How Much Should I Spend on a Rifle Scope?

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If you browse any hunting forum, you’ll likely see posts asking various questions about buying a scope or optic. One of the more common questions asked is this one: how much should I spend on a rifle scope?

How Much Should I Spend on a Rifle Scope

If you spend any time looking on the internet for an answer to this question, you may be surprised at some of the suggestions.

Some suggested answers I’ve seen include the following:

  • Spend at least 1/2 of what you have in the firearm
  • Invest what you have in the rifle or shotgun in the glass
  • Spend at least $250 in glass

These are considered a “rough rule of thumb,” although my guess is all are more like opinions that have been passed around the internet for years. Since I consider these just opinions, here’s my chance to weigh in with my own opinion:

For starters, the glass you put on your firearm is only as important or unimportant as you make it. I’ve seen rifles that cost thousands of dollars wearing a $100 scope, and I’ve seen rifles that cost $200 wearing glass that cost four times the cost of the firearm.

When I shop for glass, the amount of money I have invested in the weapon doesn’t really play a role in my budget for glass.

Here are the things I take into consideration when deciding on an optics budget:

What is the Firearm Going to be Used for?

My plans for the rifle or shotgun play a significant role in how much money I will allocate for glass. Why? Because what I’m using the rifle or shotgun for will define how much I’m probably spending.

For example, if I’m buying a scope to hunt deer where my typical shot range is 75 yards, I’ll need to budget a bit differently from a riflescope that I’ll use for bench rest shooting or long-range F-class shooting. In that case, what I’ll need to spend on an excellent bench rest scope will be much more than what I’ll probably pay for a 75-yard deer scope.

In some cases, you’ll be shopping for a scope that will potentially be used for more than one specific use. Most people shop under those circumstances, so consider all the possible uses you have in mind.

You may find that some particular types of shooting (like bench rest) will require a specific type of scope that can’t be used for any other uses.

Rifle Scope Mounted on Rimfire Rifle

What specific features do I need (if any)?

Having defined exactly what I’m going to be using this scope for, I need a scope option that offers an adjustable objective (follow this link if you aren’t sure what that means) that will focus under 50 yards.

Many scopes with power above ten or so feature an adjustable objective (commonly known as AO), but many will only focus down to a minimum of 50 yards.

Given that many of my shots are under that range, I prefer a scope with an AO that will focus down to a minimum of 30 yards or less (if possible).

You may find that you want a certain reticle or need an illuminated reticle for your needs. If there are any special or specific features that you need or want? If so, your budget will most likely be impacted in some way.

What power or magnification do I need?

The question of power magnification is always a tricky question as it usually comes down to a needs versus wants versus budget. Typically the higher the magnification, the more expensive the cost.

Even today, the 3-9 is still the single most popular rifle scope magnification sold, but the higher-powered models like the 4-14 are beginning to close that gap.

If you’ve spent any time reading this site, then you probably know I’m an avid squirrel hunter. That’s one of my favorite species to hunt, and I pretty much do it exclusively with a rimfire rifle.

Hitting a squirrel in the head with a .22 (or 17 HMR) at ranges of 40-60+ yards is a challenge for me (it may not be for better shooters out there, but it is for me). The size of the target, coupled with my not-so-great vision, means I need optics with some decent magnification power.

In my case, this means a riflescope at a minimum of 4-12, but I honestly prefer something higher in the 6-20 range. I also punch a little paper now and then, so I’ve defined my needs for this example. I’d suggest you honestly do the same if you are scope shopping.

Now that you’ve defined the desired use, features, and desired magnification, I’d determine a budget.

Take that budget and try to find the highest quality glass available that meets your criteria. For example, given a choice between purchasing a mid-range 4-12 scope over an entry-level 6×20 scope to get the higher power, I’d suggest taking the mid-range 4-12.

Although I’m certainly a fan of higher magnification, I’d also trade that magnification over quality glass any day. In my book, top-quality optical quality always trumps power magnification.

Here’s the great part, at the end of the day, it is your weapon and your money, so you can spend as much or as little as you wish on a rifle scope.

A quick story: When I first started hunting squirrels again, my poor vision was causing me issues, so I had to keep moving up in scope power until I realized I was most effective using a 6×18, or 6×20, or something in that range.

Sightron SIII Scope on 22 Rifle

I took some good-natured ribbing from one of my uncles, whom I routinely hunted with, for going “overpowered” on a scope for a 22 rifle. However, after a few squirrel hunting trips with me, guess who upgraded to a more powerful riflescope at the end of the season?


Here are some other commonly asked questions that are associated with how much to invest in a scope:

How much does a scope cost?

Rifle scopes are available in a wide, wide range of pricing that starts around $50 and can go well over $4000 for a really nice, high end model from a brand like Schmidt & Bender or Swarovski Optics.

Are expensive scopes worth the money?

That’s an extremely difficult question to answer due to the broad nature of the question. For example, what is your definition of “expensive”? For some shooters, $250 is expensive while others may not blink at spending $1500 on an optic.

How do you define “worth”? Is it based on the scope’s effectiveness for a specific type of shooting or is it the pleasure you get while using the optic?

Here’s the best answer I can offer: In my experience with scopes, I find that you generally get what you pay for when it comes to optical quality (clarity, brightness, and color). The more expensive riflescopes typically have noticeably better glass and features.

That being said, I’m also not a fan of spending money needlessly, so I also believe it’s possible to overspend to a point where you’re just paying for a name versus a major jump in performance.

How much does a good hunting scope cost?

In general, a good, solid hunting scope will likely run somewhere between $300 and $400 dollars. Now there are certainly exceptions to that rule as I occasionally come across some excellent deals on hunting optics that cost less than $300.

Final thoughts

So, how much money should you invest in a scope? Whatever you want. Spend what you want, not what other people think you should spend on an optic.