Best First Focal Plane Scope For The Money

Best First Focal Plane Scope

Welcome to our latest article highlighting one under-appreciated segment of the shooting optic industry – the best first focal plane scope. Everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinions, but we feel that you simply can’t beat first focal plane scopes for long range shooting. If you aren’t familiar with first focal plane (FFP) scopes quite yet don’t worry, we’ll dive into what makes them so great!

We’re going to run through a bit of a “buyer’s guide” on finding the best first focal plane scope for the money. We’ll break down exactly what makes them so good for long distance shooting & how they’re different from second focal plane scopes. After that we dive right into the 7 best first focal plane scopes for the money in 2018.

If you want to skip the buyer’s guide & jump straight to the 7 best FFP scopes go ahead and use our Quick Jump Guide below. You can also reference the comparison table listed below

BrandProductMagnifyObjective LensWeightRatingBudget
Vortex OpticsViper PST Gen II3x - 15x44mm28.1 oz.$$
XTR II FFP5x - 25x50mm32.1 oz.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️$$$
VX-3i LRP4.5x - 14x50mm20.3 oz.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️$$
SHV F14x - 14x50mm30 oz.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️$$$
LRHS FFP3x - 12x44mm24.4 oz.⭐️⭐️⭐️$$$
Prostaff 5 FFP3.5x - 14x40mm17.1⭐️⭐️⭐️$
Helos BTR FFP6x - 24x50mm29.6 oz.⭐️⭐️$

A quick note – we’ve shopped around for the best deals on each of the scopes below. When it comes to a high-dollar purchase like a first focal plane scope we always opt for reputable, reliable stores. For that reason, almost all of the deals we’ve found are through either Amazon or Cabelas.

BUYER’S GUIDE: FINDING THE BEST FIRST FOCAL PLANE SCOPE

FIRST FOCAL PLANE VS SECOND FOCAL PLANE

There is really only one major physical difference between a first focal plane scope & a second focal plane scope. That difference is where the reticle is positioned within the scope. The reticle on a second focal plane scope is positioned towards the front of the scope (further away from the shooter). On a first focal plane (FFP) scope the reticle is positioned towards the rear of the scope (closer to the shooter).

The video below from Vortex Optics does a great job explaining the difference between the two types of scopes:

First Vs Second Focal Plane

KENTUCKY WINDAGE

There are two ways to make adjustments for elevation and windage with a long range rifle scope. The first is to make adjustments via the turrets on the scope. This is what you’re typically going to see from snipers & long range shooters that have plenty of time to set up.

The other way to make adjustments is by using the MOA or MRAD marks on the reticle of your scope. This is commonly referred to as the “Kentucky Windage” method. There really isn’t much of a difference in principle between these two methods. Essentially it simply boils down to where you are placing the crosshairs in relation to the target. A major benefit of using the Kentucky Windage method is that it is considerably faster to get on target.

So why is this relevant to FFP vs SFP? The focal plane of the scope makes a big impact on being able to use the Kentucky Windage method of adjustment at different magnifications.

FIRST FOCAL PLANE SCOPES (FFP)

While first focal plane (ffp) scopes are less popular in North America, they are rapidly picking up steam. FFP scopes have the advantage of the reticle remaining the same size relative to the target as you zoom in and out. This means that the Kentucky Windage method of adjustment will work on any magnification since the marks on your reticle will always be properly placed. Taking a look at the image below, you can see exactly why FFP scopes for long range shooting are gaining so much popularity.


SECOND FOCAL PLANE SCOPES (SFP)

Second focal plane scopes are far more popular than FFP scopes (for now) but they have a major disadvantage if not used properly. As you can see from the image above, the reticle on the SFP scope always remains the same size regardless of magnification. This means that windage and elevation marks on your scope are going to be inaccurate when used at the wrong magnification.

That isn’t to say that the windage & elevation marks on a second focal plane scope are never useful. Each scope will have a certain magnification where the marks are actually on target. If you already own an SFP scope, consult your owners manual on what magnification this is actually “on target” for. Depending on the brand, you can also likely find this information online.

ANATOMY OF A FIRST FOCAL PLANE SCOPE

In order to actually buy the best first focal plane scope, it’s very important to understand the different components & features. Our thought process is that there isn’t a single “best FFP scope” for every single shooter. Each shooter is going to have their own preferences. As a result, they’re likely going to disagree a bit on what the best first focal plane scope actually is. So lets break down the anatomy of a first focal plane scope!

MAGNIFICATION

This is likely the most obvious component of this list, but still important. Having a magnification range that is right for the shooting scenarios that you are going to be in is critical. For example, a long range target shooter consistently shooting over 1,000 yards is likely going to want a high magnification range. As such, the best first focal plane scope for long range shooting is likely going to have magnification ranges reaching up into the 20’s.

On the other hand, a deer hunter in Wisconsin is likely going to have entirely different preferences. The thick cover is going to restrict visibility so that the longest possible shot might only be 200 yards. As a result, a magnification range in the 20’s would hinder the hunter’s effectiveness at close ranges. The ideal magnification range on a scope for this hunter might have 3X on the low end, with 9X to 15X on the high end.

LENS COATINGS

Lens coatings are often times overlooked in lower-end scopes but are scrutinized in the more expensive ones. The lens coating is what is going to contribute to that crystal clear sight picture that everyone looks for in the best first focal plane scopes. Each brand is going to have their own proprietary name for their lens coatings. However, these will all fall under a few main classifications:

  • Coated: This means a single coating on at least one lens surface
  • Fully Coated: A single layer on all surfaces
  • Multi-Coated: Multiple coating layers on at least one lens surface
  • Fully Multi-Coated: Multiple coating layers on all lens surfaces

As you can see, the quality of a first focal plane scope can vary drastically simply based on the lens coatings. The best first focal plane scope for your rifle is going to have fully multi-coated lenses, while a cheap FFP scope will likely only be classified as having coated lenses.

SCOPE TUBE

The scope tube is the metal tube that holds the eye bell, which holds the ocular lens & the reticle. It also holds the objective bell, which contains your objective lens.

EYE BELL

The eye bell is the flared portion of the tube located closest to your eye, and will house the ocular lens.

EYE PIECE

The eye piece is an assembly that is located on the end of the scope closest to the shooter’s eye. It houses the eye bell (and thus the ocular lens). This is the portion of the scope that moves in & out in order to focus the sight picture you see through the scope.

OCULAR LENS

Contained within the eye piece, the ocular lens is the lens located closest to the shooter’s eye when looking through the scope tube. This lens is used to focus the image that is created by the objective lens by moving the eye piece in & out. By moving the ocular lens like this, the focal plane is changed. Measured in millimeters, the ocular lens directly influences the field of view. The larger the ocular lens, the larger the FFP scope’s field of view will be.

OBJECTIVE BELL

Directly opposite the eye bell is the objective bell. This is the part of the scope tube that is located furthest from the shooter’s eye. The objective bell houses the objective lens.

OBJECTIVE LENS

We mentioned the objective lens above but we’ll dive into it a bit more here. This is the lens located the farthest from the shooter’s eye while they’re looking through the FFP scope. The primary purpose of the objective lens is to gather enough light to make the sight picture within the scope.

Just like the ocular lens, the objective lens is classified by measuring its diameter in millimeters. The larger the diameter of the objective lens is, the more light it is able to collect & the brighter the sight picture will be.

EXIT PUPIL

All the light entering the objective lens must pass through the exit pupil of the FFP scope in order to reach the ocular lens. The exit pupil is a virtual aperture within the scope, and will be larger with a larger objective lens. If you want to determine the size of the exit pupil, you simply need to divide the diameter of the objective lens by the current level of magnification.

This means that the exit pupil is going to grow & shrink on variable power first focal plane scopes. Your objective lens is going to remain the same, but as you turn up the power of your FFP scope the exit pupil will shrink. For example, that same Vortex Optics Diamondback II 2-7X 35mm scope will have an exit pupil of 7mm when at 5X magnification (35mm / 5 = 7mm), but that exit pupil will shrink to 5mm when turned up to 7X magnification (35mm / 7 = 5mm).

TURRETS

The best first focal plane scopes are going to have turrets so that you can move the reticle up, down, left, or right to both sight in your rifle as well as adjust for windage and elevation. We covered this pretty extensively above under “Windage & Elevation Adjustments” so we won’t go into too much more detail on it.

Just know that FFP scopes for long range shooting will generally have high profile turrets with “Z-Stops”. These are typically hand adjustable so you can adjust your reticle for long range shots. After your shot, the Z-Stop allows you to reset your first focal plane scope back to its “zero”, which is the position you originally had your rifle sighted in at.

THE 7 BEST FIRST FOCAL PLANE SCOPES OF 2018

Now that we’ve got your head spinning with our First Focal Plane Scope 101 & the anatomy of the best FFP scope, lets actually dive into our favorite picks. We chose the 7 best first focal plane rifle scopes for the money, and we couldn’t be happier with our #1 overall pick.

We truly believe the Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II FFP Scope is the best first focal plane scope on the market in 2018. It also helps that Vortex Optics is one of the most ethically responsible companies we’ve ever been around. They do so much for active military, vets, hunters, & youngsters & they have a ton of fun doing it. If you are looking for the best FFP scope in 2018, the Viper PST Gen II FFP is it!

VORTEX OPTICS VIPER PST GEN II

PST Gen II

Vortex Optics continues to show up at the top of our lists with their incredible scopes, and the Viper PST Gen II continues that trend. While they also offer a 5-25X magnification model, our personal favorite is the 3-15X version with the EBR-2C MOA reticle. This scope is crystal clear with its fully multi-coated lenses and provides the resolution needed for those long-range shots. This is a great first focal plane scope with a laser etched reticle that is protected between two layers of glass.

The adjustability on the Viper PST Gen II is top-notch. It features turrets with a zero stop to make everything easy and intuitive while adjusting for windage or elevation. The turrets make both a soft click & you can feel the adjustments “click” each time, ensuring that you won’t accidentally over-compensate. With a total elevation adjustment of 75 MOA & 40 MOA of windage adjustment in 1/4 MOA increments, you can fine tune quite nicely with those long-range shots.

DetailSpec
Weight28.1 oz.
Length14.3 in
Magnification3x - 15x
Objective Lens44mm
Parallax20 yds - Inf
Field of View @100 yards41.2 ft - 8.6 ft
Adjustment Graduation1/4 MOA
Travel per Rotation25 MOA
Max Elevation Adjustment75 MOA
Max Windage Adjustment40 MOA

BURRIS XTR II FFP SCOPE

XTR

The Burris XTR II is certainly up there with the Vortex Viper PST Gen II for the best first focal plane scope. There is some serious adjustability with this FFP scope. With the XTR II you have 90 MOA of elevation adjustment available as well 55 MOA of windage adjustment. These are all in 1/4 MOA clicks, allowing you to fine tune your shot placement for even the longest shots.

The XTR II also has a zero stop feature on their turrets. This allows you to avoid any accidental over-compensation under pressure-filled, fast-paced adjustment scenarios. This first focal plane scope also features an illuminated reticle (powered off a CR-2032 battery) and fully multi-coated optics. The resolution on this scope is excellent, and provides a great platform for long distance shooting.

DetailSpec
Weight32.1 oz.
Length16.3 in
Magnification5x - 25x
Objective Lens50mm
Parallax50 yds - Inf
Field of View @100 yards21 ft - 4.3 ft
Adjustment Graduation
1/4 MOA
Travel per RotationN/A
Max Elevation Adjustment90 MOA
Max Windage Adjustment55 MOA

LEUPOLD VX-3i LRP FFP SCOPEBest Long Range Rifle Scope Under 1000 Dollars - Leupold VX-3i LRP

Leupold is one of the juggernauts of the shooting optics industry, producing some of the best scopes in the world. Most hunters & shooters are going to be very familiar with the Leupold brand, recognizing it as one of the premier scopes to mount to their rifles.

The Leupold VX-3i LRP scope is certainly within that category. This is another great FFP scope that delivers incredible quality at a very reasonable price. This first focal plane scope under $1,000 is a great choice for those wanting to shoot at long ranges.

As far as adjustability goes, the VX-3i has the greatest range out of any of our scopes so far. You have an incredible 110 MOA of adjustability for both windage & elevation in 1/4 MOA increments. Combine that with Leupold’s industry-leading optics that always have incredible resolution, and you’ll be plenty happy with the Leupold VX-3i.

DetailSpec
Weight20.3 oz.
Length12.3 in
Magnification4.5x - 14x
Objective Lens50mm
ParallaxN/A
Field of View @100 yards20.5 ft - 7.6 ft
Adjustment Graduation
1/4 MOA
Travel per RotationN/A
Max Elevation Adjustment110 MOA
Max Windage Adjustment110 MOA

NIGHTFORCE SHV F1 SCOPEBest First Focal Plane Scope Scope - Nightforce SHV

There are some companies that are bound to end up on just about every “Top 10” list there is. Well, Nightforce is certainly one of them. The SHV was also featured on our list of the best long range scopes, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that it shows up here in the running for the best first focal plane scope.

Nightforce is very well known among the shooting community, and most of their scopes are made to withstand battle conditions. This would typically put most scopes out of reach for even high-budget hunters & shooters.

That’s where the Nightforce SHV line comes into play. Nightforce dialed back some of the features on their SHV product line without sacrificing the quality.  The result is an outstanding, affordable scope that any Shooter, Hunter, or Varminter would be proud to own.

Boasting adjustability that you’d expect out of a high-end scope,  the SHV allows for 90 MOA of elevation adjustment & 70 MOA  of windage adjustment. That gives you enough play in your scope to handle just about any long-range shooting situation. The 1/4 MOA click value allows you to get dialed in exactly where you want to be.

DetailSpec
Weight30 oz.
Length14.8 in
Magnification4x - 14x
Objective Lens50mm
Parallax25 yds - Inf
Field of View @100 yards25.1 ft - 7.4 ft
Adjustment Graduation
1/4 MOA
Travel per RotationN/A
Max Elevation Adjustment90 MOA
Max Windage Adjustment70 MOA

BUSHNELL LRHS FFP SCOPE

Best First Focal Plane Scope - Bushnell LRHS FFP Scope

While they’re mostly known for their entry-level & mid-tier hunting scopes, Bushnell has itself a winner with the LRHS FFP scope. Our personal favorite out of this line is the 3-12X magnification version with a 40mm objective lens.

Featuring 24 MRAD of total adjustment, the LRHS is one of the best first focal plane scopes for the money. You can certainly adjust for the elevation & windage adjustments that you’d need for even the longest of shots.

The optics on the Bushnell LRHS FFP scope are top-notch, featuring fully multi-coated optics that allow for incredible resolution. While this scope certainly isn’t cheap, Bushnell fans everywhere will appreciate their attention to detail with the LRHS scope. This is truly a great first focal plane scope that handles everything you can throw at it.

DetailSpec
Weight24.4 oz.
Length13.4 in
Magnification3x - 12x
Objective Lens40mm
ParallaxN/A
Field of View @100 yards34.8 ft - 8.96 ft
Adjustment Graduation
1/3 MOA
Travel per RotationN/A
Max Elevation Adjustment82 MOA
Max Windage AdjustmentN/A

NIKON PROSTAFF 5 FFP SCOPE

Prostaff 5

Showing up with the best first focal plane scope under $750, Nikon appears with their ProStaff 5 3.5-14X 40mm here at #6. Hunters everywhere are very familiar with Nikon’s ProStaff line, as they are one of the most popular lines of scopes in the industry. They’re well made, reasonably priced, and perform well when called upon.

The 3.5-14X magnification range on the ProStaff 5 definitely qualifies this as a long range rifle scope. There is also a good amount of adjustability, with 1/8 MOA increments up to a maximum windage & elevation adjustment of 40 MOA (11.6 MRAD).

While it might show up a bit lower on our list, this is honestly one of the best first focal plane scopes you’re going to get for your money. The price point combined with the quality features & adjustability make this a solid option for those not wanting to shell out more than $1,000 for the best first focal plane scope.

DetailSpec
Weight17.1 oz.
Length13.6 in
Magnification3.5x - 14x
Objective Lens40mm
ParallaxN/A
Field of View @100 yards22.4 ft - 5.6 ft
Adjustment Graduation
1/8 MOA
Travel per RotationN/A
Max Elevation Adjustment40 MOA
Max Windage AdjustmentN/A

ATHLON HELOS BTR FFP SCOPE

Helos

To be honest we were actually kind of surprised to be putting Athlon Optics on our list of the best long range scopes under 500 dollars. Athlon Optics is certainly one of the lesser-known companies on this list, which isn’t at all to say that they don’t make good products. After getting our hands on the Helos BTR & reviewing it though, we realized we shouldn’t be surprised at all.

The Helos BTR is one of the few long range rifle scopes under 750 dollars that features a First Focal Plane reticle. That alone helped them score major points, and it didn’t stop impressing us there. The glass-etched reticle was a nice touch, and it’s clear that this scope isn’t cheaply made by any means.

There is a decent amount of adjustability with the Helos BTR. It offers a maximum windage & elevation adjustment of 18 MRAD (60 MOA) in 0.1 MRAD (1/4 MOA) adjustments. We were impressed with the quality of Athlon Optics’ Helos BTR scope, and long range shooters will be pleased with the quality.

DetailSpec
Weight29.6 oz.
Length14.1 in
Magnification6x - 24x
Objective Lens50mm
Parallax10 yds - Inf
Field of View @100 yards16.7 ft - 4.5 ft
Adjustment Graduation
1/4 MOA
Travel per Rotation15 MOA
Max Elevation Adjustment60 MOA
Max Windage Adjustment60 MOA

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