Optics Mag is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Read more.

10 Best Varmint Scopes for 223 in 2022 – Reviews & Top Picks

Last Updated on

Scope Hunting RifleYou know, people always say it’s good to learn lessons the hard way, but we don’t believe that. We believe it’s better to be prepared for any eventuality. Let’s talk about hunting, for example. Why would you think it’s okay to hunt varmint in the rain with a cheap rifle scope, knowing so very well that the moisture would ruin it? Was it really worth it? Because we don’t think so!

And just so we’re clear, we’re not saying that hunting in the rain is bad. The mistake was hunting in the rain with a scope that’s not equipped to handle harsh weather conditions. Invest in one of these top varmint rifle scopes for 223, if hunting in the rain is the only way you get to enjoy the experience:


A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Vortex Optics Diamondback Riflescopes Vortex Optics Diamondback Riflescopes
  • Aluminum material
  • Better light transmission
  • Decent magnification power
  • Best Value
    Second place
    CVLIFE 3-9x40 Optics R4 Reticle Crosshair Scope CVLIFE 3-9x40 Optics R4 Reticle Crosshair Scope
  • Incredible zooming power
  • Creates clear images
  • Affordable
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Nikon P-Tactical .223 3-9x40 Riflescope Nikon P-Tactical .223 3-9x40 Riflescope
  • Has BDC technology
  • Is water proof
  • Long eye relief
  • Tasco Target/Varmit 6-24x42mmx 40mm Riflescope Tasco Target/Varmit 6-24x42mmx 40mm Riflescope
  • Budget friendly
  • Incredible field of view
  • Lightweight
  • Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Adjustable Objective Riflescope Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Adjustable Objective Riflescope
  • Has multi-coating lens
  • Decent eye relief
  • Shock resistant
  • The 10 Best Varmint Scopes for 223 – Reviews 2022

    1. Vortex Optics Diamondback Riflescopes

    Vortex Optics Diamondback Riflescopes

    The Vortex Optics Diamondback Riflescope falls in the crème de la crème category. And here’s why:

    To begin, it’s made from air-craft grade aluminum, which means you’ll be working with an optic that’s primed to deliver in any type of environment. Aluminum is lightweight, ridiculously strong, and extremely resistant to corrosion.

    What about the glass? Well, it’s multicoated. It has an anti-reflective coating, a hard coating, UV coating, hydrophobic coating, and more importantly, a photo chromic coating. In other words, other than improving the transmission of light through its system, it also prevents heavy scratches from occurring, eliminates stray light, protects your eyes from UV radiation, and… reduces reflection from lenses.

    The Vortex Optics Diamondback scope has been designed to be a firm and stable single-piece tube. So, if by any chance you were wondering where it got its rugged reliability, credit goes to this tube and its hard anodized finish. This feature ensures you enjoy your hunting experience by providing camouflage, and reducing shock.

    This particular rifle scope is a second focal plane scope. Simply put, it doesn’t keep a proportional size between the view and its reticle. And seeing as it comes with quick focusing features, your images will always be crystal clear, detailed, and bright. Even in low light situations.

    It’s not a fixed scope, just so you know. The magnification range is 4-12x, making it possible to work with a low magnification of 4x or a high magnification of 12x. It also has an objective lens of 40mm, a size that some consider the standard size in the industry. If you pick anything bigger than that, you’ll only be offsetting the ideal balance of the scope. Hence, making it too heavy or too uncomfortable for the user.

    Taking into account the fact that Vortex normally offers a lifetime VIP warranty, we would say this is honestly a great buy. The only issue that we have with it is the short eye relief. It’s obviously not such a big deal to other people but to some, it’s an inconvenience.

    Pros
    • Aluminum material
    • Reduces shock and provides camouflage
    • Protects eyes from UV radiation
    • Better light transmission
    • Decent magnification power
    • SFP reticle and single-piece tube
    Cons
    • Short eye relief


     

    2. CVLIFE 3-9×40 Optics R4 Reticle Crosshair Scope

    CVLIFE 3-9x40 Optics R4 Reticle Crosshair Scope

    They say the only thing that can give a rifle its précised marksmanship is a quality scope. Something like the CVLIFE 3-9×40 Optics R4 Reticle Crosshair Scope. An accessory that offers incredible zooming power and a level of image clarity that’s unmatched.

    The 3-9×40 numbers engraved on it are meant to tell you one thing—you’ll never feel like you’re struggling to focus on a target (be it big or small) at a long distance. The nine-power focus enlargement is more than enough, if you’re looking for an optic that will offer you a detailed and accurate image.

    It’s important to remember that the CVLIFE 3-9×40 Optics R4 Reticle Crosshair Scope is a tactical scope. And one of the key features found in almost every tactical scope is the fog proof, shock proof, and water-resistant potential. You’ll never feel any sort of limitation while using it during foggy winters or in the rain. It can withstand anything you throw at it.

    And that’s not the only area where its ability to adapt to different conditions is exuded. Its versatility can also be witnessed in its application with different rifle brands.

    A lot of the time, we hear rifle enthusiasts talk about how they’d love to work with quality scopes but they’re always turned off by their pricing. Well, today we present to you a scope that will deliver everything that a high-end scope can deliver, at an affordable rate.

    While drafting this list, we kept on going back and forth trying to figure out which scope should be at the top. We finally settled on the Vortex Optics Diamondback because the CVLIFE 3-9×40 Optics R4 Reticle Crosshair Scope comes with a limited warranty.

    Pros
    • Incredible zooming power
    • Creates clear images
    • Water resistant, shock and fog proof
    • Can be used on different rifle brands
    • Affordable
    Cons
    • Has a limited warranty

    3. Nikon P-Tactical .223 3-9×40 Riflescope

    Nikon P-Tactical .223 3-9x40 Riflescope

    This optic wasn’t designed for general use. In fact, it’s safe to assume the designers only had two things in mind: an AR-15 rifle and .223 rounds. And that’s one of the primary things that we love about it. You see, any product that’s designed to serve a specific purpose will always outperform its competition. A Nikon P-Tactical .223 3-9×40 Riflescope in the hands of a professional sports hunter is like a glove—It fits perfectly.

    What’s the range? Apparently, if you know what you’re doing, it could help you cover up to 600 yards. And that makes it ideal for both outdoor and indoor shooting. It’s BDC 600 reticle is certainly a key feature as well. BDC as an abbreviation, stands for Bullet Drop Compensation, and any scope that has been designed with this feature has a particular way of pointing out how far bullets drop over a predetermined distance. And that just goes to show how far the designers in the backroom were willing to go to make sure this accessory is well primed for the field.

    There’s more, as it also features ¼ MOA tactical hand turn turrets. We always like to remind buyers a good scope is one that not only allows for fine turning, but also makes it feel less of a hassle. The Nikon P-Tactical .223 3-9×40 Riflescope does just that. Every turret turn that you’ll make will move the zero by ¼ inch, and you won’t feel or even notice any kind of stiffness. In addition, because it’s not your typical turret, it won’t be that much affected by recoil.

    Very few scopes come with the zero-reset turret feature. Some brands will try to convince you that they’re not that important, but if you’ve done your due diligence, you’ll understand their significance. Thanks to this feature, you won’t have to go through the whole process of zeroing in adjustments whenever you find yourself in familiar conditions. All you’ll have to do is go back to the previously saved position.

    Also,the other thing that we rarely see with variable scope is the long eye relief feature. Because it’s 3.6 inches, you won’t have to risk scope eye.

    Are there any customer complaints? Just one. The few users that we’ve gotten the opportunity to talk to complained about how easy it was to scratch the lens. They fell in love with all the features including the antireflective coatings and its quality waterproof capabilities, but they also wanted a coating that was more scratch proof. Seeing as the lens is the heart of every optical system, that issue automatically took away most of the points that would have landed it on the top spot. Lastly, compared to the other two, it’s kind of costly. 

    Pros
    • Has BDC technology
    • Comes with anti-reflective coating
    • Is water proof
    • Designed with zero-reset feature
    • Long eye relief
    • Features ¼ MOA tactical hand turn turrets
    Cons
    • Not scratch proof

    4. Tasco Target/Varmit 6-24x42mmx 40mm Riflescope

    Tasco

    Ordinarily, we’d first talk about a scope’s features, before mentioning the pricing. But that’s kind of difficult with the Tasco Target/Varmit 6-24x42mmx 40mm Riflescope because the first thing that you’ll be told by anybody who’s used it before is how affordable it is. Apparently, it’s price tag appeals to almost everybody.

    Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at some of the features offered by this accessory.

    First on the list is the incredible Field of View. At 6x your FOV will be 13 inches. If you increase your magnification power to 24x, as expected, it will reduce to 3.7 inches. But that’s still larger than what you’d typically get if you were working with a different scope. Keeping your target image in focus will always be easy regardless of the magnification.

    The 42mm objective lens together with the super-con, multi-layered coating is another key feature. It’s been tasked with ensuring the eyes behind the scope only sees clear, detailed, and bright images.

    The scope only weighs 19.6 ounces. Just the right weight for someone who’ll be busy running up and down some hill, and not positioned at one place. Using a heavy or bulky riflescope can be uncomfortable, especially if you’re not cushioning it with a sandbag or something.

    Is it user-friendly? Very. Using the elevation adjustments is quite easy, and you’ll also be glad to hear that it’s been designed with an MOA windage of 1.4 inch.

    All in all, it’s a solid scope that can kick into the clutch when given the chance. Besides the key features, it also offers fine tuning accuracy, it’s easy to mount, and works well with rifles that have a little recoil.

    Unfortunately, the tendency of the clarity to blur over 100 yards, and the missing scope rings are the only weaknesses that you’ll have to find a way around.

    Pros
    • Budget friendly
    • Incredible field of view
    • Lens has multi-layered coating
    • Easy to use elevation adjustments
    • Lightweight
    • Easy to mount
    Cons
    • Doesn’t come with scope rings
    • Clarity blurs past 100 yards

    5. Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Adjustable Objective Riflescope

    Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Adjustable Objective Riflescope

    Like the top four scopes that we’ve reviewed today, the Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Adjustable Objective Riflescope also comes with a multi-coated lens. And by now you should understand how important this feature is seeing as it’s the one feature responsible for attractive and transparent images. Some say it’s 50mm objective lens is too large and heavy, but at least it funnels through enough light that guarantees bright and clear images.

    What else makes it the ideal scope for hunting? Its 6-18x magnification power range. Trust us when we say you wouldn’t want to work with a fixed scope because then you’ll feel limited in the field.

    We’ve always said this but we’ll reiterate it one more time: Versatility is key when it comes to rifle scopes. And that’s something that you’ll be guaranteed with a variable magnification scope like the Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Adjustable Objective Riflescope. It will keep recording high scores whether it’s being used in close range shooting, freehand shooting, or long-range shooting.

    What does the multi-X reticle feature bring to the table? First off, it’s sometimes referred to as a duplex reticle, and you’ll find it situated at the second focal plane. The multi-x reticle has a thicker width and the lines tend to narrow as they get closer to the scope’s center. The thickness is meant to help you see it, while the narrowness is meant to ensure you’re not obstructed when viewing the target.

    For your convenience, the Banner Dusk & Dawn Adjustable Objective scope will offer a decent 3.5-inch eye relief. It’s made of plastic—so you know it can withstand the test of time—and has an enhanced shock-resistance capability. 

    In order to make it resistant to fog and water, it had to be filled with dry nitrogen. And because of that addition, it’s always classified as a sturdy optical system.

    Everything seems great about this accessory, except one; you’ll definitely struggle a bit while adjusting the distance focus.

    Pros
    • Has multi-coating lens
    • Designed with multi-x reticle technology
    • Decent eye relief
    • Shock resistant
    • Fog and waterproof
    • Decent magnification power
    Cons
    • Adjusting the distance focus is a dicey affair
    • The objective lens size makes it heavier

    6. Primary Arms SLX 4-14x44mm FFP Rifle Scope

    Primary Arms SLX 4-14x44mm FFP Rifle Scope

    So the Primary Arms brand has released a number of good scope models over the years, but this one tops the list. The SLX 4-14x44mm FFP Rifle Scope model is a well-known model in the industry, and here’s why:

    The ACSS HUD DMR reticle located on the first focal plane is the key feature, or Unique Selling Point, as some would call it. It’s been designed to efficiently deliver the optimal performance if used with the .233 Rem loads and 5.56 NATO. So, it’s not just a support system useful for locating or measuring targets, but THE ultimate support system.

    In addition, incorporated into its clean, sleek design are the MIL-ranging system and a BDC technology. Features that are there to ensure that your accuracy is always on point.

    So as to get positive reviews, Primary Arms knew the product had to hold up to the real-world standards. And for that to be possible, they had to use aircraft-grade aluminum during construction. This ensured the scope could withstand any form of external pressure indoors and outdoors. 

    Durability is obviously the number one reason as to why aluminum was used, but we’re also thankful it made the SLX 4-14x44mm FFP Rifle scope a lightweight scope.

    Other honorable mentions include its fog, water, and shock resistance capabilities, and the fact that the MIL turrets does track efficiently. You’ll for sure love how audible the clicks are, especially if you’re the kind of user who prefers counting every click made while making adjustments. 

    Sadly, the turrets don’t lock. Of course, they can hold long enough to allow you to make the shot but, they’ll quickly reset back to zero. The lenses are also not scratch proof.

    Pros
    • Uses ACSS HUD DMR reticle technology
    • Durable
    • Lightweight
    • Offers water, fog, and shock resistance
    • Has audible clicks
    • Comes with BDC and MIL-ranging system
    Cons
    • Lenses are not scratch proof
    • Turrets don’t lock

    7. Athlon Optics Talos 4-16×40 Second Focal Plane Riflescopes

    Athlon Optics Talos 4-16x40 Second Focal Plane Riflescopes

    Another aluminium scope just made the list—A material that guarantees it stays lightweight, while exuding robustness and strength. Anyway, the Athlon Optics Talos 4-16×40 Second Focal Plane Riflescope is a variable power accessory. And unlike other scopes, the clarity level of the images created will remain crisp all the way up to the maximum power.

    Speaking of image clarity, credit should also go to its multi-coated lenses that facilitate efficient light transmission within the system. A fully multi-coated glass is the type of glass you’ll need when you’re hunting very late in the evening, or in the morning, before the sun rises.

    Being a one-piece tube, it’s the best alternative for hunters looking for a scope that exhibits strength, and is able to keep out moisture. The nitrogen incorporated into its design is what gives the scope its water and fog proof capability.

    Of all the scopes produced by Athlone, this particular model has the longest eye relief. At a magnification power of 4x, you’ll get to experience an eye relief of 3.8 inches. But if you adjust it all the way up to 16x, it automatically reduces to the standard 3.35 inches. On top of all that, it has a third turret that will help it focus down to 15 yards.

    We have to warn you though. If you’re planning to buy the Athlon Optics Talos 4-16×40 Second Focal Plane scope, just know the exterior lens doesn’t have a protective coating. So, if you’re not careful, you’ll easily scratch it. 

    Pros
    • Durable
    • Created crisp images at maximum magnification
    • Multi-coated lenses efficiently transmit light
    • Water and fog proof
    • Long eye relief
    Cons
    • Exterior lens lacks a protective coating

    8. SVBONY SV166 Rifle Scope

    SVBONY SV166 Rifle Scope

    This is pretty much your standard scope. It has a magnification range of 3x to 9x, an ample eye relief that ranges from 3.3 to 3.97 inches, and when it boils down to precision, its windage and elevation adjustment is ¼ MOA. These features alone are enough to tell you this scope will quickly get you on target.

    Inadvertently touching the adjusting screws and causing ballistic deviation are problems that you’ll no longer have to deal with, since the SVBONY SV166 Rifle Scope has been designed with spring loaded instant zero reset turrets. And for those users who can’t work without their prescription glasses, you’re also well taken care of. It offers a 2D diopter compensation and adjustable objective courtesy of the AO Parallax Compensation Adjustment feature.

    What about the visual experience? It’s Epic. SVBONY added multicoated lenses designed to provide a high light flux, and low refractive index to ensure users get clear, bright images. Add the 77mm all-metal matte tube into the mix, and you have yourself an accessory that resists viewing errors and prevents glare.

    We just didn’t like how light the rings were. Mounting the scope on a rifle kind of felt like a hassle because they were too weak. 

    Pros
    • Decent magnification
    • Designed with instant zero reset turrets
    • Offers 2D diopter compensation
    • Has AO Parallax Compensation Adjustment technology
    • Lenses have low refractive index
    • Guarantees precision
    Cons
    • Designed with weak mounting rings

    9. UTG 3-9X40 TF2+ Scope

    UTG 3-9X40 TF2+ Scope

    It’s really not a bad scope, as you’ll learn after going through all the features. The first thing that we’d like to touch on is its magnification range. It has a magnification range of 3-9x, so you’re given more power options if you’re trying to view a target at a distance. The picture resolutions are to die for, and that’s the work of the emerald lens coatings that ensure the scope’s objective lens is not only durable, but also transmits enough light.

    Unfortunately, the cons outweigh the pros. For starters, the lens caps are cheap. They won’t last that long even if you’re not a regular user. Secondly, we feel like the 36 different illumination colors are an exaggeration. Thirdly, if they could have just reduced that magnification minimum, we would have had a better field of view at a lower power. And lastly, if you compared the price to what the scope brings to the table, it kind of feels like a rip off.

    Pros
    • Creates high resolution pictures
    • Has emerald lens coatings
    Cons
    • Low quality lens caps
    • Exaggerated illumination
    • Inadequate field of view
    • Doesn’t offer value for money

    10. Barra Rifle Scope

    Barra Rifle

    This scope made the list for a couple of reasons. One of them is the quick focus eyepiece that makes it easier to utilize the reticle at your desired distance. The fully coated lenses are also a definite plus, as they help transmit light as required. However, even though they say it’s fog and waterproof because it’s oxygen purged and nitrogen-filled, some users have complained about how it quickly collects moisture. The other issue is with the clicks. They’re rather soft, and you’ll quickly find out there’s no zero stop. We would also prefer a manual that’s a little bit more comprehensive.

    Pros
    • Quick focus eyepiece
    • Fully coated lenses
    Cons
    • Collects moisture
    • The clicks are unusually soft
    • No zero stop
    • Shallow manual

    Buyer’s Guide

    Now that we know which scopes are the best varmint scopes for .223, it’s time to learn about the things to look out for when buying one. Pay attention because all the items that we’re about to list down are important factors. If you don’t take them into consideration, you’ll only be setting yourself up for disappointment.

    Magnification

    We always say magnification is THE FACTOR to look out for. Even if you’re not planning to use the scope for long range shooting, always go for something that can offer you a higher magnification power. A scope that has a powerful magnification aspect will always offer precision and accuracy—the two things that always determine how easy you bring down a target that’s further off.

    Durability

    The durability of a scope has a direct correlation to its build quality. It’s no secret that the types of scopes currently found on the market are of different build quality. And you can always tell which scope is durable just by looking at the material used during construction. If the description on the package says, “it’s an aircraft-grade aluminum scope,” that’s a durable scope. It will not only be as strong as a bison, but also feel light on the rifle. 

    Eye Relief

    Have you ever heard of the scope eye recoil? Well, you’ll learn about it the hard way, if you forget to check out this parameter. The space between the device and your eyes is what we’re referring to when talking about the eye relief. An ideal eye relief is one that allows you to see the entire view uninterrupted, when your eye is situated at a greater distance from the scope.

    Lens

    How well does the scope transmit light? What’s it’s refraction index? These are questions that you ought to be asking yourself while shopping for varmint scopes for .233. The type of lens and its ability to transmit light efficiently will significantly influence the image clarity.

    You’ve obviously heard this, but we’re going to reiterate it anyways; At the heart of any scope, you’ll always find a lens. And if by any chance it’s compromised in any way, the entire scope automatically becomes useless. It won’t be able to funnel through light, which is important if you want crispy images. 

    Scope Rifle

    Image Credit: MikeWildadventure, Pixabay

    Reticle

    Let’s kick this off by first looking at the type of reticles that are available. We have the dot reticle, the illuminated reticle, the mildot, and finally, the Bullet Drop Compensator reticle. A dot reticle will give you a red dot as the aiming point. But if you’re working in low light conditions, you’ll want to get the illuminated reticle. The scope brightens the reticle, and thus makes your target more visible.

    The “mil” in mildot stands for milliradian, so you know that kind of scope will be designed for range finding. Last but not least, we have the Bullet Drop Compensator reticle. Your crosshairs will have markings under the middle and it will point out the expected bullet drop that you’d have to compensate for.

    Weight

    A number of other factors, including the size of the objective lens and the tube’s diameter, will influence the weight of a scope. The bigger the objective lens diameter, the heavier the scope. and the same applies to the tube’s diameter. If you’re the type of shooter who’s always running up and down a hill or often positioned on a slope, you’ll want a scope that weighs less. But if you’ll be using sandbags as a cushion, any weight will do.

    The size of the tube

    Your rifle scope’s tube size will be just as important as any other factor, seeing as it contributes to durability and offers rigidity. In addition, it will dictate your field of view. Typically, they usually come in three different sizes: 34mm, 30mm, and an inch. The 34mm tube is the tube that you’d want to go with, if you’re looking for a wider field of view.

    scope crosshairs divider 2

    Conclusion

    That’s all we have for you, today. But just to recap, our number one pick on this list is obviously the Vortex Optics Diamondback Riflescopes. In our opinion, it’s the scope that would offer everything that you’d need, and then some. The best value buy is the CVLIFE 3-9×40 Optics R4 Reticle Crosshair Scope, and the premium choice is the Nikon P-Tactical .223 3-9×40 Riflescope. Invest in any one of these three, and you’ll feel like you’re set for life.

    Check out some of our top trending review posts:


    Featured Image Credit: ddefillipo, Pixabay

    About the Author Robert Sparks

    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.

    Robert Sparks Profile Picture