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Published on October 5, 2022 12:57
You might think that air rifle ranges are pretty much the same and that all you have to do is decide on a budget and magnification requirements – but there’s a bit more to it. While you can certainly find great scopes from names you’ve no doubt heard of before—like Leupold, Bushnell, and Vortex—there’s a whole other world of air rifle scope manufacturers to discover. Don’t discount them just because you’re not familiar with the brand.
Many air rifles today look almost identical to their powder-burning brethren, but those looks can be deceiving. Beneath the surface, air rifles are built differently, and these differences can have serious consequences, such as a field break if you’re not careful. Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom, and choosing the best air rifle holsters can be a fun part of outfitting your rifle for a specific purpose.
The best overall
Why did he make the cut?: The Hawke’s Vantage 3-9×40 scope is the closest you can get to a traditional rifle scope.
- Side focus knob for parallax adjustment
- Lifetime warranty
- The traditional 3-9×40 design we all know and love
- Over-engineered for air rifle use
- Parallax adjustment capability is not universally found on all air rifle scopes
- Does not come with mounting rings
- The price reflects the overengineering, but it’s still a solid deal
Featuring a classic Mil-dot reticle with a 40mm bell and variable 3-9x magnification, the Hawke Vantage scope walks and talks like a regular rifle scope, but comes with distinct advantages for air rifle use. You still get 0.25 MOA adjustments for windage and elevation, but you also get a knob on the side to adjust parallax.
The best budget
Why did he make the cut?: Performance meets affordability with the Vortex Crossfire II 2-7×32 scope.
- Backed by Vortex’s lifetime warranty
- Available with two different meshes
- Perfect for air rifles or regular rifles
- 2 to 7x magnification is perfect for most air rifle applications
- Uses turret with reset cap
- Compact and durable
- Honestly, I don’t have any
Vortex is well known for producing scopes that punch above their weight class, and the Crossfire II 2-7×32 is no exception. The scope weighs less than a pound and is less than a foot long, making it a compact yet durable option for an air rifle. Backed by Vortex’s unmatched lifetime warranty, this scope will last you a generation or more. Price-wise, it’s on par with many regular guns. At first glance, this might make you question the placement as the best budget scope, but the Crossfire II can easily pull double duty and switch between an air rifle and a regular rifle without a problem. Basically, it’s two fields in one.
Why did he make the cut?: Packed with features with lots of options and accessories, this scope is proof that something doesn’t have to be expensive to be considered premium.
- 36 mesh colors to choose from
- The memory of brilliance
- Turrets that close and reset
- Comes with rings and lens cap
- Great magnification for large caliber air rifles
- Big and heavy: 15” tall and weighs 1.5 pounds
UTG’s 4-16×44 30mm scope is the most technologically advanced on this list, and while it costs more than the others, it’s still not expensive for what is considered a premium scope. Because it comes with rings and a lens cap, this scanner is ready to mount and take to the range right out of the box. With 36 stunning colors to choose from, you can determine which color works best for you. Plus, there’s a brightness memory that can return you to previous color and brightness settings with just one click. The 4 to 16x magnification is perfect for larger caliber air rifles and the 44mm bore will allow plenty of light for early morning or late evening shooting.
Why did he make the cut?: Crosman is a well-known airgun name and the Targetfinder 4x Scope is perfect for dipping your toes into the world of air rifle scopes
- Fixed power 4x
- 1 year warranty
- It costs less than $20
- Comes with dovetail receiver mounts
- Not recommended for motorized air rifles
Crosman has been in the airgun business since 1923, so they know a thing or two about the air rifle field. The Targetfinder 4x is a great starter scope because it is so affordable with an MSRP of just $19.99 and available for even less in many countries. Don’t let the price fool you, though—this is a solid option if you’re just getting into the world of air rifles and don’t want to spend a fortune on a scope if your gun was relatively inexpensive to begin with. With fixed 4x magnification and dovetail receiver mounts, it can easily be installed on many Crosman (and other brand) starter air rifles.
Best for strength
Why did he make the cut?: The SWFA 10×42 SS 30mm gun is built like an absolute tank.
- Uses a Mil-quad grid
- Waterproof, fog and shockproof
- Safe to use on spring loaded rifles
- Great price for what you get
- There is an adjustment wheel for parallax, which is not universal in all areas of air rifles
- You are locked to a certain zoom level
Built to NATO specifications and designed to withstand recoil up to a .50 BMG, you might think the SWFA 10×42 SS 30mm scope is overkill in an air rifle, but you will you are wrong. Instead, it just means you have an absolutely rock solid rifle. Because the object has a fixed level of magnification, they used the turret that normally adjusts this to make parallax adjustments.
Things to consider before buying an air rifle scope
As with any scope, you’ll want to figure out how much magnification you want or need, what diameter tube you’d prefer, and the size of the optical bell. This isn’t really any different than setting up a regular rifle scope, but there are some differences that you should consider and keep in mind. Here are some things to think about before parting with your hard-earned cash:
An air rifle is fired differently than a regular rifle. While a regular rifle recoils, an air rifle will actually recoil AND forward. This extra directed recoil is not something that common rifle stocks have been designed with for a long period of time. This means you need to look for either a dedicated air rifle scope or a scope that is designed to work on both.
Parallax is also different between air rifle scopes and regular rifle scopes. While a regular rifle range will be set about 100 meters, an air rifle range will be set about 10 meters. That 10-fold difference can be a big deal, so, again, look for a specific air rifle scope or one that’s designed to work in both.
Good glass is not cheap. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a good air rifle scope on a budget, but consider how much you have to spend and how much you’re willing to spend. You can spend thousands and thousands of dollars on a scope and find that it gets the same results as one that costs a fraction of that price. Don’t spend a lot of money just to spend it.
Frequently asked questions
Can you put a regular scope on an air rifle?
Yes, you can put a regular scope on an air rifle, but there are some caveats. The first is that you should only use a regular sponge on an air rifle if the manufacturer says it is suitable for both regular and air rifles. You also shouldn’t put a free scope that is built for regular rifles on an air rifle. Higher quality ones should be good.
Why do air rifles break tapes?
Air rifles break armpits because they recoil differently. While a regular rifle recoils, an air rifle recoils backwards and forwards. Because regular scopes are not designed with forward recoil in mind, the extra directional travel can cause the scope to break if it is not designed to work in both regular and air rifles.
How much does an air rifle cost?
In general, air rifle scopes cost less than regular rifle scopes. Depending on the application, you can spend as little as $20 or as much as $200 or more and be completely satisfied with the performance. It all depends on the type of air rifle you have and how you intend to use it.
Knowing the difference between a regular rifle range and an air rifle range – and more specifically, knowing why they are different – it’s important when it comes time to choose a scope for an air rifle. While in many cases you can probably get away with using a regular rifle cartridge, you should do so with the understanding that it isn’t necessarily the right tool for the job and, as such, you shouldn’t be surprised if something goes wrong. or breaks down.
Thankfully, the price of admission to the world of air rifle ranges is cheap. A good one can be had for a reasonable price, and even a premium one may surprise you with how much money is left in your pocket after the purchase.
From plinker and varmit rifles to long-range rigs, I’ve shot some of the best air rifles in a wide range of calibers and configurations suitable for different applications. Similarly, each rifle was equipped with a different scope for optimal performance in a given situation. I’ve learned what works, what doesn’t, when something is overdone and when something is understated. I rate air rifle ranges using the following criteria:
- Build quality: A pitch is only as good as the glass in it. This is especially important when it comes to air rifles and recoil. The rest of the scope is also important. You want to make sure the body is stable and the adjustment turrets are strong.
- zoom: How powerful is this scope in terms of magnification and will it be able to meet the expectations I have for a specific caliber and rifle combination?
- Characteristics: Are the features in a particular field appropriate for what I’m going to do with it? Conversely, are there more bells and whistles than necessary just so the manufacturer can charge more?
- Cost: Does this scope offer enough features and benefits to justify the amount of money it costs? Or is there another option out there that is similar in price but offers more bang for the buck?