How To Choose A Scope For Air Rifle

how to choose a scope for air rifle

Key Takeaways for Choosing an Air Rifle Scope

  • Consider your budget and needs – cheaper scopes may lack features or quality for hunting
  • Match the scope’s power to the rifle and your shooting distance needs
  • Choose an objective lens diameter based on light transmission needs
  • Opt for adjustable magnification for versatility
  • Favor scopes with fingertip windage and elevation adjustments
  • Check for shockproof and waterproof features for durability
  • Select a scope optimized for an air rifle’s velocity and pellet drop


Choosing the right air rifle scope for your needs is important to improve accuracy and enable precise shooting at varying distances. With a wide selection of scopes on the market catering to air rifle enthusiasts, making the optimal choice may seem daunting to the uninformed buyer.

This guide covers key factors to consider when selecting a scope for your air rifle. Whether you are target practicing, pest control shooting, or small game hunting, choosing a scope best matched to your rifle, shooting environment and purposes will lead to better results and more rewarding shooting experiences. We’ll explore recommended specifications and features step-by-step to simplify the process.

Determine Your Budget

As with most gear purchases, deciding on a budget is the natural starting point for choosing an air rifle scope. Cheaper air gun scopes under $50 may work reasonably well for informal shooting at shorter distances. However, lack of adjustment range and lower-quality optics quickly limit their capabilities for precise shooting past 20-30 yards.

Mid-range air rifle scopes in the $100 to $300 bracket offer excellent value for recreational and hunting setups. Features like adjustable objective lenses, locking turrets and shockproof constructions enter at this level.

At the premium end, $500+ scopes provide best-in-class optics and features tailored for air rifles. Top-tier light transmission, ultra-fine windage/elevation controls and maximum adjustment ranges optimize these scopes for hunting and field target competitions.

While more money brings better quality and capabilities, stick within your budget limitations. Also factor in mounting rings or rails separately if required.

Match the Scope’s Power to Your Needs

A scope’s power indicates its magnification capability, expressed by two numbers separated by an x symbol. For instance, 3-9x means that power is adjustable from 3x to 9x magnification.

Most air rifle shooters are well served by variable scopes with 3-9x or 4-12x zoom range. At minimum power, the wider field of view aids locating targets quickly and maintains reasonable steadiness. At max zoom, sufficient magnification is available for precise aiming or shooting small targets at longer distances.

Higher fixed power scopes over 12x magnification require added stability and skill to control well. Their very narrow field of view also makes locating targets and tracking moving quarry more difficult. They excel for benchrest target shooting with heavy air rifles locked in shooting rests.

Conversely, 1x “red dot” scopes lack magnification for very quick target acquisition. They work best for pest control under 50 yards with spring piston break barrel or semi-auto PCP air rifles.

Ultimately, choose a scope power matches your rifle type, shooting skill and intended purposes.

Choose Objective Lens Diameter

A scope’s front objective lens gathers ambient light critical for bright, crisp sight picture. The bigger its diameter, the more light passes through.

For air rifles, objective diameters between 32mm to 50mm provide suitable light transmission for most purposes. Smaller objectives down to 20mm trade brightness and clarity for compact lightweight. Larger 56mm or 60mm objectives excel for dawn/dusk hunting and shaded conditions.

Objectives sized 44mm-50mm suit powerful PCP rifles reaching beyond 100 yards. For springers effective inside 50 yards, compact 36mm-40mm objectives suffice. Consider your environment’s lighting conditions and shooting distances when picking objective diameter.

Adjustable Objective Lens

An adjustable objective (AO) lens provides optimization across lighting and distances. By dialing-in the focal plane, image sharpness and contrast are enhanced.

Adjustable objectives are strongly recommended for mid-range or higher air rifle scopes. They add versatility for hunting from heavy cover to open fields and everything between. Set correctly for your target’s range, the AO lens sharpens accuracy.

Seek Versatile Magnification

As mentioned under Power earlier, magnification adjustability accommodates shooting animals over varying distances in changing field scenarios.

Variable 3-9x up to 5-20x power ranges deliver excellent versatility for hunting. Lower zoom levels allow fast reaction shots inside 50 yards. At full crank, pinpoint accuracy reaches out toward the rifles extreme range.

For predominantly short-range pesting inside 35 yards, a lower 2-7x variable scope keeps targets quickly acquired. Benchrest paper punchers can live with higher fixed 16x magnification power matched to a heavy precision air rifle and rested shooting position.

Factor in your shooting environment diversity, game animal size, and engagement distances expectations when picking magnification specs.

Favor Scopes with Precise Adjustments

An essential scope feature is precisely adjustable windage and elevation settings to achieve centered point of aim. This fine-tuning arcs the projectile trajectory to align the scope reticle dead-on at desired ranges.

Opt for finger adjustable turret dials graduated in .25, .5 or 1/8 MOA measures for precision corrections. Locking turrets maintain zero repeatability after adjustments. Sidewheel parallax knobs also improve reticle focus at varying target distances.

While many air rifle scopes lack these refinements, precise external turret adjustments optimize hunting accuracy and hitting small targets.

Seek Shockproof and Waterproof Protection

Air rifles generate lower recoil than firearms, but still submit scopes to significant shaking upon firing. Quality scopes incorporate shock absorbing components and assemblies to withstand years of hard use.

Also expect airgun scopes to withstand water intrusion while hunting in all weather. Nitrogen gas purging then seals the waterproofed internal chambers for thermal equilibrium and fog prevention in all conditions. Ensure any scope you choose delivers ruggedized shockproof and waterproof performance for reliability.

Get a Scope Built for Air Rifles

Scopes designed specifically for air guns calibrate components and optics to match airgun ballistic profiles. They account for the arched trajectory of slower pellets rapidly dropping over distance. Elevation turrets provide extra range adjustability compared to similar quality firearm scopes.

Reticles are also hashmarked to coincide with pellet drops at typical air rifle ranges. This enables accurate holds using aiming marks tailored to airguns.

So while regular firearm scopes work to some degree on air rifles, an optimized airgun scope improves aiming ease, precision and hit percentages.

Examine Scope Features

Beyond primary specs covered above, secondary traits differentiate scope quality and handling. A partial list of desirable extras include:

  • Side focus parallax knob – simplifies range reticle focusing
  • Illuminated reticle – aids visibility at dawn/dusk hours
  • Zero lockable turrets – retain elevation/windage settings
  • Flip-up lens covers – protects exterior optics
  • Sunshade – reduces glare for clearer sight picture
  • Quick focus eyepiece – fine tunes reticle crispness to your vision

Check that electronics like reticle illumination shut off automatically to avoid battery drain. While many features raise cost, their functionality enhances a scope’s shooting versatility for air rifle enthusiasts.

Match Your Air Rifle’s Velocity

Higher velocity PCP and magnum springer air rifles require scopes able to withstand their significant vibrations and reverse recoil. Cheaper scopes risk losing zero or accuracy from the pounding over time.

Quality scopes specifically rate themselves for spring gun compatibility matched to a feet per second (fps) velocity range.

  • Under 1000 fps – Suitable for lower powered recreational rifles
  • 1000-1250 fps – For most hunting grade PCP and mid-weight spring air rifles
  • 1000 fps air rifle whatsApp group
  • 1500+ fps – Optimized for high power magnum PCP/springer air guns

Ensure the scope you choose is rated to handle your air rifle’s muzzle velocity for ongoing reliability.

Research the Brand’s Reputation

Veteran airgun scope makers like Hawke, Leapers, Burris and Barska build reputations over decades for reliable optics delivering excellent value. Other relative newcomers like MTC and Vector Optics offer quality alternatives.

  • Check reviews and user experiences at airgun forums and websites before buying.
  • Consider country of origin – European and American brands still lead for premium build quality.
  • Hold quality above cost alone – this glass will literally guide your shots.
  • Warranty period indicates confidence in longevity and performance.

While budget off-brand scopes tempt on price, their lackluster clarity risks disappointing accuracy. An extra few dollars brings proven optics matching your air rifle’s innate precision.

Common Magnifications for Air Rifles

  • 1x and 4x fixed – best suited for informal shooting inside 20 yards
  • 3-9x or 4-12x variable – provides excellent versatility for most small game hunting inside 50 yards
  • 8-24x or higher variables – enables pinpoint accuracy past 100 yards for benchrest or prairie dog shooting
  • 1x non-magnifying with etched reticle – fastest close range target acquisition with both eyes open

Match Scope to Rifle Purpose

  • Plinking targets – 4×32 fixed power scope provides a clear sight picture at 25 yard shooting range
  • Pest control – 3-9×40 variable scope allows precise aim on rabbits, rats inside 60 yards
  • Squirrel/rabbit hunting – 4-16×44 scope with side focus parallax and illuminated reticle enables dawn to dusk shooting
  • Long range varmints – 6-24×50 target turrets and 30mm tube zooms in tiny targets past 100 yards
  • Big game hunting – 2-7×32 makes quick work of foxes and coyotes inside 60 yards in heavy cover

Frequently Asked Questions

What magnification do I need for an air rifle scope?

Most small game hunting air rifles are suited to variable magnification scopes in the 3-9x or 4-12x range. This provides reasonable zoomed-out situational awareness plus dialed-in accuracy at farther distances. Scopes with 6-18x or even 6-24x magnification enable varmint shooting past 100 yards.

Does objective lens size matter for an air gun scope?

Yes, choose an objective lens diameter that balances sufficient light transmission with compact form factor. Good all-round objective sizes are 32mm for spring piston rifles, 44mm for high power PCPs. Shooters should consider larger 50mm-plus objectives for hunting in dense woods or at dawn/dusk times when light is limited.

How much should I spend for a good scope for my airgun?

Quality air rifle scopes are available between $150 to $400. Under $100 means sacrificing features and optical clarity that hamper versatile accuracy. At over $400 better components provide only marginal improvements – those dollars are better spent on upgrading the air rifle itself. Around $250 buys excellent optics with features that meet most airgun shooters’ needs.

Why does an adjustable objective (AO) matter for air rifles?

Adjustable objective lenses optimize image sharpness across varying field distances. Particularly for airguns firing arched trajectories, target ranges change dramatically from 25 to 65 yards. An AO scope lets you tune-in crisp reticle focus at each distance for tack-driving precision on targets and game animals near and far.

Should I choose an air rifle rated scope or does a firearm scope work OK?

For best results, always choose an optics scope purpose-built for air rifles. Airgun scopes properly account for arched pellet trajectories in mildots calculations and windage/elevation turret adjustments. Their lenses transmit adequate light despite slower velocities, while enduring intense vibrations and reverse recoil. Using a firearm scope risks inaccuracy, loose turrets and even lost zero alignment over time. Invest a little more in optimized airgun rated optics.


Choosing the optimal air rifle scope requires balancing your budget against performance needs driven by your rifle specs and shooting environment. Take time considering magnification power, objective lens size, adjustment precision and other features covered here. As per Shahid Maqsood Founder of, matching the scope to your airgun’s attributes and purposes helps guarantee enduring accuracy and satisfaction.

With so many air gun scopes available from proven specialists brands, avoid money-saving shortcuts on optics quality. Invest in maximizing visibility, versatility and longevity to reap rewards through better marksmanship for years ahead. Train often and hone technique – a precision scope magnifies achievements hitting targets near and far!

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