in contrast to the actual light perceived by the human eye if you were to just look around. Put simply, it can make a dull day look slightly sunnier for the sake of illuminating your view and making the shot much easier.
The amount of light a scope gathers is known as the exit pupil and confusingly is actually measured by the light that reflects back from the lens.
The first thing you need to know is that you can easily work out the exit pupil of a scope by dividing the last number, by any of the first numbers. For instance, using the same example, 3 - 15x44, on its lowest setting - 3 - the exit pupil of our number one pick is 14.6mm.
To give you a rough idea of what that actually means performatively, you can think of your own pupil. The darker it is, the bigger it gets to capture more light.
When it starts to get dark your pupil may reach 5mm in diameter, so we can postulate that looking through the scope on its lowest setting, in that same light, it would look just under three times as bright.
Larger objective lenses also provide a wider field of view so you can see more in one frame. The downside is that they can be quite hefty and add a lot more weight to the scope and thus your rifle.
What Numbers Should I Be Looking For?
It depends on how you plan to use your rifle. For short-range applications such as thick timber hunting, we’d recommend a minimum magnification of 3. Any larger than that and it’s going to make it easy for targets to evade your field of view.
For mid-range usage up to around 250 yards, you’ll need something that can reach around 7.
For long-distance shooting, a scope that magnifies things 15 times the size should be just about enough, although if you want to go extra big, anything over 20 should suffice.
You’ll come across a lot of scopes with ED or HD glass. These are the same thing. ED stands for extra-low dispersion.
This means that it narrows light into a single point, negating chromatic aberration which is basically a blurriness caused by confused colors. HD is used as a proxy for ED as it’s universally understood and conveys more or less what ED glass does.
Coatings can be protective in nature, but their primary purpose is to reduce the amount of light that’s reflected back out from the glass of the scope. Reflected light skews the clarity of the shot, so the more it can be reduced, the better.
The more coatings glass has, the less light reflects, the greater the transmission (captured light), and the brighter and clearer the shot becomes.
Weight Isn't going to be a problem for you if you’re only going to be using your rifle at the range with a gun rest.
Hunters, on the other hand, need a scope as lightweight as possible. Unless it’s an advanced NV scope, we'd recommend staying under or around the 2lbs mark.
There are two focal planes in a scope. The first occurs at the start of the bottleneck beyond the objective lens, the other rests at the opening of the bottleneck towards the eye lens. The only relevance this has to you is the placement of the reticle.
A first focal plane reticle is etched on the first plane. Scopes like this are better for accurate long-range shooting, as the reticle grows and shrinks with the magnification setting. Second plane reticles are etched into the one closest to your eye, and their size is fixed.
Eye relief is the maximum distance between your eye and the lens that still offers the full view.
A longer relief is preferable in all situations but especially for mid to long-range hunting. Around 3” should suffice, but 4” is better.
Turrets are the raised dials on the scope that set windage and elevation.
Some manufacturers will take your ballistics reports to customize the parameters of the turrets to fit your rifle.
Some advanced scopes contain argon or nitrogen between lenses.
If your scope becomes foggy after significant use, this gas can be purged, clearing it up again.
A parallax dial lets you focus the reticle to stop it moving when looking through the scope at slightly different angles.
It’s only really relevant in long-range applications.
Reticles will vary from scope to scope.
If you don’t know what one looks like, do a little research and try and find some pictures to compare with other reticles.
Frequently Asked Questions
What scope is used by marine snipers?
The Schmidt & Bender 3 - 12x50mm
How far can I shoot with a 3 - 9 scope?
It depends what rifle you’re using, but adding 100 yards to each magnification number gives you a rough estimate.
We’d expect anywhere from 720 to 900 yards.
A riflescope shouldn’t be a quick buy. You’ll want to think it out as much as possible to ensure you make the right choice first time around.
The best one for you should feel like a natural extension of both you and your rifle, giving you a deadly edge on the hunt and on the range.