Different Types of Riflescopes: Everything You Need To Know

Some laymen might confuse a riflescope with a traditional gun sight, which is actually not too far off: a riflescope is the modern, adjustable version of the iron sights that would be commonplace in old weaponry from the WWII era. The iron sight still lives on in the reticle of a riflescope, but with the ability to magnify, adjust and customize the optics of your weapon, there are more different types of riflescopes than ever making the modern day hunter spoilt for choice. You might be tempted to purchase a top of the line sniper class scope for your next backcountry hunting tour, but do you actually need that level of sharpness? It’s doubtful, but comparing the types of riflescopes available to your shooting conditions is always the way to go.

The main function of a riflescope is not just to locate and define your target through the optics, but to determine the path of your bullet drop for maximum accuracy. We look at the most popular types of riflescopes available and what makes each category unique to its shooters.

Basic/Fixed Riflescope

As the name suggests, a fixed riflescope has a set determined magnification level, and only enlarges your target based on the objective lens size. You cannot zoom or adjust the magnification within the scope, and you work with exactly the image you get. They’re definitely the cheapest riflescopes available in the market, but are limited to sighting or short range target shooting for obvious reasons. Types of riflescopes like most of the others in this list, with adjustable magnification, are called variable scopes.

Red Dot Scope

A red dot sits in between a basic gun sight and a fixed riflescope in terms of adjustments; you have little to no magnification, and your target is determined by the single red dot reflected within the lens. We’ve covered the basics of red dots previously and how they can be used in combination with a tactical or hunting riflescope, and the Thrive Red Dot from ZeroTech takes the red dot to the next level of optics, putting it alongside any quality riflescope in terms of performance.

Tactical Riflescope

Tactical riflescopes are built specifically for military applications and can be either fixed or variable magnification, though the fixed variety is more popular in the infantry since it allows for faster aiming and reaction time in combat. These riflescopes have quick and adjustable turrets to extend standard engagement range. With variable tactical riflescopes, they use an open-style turret for precision aiming at both close and long range. If close combat is your shooting style, a tactical riflescope would be your go-to choice.

Hunting Riflescope

Hunting riflescopes are built to be less complex than tactical riflescopes with more options for customization based on your hunting conditions, with magnification ranges usually starting at 3-9x for ample field of view and enough light transmission to put your target in clear range. They are flexible and versatile to allow the hunter to scan their entire field of view while accounting for elevation and windage, but are also built more robust and sturdy to withstand harsh outdoor conditions. The ZeroTech range of hunting riflescopes have been designed with expert engineering to weather the elements while providing maximum precision and accuracy, so you can have a successful hunt even in the challenging backcountry.

Big game hunting riflescopes usually have more features but lower magnification ranges with adjustable turrets, and ZEROPLEX reticles for simplicity in acquiring targets.

Target Shooting and Competition Riflescopes

Because of the intensity and long distances at which targets are displayed, competitive shooters generally go for riflescopes that are bigger, high powered and have a higher magnification range going as far as 40x. The bigger competition riflescopes are usually more fragile and impractical to use out in the wild for hunting, but there are also smaller, more durable models that are commonly used for target shooting and varmint hunting. These riflescopes use long range magnification with finer levels of adjustment to seek out the smallest targets, with long eye relief and finer graded reticles usually in milliradians.

The Trace Advanced 4.5-27.50mm RMG from ZeroTech combines the best attributes of both hunting and target shooting riflescopes to give the shooter a precise, unmatched experience at both long and short range, durable for extreme conditions.

Night Vision Riflescopes

Night vision riflescopes require very different lens capabilities to allow the shooter to properly locate targets in very low light or pitch dark conditions from dusk to even midnight. These scopes tend to be low on adjustment but are equipped with in-built infrared illumination or thermal imaging, so you can still form clear impressions of targets when there’s barely any light. These riflescopes usually come with ZEROPLEX reticles and high-powered objective lenses for simplicity and clarity in locating targets amid a dark background with poor visibility.

Sniper Riflescopes

Sniper riflescopes take all the high technical capabilities of competition riflescopes into a smaller, lower-powered package which is compact and practical to use in military applications while still providing valuable information about targets through highly precise reticles. The magnification ranges are usually fixed at around 10x for a clear field of view, but the fine adjustment turrets and mildot reticles allow for snipers to calculate highly precise bullet drops even from long ranges. These types of riflescopes are not meant for the average shooter but require plenty of skill and shooting experience to master making quick time between accurate, consistent shots.

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