Scout rifles and scout scopes aren’t a new concept, and they’re often overlooked by some modern shooters.
They do have a lot to offer though, and if you’re looking for a scout rifle of your very own, you need a good scope to complete the package.
If you’ve got your scout rifle all picked out and you need to pick a scope, you’re in the right place. I took a deep dive into this subject to find out more about the original scout rifle concept, and what makes a good scout rifle scope. Then, we all sat down and picked the best scout rifle scope options for modern shooters looking to invest in one of these classic rifle setups.
Here’s what we found.
What the Heck is a Scout Rifle or Scout Scope, Anyway?
As with anything, it’s good to start with what we don’t know. Or in this case, what we didn’t know. Namely, why do we have this variant in the rifle world? Who would want one of these?
Well, let us have a look into this, and focus on the optics in a second. The rifles have a specific set of "rules" to fall into the category of “Scout Rifles”. These are rifles, traditionally bolt-actions, that are chambered in a fairly large caliber (think big enough for mule deer/elk) and have either open sights or low-magnification optics for fairly close hunting/defense.
Now, just in case you don’t know the story of how the Scout Rifle came to be such an iconic thing, we have to chat a bit about Jeff Cooper and his ideas on the “perfect rifle”. I will paraphrase this, so if you are a historical purist, please skip over this part.
OK, Jeff Cooper had an idea for a fast, lightweight bolt-action rifle that you could shoot with both eyes open. Jeff Cooper also wanted a rifle round to take animals about the size of mule deer with a low-powered optic mounted midway on the barrel so the shooter could keep both eyes open.
Jeff Cooper, seen here demonstrating how to fire a Tommy Gun with one arm, and also showing how much cooler he was than all of us
That sounds great, but what good is it? I had the same question, and then started to think a bit harder and came up with some unique perspective on this subject.
To fully understand the benefits of shooting with both eyes open we have to discuss a little Anatomy and Physiology, some of my favorite subjects.
We humans are predatory animals (like bears, wolves, cats, owls, etc.), all of which have both eyes on the front of the skull.
Hopefully most gun owners are smarter than the average bear.
Like the other predators, this gives humans binocular vision. That means we can estimate the depth of vision and focus on the target, or prey animals.
Binocular vision reduces our field of view but significantly improves our focused vision. Humans have an unbelievable advantage in tracking the target while moving and locating a target when it is hidden.
Now, shooting a high powered rifle with both eyes open makes a bit more sense.
I watched this video with Rob Pinkus showing a very efficient use for a scout rifle. He showed me how to use both eyes open (on a range of course) to shoot center-mass of a silhouette target, then to take a headshot, he just closed one eye for more precision and put that round right between the eyes.
Where do we see this in more modern times? How about military rifles with a holosight and a flip-up magnifier? How about a 3-Gun rifle with a 1-6x variable zoom scope? Same basic concept.
So, after learning all of this, I called my shooting buddies for some range reports and some range time to try this idea out, and I am here to tell you – I am still struggling with the change, personally..
Too many years looking through a hunting scope, and I can't seem to get out of my head. My buddy, with limited exposure to regular mounted scopes, seems to have zero problems and quite enjoys his Ruger Ranch rifle with the Vortex Crossfire SCOUT.
Other old worn out deer hunters like myself sometimes have the same hang-up, not that we are right, it's just very different than we are used to using.
Now, if you use a red dot or holographic on your AR or other sporting rifle platforms, hell, this will be easy for you.
Okay That’s Great, But How Do Scout Scopes Work?
I am so glad you asked, let’s have a look.
The scopes on these rifles are mounted forward of the receiver, mid-barrel or thereabouts. So you fans of sporterized military rifles will take to this like a duck to water.
On the subject of sporterized military rifles, if you’re set up to use stripper clips to feed the captured magazine, you can keep that functionality with a scout scope...not so with other optics.
You also get a fairly long eye relief and forgiving eye box with these scopes.
One more aspect on a mid-mounted scope, if you have a shooter that is a bit shy of heavy recoil, this may be just the ticket to help them get more into the sport. The generous eye relief on a low magnification scout scope makes “scope bite” a lot less likely, which can make some less-experienced shooters more comfortable.
That one is out of my grandpa range bag ‘o tricks, just thought I would throw it in.
Best Scout Scopes: Reviewed
Alright, now that you know more than you ever thought to ask about scout scopes, let’s dive into some recommendations. These are the scopes we’ve tested just for scout rifles.
Objective Lens Diameter
Primary Arms Classic
Vortex Optics Crossfire II
Burris 200261 Ballistic
Leupold FXII Scout
Bushnell Trophy Scout
1. Primary Arms Classic Series
Disclaimer: the Primary Arms Classic Series 1-4x is my favorite of this group, and I think it may be converting me...at least for a truck gun behind the seat.
The magnification is 1 – 4 power, as you might have guessed, with a nice large magnification adjustment ring that is easy to use with gloves. This works especially well when set low to 1x, perfect for a fast, close-up shot. The eye relief is stated as 3.5" to 4.9.” making this a good option if you’re looking for a long eye relief scout scope.
It also has a diopter ring for us *ahem* seasoned shooters that might need a little vision correction (-/+ 3 depending on your prescription), so everything is easier to see. Oh and like all good scout rifle optics, this one is waterproof, fog-proof, and shockproof to handle heavy caliber recoil.
The glass is multicoated by Vortex for decreased glare and better light transmission, making this an excellent option for low-light shooting. It’s also low-profile enough that it would make a good handgun optic for those of you who like taking the occasional whitetail or hog with your trusty .44.
Finally, the reticle here is my favorite part and stands alone in this particular field of the scopes. The reticle is a duplex, like many hunting scopes use, and will guide the eye to the center of the crosshairs for a quick and easy sight picture. Perfect for a scout rifle.
It does have one trick up its sleeve though: an illuminated reticle with 12 brightness settings. This allows you to basically use the scope like a red dot on its lowest magnifications setting, while giving you a focal point for quicker shots at higher magnification as well.
2. UTG 2-7x44 – Illuminated
The UTG UTG 2-7x44 – Illuminated is adjustable in magnification from 2x – 7x, but seems to get blurry as a scope mounted optic around 4x. I’m not hammering on UTG, I think it is more the standard with the scout mounting more than anything else, though this is one of the more budget-friendly options out there and you do get what you pay for.
At the very least, it’s super affordable so you won’t feel bad about painting it and messing it up. You may even end up with something that looks and works really well.
With a 30mm tube, this scope will allow all available light to transfer to the shooter's eye, and that makes the early morning and dusk shots easier and cleaner. The tube is nitrogen purged, making it rainproof, waterproof, and fogproof just like we like. UTG also has a True Strength Platform that makes its shockproof rating very solid.
The reticle claims the ability to display 36 colors from the Illuminating Enhancing System. The reticle is etched in glass and is the UTG Tactical Range Estimating or TRE offering. The illuminated reticle has a one-touch memory on and off button, so there is no need to require the brightness setting when switching off to save battery life.
The eye relief is 9.5" to 11," and many shooters that review this scope say they can easily push that out to 12" and not see a difference. A sidewheel parallax will adjust from 10 yards (hunting awesomeness) out to infinity for those long range shots.
The target style windage and elevation turrets, with zero lockings and zero resets, make this a good optic for shooting at various distances and the MOA adjustments are simple and intuitive. The glass is emerald coated, and the scope body incorporates a built-in sunshade and is coated in a matte finish.
Overall, this optic packs in a massive amount for the price, and the price is about perfect for a budget hunting gun or ATV ride type of rifle.
3. Vortex Optics Crossfire II SCOUT
The Vortex Optics Crossfire II SCOUT is, as the name implies, made for scout rifles, specifically for the mid-length mount.
Vortex is always thinking about how to make things right for the demanding shooters out there, and they hit it out of the park with this one.
Like it says above, you must look for the SCOUT version of this optic as they offer pretty much the same scope in standard rifle scope configuration, sold as the Vortex Crossfire II (no Scout designation).
The magnification is 2x-7x and comes with a fast-focus eyepiece and the V-Plex reticle. Also, the eye relief is 9.45," so mounting this just in front of the receiver will be spot-on.
The glass is coated with Vortex’s great anti-reflective multicoating. With the anti-reflective coating, this may be the better choice for hunting from a blind, as it will be better for staying camouflaged until the target is in the exact right spot to take it.
Lastly, the aircraft-grade aluminum tube is 1", so scope mount bases will be easy to find and the turrets are finger adjustable and capped to ensure the setting is not accidentally adjusted. Overall, a very high quality scope backed up by Vortex’s lifetime warranty...what’s not to love?
4. Burris 200261 Ballistic Plex 2-7x
The Burris 200261 Ballistic Plex 2-7x was also designed from scratch as a Scout rifle optic and it shows.
A 2-7x magnification scope is just about perfect for this kind of thing, and the BDC reticle makes those longer shots much easier to compensate for. The main focus of this optic though is fast target acquisition with both eyes open.
Here we have more significant money (and a better value), and if you can afford it you will never regret it. Hell, Burris even offers a no questions asked warranty, that also transfers to a new owner. You actually get this with almost all Burris Scopes.
The glass is multicoated and has a large objective lens for the best sight picture. Speaking of sight picture, this optic has a Scout Rifle Reticle.
See? Specifically designed for this application.
It’s a pretty standard duplex affair (no fancy mil-dot reticle here) but it’s just about perfect for this type of optic. You can also get one with the Ballistic Plex Reticle if you want an easier time compensating for those long-distance shots.
The turrets of this scope are steel-on-steel precision-fitted, push to turn, and audible click to lock when released. The scope body is a 1" tube purged with nitrogen, fog proof, waterproof, and shockproof. On the shockproof rating, Burris lists this tested for very heavy recoil, so you 7.62x54R fans won’t have any issues.
This Burris Scout scope is the optic you buy for the once in a lifetime hunt for this type of rifle, like a safari, especially if you are hunting critters that hunt you back.
5. Leupold FXII Scout
Who doesn’t fanboy at least a little bit for Leupold? Is the Leupold FXII Scout better than the Primary Arms offering? I will leave that to the comments to decide. It's a lot more money, but a lot more clarity... is it worth the price difference? That's your call.
This optic is the only one here today that is fixed magnification and since many scout optics are seldom adjusted in magnification, a fixed scope might be the right way to go for some folks.
The reticle is a standard hunting duplex reticle. Eye relief is 9.3".
The fact that it’s waterproof, fog-proof, and shockproof should not surprise anyone, we are talking about Leupold here. The o-rings they use are somehow magical and their Leupold VX series of scopes have put more food on tables throughout the country than you’d ever believe.
But, here is a bit of info for you, Leupold has a "Punisher" test that applies recoil at 3x the standard .308 rounds, so I am pretty sure you are good to put it on anything. Click that link, it’s worth a look.
And a bit more on the toughness scale, this is the only scope here rated for temperatures as extreme as -40F to 160F. I am not sure a hunter's body could outdo this optic.
The lenses use a Twilight Maximum Light Management System; this adds 20 extra minutes of shooting time early and late in the day. The Twilight system reduces glare and ensures edge-to-edge clarity as well and is second only to Nikons when it comes to this price range.
6. Bushnell Trophy Scout Rifle Scope
The Bushnell Trophy Scout Rifle Scope is a right-down-the-middle hunting scope if you are looking at this style rifle and optic set up. The scope easily handles deer hunting recoil, and it is easy on the checkbook.
It has a 2x – 7x adjustable magnification, and it seems to get blurry above 4x, like many others that are easy on the checkbook (you get what you pay for on Amazon, just like anywhere else). The glass is fully multicoated and stated as having edge-to-edge clarity.
One thing on this optic that I have not seen on others is a Rainguard HD lens coating, talk about a hunting dream. Bushnell claims that this coating system will transfer 91% of light to the shooter's eye and wick water away during wet hunts.
The eye relief is 7.9" up to 12", making it very adaptable to the rifle system you have and want to put this optic on, with a fast focus ring and a side parallax focus adjustment on select models.
Overall, an excellent budget option and especially good at lower magnification for those close-in hog hunts or for dispatching the occasional coyote out by the fence line.
Let’s Wrap It Up
From what I have learned and getting over my own bias, I feel a need to make one of these. I am going to use one of the jillions of old worn out Mosin Nagants in the market, cut it down, replace the stock with a much lighter one (I think a spare tire is lighter), and then mount this right where the rear sights are placed from the factory.
What I find this set up most useful for will be the "truck gun" as we all call them around here. The rifle sits behind the seat, used for an unexpected need like putting down a hog or coyote, or just taking a potshot at an old tin can on a berm.
I had a truck gun that was a Winchester 94 in 30.30 and, like an idiot, I traded it for way less than I should have, and now they are harder to find and guaranteed to be more than the 150 bucks I bought it for once upon a time ago.
And that’s really where these scout scopes excel. If you’re looking for a good general-purpose scout rifle, you need a good optic on top. And you while you can certainly do worse than the options on this list...but it’s going to be hard to do much better, especially for the price.
What do you think of these scout scopes? What about scout rifles in general? Any thoughts to share? Let us hear from you in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our guide on best scopes for .30-30 rifles for more scopes like these