Targeting and Spectating Scopes: A Beginner’s Guide

Do you want to get a closer look at the world around you but you’re just not sure what kind of optics you need to do so? Well you’re in the right place. In this beginners guide to scopes, we’ll cover all of the basics you need to know to get a good understanding of the best scope for your needs. There are a range of different scopes on the market for spectating, enjoying views, observing and targeting, and navigating your way through the jargon and specific uses can be tricky, so we’ll clarify the similarities and differences between the different types of scopes and help you to understand the different purposes they’re most suited for.

What is a Scope?

The term scope encompasses a whole range of quite different sports optics. Their main similarity is that they’re all designed to provide a better and clearer view of the world around you. They do this by magnifying the view you can see and bringing objects closer to you than your naked eye can normally see.

What are Scopes Used For?

Scopes can be used to get a closer view during a whole range of activities. Spotting scopes can be used to stalk animals whilst hunting, bird and nature watching, enjoying views or spectating. Telescopes can be used for astronomy and occasional land viewing. Riflescopes come in a whole range of configurations, from air rifle scopes to target shooting scopes and can be used for hunting, target shooting and pest control.

Types of Scopes

Now that we’re clear on what a scope is and what it can be used for, let’s take a closer look at the different types of scopes that you can buy in New Zealand for different activities.


Riflescopes are scopes that attach to the top of your rifle. Their job is to magnify whatever you’re aiming at and provide a precise aiming point by means of a reticle, so that you can see more clearly and make sure that you hit it with precision. Rifle scopes are used for hunting, varmint control and target shooting. Essentially, if you need to accurately shoot anything at a distance then having a riflescope to magnify your view is a must.

Target Shooting Scopes

Target scopes are a type of riflescope that have specific design features that allow for hobby and competitive shooting at targets at different distances. They have all of the same features as other rifle scopes but offer a high amount of magnification; usually between 5-25x that of the naked eye, but some offer a magnification of up to 30x. In addition, a targeting scope often has exposed turrets and often a mil-dot reticle.

Air Rifle Scopes

Air rifle scopes are special riflescopes that are designed to withstand the recoil of air rifles. They have all of the same features as rifle scopes but in addition they have a shockproof design that can hold up against air rifles. People often use air rifles for varmint control and target shooting where you need to be able to see up close and shoot accurately at a small target.

Spotting Scopes

Spotting scopes are the largest scopes on the market. They’re used for a whole range of activities where you require a closer view. They come in either an angled or straight design and have a large front lens of between 50mm and 100mm. They must be used with a tripod to keep them stable. Whether you’re a wildlife lover or want to get a closer look at a bird, spectating a boat race in the harbour from your home, or searching a hillside for your next deer when hunting, then a spotting scope is a great optic for your activity. In addition, target spotting scopes can accompany you at the range to get a closer look at the bullseye to see whether your shot is improving. When considering whether you need a spotter it's important to consider the spotting scope specs.


Although binoculars don’t have the word ‘scope’ in their name, they are essentially two scopes attached together with a barrel so it’s important that we discuss how they can be used interchangeably with some other scopes on the market, and occasions where you may want to opt for binoculars instead of another type of scope. Binoculars can be used for a whole range of viewing activities such as looking for deer whilst you’re hunting, observing local bird life, or enjoying the view from the top of a mountain. If you think that you’ll be on the move and need a lightweight option for viewing then choosing binoculars over a spotting scope is a great idea.

Choosing the Right Scope

When it comes to choosing the right scope, it’s vital that you consider exactly what you plan to use it for. If you’re after a scope for hunting, then a riflescope is a must. Birding, spectating or enjoying views in a static location? A spotting scope sounds like a great choice. Need a scope for astronomy? Turn to a telescope. Looking for something a little more lightweight and compact that still magnifies your view? Binoculars are your go too. Once you’ve decided what type of optic is for you, it’s time to choose the exact model that will suit you best. In each optical family there’s a huge range of options on offer, each with slight differences that make them ideal for a specific job. We have a whole range of buying guides that explain how to choose the very best scope for a range of activities but for all optics, there’s two main features that are arguably the most important to consider - magnification and lens size. Let’s consider these below.

Magnification Power

As discussed previously, the main aim of almost all sports optics is to magnify the world around you so you can see it more closely and in more detail than you can with your naked eye. Once you’ve decided on the best scope for your needs, it’s time to decide how much magnification you need it to have to get the most out of it. If you’ve decided that you need a riflescope for deer hunting, then you’ll be best opting for a scope that offers a 3-9x or 4-12x magnification range. If you’d like to enjoy views from your deck then you’ll need a spotting scope with a magnification range of 20-60x. If you’re going to be birding, then you’ll either want a spotting scope with a 20-60x magnification range, or some binoculars with a 10x magnification range. All optics on our website include their magnification in the product title to make it as easy as possible to find optics that offer the magnification you need.

Objective Lens Diameter

Every scope has a front lens called an objective lens. The size of the lens governs how much light the optic lets in, and in turn how bright the images are that it produces. When choosing a scope of any form it’s important to consider what diameter of objective lens will be best for you needs. The larger the objective lens of a scope, the heavier and bulkier it will be so you’ll need to weigh up the importance of bright images and also portability. As a rule of thumb, binoculars with an objective lens diameter of 42mm will be great for bird watching and hunting. Spotting scopes with an objective lens of 60mm offer the right balance between brightness and weight for hunting. For views and static birding, an 80mm spotting scope objective lens is a great choice. For a hunting rifle scope, a lens of 40mm or 50mm will be good for hunting at dawn or dusk. For close up bush hunting, a 24mm lens will suffice. The objective lens diameter of every scope is listed in the product title. For example a 20-60x80 spotting scope has a magnification of 20-60x and an objective lens size of 80mm.

Why are Scopes Not Interchangeable?

Although some scopes are interchangeable, for example binoculars can be used whilst hunting or bird watching, each type of sports optic is best suited to a specific activity. Telescopes are great for astronomy but not so great for land viewing as they flip the image you see upside down. Spotting scopes can be used to spot deers whilst hunting, but would be no use for allowing you to aim at your target as they can’t connect to your rifle and don’t include an aiming reticle. A large, 80mm spotting scope is ideal for watching boats in the harbour from your deck, but compact binoculars would be much better suited for enjoying views from the top of a mountain whilst on a long trek.

Need More Help Choosing a Scope?

We hope that our beginners guide has given you more of an idea about the different types of scopes available to buy for activities such as spectating, hunting, bird watching and more from us here at ScopeUout. You can find more in-depth information on scopes discussed in this article here in our other buying guides. If you have any questions at all then we’d love to hear from you.

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