Last Updated on February 12, 2021
Let’s be honest, when you hit the range and want to impress all your buddies, you whip out your .177 air rifle and show them who’s boss. Ok, so maybe not, but air rifles are finding a strong niche for themselves as being able to do virtually everything a .22lr can do but at a much more affordable price point.
To maximize the capabilities of an air rifle, you may want to mount a scope to it. This can take the effective range of a typical air rifle up to 150 yards. Sure, you can get a .45 caliber air gun that is still lethal at 600 yards, but most of us won’t be working with that large of an air rifle. We’ve put together a list of the best air rifle scopes out there so you can make the best decision for yourself.
|Best Overall||CVLIFE 4×32 Compact Rifle Scope||
|Best Value||Crosman 0410 Targetfinder Rifle Scope||
|Premium Choice||UTG 4-16X44 30mm Scope||
|TRUGLO Air Rifle Scope||
|Pinty Illuminated Optical Rifle Scope||
Our #1 choice for the best air rifle scope overall is the CVLIFE 4×32 mm Compact Rifle Scope. It offers you a fixed 4x magnification, which is perfect for the distances that you’ll usually be shooting with an air rifle, and a mil-dot reticle which gives you the ability to compensate your shots at longer distances on the fly.
The scope is compact at 7.48 inches long, is waterproof, shockproof, and fogproof, and offers you .25 MOA adjustment clicks for elevation, which is more precise than most scopes in this price and magnification range. You get generous eye relief (3.3-4.13 inches), and it comes with lens covers and mounts for a 20 mm weaver rail.
While this scope should be able to mount on most air rifles, you may need to purchase dovetail mounts depending on what brand and model of air rifle you have. There are some reports that the scope doesn’t hold zero very well, but the vast majority of reviewers have had no problems with it.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a scope that’s just going to go on an air rifle for casual use, you may be more interested in the best air rifle scopes for the money instead of the best overall. Our pick for the best value is the Crosman 4×15 mm Targetfinder. This provides the same 4x magnification as many of the other choices on this list, but for a fraction of the price.
It works great for most shooting situations and even allows you to zero in properly and adjust for windage and elevation. That said, there are reasons why this scope is so much more affordable than the others on this list. The 15 mm objective lens limits light transmission so that the image in your scope is noticeably darker than what you see with your naked eye. It’s not an incredibly durable scope but should hold up just fine to the recoil of most air guns.
This is also not recommended for Spring Air Rifles, which makes it only a good solution for some air rifles and not others.
This could be #1 if it were not so much more expensive than the other options. You get a lot of value, but a lot of the things that make this scope fantastic aren’t going to be as important on an air rifle. The UTG has a variable magnification range from 4x all the way to 16x magnification. With specialty, large-caliber air rifles, going all the way up to 16x may be nice, but most air rifles simply don’t have a far enough effective range for anything above around 9x to be particularly useful.
You also get a 44mm objective lens diameter, which provides fantastic light transmission and will even allow you to shoot earlier in the morning and later in the day. The UTG has an illuminated reticle that offers standard red and green colors, but also 34 other colors to choose from to match preference and shooting conditions.
This is easily the most sophisticated scope on this list, but for an air rifle, you’re paying a high price, and getting a scope that is over 17 inches long and weighs 15.2 ounces. The UTG is engineered to hold zero on rifles with significantly more recoil than an air rifle.
The TRUGLO has coated lenses for maximum brightness and image clarity and comes with ⅜-inch mounting rings that should work well with most air rifles. This scope was designed from the ground up for air rifles and rimfire rifles. It has a 4x fixed magnification, is 10.5 inches long, and weighs 11.36 ounces.
It also has a fairly standard duplex reticle which can be used with no illumination or with red or green illumination depending on your shooting scenario. With 4 inches of eye relief it should be comfortable to shoot. The TRUGLO also has a 32 mm objective lens, which gives it almost comparable light transmission to our #1 choice but is also a bit more expensive.
At first glance, the reviews aren’t quite as good as some other scopes, but many of the negative reviews are actually in regards to the scope being confusingly advertised as a shotgun scope. TRUGLO has a sister model designed for shotguns, and they are often advertised together, making it tricky to know whether you’re ordering the correct one.
The Pinty gives you a 3-9x magnification range, which means you can have as little as 3x magnification or as much as 9x. This can be a great feature to have if you want to push your air rifle to its limits and shoot at 100-150 yards while still getting a decent group.
The 3x minimum makes short-range shots easier than a 4x magnification, but the difference is not enormous and generally once you’re within about 15 feet you’d want to switch to iron sights anyway, but if you’re looking for the maximum in versatility, a 3-9x range will give you more options than a fixed 4x magnification. The downside to having a variable optic is that it introduces moving pieces and thus decreases durability.
The objective lens on the Pinty is 40 mm, which gives it a marginal advantage in light transmission over a 32 mm scope, but lens coatings and design can make a big difference here. It comes with an illuminated reticle and five brightness settings.
While the Pinty is a great scope, it doesn’t earn the top spots because of its higher price, and the inclusion of features that won’t significantly improve the shooting experience with an air rifle.
The Barska Mil-Dot scope comes in three different flavors depending on whether you want a fixed magnification of 4x or a zoom range from 2-7x or 3-12x. All variations come with a 40mm objective lens diameter. It’s bigger and more expensive than our top choices, but still a great option to consider if you’re familiar with the Barska brand and want some options.
These scopes come with an adjustable objective lens that allows you to adjust for parallax issues at different distances. Eye relief is 3.3 inches and all variations are waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof. Since these scopes are specifically designed for air rifles, they’re engineered to withstand the reverse recoil as well as standard recoil.
The reason these Barska’s aren’t higher up on the list is that they are relatively pricey, especially for the 3-12x version, and they are a little bigger and heavier than other options that are more appropriate overall for air rifles.
The Swiss Arms is another option for a fixed 4x magnification scope with a 32 mm objective lens diameter. While it does the job fine, it doesn’t quite stand up to our top choices. That said, it’s priced competitively and has relatively bright and clear optics for the price range.
It has a rubber finish body, which you may consider a good or a bad thing depending on your preference, but generally, an aluminum or steel construction is going to prevent the glass elements from shifting better than rubber. It weighs 15.52 ounces, which makes it just as heavy as the UTG and heavier than most of the other scopes on this list.
This will mount right onto a Picatinny or Weaver rail, and the included mount should work well with most air rifles, but you may need to buy separate mounts to accommodate your specific model.
The Hawke Vantage would be higher on the list if it wasn’t so much more expensive than many other scopes. Still, for the money, you get a 3-9x variable magnification and a 40 mm objective lens. It also comes with .25 MOA adjustment clicks for windage and elevation and a side focus knob to adjust for parallax, making it one of only a few on this list with a way to address parallax.
The Vantage does not come with any mounting rings, so you will have to purchase those separately based on what rifle you’re mounting it to, and you’ll want to make sure you purchase the scope that has the correct reticle for what you’ll be shooting with it. If you want to use it on a few different rifles, you can pick up the version with the mil-dot reticle.
The crosshairs are thin and can be difficult to see, and the mil-dots are also quite small. If you don’t have perfect vision you may find this scope difficult to use. It’s rated to withstand recoil from spring air rifles, but this rifle is over-engineered for most air rifles, and the price reflects that.
The only time we would directly recommend the Gamo LC 4×32 is if you already own a Gamo air rifle. The basic specifications are similar to others on this list: fixed 4x magnification, 32 mm objective lens diameter, and it’s a bit heavy at 16 ounces.
The design of this scope makes it unreliable when using a spring air rifle or anything that has noticeable recoil, and the crosshairs do not stay in focus when you are looking downrange at your target.
That said, the compatibility with Gamo air rifles is straightforward and reliable. It will mount up just fine and reviews are generally positive. The reticle is on the second focal plane, which is fairly standard at this magnification, and the lenses are fully coated, which gives the scope decent light transmission.
If you’re just looking at the basic specs of the scope, it’s a pretty good proposition. 4-12x is a wide range and gives you the ability to do long-distance shooting, and a 40mm objective lens lets in plenty of light to get a bright and clear picture in good conditions.
There are a few reasons why the Hammers is at the bottom of our list. While most of the scopes that come out of the factory seem to work well and as intended, there are enough reviewers reporting the same problems that it can be a cause for concern. The scope often will not hold zero even on very light recoil rifles, the adjustment turrets stiffen and won’t actually adjust, and the scope can fall apart after only a few shots on a spring air rifle, which it is advertised as being durable enough for.
The price is very competitive for such a wide magnification range, and if you really want that range, this can be a good option if you’re comfortable rolling the dice.
The trick when buying an air rifle scope is that air rifles have a few key differences and are used in different situations from standard rifles.
Yes and no. There is a lot of cross-compatibility between regular rifle scopes and air rifle scopes, but depending on the type of air rifle you’re using, you may need to find a scope that was specially designed for that purpose.
A spring air rifle can have severe recoil, and where “normal” rifles have backward recoil (the kick goes the opposite direction of the bullet), a spring air rifle has an initial backward recoil, then forward recoil as the piston resets for another shot. This is called “reverse recoil” and can wreak havoc on a scope that isn’t designed to handle it.
How is the rifle going to be used? If it’s just for backyard plinking you won’t need the same magnification as you would if you’re trying to hunt at 50 yards or longer.
Reticle design is an often-overlooked part of this conversation, but having the right reticle design can make all the difference for how well the scope works for you. Consider something as simple as wanting to shoot in the backyard when you get home from work; you’ll be shooting in lower-light conditions, and even if you set up lights, a black etched reticle won’t show up very well and you’ll need an illuminated reticle to have a good experience.
If you’ll only be shooting in daylight conditions, then why pay the extra money for a scope with an illuminated reticle?
Most scopes in this category will have similar specifications. They’ll be in basically the same magnification range, be roughly the same size and weight, and have similar compatibility in regards to mounting.
What makes a good scope is being rated to withstand the recoil of the rifle you’re putting it on, and how long and how consistently it holds zero and lives up to its advertised specifications. Scopes are delicate instruments and have to be constructed in a very specific and durable way in order to stand the test of time. A scope that works fantastic for only the first 100 rounds becomes completely useless after that point.
Decide what you need first, and then look for scopes that fit those criteria. Do not disregard the reviews, and thoroughly research the scopes you are interested in to see not only whether it will work with your rifle, but how to mount it and what other pieces you need to purchase to get it to mount properly. Proper mounting can greatly extend the life of your scope, so it’s important that you know your game plan before you purchase one.
Power source only comes into play when you have an illuminated reticle, and most scopes will use a watch-style battery that is commonly available.
There can be a significant difference in size between scopes for air rifles. The shortest scope on our list is only 7 inches long, while the longest is over 15 inches. Weight can also vary up to 0.5-pound, with the heaviest well over a pound and the lightest well under a pound. Considering how light air rifles can be, the size and weight of the scope can make the rifle unbalanced.
Air guns are dangerous. Even a .177 air rifle can kill small pests like squirrels and birds and .22 caliber air rifles can seriously injure or even kill a person. All of the safety rules surrounding firearms should be observed just as diligently with air rifles.
Air rifles of today aren’t just limited to the pump-action BB guns of the past; they are a firm middle ground between those old pump-actions and a rifle that shoots .22lr, and have enough stopping power to be useful against small and even large pests, and are much quieter than regular rifles.
After all of our reviews, our pick for Best Overall is the CVLife 4x32mm. Its compact size, fantastic clarity and brightness, and consistent quality control make it a perfect fit for air rifles. Our pick for best for the money is the Crosman 0410 Targetfinder. With the same magnification and a small footprint, it’s a great fit for the distance that most air rifles are effective at.
We hope these reviews have been helpful for you as you decide which of the many air rifle scope options is the right choice for your needs.
Featured image credit: MikeWildadventure, Pixabay
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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