Riflescope frequently asked questions

Nikon riflescopeOur answers to frequently asked questions about riflescopes will help you to have a better understanding of how riflescopes work. If you can't find an answer to your riflescope question, please don't hesitate to contact us - we're always here to help.

What’s the best riflescope magnification?

To understand the basics of riflescope magnification, please refer to our riflescope buyers guide.

Riflescopes come in a variety of magnifications and some have a variable zoom that allows you to change the power of your scope depending on the level of magnification you require.

In general, low power riflescopes are great for hunting at close range and for shooting moving targets, medium power scopes are ideal for hunting big game targets such as deer at medium range, and high power riflescopes are ideal for shooting still targets and small vermin and game.

Do I need a fixed or variable (zoom) riflescope?

Rifle scopes either come with a fixed magnification or a zoom or variable magnification. Each type of scope has pros and cons and whether or not you choose a fixed or zoom magnification riflescope will largely depend on what you are using your scope for and personal preference. 

Zoom scopes are much more versatile than fixed scopes as they have a minimum and maximum magnification level and can be used to shoot at all magnification levels in-between these. This versatility allows them to be used for both short range and long range shooting. 

Despite the benefits of zoom riflescopes, many hunters and shooters; especially beginners or those who always shoot at a certain distance from their target, choose to stick with a fixed magnification scope. This is mainly because they are a lot simpler to use and do not require any magnification adjustments and they can be more durable than their zoom counterparts. 

So, if you plan on using your scope and rifle at a specific distance and want something that is easier to use, then you may want to opt for a fixed magnification scope. If you are planning on shooting at various distances or targets then a zoom scope is a great choice. 

What size objective lens do I need for my riflescope?

To understand the basics of choosing the best riflescope lens size, please refer to our riflescope buyers guide.

What is a riflescope reticle?

A riflescope reticle is the visual marker used inside a riflescope which provides the shooter with an aiming point. Reticles come in a variety of designs, and it is important that you choose a reticle that is appropriate for the activity you intend to use your scope for and the distance that you plan on shooting.

Which riflescope reticle should I choose?

To find out more about the best riflescope reticle to use for hunting, long distance shooting, or for use in low light, please read our riflescope buyers guide.

What is parallax?

Sometimes when you are viewing distant targets, the reticle of your riflescopes appears to move slightly. This is called Parallax. Parallax occurs when your eye is not completely lined up with the reticle of your riflescope which is physically on one of the lenses on the inner tune of your scope. 

Most scopes are set to to ensure that at certain shooting distances the cross hair of your reticle is perfectly aligned with the target that you are looking at so that you are not affected by parallax (usually 100yd). If you are using a factory set scope to shoot at a distance other than what it was set for, parallax can be introduced if your eye is not perfectly centered in the scope and the reticle may appear to be moving.

For most hunting purposes it isn’t worth worrying about parallax because the error is very small, but target shooters or long range hunters (over 500 yards) often choose to solve the parallax problem by buying a scope with an adjustable objective lens or a side parallax focus where you can simply dial in the range you believe the target is from you and you are now parallax free at that range.

You can find out more about Parallax here on good old Wikipedia!

Why do some riflescopes have adjustable objective lenses (AO) and what are the benefits of adjustable objective lenses?

Sometimes, when you view a distant target, your riflescope may be affected by parallax, and the reticle of your scope will appear to move slightly in relation to your target. Some scopes are factory set during manufacturing to adjust for the parallax effect at certain distances, but parallax may still occur if you use your scope for shooting at distances other than these. The inclusion of adjustable objective lenses on some scopes allows you to make manual adjustments to your scope to correct parallax errors at different shooting distances, with an aim of minimising the parallax effect and keeping the reticle on your target regardless of distance and subtle changes in viewing angle.

Adjustments are often made through a rotating ring on the front objective bell or an adjustment knob on the side opposite the windage dial. The adjustment graduation range or a riflescope will depend on its magnification.
 

What are the windage and elevation adjustments on my riflescope for?

The windage adjustment on a riflescope allows you to shift the aiming point of your scope along the horizontal plane. This means that you can adjust your scope a little to the left or to the right. The elevation adjustment on a riflescope lets you move the aiming point of the scope vertically (up/down) along the plane. Both the windage and elevation adjustments are used to “sight in” your scope. The windage and elevation adjustments is moved in set increments that are measured as a “Minute of Angle”. Each ‘click’ as you turn the knob changes the aim point of the scope a certain amount at 100 yards. For example, a ¼ MOA changes the aim point ¼” left or right at 100 yards. A 1/8 MOA changes the aim point 1/8” left or right at 100 yards.  

What is MOA? What does it mean if my scopes windage and elevation adjustment graduation/click value is 1/4 MOA?

MOA stands for Minute of Angle - a term used to explain variances on a target at 100 yards, and is most commonly used to describe the adjustment on a scope. If your scope's adjustment is 1/4 MOA, then for every click of the adjustment knob that you make, the bullet's point of impact will move 1/4" at 100yds.

What are fibre optics sights?

Fiber-optic sights are sights used with a rifle or hand gun that use brightly coloured inserts of fiber optic material to make them brighter and more visible. Sometimes only the front sight will feature fiber optics, and other times, the rear sight will also feature a fibre optics to help with sight alignment. Sights that utilise fibre optics are very useful as the bright sights show up much more easily in low light than conventional sights do. Don't forget to take care of your fire optic sight as the plastic inserts can be fragile. 

What sized/height rifle scope rings do I need?

Rifle scope rings come in a variety of designs and in a number of heights. Different height scope rings allow you to comfortably and securely attach different sized scopes to your rifle.

When mounting your scope to your rifle you should aim to mount it as low as comfortably possible on your weapon without letting the scope touch the barrel.

Some scope will need bigger rings so that there is a larger clearance area for scopes with larger objective lens and also scope caps.

So what sized rings do you usually need for scopes with different objective lens diameters?

Extra/super/ultra high rings - Flattop rifles often need extra high rings with an optical center of 1.5 inches or just slightly less for a proper cheek weld.

High rings - Scopes with 50mm objective lenses will often require high rings to mount them properly on your weapon.

Medium rings - Rifle scopes with 42mm - 45mm lenses often require medium rings with standard contour barrels to mount them on your rifle.

Low rings - Scopes with 40mm objective lens diameters with generally use low rings with standard contour barrels.