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How Do I Choose the Best Air Rifle Scope?

Keith Koons
Keith Koons

Choosing the best air rifle scope is usually a matter of knowing how you intend to use the device, understanding the specifics of your rifle’s mounting bracket and its capabilities, and thinking about the available accessory packages. There are usually many different options out there. While it’s true that some products are inherently better than others when it comes to things like overall quality and workmanship, in most cases the scope that’s best for you will be the one that serves the most of your specific needs while still meeting your basic price and quality expectations. The decision is almost always at least partially personal, and what’s best for you may not also be best for someone else.

Scope Basics

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Air rifle scopes typically work the same as any rifle scope, and their main job is to help the shooter focus on targets that are out of the range of clear natural sight. Air rifles are typically used by sportspeople for small game shooting, target practice, and pest control — shooting things like badgers, groundhogs, and snakes, for example. They aren’t usually the first choice of big game hunters, though of course there are exceptions. The weapons will certainly work without a scope, but people concerned about accuracy often prefer these devices to help get the most out of each shot. Scopes can make shots more precise, saving energy and helping prevent injury.

Knowing the specifics of your rifle and how you use it are two of the most important factors when shopping for a scope. You’ll want to understand how it will mount to the rifle body, which usually requires at least a basic knowledge of the weapon’s mounting capabilities. Thinking about how you want to use the tool can also help you make good choices when it comes to things like zoom and magnification.

Know Your Mounting Bracket

The first factor to consider in a quality scope is the way it mounts to the air rifle. Each scope is usually designed to fit a specific type of mounting bracket, and they are often not interchangeable from one model to another. An 11 mm dovetail is the most popular type of mount on air rifles, but there are also many other versions available, especially with less popular brand names and modified stocks. Availability with smaller air rifle companies may be limited to the scopes that they custom produce for their products, so it's a good idea to research the mounting options beforehand. Larger corporations normally carry a variety of air rifle scopes to fit their products, and there are also a number of third party manufacturers that offer them at competitive prices.

Think About Magnification

As a general rule, manufacturers do not create extremely powerful scopes for most air-compressed firearms. Since their range and velocity are normally limited, a magnification of 4x to 8x is usually the most powerful enhancement available. Other innovations, such as laser sightings and automatic range finders, are available on a handful of models.

The vast majority of air rifles on the market have limited capabilities in terms of range and firing power, so choosing a scope that offers 20x magnifications will often be a waste of money. If you’re like most enthusiasts, you’ll find that something in the 4x to 8x range is more than sufficient; this provides plenty of accuracy at medium range with very few adjustments necessary. Of course, some of the higher end pellet rifles are accurate from much farther away, so you may want a higher magnification for this type of weapon.

Learn About Available Accessories

There are also several other accessories that you may want to consider when thinking about a scope. Many hunters enjoy using a laser-guided sight instead since it allows for faster shooting, but at the same time it also requires precise adjustments in order to make the shot. Automated range finders may also be available on some of the more expensive models. Range finders make calculations automatically. Other innovations are lenses that are fog proof or ones that naturally block out the glare from the sun and other bright objects.

Discussion Comments


@Soulfox -- The range on a pump air rifle might be longer, but you are talking about tiny projectiles that get blown around easily by mild breezes. That being the case, a scope wold be of only limited use. You are talking about either a tiny BB or, typically, a very small pellet that makes a .22 caliber bullet look huge by comparison. When you are using air instead of gunpowder to propel things, you can't deal with a bunch of weight.

The only real exception to that might be when it comes to days that are not windy and competitions that take place indoors where there is no wind. Under those conditions, a scope might be your best friend.


@Vincenzo -- For a typical BB gun, you may be right. But what about a pellet gun that throws projectiles a long way because of the high pressure those things use. Most BB guns are low pressure affairs, but that is not the case with those pump pellet guns and BB guns.

For those, a scope might be a good thing to have because the projectiles shoot a long way. Heck, in competitions a scope should probably be considered a must.


Frankly, this entire topic confuses me. I am not quite sure why you would need a scope on an air rifle and how much good one could actually do you.

Here is what I mean. Grab a BB gun, pull that trigger and watch the path of the BB. You will notice two things. First of all, that path has a heck of an arc to it and, second, that BB won't travel very far.

In other words, it is hard to be accurate with a scope on a BB gun because the radical arc the BB takes means you will never be too accurate at longer ranges. BB guns don't shoot very far, and that means you should be able to do just fine with the fixed sites on a gun.

In other words, I have always considered a scope for a BB gun to be a waste of money. What am I missing here?

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