Are you looking for the best scope for the .17 WSM?
You need a combination of magnification and a reticle that lets you realize the potential of the round.
The .17 WSM is the hottest commercial rimfire round in production today. When shooting this varmint-smoking round, you need a solid scope to back you up and to keep you on target. If you’re just looking for recommendations, you can just start here:
BSA Optics.17 Super Mag Rifle Scope
4.5 - 14 x
Bushnell Prime Rifle Scope
3 - 12 x
Leupold FX-I Rimfire Rifle Scope
Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II
Aircraft Grade Aluminum
Hawke Riflescope Vantage IR
4 - 16 x
Vortex Optics Crossfire II
Aircraft Grade Aluminum
4 - 12 x
Pulsar Thermion XP50
1.9 - 15.2 x
Today we’re going to talk about what you need to look for in a high-quality .17 WSM scope, what features you probably need, and then we’ll dive into some recommendations that we’ve tested to make sure you can find something that will work well for you.
The right scope for you might not be such a great scope for me, and vice versa. We want you to find the best scope to meet your specific needs.
To do that, first let's talk about why you need a scope on the .17 Winchester Super Magnum in the first place.
Here’s What You Need To Know About .17 WSM
Developed in 2012 by Winchester, this round is made from a necked-down 27 caliber nail gun blank. When it came out, many thought it would replace the .17 HMR. The commercial market did not respond as enthusiastically as Winchester hoped. The .17 HMR outsells its faster cousin by a decent margin.
Is the .17 WSM better than the .17 HMR? Ballistically, yes.
With a 20-grain pill, Winchester says 3,000 feet per second (FPS) is possible, That's 500 FPS faster than the .17 HMR.
Look at this another way. Sight both rounds in at 100 yards. The .17 HMR can take out a gopher at 165 yards without raising the crosshairs above the animal.
The .17 WSM reaches out to 205 yards without adjustment. That kind of shooting capability cries out for the best .17 WSM rimfire scope. The .17 WSM has a better ballistic coefficient too than the .17 HRM too.
And Here’s What You Need To Look For in the Best .17 WSM Scopes
Regular rimfire scopes that serve perfectly well on a .22 will oftentimes not fully meet the performance standards of the .17WSM, which is one of the most powerful rimfire cartridges around.
This means you need good magnification with a large front bell to gather light. Light transmission is very important when we start trying to hit those small targets at longer ranges, whether we’re actually out target shooting or aiming to hit something with fur on its backside.
If we’re shooting in these low light conditions late in the afternoon to early evening, we want that extra light transmission and higher magnification range so we can get a nice clear sight picture, even in cloudy weather conditions.
The higher magnification is good because, while not a true long-range round as we normally apply the term, the .17 WSM can reach out a pretty good ways. This isn’t a huge deal if you’re just going to be plinking, but it is especially relevant for varmint hunting.
We also want fully multicoated lenses to aid that all-important light transmission, and to keep our objective lens from creating a glare.
Also, you definitely don’t want a red dot 99.9999% of the time. The reasons a red dot is not ideal are twofold:
1) In most red dot scopes, the dot is at least 2 MOA. A good .17 WSM will group under an inch at 100 yards, or under 1 MOA. In other words, a good group is half the size of the dot, making this a sub-par option even for short-range shooting.
2) You want magnification. Red dot scopes either don't have it or they are very limited. Drawing down on a prairie dog at 200 yards means zooming in. That is not possible with a red dot.
Best Scopes for .17 WSM Rifles Reviewed
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the top scope options currently available for the .17 WSM.
Best Scope For 17 WSM
1. BSA Optics 4.5-14x44mm .17 Super Mag Rifle Scope
BSA leads the pack with the BSA Optics 4.5-14x44mm because this scope is actually designed for the .17 WSM, not the .17 HMR or .22 LR.
You also get a choice of a plain or illuminated reticle. BSA is seeking a patent for the reticle as of this writing, so getting a clear image of it is difficult. BSA says the reticle has a "drop compensation engineered for the 20 and 25-grain bullet” with different grain turrets possibly available in the future.
The one-inch, shockproof, aircraft-grade aluminum tube sports a 44mm front lens and is finished in a matte black coating. It is waterproof and fog-proof thanks to the sealing o-rings, so hunting in the rain is a non-issue. It also has an adjustable objective.
At 100 yards, you have a 7-foot field of view (FOV) at maximum magnification. Back off to the 4.5x setting and you have a 21.6-foot FOV. It is a second focal plane scope, and has a fast-focus eyepiece and side parallax adjustments.
BSA is serious about delivering max accuracy with this scope. Click values are a tight 1/8 MOA. You have 35 MOA of adjustment in the turrets.
Overall, this is a scope that looks and feels like it would be at home on a sniper rifle, except it is designed for the .17 WSM.
2. Bushnell Prime 3-12x40 Rifle Scope
The Bushnell Prime comes with several turret options, including one for the .17 HMR and a .17-grain bullet.
That's not quite the same as the .17 WSM, but it is better than nearly all the competition. It is easier to make off-hand adjustments when you can dial in close using the top turret v. using a scope without finger adjustments on the turret.
It also has turrets for .22 LR, muzzleloaders, 12 gauge and the 450 Bushmaster.
It sports a 40mm front bell on the one-inch tube. At maximum magnification, you get a 7.5-foot field of view at 100 yards. It has 50 MOA of adjustment for windage and the same for elevation. It is a second focal plane scope. Presumably, it has 1/4 MOA clicks. Bushnell only says it has 15 MOA per full turn of the adjustment knob.
3. Leupold FX-I 4x28mm Rimfire Rifle Scope
Search for the best rifle scopes and you will almost always see a Leupold in the list. American craftsmanship, a lifetime warranty, and Leupold’s insane durability testing are the reasons why.
The Leupold FX-I 4x28mm is made for rimfires, not just the .17 WSM.
It has a one-inch tube and is a second focal plane. Click values are 1.4 MOA and it has 80 MOA of adjustment in elevation and windage. It has a plain duplex reticle so you will have to learn holdovers.
The fixed magnification delivers a 25.5-foot FOV at 100 yards. The front bell is a small 28 mm. However, this is a Leupold and the glass coatings and quality are such that you will get the same light-gathering capabilities of cheaper scopes with much larger front lenses.
4. Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II 5-25x50
Some shooters prefer a first focal plane scope, especially for tactical style shooting where you dial in your windage and elevation.
If you are one of those folks, then the Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II may be the best .17 wsm rifle scope for you. Know this before you buy; this scope is also designed for serious precision shooting at long distances. With the right rifle, you will hit targets at 500 yards easily.
Click value is 1/10th of a Mil, or .36 inches. A 1/10th Mil at 100 yards is about one centimeter. You get 20 Mil of elevation and 10 Mil of windage, which is more generous than it first appears.
At the maximum magnification, the scope delivers a 4.8-foot FOV at 100 yards. It has a generous 50mm front bell. The reticle is illuminated red with 10 brightness settings. It is a 30mm tube so you will need larger rings.
5. Hawke Riflescope Vantage IR
If you are looking for the best .17 WSM scope on a budget, The Hawke Vantage is an attractive option.
This scope was built around the .17 HMR and, as noted, the WSM is flatter shooting than the HMR, but a scope designed for one will fit the other better than an all-purpose scope.
It's like shooting a scope made for the .270, but putting it on a .30-06. It will work better than a general-purpose scope. The bell is 40mm, middle-of-the-road for this scope list, but more than enough for most shooters.
In the Hawke's case, the illuminated X-ACT lighted reticle is calibrated for the .17 HMR.
Burn a couple of boxes of .17 WSM on the range and you will quickly learn where the mil dots and midget crosshairs place your shot.
With this scope, reaching 350 yards is a breeze in the hands of a good shooter with a quality rifle. The reticle has five lighting settings. With a whopping 100 MOA of adjustment range and 1/4 MOA click values, getting and staying on target is easy.
It is a one-inch tube.
6. Leupold VX-6HD 2-12x42mm
Leupold makes a second appearance on this list, because...Leupold. If you ever have one - a real one, not one of the fakes from places like Wish (or even shady sellers on Amazon) - and you will understand why.
This Leupold VX-6HD 2-12x42mm is a 30 mm tube with a choice of lighted reticles. The objective lens is 42 mm.
Pick the TMOA ballistic drop Calculator (BDC) reticle from the three available choices.
While it is not specifically set for the .17 WSM, you can figure that out with a few ranging shots.
Sight the rifle in at 100 yards. Move to 150 and shoot again with the crosshairs centered. Find the hole and then find where the hole matches against the hash marks. This is far superior to trying to guess holdover on a plain or a duplex reticle.
Cranking the zoom up, you will see 10.2 feet at 100 yards. Adjustments are 1/4 MOA. It is a second focal plane scope and, of course, waterproof. You get 70 MOA of windage and elevation adjustments.
7. Bushnell Engage
This Bushnell is on our best .17 WSM rimfire scope list because of the tactical reticle. The one we recommend is the 6-24x scope with a 50mm bell delivering an FVO of 7 feet at 100 yards. At 100 yards, the hasmarks are one MOA apart.
Again, this is a lot better than a plain duplex reticle and having to guess holdover. The hash marks extend across the crosshairs nearly 3/4s of the way across the view. Getting on target past 300 yards should be easy enough for a person who knows their rifle and ammunition's capabilities.
The combination of a large front lens and a big tube makes this an excellent twilight scope. In addition to the extensive crosshair adjustments, you have 50 MOA in the turrets with 1/4 MOA clicks.
8. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 4-12x50
The Vortex Crossfire family includes nine different models. The Vortex Crossfire II 4-12x50 leads the list of choices because of the big 50 mm bell and the 12x magnification level. This scope is also a good choice for the twilight hunter.
It has 60 MOA of adjustment, dialed in at 1/4 MOA at the time. The FOV is a good 25.7 ft at 100 yards, not the tightest of the scopes in this review, but still adequate for the .17 WSM.
It comes with a Dead-hold BDC reticle, so spend some time on the range to learn where your bullet hits based on the crosshair dots.
GO DARK: Night Vision Scopes For .17 WSM
As the .17 WSM is designed for small game and varmints, it is a good choice for night hunters. The 25-grain bullet is marginal on hogs over 100 pounds, but for yotes, coons and other nighttime varmints however, it will get the job done and create little pelt damage.
Depending on your state's laws, hunting at night can be done with spotlights. If that is the case, most of the above scopes will do. You need a large front lens for light-gathering abilities.
Traditional night vision and thermal scopes do not require spotlights. Night vision sometimes needs an infrared illuminator; this is not considered a spotlight.
Thermal scopes now dominate the industry. They do not need the IR light. They can see through fog and good ones have a much greater range than the best night vision scopes. Thermal scopes often cost more than even a custom .17 WSM rifle. That may put it out of your budget.
So far, no scope maker has made a night vision or thermal scope specifically for the .17 HMR. Hunters take the thermal and night vision scopes on the market and then adapt them to their rifles and shooting needs.
9. Pulsar Thermion XP50
Get dedicated to the night with the Pulsar Thermion XP50, a one-piece thermal rifle scope with a 30 mm tube. This is a second focal plane scope with a 1.9 - 15.2 x zoom ratio. You can get tight on target with this one.
The click value is 1 MOA. That may give some shooters cause for pause. Given that night hunting, even with a scope like this should be under 300 yards and under 100 is preferred, you can manage.
Nighttime varmints present a bigger target than daytime targets like chucks, prairie dogs and squirrels. If it is any consolation, it comes with 193 MOA of adjustment.
Pulsar said you can expect to see targets at 1,800 yards. That is likely under ideal conditions, but getting a solid identification on a target is best done at under 1,000 yards. Hunting conditions will also affect the usable distance.
The .17 WSM, for some reason, does not have the popularity of the .17 HMR. The cost per round is not significantly different when the two are compared. Several major gun makers produce .17 WSM. Volquartsen came out with one this year.
Looking at the two rounds, it seems pretty clear the .17 WSM is superior. The .17 WSM delivers a flatter trajectory, more wind resistance and more speed than the .17 HMR. As shooters know, a flat-shooting bullet needs a good scope. The best scope for .17 WSM lets you take advantage of every yard the round is capable of.
Get enough scope magnification to see a prairie-dog sized target in the distance clearly. Certainly, some shooters can hit the bullseye ring all day with iron sights at 200 yards. The average trigger puller can't do that shot after shot. With a scope, it is possible.
If you like the .17 WSM and want to get the most from it, be sure to get a scope that lets you reach out and reliably hit the target every time.