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Macular degeneration, near and farsightedness, astigmatism, cataracts - enter here any visual impairment. It can get in the way of your shooting experience.
The problem is, no one wants to voluntarily give up bench shooting, matches, hunting, and what it means to their identity, profession, and lifestyle due to the problems of old eyes.
In general, decreasing visual acuity is a reality for many shooters. Putting aside discussion of contact lenses, prescription glasses, and surgeries, there are rifle scopes better than others at improving clarity and comfort. The top optics for poor vision must always embody quality.
In our effort to provide a comprehensive, one-stop resource, we surveyed over 100 shooters with aging eyes. Quotes, recommendations, and varying opinions are shared by real-life shooters like yourself.
Let’s examine what scopes they say work for them, what features we recommend you focus on, and how-to instructions to ensure you’re getting maximum clarity from your scope.
11 Best Scopes for Aging Eyes
These top rifle scopes are a compilation of recommendations from over 100 respondents from a survey we circulated. Each scope has an applied “award” that indicates what it could be used for in relation to a shooting application with bad eyesight as the driving force for the recommendation.
1. Swarovski Z3 4-12x50 - Best Rifle Scope for Clear Glass
By a landslide, Swarovski was the most mentioned luxury brand among shooters who responded to the survey. We could easily put the Z8i up as a highly recommended scope, but very few would pull the trigger on a $3600 scope.
Instead, the more affordable Z3 4-12x50 is easier to justify to land Swarovski-grade, crystal-clear glass. With an easy-to-use reticle in the SFP, 3.5” of eye relief, and a large 50mm aperture, the Z3 keeps things simple for those who just want better glass.
Recommended best uses: SFP reticle, Good eye relief, Long-range, Lowlight, Likely compatible with glasses, Target Shooting, Hunting
2. NightForce ATACR 5-25x56 - Best Scope for 800+ Yards
800 yards is a breeze for the ATACR 5-25x56 scope, but you get the idea. This is a long-range scope for those who don’t want to give up any points in their bench shooting aspirations regardless of age and eyesight.
With an FFP reticle, you can crank it up high for improved visibility of the reticle with the addition of illumination. With 3.6” of eye relief and fantastic glass mentioned by survey responses, the NF scope may be worth the high price.
Recommended best uses: Illumination, FFP reticle, Long-range, Good eye relief, Likely compatible with glasses, Tactical-style scope, Target Shooting, Precision Shooting
3. Leupold VX-5HD - Best Scope for Adverse Conditions
The VX series was mentioned in the survey – some for and a few against. The VX-5HD was specifically mentioned more than once as having exceptionally clear glass and is very tuneable for attaining optimal focus.
With multiple types of reticles, the choice is yours, but what is consistent is the 3.7-3.8” eye relief, customizable elevation dial, and motion sensor technology. The HD performance and professional-grade optical system ensures the best seeing ability in adverse light conditions for all your shooting needs.
Recommended best uses: Illumination, Multiple reticle options, Good eye relief, Side focus, Lowlight, Target Shooting, Precision Shooting, Likely compatible with glasses
4. Vortex Crossfire II 3-12x56 AO - Best Scope for Hunting
For those who like to keep things simple, the Vortex Crossfire II nails it with proficiency. It’s a low-light champ with a visible, illuminated, SFP reticle. You must be comfortable dialing in for long shots since it’s a duplex-style reticle.
With 3.5” of eye relief, the favorite AO parallax adjustment, and a fast focus eyepiece, it meets the criteria for those looking to improve visual clarity and fast sights for low-light hunting. Priced so affordably, the value can’t be beat.
Recommended best uses: Duplex reticle, SFP reticle, Illumination, Good eye relief, AO focus, Low price, Lowlight, Hunting, Likely compatible with glasses
5. Zeiss Victory V8 - Best Scope for Bad Eyesight
Zeiss was an oft-mentioned brand in the survey and we can understand why. The new Victory V8 series offers an extra-large eyebox for more forgiving movement in dynamic hunting conditions.
With fine crosshairs and fiber optic illuminated dot, it offers ultimate precision even on small targets at extreme long-range distances. It has renowned SCHOTT glass, 3.6” of eye relief, and SFP minimal target subtension crosshairs. Zeiss may be the brand for those looking for a glass upgrade with a visible hunting reticle in poor light conditions.
Recommended best uses: Illumination, SFP reticle, Duplex reticle, Good eye relief, Likely compatible with glasses, Lowlight, Hunting
6. Trijicon VCOG 1-6x24 – Best Rifle Scope for Astigmatism
LPVOs are trending as a scope option versus red dot sights. Those with astigmatism seem to do better with a prismatic, magnified scope, and the Trijicon VCOG 1-6x24 is one of the best that can be recommended. Trijicon is not a cheap brand, so top prices are the trade-off for this type of optical and mechanical performance.
With 4” of constant eye relief, it’s long and comfortable for those with or without glasses. With multiple types of FFP, illuminated reticles to choose from, you’ll find one that works with your vision and shooting style.
Recommended best uses: LPVO, Compatible w/Night vision, Illumination, FFP reticle, Tactical-style scope, Long eye relief, Both eyes open shooting, Compatible with glasses
7. Vortex Razor AMG UH-1 Gen II – Best Red Dot for Astigmatism
Vortex is a popular brand among survey respondents. The Razor AMG UH-1 offers a great price point versus its competitor, EOTech. Unlike reflex red dot sights, those with astigmatism should not experience minimized reticle anomalies with a true holographic system.
Unlimited eye relief, 2-eye shooting, and close-range combat with speed and accuracy are benefits to look forward to.
Recommended best uses: Holographic sight, Illumination, Unlimited eye relief, Both eyes open shooting, Compatible with glasses
8. Burris Scout 2-7x32 – Best Long Eye Relief Scope
Scout scopes are mounted in the forward position and are well-known for their long eye relief. The Burris Scout 2-7x32 offers close to mid-range performance up to 500 yards.
It has a simple BDC reticle in the SFP that duplex fans will like. Priced under $500, it’s an affordable scope for those who need the extra eye relief room for hunting and target shooting.
Recommended best uses: SFP reticle, Ballistic Plex reticle, Up to 500 yards, Long eye relief, Low Price, Hunting, Target Shooting, Compatible with glasses
9. Meopta Optika 6 3-18x56 – Best Lowlight Scope
For those looking for a highly visible reticle, low light performance, and comfortable eye relief, the Meopta Optika 6 fits the description. It has multiple reticle types that are located in the SFP although there are FFP versions too.
Eye relief is excellent with 3.94” and should be comfortable for most people. The dioptric compensation ranges from -2 to 2, so those who only need slight adjustments will get to reap in the benefits of sharp glass for lowlight applications. Given that it’s a scope close to $1000, it’s pricey, but many swear by the Meopta brand for quality glass and performance.
Recommended best uses: SFP reticle, Low-light, Excellent eye relief, Compatible with glasses, Hunting, Target Shooting
10. Athlon Argos BTR 6-24x50 – Best FFP Scope for up to 600 yards
The Argos BTR has high magnification and an illuminated FFP reticle that has been consistently used out to 600-650 yards. The price is just right for those on a limited budget. However, the eye relief is at its most forgiving of 3.3” at 6x power and restricts to a tight 2” at 24x. It’s best for those who don’t wear glasses while shooting.
Recommended best uses: Illumination, FFP reticle, High magnification, Low-light, Tactical-style scope, Not compatible with glasses
11. Hawke Vantage 3-9x40 AO – Best SFP Scope for the Money
Hawke consistently came up as a favorable brand in survey results. The Vantage 3-9x40 scope offers dependable performance for most target shooting and hunting needs – especially considering the very low price. It’s a favorite for its simple mil-dot reticle, 3.5” of eye relief, and an AO for those who need to tweak the focus for optimal clarity. The IR version offers illumination.
All of our scope recommendations in the under $200 price range offer great eye relief and similar specs if you want to expand your options to various brands like Leupold, Burris, Vortex, and Primary Arms – all of which were mentioned in the survey!
Recommended best uses: SFP reticle, Mil-dot reticle, AO focus, Good eye relief, Likely compatible with glasses, Hunting, Target Shooting
Best Rifle Scope Brands for Old Eyes
The best rifle scopes for old eyes encompasses both form and function, i.e., glass and mechanical quality. Both brands (manufacturers) and budgets are inevitably intertwined, and the old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true.
High-End Rifle Scope Brands for Bad Vision
- Schmidt & Bender
Budget: $$$ - More than $1000
These brands can be considered at the high-end scale of things often with price tags that many do not find affordable. However, the proven quality and mechanical performance is what puts these brands at the top. Glass is often sourced from Germany or Japan.
“Swarovski has been my go-to scope for old age.”Michael
“Leupold, Zeiss, and Burris. I have macular degeneration, so I do not wear my glasses with a scope because everything is clear with a scope.”David
Mid-Range Rifle Scope Brands for Bad Eyes
Budget: $$ - Less than $1000 (approx.)
These brands were specifically mentioned in the survey results and proven to be trustworthy performers for many types of shooters. They can cost upwards of $1000 for premium options from their top lines.
“…Athlon the best for old eyes. Only bench shooting now at 70 something. Still fun with good optic.”Steve B.
Budget Rifle Scope Brands for Old Eyes
Budget: $ - Less than $500 (approx.)
There are always those exceptions that people have had great luck with. Expect to spend between $100-$500 for scopes from these brands. Keeping it simple with must-have features is a recipe for success.
“Best 3 scopes I own: Weaver K4W, Realist 1.5-4.5x32, Swarovski 3-9x35. All are over 40 years old, clear, and bright. For my money, the KISS principle is the best. I don’t require all the bells and whistles. Give me good, clear, uncluttered glass. A simple, easy to acquire reticle is all I need.”Jack V.
What to Look for in a Rifle Scope if You Have Poor Vision
There are multiple features of a rifle scope to consider when aging eyes is what drives user preference and scope scrutiny. Many of these features can affect user compatibility, so it necessitates the need to review what it is you need to look for in a rifle scope suited to your vision.
1. Glass Quality
Glass quality becomes extremely important to aging eyes, precision shooting competitions, and hunters that often find themselves in adverse conditions. You can’t shoot what you can’t see clearly.
This begs the question of what are you actually getting with high-end rifle scopes? Better glass.
“Quality glass is more important as my dominant eye is deteriorating & lowlight conditions are much more challenging now. Favorable scopes for my eyesight: Zeiss Conquest HD, MeoStar R1 Illuminated, Bushnell Elite.”Waza
It starts at the source then extends to the machines that are responsible for cutting, grinding, polishing, and addition of specialized ‘glass ingredients.’ Manufacturers must also consider assembly placement such as number of lens elements and groups, and then lens coatings are another rabbit hole.
Higher quality glass provides increased and improved brightness, resolution, and contrast. What does this mean? Better resolving power to make out details to tighten groupings, measure racks, discern mirage changes, and have better ‘seeing’ ability in lowlight conditions.
More on point with bad eyes, spending more on glass can minimize eye strain, fatigue, and optical aberrations. The brain can do amazing things to correct for poor scope quality, and your head and eyes will pay the toll.
Of course, having the clearest glass with a scope that can’t track accurately means nothing. Generally, the more optical performance you spend on a scope, you’re usually acquiring better mechanical integrity too.
“At 62, my eyes are changing and not for the better. I have invested in the best optics I can afford, mainly Leupold. Less expensive optics are no longer an option.”John
2. Reticle Focus
Focusing the reticle is a step that’s done after mounting a scope for comfortable eye relief and scope leveling. Focusing the reticle for your vision is done via the eyepiece or the diopter. While seemingly trivial, it plays a critical role in attaining a clear view for your unique vision.
While the survey reveals that most people know how to focus the scope for their vision, we take for granted that this simple procedure isn’t known to all. In this case, 11.6% of respondents should see our instructions for this below.
Many users with various types of decreasing visual acuity will remove their glasses and focus the eyepiece to allow it to act as provisional compensation for their near or farsightedness. Marking this setting can help to acquire quick readjustment in case it’s unintentionally moved out of place.
“I have a S&B, Pecar, and I have recently purchased a NightForce and find they’re excellent scopes that don’t have to be readjusted every time I go out for a shoot. I wear glasses but prefer not to as I find they can get in the way. I do enjoy the power of 8 on scopes, have no trouble focusing and shooting at what I’m aiming at.”Lionel
It’s important to note that this is only one type of rifle scope focusing – the sharpness or crispness in which you see the reticle for your vision. It brings the reticle into focus and makes it bold and easily visible. Focusing the diopter will help to fix a blurry reticle for those who may think their vision is non-compatible with scopes.
However, scopes have different maximum diopter adjustments, and you can run out of ‘adjustment’ to the point where you can’t correct for your vision via the scope. Prescription shooting glasses may be needed.
3. Scope Focus
The focus adjustment on a scope is usually found on rifle scopes that have over 10x magnification. This is also commonly called the parallax adjustment and comes in two forms: Adjustable Objective (AO) and Side Focus (SF) or third turret.
This function is responsible for bringing the image into focus for the distance you are glassing. It also removes parallax which is a seemingly moving or floating reticle. If you’re using a rifle scope with high magnification, you may run into blurry scope problems incorrectly summing it up to bad vision.
The survey revealed that most people prefer to use an AO to focus the scope. The objective bell has distance references in which you rotate to focus the image. A side focus is the left (or third) turret and features distance markings to rotate to focus the image.
It’s essential to note that reference markings are just that – references. You may find perfect focus just slightly off mark of the actual reference. This is acceptable. If you find that all is focused correctly (image/target and reticle) but are experiencing parallax problems, you may need to upgrade your scope with better mechanical performance. How to focus a scope is outlined below.
4. Eye Relief
Eye relief is the distance from the last ocular lens to your eyes that allows for an unobstructed field of view and safe distance to protect from recoil. Optimal eye relief is found when mounting the scope for your unique cheekweld. Manufacturers will list the amount of eye relief available.
Having proper eye relief and a focused reticle can reduce optical aberrations, parallax, and will improve vision comfort. According to the survey, a minimum of 3” of eye relief is preferred regardless of whether or not you wear glasses. Although, 4” provides some additional comfort for those who do wear glasses, and those who don’t wear specs can tolerate the bare minimum of 2.5”.
“Vortex has been the better choice as of now. Great relief and clear optic.”Mike
The results reveal that eye relief within the standard industry parameters are good enough regardless of type of vision. Focusing the scope correctly via the diopter and focusing adjustment may be of more import than extending eye relief for visual acuity.
The type of reticle plays an important role in how compatible the scope is with your vision. The ability to see crosshairs, hashmarks, or dots will ultimately affect accuracy. Additionally, the reticle is also crucial to various types of shooting applications.
According to the survey, the simple duplex style reticle is the most popular closely followed by a mil-dot reticle. While there are variations to all types of reticles, keeping it simple seems to be the trend amongst shooters.
Those with aging eyes may prefer the simplicity of a duplex reticle with easy-to-see crosshairs especially in SFP, but those who like to hold over seem to prefer the mil-dot over the BDC. Dots may be more visible, or it may simply be due to the compatibility with mil-based turrets.
Either way, you want a reticle that is matched to your application. While thicker crosshairs are easier to see for the vision impaired, subtension can cause crosshairs to cover targets at long-distance ranges. This may be fine for most sub-400 yard hunting scenarios and is great for close-range use. You can consider thicker posts with thinner crosshairs such as the German style for a balance between thick and thin benefits.
“A German style reticle with illuminated dot, for me, is the best.”Jack
However, thick and fat crosshairs are unacceptable for PRS matches and long-range bench shooting. Illumination, FFP, or glass-etched reticles may be options to consider to improve reticle visibility for those struggling to see crosshairs while looking for thinner options.
“Duplex seems harder to center shot due to heavier lines in reticle.”Mike
Focusing the diopter for reticle sharpness and clarity can eliminate problems that you may incorrectly perceive to be as issues with your vision or your scope. Those with astigmatism who see multiple crosshairs may benefit from a scope with a glass, laser-etched reticle.
6. Reticle Plane
The reticle is placed either in front or behind the magnifying lens and determines its position as a Second Focal Plane (SFP) or First Focal Plane (FFP) reticle. An SFP reticle does not change in size in relation to magnification while an FFP reticle changes in size depending on magnification.
It's almost an even match between SFP and FFP preferences but FFP reticles have the lead. The primary advantages of an FFP reticle for those with visual problems is the ability to see the crosshair better at higher magnifications.
Many older eyes tend to prefer more magnification. With an FFP reticle, it becomes larger and ranging or holding over at any power is possible. However, older eyes will have a harder time seeing the crosshairs and/or graduations at lower power.
SFP reticles remain consistent in size and may be especially useful to old eyes as crosshairs are more visible across the entire power range. Holding over with BDC or mil-dot reticles are only accurate at max power.
It goes without saying that an evaluation of your shooting applications is essential in order to determine what reticle plane is best for you. SFP is usually the option of choice for degrading vision but if you’re consistently maxing out magnification beyond 8x, an FFP reticle that is visible on the low end may be the better choice.
7. Reticle Illumination
Illuminated reticles have gained popularity over recent years as it improves reticle visibility in adverse light and terrain conditions. It also allows for fast reticle and target acquisition as many rifle scopes are incorporating red dot style illumination.
Adjustable brightness or the color of illumination may help to sway the 46.4% (per the survey) of those who don’t use an illuminated reticle. While most don’t experience anomalies with illumination, there can be optical aberrations due to the brightness, color, or vision impairment such as astigmatism.
Most glass-etched reticles with adjustable levels of illumination prove to be especially efficient for all vision types. However, green illumination may be the better option for those who experience aberrations due to astigmatism. Turning down the brightness to prevent halos or washouts can also improve reticle visibility.
If you experience clusters, double dots, and other similar anomalies with red dot sights due to astigmatism, a prismatic or holographic sight may be better suited to you over a reflex sight.
Magnification involves more than just seeing a target with added power as it also affects image quality and the eyebox. Those with old eyes may experience increased optical distortion as magnification is increased. This can be due to the glass quality combined with degrading vision.
Looking at the survey, the results are tight. Most prefer to stay within the 4-6x range as it could be deduced that it offers the most comfortable eyebox with the most clarity. And yet, hot on the heels of the 4-6x range is only a 1.8% difference to desiring 10x and more than 12x magnification. It could be gleaned that when it comes to older eyes, more magnification is desired.
“I own the Nikon Black 1000. Very pleased. As I get older, I like more magnification.”Len
However, as power is increased, the eyebox shrinks and light is lost. To have a fully functional high-powered scope, you must demand glass quality. Many cheap scopes cannot offer the optical demands needed to provide maximum image quality at maximum magnification. If you’re having issues seeing clearly at high powers, you may need an upgrade in glass.
“I have astigmatism in right eye. I use 3-9x to 6-24x power scopes and do well with these scopes.”Mike
Secondly, the eyebox is the allowable range of lateral and axial movement of space that allows for a full, unobstructed FOV when considering misalignment of eye relief position. This is intertwined with magnification, eye relief, exit pupil, and of course, the dilation of your pupils. As eyes age, dilation shrinks. As magnification increases, both the eyebox and eye relief shrinks while image quality degrades. This is a recipe that makes it harder for older eyes to see clearly and comfortably at high powers.
“Athlon Argos rifle scope is easy to use and has a generous eyebox making it easier to focus in. Great scope and a clean, clear reticle.”Jay
Unfortunately, while eye relief, exit pupil, and magnification specs are listed by the manufacturer, the eyebox is not. The takeaway? Focus on glass quality over magnification. The ability to see clearly is dependent on the glass, and magnification can only deliver as good as the glass gets.
Quality glass seems to be better for older eyes due to the crispness and sharpness of clarity. Keep this in mind to avoid what many people make the mistake of doing – buying cheap and increasing magnification.
9. Objective Lens Size
The diameter of the objective lens is the aperture. The bigger it is, the bigger the ability to allow in more light. More light can mean more ‘seeing’ which is a necessity in lowlight conditions. However, bigger apertures can also mean more weight and mounting issues.
Does size matter? Per the survey, half of the respondents find a minimum of a 40mm aperture the clearest to see with. A larger aperture comes in second as the easiest to see clearly with. It makes sense given that bigger can mean better seeing.
Unfortunately, going bigger isn’t always the answer for aging eyes. Older eyes have pupils that can’t make use of all that light. It requires a balancing act to determine value and needs.
For example, a 56mm scope at 10x offers an exit pupil of 5.6mm. A 44mm scope at 8x offers an exit pupil of 5.5mm.
If your eyes only dilate to 5mm, the advantage of the 56mm scope offers 2x more magnification than the 44mm scope. However, there is no perceived increase in brightness (if all else is equal) through either scope because the eye can’t use the excess light through the exit pupil. It begs the question, is the extra 2x magnification worth the extra cost, weight, and higher mounting profile of the 56mm scope versus the 44mm scope? Only you can answer that.
Then there’s also the question of how much of that light can the scope efficiently transmit to the eye – a matter of glass and coating quality and not just exit pupil.
If you’re determined to have bigger, like a 50mm or 56mm scope, ensure that the weight and bulk is worth hauling around by investing in glass that can actually offer the benefits of having a large aperture. The upgrade in glass quality can be worth it for those with minor cataracts also ensuring that diopter and focus adjustments are correctly set as needed.
“Surprising enough, I have had very good results with the Sightmark Citadel Model with the highest magnification that they offer, 5 to 30x with a 56 mm bell. I made four shots in one minute on a Colorado Moose in Fall 2020, using that very same scope on my 300 UltraMag. Distance was ranged at 357 yards straight line with gravity…All four shots hit an area the size of a quarter exactly where I was aiming. Fourth was a middle of head shot, I got tired of it not falling down. Me thinks after that, that there is literally no reason to spend thousands on a scope. I was a month away from my 63rd birthday and wear progressive lenses.”Brad
Inevitable Factors Out of Your Control
There are certain conditions that can render a high-quality scope useless, and it doesn’t matter if you have 20/20 vision or not. Difficult, adverse light and weather conditions can make using optics frustrating. Sometimes, it’s not the scope, it’s not your vision, it’s nature.
Adverse Light Conditions
With bad eyesight, you may call the hunt earlier than you used to. You may also find that your failing vision makes scope aberrations appear worse than they used to. Fortunately, you can do something about that with your scope.
Illumination is a helpful feature for various types of adverse light conditions. Crank up the illumination for daylight bright visibility in very bright conditions. In lowlight, twilight, and night conditions, illumination allows you to see your reticle. Crank it down to the dimmest settings to maintain nighttime adaption and prevent display washout.
Since magnification and seeing ability is affected by light conditions, quality glass should always be the primary feature you want to focus on. High-end glass can help to transmit more resolution, clarity, and brightness to the eye allowing you to hunt longer than with inferior scopes.
Sunny days, lowlight and twilight conditions, nighttime shooting – they all present visibility issues for the shooter. You can’t control the conditions, but you can prepare for them with specific features in a rifle scope.
Adverse Weather Conditions
A little rain, snow, and wind shouldn’t stop you from the hunt. But what happens when your scope can’t resolve targets in shaded spots, it fogs up on the inside, or rain drops block the objective lens?
It’s not always your vision to blame, although it can certainly make things harder when you have a scope that’s misbehaving. To be frank, it’s not misbehavior, scopes with these issues are not built to cope with adverse weather and terrain conditions.
Both a hunting and precision rifle scope must have quality mechanics and internals. This ranges from having a waterproof and fogproof scope to exterior lens coatings. They can bead up water to fall off a lens to keep your views unobstructed and clear.
Fogproof scopes are either nitrogen or argon purged. This prevents internal condensation from ruining your sight picture. So, it’s not always your cloudy cataracts or vision that’s the issue – it may be the scope.
In thick timber and shaded areas, target acquisition can be difficult. Glass matters here. To be able to get your crosshairs on the target, you need to be able to see it. High quality glass can provide the resolution, sharpness, and contrast needed to spot and identify the bedded buck that is blended into the dark shades of a bush canopy.
You can try to improve visibility with night vision and thermal scopes, but there’s not a whole lot you can do for difficult weather conditions. When heavy rain and sleet affects your ability to hunt, be smart and take a break. Respect the conditions.
It would be interesting to know how many people have looked through their optics and have seen mirage but scrubbed up the blurry image to poor vision. This is a great example of how it’s not you, this time, it’s a natural phenomenon.
Discussing mirage often goes hand in hand with wind, although mirage can be present when there’s no wind at all. The best way to learn how to shoot with mirage is to have high quality glass. This enables you to resolve the slightest changes. But even the very best optics can be useless when mirage is visible, and if you can’t interpret the conditions to make an accurate shot.
In this case, having a great scope is a must-have, but it’s more about educating yourself on mirage density, classification, and how wind can help you interpret the conditions. Learn how to read mirage and estimate wind speed here.
How to Fix a Rifle Scope for Poor Eyesight
There is no one scope, reticle, or red dot that can absolutely correct or compensate for visual impairment. However, there are scope adjustments that you can do to help improve clarity to the best of what a scope can offer.
For those who need a refresher, reminder, or to be taught for the first time on how to make these adjustments, read on. You can also read our article on Troubleshooting a Blurry Rifle Scope for in-depth instructions.
How to Focus a Rifle Scope for Your Vision
Focusing the diopter is focusing your eye to the reticle. This allows for an optimal, sharp, bold, and clear view of the reticle for your vision. The diopter (or the eyepiece) is adjustable and is found on the end that is closest to your eye.
Younger, healthier eyes may have a negative setting while older eyes will tend to have a positive setting. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it procedure unless someone else uses your rifle scope or you have changes to your vision over time.
“As I usually wear glasses, I also will remove my glasses when using a scope as the scope acts in a way that ‘mimics’ my eyeglasses. I have run into several other shooters that do the same thing. This is usually at the range.”Ron M.
- If you wear glasses while shooting, put your glasses on for diopter adjustment.
- If you do not wear glasses while shooting but you do wear glasses for daily use, remove them to see if you can acquire a sharp image of the reticle.
- Setting the diopter is the same for either an SFP or FFP reticle.
- Set the magnification to 1x for LPVO (1-4x, 1-6x, etc.). Set the magnification to maximum, highest setting for all other variable power scopes.
- Close the non-shooting eye during the process. Optional: wear an eye patch on the non-shooting eye.
- Point the scope to a blank wall, white background, or to the sky.
- Make small adjustments to the diopter by rotating it in or out.
- After each adjustment, look at the reticle and look away to allow eye muscles to relax. Intermittent looking at the reticle is essential as your eyes will try to correct the blurry reticle for you.
- If it’s still blurry, continue adjusting until you have a sharp view of the reticle.
To correctly set the rifle scope diopter, you must look at the reticle and then look away quickly. This prevents the brain from adjusting and correcting an unfocused reticle. The blurry reticle will become noticeable after extended sessions of use and failing to set the diopter correctly will cause eye strain and headaches.
How to Focus a Rifle Scope for Clarity
Once you have a sharp, visible view of the reticle, you can improve image clarity by making focus adjustments. This puts the reticle and the target (the image) on the same focal plane, i.e., provides a clear image. This step is perhaps the most common fix to a why a gun scope looks blurry. Make focus adjustments to improve clarity and to see if the scope can help to mitigate the effects of your bad eyesight.
The concept of adjusting focus or correcting for parallax between an AO and an SF is the same. You rotate either the objective bell or the third turret to focus the image. This is done as often as needed. Both focus types will feature distance references or some form of markings to indicate each adjustment. More often than not, the references and markings are only estimations. The quality of the image you are seeing with your vision will determine focus.
How To Focus with an AO (Adjustable Objective)
- Estimate range to target.
- Rotate the AO to the matching distance marked on the AO or until you have acquired a sharp, clear image.
Slight adjustments may be needed depending on the magnification setting. It’s best to set the magnification you need and then make the AO adjustments. For more tips on focusing an AO to also correct for parallax, put your sights here.
How To Focus with a SF (Side Focus)
- Estimate range to target.
- Rotate the side focus to infinity or when the turret stops past infinity.
- Rotate down to the matching distance on the SF or until you have acquired a sharp, clear image.
When adjusting the SF from a close distance to a long-range target, you must dial up past infinity and then dial down again. This prevents turret backlash and slop from interfering with focus accuracy. If you want to go from a long-range distance to focus for a close-range target, you can dial down without having to go back to infinity.
For more tips on focusing a SF to also correct for parallax, focus on this.
How to Use a Scope with Both Eyes Open
For some shooters with bad vision, shooting with two eyes open reduces optical aberrations, improves repeatability, widens the field of view, increases visual acuity, and it can feel natural. However, most variable power scopes are not compatible or comfortable for shooting with both eyes open.
The best sights for this shooting tactic is with a red dot sight. If you experience reticle anomalies with red dot sights, try a prismatic red dot sight. You will also acquire range, various reticles, and magnification. Green illumination is also rumored to better than red for those with astigmatism.
While LPVOs are also known for great two-eyes-open shooting, not all are created equal. Scopes with true 1x magnification will provide the best benefits for this type of shooting method.
How to Use Scope Attachments for Clarity
Since no scope, crosshair types, or red dots can completely compensate or correct for your astigmatism or other type of visual impairment, you may need to look to external aids. This can mean anything from wearing contact lenses, prescription shooting glasses, or a custom-made lens that affixes to the eyepiece.
One external aid option to consider is the ScopeAid RX. It’s a custom-made lens that attaches to the eyepiece lens and corrects for your vision. It was specifically designed for those who wear bifocals or progressive lenses. They also have diopter solutions for those with extreme astigmatism.
Visual aids may and should require input and advice from the right type of medical professional. Opticians, optometrists, and ophthalmologists are eye specialists that can help. Some may also be marksman shooters or hunters themselves and can provide insight to your unique struggles.
Professional advice is to always wear eye protection while shooting. Supervised ranges require members to wear eye protection. Many use prescription glasses, polarized sunglasses, or safety glasses. Prescription shooting glasses are the best option for visual support in the hunt or for a match.
If eye relief and visual acuity allows, many will wear their glasses while using their rifle scope. The survey responses speak for itself – slightly more users wear their glasses while shooting. Almost half of the respondents find that they’re more comfortable without their glasses, glasses get in the way, or they can focus the scope to compensate for mild vision problems.
Eye relief of a minimum of 3-3.5” is the current industry standard for adequate eye relief. Those who wear glasses while shooting find 3” is adequate at the bare minimum. Additionally, 4” would be more appropriate for comfort and safety for shooting styles and/or caliber.
However, 4-4.5” of eye relief is quickly becoming the favored distance over recent years. More eye relief can mean a larger eyebox at higher magnifications, a greater distance for comfort with heavy recoil calibers, and more forgiving movement for less than perfect cheekwelds.
Shooting with progressive lenses for sport marksmen is not usually recommended. A single vision lens customized for depth of field is one option to consider. For hunters, many wear their progressive lenses or bifocals that allow for a range of vision although it may not be the best option either.
It may be best to acquire two appointments with an optician that can customize care by prescribing shooting glasses with the right prescriptions, lenses, and frames to support your vision. This is ideally done at the firing range where the optician can measure and make the necessary adjustments while you’re in position with a rifle and scope.
A prismatic scope incorporates prisms, etched reticles, fixed power, and illumination. The combination of these features minimizes optical aberrations that are seen with reflex red dot sights for those who have astigmatism. It may also have a diopter to optimize it for your vision.
Scattered light from the reflected LED in a reflex sight can cause optical anomalies to those with astigmatism. Holographic sights aren’t always compatible for those with astigmatism, but some have better results with them over reflex sights.
Target Tamers are not medical professionals, and our recommendations are based off our knowledge of sports optics and responses from a Target Tamers delivered survey. Due to multiple types of vision impairments, it's impossible to offer custom recommendations.
We highly recommend and encourage handling optics in person before buying. Some ways to do this include:
- Manufacturers may provide a demo program that allows you to try it before you buy it.
- When browsing at retailers, ask about looking or testing products outside the store, not just inside. This may require collateral of some sort (eg. identification, minimal deposit, etc.) at the register to ensure the retailer you will return it.
- Supervised target ranges, firearm, and optics retailers may also provide ‘test me’ products that you can handle in person and fire with under supervision.
- You can host a target range session with friends to bring scopes you want to test out in exchange for lunch. You can’t go wrong with the promise of free food.
Take it from Rick, he provides sound advice about finding a scope that’s right for you.
“I have had the best results with the Vortex arrangement. I have more expensive scopes, i.e., Swarovski, Leupold that do not improve my hits and otherwise do not seem worth the extra dollars. Buy a scope that works for you and your eyesight – not simply brand names. If you cannot ‘test look’ at comparative scopes, go find a place that allows and encourages this.”Rick
Adapt, Accept & Acquire
While visual impairments are legitimate concerns, you may need to look at specific scope features to help you improve clarity and comfort as much as the scope is able to provide.
Don’t be afraid to adapt. If it means the scope that worked for you 10 years ago no longer works for you now, it might be time to take a fresh look at what’s available.
You may need to accept that an appointment with the right type of medical professional is in order.
Finally, acquire the budget, acquire the scope, and acquire the target. Get to shooting with clarity you haven’t yet experienced with your old eyes!