We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

Written By
Published Sep 21, 2022 11:16 AM

Thankfully, the cookie-cutter precision rifle scope has been replaced with models that have various magnification ranges, tube sizes, reticle configurations, and retail prices. What we’re seeing in the long range rifle scopes—finally—is a maturing market, one that is starting to produce precision scopes for a wide range of shooting tasks and personal preferences.

We’re also seeing the establishment of a trend that started last year, with very affordable precision scopes taking market share from those venerable brands that are producing scopes that cost far more than the rifles they’re intended to be paired with. What all these scopes have in common are first-plane reticles, exposed tactical-style elevation turrets, and the ability to engage targets out to, and beyond, a mile. About those turrets. This is the first year we’ve seen brands pay full attention to overbuilding this most critical but failure-prone piece of a precisions scope. For the first time, I can say that every one of the scopes in this year’s test has turrets that turn with precision, repeatability, and tactile responsiveness. Some are simply better than others.

The best long range rifle scopes
Two top long range scopes: Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 and Arken EP5 5-25×56. Bill Buckley

Note that these are all scopes entered in this year’s Outdoor Life Optics Test. They’re the best long range rifle scopes that were introduced to the market either in 2022 or late in 2021, so this is not a roundup of all precisions scopes on the market. The order in which these scopes are listed reflects their ranking in our annual test.

Best Overall: Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56

Bill Buckley

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut

Built around premium glass and a reticle designed for Precision Rifle Series steel-target competitions, the S5 has the best turrets and most adjustment range in the class.

Key Features 

  • Weight: 36.3 ounces
  • Magnification: 5-25-power
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 56mm
  • Tube Diameter: 34mm
  • Reticle Type: Either ZF, MRAD, or MOA in first plane
  • Turrets: Either .1 MRAD or .25 MOA click values
  • Illumination: Yes, 10 intensity levels
  • Parallax: Yes

Pros

  • Available in MOA or MRAD versions
  • European style
  • Excellent glass and coatings
  • Precise parallax focus
  • Most positive turrets in our test
  • Whopping 40.7 MRAD or 140 MOA internal adjustment
  • Daylight-bright illumination

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Expensive

Product Description

Zeiss invested years in this product, missing the first wave of precision scopes in order to deliver a competition optic worth the wait. Let’s first dispense with what this scope is not. It is not a walk-about hunting scope or one that you’re going to swap from rifle to rifle. It’s not cheap. Instead, it’s a big, serious, investment-grade optic that’s engineered to engage targets from middling distances to way out there and you can expect to see it winning the biggest competitions over the next years.

The LRP S5, also available in a 3-18×50 version, easily won the top award in this year’s OL optics test, taking top spots in both the resolution and low-light portions of the test. But what wowed testers were the features built for both dialing and holding for distant targets. The illuminated ZF reticle is available in either MOA or MRAD versions. The MRAD version incorporates a tree-style structure with abundant elevation and windage references without seeming cluttered. The MOA version is more of a hash-style, with references on the main stadia. Both are fast, precise, and simple. In keeping with those superlatives, the scope has a crazy amount of internal adjustment in the 34mm tube, 40.7 MRAD (140 MOA) of elevation travel and 24 MRAD (60 MOA) of windage adjustment. That means you can engage targets from inside 100 yards out to 1,500 yards simply by holding on the reticle’s center aiming point and dialing your aiming solution.

The beefy turrets, which can be re-zeroed in the field without tools, turn with smart, positive clicks, but have the added benefit of a deeper detent every 5 MOA (or 1 MIL) to give shooters instant feedback as they dial. In all, it’s the best all-around scope for PRS and NRL shoots that we’ve seen yet and the unanimous choice for this year’s best-in-class precision scope.

Best High-Magnification: Trijicon Tenmile 4.5-30×56

Bill Buckley

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut

A big, serious precision rifle scope, the Tenmile has a wide magnification range, sweet turrets, and a versatile first-plane competition reticle.

Key Features 

  • Weight: 36.0 ounces
  • Magnification: 4.5-30-power
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 56mm
  • Tube Diameter: 34mm
  • Reticle Type: MOA or MRAD Precision Tree in first plane
  • Turrets: .25 MOA or .1 MRAD click values
  • Illumination: Yes, red and green
  • Parallax: Yes

Pros

  • Huge magnification range
  • Precise first plane reticle
  • Exposed re-zeroable elevation turret
  • Capped windage turret
  • Re-zeroable and zero-stoppable turrets
  • Both red and green illumination
  • 100 MOA/29.1 elevation adjustment range

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Illumination could be brighter

Product Description

Had the Zeiss LRP S5 not been in the test, the Trijicon would have won top billing. As it is, this is one of the best long range rifle scopes for shooters who want many of the same features as the Zeiss at about $1,000 less. The Tenmile is available in both MOA and MRAD versions with the same excellent turrets and other controls.

Testers noted that the Trijicon’s glass is every bit as good as that of the Zeiss, and praised the responsive turrets and overall handling. Some testers loved the green and red illumination, but a consensus opinion is that the highest intensities of either color isn’t quite enough to use in full daylight. The Tenmile has a monster magnification range, but testers felt like the reticle references weren’t useful until about 7X. The internal adjustment range inside the 34mm tube is among the best in the class, but far below that of the Zeiss.

On the plus side, the Trijicon has better mounting dimensions and the turrets can be swapped out for custom dials if you want load-specific controls. With those attributes in mind, the Trijicon earned higher versatility scores than the single-purpose Zeiss.

Best Budget: Arken EP5 5-25×56

Bill Buckley

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut

The EP5 contains a ton of value inside a hard-wearing precision scope with competition reticle, beefy turrets, illumination, and tight focus.

Key Features 

  • Weight: 39.2 ounces
  • Magnification: 5-25-power
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 56mm
  • Tube Diameter: 34mm
  • Reticle Type: MIL or MOA-based VPR in first plane
  • Turrets: .1 MRAD/.25 MOA
  • Illumination: Yes, red center cross
  • Parallax: Yes

Pros

  • Extremely affordable
  • Available in either MOA or MRAD versions
  • Excellent glass for the price
  • Useful target reticle
  • Zero-stoppable turret
  • Good turret indexing
  • Fully transferable lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Flinty turret clicks
  • Questionable durability

Product Description

How Arken can deliver this amount of performance at such a low price is astonishing. The company dropped its price by $100 over the course of our 3-month evaluation to make it even more affordable.

The EP5 has just about every feature a competition steel-ringer is looking for: excellent first-plane reticle that’s available in either MOA or MRAD configurations, good turrets, industry-standard magnification range, decent illumination, and side focus that squeezed down to 25 yards, making this a decent option for rimfire competition shoots.

The Japanese glass is better than many of its budget-class peers, and the tree-style dot/hash reticle has all the right attributes for precision work, though it’s not especially visible until about 9X and the center aiming point gets lost in a cluttered background. We like the re-zeroable and zero-stoppable turrets, though they don’t feel as positive as others in the test.

But the EP5 delivers so much utility for such a little price that it’s our hands-down recommendation for an entry-level precision scope and the consensus winner of our Great Buy award.

Best New Entry: Vortex Venom 5-25×56

Bill Buckley

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut

With great controls, this very useful competition reticle sells for an appealing price.

Key Features 

  • Weight: 35 ounces
  • Magnification: 5-25-power
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 56mm
  • Tube Diameter: 34mm
  • Reticle Type: Tree-style in first focal plane
  • Turrets: .1 MIL/.25 MOA
  • Illumination: No
  • Parallax: Yes, 15 yards to infinity

Pros

  • Available in either MOA or MRAD controls
  • 38 MOA (11 MIL) elevation references
  • Excellent warranty
  • Integrated throw lever
  • Wide parallax range
  • Excellent zero stop

Cons

  • Underwhelming glass
  • No illumination

Product Description

Vortex has owned the high-end precision scope market since its Razor HD line came along. The company has since lost market share to other brands, but the Venom is a chance to appeal to new shooters looking for an affordable precision scope. It does that with an excellent controls and a very useful reticle in either MOA or MRAD geometry. We loved the 15-yard close focus, a feature that makes this an appealing option for rimfire precision matches. And we liked the crisp turrets (with somewhat limited internal adjustment range, compared to peers), though they turned with a sort of tinny feel.

The Venom would have scored higher if it had a better quality of glass and more reliable controls. Our sample shipped with a hinky focus knob that went in and out of focus at far distances. But the zero stop is one of the best in the business—at any price—and the magnification ring turned with smooth authority. Competition shooters will love the .1 MIL subtensions on the reticle, another rarity at this price point. Combined with Vortex’s excellent warranty, the Venom offers a tremendous amount of value at this price.

Most Innovative Reticle: Bushnell Elite Tactical XRS3 6-36×56

Bill Buckley

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut

A battle-hardened scope with an excellent eyebox and massive magnification, this precision reticle has a remarkable amount of references.

Key Features 

  • Weight: 38.9 ounces
  • Magnification: 6-36-power
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 56mm
  • Tube Diameter: 34mm
  • Reticle Type: Hash-and-dot style in first plane
  • Turrets: .1 MIL
  • Illumination: No
  • Parallax: Yes, 50 yards to infinity

Pros

  • Huge magnification range
  • Multi-position “ThrowHammer”
  • Competition EQL reticle
  • RevLimiter zero stop
  • Expansive eyebox

Cons

  • No illumination
  • Reticle appears busy to new shooters

Product Description

Bushnell has updated its venerable Elite Tactical scope with a brand new proprietary reticle that looks a little like reticles from Horus. The EQL reticle is built for competition shooters, arranged in what’s called a 2/10 MRAD grid. It features a floating-dot aiming point, a bisected hash system for elevation holds, multiple ranging and mover references, and floating half-value dots. Beginning shooters, or those who like an uncluttered image, will complain that this EQL reticle is too busy; but the competition shooters on our test panel loved the amount and arrangement of references.

The Elite Tactical’s glass and coatings are excellent, and the Bushnell produced one of the best low-light marks in the test, partly because it lacks illumination and the extra lens element illumination requires. The team was split on the whopper magnification, but ultimately concluded that the image is so degraded above 30X that they would limit utility to 25 or 28X. The reticle’s sweet spot is about 15X. Other favorite features: the very visible turret indexing, the solid RevLimiter zero stop, and the throw lever on the magnification ring. Without that lever, the magnification ring is maddeningly hard to turn.

Athlon Ares ETR UHD 3-18×50

Athlon

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut

While a great scope for shooters who engage targets at middle distances, it’s also a wonderful rimfire scope.

Key Features 

  • Weight: 31.4 ounces
  • Magnification Range: 3-18-power
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Tube Diameter: 34mm
  • Turret Click Values: .25 MOA/.1 MIL
  • Reticle Focal Plane: Both MOA and MIL options in first plane
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes

Pros

  • 10-yard close focus
  • Available in both MIL and MOA models
  • Respectable internal adjustment range
  • 6-step illumination

Cons

  • Disappointing glass
  • Basic reticle

Product Description

The Ares ETR is a decent competition scope that does most of what precision shooters want: versatile reticle in first plane, good zero-stoppable turrets, and daylight-bright illumination. The test team was split on that reticle. Those who regularly shoot in PRS competitions wanted finer references; those who use first-plane reticles for hunting and mid-range target shooting thought the reticle’s open appearance was more versatile. The versatile shooters also love the modest magnification range of the Athlon; the more serious competition shooters wanted a little more mag.

The glass is okay, but we noticed some flaring and peripheral distortion at higher magnifications. But probably the greatest feature is the close-in parallax control which will appeal to rimfire shooters, but long-range shooters also noted that once you set the focus for 300 yards, images are sharp all the way out to 800 yards, a feature that minimizes focus fuss in the heat of competition.

Best Lightweight: Hawke Frontier 34 FFP 3-18×50

Why It Made The Cut

The lightest scope in the precision field, this feature-rich optic is suited to a long range hunting rifle or a precision rimfire rifle.

Key Features 

  • Weight: 29.3 ounces
  • Magnification: 3-18-power
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Tube Diameter: 34mm
  • Reticle Type: Pro Ext in either MOA or MIL
  • Turrets: .25 MOA/.1 MIL
  • Illumination: Yes, 11-step intensity
  • Parallax: Yes

Pros

  • Lightweight for class
  • 15-yard close focus
  • Huge internal adjustment range
  • Daylight-bright illumination system
  • Clear turret indexing

Cons

  • Sloppy turrets
  • Limited distance utility

Product Description

This is one of the few precision scopes that could have easily been entered in our versatile scope category, or optics that do double duty as hunting and target scopes. The Frontier’s light weight, modest magnification range, and wide focus range make it a good choice for a precision .22 or Western big-game rifle.

There’s even more versatility here. It’s available in either MOA or MRAD models, and the Pro Ext reticle has a ton of references—maybe too much for a beginning shooter, who might describe this as cluttered. But for shooters who understand the inverse horseshoe, the huge amount of elevation and decent amount of windage will place bullets using holdover and holdoff rather than dialing aiming solutions. For those who want to dial, the Frontier has a jaw-dropping amount of turret travel, 158 MOA (46 MIL) of elevation range.

Best for Elk: GPO Spectra 6x 4.5-27×50

Bill Buckley

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut

A worthy cross-over target and hunting scope, this is a good choice for hunters who want first-plane reticle references to place long shots.

Key Features 

  • Weight: 29.1 ounces
  • Magnification Range: 4.5-27-power
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Tube Diameter: 34mm
  • Turret Click Values: .1 MRAD
  • Reticle Focal Plane: LR Pro in first plane
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes

Pros

  • Infinitely adjustable illumination intensity
  • Simple hash-style reticle
  • Tool-less zero stop
  • Close 25-yard parallax focus
  • Lightweight for class

Cons

  • Simple hash-style reticle
  • Throw lever impedes bolt travel in some rifles

Product Description

Like the Hawke Frontier, the Spectra could have easily competed in our versatile scope category. It’s a decent crossover hunting and target scope, with attributes that do decent service in both categories, even if they’re a little lacking for hunting or precision target shooting alone. Consider the nicely illuminated reticle. It lacks references for the target shooters on our team, but the hunters among us like the simplicity and versatility. Shooters like the heft and durability; hunters thought the scope was too heavy and complicated for hard-core Western hunts.

The glass is very good. The infinitely adjustable illumination is very nicely done, and the 25-yard close focus brings targets into crisp focus no matter the distance. But with .5 MIL subtensions, the reticle doesn’t have nearly enough references for shooters who want to engage targets with more precision.

Best New Brand: Blackhound Evolve 3-18×50

Bill Buckley

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut

This new direct-to-consumer brand brings a versatile, tight, and compete package at a fair price.

Key Features 

  • Weight: 37 ounces
  • Magnification Range: 3-18-power
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Tube Diameter: 34mm
  • Turret Click Values: .25 MOA/.1 MIL
  • Reticle Focal Plane: Tree-style in first plane
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes

Pros

  • Ships with 34mm rings
  • 20-yard side focus
  • 6-step full-reticle illumination
  • 32 MRAD/110 MOA adjustment range

Cons

  • Illumination knob turns hard
  • Some edge distortion

Product Description

A new brand in the precision rifle scope space, Blackhound is a direct-to-consumer line has a wide range of products for recreational shooters. The Evolve family of precision scopes is positioned between the high-end Emerge and the entry-level Genesis lines. Our sample has nice styling, with silver accents under the black exterior, and we liked the simple indexing on the low-profile turrets. Available in either MOA or MIL, this is a versatile scope with a magnification range that can do double-duty as a hunting optic. But the reticle is really intended for engaging steel targets. Built around a tree architecture, the reticle has plenty of references that are nicely spaced, and testers especially liked the hash/circles on the windage axis for clear reticle navigation. The reticle doesn’t really become visible until about 6X. We found the illumination control maddeningly hard to turn, and noticed some distracting flares in the image, but overall this is a tight and solid scope with tons of versatility.

Riton X7 Conquer 4-32×56

Bill Buckley

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut

A big, serious precision scope with all the right features, the Conquer has very good glass and an excellent warranty.

Key Features 

  • Weight: 35 ounces
  • Magnification Range: 4-32-power
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 56mm
  • Tube Diameter: 34mm
  • Turret Click Values: .1 MIL
  • Reticle Focal Plane: SPR tree style in first focal plane
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes

Pros

  • Low-profile turrets
  • Solid zero stop
  • Removeable magnification throw lever
  • 20-yard close focus
  • Very good glass
  • 6-step illumination

Cons

  • Turrets slightly tinny
  • Illumination control hard to turn

Product Description

With a very useful 7X magnification range, excellent Japanese glass, and a clean and very serviceable reticle, the X7 Conquer puts Riton on the map in terms of competition-grade precision optics. There’s nothing wasted with this honest scope. The illumination provides daylight-bright visibility but mutes into fairly low intensity for low-light visibility (we wish it had one less bright level), and the focus is smooth and precise. The reticle itself has enough functionality to make it a very good precision rimfire optic. Testers found the sweet spot for this first-plane reticle to be from 10X up to about 20X. You’ll be thankful for the rest of the magnification in certain situations, but expect it will get the most use in the middle of its significant zoom range.

Best Entry-Level: Sightmark Presidio 3-18×50

Bill Buckley

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut

Priced at an unbelievable level, this scope has decent features—first-plane reticle and responsive turrets—to get a shooter in the precision game for under $400.

Key Features 

  • Weight: 30.8 ounces
  • Magnification Range: 3-18-power
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Tube Diameter: 30mm
  • Turret Click Values: .1 MIL/.25 MOA
  • Reticle Focal Plane: MR2 hash/dot in first focal plane
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes

Pros

  • Least expensive precision scope in the class
  • Solid tree-style reticle
  • Removeable magnification throw lever
  • Built-in zero stop

Cons

  • Underwhelming glass
  • Indistinct turret clicks
  • Illumination control very hard to turn

Product Description

We’re frankly not sure how Sightmark is able to deliver such a solid scope for such a low price. The glass is underwhelming, but the performance was as repeatably precise as scopes costing many times as much as the Presidio. While testers questioned the durability of the build, nearly every one on the team asked about how they could get a unit for their own use. The new Presidio line also has precision scopes in a 5-30×56 configuration and a capable 1-6×24 LPVO scope.

Our 3-18×50 sample has wide versatility, sized to take on hunting duties but this might also be a good option for rimfire target work, owing to its 10-yard close focus and a reticle that has plenty of references for targets of any size or distance.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Long Range Rifle Scope

Precision rifle scopes are highly specialized optics. Because they’re designed to do one thing—place bullets precisely and consistently on targets at long range—they lend themselves to specialization. Unlike the best rifle scopes for hunting, where image clarity and brightness are the most important attributes, the things to consider in a long range rifle scope are the reticle and the controls, meaning the turrets. How usefully can you use the reticle to make shots where small mistakes are magnified by distance? Does the reticle have enough elevation and windage references? Is it a first-plane reticle, in which the references don’t change regardless of magnification?

How positive and precise are the turrets? Do they move the reticle the same 1 MIL of elevation at 500 yards that they do at 1,500 yards? Even the most affordable scopes should be able to do this routinely.

You should also consider the quality of glass. Do you notice any peripheral distortion? How about jags of light in full sunlight? Is the reticle sharp and distinct no matter the light conditions? Also consider illumination. Can you light up the reticle in full daylight conditions? And can you tamp down the illumination to make a subtle aiming point in low-light conditions?

All those—in pretty much descending order of priority—should be considered as you choose which precision rifle scope you’ll mate with your precision rifle.

FAQs

Q: What magnification do I need for 1,000-yard shots?

The best magnification for a long range rifle scope in the 3-18-power or the 5-25-power range. For 1,000-yard shots—which are frankly chip shots for the best precision shooters—you need enough magnification to see your target clearly and to place your first-plane reticle on the target. Either the 3-18-power or the 5-25-power models should do fine. A bigger perspective is whether you can stay in the scope as you make the 1,000-yard shot. You want to use the least amount of magnification possible, so that you can still stay in your scope and register your hit.

Q: How far can you see with a 5-25×56 rifle scope?

You can see all the way to tomorrow! Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Your long-range visibility depends a lot on conditions and your target. On hot days, when high magnification amplifies heat mirages, you may want to lower your magnification. But with the first-plane reticles in most of these precision rifle scopes, in most conditions you may want to increase your power so that your reticle references become more visible. Generally, our testers found that the most useful magnification range for a 5-25-power rifle scope is about 8-20-power. The additional magnification, on both the lower and higher ends, are nice features but may be too little—and too much—magnification for most shooters.

Q: What kind of scope is good for 1,000 yards?

Just about any of the scopes in this group can make hits on 1,000-yard targets. But of course, it depends on the size of the target. For maddeningly small targets, you’re going to rely on precision features of your scope. Consider the finest reticle references, windage and elevation references in .1 MIL or .25 MOA. And you’ll want a reticle that shows all those fine references no matter the magnification, so a first-plane reticle is a must. You should also consider targets well inside 50 yards, the standard for precision rimfire matches. If you intend to shoot rimfire competitions, consider the fineness of the reticle and the close-in focusing capabilities of the parallax control.

Q: Who makes the best rifle scopes in the world?

Who makes the best rifle scopes in the world depends a bit on what you intend to use them for. For hunters who want a very clear, crisp image, even out beyond 400 yards, consider a European brand with best-in-class optics. But if you want a scope that can consistently place bullets on distant targets, consider a model with an excellent reticle, precise overbuilt turrets, and coatings that enhance both the target and the crosshair. And lastly, if you’re looking for a model that combines excellent optical glass, versatile crosshairs, positive turret movements, and useful illumination modules, look to the European brands such as Zeiss, Kahles, and Leica. But if you want decent glass and battle-proven controls plus an ironclad fully transferrable warranty, look to American brands such as Nightforce, Vortex, and Leupold.

How We Tested the Best Long Range Rifle Scopes 

long distance rifle scope.
Putting a Trijicon scope through its paces. Bill Buckley

All the scopes in this particular group were submissions to the 2022 Outdoor Life optics test, which evaluates products introduced to the market in 2022 or the latter half of 2021. That’s why you don’t see some of your favorite models in this group; they’re no longer new. I started by measuring each submission’s optical resolution on my resolution range. Each scope is also measured on its low-light performance, which considers how far into the dark the scope can see a target, but also how visible the unilluminated reticle appears in low-light conditions.

Because these are precision aiming devices, I also measured the precision and repeatability of the reticle and turrets. We mount each scope to a precision .22 rimfire rifle and put it through a battery of targets, ranging from inside 25 yards to out to nearly 400 yards. At each distance, testers use reticle holds (windage and elevation) to make hits, but we also dial the turrets for each target and distance. That process informs testers how the reticle subtensions work, but gives us a feel for the precision and repeatability of the turrets. For each scope, testers make a subjective determination of optical quality, looking for distortions, optical aberrations, and any distracting jags of light. We determine how quickly and precisely we can use the reticle.

Lastly, we assess the extras, including the accessories that it ships with and each submission’s warranty. And we consider warranty terms. The scope that scores the highest overall wins our Editor’s Choice award—this year that goes to Zeiss’s excellent LRP S5. The scope that scores the highest Price/Value rating wins out Great Buy award. This year that goes to Arken Optics’ EP5.

Final Thoughts

Of all the categories in Outdoor Life’s optics test, the precision rifle scope class relies least on optical quality. These scopes are really precision aiming devices, so their ability to place bullets accurately and repeatedly across long distances are really their only job. With that in mind, we pay outsized attention to the reticle, turrets, and attributes such as zero stops, illumination, and parallax focus. Durability and warranty protection are also important considerations.