A Beginner's Guide to Choosing the Best Air Rifle Scopes

27th Aug 2020

A Beginner's Guide to Choosing the Best Air Rifle Scopes

While telescopes have been around since the early 1600s, the first successful telescopic rifle sights date from the 1830s. The inventor was from Utica, NY. Morgan James's breakthrough was to resolve the problem of the sights being pushed into the shooter's eye.

When you're shopping for an air rifle scope, there are some features that you need to look for.

Read on to learn about air rifle scopes and their features.

Air Rifle Scopes

The right air rifle scope can be a huge step forward in your air rifle accuracy and enjoyment.

An air rifle scope sits on top of the air rifle and is attached using an air rifle mount. The purpose of the scope is to improve your shooting accuracy. It does this by magnifying the target so you can see it more clearly.

An air rifle scope is only one of many ways that you can improve the accuracy of your shooting. You may expect that practice will help, but perhaps you've not considered that a regular regime of cleaning your air rifle can make a difference too.

Do You Need a Scope?

As the purpose of an air rifle scope is to improve your accuracy a decision about whether you need one turns on how important accuracy is to you. If the targets you are shooting at pose a challenge to you when aiming to hit, then you may benefit from using a scope.

The difficulty of hitting a target depends on the nature of the target. The difficulty generally boils down to two things. It increases with the size of the target and your distance from the target.

You could be having fun hitting objects from close range. Cans can easily be hit from close range and produce a satisfying sound and movement when hit. If this is the type of shooting you are doing then you don't need an air rifle scope.

If you are target shooting and it matters to you whether you are scoring near the center of the target you may benefit from a scope. If you are hunting and accuracy is important you may also benefit from an air rifle scope.

Choosing accessories such as pellets, gun cases, and scopes can add to your enjoyment as can reading about them in magazines.

Fixed and Variable

The two types of air rifle scopes you will encounter are fixed and variable magnification.

Fixed magnification scopes are set at relatively low magnification. The low magnification is compensated by the lens allowing a good amount of light through. This makes the target easy to see despite the low magnification.

A fixed magnification, even a low magnification model, can be very accurate. It may be perfect for shooting rodents or close-range target shooting.

Variable magnification scopes are, by definition, not fixed. The magnification can be changed from a low magnification up to high magnification. A typical example of a variable magnification air rifle scope is between 3 times and 12 times magnification.

As the magnification increases using a variable magnification air rifle scope the target appears nearer. The target may also appear somewhat darker. The higher magnification enables you to accurately see smaller targets and distant targets, more clearly.

If you want to shoot at closer targets then a fixed scope may be best for you. If you need greater magnification, from time to time, a variable scope may be best for you.

Parts of an Air Rifle Scope

A rifle scope will have an eyepiece that houses the ocular lens. This is the part of the scope you look through. At the other end of the scope is the objective lens.

The size of the objective lens is one factor that determines the amount of light that comes into the scope. Another factor is the quality of the lens. The bigger and better lenses let in more light and more light is good.

Some scopes will have a focus adjustment. This is useful if you wear glasses. Variable magnification scopes have a magnification adjustment too.

Some air rifle scopes will have controls to adjust the illumination of the crosshairs. Some also have a parallax adjustment that changes the relationship between the crosshairs and the target. These are sophisticated features that are for more advanced shooters and come with a higher price tag too.

Two other controls that your air rifle scope will have are to adjust the scope on the vertical plane and the horizontal plane. These are the elevation adjustment and windage adjustment. They are used to adjust your rifle to compensate for consistent inaccuracy.

Reticle Type

Reticle type describes what the crosshairs in the air rifle scope look like. The simple and most conventional reticle is the vertical and horizontal crosshair type. It is multifunctional but has the disadvantage of hiding parts of the target area.

A duplex crosshair, often used by hunters, has a thicker outer crosshair which narrows in the center. A German reticle has the upper portion of the crosshair removed to improve the visibility of the target. Mill-dot reticles have notches along the crosshairs to aid in adjusting when aiming.

Reticle type may be a matter of preference. These different features can be helpful for different kinds of use.


Attaching the air rifle scope to your gun is the job of the mounting. They are either one or two-piece components that fit around the scope and fasten on to the air rifle.

A high-powered air rifle benefits from more stability. A one-piece mount is sturdier. It, therefore, handles the recoil of the more powerful rifle better than a two-piece mount. Lower powered air rifles down have as much recoil so a two-piece mount is fine for them.

If you have chosen an air rifle scope with a larger objective lens then you will need to raise it above the barrel more than a smaller objective lens. To do this, select a high mount.

The tube size of your scope will typically be one of two sizes. Either 1-inch or 30 mm are typical. You will need to buy the correct scope mount for the size of the tube size your scope has.

Choose a Scope

Decide what you want to use your air rifle for. Choose the air rifle scopes that most closely match your rifle use. You'll shoot more accurately and enjoy it too.

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