Written By
Published Mar. 10, 2022

Today’s airguns shoot tiny groups at 50 yards and have a wide range of applications, calibers, and power plants. That’s why there’s not a single best air rifle scope. Instead, there’s a best scope for each of the different types of air rifles

For example, spring-piston rifles can be notoriously tough on scopes, and require special scopes to handle their recoil impulse. Standard caliber pre-charged pneumatics can be laser accurate, but need quality optics to realize this potential. Regardless of whether it’s a .22 PCP rifle generating 30 ft-lb, a .72 caliber big bore generating 1300 ft-lb, or a traditional .177 springer topping out at 14 ft-lb—all will benefit from having a quality scope mounted. Here are my choices for the best air rifle scopes that fit the most types of rifle and applications. 

Best Long-Range Hunting Scope: MTC King Cobra 6-24X50 F1

MTC Optics

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Key Features

  • Magnification: 6 to 24X
  • Weight: 1.64 pounds
  • Length: 14.4 inches
  • 30mm tube
  • Objective lens diameter: 50mm
  • First focal plane reticle
  • Etched reticle
  • Side parallax adjustment 
  • Close focusing to 15 yards 

Why It Made the Cut

This is the best long range hunting air rifle scope because it is fairly compact while offering significant magnification. Even at high magnification settings, the image quality is quite good, even in low light. I really like the reticle used in this scope, it has many aim points but is not overly cluttered, which can be a hard balance to reach. 

Pros

  • Good glass
  • The Small Caliber Ballistic reticle is easy to use
  • Good turrets
  • Parallax correction from 15 yards to infinity

Cons

  • Fairly expensive
  • Some shooters prefer a second focal plane scope

Product Description

MTC Optics King Cobra 6-24 x 50 F1 is a first focal plane scope for shooters who want a scope that can stand up to the rigors of the field. I’ve found this scope to be outstanding for long range prairie dog shooting. 

The benefit of a FFP scope is that the relationship between target and crosshair size remains constant throughout the entire magnification range—which allows you to get a precise point of aim on very small targets, without going through mental gymnastics of figuring out the effects of magnification on the point of impact. 

The elevation and windage turrets on the King Cobra are MIL turrets and windage turrets that can be locked down once the scope is sighted in. This scope uses MTC’s SCB2 reticle, which provides several aim points to compensate for trajectory and windage.

I have found the low light transmission characteristics of the King Cobra to be very good, resulting from the King Cobra’s 30mm tube, 50mm objective lens, and MTCs proprietary lens coating. The fast-focus eyepiece and parallax correction adjustment provide a sharp, clear image. I also like that the supplied magnetic flip-up covers have an integrated magnifier in the ocular cap, which makes reading the turret setting very easy.

Best Hunting Scope: Element Optics Helix 6-24X50 SFP with EHR-1C MOA Reticle

Element Optics

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Key Features

  • Magnification range: 6 to 24X
  • Length: 14.25 inches
  • Weight: 26 ounces
  • 30mm tube
  • Objective lens diameter: 50mm
  • Second focal plane
  • MOA reticle
  • Field of view at 100 yards: 19 to 4 feet
  • Parallax adjustment: 10 yards to infinity
  • Toolless turrets
  • Removable throw lever

Why It Made the Cut

The Element Helix provides excellent image quality, good low light performance, and is quick and easy to adjust without tools. 

Pros

  • Light and compact
  • Excellent reticle configuration for hunting
  • Excellent image quality

Cons

  • Some shooters prefer FFP 
  • Competitive shooter may want a different reticle 
  • Magnification is too high for some applications 

Product Description

I’ve found this scope rugged and stable, and mine has stood up to rough use and never drifted from zero once locked down. I really like Element Optics Helix’s uncluttered MOA reticle for my all-around hunting rifles. The ability to correct for parallax down to 10 is an asset for a gun that you might shoot in your basement range one day, and at a groundhog 100 yards away the next.

The Helix from Element Optics is popular with hunters and competitors who want a high-quality scope at a moderate price point. Featuring tool-free stainless steel turret housings and a true zero stop, the turrets provide precision and consistency when adjusting the scope. The second focal plane (SFP), EHR-1C reticle is calibrated at 24 power, allows accurate holdover adjustment for both 12x and 6x magnifications, and is designed to estimate holdover when shooting in the field. Three distinct markings along the windage and elevation lines let the shooter find their holdover quickly without confusion.

A man shooting a black airgun looking through a black air rifle scoppe
The author shooting with the Element Optics Helix. Jim Chapman

The reticle is intuitive and uncluttered which I find useful when you need to line up and make your shot quickly and accurately. And while not inexpensive, the value delivered by this scope is very good. The Helix gives me everything I need in a hunting scope and it does those things well. It has outstanding image quality, excellent sighting through a clean utilitarian reticle, responsive adjustment controls, and overall ruggedness put this one at the top of my list.

Best Spring Piston Air Rifle Scope: Hawke Airmax 3-9X40 AO

Key Features

  • Magnification range: 3 to 9X 
  • Length: 12 inches
  • Weight: 18.3 ounces
  • 40mm objective lens (adjustable objective)
  • 1-inch tube
  • 1/4 MOA adjustments
  • 7.5 yds to infinity parallax adjustment
  • Spring piston airgun rated

Why It Made the Cut

The AirMax’s rugged design, spring-piston airgun rating, the ability to correct parallax down to 7.5 yards, and the clean and highly visible reticle combine to make it my choice for the best spring piston air rifle scope.  

Pros:

  • Rugged, spring-piston rated
  • Compact
  • Great reticle for a hunting gun
  • Attractive pricing

Cons

  • Not enough elevation adjustment to shoot extended ranges

Product Description

The Hawke Airmax scopes consist of several configurations with a range of variable magnifications, fixed magnifications, tube diameters (1 inch and 30mm) , and overall lengths, including a compact version. All of these are excellent airgun scopes, and all are springer rated. However, I chose the 1-inch version because the cost is significantly lower than the 30mm versions, and I find that the advantage of more elevation control is mute for springers. But, if I was getting one of these scopes for a PCP, then a 30mm might be a better option.

A black best air rifle scope mounted on a black air rifle
The author chose the 1-inch version of this scope because of its price and elevation control. Jim Chapman

The Airmax uses the AMX and AMX IR etched glass reticles. This reticle offers multiple aim points and is well suited for managing the pellet trajectory encountered when shooting a spring-piston airgun, especially with larger calibers.

It might be surprising that rugged scopes designed for magnum centerfires can’t handle the recoil of a spring piston. But the bidirectional recoil of a spring-piston can quickly turn a high-priced scope into junk. After years of heavy use, my Hawke Airmax has stood the test of time, both in terms of reliability and performance on some heavy-hitting magnum springers. 

Read Next: Best Pellet Guns: Budget Friendly Pellet Guns for Target Shooting and Hunting

Best Scope for a Big Bore Airgun: Leapers iX6 3-18X44

Leapers, Inc.

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Key Features

  • Magnification: 3 to 18X
  • Weight: 28.2 ounces
  • Length: 11.7 inches
  • 34mm tube
  • First focal plane
  • Etched reticle with floating center crosshair
  • Side adjustable parallax 
  • Lockable windage and elevation turrets
  • Oversized throw lever
  • Zero stop 

Why It Made the Cut

This 2022 offering from Leapers UTG offers outstanding resolution, excellent light transmission, a large field of view, and delivers exceptional resolution over the entire magnification range. Additionally, I am a big fan of the reticle used for the iX6, which features an unobtrusive floating crosshair that draws the eye to the center of the reticle. 

Pros

  • Edge-to-edge sharpness
  • Wide field of view
  • A well-thought-out and executed reticle
  • Compact
  • Tactile and responsive controls

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Parallax correction only goes down to 30 yards

Product Description

The iX6 is a high-quality scope that packs a lot of performance and features into a compact package. Even though the scope is built on a 34 mm tube which gives it a solid, almost chunky appearance, it only weighs 28.9 ounces, which is on par with many scopes built on a 30 mm tube. The windage and elevation turrets are oversized, which contributes to the ergonomics, and they are easy to manipulate and can be locked down once adjusted. The parallax adjustment rotates freely and is easy to access, and the magnification easily adjusts using the oversized throw lever. But what really impresses me with this scope is the clarity of the image, which is enhanced by the large field of view. The image stays sharp from edge to edge, and the great light transmission characteristics. This is a new line of scopes, and Leapers has shared with me that they will be doing further optimization specifically for airgun shooters.

Read Next: Most Powerful Air Rifles of 2022

The Best Budget Airgun Scope: Hawke Vantage 3-9X40

Key Features

  • Magnification: 3 to 9X
  • Length: 12.7 inches 
  • Weight: 17 ounces
  • 1-inch tube 
  • 40mm objective lens with adjustable objective
  • 1/4 MOA adjustments
  • Fast focus eyepiece and easily-adjustable zoom ring
  • Adjustable objective for parallax from 10 yards to infinity
  • 100 MOA of elevation and windage adjustment
  • Aluminum construction

Why It Made the Cut

Choosing the best budget air rifle scope was harder than I expected because there are several solid contenders from Hawke, Leapers, and Centerpoint. However, the performance, sleek profile, very legible reticle, and relatively low price floated the Vantage to the top of the list for me. 

Pros

  • Performs above its price point
  • Clear image
  • Good low light performance
  • Good reticle
  • Light and streamlined design

Cons

  • The optical quality is good, but not great
  • The parallax focus is fixed
  • 1-inch tube limits elevation
  • Not rated for spring-piston airguns (PCP only)

Product Description

The Vantage line is Hawke’s budget-friendly offering, which consists of an extensive range of scopes to suit all calibers and disciplines, both firearms and airguns. All Vantage riflescopes feature Hawkes H2 optics in a variety of configurations. There are both 1 inch and 30 mm tube versions, and more recently, FFP models have been added.  

The Vantage 3-9×40 model I chose as my best budget pick is built on a 1-inch tube and is a second focal plane scope. I’ve found the capped turrets responsive, easy to adjust, and hold zero after a season’s use. 

At around $150, there are less expensive scopes on the market, but in my opinion, they don’t offer the performance or features to match the Hawke Vantage. This scope is one of those rare instances in the optics world where the performance is better than the price tag would suggest. This is a low-cost scope that will work well for you over the long haul, and I don’t think you’ll find better glass for the money.

How to Choose the Best Air Rifle Scope

As with most gear, when you get ready to scope your air rifle, ask yourself how you’ll use it and which gun you’ll mount it on. Those answers provide a good start on determining the must-have features and specifications.

As an example, when looking for a scope for my squirrel and rabbit hunting rig where I generally keep shots inside of 50 yards and use magnification in the 6 to 8x range. For that scope, high magnification isn’t a priority for me. However, on the gun I use for shooting prairie dogs out to 125 yards, there is a requirement for high magnification that allows me to see a prairie dog’s very small kill zone. In either case, optical quality, a usable reticle, tactile and responsive turrets, and good low light transmission are always high priorities for me. I like an illuminated reticle, but can live without it. There are other considerations such as the dimensions of the scope, the weight, and adjustment features. 

I’d suggest that you pay attention to certain features, such as whether a first focal plane or a second focal plane suits you better. Don’t get caught up in the hype and the online debates about which is better. Take the time to understand the pros and cons of each, and then again weigh those against your projected use case.

After you decide on the important features, you need to work out the budget. I typically budget around $300-800 when buying a quality scope as a general rule. That price range is the sweet spot for good glass, features, and durability. You can spend a lot more, but I don’t think that’s necessary for most people. And if you are budget constrained, be aware that some decent lower priced optics are available in the $100-200 price.

FAQs

What’s the difference between an air rifle scope and a riflescope?

There are two primary differences between riflescopes and scopes made for air rifles. The first applies to scopes on spring-piston guns, which require scopes with a spring-piston rating because the bi-directional recoil created by springers can even destroy a scope designed for a magnum centerfires. This is not a problem for PCP rifles which are generally very low recoil, except for big bores, and generate a recoil impulse more like a firearm.

The second difference is the parallax correction which must either be set closer for an airgun than a standard firearm scope or be adjustable. This is because airguns are often used from 5 to 100 yards, whereas a typical rifle scope might have parallax correction down to 50 yards.

Why is a high magnification good for airgun hunting?

Many airgunners prefer higher magnifications because even though they tend to shoot at closer ranges, the targets they shoot are generally much smaller. Precise shot placement is the name of the game with airguns, and a heart or brain shot on a prairie dog at 100 yards is a very small target. High magnification, like 24X, helps with that precision.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re kitting out a backyard plinker or a heavy-hitting big bore air rifle, your air rifle deserves a quality scope, and I’ve made that easy for you with my picks for the best air rifle scopes. As a final tip, make sure you invest in quality mounts for your new scope and take the time to torque the scope mounts properly.  

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