With all the technology that exists in this world, it is a fair assumption that the hunting community has taken numerous steps forward regarding all the exciting gizmos and gadgets that have been invented recently. However, regardless of the movement forward in progression, the old school muzzleloader seems to be the weapon of choice for some hunters. Whether you love messing around with the loading style of a muzzleloader because they are a blast to shoot or you chose to hunt muzzleloader because of the fact it is easier to draw big game tags as fewer people use them, production of these somewhat primitive weapons is still going strong.
If you are looking at getting into the sport of muzzleloading or already own a muzzleloader, you still want to try to get as much as an advantage as possible. As long as it is legal in your state, the right scope can make or break any great muzzleloader. The below table showcases 4 of the best muzzleloader scopes available on offer today:
Best Under $200
Best Under $100
Best Under $500
So, what is the best muzzleloader scope out there? What should be considered when purchasing a scope for your muzzleloader? Understandably, muzzleloaders are not a flat shooting gun. They have significant bullet drop and this must be accounted for when trying to reach out past 100 yards. Anytime you are shooting past that distance with a muzzleloader, you must take into account that rather than just aiming low on the target, a separate reticle should come into play. A lot of scopes out there have the standard cross hairs, but be sure to look for a scope that has multiple reticles.
Nowadays it seems that with the technology of rifled barrels and sabots, getting a muzzleloader to reach out to 300 yards is almost a chip shot. But by purchasing a scope with different reticles (as long as you have practiced and are comfortable at that distance) takes all the guess work out of where to aim.
Pretty much all scopes set up with these reticles come in 50 yard increments, so as long as you have a good rangefinder, and you have done your homework by sighting everything in, you should be good at any distance up to 300 yards and perhaps beyond.
What Not to Do
A hunter must remember that even though the scope they just purchased has 50 yard incremental reticles, they must shoot the sabot/ball and powder that the scope manufacturer recommends.
For example, I recently tried to go the cheaper route and I pulled a scope off of my rarely used .243 and I set it up on my muzzleloader. Well, this particular scope does have reticles, but it is for a centerfire rifle. I was able to dial everything in perfectly to 100 yards. So I confidently moved out to 150 yards. Well, to make a long story short, I had to shoot over 100 rounds through my muzzleloader in order to find out what reticle to use at 150, 200 and 250 yards.
Even though I finally got everything set up out to 250 yards, it wasn’t using the manufacturers reticles. I was forced to put the lines half way up on the target for 250 and place the target in between two different reticles for 200 yards.
Needless to say, when everything was all said and done, I didn’t want to try to remember what yardage each little line in my scope was for, so I went out and purchased a scope built specifically for muzzleloaders. In the long run, if you add up all the powder, bullets and time, I ended up spending about three times as much on the new scope as I should have.
What Scope to Pick
Back to the question at hand, “what scope is the best scope for a muzzleloader?” Well, the answer to that is just as simple as; who is the best professional football player out there?
There are numerous muzzleloader/sabot/powder/scope combinations to research. The best thing to do, would be to find out what combination your muzzleloader manufacturer recommends to shoot for powder and sabots. Once you have that knowledge, you would want to take that information and find what scope can accommodate their reticles to your load.
From Nikon to Leupold there are numerous makes and models of scopes to look through. Going with the assumption that not all hunters are millionaires and that you have a budget you must adhere to when purchasing hunting equipment, below are several muzzleloading scopes that have everything a muzzleloader shooter would want or even need.
Nikon Inline XR (Matte BDC 300) 3-9x40
The first scope to look at is from a company that has been making all sorts of glass, Nikon. The Nikon Inline XR 3-9x40 BDC 300 is the best muzzleloader scope under $200.00. This scope not only comes with the BDC 300 Reticle, but it is also set up for Nikon’s "Spot On Ballistic Match Technology" thus taking a lot of the guess work out of range. Just type in your gun and the distance you would like to shoot and it will give you a ballistic reading that you can print off and use as a cheat sheet on the range. The Inline has a quick-focus eyepiece allowing you to make those minor adjustments even during crunch time.
This scope is a very easy scope to use, coming with a five inch eye relief giving even amateur shooters a quick and smooth transition while bringing the gun up to your shoulder. This smooth transition allows you to find your target quickly. One issue is that this scope is a little larger than normal when it comes to mounting. There may be a need to purchase extended mounting rings in order to mount the scope properly and give it the clearance it needs.
Konus Pro 275
Taking a step back in price, the Konus Pro 275 is the best muzzleloader scope under $100.00. It is a scope built and calibrated for the most common muzzleloader loads. This scope will help take any guess work out of the equation as it contains numerous, but not crowded reticles. This scope is built with the more popular muzzleloader loads in mind, it has the reticles for precise aiming points of yardage from 75 to 275 yards. It also includes lateral marks giving the user the ability to aim in extreme windy conditions or even if the animal is on the move.
A few downsides to this scope is that just by looking at it, you can tell that it isn’t on the high dollar end of scopes as the finish doesn’t look as sleek as most scopes. Also, when adjusting the magnification, it feels almost as if it is choppy, it just doesn’t have the smooth zoom that a scope should have.
Vortex Crossfire II 1X24 Muzzleloader Scope
As stated above, some states do not allow scopes on a muzzleloader. Well, if you read the fine print on your states rules and regulations, they don’t say anything against “scopes” per se, but magnification. With that in mind, one of the most perfect and pretty much any state legal muzzleloading scopes is the Vortex Crossfire II 1X24 Muzzleloader Scope. This scope has no magnification, making sure that it fits perfectly into the rules and regulations. It provides you with a 95 foot field of view at 100 yards and also gives you about 3.8 inches of eye relief. With the name of Vortex behind a scope of this caliber, it is tough to pass up when making sure to legalize a muzzleloader for hunting with the strict “no magnification” laws.
With so many users only say great things about this scope, pretty much the only issue/complaint with this scope is the price. Some people have a hard time dropping that much cash for a scope that does not have the ability to zoom. However it can often be found with a much lower price than the MSRP.
Leupold UltimateSlam 2-7x33mm
Anyone who has ever hunted or attempted to hunt has heard of one of the most infamous optic manufacturers out there. Leupold is the epitome of "you get what you pay for". Leupold has the Ultimate Slam 2-7x33mm muzzleloader scope. This scope prides itself with accuracy, claiming that as long as you are using the correct loads, it will only have a one inch error out to 300 yards. The Ultimate Slam’s reticles correspond to three inches of the target when using the correct ranges. It also has a power selector that allows you to tune in your sites to the load you are shooting.
With nothing but good things to say about this scope, the one downside is that their isn’t as much eye relief as you would expect when your magnification is maxed out, making it not as smooth as you would think it should be when quickly bringing it up to your shoulder. This scope is priced higher than the rest mentioned here as you would expect from Leupold.
Each person has their opinion and their brand of choice. Each manufacturer out there is doing all that they can in order to persuade the user to buy their product, from fancy words, to smoke and mirrors, they can sure talk the talk. But regardless of all the hype a brand puts into their scope, the ultimate judgment call for me as a user is nothing but performance of the product in the field.
Not too long ago, I was drawn for an early archery Arizona bull elk hunt in a highly coveted unit. So I went to an archery shop and purchased the most expensive bow they had on the shelf. I shot that bow thousands of times within a six month period until the hunt started in September. I was able to get within 40 yards of a 360 inch bull and as I drew my top of the line bow, cam gave way, torqueing the top limb, causing the string to cut down into the edge cam, and wedging itself at full draw.
Using that story as a life lesson in hunting gear, performance is now all that I look for in any product. When it comes to hunting equipment, I don’t care how well it works at home. I want it to do what it says it will do when the moment of truth is at hand. To this day I will not shoot that specific brand of bow because of what happened. But at the same time, I understand that there are countless other hunters that may only shoot that brand, because some freak accident happened to them with a different brand of bow.
With that in mind, when it comes to scopes, what works for me, may not work for someone else, and what works for someone else, may not work for me. But of all the scopes out there, the Nikon Inline XR 3-9x40 BDC 300 seems to stand out the most as the best muzzleloader scope. It is not only slick to look at, but an extremely reliable brand and product. A great seller is that the Nikon “Spot On Ballistic Match Technology” comes with all their scopes, so if you ever decided to change this scope for a centerfire rifle, you can type in the load you will be shooting and it will give you a great starting point and possibly save you time and money on the range.
Understandably there are more products out there that could be classified as "the best" other than the ones above, but there aren’t many more with the outstanding reviews that these products have. To each his own on all decisions and purchases. Make sure that if you are hesitant on which scope to purchase, wander over to your outdoor stores and test drive each one you like, look though them all if need be. Once you do commit and make your purchase, make sure to be safe, be ethical and above all, have fun.