Finding the Best Scopes for 3-Gun Competitions

3-gun competition

Are you thinking about signing up for a 3-gun match? If you’re looking to put together your equipment for either a competitive match or just for a day at the range with your friends, an important part of that process will be finding the right 3gun scopes to use on your three guns.

We’re going to go over what 3-gun competitions are, what the rules typically are about what optics are allowed, and our recommendations for the best 3 gun scopes.

Let’s Talk About 3-Gun Competitions

3-gun competitions are growing fast; they’re a ton of fun both to watch and to participate in, and the sport is starting to solidify into a real phenomenon.

A 3-gun competition is an event in which the participants progress through three stages during their run, using a different firearm at each stage: a handgun, a modern sporting rifle (MSR), and a shotgun.

Each stage has targets set up at different distances and will often have “don’t shoot” targets as well to keep shooters on their toes. Some of the biggest 3-gun events are starting to have some serious prize money, and the sport is on the rise.

I’ve done 3-gun matches just casually with friends and family and they’re a blast, not to mention good training. A good 3-gun match will mimic self-defense and close quarter battle (CQB) scenarios.

Being able to quickly transition from one firearm to another is an important element to a 3-gun competition and that's why we're here with best 3gun scopes for you.

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Products

BEST MULTIPURPOSE SCOPE

Leapers UTG 1-8x28mm CQB Riflescope

Leapers UTG 1-8x28mm CQB Riflescope

  • Diameter: 28mm
  • Magnification: 1-8x
  • Length: 10.23 in
BEST LIGHT WEIGHT SCOPE

Burris Fastfire III with Picatinny Mount

Burris Fastfire III with Picatinny Mount

  • Diameter: 21mm
  • Magnification: 1x
  • Length: 1.8 in
BEST FOR STABILITY

Bushnell Elite Tactical Riflescope SMRS II

Bushnell Elite Tactical Riflescope SMRS II

  • Diameter: 24mm
  • Magnification: 1-6.5x
  • Length:  10.5 in
BEST FOR LONG RANGE

Vortex Optics Razor HD 5-20x50

Vortex Optics Razor HD 5-20x50

  • Diameter: 50mm
  • Magnification: 5-20x
  • Length:  15.8 in
BEST FOR FAST FOCUS

Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6x24 Riflescope

Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6x24 Riflescope

  • Diameter: 24mm
  • Magnification: 1-6x
  • Length: 10.5 in
BEST FOR SHORT RANGE

Aimpoint Pro Patrol Rifle Optic

Aimpoint Pro Patrol Rifle Optic

  • Diameter: 30mm
  • Magnification: 1x
  • Length:  5.1 in
BEST FOR CLEAR IMAGE

Trijicon AccuPoint 1-6x24mm APT Riflescope

Trijicon AccuPoint 1-6x24mm APT Riflescope

  • Diameter: 24mm
  • Magnification: 1-24x
  • Length:  11 in
BEST FOR CLEAN SHOT

Weaver Tactical 1-5x24mm

Weaver Tactical 1-5x24mm

  • Diameter: 24mm
  • Magnification: 1-5x
  • Length: 10.31 in
BEST FOR DURABILITY

Primary Arms 1-4x24mm Illuminated Riflescope

Primary Arms 1-4x24mm Illuminated Riflescope

  • Diameter: 24mm
  • Magnification: 1-4x
  • Length:  11.75 in
BEST FOR HUNTING

Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24

Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24

  • Diameter: 24mm
  • Magnification: 1-4x
  • Length:  9.4 in
BEST FOR ACCURACY

Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4x20mm

Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4x20mm

  • Diameter: 20mm
  • Magnification: 1.5-4x
  • Length:  9.35 in

Rules About Optics

3-gun events are sorted into five different divisions, and each division has slightly different rules about 3gun scopes.

Limited

In the limited division, optics are not allowed on either the shotgun or the handgun, but one unmagnified optic is allowed on the rifle. In stricter competitions, this means specifically iron sights or a red dot, but much of the time a scope set to 1x magnification is permitted.

Tactical

The rules for handguns and shotguns are the same here, but in the tactical division the rifle optic can be magnified.

Heavy Metal

Iron sights only allowed for all three firearms.

Open and Outlaw Open

Any optic of any type on all firearms. This can vary a little from event to event, but one of the common reasons an even chooses Open or Outlaw Open is for flexibility in optic choices.

Choosing the Right Optic for a 3-Gun

The target distances for most 3-guns will be well under 500 yards, with the rifle shots most likely being the longest. If you’re signing up for a 3-gun, even a local event, they should be able to tell you what the target distances will be.

Since so many 3-gun events don’t allow magnification, it’s smart to have a scope that can open all the way up to 1x, or a red dot that provides no magnification.

That said, if you enter an event with 200-distances are more that allows magnification, you might be kicking yourself for choosing a red dot.

It all comes down to the types of 3-guns you’ll be entering. If you’re just setting up 3-gun matches with friends and family for fun, you can make up your own rules and use whatever 3gun scopes you want, as long as they have the durability and zoom range you need.

Alright, enough of that. Let’s get into our recommendations.

These 3gun scopes aren’t in a ranked order, as the best choice will be based on what type of events you’ll be participating in.

1. Leapers UTG 1-8x28mm CQB Riflescope

3gun scopes

The UTG is the only scope on this list with a 1-8x magnification range. This range makes it highly adaptable to different 3-guns that might have targets (and therefore your aiming points) as far out as a few hundred yards, but it will also work for events that don’t allow optics to have magnification.

This scope weighs a little over a pound and has parallax set at 100 yards. Along with the etched reticle it also has illumination, which makes it function very similarly to a red dot at 1x magnification. The generous eye relief also makes target acquisition rapid.

What’s unique about the UTG is that you have 36 colors of illumination to choose from, so no matter what your background looks like, you’ll be able to select a color that you can see clearly.

For 3-gun competitions where the colors of the environment could vary widely, being able to quickly change the color of your reticle is useful.

Leapers UTG 1-8x28mm CQB Riflescope

The price of Leapers UTG 1-8x28mm CQB Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

If you are looking for more scopes with same magnification then must check out our guide on best 1-8x scopes.

2. Burris Fastfire III with Picatinny Mount

3gun scope

This little guy is perfect for 3-guns that are shot at closer range, or for putting on a handgun in an Open or Outlaw Open division match. This red dot sight can mount on most handguns and MSRs, and gives you the option to choose either a 3-MOA dot or 8-MOA dot. 

An 8-MOA dot is a bit large for my liking, even for short distances, but it’s definitely an option if it works for you, and you can always jump down to the 3-MOA dot, which is still a little larger than a lot of red dot sights which have 2-MOA dots. 

Red dots in general, and especially high-end ones, will have a forgiving eye box.

The Burris is also nice because it has a sensor to provide automatic brightness adjustments to give you optimal illumination in whatever situation you’re in, but you can also manually adjust the brightness if that’s your preference.

Burris Fastfire III with Picatinny Mount

The price of Burris Fastfire III with Picatinny Mount varies, so check the latest price at

3. Bushnell Elite Tactical Riflescope SMRS II

3 gun scope

The SMRS II is Bushnell’s flagship scope, and is a low power variable optic (LPVO). The magnification range is great for 3-gun competitions because it’s compliant with no-magnification divisions and gives a healthy amount of magnification when it’s allowed.

What makes it even better for 3-gun competitions is the special coating it has on the lenses to repel things like water and dust (which you may encounter a lot during different competitions). It also has a throw lever to quickly jump to different magnifications.

Most of the time during a 3-gun you won’t be changing magnifications in the middle of the match, but if the rifle stage has a few long-distance targets that are much further out than the rest, it could make sense to quickly adjust as long as the rules allow it.

The SMRS II also comes with a CQB BDC reticle, or close quarters battle ballistic drop compensation reticle, which makes it easy to hit close-range targets after you’ve sighted in at a longer distance.

Bushnell Elite Tactical Riflescope SMRS II

The price of Bushnell Elite Tactical Riflescope SMRS II varies, so check the latest price at

4. Vortex Optics Razor HD 5-20x50

3 gun optic

This scope is pretty unique on this list. It’s the first scope on this list to have a magnification up to 20x, and you may be wondering why this is on a list for best scopes for 3-gun competitions.

The answer is simple: some 3-gun events can have targets out as far as 500 yards, and 20x magnification can come in handy at that distance.

The Razor HD is also the first of the 3gun scopes on this list to have its reticle on the first focal plane. What this means is that the reticle will stay consistent at all magnifications.

For an LPVO or a scope with a narrow magnification range, having the reticle on the second focal plane isn’t usually a huge deal (though it can be).

3 gun scopes

With a range as wide as the Razor HD, though, having an FFP reticle is a huge advantage. The reticle will actually shrink and grow as you adjust the magnification, so that, as Vortex says, “...the reticle subtensions used for ranging, holdovers, and wind drift corrections are consistent at all magnifications.”

Your field of view gets narrower as your magnification gets higher, and it’s hard to overstate the value of having a reticle that shrinks to match.

The objective lens is big at 50mm, providing amazing light transmission, and the scope offers 11 different brightness settings to make sure you can always see what you’re aiming at.

This scope might not be a good fit for some 3-guns, but it’s a perfect fit for long-range 3-guns, and being constructed with aircraft-grade aluminum, it will hold up to rough conditions.

Vortex Optics Razor HD 5-20x50

The price of Vortex Optics Razor HD 5-20x50 varies, so check the latest price at

5. Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6x24 Riflescope

3 gun optics

The Strike Eagle fits in the same niche as the Bushnell, but for a much lower price. That’s not to say it’s cheap, and it has great reviews. The 1-6x magnification makes it a versatile choice if you’re participating in 3-guns on a regular basis.

Your objective lens diameter here is fairly small, but as most 3-gun competitions will take place during the day, it should be just fine. All lenses are multi-coated and you have a standard glass-etched reticle along with an illuminated reticle that can help you see in all lighting conditions.

The Strike Eagle has a throw lever much like the Bushnell and is roughly the same weight. It’s a rugged scope that’s shockproof, fogproof, and waterproof, and can hold up to rough conditions without losing zero or breaking.

This scope will be ideal for divisions that don’t allow magnification or ones that have targets up to ~200 yards away.

Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6x24

The price of Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6x24 Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

Check out our Hands on review for Vortex strike eagle 1-6x24mm scope. If you want to know more about it.

6. Aimpoint Pro Patrol Rifle Optic

best 3 gun optic

This red dot is great for 3-guns because it’s incredibly rugged and has fantastic battery life. Aimpoint claims that the sight can be left turned on for three years straight on a single battery, so it should be ready every time you’re gearing up for a match and unlikely to run out during one.

This Aimpoint has a 2 MOA dot, which is more standard than the Fastfire IIIs 3 MOA dot. It can withstand temperatures as low as -49 degrees fahrenheit and as high as 160 degrees fahrenheit.

It’s water resistant down to 150 feet and has a threaded opening in the front to mount an anti-reflection device, as well as a transparent rear cover.

The fast-paced nature of 3-gun matches means that your gun (and be extension your optic) may get dropped, and having an optic as rugged as the Aimpoint will help make sure you keep zero and not be as likely to have to replace anything after the competition is over.

You’ve got a 30mm tube, a 38mm objective diameter, and a standard red illumination for the dot. Your adjustment clicks for windage and elevation are .6 MOA. The Aimpoint will be great for close-range matches.

Aimpoint Pro Patrol Rifle Optic

The price of Aimpoint Pro Patrol Rifle Optic varies, so check the latest price at

7. Trijicon AccuPoint 1-6x24mm APT Riflescope

3 gun scopes

Trijicon is one of the biggest names in tactical 3gun scopes, and the AccuPoint is no exception. The AccuPoint uses Trijicon’s unique technology that combines fiber optics with tritium to provide illumination on the reticle without requiring any batteries. 

This is just one of the things that makes Trijicon 3gun scopes top-of-the-line.

If you feel like you’ve seen a 1-6x scope on this list already, it’s because you have. It’s just hard to argue with the versatility and usefulness of an LPVO when you’re talking about 3-guns. You’ve got different reticle options that you can select while you’re purchasing to match your preferences.

You can control the brightness of the reticle illumination, and the 3.9 inches of eye relief should be enough for you to quickly get into your shooting position and acquire your target.

There have been a few reports that this scope doesn’t actually go all the way down to one power, and that it may be more of a 1.8-6x scope.

That said, most of the reviews confirm that the 1x is really true to size, and can be shot with both eyes open, which is another useful trait when you’re looking for 3-gun scopes.

Trijicon AccuPoint 1-6x24mm APT

The price of Trijicon AccuPoint 1-6x24mm APT varies, so check the latest price at

If you are looking for some other options from same manufacturer, then must check out our trijicon accupower 1-4x24mm review

8. Weaver Tactical 1-5x24mm

3 gun scopes review

With a little bit shorter of a magnification range, the Weaver Tactical is still worthy of consideration for 3-gun matches. It’s a solid, straightforward scope that does exactly what it’s supposed to do.

The Weaver Tactical has 10 different brightness levels, but 5 of them are for the red illumination and 5 are for the green illumination.

This scope should balance well on most modern sporting rifles, and the reticle design is actually pretty cool, and allows for fast acquisition of targets at both ends of the magnification range.

There are some reports that the reticle won’t get bright enough for some daylight shooting, but most reviewers are very pleased with their Weavers and it currently has a 4-star rating on Amazon.

Weaver Tactical 1-5x24mm

The price of Weaver Tactical 1-5x24mm varies, so check the latest price at

9. Primary Arms 1-4x24mm Illuminated Riflescope

3 gun scope

There’s no point in beating around the bush: this is the budget option in the list, but it’s a great piece of glass for the price. Going from 1x to 4x magnification is still going to work great up to 100 yards and even further with practice, and should be admissible in the majority of 3-gun divisions.

Even at such a low price, this Primary Arms 3gun scope is waterproof, shockproof, and fogproof. It has an illuminated center dot in a duplex reticle (crosshair).

Since it’s such a short magnification range, there’s no problem having the reticle on the second focal plane, and being used for 3-gun competitions means that it not being compatible with night vision doesn’t matter so much.

Honestly, that’s why the Primary Arms 1-4x24mm is on this list; the drawbacks that might make a big difference in other scenarios just don’t come into play during a 3-gun.

Image clarity might not be as high as with some of the more expensive entries on the list, but for the money it’s a great 3gun scope with a great image.

Primary Arms 1-4x24mm Illuminated

The price of Primary Arms 1-4x24mm Illuminated  varies, so check the latest price at

10. Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24

3gun scope

The Bushnell is in about the same price range as the Primary Arms, and has virtually identical specs. Same magnification range, same objective lens diameter, and is also waterproof, shockproof, fogproof, and same high-quality design.

The differences start to show up when you look a little deeper. The bushnell has a throw lever for quick jumps from close-range shots to long-range shooting, and it has a drop zone .223 reticle for making quick adjustments with an AR-15 variant, which most modern sporting rifles would be.

The BDC designed for .223 ammo would be less useful specifically in a Heavy Metal division event, however.

They weigh the same amount but the Bushnell is a couple inches shorter, which could help with mounting. Eye relief on the Bushnell is comfortable, though I’m not sure what the exact measurement is.

Where the Bushnell falls behind the Primary Arms is with illumination. Bushnell does not have any illumination on the reticle, so it isn’t as versatile in different lighting situations as the Primary Arms would be. If illumination is important to you, that might help make the decision.

Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24

The price of Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24 varies, so check the latest price at

11. Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4x20mm

3 gun scopes

No list would be complete without a Leupold. Leupold is a well-known and well-respected brand of rifle optics.

The VX-Freedom may not go all the way down to one power, but Leupold’s Twilight Light Management System can boost the brightness of the image you see in your 3gun scope. Not the reticle - the image itself.

The Twilight system helps accommodate for the relatively small objective lens diameter. At 20mm, you might start to worry about how bright and clear your picture is going to be, but Twilight does a great job of managing the light and providing a clear and bright sight picture.

It’s true that more light is generally better, but there comes a point where too much light can start to mess with your sight picture. Camera lenses address the issue of too much light by adjusting the aperture (a mechanical version of your retina) and simply not allowing as much light in.

3 gun scope

Aperture adjustments don’t really exist in the riflescope world, and they wouldn’t make a great deal of sense anyway, since your retina can shrink or expand to control how much light gets in.

But your retina only responds to certain wavelengths of light, and having too much light in certain parts of the spectrum can make the picture through your 3gun scope fuzzy or hazy.

Leupold’s reputation for low-light performance comes from Twilight, which manages not only how much light comes through the scope, but also what frequencies of light comes through the 3gun scope. 

This gives you a razor-sharp image in midday light and a brighter image than you would expect in dawn & dusk light.

So how is the VX-Freedom 1.5-4x20mm a great fit for 3-gun competitions? As long as you’re doing a 3-gun that allows some magnification, the 1.5-4x range is perfect for most matches.

The 4x gives you enough magnification to easily make 100-yard shots and the 1.5x is great for fast target acquisition at closer ranges.

If you expect to be participating in 3-guns that don’t allow magnification, then the Leupold would not be the best choice, and the same is true for 3-guns that have targets further out.

Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4x20mm

The price of Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4x20mm varies, so check the latest price at

Parting Thoughts

3-gun competitions are a blast, and if you haven’t tried one, I’d encourage you to do so. As you’re gearing up for a 3-gun, you may also want to check out our article on offset iron sights to use as a backup sight for a mounted optic.

The best 3-gun scope depends a lot on what divisions you’ll be competing in, whether you’re just setting some matches up with your friends, and what distances you’ll be shooting at.

Hopefully that gives you a good sense of what’s out there at different price points, and if you have any insight from your own experiences with 3-guns, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. 

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