October 03, 2022
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Hunting optics have evolved substantially over the last twenty years. At one time, scopes with 3X zoom ratios like the various 3-9s were considered the optimal all-purpose optic. On low magnification, these scopes worked well in brushy environments. At high power, the classic 3-9x allowed hunters to take longer shots at greater distances.
The 3-9s are still great scopes, but over time some aspects of hunting and shooting have changed. For one thing, long-range shooting is more popular now than ever before, and we live in an era where cartridges like the 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 6.8 Western and other cartridges designed around heavy, high-BC long-range projectiles rule the roost. These rounds offer improved capabilities at extended distances. They carry energy more efficiently and can extend a hunter or shooter’s maximum effective range. Additionally, the rising popularity of NRL Hunter matches offer a competitive league designed specifically for hunters and their sporting rifles.
As hunters and shooters have evolved, so have optics. Today’s scopes offer 4X, 5X or 6X magnification ranges, making them more versatile. Advanced turrets and reticles have made it easier to perform calculated windage and holdover adjustments. The best modern optics come with robust erector systems and high-quality lenses with premium glass and sophisticated coatings that will allow you to make tough shots in difficult conditions.
It’s a great time to be in the market for a versatile, all-purpose rifle optic because there are so many excellent options on the market. We’ve compiled a list of a few of our favorite scopes—optics that perform in matches as well as in the field.
Trijicon Huron 3-12x40mm
Trijicon optics are renowned for premium performance, but not every hunter or shooter needs the advanced day-or-night illumination offered by the company’s flagship AccuPoint scopes. The Trijicon Huron offers the same rugged dependability that hunters, shooters and even the U.S. military have come to expect without the battery-free tritium illumination. What you get is a scope with a lot of premiums—premium glass, premium erector system, premium coatings—without premium price. With its BDC Hunter reticle, lower magnification range and capped windage and elevation turrets the Huron is “aimed” more at the hunting market, and you won’t find a more versatile and durable scope for the money. With its 30mm maintube and 40mm objective the Huron weighs under 18 ounces, which is considerably lighter than more target-biased optics on this list.
Leupold Mark 5HD 3.6-18x44mm
The Mark 5HD has already made a name for itself in the long-range shooting world, and it’s a favorite optic of NRL shooters. When you look at all the features that this scope offers like Leupold’s Professional-Grade Optics System, a 5:1 zoom ratio, 35mm main tube, Zerolock adjustments and a list of reticle options with MRAD and MOA holdover points it’s easy to see why everyone loves this optic. Of course, it’s backed by Leupold’s exceptional lifetime warranty, and like every other Leupold product that goes on a firearm it’s made in their Beaverton, Oregon factory. There’s a lot to love about this scope, but I’m a huge fan of this scope’s generous eyebox and long eye relief.
Vortex Razor HD LHT 3-15x42/50mm
The Razor LHT 3-15 checks all the boxes for a dual purpose scope. It has a versatile zoom ratio that’s perfect for any shooting situations, it offers the HD optical system that provides excellent resolution and true color tone, and it’s lighter than many competing optics in this class. The locking elevation turret comes with a RevStop zero stop, and the Razor LHT offers the convenience of push-button illumination coupled with a long battery life. The 3-15x42 models is available with your choice of an HSR-5i MRAD or HSR-5i MOA reticle, and the 3-15x50 comes with the versatile G4i BDC MRAD reticle. All Razor LHT scopes come with a coupon for free custom ballistic strip that simplifies long-range shooting and hunting. Regardless of which Razor LHT you choose you’ll find these scopes offer all the features that define today’s best dual-purpose scopes.
MSRP: $1,799.99 (3-15x42), $1,849.99 (3-15x50)
Zeiss LRP S3
Zeiss recently released the LRP S3 first focal plane scopes and these optics immediately grabbed the attention of hunters and shooters, in large part because these scopes offer class-leading travel for making long shots. Versions with the 50mm objective lens allow 110 MOA or 32 MRADs of scope travel, while the 56mm versions allow for a whopping 160 MOA and 46.5 MRAD. The new 6-36x56 model will appeal to serious long-range shooters, but the 4-25x50 is deal for serving double duty as a hunting and target optic. Both optics are available with your choice of Zeiss’ MOAi #17 reticle or their MRi #16 reticle. Ballistic Stop and External Locking Windage Turrets come standard, as does Zeiss’ illuminated smart reticle with red or green color options. And, being Zeiss products, you can expect the level of refinement and durability that has made that brand famous.
MSRP: $2,199.99 (4-25x50), $2,499.99 (6-36x56)
SIG Sauer Whiskey6 3-18x44
What isn’t SIG making these days? The company’s firearms won two massive military contracts in recent years, and their ammo and optics divisions are keeping pace with the new technologies coming from the firearm side of the business. SIG’s Whiskey6 3-18x44 is one of those optics that makes sense on a wide range of centerfire rifles. The 6:1 zoom ratio makes this optic suitable for everything close shots in timber to long shots in the mountains or open prairie. The Whiskey6 is up to 25% lighter than the Whiskey5 model, which is great for making weight in NRL matches or when hiking to the high country. The excellent glass and cutting-edge lens coatings mean that you can see clearly in any light conditions with the scope, and you’ll have a choice between SIG’s MOA Milling Hunter 2.0 and Quadplex reticles. Even though it’s built to SIG’s typical high standards the Whiskey6 is backed by the brand’s INFINITE guarantee.
MSRP: $878.99 - $1039.99
Meopta Optika6 3-18x50mm
Meopta doesn’t compare as large a share of the U.S. optics market as some of its rivals listed here, but each year more hunters and shooters are catching on to the fact that Meopta offers exceptional optics at a very reasonable cost. The company’s Optika6 3-18x50 riflescope is available in first and second focal plane versions. The fist focal plane (FFP) models feature an exposed locking elevation turret with zero stop while the second focal plane (SFP) version gets capped windage and elevation turrets. Each scope offers several reticle options but Meopta’s DichroTech reticle is a must-have feature. Dicrotech allows the reticle to adjust to multiple color paletes, like having a self-adjusting illuminate reticle that never needs batteries—perfect for long shots on dark animals in low light. Whether you’re a hunter or a shooter or both the Optika6 3-18x44 should be on your shortlist when searching for a new scope.
MSRP: $649 - $799
Steiner Predator 8 2-16x42mm
The Steiner Predator 8 doesn’t get the press it deserves, but this is an outstanding optic that’s suitable for just about any application. On low power you can hunt timber or follow wounded game, and on high power the Steiner offers the magnification to shoot out well beyond 1,000 yards. This German-made scope comes with an integrated customizable ballistic turret so you can tune the optic to your rifle and load and simplify holdover. Superior glass and lens coating make this one of the clearest, truest scopes available and the Steiner offers 11 levels of illumination. Adjustments are easy and straightforward but the knobs (including side parallax adjustment) on the scope are not so large as to be in the way in the field. Despite an impressive 8:1 zoom ratio this scope weighs just 23 ounces. Its rear focal plane E3 Ballistic Reticle is easy to use in the field and the 30mm maintube offers 55 MOA of windage and elevation adjustment.
Nightforce NX8 4-32x50mm
The Nightforce name is familiar to competitive shooters and military and law enforcement professionals, but these tough-as-nails optics built in Orofino, Idaho also make superb hunting scopes. The NX8 4-32x50 is the latest member of the NXS family of scopes that have been serving dutifully for two decades, so there’s no doubt this scope is rugged and reliable. The 8;1 zoom ration is extremely versatile and the clever Dual Scale reticle system allows you to accurately subtend targets at 16 and 32x depending upon your needs. Other features include a ZeroStop turret, Digillum reticle illumination, and exceptional ED lenses that offer great clarity and low light visibility. At 28 ounces the NX8 isn’t the lightest scope on this list, but it measures just 13.5-inches long so it is very compact. This scope comes with a 30mm tube and your choice of a wide array of reticles suitable for every discipline.
MSRP: $2,150 - $2,500