Whether you are just stepping into the world of “adult” air rifles, or you are already a fan and getting into air rifles that rival small bore rifles in ballistic performance inside of 300 feet, you’re going to want a quality scope on your air rifle to wring out every bit of accuracy you can.
If you are not in the know, there are different classes of air rifles. Some use time honored spring piston compression to manually charge the air reservoir for each shot, and others, called pre-charged pneumatics, use either preloaded CO2 canisters or refillable reservoirs of highly compressed gases charged by a larger external tank. Calibers range from .177 all the way up to .50 caliber, which generates recoil forces nearly equivalent to those from a 1911A1 handgun.
Given the wide disparity in recoil generated, different levels of scope construction are required as you go up in “firepower” in the air rifle world. Generally, if you are firing an air rifle that doesn’t generate much recoil force at all you can use scopes developed specifically for air rifles, or which come to us from paintball shooting. If your combination of pellet weight and velocity starts climbing into a range that rivals the power of gunpowder rounds, you will need a scope that is designed and constructed to survive thousands of rounds of small bore rifle fire.
Then there is the consideration of what kind of shooting you are doing. With the advent of YouTube, there has been increasing interest long range air rifle shooting. The optical quality that you can use to shoot tight groups in the back yard will be totally unacceptable when trying to shoot at a target 100 meters or more away, especially if it is moving.
The good news is that there are many great scope options for all types of air rifle shooting. Here are four choices that will appeal to the beginning shooter all the way up to .22 or .30 caliber long range sharpshooters.
*Note: these scopes are only suitable for short distance since air rifle don’t have the powers of firearms. If you are looking for recommendation for rifle scope then this article is what you should check out instead
Best Air Rifle Scope For Beginners on a Budget
Simmons 8 Point Truplex Reticle 3-9×40
If you are moving up from shooting through your iron sights to trying out a scope on your air rifle, look no further than this scope to get started. You only have to commit about $40.00 online to learn basic scope shooting with this tube. Until you one day step up to fancier parallax adjustment features, illuminated reticles, or more magnification power or clearer optics, this Simmons product delivers enough performance to allow you to learn the basics.
The amount of “real scope” features on this model are ridiculous for how little money you spend. Charged with nitrogen to prevent fogging, with coated optics for higher contrast, and constructed to stand up to the recoil of rim and center fire rounds, this scope will do just fine on any air rifle of choice.
The “Truplex” reticle is simply what is otherwise know as a “fine duplex” with thicker cross hairs on the perimeter of the objective for quick target acquisition and thinner wires in the middle for finer ranging when you have time to line up your shot. This scope also comes with audible click adjustment knobs for windage and elevation which while positive enough in function, will not fool anyone into feeling you spent hundreds of dollars.
Still, there is little on the market that can challenge this scope for basic features and tough construction at the price paid.
Best Entry Level Scope With Illuminated Reticle
Leapers UTG 3-9×32 CQB “Bug Buster”
If you merely double the money you’d spend on the Simmons 8-Point, you get into one of the best options for having an illuminated Mil-dot reticle in a scope tough enough to handle the recoil forces of any air rifle, all while delivering a parallax free view from three yards to infinity.
One of the best features of this scope is that it comes with all of the mounting hardware right out of the box if your rifle already has a Picatinny rail mounted over the action. Not only does this scope come with rings and quick detach lever mounts, it comes with flip open lens caps and a two inch sunshade too.
However, the calling card of this scope is the side wheel adjustable illumination for your choice of coloring the Mil-dot reticle. Leapers calls their implementation of illumination “RGB,” standing for “Red, Green, Black.” Black gives the traditional look, and depending on your background and the shadows, the red or green illumination will stand out better for your shooting preferences.
Though called a Mil-dot reticle, the Leapers version of this classic set up actually features five more dots per crosshair than a standard Mil-dot reticle does. What this means in practice is that as you have more aiming points available for estimating your shot placement than are available in a standard four dot per crosshair reticle.
You’ll find that for air rifles, more aiming options is way better than having too few.
Best Entry Level Scope For Longer Range Air Rifle Shooting
Weaver Classic Rimfire 3-9×32
Yes, it says “rimfire” right there in its name, but this scope makes for an excellent choice to mount upon your air rifle when you get serious about trying to find the maximum distance of your rifle’s accuracy.
Featuring some of the brightest and clearest optical clarity you can buy for under $300.00, this scope allows you to explore the range limits of what you and your air rifle can achieve, without losing sight of where your pellets are striking.
When you start trying to take your air rifle out to 100 meters, you begin to see where its higher end optical quality sets this Weaver scope from apart from its cheaper competitors. The tolerances of the lens grinds, their matching and placement relative to one another in the tube, the coatings, all begin to matter more as you move up in quality. When your air rifle has a practical range limit, and you are trying to find where that is, you need your scope to gather and transmit decent light at all magnifications, offer decent eye relief to prevent fatigue and difficulty placing your shot, and as little optical and chromatic distortion as your optics can deliver.
Granted, for just under $300.00 you are not getting Carl Zeiss level German optics at a huge discount. Nevertheless, for your hard earned money you get a decent optic that doesn’t have the yellowish chromatic tint that is present on so many of the cheaper rifle scopes out there with Chinese sourced lens sets.
One of the greatest features of the Weaver Classic Rimfire series of scopes is their elegantly trim profile. For such a bright and clear scope, its relatively slender and compact build is amazing. If you directly mount the scope rings to your receiver, this scope will mount low and still fit inside many hard sided single rifle cases without a need to remove the scope.
Featuring multi-coated optics and all of the the fog and recoil resistance that you could ask for, the Weaver Classic Rimfire is a virtual steal at its price point.
When You’re Ready To Not Compromise
Leupold VX-2 Ultralight 3-9×33, EFR, Duplex Reticle
This lightweight scope carries one of the best lifetime warranties in the business, features 100% American made optics and tube, and a parallax free “extended focal range” set up that offers amazing clarity at all magnifications and adjusts between 30 feet and infinity.
Leupold is world famous for the color fidelity and light gathering ability of their rifle scopes and the VX-2 Ultralight is no exception. Leupold takes pains to coat not only the objective and ocular lenses of their rifle scopes, they also make sure that every erector lens between the two pieces of glass at the front and back of the tube are also multi-coated to ensure maximum image quality at all powers of magnification and in changing light conditions.
Whether target shooting or hunting small game, the Leupold VX-2 is up for any shooting challenge you can throw at it from an air rifle. At the minimum magnification setting you have over a 38 foot lateral field of view. At maximum magnification, you still have over a 15 foot lateral FOV. If you shoot at moving targets, you know how important having as much FOV in your sight picture as possible is a great benefit. Better yet, the Leupold VX-2 barely shrinks its eye relief distance, varying only three-tenths of an inch as you move between minimum and maximum magnification power. This means that you can adjust the magnification of your target and dial in elevation and windage with all of the 1/4 MOA click adjustments you want and never have to break your cheek weld.
For just about $400 online you not only get a beautiful and glossy black finished scope that screams out its quality for all to see, it won’t bog down your air rifle either. Weighing in at a scant 11.5 ounces, without rings, you will be hard pressed to find a clearer, more compact, and good looking rifle scope at any price.
Utilizing a duplex reticle that is so clearly visible that you will never wish you had an illuminated objective, the Leupold VX-2 is the scope you want for 100m air rifle shooting if you just want to pay up front and never consider “upgrading” your scope until your shooting skills with your air rifle demand that you “over glass” your rifle to make hits even further out.
Further reading: Best Air Rifle Pellets