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Varmint hunting is more than just an adrenaline-pumping sport, hobby, and means to earn a living.
It's a way to manage pest populations from getting out of hand, reduce predacity on your livestock, and prevent the risks associated with disease transmission. Sounds a little more serious now, right?
So, what's the best scope to mount on your scout, AR, or .22 rifle when you want to make an example of the jack rabbits plaguing your garden or the coyotes stalking your chickens?
Every stalker's hunting conditions are different, so you'll have to answer that question for yourself. But, we'll give you a hand in which direction to aim when you're ready to scope-up and eliminate your prey!
Top Varmint & Coyote Scopes
|NightForce NXS||CHECK PRICE|
|Vortex Crossfire II Hog Hunter||CHECK PRICE|
|Leupold VX-3i||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN X-Sight II||CHECK PRICE|
|Burris Scout||CHECK PRICE|
|Tasco Target/Varmint||CHECK PRICE|
|Barska AO Varmint||CHECK PRICE|
It would be ideal if those pesky pests prowled your property in broad daylight and slept at night like human beings do. Unfortunately, that's hardly ever the case. Predators like hogs, coyotes, and wolves will require some stealth and the right equipment come dusk. Rodents like squirrels and prairie dogs make for a fun take-down during the day, and you may even have to be several hundred yards away to get that shot.
Because hunting conditions are going to vary widely, you best know what rifle you want to mount your varmint scope to and consider the range of your actual hunting grounds. This means that there's not going to be the "one" scope that will get the job done, they're all going to be different. The scope you will need will depend on what, where, and when you're hunting.
- Are you wild boar hunting at night? Playing whack-a-mole with groundhogs? Out-foxing the kitten-snatching fox?
- Are you in the open plains of Wyoming or are sub-100 yard shots the average distance out where you live?
- Will you be better off with a night vision rifle scope for nighttime hunting?
- Is your rifle a quiet .22 LR for near-shots, or is it a .223 Remington or .220 Swift for long-distance prowess?
If you're looking for the one-size-fits-all suggestion here, you're going to be terribly disappointed. But, if you need an idea on what scopes could fit the bill because you already know the essential tidbits of your hunt and prey, you're in the right place!
We'll dish up some of the most well-known and approved varmint scopes that should give you a head start in the buying hunt.
Our Picks for the Best Rifle Scope for Varmint Hunting
1. NightForce NXS 5.5-22X56
Yeah, we went all out with this one. The NXS is good for everything, and it looks like a bad-ass that will get the job done - because it can! It has the best of everything you'd need to take down prairie dogs at 1000 yards and beyond. Crank up your power and expect to see image quality stay true.
The SFP, glass-etched, illuminated reticle with 2 MOA tall and 2 MOA wide crosshairs means extreme precision on small targets for those really long distances. The 30mm tube, Hi-Speed Turret System, and 1250G-resistance all speaks to its expertise in the field.
If there's a scope you want on your varmint rifle or really any rifle you're serious about hunting with, it's going to be this NightForce. With the NXS on your side, vermin won't stand a chance!
2. Vortex Crossfire II 3-12X56 AO Hog Hunter
If you're in the South, you might already own one of these bad boys, and you can probably attest that it's true to its name. The Crossfire II is an ideal scope for the avid hog hunter. When nighttime looms without the right gear and equipment, feral hog hunting shouldn't be attempted. Instead, head out with the right stuff to be better prepared for success. What's the right stuff? We're glad you asked.
It would look like an illuminated center-dot reticle with V-Brite, robust and durable 30mm tube, and provisions for image focus and parallax correction - the AO. The right stuff should also include a weight that can handle heavy recoil for some serious loads barreling out towards the pig.
A lot of the right stuff sounds just like a great Vortex scope. Ha! Whaddaya know? The Vortex has it all.
3. Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10X40 Rifle Scope
There's something about the VX-3i line that attracts varmint hunters. It might be its incredible price, extremely impressive low-light clarity, or the fact that it can sit on any lightweight scouting rifle to a decent predator rifle without any change in repeatability and performance.
The VX-3i scope will do all it can to help you maintain focus. The fast-focus eyepiece has a locking feature to ensure your clarity is never compromised. The tactile turrets are ergonomically placed and easy to use.
Foxes, bobcats, 'coons and the like won't be able to get past you with the kinda glass Leupold is known for. When it's made in the USA, and it's a Leupold, you can't go wrong!
4. ATN X-Sight II 5-20X Riflescope
It's never untraditional to suggest a scope that sports the latest advancements in rifle scope technology. This digital night vision rifle scope is one of a kind. Varmint hunting long ranges means you ought to have a laser rangefinder on you. Don't have one? Don't want to carry one? Left it in the truck? No worries. The X-Sight has a built-in rangefinder with a ton of other nifty features too.
But, the best part about is that it can go from working heavy duty during the night for all those nighttime critters to spotting for you during broad daylight - it's digital, duh. That also means you can record your successful take-down of the prowling predator that was taking off with your range-free hens the night before.
The X-Sight is loaded, and we're not exaggerating. If all the digital features sound like cheating to you, move on. If it sounds like you're going to increase your chances on eliminating that crafty and cunning feline that crosses into your property when you're not looking, all the more power to you with the X-Sight!
5. Burris Scout 2-7X32
If you haven't heard of the Scout, shame on you! You need to get moving more as scout rifles are made to see action, and you won't get any action if you're not on the prowl. The Burris scope is incredibly lightweight which is perfect for lighter rifles like an AR as it won't weigh it down or seem top-heavy.
It's designed to sit forward on your rifle, so you have all that generous eye relief, the ability to keep two eyes open for increased situational awareness, and full clearance for mounting in front of the ejection port.
It might be a little scope, but in no way is it little in performance and quality. Index-matched, Hi-Lume coatings, one-piece tube, double internal spring-tension system, and full weatherproof-ability makes this Burris optic a winner in the field. Since it's designed to be extremely compatible with scout setups, no vermin will escape your sights. We almost feel sorry for the little guys - not!
6. Tasco Target & Varmint 2.5-10X42
Plinking is even more fun when you can stretch the distance. Varmint hunting is effective when you're productive. To get a set of eyes on targets at intermediate to long-range distances requires a scope to get the job done. Does it mean you have to spend a fortune? Must you have the absolute best of the best in the market? "No" to both questions. Tasco is the solution, and more specifically, the Target & Varmint rifle scope is the answer.
- Mil-dot reticle
- Mid to long-range power
- Adjustable Objective
- Quality control issues
Tasco claims that few experts can actually see and tell the difference between a Tasco scope and one that costs 5x as much - meh. We disagree on this point, but we do agree that this Tasco optic is a good buy indeed.
Interestingly, the scope features an AO (adjustable objective) for focusing at 10 yards to infinity and for eliminating parallax issues. With that in mind, go nuts testing out your effective mid to long-range distances while plinking or nailing ground hogs. With variable magnification up to 10x and with a full-size 42 mm aperture, you can't beat this scope for under $100.
As long as you're using a rifle with low recoil, you shouldn’t have loose reticle problems that seems to be a quality control issue. However, Tasco has slapped a limited lifetime warranty on this budget scope which may be well worth it if you run into issues.
As a side note, this scope isn't air gun rated. While some buyers have it mounted to their air guns, it may not work as a long term optic. This could explain some reticle issues that some buyers have had - classic case of user error in using the scope in a way it's not fashioned for.
As a budget optic to help get eyes on pests on your low recoil rifle, the Tasco is plenty scope enough to get the job done.
7. Barska 4-16X50 AO Varmint
The Barska 4-16X50 AO Varmint rifle scope has earned a mention. For a scope under $100, it's a great buy to get a taste of what high power, illuminated reticles, and parallax correction features can do for your varmint hunting.
It's in in no way fair to compare this scope to other brands and quality that we've mentioned in our lineup. But, if you're on an extremely tight budget, and you want to plink off some pests around the farm and property line, the Barska rifle scope might just make you proud!
What to Look For in a Varmint Rifle Scope
The oft repeated features are going to be reiterated over and over again whenever we recommend a rifle scope for any purpose. Buying the best of what you can afford will never get old here. Buying the best glass you can afford plus some is a mantra we live by.
To help clarify what your needs could be, let's start with magnification. Go higher for long ranging distances, and stay with low power scopes for close-mid ranges. The higher the power, expect to spend more for ultimate clarity.
Illuminated reticles are essential to varmint hunting since critters come out of the woodworks when the sun calls it a day. Variable reticle brightness may also make all the difference when it can potentially wash out your target and sight picture.
BDC reticles are nice to have and can be vital for extreme long-range shots. However, a complicated reticle at night can easily complicate things. Know your gun and your what your rounds will do at given distances, and then a simple duplex reticle should be all you need.
Lastly, your rifle matters a lot. High-velocity and flat shooting caliber guns get it done! But, whether you're a .22-250 or .223 loyalist, we're not going to join in on the age-long debate right here.
- Quality glass - The best glass is always the best buy. You'll see a lot more and a lot further versus trumped-up scopes with poor glass.
- Quality coatings - Same rules apply when shopping for quality glass. The coatings should match the quality glass and cost of the scope.
- Magnification - 1-9x is plenty enough power for close-mid range shots. Higher power scopes are for long shots - you won't need it in the woods, but you will need it for wide, open plains over several hundred yards.
- Repeatability - Scope has to hold zero. Check on track record or be brand-specific.
- Reticles - Opt for an extremely accurate BDC reticle for extreme long-range shooting. Basic crosshairs should get the job done for most hunting if you intimately know your rifle and loads.
- Illuminated reticles - Enables fast target acquisition and better low-light potential.
- Low light quality - Varmint hunting at night can't be done if you have a low-grade scope. For nocturnal creatures or varmints that are most active at night, a night vision rifle scope or high-quality low-light scope will go miles in how long you can stay out.
- Cost - Hunting closer to dusk? Spend more. Daylight hunting rodents sub-400 yards? You can compromise on price if budget limits you. Otherwise, spending more money on a quality scope will never be a regretful purchase.
- Warranty - Optics will fail at some point in time. Whether it fails after a few hundred rounds or after decades of service is what matters. Invest in your scope, and ensure you buy from a company that can offer a warranty that matches the quality of the scope. Warranty not good enough? Be brand-specific.
Deer and elk hunters get to mount their trophy racks to their walls. Do varmint hunters feel swindled out of their physical show of success? Not at all! While a feathered mess of a crow might not be wall-worthy, a handsome pelt makes for a conversation starter, gift, or a comfy pair of slippers.
Vermin can spread disease, cause harm to livestock, and devastate crops. The potential dangers are enough of a reason to assuage the threat - a call which many hunters are more than willing to answer. We wish you happy hunting after you've checked in with local, state, and federal regulations. Good luck!