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The SKS is a great rifle for short to mid-range shooting, and can even be used for shots up to around 400 yards. As with almost any rifle caliber, the round will travel over 1,000 yards, but the projectile of the ammo used by an SKS (7.62×39 mm) will transition from supersonic to subsonic somewhere between 400 and 500 yards, which will disrupt its flight and trajectory in unpredictable ways.
This means that even with a 20x magnification on your scope, you still won’t be shooting with any degree of precision or accuracy further than around 450 yards with your SKS. The nice thing about this is that scopes with lower magnification are often more affordable than ones with higher magnification, so you can get a great scope that will maximize your SKS’ capabilities without breaking the bank.
We’ve narrowed down the options to a list of seven solid scopes on the market today. These reviews will cover the basic features and the pros and cons of each.
|Best Overall||UTG 3-9X32 BugBuster Scope||
|Best Value||360 TACTICAL 1X25 RED and Green Adjustable Scope||
|Premium Choice||Vortex Optics Strike Eagle Riflescopes||
|Aim Sports 4X32 Compact Scope||
|Monstrum P330-B Marksman 3X Prism Scope||
UTG has been making scopes for long enough to know how to do it right, and the BugBuster is no exception. There are a lot of reasons why this is our best overall scope for the SKS. First, the magnification range — 3x is wide open enough to be usable at short range, and the 9x allows you to get all the way out 450 yards and have a target area that looks just like a 50-yard shot would with no magnification.
Since 450 yards is right around the maximum predictable distance for the 7.62×39, the range is perfect. The BugBuster also has UTG’s 36 mil-dot reticle, which makes compensating for windage and elevation at long distances faster and easier. It can handle the recoil from the SKS just fine, and the eye relief is enough to keep your forehead safe from the recoil.
The eye relief is a little short (3.2-4.2 inches depending on your magnification level), so that’s something to be aware of. The UTG has an adjustable objective to set the parallax to as little as 3 yards away or all the way out to infinity. Combine all this with an illuminated reticle in red or green and you have a fantastic scope for the SKS.
It’s hard to argue against the 360 Tactical 1×25 as the best scope for SKS for the money. A big part of that is just how affordable it really is. As an example, our top pick, UTG BugBuster, is not considered an expensive scope, but the 360 Tactical is roughly 20% of the price. That said, it’s a very different optic with a very different value proposition.
This is a red dot sight, so it does not provide any magnification. It provides a simple dot that is either red or green depending on your choice, and assists with fast target acquisition at close to mid-range. While this is a fantastic scope for the money, it’s not overall the best scope you can choose for an SKS. Given that there’s no possibility of magnification, you likely won’t be able to use this for shots out past 100 yards.
The dot functions well, but it uses a 3v lithium battery that is an odd size and is difficult to find a replacement for. This scope comes with a battery and you should get a lot of life out of a single battery before needing to purchase a replacement.
Vortex Optics made the Strike Eagle to be a Low Power Variable Optic (LPVO). What that means is that you can zoom in and out, but the maximum magnification you can get is 6x. This makes it a phenomenal scope for the SKS since 6x will take you out to around 300 yards, and the true 1x (no magnification) gives you the same basic functionality as a red dot.
In other words, regardless of whether you’re doing CQB or hunting big game, you’ll be able to use the Strike Eagle to do it. You can also opt for the 1-8x version if you want to be able to take the SKS out to its maximum effective range, but you’ll pay even more of a premium for the privilege.
The Strike Eagle has a fast-focus eyepiece and a side dial for controlling illumination, but a big piece that’s missing here is the ability to adjust parallax. The parallax is fixed in the factory at 100 yards, so if you’re shooting much closer or further than that the parallax will be noticeable. Besides the price, the parallax is the main thing holding the Strike Eagle back from taking our number one spot.
This is another great option if you want to use your SKS in short to mid-range scenarios. The Aim Sports has a fixed 4x magnification with a 32 mm objective lens, which is pretty large for a scope at this power. This is going to be a great scope for shooting between 50 yards and 200 yards. With 4x magnification, you may have a hard time acquiring targets much closer than around 40 yards.
You have all the basics here; windage and elevation adjustments, a focus ring on the eyepiece, and it comes with rings that will mount on a Picatinny or Weaver rail. The reticle design on the Aim Sports includes a rangefinder. The purpose of this is for you to be able to approximate the distance from you to the target. If you know how wide the target is, you can use the lines on the rangefinder portion of the reticle to figure out how far away it is.
If you want a fixed power scope, the Aim Sports at 4x magnification is a great option.
At first glance, you might think the Monstrum is basically the same thing as the Aim Sports, but there’s a big difference between the two scopes. Where the Aim Sports is a traditional lens scope, the Monstrum is a prism scope. Prism scopes use prisms to focus and magnify the image instead of lenses. While this gives you a sharper image, it’s also more expensive.
The Monstrum also only gives 3x of fixed magnification. For an SKS, this is a good option but not as flexible as the 4x. You won’t be able to shoot out quite as far, and the 1x difference doesn’t help much with shooting up close, so it just isn’t quite as good. That said, the Monstrum is built like a tank. Of all the scopes on this list, this would probably be the last one to lose zero.
Where the reticle on the Aim Sports is fairly busy, the Monstrum has the ultimate minimalist reticle: a single red dot in the middle. This is great for fast target acquisition and for those who prefer a mostly clean sight picture, but not as helpful when shooting at a distance.
If you have not had the pleasure of using a 3-in-1 scope before, it’s something everyone should try, if for no other reason than because they are just good fun. Most 3-in-1 scopes are underwhelming, but the UUQ does a pretty good job with it, especially considering that it gives you a lens scope with up to 12x magnification, a reflex sight, and a laser sight, all for less than any single one of those typically cost (for a good one).
If you’d like to maximize the ability of your SKS to be a swiss-army-knife of rifles, then the UUQ is a good option. You have the red dot for close-range, and a 4-12x scope or mid-to-long range. The max 12x will get you as far out as you need to go, and the green laser pointer is actually pretty powerful and bright.
So, what are the issues? Well, the drawback to having 3 different optics mounted altogether is that they each have to be zeroed in separately, and there are a lot more mounting points that can loosen and cause the scopes to lose zero faster. The laser pointer, in particular, is very easy to bump and knock off. This scope works well, but it’s not going to be the scope that you’re passing on to your grandkids 50 years from now.
If you want the “Goldilocks” 3-9x magnification from the UTG BugBuster but aren’t ready to spend that much, the Chinook is a good fallback. It’s not going to win any awards, but it’s a solid scope that will do what you need it to do. You’ll be missing out on parallax adjustment and an illuminated reticle, but you get a basic scope with an R4 reticle (crosshair) that will get you out as far as the SKS can reasonably go.
What this means for you as the shooter is that you won’t be getting much assistance from the scope in shooting accurately and precisely. This can be helpful for developing good habits, but if you’re hunting then getting a good shot placement with each and every shot is just as important as the long-term development of habits. If you’re looking for an option to get your SKS up and running on a budget, this can be a great way to get that 3-9x magnification.
The following are some important considerations to keep in mind when finding the right scope for SKS for your needs.
If you are using your SKS for defense or other short-range shooting, then high magnification will do more harm than good. On the other hand, if you’re trying to do long-range precision shooting, then getting a scope with little to no magnification would be a pretty bad idea. It’s tempting to try and find a scope that gives you the best of both worlds, and in that case, looking at an LPVO like the Vortex Optics Strike Eagle is probably your best bet.
Even the Strike Eagle will not do short-range as well as a dedicated red dot for a few reasons. A red dot has unlimited eye relief and little to no parallax, while any LPVO will have limited eye relief and significantly more parallax at 1x. The trade-off, of course, is that your LPVO can also give you magnification for longer shots if you want it.
On the magnification side, though, you won’t be able to go as high on an LPVO as you can on a more powerful 3-9x or 4-12x scope, so there isn’t really a “perfect” scope that will be great at everything you throw at it. You will need to decide between a scope that’s good at a lot of things or fantastic at one or two.
If you’re just shooting for fun at the range, then something simple like the Chinook may make the most sense, but if you’re relying on your scope for defense or hunting, it may be worth spending more money to get something that will give you more powerful features and performance to match the work you are using it for.
If you’re looking for a truck gun or you are using your SKS as part of your job, getting something tough, rugged, and versatile may be your priority.
Usually, a higher price means one of three things: better image quality, additional features, or tougher build. Some features are more gimmicky than others, and some are so important that it can be a big deal if a scope lacks them.
The less expensive scopes often do not have multi-coated lenses, and they certainly don’t have a proprietary blend of coatings that improve light transmission and image clarity. Since the purpose of a scope is to enable you to see targets clearly from further away, if the image in your scope is not clear and bright, the scope is not doing its job.
If you’re just out plinking at the range in good weather, then you may not notice a big difference between the images that you see from a cheap scope and an expensive scope. But if clouds roll over, if it starts raining, or you zoom in as far as the lens allows you to, you will absolutely start to see a difference. Cheaper lenses will tend to have distortions in the image as you get closer to the edges of the lens.
The most expensive scopes have such good light transmission that they can give you an extra 30 minutes of shooting time in dusk and dawn compared to a cheaper scope.
Virtually every riflescope on the planet will have windage and elevation adjustment turrets and the ability to focus the reticle so it’s nice and sharp while you shoot. Beyond that, though, it’s important to have a way to adjust parallax, and this is a feature missing from a lot of budget scopes. Parallax can mess up your shot even if you’re doing everything else right.
Another feature that’s great to have is the ability to reset your adjustment turrets to zero after you’ve sighted in your scope. This allows you to more easily make on-the-fly adjustments and keep track of how much you’ve adjusted in either direction. Illuminated reticles, BDC ladders, rangefinders, and other reticle designs can be powerful tools to improve your shooting at different distances.
Budget scopes have a tendency to sustain damage from heavy recoil, and a cheap scope is much more likely to break if you drop it than a more expensive scope. It takes research, engineering, and expensive materials to make the toughest and most durable scopes, all of which increase the final price. The lifespan of a cheap scope is most likely in the single digits, while there are many scopes that were well-made 50 years ago that are still in use today.
This may not matter much for what you’re using it for, but it’s worth understanding.
The best scope for the SKS overall in our list of reviews is the UTG BugBuster. It’s an affordable scope that manages to pack the features and durability of more expensive scopes. Our choice for the best scope for SKS for the money after our reviews is the 360 Tactical, since it performs so well as a red dot sight and for such an affordable price. There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right scope, and there is no shortage of options.
Hopefully, we’ve been able to provide you some useful information and give you some ideas of which scope you want to live on your SKS.
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Featured Image Credit: Jonmallard, Wikimedia Commons
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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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