How Does a Rifle Scope Work?

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If you’re a gun aficionado, you’ve definitely heard of and even used a rifle scope. If you’re still confused about what it does, though, you’re in good company.

Many individuals think that light travels through a rifle scope to give you a visual of your target. Others believe it is just a magnifying glass mounted atop your equipment. But, how exactly does a rifle scope work?

Read this guide to learn the components of a rifle scope and how they work. 

Components of a Rifle Scope

Understanding the parts of a rifle scope is the first step in using one effectively. But you need to know how each component operates separately to really grasp how the total thing functions.

Several parts make up a rifle scope, but we will only discuss the essential elements in this article. So, what are these essential components of a rifle scope?

  • Objective Lens

The objective lens is the element of a rifle scope that light waves or particles pass through. It collects the image of the target upside down and makes it big enough to travel through the device to the eye.

An objective lens is made with chemical coatings that filter different kinds of light. The chemical coatings enable it to give passage to the right amount of light and reduce the level of reflection.

The light traveling through this lens forms a focal point, allowing for better shooting performance.

  • Erector System

Besides the objective lens, there is also the erector system. An erector system consists of two lenses that correct the appearance of the image. It also elevates and adjusts the actual position of the reticle.

  • Magnifying Lens

The magnifying lens is located directly behind the erector. It enlarges the image of the target and reduces the distance between the target and the shooter. It creates the second focal point and further situates the reticle.

The farther the distance between the object and the shooter, the more it magnifies. Some scopes have several settings that let you view targets at different magnifications.

Although, switching your magnifications settings can cause a parallax error. This is when the aim of the scope changes when the position of the shooter’s eye changes.

  • Ocular Lens

The last vital component of a rifle scope we’ll discuss is the ocular lens. The ocular lens is the closest lens to the shooter’s eye and is in a section called the Eyepiece. The ocular lens creates the final focal point of the target for perfect aim by the shooter, also called the exit pupil.

Depending on your device, the exit pupil may be short or long. If your device has a low level of recoil, your exit pupil will be extended. In comparison, those high-caliber devices will have a more extended exit pupil to reduce the level of recoil and avoid damage to the eye.

How Does a Rifle Work?

Now that you know the components of the rifle scope, how does it work? We will create a scenario to help you understand this more straightforwardly.

Imagine you are at a shooting range. A dummy, the target, is five kilometers away from you, and you have a gun. The first thing you do is to situate yourself in a comfortable position properly. The next step will be to get a perfect view of the target for the perfect shot. This is where the rifle scope comes in.

As you look through the lens of your rifle scope, it captures the image through the objective lens positioned at the forward end. The tiny image of the dummy is then turned upside down and sent to the erector system. Upon arrival, it flips it back to an upright position and adjusts it.

When the erector system corrects the positioning of the image, it sends the image to the magnifying lens. The magnifying lens then stretches and enlarges the image for a perfect view. It also accentuates the focus point so you can take a shot at your target.


Now you will not know all that has taken place behind the lens with the ocular. It gives you the perfect view of your target, instills confidence, and allows you to take the shot.

Rifle scopes work like telescopes; they transport the image through light. Two elements control the rifle scope’s sight and appropriately align it with your device, Windage adjustment, and elevation adjustment.

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