What is it that makes a scope the best scope for the money? Is it materials? Sight picture? Company? Warranty? Price point? Outdoor Optics HQ believes the best scope is the one that meets your needs for years to come. It should also be a reasonable price point.
In this round-up, we’re taking a look at the best scopes 2018 has to offer. Each and every one of these scopes and companies is exceptional in one or more ways. They make up the biggest and best scope brands who are truly breaking ground. They are creating a new definition of what it means to be the best scope in the world of shooting.
Click here to skip the intro and jump straight to the best scope list
BEST SCOPE FOR 2018
It might sound easy to simply name a scope & call it the best scope this year. It really isn’t that simple though. There are so many factors that go into creating a well designed, manufactured, & serviced rifle scope. We here at Outdoor Optics HQ don’t believe that any one scope is going to be perfect for every single shooter. Different scopes are going to fit different shooting platforms differently. Whether you’re looking for a rimfire scope, a scope for your AR 15, or the best long range rifle scope.
Each of us has different shooting styles, platforms, activities, calibers, budgets. These factors will make our individual perception of each particular scope a bit better or worse. Each of the following brands are those that I believe offer the best scopes for the money. This means they offer the best value, performance, customer service, and meet the needs of the vast majority of shooters. These scopes are designed and serviced by companies that truly have the needs of their customers first and foremost.
So without further ado I present to you the best scopes for 2018.
The table below lists all of the scopes that are part of our best scope brands for 2018 list. This can help you more quickly navigate to the ideal scope for you. Bear in mind, every scope on this list may not be well suited for every shooter. I’ve included various scope types, magnifications, adjustabilities, and price points. This way you can find the scope that’s perfect for you & your gun.
Once you’ve got a better idea of the scopes that are likely best suited to your needs click here to jump down to the detailed summaries or head over to our scope reviews page to see the full review. If you want to see how I select scopes for this list click here to see the requirement and scoring criteria.
|Best Rifle Scope Under $100||Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn||3x - 9x||40mm||$||Read Review|
|Best Rifle Scope Under $200||Vortex Optics Diamondback||4x - 12x||40mm||$$||Read Review|
|Best Rifle Scope Under $300||Vortex Optics Crossfire II||6x - 24x||50mm||$$$||Read Review|
|Best Rimfire Scope||Vortex Optics Diamondback||2x - 7x||25mm||$$$||Read Review|
|Best AR Scope|
BEST SCOPE CHOICES FOR 2018 OVERVIEW
BEST SCOPE BRANDS
Vortex Optics has quickly become one of the premier manufacturers of the best scopes in the world. Offering a full line of scopes for everyone from the weekend-warrior style hunter to those fit for operators in special operations. Vortex Optics is a brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but you better believe they take their products & customers seriously.
The Vortex Optics team is made up of some seriously down-to-earth men and women that simply want to make the best scope on the market & have fun doing it.
If you’re around their headquarters in Southeaster Wisconsin you’re more than welcome to stop in, say hi, & check out what they’ve got to offer. I guarantee you that you will leave with sore abs from laughing so much & a profound knowledge of what makes for the best rifle scope.
I try not to pick favorites within specific brands simply because they offer such a wide range of products, features, & price ranges. Picking the best scope involves comparing scopes with similar features & price points, and often that isn’t possible within a single brand. With that being said I’m going to break my rule. After getting my hands on Vortex Optics Viper HST I’m convinced this is the best scope for the money. The amount of value & quality that is packed into this scope is incredible. They are also pricing it at a price point that isn’t unreasonable for the avid shooter.
I mentioned how great the Vortex Optics team is, and they’ve put together a warranty that is one of, if not the, best scope warranty in the industry. It involves a lifetime, fully transferable warranty that anyone would be happy to have. Have a scope that’s been discontinued? No problem, they’ll be replacing it with one of comparable (sometimes even higher) value right away. It’s not often that you call up a customer service line & feel like you’re talking to one of your buddies, but that’s the case with Vortex Optics.
Vortex Optics provides quality not found anywhere else with each of their scopes. They are possible the best scopes on the market.
You’re simply not going to find a warranty that can keep pace with what Vortex Optics has commited to.
FULL LINE OF PRODUCTS
Offering scopes for each shooting style & budget, Vortex Optics more than likely has exactly what you’re looking for.
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.
Leupold has been producing top-notch quality scopes since 1947. One of the founders was frustrated with the quality of the scopes that were currently on the market. Since then they have been successfully executing their goal of being one of the top scope manufacturers.
I grew up looking at deer through a pair of Leupold binoculars with my dad as we drove around in the evenings. Since then Leupold always holds a special bit of sentimental value for me. They don’t have much to offer to those on a tight budget. However, Leupold has some of the best scopes in the mid-to-high range tiers on the market.
Like Vortex Optics, the warranty for Leupold is also incredible. They offer a lifetime warranty that is also transferable. The customer service is also pretty good with Leupold. You don’t necessarily feel like you’re talking to a friend like with Vortex Optics. However, the people that we talked to have been plenty friendly & got us what we needed in a timely manner.
Leupold has producing some of the best scopes on the market since 1947, and they don’t show any sign of slowing down.
Leupold offers one of the best scope warranties in the industry, and they stick by their word. You’ll be well taken care of.
They don’t have much for options for scopes at the lower price points, but many feel the make the best scope in the mid & high budget range.
Well known among hunters everywhere, Bushnell is another giant within the rifle scope industry. They have been producing some of the best rifle scopes for the entry-level market for over 70 years. So Bushnell knows a thing or two about shooting sports.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a hunter who hasn’t hunted with a Bushnell scope at some point in their lives. They have a lower price point combined with a solid, quality offering for each one of their scopes. This makes them a great option for someone looking to get into shooting or just the “weekend warrior” type hunter.
Most avid shooters will end up graduating from a Bushnell rifle scope at some point. However, that isn’t to say Bushnell hasn’t done a good job – the exact opposite actually. Sometimes you will hear shooting enthusiasts arguing about how Leupold is better than Bushnell, but the reality is they serve two different segments of the market.
As far as warranty goes, Bushnell does offer a lifetime warranty but it comes with some fine print. Unlike the companies above, they actually define what a product lifespan is. In no way are these short warranties (for example the Engage rifle scope’s lifespan is 30 years), but it is still definitely worth mentioning.
You’ll have a hard time finding a scope that has been field tested in brutal conditions as much as Bushnell scopes.
Bushnell does determine the lifespan of their warranties, but they are still incredibly long. 30 years with a single scope is a long time!
You won’t find many high end options here, but Bushnell has done a great job serving the entry level & mid tier markets.
Much like Bushnell, Nikon is a brand that serves the low to mid priced scope market very well. The definitely fit the bill of a large company that simply offers some of the best scopes for the money, but in no way does that mean they aren’t respected in the marketplace.
Nikon is also quite similar to the other companies on this list in that they offer a full line of rifle scopes, rangefinders, spotting scopes, and binoculars. They make some quality, reasonably priced scopes and you often walk away feeling like you got one of the best scopes for your money.
Regarding their warranty, they offer two policies but they seem a little bit redundant. The first policy is the “Trust. Earned” policy which appears to be the standard lifetime warranty-type policy for Nikon products. The second policy is Nikon’s “No Fault Repair/Replacement” policy, which seems to cover things not covered by the lifetime warranty. While it’s great to have that option, they don’t go into much detail about what exactly isn’t covered under their lifetime warranty. It is a bit confusing and certainly seems redundant, but the important thing to note here is that Nikon has your back should any issues arise with any of their best scopes.
As far as customer service goes, you definitely feel like you’re talking to a big brand with Nikon scopes. This is certainly expected provided the size of Nikon, but I will say they were friendly and personable when we called. Talking to a big brand isn’t a bad thing as long as they take care of you in the end, and Nikon seems to do that for sure!
Nikon has so much experience with optics accross all their product lines that you are sure to get one of the best scopes for the money.
While their policies are a bit confusing to understand, Nikon is going to make sure you’re well taken care of.
You won’t find many high end options with Nikon, but they do a great job with their scopes. Their ProStaff scope is a big winner!
Simmons is another great scope brand for the entry level shooter or weekend warrior hunter. Many hunters are claiming they make the best scope for the money with their low priced, high quality scopes. Don’t expect a ton of features with Simmons scopes, but in a way that is part of what makes them so great.
I still remember shooting my first deer with my Remington 870 shotgun outfitted with a slug barrel & a Simmons scope. My dad had gotten it for me for my birthday, and just to have a scope on it made me all the more confident. Because of the laws in our state at the time it was actually a zero-power scope, but just having the crosshairs instead of open sights made me more confident. As a 12 year-old, confidence in making a shot on a deer was huge. I still have that same setup, and hope that someday my son will be able to use it to shoot his first deer!
For some reason Simmons seems to hide their warranty information on their site, & it took quite a bit of digging to find any information on it. They do have repair services, but not necessarily for free. After calling around a bit, it sounds like they do offer a lifetime warranty as long as you have the original receipt. From speaking with them we got the impression that they will make sure you’re taken care of, but it was definitely a bit concerning that we couldn’t find actual documentation on it anywhere.
Simmons provides a good amount of quality for the price of their scopes. Their simple, efficient rifle scopes are certainly rugged.
It was definitely concerning that we couldn’t actually find warranty documentation, but it sounds like you’ll be taken care of if you have a reciept.
You won’t find many high end options with Nikon, but they do a great job with their scopes. Their ProStaff scope is a big winner!
BEST SCOPES 2018 BY CATEGORY
Below is our complete list of best scopes, which we break down by various types, brands, activities, calibers, pricing, and more. If you have specific needs or desires you’re looking for in a scope this is a great place to start your scope search.
BEST SCOPE REQUIREMENTS & SCORING
Finding the best scopes for 2018 isn’t the easiest thing in the world. There are so many brands & models out there claiming to have the “best scope” that it’s hard to sort through the noise. Many of them are worthy of consideration, but not everyone can win.
Our best scope list is always evolving & constantly being updated. Each year, quarter, & month scope brands that come out with products that prove themselves are added to the list. Other brands might fall off the list based on these newcomers, or simply a lapse in meeting the qualifying standards to make our list of best scopes.
Scopes that make Outdoor Optics HQ’s best scope list must meet all of the following criteria:
Scope brands on the best scope brand list must also have been available for a minimum of 3 months. We realize that this is a bit of a double-edged sword. We aren’t wanting to exclude an awesome, innovative rifle scope simply because it hasn’t existed long enough.
The issue is that unless a scope has been around long enough, there is virtually no way to truly test its durability. There simply isn’t enough data to speak to how the scope is going to perform over the long term.
For most companies, having 3-6 months under their belt gives us greater confidence regarding their stability. This gives a scope enough time for us to see if return rates are reasonable & warranties are honored. We can also see if the scopes are durable going to be around for the long haul.
In other words, we’re just as excited as everyone else about new and exciting products. I can almost guarantee you that we’ve gotten our hands on them, but we don’t want to be too quick to sing their praises. If we act too quickly we may influence someone to buy a hot scope that fails in the long term. That’s exactly what this site is intending to avoid.
Customer service and customer experience are equally as important as an exceptional product. You can have a great product, but poor customer service representatives and poor policies that create negative experiences for customers.
Customer service is another factor that overlaps with my general review scores. However, I believe it warrants additional attention for those scopes who want to join the ranks of the best scopes of the year. To determine customer service quality I monitor 3rd party reviews. We look closely for customers who have been neglected or received lackluster service. I also watch out for red flags and customer issues on social media sites.
Additionally, I receive and monitor feedback from Outdoor Optics HQ readers, both good and bad. A consistent flow of negative customer experiences from 3rd party reviews, social media, and Outdoor Optics HQ reader feedback is a strong indicator that there are deep-rooted customer service issues at play. Scope companies with these types of issues will be excluded from the best scope brands.
On the other side, I also look for those companies with an exceptional track record of positive reviews and great customer experiences. Preventing overly negative experiences is critical, but if a company can extend beyond that to exceptional service aimed at delighting their customers, then that’s even better.
Value is one of the factors within the Outdoor Optics HQ review scoring criteria. However, I think it’s necessary to extend the importance of product value here. No scope deserves to be called one the best scopes of the year unless it is proven to be an exceptional value.
There is much more to value than simply price. A great value is achieved when the selling price is well below the average market cost for what you’d ordinarily need to pay for a scope of that quality and performance. In this way, scopes at all points on the pricing scale can be considered an exceptional value.
Last, but certainly not least, company integrity. This factor extends into a number of important areas. It overlaps a bit with our general review score, where “company” at a high level is considered. Our team is always on the lookout for unethical red flags.
- I look for suspicious reviews, for example, those you might find on Amazon or other sites that look like they may have been paid for, incentivized, manipulated, or otherwise artificially curated.
- We look for questionable marketing tactics, for example, hiding or attempting to minimize negative reviews, using fake accounts, content theft, content misuse, or using a variety of spam tactics.
- I look for excessively litigious companies, for example, bringing frivolous or unfounded lawsuits against others in the shooting industry, patent trolling, and other unfounded legal attacks.
- We look for how the company treats their customers and not just their customers that are happy, but the customers that have difficulties, are unhappy or have a poor experience. These worst-case scenarios can be the most telling.
- I look for cyber attacks, for example, spam linking, DDOS attacks (distributed denial of service), negative SEO, brute force attempts, and other types of attacks aimed at hurting their competitors.
There are a number of other areas that I monitor and look for, but at the end of the day they are all centered around how the company ethically handles themselves. Companies with poor or no ethics will engage in many of these. The best companies hold themselves to a higher moral standard, which almost always translates into better customer service, product honesty, and a genuine sense of wanting to help their consumers.
On the inverse side of company integrity I look for companies who go out of their way to do good. I look for companies who:
- Give back to those in need
- Go above and beyond to help their customers
- Consider transparency paramount
- Practice honesty, humility, and openness as fundamental pillows of their company’s culture
The scope companies who follow this type of model create much more than a great product, they are the helpers and do good wherever they go. American TV personality, Mr. Rodgers, summed it up best with:
Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.
It doesn’t take much digging to see the differences between those companies who are the helpers and those who are not. In my experience, the helpers more authentically want to do right by the shooters who are using their scopes.