Choosing the Best Scopes for Hunting: Crossbows and Rifles

If you’re looking to do any form of hunting, having the right equipment and tools for the job is one of the most important things to get in order first.

The central piece of equipment in any hunting outing is the weapons system you’ll be using to hunt down game. And everyone in the know knows that one of the most critical parts of that weapon is the optic mounted on it.

Whether you’re using a hunting rifle or a crossbow, you should use the appropriate optic to help you take more accurate shots. Allow us to help you find the right one for your needs by giving you the factors to consider when choosing.

Can You Use Optics on Crossbows?

Crossbows generally have a shorter range than hunting rifles. This is because they shoot a spring-loaded projectile rather than gas-propelled bullets.

This range limitation will have an effect on which optics are appropriate to use on crossbows. Any scope you use will generally need lower magnifications than most rifle scopes.

However, it is possible to mount rifle optics on crossbows because most crossbows use the same mounting systems that are on most modern rifles, such as Picatinny rails.

The only issue you’ll face is that some features on the rifle optic might be useless on your crossbow. Examples of this are windage and bullet drop turrets.

These turrets are calibrated to specific rounds and bullet speeds, so using them on a crossbow will be useless and may make you more inaccurate at your ideal engagement distances.

However, zeroing in rifle scopes at 40 yards and using them within that range is fine. Your bolts will be deadly-accurate at the range you’ve zeroed your crossbow to.

How Are Rifle Optics Special?

Rifle optics are a little different than the ones used on crossbows. For accuracy, rifle optic magnification is directly tied to their more extended range compared to crossbows.

This means that the farther a hunting rifle can shoot, the more zoom you’ll need to deliver shots at that range. After all, what use is a long-range rifle when it’s paired with only a reflex sight? Not much.

Most rifle scopes that can zoom in from a lower magnification, like 1x or 2x, to a higher magnification, like 6, 8, or 10x, are called LPVOs or Low Power Variable Optics

These use specially coated lenses that are magnified for different power levels. LPVOs can seamlessly switch from one magnification to the next for a better shooting experience.

What to Look for When Choosing a Scope or Optic for Hunting

There are a few things you should look out for when picking out an optic for hunting.

The main features you’ll want your scope to have are appropriate zoom, low-light performance, glass quality, and a clear reticle.


You should pick a scope that has a zoom level appropriate to the range you’ll mostly be hunting at. It should also be based on the capability of your weapon.

If you’re using a crossbow, try not to get an optic that zooms out to 10x or more. This just adds more weight and cost to the scope that you won’t be able to use.

Low Light Performance

Shooting in low light is a lot easier with an optic glass that can handle it. Whether you’re shooting at dusk or dawn, you’ll want a scope that can let you see well in darker conditions.

Most hunting grounds, like forests, can already be hard to navigate through and aim in during ideal lighting conditions, so you’ll appreciate scopes that have good low-light performance.

Optical Glass Quality

An expectation you should have from all scopes is that they’re clear and easy to see through. Why get an optic that is blurry, fogs up easily, and is annoying to look through?

There are many scopes that have multi-coated lenses with features like anti-glare, fog-proofing, waterproofing, and scratch-resistance.

While getting higher quality optical quality usually corresponds to higher costs, it’s an investment you won’t regret.

Reticle Clarity

The most popular reticles for hunting are those that aren’t too busy or complicated to use. Hunting grounds can look congested as is without obstructive reticles.

This is especially true if you’re hunting at shorter ranges in dense foliage. If you’re shooting in clearer areas at longer distances, you can choose reticles with longer-range features like mil-dots or hash marks.

You don’t want to be aiming at your target through a thick brush and then miss because you aimed at it through the wrong holdover.

PRO TIP: You’ll also want to bring other must-have accessories for precision hunting other than your scope.

Frequently Asked Questions

After reading about the best scopes for hunters, you might have some more questions about hunting optics.

What Lens Magnification Is Best for Hunting?

A variable zoom scope is the best option because you’ll need it to adjust for close and longer-range hunting. However, most hunters will be satisfied with an 8x or 10x max magnification.

If you’re hunting at even farther ranges, then you can consider higher zoom scopes. Just remember that your weapon should be capable of hitting that far, too.

What Is the Most Popular Reticle for Hunting?

The most popular reticle most hunters use is the Duplex reticle. This is because of the thick lines on the edges that narrow down towards the middle.

This makes it easier for a hunter to distinguish a target from the background and acquire the target quicker.

How far can you shoot with a 3-9×40 scope?

The ideal range to shoot with a 3-9×40 scope is between 50 and 300 yards. Shooting at distances closer might be difficult because it’s too zoomed in.

On the flip side, shooting at farther distances can be tricky because you’ll have a hard time seeing the target correctly.


Whether you’re looking to spend a lot of money on a hunting scope or a budget one to start out, there are many options for both crossbows and rifles.

When picking one, remember that you’ll need one with excellent optic quality, low light performance, a clear reticle, and appropriate zoom levels to where you’re shooting.

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