How to Choose the Best Airgun Hunting Scope.
What’s the best airgun hunting scope? Actually the question should be “What’s the best airgun hunting scope for you?”
We are fortunate to have such a nearly limitless array of rifle scopes on the market, but so many choices and features can be overwhelming. These are a few things that are important to consider when choosing an airgun hunting scope.
Below. The SWFA 10x42mm is an awesome fixed power scope for the money and sits atop my Quackenbush .308 handsomely!
This is a subject I think folks get way too focused around, but it has a bearing on your choice of best airgun hunting scope. There are dozens of scope reticle arrangements and the plain truth is that any of them will work perfectly fine. There are, however, a few reticle types that I favor specifically for airgun hunting.
Left. There’s nothing at all wrong with a good ol’ duplex. I used them for years before mil-dot scopes became affordable. Below right is a standard Leapers 9-dot wire reticle with mildots.
Plain and simple mil-dot and similar style reticles are terrific for an airgun hunting scope. Reticles like this were designed for range finding. For airgun purposes the dots serve as “holdover points” for various distances. The dots can also be used to hold for wind. With a standard duplex reticle you can never quite duplicate the consistency of a mathematical reticle like the mil-dot.
I like to spend a little range time getting to know the reticle. Plinking at empty shot shells or spinners generally lets me know how a reticle will perform for hunting rather than strict paper punching.
Left. There are also many airgun specific reticles to choose from. Hawke’s SR-12 SR-6 is an example. The key is simply becoming proficient with that style and learning how it applies to your rifle’s ballistics.
Some scopes have goodies like resetting turrets. You zero the scope to your preferred range. Then use a hex or torx bit to reset the turret number to zero so you don’t have to count your clicks! This Hawke scope shows the system.
Parallax adjustment…or not?
Parallax is an optical “error” that occurs in rifle scopes. Without writing an article on it entirely; for an airgun scope it can mean your reticle is not in line with what you’re firing at. The displacement of the image is more severe the closer you are to a target. Typically hunting shots are taken between 20-50 yards, which at that short distance could actually mean a missed shot or even a wounded animal if the parallax is not accounted for.
There are many scopes available that have the ability to correct for parrallax at nearly all distances. To complicate things further, of course, there are several scope configurations with different ways to adjust out the optical displacement with adjustable objective and side focus being the the most prevalent.
Most common airgun scopes will sport an adjustable objective or AO. The objective bell on these style scopes is adjustable like the lens on a camera and is stamped or etched with different yardage indicators effectively making parallax adjustable scopes capable of precise range finding. As the image comes into focus while adjusting the bell you can look at the yardage stamping and have a pretty good idea how far your target is from you.
Below. Most scopes have parallax adjustment by a ring around the objective lens. This Leapers scope is a good example.
Some hunters prefer to hunt with scopes without the ability to adjust parallax, finding that the speed to get on target trumps the precision of adjusting the error out. I’ve swam on both sides of the creek and prefer to have capability of adjusting parallax for the added precision.
With side focus (SF) scopes will be reaching for a what looks like a windage turret that actually adjusts the parallax error. I find side adjustable scopes to be far easier to manipulate while hunting than AO scopes. The yardage numbers are much easier to read behind the rifle on side focus scopes, allowing you to make range adjustments quickly.
Right. Scopes like this Hawke Sidewinder have side focus adjustment for parallax. The knob is quick to reach and conceals my movements from animals more than an AO scope
It should be noted that generally the factory markings on the turret or bell aren’t very accurate if you want to use it as a rangefinder. Though there a methods and gadgets for adding some precision, like bigger wheels for side focus scopes or some white tape on an AO bell with your own yardage markings.
Zooooooom in there…
An important aspect to consider when choosing a scope is a magnification range that you’re comfortable with. Airgun quarry is fairly small so some may find that an increase in magnification is needed. For most of my own hunting I stick with middle of the road magnification like 3-12x or 4-16X. While others like the long reach of a 6-24X or even an 10-40X!
It’s mainly a matter of personal choice and there are no right or wrongs. I can’t use high magnification very well and spend more time lost in the scope than actually finding animals. Additionally, unless you’re spending a fair chunk of change, optical clarity at these high ranges is fairly poor in budget scopes.
Yet another option to seriously consider is a fixed magnification scope. Fixed power scopes are a product of simplicity. Less moving parts means not as many things can go wrong and it keeps the weight down as well. Generally the scopes are less prone to problems.
What’s your budget?
In the end it’s going to come down to how much you can afford to spend on an optic. Obviously a little more coin will get you some better features and quality, but even those on a tighter budget can get into some great scopes.
One of my favorites for the price range is the Leapers SWAT 3-12X44 Accushot, generally you can find them for around $120. This scope has mil-dots, 30mm tube, side focus and it features the TS (true strength) technology, meaning it’s safe for spring piston air rifles. I’ve yet to find a more versatile hunting scope for under $200.
Note that the Leapers SWAT 3-12X44 Accushot scope is supplied with Weaver/Picatinny mount rings. Most air rifles use dovetails for scope mounting.
If your airgun has scope rails, you’ll need an adapter like the Leapers MNT-DT2PW01 to fit the scope to your gun (right).
This adapter fits inside the Weaver/Picatinny rings and cleverly adapts them to airgun rails.
Keep an eye on the Hawke brand for $200 and above. The 10x ½ mil-dot reticle is quite good for hunting and you can find it with the Varmint and Sidewinder line of scopes. I like the 2.5-10X42 Varmint for a lighter weight scope.
Brand names aside the thing to keep in mind is a scope is an investment of not just money but your time as you learn the optic. Pick features that you know are truly important to you and budget accordingly. You may need to save a bit more, but as you make a choice of best airgun hunting scope for you, remember this…
There’s nothing quite like a well scoped airgun in the squirrel woods. Happy hunting yall!