The idea of scout rifles, and in turn scout scopes, really gained a following in the 1980’s when Col. Jeff Cooper proposed a multi purpose rifle able to bring down any large game. The scout scope, as envisioned by the Colonel, was to be set forward above the receiver and be light, compact, and low powered to give you the ability to utilize a two eyes open shooting concept.
Scout scopes were meant to be durable and shockproof and able to be used effectively for hard hitting, high recoil caliber rifles. Because of the heavy recoil and placement of the optics, your choice of scope for your scout rifle has to provide more than generous eye relief. As you can begin to see, a true to form scout scope has a lot of qualifications it has to live up to.
In this article, we will take a look at the characteristics that are commonly seen on the best scout scopes and then review four great options and what makes them an excellent choice for your scout rifle.
Scout Rifle Scope Buyer’s Guide
- Magnification: The original vision of the scout rifle was a low powered scope. While modern users of the scout rifle setup have started using higher powered variable scopes, there are pros and cons to both and should be considered when searching for your scout rifle scope.
Fixed scopes gave better shock resistance just for the simple fact that there are less moving parts within the scope, though you are going to be limited in the range of shots you will be able to take. On the other hand, variable scopes mounted as scout scopes are more difficult to adjust on the fly when trying to line up a shot. Your eye relief, field of view, and image lighting is going to drop off dramatically as you increase in magnification as well which takes away from the purpose of a scout rifle.
- Eye Relief: The eye relief simply refers to the distance between your pupil and the ocular lens where a full image can be seen. For most scopes, this distance is usually around the 3-4″ mark. Given where the scout scope is mounted on the rifle, an eye relief of 4″ is going to render the scope useless.
Because of this, a scout scope must be long eye relief. Long eye relief scout scopes allow you to maintain a comfortable shooting position with the forward mount and still provides you with a full field of view. It is also going to be critical that when mounting your ler scope, that you position it correctly so that you will not have an issue with gaining a full field of view when trying to line up a shot.
- Lenses: While scout scopes are meant to be used in hunting applications, the way they are mounted can be difficult to use in low light situations. It is even more critical when using variable scopes with higher levels of magnification power.
If you’re going to dish out more money for variable scopes, you better be sure you’re going to get an image for low morning and late evening shots. If you’re using a scout rifle for its intended purpose, you’re also going to want lenses that can stand up to some abuse other than constant recoil. Treatments for hardened glass that is more scratch and chip resistant is highly recommended and will dramatically increase the life of the scope.
- Reticle: In the end, this too is a personal preference, but we feel it is important to mention in our buyer’s guide. Keep in mind the forward mounted scope which can be 7-14″ away from the butt of the stock. You are going to need a reticle that will stand out to you and be designed to naturally draw your site to the crosshair intersection.
In our experience, a simple duplex reticle is best for long eye relief scout scopes. We also recommend a duplex reticle that tapers from bold transects down to fine as it nears the middle of the image. We feel this helps draw your line of sight center. Thin lines with thin markings can be incredibly difficult to use, especially when in low light environments.
- Weight: With anything that you mount to your rifle you should be mindful of the weight and how it impacts the rifle’s balance, which in turn affects your ability to handle the weapon comfortably. This balance issue is even more polarized with scout scopes because of their position on the rifle.
A heavy scope mounted forward can easily change how the firearm handles and will make lining up shots and more awkward. Of course, we cannot sit here and tell you what weight will work with your particular rifle and is just something that you will need to experience and determine on your own.
- Proofs: Scout scopes are designed to be a rugged and reliable hunting and self-defense weapon optic which means they are usually on high recoil caliber rifles and often exposed to environmental conditions that are not easy on the scope.
Because of this, you need a scope that is going to be able to absorb the shock of high calibers detonating and leaving your barrel for hopefully thousands of rounds and can maintain it’s zero and functionality. On top of this, you want a scope that is gas purged and sealed to give it extra water and fog proof qualities; a must have for any scope used in the outdoors where it’s not always a bright sunny day.
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The 4 Best Scout Scopes
Following the criteria outlined above, the following section will provide a selection of scopes that perform well in combination with scout rifles.
Right off the bat, this fixed scope by Leupold offers one of the biggest pros for scout rifles, and that is durability and shock resistance. This scope is designed from a single piece tube of high-grade aluminum. Its compact design and fixed magnification further add to this scope’s ability to take the high recoil of your scout scope and hold its zero and adjustments.
Not only is the body rugged, but the lenses have gone through Leupold’s Diamond Lense coating make them extremely resistant to scratching. This is important on a scout rifle that goes through some extreme abuse in the field and will keep you from having to order a new scope or have lenses replaced.
One of the best features of this scope is that with the low magnification you can take shots with both eyes open, an important quality to a true scout scope. You will have no problem keeping the entire field of view in front of you while pulling off a shot.
You have fantastic eye relief at 9.3″ with a large field of view for quick target acquisition. This scope is extremely light at only 7.5oz so throwing the balance off is not going to be an issue and is great for a rifle you are going to be hauling around for extended trips in the field.
The lenses on this scope are up to Leupold standards and offer some of the best low light performance that you can get in a scout scope. In normal light settings, the lens multi coating reduces glare significantly and provides a crisp and clear image.
This scope uses a simple duplex reticle, but it is clear and brings your view to center very naturally. The outer lines are bold and taper down to finer lines making it easy to utilize from a significant distance away from the ocular lens.
The low profile turrets are great for not getting knocked off while traveling or beating through brush, but for a scout rifle, sometimes more high profile turrets are easier to adjust in the field with the way the scope is mounted forward on the rifle.
- Shock, water, and fog proof
- Rugged and durable
- Two eyes open application
- Great low light image quality
- Bold and easy to use reticle
- Difficult to reach out and adjust turrets quickly
This scout rifle scope is another fixed magnification option. It is highly durable and made from aircraft grade aluminum. Col. Cooper would approve of this scout scope as it is slim, lightweight, and tough.
This is a light but compact scope that is extremely shockproof. You can easily use this as your high caliber firearms scout scope. It is easy to zero in, and it will not lose that setting through hundreds of high caliber rounds.
The Burris has a range of 7 -14″ eye relief which is decent. The field of view at 100 yards os average, but any shots below that target acquisition are much better, and this scope is a tack driver at 100 yards and less.
We do like the large ocular lens diameter. It aids in allowing you to get on targets quickly and is a feature we wish was seen with more long eye relief scout rifle scopes.
You might not be extremely pleased with the low light visibility of this scope which is a common problem with scout rifles. For most applications, this might not be an issue, but if you are hunting the image may be darker than you would want. Though the low light transmission might not be up to standards, the lenses overall give you excellent glare resistance and provide an outstanding image at all other times of the day.
The Heavy Plex reticle is great on this scope and functions well for scout rifle applications. It is a simple duplex reticle, but it is easy to get your sight center and on target easily.
- Very durable
- Easy to zero and will hold with high calibers
- Extremely accurate up to 100yards
- Large ocular lens
- Great glare resistance
- Great image quality
- Easy to see reticle
- Eye relief is suspect
- Not the best field of view
- Low light visibility is not the best
The Vortex Crossfire II is a variable powered scope that offers you better range on your scout rifle and is also constructed to handle high caliber rounds often used by a scout rifle. This scope is also constructed to be highly waterproof and is purged and sealed to give you fog proof qualities.
Our biggest concern with this scope is the V-plex reticle. Given the placement of the scope, the lines are just too thin to bring your vision center and line up a shot on targets a considerable distance away.
This scope is extremely easy to zero in, and it will hold that setting through hundreds of high caliber rounds put through your scout rifle. The windage and elevation adjustments made on this scope are repeatable so you can be confident in consistent shot placement.
This scope features a generous eye relief of 9.45″ though we are concerned with the field of view at high magnification powers. While the field of view decreases as magnification increases, It’s extremely small at the 6X and 7X settings.
Overall this scope provides excellent image quality, including in low light conditions, but there have been several issues with image distortion at the 7X. While we like the ocular focus, even it has trouble bringing the image into clear view at this magnification.
- Recoil and environmental resistant
- Easy to mount and zero
- Repeatable windage and elevation adjustment
- Great eye relief
- Poor reticle for scout rifle applications
- Poor image at high magnification
While at the 2X setting you might be able to utilize both eyes open shooting, but even then it is a little difficult to squeeze off a good shot. At higher magnifications, it is nearly impossible.
We like the Ballistic Plex reticle that is used. It is uncluttered and easy to make elevation adjustments quickly without adjusting the scope. One problem with the reticle is that the elevation markings are thin and for those with poor eyesight and the distance you are away from the scope are going to have issues seeing them clearly.
For long range shooting, this is one of the best scout scopes available. When mounted and zeroed in properly, you will have no problem grouping shots at 300 yards. This is an accurate scope and not having to zero your gun constantly is going to take a lot of the frustration commonly seen with scout scopes on high caliber rifles.
While the long range shooting is an excellent feature, there are some drawbacks when you get to the high magnification settings. We have already discussed both eyes open shooting, but there are also issues with light transmission, especially in low light conditions. At the high magnification, the picture quality is extremely poor.
Besides the image quality at high magnification in low-light conditions, this scope provides incredible images and is extremely easy to focus at high magnifications. The eye relief on this scout scope is fantastic and ranges between 12” and 9.2” so scrolling through the magnification range is not going to diminish a comfortable shooting position.
The major downside to this long eye relief scout scope is going to be the price. While not totally inconceivable, it is a bit pricier than other scopes on this list, but that’s what comes with high quality and variable power.
This scope is compact, but it is a bit heavier than other scopes on this list and comes in at 13oz. This weight shouldn’t make any difference on the most rifles; you should be aware when purchasing and mounting to your scout rifle.
- 2 eyes open shooting at lowest magnification
- Incredible range and accuracy
- Great image quality
- Fantastic eye relief
- Holds zero well
- Thin elevation markings on reticle
- A bit heavy
- Poor picture quality in low light environment at high magnification
Our Favorite Scout Rifle Scope
Given the traditional definition of scout scopes and with today’s shooting applications we have to give the title of best scout rifle scope to the Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5X28. That’s right; we give the edge to the fixed scope over the variable because of the overall consistent performance qualities you get with this particular model.
This long eye relief scout rifle scope gives you the ability to mount forward as the Colonel intended and is also highly shockproof and can be used with high caliber, high recoil caliber rifles while being lightweight. This scout scope can also be used for two eyes open shooting applications which a lot of shooters have in mind when outfitting a scout rifle. It has fantastic lenses that provide a clear and bright image, and most importantly it provides this in low light conditions which are when a lot of shots are taken during hunting. The image quality paired with a bold and easy to center duplex reticle makes this a fine scope to mount to your scout rifle.
Scout rifle scopes are not the best option for every hunting and shooting application, but under certain conditions, they offer you a lot of advantages. We hope that this article has clarified some of the important aspects scout scopes have and have provided four models that could easily carry the title of best scout scope.