Looking for a scope to go on your handgun?
If you’re keen to hunt that trophy whitetail or put a dent in the local hog population with a handgun, you’re going to need a good scope. Likewise, if you’re looking to really stretch the legs on your new revolver and make those really long shots, a scope can definitely come in handy.
But which one?
We reviewed a number of handgun-ready scopes to find the best options to give you every advantage on the hunt or at the range. Let’s talk a little bit more about handgun scopes in general, and which ones you should consider first when you’re doing your scope shopping.
Who The Hell Puts a Scope on a Handgun, and Why?
It’s a bit of an unusual topic to be sure, but probably not as uncommon as you might think, especially among hunters of medium-sized game like whitetail.
The thought of putting a magnified optic on a handgun is centered around the shooter answering the self-challenge of accuracy, and the total dedication to perfecting firearm hunting on every level.
My hat is off to anyone that attempts hunting with this gun and optic combination. I do have a leftover need for a Thompson Contender in .223; I don't know why I need it. According to the bible, gun needs don't have to make sense. Look it up! It's in there, I promise.
For today's article, we will look at, and (one-sidedly) discuss six handgun scopes. Later in the article, I will point out some accessories, to consider or at least plan a way to use the same idea differently, that is up to you.
The focus is on the scopes, and the firearms platforms we tested on are limited to the Thompson Contender – single shot, break action- and the Ruger Redhawk , which is a large-fame, double-action, revolver.
Some Info On The Handguns We Tested With
The Thompson Contender, introduced in 1967 with barrels that interchange on the frame. Barrels come in many calibers and some in rifle cartage offerings, and that is pretty cool. Barrels can be ordered with iron sights or specifically for scopes. The scope rings are unique to the TC platform.
The Ruger Redhawk was introduced in 1980 and is currently in production. This revolver is purposefully made for handgun hunting and very stout as it claims to handle anything the 44 magnum world can bring to the table.
In the mid-1980s, the frame top strap was extended to the end of the barrel to manage the massive recoil better, and milled recesses give a better purchase for the scope rings, also unique to the Redhawk.
Both of these guns are primarily used for hunting, but the Redhawk also enjoys no small amount of acclaim as a bear-defense tool.
Getting Down to Business With The Best Handgun Scopes
The reason everyone is here is to have a look at some of these scopes and consider what fits your needs, so let’s get started.
But first, let me say I did not look at a red dot or holographic style optics. This scope article is for magnified optics, some fixed and some variable. Below, in no particular order, is what I found in the world.
Objective Lens Diameter
Burris Handgun Scope
Leupold VX-3 Handgun Scope
Leapers UTG Handgun Scope
2 - 7x
Vortex Optics Crossfire II Scout
Bushnell Trophy Handgun Scope
1. Burris 2x20mm Handgun Scope
Be still my fluttery heart, Burris knocks it out of the park yet again. Though this is a fixed magnification scope, Burris was the first manufacturer to offer adjustable magnification handgun optics to the handgun precision shooter world and the hunting world.
The Burris 2x20mm Handgun Scope is a great, high-quality offering from this legendary manufacturer.
They are offered in matte black and nickel finishes, made from Aircraft grade aluminum, and a one-inch tube diameter. The scope is nitrogen filled to prevent fogging, as well as to keep it water and shockproof (more on this in a second).
The reticle is Burris’ fancy ballistic plex reticle, which combines a standard duplex reticle’s crosshairs with some BDC compensation. It’s pretty close to some of the crosshair options in the BSA Edge Series Pistol Scope line if you’ve ever looked through any of those.
The windage and elevation adjustment turrets are steel-on-steel and precision-made to last forever. No eyepiece adjustments, or parallax adjustments, this is a point and shoot dedicated optic.
The eye relief is 10 inches. The lenses are Hi-Lume fully multi-coated and one of the very best parts is it weighs in at 7ounces.
This optic will be easy to hunt with and carry around all day, and you can even use it free-standing if you're quick on the shot and don't get too wiggly from the extra weight way out there at arm’s length.
Now for shockproof, wait til ya see this.
Burris tests these with full power loads, as big as they can get. They test it under very heavy recoil to make sure it is capable of handling even the most powerful handguns around. It may not be completely recoil-proof, but you sure aren’t going to lose your zero anytime soon after sighting it in.
Leave it up to Burris to pull out all the stops and take the handgun scope fans seriously and turn out something great at one of the lowest prices on Amazon (or anywhere, for that matter).
2. Leupold VX-3 2.5-8x32mm Handgun Scope
OK, for everyone with a huge pocket full of money, here is the cream of the crop, but it's a hefty price tag. That said, this Leupold VX-3 2.5-8x32mm Handgun Scope is worth it if you can afford that much cream.
Leupold has the Twilight Max Light Management System lens coating that helps give perfect clarity in every environment, but especially in low light conditions
The lenses are coated like all high-value scopes with a multi-coating that aids light-transmission for quick target acquisition as well as scratch resistance.
If you’re using a handgun in heavy brush, and if you have to use a tree branch or log, etc., for stability, this may be the coating that saves your bacon, especially if you are hog hunting.
Get it? Heh, bacon.
Seriously, if you’re schlepping around the woods with this thing, it’s nice to know that your high-dollar scope isn’t a fragile little thing and will actually stand up to some abuse.
The one-piece main tube is 1" in diameter and made from 6061-T6 aluminum. It is, as you’d expect, waterproof and fog proof.
The shockproof rating on this scope is the usualLeupold standard and done to the max on their system they call "The Punisher," so to say it's shockproof is an understatement.
Eye relief is 15" so shooting at full arm extension is going to be comfortable with this product, even with the variable magnification.
That variable power also helps make those long-range easy while still allowing you to make those close-in shots with ease, something you don’t get with a fixed power scope.
The turrets have tactile and audible adjustments, so no-look adjustments are possible when you’re going for those longer-range shots too.
Best of all, it weighs in at just over half a pound and Leupold offers the Gold Ring Full Lifetime Guarantee so if you ever have any issues, you can send it right back for repairs.
Overall, this is a very good pistol scope. Is it the best pistol scope? I don’t know, you have to decide that for yourself. But if you can’t decide and you have the cash, I can guarantee this one won’t let you down, best scope or not.
3. Leapers UTG 2-7x32 Handgun Scope
Next in line, is the Leapers UTG 2-7x32 Handgun Scope.
The reticle is the PDC (Projectile Drop Compensator). Now, it does not say the caliber or the barrel length that applies to this, so take it with a grain or call Leapers and ask them directly, I could not find the box to see if it was printed there.
The reticle is illuminated and will revert to black when the battery is off. There is a side-wheel adjustment to turn on red or green illuminated reticles and adjust brightness levels.
The turrets are lockable and are zero set and zero return with a center hex bolt for ¼ MOA adjustments.
The quick-focus eyepiece is adjustable as well as 2-7x power for magnification and 32mm for a good field of view. The parallax is preset at 35 yards, so this is a hunting scope by design, perfect for hunting deer from a blind or close-in stand.
The tube is 1" and nitrogen flooded rainproof, shockproof, and fog proof and the long eye relief is up to 25 inches so even those of you with an extra wide wingspan will be able to hold the handgun all the way extended (properly, in other words) to shoot.
Another added scope feature with this optic is the included Picatinny and Weaver classic mounts, not too shabby. They also include flip-up lens caps.
After all of that, I have to offer a word of caution, not to dissuade anyone, just a chunk of advice from ol' Uncle Gary. Look at the price, then look at that laundry list of features, and think for a few minutes on that.
You get what you pay for in optics as in all things, but if this is what your checkbook will support then send it. It’s certainly adequate for target shooting and light hunting, and if that’s all you want it for then you’ll be in good hands.
This guy and the NCSTAR 2-7x32mm or fixed 4x28mm are about on a level playing field.
4. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7x32 Scout
Ahh yes, the Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7x32 Scout that keeps coming back to my world time after time, must be a reason!
Vortex offers a scout rifle scope that will fit this purpose very well. The fit for this job does come with some trade-offs, and I will discuss them as well.
But first, let's look at all the significant parts of this Crossfire II because there are many of them.
The Crossfire II scout scope is an adjustable magnification optic, 2-7x power, and an excellent 32mm field of view.
Made of aircraft-grade aluminum, it sports a 1" tube that is nitrogen purged, o-ring sealed, waterproof and fog proof.
The reticle is a hunter's favorite V-plex and will be easy to see with the scope away from the eye. It’s very similar to the Truplex reticle on the Simmons Prohunter line.
The reticle is a second focal plane and will remain the same "size" when the magnification increases, ensuring the shooter has a better sight picture, smoother to pick up a close target (handgun hunting here), and track a moving target.
With the V plex reticle, not "getting huge" with magnification, the shooter or hunter can ensure better shot placement and be sure of a clean, ethical shot every time.
The capped turrets are great, (they don't get changed by your jacket or holster) finger adjustable, and zero resettable.
The ocular and objective lenses are fully multi-coated and anti-reflective coated, great for a stalking hunter like a handgun hunter would kind of need to be, to be successful.
Vortex states an eye relief of 9.45", many reviews have said they could or have placed this scope at nearly 12" and had zero change in operations and effective use, so that is great news!
OK, as I said, a little of the downside, gotta be fair and accurate here.
The Vortex line of optics are built hammer tough, and with that, they are as heavy as a hammer. This scope weighs in at 1.5 lbs.
On the subject of weight when talking about handgun scopes, all of the offerings that have adjustable magnification will be heavy, especially on top of a handgun.
So freehand shooting is probably not going to be practical for taking game, but supported shooting will make a level playing field again, and that is not all that hard to do, even in the field.
More on that later.
5. Bushnell Trophy Handgun Scope
Finally, for the shooter that does not need to have a tactical edge, here is the Bushnell Trophy Handgun Scope. It comes in a silver finish, and I really like it. Very sleek.
The lenses are like those on all of the Bushnell optics: fully coated and also coated with their Rain Guard HD.
This combination claims a 91% light transmission in ANY weather, so for the folks that live in areas with sudden storms, this could be your answer. Here in Utah, we get about 2 cups of rain from January through December, so unless it’s snowing it’s not a problem I have personally. You may feel differently, especially you folks in the Southeast or Pacific Northwest.
This scope does come with adjustable magnification of 2 – 6x power and also offers a fast-focus eyepiece.
The reticle is the Bushnell Multi-X. The tube is 1 inch and rated as shockproof, waterproof, and fog proof. Some reviews have claimed the reticle will not hold zero if used on a firearm that uses rifle power cartridges, other reviews have had zero problems in 20 years. Take that as you will, but we’ve not had any issues with the Bushnell Trophy series.
Bushnell also backs this scope with a NO QUESTIONS ASKED lifetime warranty so even if you do have any issue, you’re more than covered.
Scoped Handgun Accessories
Every scoped handgun I have ever shot freehand feels like I am holding a short rope on a pissed off horse. The magnum or rifle powered rounds make the gun buck and twist, and when I say twist, it's a weird thing they seem to want to lay on its side.
I am sure this is recoil, and weight was sitting so far above the grip that it kind of acts like a pissed off horse on a short rope (sorry for the technical jargon).
On top of harsh recoil the forward weight is going to be an issue, so to contend with that problem, we can use some highly advanced engineering and lean against a tree.
You can also invest in some shooting sticks.
Here are a couple of options out of about a zillion, to give you an idea on dealing with these issues and to get you in the field so you can enjoy that big honkin' gun and whatever excellent optical system you have chosen to use.
A Good Shooting Stick Provides the Support You Need
First, let us look into supporting the gun and optic combo, with a monopod with a built-in V notch.
The Allen Company Shooting Stick is made from aluminum and built as a fully adjustable staff. With three sections, the shooting stick will fit any height shooter and work on any terrain as it only needs one point of contact on the ground to work.
The V notch gun rest top can be unscrewed and used to hold a camera mount or some high powered binoculars with the right adapter.
Next, here is an idea to use two sticks.
The Hammers bungee Corded Collapsible Stick Bipod makes a more stable shooting platform, but it will need 2 points of ground contact obviously
The poles, made like a tent pole, that break down into corded sections and fit in the included pouch, simple, easy, and a low tech fix for a heavy handgun and scope combination.
Getting Your Gun Into The Field
The last thing to consider is how do you carry the gun to the field to take the deer, you need a holster, and with a scoped handgun a belt holster is not going to do it.
Just some things to think about while this new challenge rolls around your head a while.
If you want to take on the ultimate close-distance stalking style of firearm hunting, what could be a better test than hunting with a handgun?
And with the right combination of handgun and optic, you may find yourself in an exciting new world of hunting you might not have never considered before.
So, are you going to answer this challenge? Get the stalking of archery with the firepower of magnum handguns! What are ya waiting for?
What do you think of these handgun scopes? Is there one you like more than others?Let us know in the comments below! And be sure to check out our Best Scout Scopes article if you’re looking for more scopes in this same category.
If you are looking for some sights that are easier to use even at my age then check out our guide for some of the best handgun scopes for old eyes.