With all firearms, including air-driven projectile systems, the addition of glass sights (scopes) can often improve the effectiveness and working range of a weapon.
In this guide first, we will discuss how to select the best scope for your specific model of air rifle. And then will review the number of scopes that pair with the two major drive systems on the market today.
In the above picture, you can see a cylinder protruding from the for-end of the rifle. This is a compressed air storage cylinder and drives this close to the energy control levels (recoil) of a powder and bullet firearms system when discharged.
Because of the gas delivery system employed, this rifle can use both scopes built and designed also for better grade standard rifles as well. In this case, you as the shooter have a much greater selection of optics at your disposal.
Because some rifles generate two separate recoil reactions when spring-powered and are exactly the reverse of a propellant burning firearm in terms of how energy is delivered across the recoil system in the rifle, the selection of the correct scope for your rifle is critical.
Most standard rife scopes tend to fall apart very quickly under the stress of the less expensive spring-operated air gun recoil systems. This happens even with some scopes that are built specifically. The unsuspecting buyer could be in for a disappointing experience if the wrong scope is selected for use on his or her air rifle.
SL 1000 UTG
SL 1000 UTG
UTG Bug Buster
UTG Bug Buster
Gamo LC 4x32mm
Gamo LC 4x32mm
Gamo Trinity Hunting
Gamo Trinity Hunting
Vortex Viper HS-T
Vortex Viper HS-T
Nightforce NXS Riflescope
Nightforce NXS Riflescope
With that previous information as a base for scope selection, I will now try to assist the buyer by providing some possible ideas regarding air rifle scopes that seem to have built a reasonably good reputation among shooters.
Best Air Rifle Scope [11 Top Rated Scopes]
1. SL 1000 UTG Scope
One serious model built for air rifles and generally praised by shooters is the UTG series scopes. These are priced in line with other mid-grade glass scopes and seem to hold up to the pounding these systems undergo.
The SL 1000 can be used on spring operated systems, but it is best for the air tank or on-board air cylinder storage systems designed into the better grade target and hunting model air guns.
Rifles, like the Air Force Condor for example, that use compressed air as a drive system can handle these types of scopes and even better grade standard rifles scopes quite well.
Leapers SL1000 UTG
The price of Leapers SL1000 UTG varies, so check the latest price at
2. UTG Bug Buster - Best Air Rifle Scope
A second example of the UTG line of air rifle scopes is the compact Bug Buster series which would fit the bill nicely. Built as a 3X12X32, the scope tends to get high ratings among air rifle shooters.
This scope will fit well on a smaller light weight rifle such as the Benjamin Steel Eagle, or Marauder PCP. These rifles are just examples of the general type of design being considered here.
An air rifle shooter can use this UTG scope system on just about any rifle being considered for service. It is marketed as a “spring safe” scope sight.
UTG Bug Buster
The price of UTG Bug Buster varies, so check the latest price at
If you are looking for more details about that product, then must check out our detailed UTG bug buster 3-9 x 32mm review
BSA Line of Scopes
3. The BSA 2-7x32 - BSA Air Rifle Scope
The BSA line covers the basic needs of shooters wanting a backyard-use scope system for their rifle. These scopes make use of target turrets set at ¼ moa and a unique reverse recoil system that takes up the double shock of the air rifle’s discharge.
The BSA 2-7X32 is designed to be a dedicated spring-driven air rifle scope. This unit has been found to work well as a general-purpose field and target system.
The BSA 2-7X32 retains standard crosshairs lacking Mil- Dot or hashmark elevation reticle. The crosshair is a bit fine and tends to blend into areas with low background lighting. These are not issues, I have used BSA scopes on a number of test and personal rifles for years.
The BSA ranging system 17 was the longest lasting system in the field on a regular basis attached to a 17 HMR. When the rifle was sold, the scope still attached went with the rifle. That was some elevens year later and I had many very successful runs into central Wyoming on ground squirrel forays.
BSA 2-7x32 Scope
The price of BSA 2-7x32 Scope varies, so check the latest price at
4. The BSA 4-12x40
As a second option, the BSA 3-12X44 is a step up in power and light gathering ability due to the larger bell employed.
This scope moves toward the competition target level and like the previous model is not massively spring sensitive when used on that type. The scope is a good choice when taking on paper targets with a standard non-compressed charging.
Be advised, however, the scope will work on both types of air rifle systems.
BSA is very big in Europe regarding air rifle design and development.
BSA 4-12x40 Scope
The price of BSA 4-12x40 Scope varies, so check the latest price at
5. Gamo LC 4X32mm 30/30 Reticle
This is a basic air rifle scope deigned for spring-operated “pump up” air rifles. This Gamo system will withstand the stresses of the spring driven and is well suited for general purpose backyard air rifle shooting.
Making use of the multicoated lens system and a duplex style floating reticle, the scope is designed for spring air rifles. This scope is a mark standard scope when applied to over-the-counter Gamo air rifles sold as a scope/rifle unit.
Gamo LC 4X32mm
The price of Gamo LC 4X32mm varies, so check the latest price at
6. Gamo Trinity Hunting 4x32
The Gamo Trinity is a scope that is designed for both Gamo rifles and the Whisper Silent Cat. Sold as a very low-end budget system, the buyer should not expect high quality optics from this backyard plinking scope.
Built with high-strength aluminum and coated with a black anodized finish, the scope will serve as a general- purpose light air rifle glass sighting system. This scope is weather resistant to a point, but abuse of the system can result in functional problems down the road.
Light transmission with this scope is good, and the reticle retains a “blued” color surface that reduces reflections in direct sunlight. This unit will take on the stresses of the spring gun and should be considered for those types of air gun designs.
When air cylinder storage systems are applied, you have the option of using “big rifle “ scopes as well as those designed specifically for air rifles. I know several shooter friends of mine that are very dedicated to their air rifles and have multiple station ranges in their homes and businesses. They use better grade standard rifle scopes on air rifles.
Author behind a Savage 110 in 300 Win Mag and a Weaver Tactical heavy rifle scope.
Some say systems like the one pictured will work on all air rifles. However, I would be a bit cautious if you’re thinking about using this scope for general-purpose spring operated systems. Be sure you understand the system your air rifle uses, either spring operated or compressed air driven.
On my opinion you going to be better off shooting a compressed air cylinder system with standard rifle scopes.
Gamo Trinity Hunting
The price of Gamo Trinity Hunting varies, so check the latest price at
Leupold & Other Air Rifle Scopes
This high-grade Theoben England air rifle mounts a Leupold rifle scope and custom turret preset for 117 caliber air rifle pellets.
While this contradicts the whole theory of centerfire rifle scopes on air rifles, this does prove that they are used by advanced shooters on air canister powered systems.
This system is not a budget scope and rifle at all, and the shooter friend of mine that owns this rifle spends a great deal of money buying his rifles all over the world. The sighting system applied to this grade of air rifle can't be sub-standard or easily breakable.
7. Leupold VX-6 HD
The Leupold VX-6HD is a move to the high end of glass optics for both standard firearms and air rifle systems. This is not a backyard plinking optic but is used for advanced target shooting or longer-range hunting on compressed air driven systems only. This scope is in the upper end of the air rifle scope group and is an advanced designed firearms rifle scope being used on air rifles.
Built for low light applications using Leupold’s “Twilight Max” system and a button dial-up for elevation adjustments, the optic is state-of-the-art in design. It is designed for use to extreme range limits on centerfire rifles when accuracy is required but can also serve a dual roll as an advanced high-grade air rifle scope.
This scope is compressed air rifle-specific, and a check should be made with the air rifle manufacturer before installing the scope on any given rifle. Do not use on spring-operated air rifles.
Leupold VX-6 HD
The price of Leupold VX-6 HD varies, so check the latest price at
8. Barska 3-12X40 AO Airgun “Reverse Recoil” Rifle Scope
This scope is advertised as a recoil proof system for air rifles using spring-operated function.
Barska is a newer entry within the air rifle scope grouping, and to date it has gained some solid following among shooters. I first observed this brand in western South Dakota several years ago and watched it gain in popularity very quickly. Built solid and field-tough, the air rifle model makes use of what Barska calls the “Reverse Recoil“ system.
This is exactly what an air rifle that uses spring power will do when shot and also what even the compressed air guns can return regarding recoil to a scope’s internal parts. Therefore, this scope is user-friendly on both spring and compressed air models of air rifles.
With an objective lens of 400mm, this scope pulls light well even in low-light situations and makes use of a full 1-inch diameter “big rifle” tube housing. This makes for a nice mounting system when rifle bases and rings are desired as scope mounts for the Barska glass sight.
Barska uses ¼ moa clicks for elevation and windage, makes use of a 4.2-inch eye relief and retains a parallax adjustment objective. Target and longer range are characteristics associated with this scope.
The price of Barska 3-12x40 varies, so check the latest price at
9. Vortex Viper HST
It is my opinion that the Vortex Viper HST is one of the very best buys on the market today. I own several of the Vortex scopes, and the quality is outstanding, standing strong against scopes costing twice the price of this glass sight.
Vortex uses high-grade glass and the reticle system and returns clean bright crosshairs even in very low light situations. When adjustments are made by way of the ¼ moa windage and elevation turrets, the scope will return to zero even when some major shifts have been made to pellet impact points down range.
Like other rifle scopes designed for high-power centerfire cartridges, the scope should not be used on spring- operated air rifles
Vortex Viper HST
The price of Vortex Viper HST varies, so check the latest price at
Want to know how that scope works? Check out our detailed Vortex viper HST 4-16x44mm review
10. Nightforce NXS Riflescope
This long range Nightforce optic is at the upper end of glass sight systems for a compressed air driven air rifle system. Do not install on spring driven rifles. This very good optic can be turned to junk as in internal springs, lens systems, and adjustment systems fall apart when installed on the wrong rifle. Again, use compressed air systems only.
For example, I have a good friend who bought a very expensive rifle scope and installed it on his spring-operated air rifle for some general pest control on the ranch. The scope was of a high quality and designed for use on a longer-range high powered rifle.
Within a year, the scope’s internal parts failed, and after only 50 rounds or less of air rifle shooting, the scope finely returned a total black image through the lens. My friend thought that all air rifles were alike. It obviously cost him a good deal of money to learn that lesson.
Nightforce is one of the best system being offered today. I believe it is in the top five or so regarding quality and service in the field. Manufactured to mil spec quality, meaning military grade, and often used by professional military or private sniper operators, the scope can still be turned to junk by a simple low-cost spring-driven air gun if applied to that system.
The price of [Product Name] varies, so check the latest price at
11. British MAC I Hunter #100
This very high-end British MAC hunting rifle also mounts a centerfire rifle scope. Even though the brand is unknown, the turrets are very heavy and retain a good deal of elevation adjustment, judging by the size of the turret knob.
In the event you, the reader, have some thoughts on these observations, by all means, join the discussion involving the world of air rifle optics.
Due to the massive restrictions on firearms in Europe, the use of air rifles, like this illustrated Theoben England Air Rifle, has been advancing much faster than here in the USA. We are catching up however, and we require better optics on our air rifles as many of them are being taken into the field for hunting purposes.
Heavy 50 caliber air rifles are used for deer, bear, and hogs to name a few. What this means is that proper and correct scope selection is critical to obtain the best performance possible from your air rifle.
I have illustrated options ranging from the plinking style setup to the ultra-advanced scope designs. Depending on the application of your air rifle, make a selection based on those needs.
Want to know about best air rife scopes under $100? Check out our guide.