How Do I Choose the Best Varmint Rifle Scope?

A varmint rifle may have an adjustable scope with magnification.
Coyotes can require changing rifle scopes.
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  • Written By: David Larson
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2014
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The best varmint rifle scope for you depends on the nature of your hunting, your budget allowance, and the rifle on which the scope is to be mounted. One feature to consider, generally offered only in a more expensive hunting rifle scope, is enhanced light gathering capability, which is important for shooting in low light in mornings and evenings. Other considerations include choosing an appropriate reticle configuration, or design of the cross hairs or other sighting image, and a fine sensitivity of adjustment or movement distance of cross hairs per click of the adjustment knob.

For long-range shooting at still targets, a varmint rifle scope with high and variable magnification is often the choice, while for short-range or moving targets a fixed low magnification is preferred. Prices for a rifle scope are inexpensive for air rifles and rim fire .22 caliber (about 5.6 mm) rifles, but can rise significantly for a top-of-the-line, high-power, centerfire rifle scope. Price and sophistication of the appropriate varmint rifle scope depend largely on the nature of the shooting to be done.


If the varmint rifle is to be used for long-range stationary targets such as prairie dogs, ground squirrels, or other colonizing rodents, a large rifle cartridge is typically necked down to accept a small-caliber bullet to flatten trajectory over a long distance. A varmint rifle scope for this application might be an adjustable scope with magnification from 6x to 18x or from 6 power to 18 power or greater. For accuracy at these distances, parallax correction using an adjustable objective may be important in a scope.

For coyotes or other predators considered to be varmints, different hunting strategies are generally employed that necessitate a different choice in varmint rifle scope. Calling or baiting is often used in drawing larger varmints close to the hunter, and shooting is less frequently at a stationary target. A high-magnification scope with a small field of vision would be impractical, and a rifle scope for this type of hunting might be a variable scope with magnification from 2x to 9x, with a large field of vision.

Short-range shooting or varmint hunting near farms or communities requires an awareness of the proximity of people. Rifles that make a minimum of noise and have a short range, such as a rimfire .22 caliber (5.6 mm) or an air gun, are sufficient for short-range varmint hunting, represent a comparatively low hazard, and limit the nuisance factor to surrounding buildings and people. The appropriate varmint rifle scope does not have to be as sturdy because of the absence of recoil in a short-range varmint rifle, and it is unnecessary to provide variable magnification. For such hunting, an inexpensive scope with a fixed magnification of 4x or 4 power is adequate.


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