The best spotting scope in the right hands is a deadly piece of equipment. Being able to see a target from over a mile away is a huge advantage that can’t be overlooked when shooting and hunting. That advantage goes out the window if you fail to read spotting scope reviews and get a subpar piece of equipment. You’ll be lugging around dead weight and wasting money.
Optics are highly technical and get very expensive very quickly. Knowing what features you need and how badly you need them is a good start to choosing the correct model for your needs.
The 5 Best Spotting Scopes
Overall best spotting scope. Our #1 Pick
Best under $200
Best value for money
Best for hunting
Best for shooting
Uses for a Spotting Scope
Spotting scopes can be used for a ton of different things but they excel in one area:
They help you identify and observe targets.
For the best sniper spotting scope, this means being able to observe inches at ranges up to 1000 yards. For a hunting spotting scope, this means looking for a game animal and judging the trophy quality from a ridge top or two away.
The job you have at hand will dictate the type of magnification and reticle you need. This is a big deal to get right because if you get the wrong reticle and plan on precision shooting, you’re going to be very disappointed.
Make sure you take the time to understand the reticles available from each manufacturer, they usually aren’t very intuitive. Unlike other places, more magnification is always better on a spotting scope, so long as you still have low-end magnification suitable for the task at hand.
Size & Weight
When you buy a spotting scope you have to remember, you need room in your pack or range bag to carry it. A huge objective bell, large extended eye piece, and extra thick ruggedized armor sound nice, even feels solid and nice in the showroom but will be a hindrance on the mountain or the shooting range.
This also includes if you plan on using a case, and a tripod. Make sure you’ve got enough room, and make sure the entire system is light enough to carry around possibly all day for the job at hand. Many models of spotting scopes have gotten smaller and smaller in recent years with a newer model the size of old school binoculars with well over 25x power magnification.
Look for a model you can live with as part of your gear as a whole because spotting scopes get big quick.
The Best Spotting Scope Reviews
Let's dive in and have a deeper look at the best spotting scopes the market has to offer today in each category.
Best Spotting Scope Overall:
This is the no holds bar best of the best category for spotting scopes. This is a weird category because when features get this specialized, they get hard to pick a clear winner. In many ways, the “best” for one job, like precision shooting, is going to be bad for hunting.
Best in this sense will be the highest quality, both in materials and construction but also in the features it provides and how easy it is to use. Spotting scopes can be extraordinarily complicated so it’s important to get a high-quality model you can actually use.
The best overall spotting scope you can get your hands on is the Vortex 20-60 x 85 Razor HD Spotting Scope. If money is no option and you have to have the best spotting scope out there, it’s going to be just like this. A massive 85mm objective bell, with a whopping 20-60x power magnification. Simply put, you can view targets from the moon with this thing it’s so crisp, clear, and well designed.
Proprietary technology protects the specially coated lenses, carefully engineered prisms and it all comes together in a rugged, luxury quality package that few other companies can beat. In fact, the thing that sets this unit apart from other’s in Vortex’s commitment to ruggedness and it’s unconditional warranty. If it has to be the best, it’s going to be a unit like this one.
Best Spotting Scope under $200:
When you go to get a spotting scope for this cheap you’re going to have to make some serious concessions. The best way to take advantage of this market segment is to really read through all the user reviews of the scope your looking at because there’s a lot of junk out there and it’s hard to tell what you’re getting. If you get a piece of junk when you buy a spotting scope this cheap, don’t just take it. Return it, or at least take advantage of the manufacturer’s warranty, if it came with one.
I would recommend you stay away from the companies that only offer budget oriented optics. Most of their products, even their “high-end” offerings, aren’t up to par with the main-stream companies’ products.
The larger manufacturers tend to have the best products for this cheap because they can price lower as a result of how large they are. They simply have an economy by the scale and can put out an excellent optic despite the lower profits.
A great example is this model from Bushnell. A rough and ready optic made to get it done. Yes, it lacks some of the luxury grade features, and high dollar accouterments other models have, but this is an excellent self-contained unit that will shrug off abuse, and bring the targets into view no matter what the conditions.
At 16-48x power with a 40mm objective bell, you get an ultra portable design with fully multi coated optics, a decent prismatic mechanism and rubber armored bumper. The straight eye piece performs well and the entire unit feels comfortable in hand, including the magnification dial that can be turned with a single finger.
This is a ready to go spotting scope for cheap that won’t let you down!
Best Spotting Scope for the Money:
This is the category most people will be wanting, the best mix of features, all around usability, and price. This is the most important group of products on the market because this is where you can find excellent deals on equipment companies compete over. Most of the midrange priced model's companies compete for price and features with and every year they get better and better.
The key to getting a good scope for the money is to know what features you need and which ones you don’t need. If you can leave off expensive features you’ll never use, you can get a model without it that is much cheaper. Same thing with magnification or specialized reticles, only buy what you’ll really, truly use. Don’t spend money on a feature you ”may” use if you have access to it, you’ll burn through your budget faster than a wild fire in Texas.
The company that won this year is Redfield, with their Rampage spotting scope. This is a rough and ready spotting scope that will take a beating but has performance in spades, with a decently low cost. It’s a medium grade scope by all accounts but it hits a sweet spot in quality and price that can’t be overstated.
Everything you need is there, magnification for miles, an optical quality that rivals brands that cost double, and a gigantic objective bell of 60mm that gathers light better than it’s competitors. The only downside to this unit is size.
It’s huge, partially because of the excellent fully multi-coated lenses that weigh down the bell and take up a ton of space, but also the length of the unit. The huge 20-60mm magnification range took some doing to shoe horn it in, but be glad they did it because this is the best spotting scope for the money that represents the “utility player” in the spotting scope world.
It’s good at just about everything and is an excellent value for people who want a great scope, just don’t know what to buy.
Best Spotting Scope for Hunting:
Hunting with a spotting scope means being able to quickly and accurately use the magnification and reticle to spot trophies and get a good idea of where they’re at so you can go kill them. In some parts of the west where spot and stalk hunting is the most successful form, sitting on a ridge top glassing for game can mean spotting them from well over a mile off.
To get to these spots, you need a model that is light enough to carry all day for miles and miles, but still powerful enough to range out across a canyon or basin to spot targets, and still be rugged enough to take a hard drop, a plunge into water or just general abuse that a hunter can dish out.
Leupold is no stranger to the optics game. They’ve made some of the finest sporting scopes optics on the planet for years. This is the best hunting spotting scope on the market. It’s powerful enough to get the nitty-gritty on trophy quality way out there but is one of the smallest on the market.
You still get a decent 40mm objective bell, but it performs more like a 60mm or 80mm because of the advanced fully multi-coated lens system they’ve built into the system. The simple fact is clear, there’s precious few spotting scopes that are as compact and lightweight, but none that will come even close in performance and quality.
Best Shooting Spotting Scope:
When you’re shopping for a spotting scope to use for shooting there are really two kinds of shooting you should be thinking of. If you’re the type that drives to the shooting range, unloads your gear and the furthest you carry it is the 50 yards from the parking lot to the firing line, then you can afford a heavier scope made for precision shooting.
If you crawl around BLM land out west to shoot at ranges of up to 1000 yards, you’ll need a very different spotting scope because you don’t want a ton of weight you have to hump around all day. Either way, crystal clear glass, highly accurate reticle, and a rugged design is what you’re going to want to call shots and observe targets.
This is your ideal spotting scope for shooting, the SX-1 Ventana 2. With a huge 80mm objective you’ll have trouble cramming this into a pack for a week long back country hunt but you’ll love it for nailing targets from the bed of your truck or when you’re packing for a just an afternoon of shooting.
Of course, you get the excellent Leupold glass, quality, and warranty with this unit. The field of view is excellent with up to 90’ at 1000 yards and a close up focus of just 27’. It’s heavy and 17” long. It’s big, even for a spotting scope with an 80mm objective but it does come tripod ready, which is the only way to use this scope.
This is a versatile spotting scope you can get a lot of use from as well as being the premier sniping shooting scope for target shooting and competing.
Here are some things to consider before you purchase a spotting scope.
Leave Room for a Tripod
When you are putting together a budget and looking at spotting scopes remember that they’re almost impossible to use effectively without a tripod. Make sure you find a tripod you like that isn’t too heavy and isn’t too expensive, but make sure it’s of decent quality. An excellent scope can be ruined by a low-quality tripod.
Don't Skimp on a Case
Most spotting scopes will come with a small drawstring bag or a case but you should get a better one. Many cases are designed to be attached to packs or shooting cases and add a level of padding and protection for against bumps and falls. It’s cheaper to buy a decent case than another spotting scope.
Don't Forget a Mount
A tripod to a spotting scope is like a sling to a rifle, except you need a mount. When you purchase your spotting scope and tripod make sure the mount will work or you’ll need an adapter. If the money is in the budget, opt for a tripod with a fluid motion head. This will make panning and move the scope silky smooth and prevent headaches from shaky magnification.
Get a Good Warranty
Spotting scopes can cost as much as trucks. Make sure you get a warranty and use it if you have too. If a company won’t stand by what they made, why would you buy it? Every American optics manufacturer I’ve ever dealt with has been excellent when honoring their warranties. Foreign companies have horror stories, buyer beware!
Remember a Wipe
When you’re in the field having a decently clean objective bell is extremely important. You’ll get a piercing headache from a day of looking through a dirty scope. Make sure you bring a lint free microfiber cloth to clean the scope. Otherwise, you risk smearing sand into the glass and scratching it.
Keep it Clean
Small rocks, pebbles, grains of sand or just built up crud can be a death knell for an otherwise excellent spotting scope. Make sure you clean your spotting scope and protect it from impact with abrasives that’ll destroy the finish and the polishing on the glass.
Match Your Binoculars
You’ll likely be using a spotting scope a with a rifle scope and binoculars. You need to make sure these all use the same type of measurements. Either MOA or Mils. Otherwise, whenever you switch between the two you’ll have to do some complex math to convert what you’re seeing to do corrections or observations. Keep it simple, buy equipment that matches.
Consider a Custom Turret
Most high-end spotting scopes feature screw in turrets and eye pieces that make focusing and reticle changes a customizable option. This can make a difference in the field or on the range because it’s easier and faster to use the spotting scope.
Hours, Minutes, Seconds
When you’re deciding how much to spend and what emphasis to have on your optics you’ll likely be needing three things. A spotting scope, binoculars, and a rifle scope. Remember that you’ll be looking through your spotting scope for hours, your binoculars for minutes, and your riflescope for a few seconds. That should tell you where the priorities need to be.
Having Different Spotting Scopes
If you are a hardcore mountain hunter, as well as a competitive bench rest shooter, you’ll likely need more than a single spotting scope. The differences in the jobs at hand make having more than one worth it. If you have different rifles for the job at hand, you’ll most likely need different optics as well.
Optics are sometimes the most expensive pieces of gear you’ll likely buy. They offer great capabilities to extend your efforts for shooting, observing and killing wild game. With the huge amounts of scopes on the market picking the best spotting scope is getting harder, and reading spotting scope reviews to get a good idea of what you’re getting yourself into is getting more important.Whichever spotting scope you pick, get into the field and use it!