How to Choose a Scope for Long-Range Shooting

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What’s the point of a rifle scope if it can’t help you aim at the target? Shooting tools should be up-to-date and capable of helping you when needed. So how can you choose the best scope for long-range shooting?

In some situations, a rifle scope can be just as important as the rifle itself. From magnification to reticles, buying the perfect telescopic sight for shooting depends on several factors. With that said, there is a subjective part to shopping for scopes, but this guide is here to help.

As with many other products, the price most often reflects the quality. You usually get what you pay for, so it’s not a good idea to cheapen out on tools, like scopes, that are highly important to your shooting. Let’s dive in to learn more. 

What to Take Into Consideration When Choosing a Scope

Below are the five significant elements to consider when getting a rifle scope. 

Objective Lens

One of the main characteristics of the right rifle scope is its objective lens size. An objective lens is the larger lens at the end of the rifle scope, which is responsible for transmitting light to the other lens close to your naked eye, the eyepiece. 

A larger objective lens can capture more light, making the image in the scope clearer and more detailed. Therefore, the objective lens size is essential, especially when purchasing a more expensive, higher-end scope with high magnification ranges. 

Remember that while a larger lens allows you to see more clearly, it will make the scope bulkier and heavier.

For example, an objective lens of 45 would refer to a lens that is 45 mm in diameter for the best result. When you think about it, it’s evident that with a bigger lens, your sight will also improve. However, it may complicate the scope setup on your gun. To learn more about shooting at long ranges, visit the link.


Magnification is, in the simplest way to put it, how much closer you can see a target than with your bare eye. It is like a zoom on a digital camera or a phone, allowing you to see much further. 

The format it follows is 8x, meaning the image formed on the eyepiece is eight times closer than what you’d see with the naked eye. 

The recommended magnification for everyone depends on what you will shoot and how far the target is fixed or moving. With that said, there are two main types of zoom for your weapon: fixed and variable. 

Fixed scopes

Fixed scopes have a fixed magnification factor. If your scope has 2x magnification, it will only magnify the target two times the original distance.   

Since there is no range, you cannot zoom in or out of the set magnification. The primary usage of this type of magnification is for target practice or when hunting for small animals, like squirrels.

Variable scopes

Most beginners in the field will tell you to get a scope with as much magnification as possible. Most people with more experience in the area will tell you this is a mistake.

High-magnification telescopic sights are expensive. It is a waste of money to buy a tool with up to 24x zoom when you are just starting out. You also don’t want to go so far that your low-end is more than 4x or 6x, which will cut your close-range accuracy.

A simple explanation of what magnification factor you will need is this:

  • For short-range shooting, such as target practice (under 100 yards), hunting small animals, or home defense, you can use scopes with a factor range of 1-4x.
  • Medium-range target practice shooting (under 200 yards), hunting bigger game, or hunting in closed environments, such as forests, can make it worth getting a scope with a range between 5-8x.
  • Long-range shooting that warrants a 9-12x magnification factor scope is a bit more niche, and it’s only really worth it for long-range target practice over 200 yards or hunting big game in open fields.

Parallax Adjustment

Parallax is an error that occurs in scopes where the reticle and the target are focused at different distances within the scope. In simple words, your rifle is actually pointing in a slightly different direction than what you see through the reticle. 

Thankfully, most modern scopes are free of this error, some entirely while others to a specific distance range. 

Usually, the distance of the parallax is set in a range between 50 and 175 yards. This is ideal for medium-range target practice. This can be adjusted from a third knob on the scopes when given.

When not set up correctly, even slightly bobbing your head can create an imperfect alignment between your reticle and the target itself. This can obviously cause misses or, if you’re lucky, just a lousy shot. Parallax adjustment on a rifle scope is such a helpful addition that it becomes almost necessary.

One suitable cartridge for long-range shooting is the .338 Lapua Magnum, you can check my guide about it by following the link.

Reticles and the Focal Plane

Simply put, the reticle is the crosshair you see when you look into the lens of the scope. Rifle scopes usually are crafted with the reticle situated in the first (front) focal plane or the second (rear). 

When using the first-focal plane, the reticle does not change with the variable magnification. This means that the MOA (Minutes of Angle) does not change with magnification either. You can apply 2x and 4x magnification calculations, but the reticle is not magnified.

Reticles with a second-focal plane magnify with the target, which means that when doing your calculation at different ranges, the MOA changes as well. Since your reticle changes, 1 MOA at 100 yards turns into 2 MOA at 200 yards. These are the popular options for hunting, but only at short ranges.

Talking of reticles, they often come in different styles. This may include graduation on the vertical or horizontal lines and additional aiming points at specific angles,   

Bases and Rings 

The connection between your rifle and scope is made using tools called bases and rings. Rings are circular metal, vice-like plaques holding your scope in place. They are attached to the top of your gun using bases.

An obvious requirement of the rings is that they need to be similar in size to the ends of your scope, so they will not affect your vision. The base is supposed to be high-quality and sturdy enough for the purpose. 


How does a long-range scope work?

Long-range scopes usually have variable magnification. They may have different ranges, up to 5 or 6x, meaning that your factor may end up in the area of 4-6x up to 24-30x. A small, turning ring at the top of the scope changes the magnification setting, and this, in turn, makes the target appear closer or farther away.

How close should a scope be to your eyes?

The average distance in the industry for a fixed scope is about three and a half inches. This changes, however, for variable ones and decreases with the magnification strength. Generally, you can start at roughly 3 inches from your tool for lower power, down to two and a half inches when the magnification is higher.


Whether you’re new to the shooting field or already have years of experience, the choice of the rifle and the various other parts is not something you want to rush. Sometimes the extra elements can be just as essential and valuable as the rifle itself. Thus, give your scope the significance it deserves with the help of our guide. Comment below for more questions.  

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