Last Updated on March 1, 2021
Whether you’re out on a hunt or playing war games, there’s nothing that can set you apart quite like a spotting scope. But with so many choices out there, it can be hard to find the right one the first time, and it’s not like they’re cheap enough for you to keep buying different ones to try them all.
That’s why we took the time to build some of the most comprehensive spotting scope reviews out there. Not only will we break down the top choices across an array of categories, but then we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to find the perfect spotting scope for you!
|Best Overall||Bushnell 781545ED Legend T-Series Spotting Scope||
|Best Value||Barska AD11430 Compact Targeting Spotting Scope||
|Premium Choice||Leupold Mark 4 12-40x60mm Spotting Scope||
|Nikon 16383 X1000 Reticle Spotting Scopes||
|Burris Signature HD Spotting Scope||
The reason this Bushnell earns our top spot is simple – it’s the perfect blend of affordability and performance. Unlike the top spotting scopes that can cost over $1,500, this scope is only a fraction of that cost still gives you top-notch performance.
It has a maximum magnification of 45x, and the minimum magnification is 15x. Paired with the top-mounted Picatinny rails that allow you to mount various accessories, this is a great spotting scope for long-range and shorter-range applications.
One of the best features of any Bushnell product is the no questions asked lifetime warranty. It doesn’t matter what happens; this will be the last spotting scope you ever need to buy.
If you’re out looking for the best spotting scopes with a reticle for the money, this Barska spotting scope is a great deal. It’s a fraction of the price of most other spotting scopes, but it still does a great job.
The maximum magnification is a little weak at 33x, but if you’re looking for closer targets, the minimum magnification of 11x is excellent. It has an angled eyepiece and even comes with a mini tabletop tripod to make it a little easier to use.
It’s everything you need to have a small but powerful spotting scope the next time you head out. Even better, it’s still waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof despite its cheaper price tag. Just because you’re not spending a lot of money now doesn’t mean that you’ll end up paying more later to replace it.
Barska built this spotting scope to last.
If money is no object, the Leupold Mark 4 is the best spotting scope out there. For starters, it’s entirely American made and designed and comes with a lifetime warranty that you can trust. But it goes beyond that; there’s virtually no edge distortion or color fringing, giving you a crystal-clear image from edge to edge.
Moreover, the ion-assisted lens coating and the twilight max light management system give you the best possible lighting, even in low-light conditions. The maximum magnification is 60x – which is a bit overkill for many applications.
But if you’re into trophy hunting or some other sport that you need crystal clear images from that distance, it’s a great choice. There are only two drawbacks to this excellent scope – first, it’s insanely expensive, but if you have the money, it’s worth it.
Second, it doesn’t have an angled eyepiece, making it a little more difficult to use depending on your position.
The Nikon 16383 X1000 spotting scope is a bit different from the other options that we looked at here. That’s because, unlike its competition, it’s not a standalone spotting scope. Instead, it’s a spotting scope that you can mount directly to your rifle.
While this limits its overall applications, it makes it the perfect choice if you’re using your spotting scope for hunting. The reticle on the spotting scope has ten different brightness settings for you to choose from, which allows you to adapt your scope to your conditions.
The biggest drawback to this spotting scope outside of its limited versatility is the fact that it has a maximum 16x magnification. That’s not a terrible amount, but compared to some of the other spotting scopes with a 60x magnification, it’s just not up to par.
The Burris Signature HD spotting scope is another premium scope that comes with a premium price tag. It’s in the same category as the Leupold Mark 4, and it performs similarly, too. The Burris Signature HD has a maximum magnification of 60x.
Burris advertises this scope by telling you that you can find your target a mountain away, which is a great feature – if you need it. Just keep in mind that if you’re hunting in the woods or other areas with limited visibility due to trees or other foliage, you won’t be able to make use out of the maximum magnification.
The Burris Signature HD comes with a lifetime warranty, an angled eyepiece, and an eyecup with adjustments to fit those with eyeglasses. Finally, Burris makes several adapters that you can attach to this scope to improve its usability for various applications.
It’s a great scope all around, but it didn’t edge out Leupold as our premium choice due to the fact that it doesn’t have as many options to improve visibility in low-light conditions.
While all of the options are above are reliable choices, each choice isn’t right for everyone. Just because you can spend more doesn’t mean you should, especially if a lower-end choice will do everything you need and more.
But what do you need, and what should you look for in a spotting scope? We’ll break it all down for you here.
When you’re trying to find the right spotting scope, you need to consider tons of factors. If you don’t know what to look for, it can all be a little overwhelming.
Even worse, you might get caught up in numbers that don’t matter and think that you’re getting top-notch scope while you’re really getting a dud.
Before you can narrow down what to look for – you need to break down what you’re using it for. If you’re using it solely for rifle hunting, the Nikon 16383 X1000 rifle mounted spotting scope is an outstanding choice.
But if you want a little more versatility, any of the other scopes are a better choice. Decide what you’re using your scope for because that will significantly influence everything else you need to look for.
Your spotting scope’s overall magnification isn’t always on the front page of the product attributes, but it should be. There’s a big difference between a scope that has 60x magnification and one that has 33x.
But it’s one of those rare instances that more isn’t always better. For starters, if you’re not trying to find objects extremely far away, it’s not useful to have a magnification amount that high. And just as important as the maximum magnification is the minimum magnification.
If you’re looking to magnify objects that aren’t as far away, you can have a scope that has too much magnification and doesn’t have a lower setting. That can be just as problematic as a scope that doesn’t have enough.
Finally, keep in mind that magnification isn’t letting you see farther. It’s making the objects you’re looking at appear bigger. So, if your magnification is 60x, the object will appear 60 times larger than if you’re looking at it without a scope.
If you’re going with a lower-quality spotter scope, you have to worry about edge distortion and color clarity. While both the Leupold and Burris scopes have virtually no distortion or color fringing, every other scope we looked at here has a little.
But that’s why the Bushnell scope earned our top marks. While it’s some distortion, it’s minimal, which is why it’s the perfect blend of performance and affordability. But if you’re truly in a situation where it has to be perfect, you should upgrade to one of the premium options.
When you’re using it and what you’re using it for are two different questions – even if it doesn’t seem that way at first. You need to ask yourself if you’re using this during the day, at night, or at dawn/dusk.
Why this matters is because of the amount of light that’s available. Spotting scopes like the Leupold Mark 4 make maximum use of limited light, allowing you to get a clear view even in low-light conditions. However, scopes like the Barska simply don’t do this as well.
Consider how much natural lighting will be available before narrowing down your choice.
If you wear glasses, you’re well aware of the difficulty that using scopes can bring. But with a scope like the Burris Signature HD, you get a scope that has an adjustment for those that wear glasses.
Yes, the scope is more expensive, but the amount of frustration this will save you makes it more than worth it.
Having the ability to attach accessories to your spotting scope is a big deal. It’s another reason that the Bushnell spotting scope earned our top choice. The ability to add attachments allows you to optimize your spotting scope for a broader range of applications.
Even if you don’t want the attachments right away, having the option to add them later on is a significant perk.
Every spotting scope that we included on our list has these features, even our budget pick. That’s because the last thing you want to be worried about is ruining your scope if you get caught out in the rain.
These features equal durability and usability, and that’s not something you want to compromise on, or you’ll be spending more money down the road to replace your scope.
When a company offers a lifetime warranty on their product, you get two things. First, you get the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you don’t have to worry about spending more money if anything goes wrong.
Second, you get a product that the manufacturer trusts. They believe that all of their products are going to last. Otherwise, they’d be losing a ton of money on their warranties. All of our recommended products except the Barska spotting scope comes with a lifetime warranty.
With any of these high-quality spotting scopes, you won’t have to worry about not finding your target the next time you’re out in the wild. We understand the frustration of having equipment that doesn’t work because we’ve been there.
That’s why we came up with this comprehensive guide to walk you through all the complexities and narrow down your choices to the best of the best. The Bushnell earns our top spot is simple – it has the perfect blend of affordability and performance. Our pick for best spotting scope with reticles is the Barska—available at fraction of the price of most other spotting scopes, but still delivers high quality viewing.
With any of these top-notch choices, you can focus less on your equipment and more on the target the next time you’re out. Skip the frustration and get it right the first time.
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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