The cartoon character Yosemite Sam was famous back in the day for calling Bugs Bunny a varmint as the mustachioed midget blasted away with his six gun. He missed more than he hit (did he ever hit?) but that’s okay, we hunters have improved a lot since then.
Today's varmint hunter may shoot rabbits, but the idea of slinging lead with a wheelgun is not exactly most hunters’ first choice. Today's varmint hunters want a rifle and the best varmint scope they can find to go with it.
Now, we know looking at all of the options out there on Amazon may seem overwhelming and make you think choosing a varmint scope is difficult and complicated. It doesn’t have to be, though.
In this guide, I’ll show you some of the best scopes for varmint hunting, including not just rimfire and centerfire scopes, but night vision scopes as well.
Let’s get to it.
What Exactly is a Varmint Scope?
The best varmint scopes are grouped into two major categories: day scopes and night scopes. For daytime, hunters want long-range capable scopes. For night, hunters want good light transmission for a clear, bright sight picture.
Long-range scopes are especially important for shooters who take aim at small targets at ranges of more than 500 yards. You need high magnification to pick out a prairie dog at 600 yards or a woodchuck on the side of a mountain while you sit across the hollow.
Top rifle calibers for the varmint hunting crowd tend to fall between .17 and .22 caliber. .17 HMR in particular is really popular for this type of shooting, as are the intermediate .22-caliber options like .223, .224, and .22-250.
Your choice of caliber will go a long way to helping you pick the best varmint scope for your needs.
Objective Lens Diameter
2 - 7 x
Vortex Optics Crossfire II
2 - 7 x
Simmons 22 MAG Rimfire Rifle Scope
Leupold FX-I Rimfire/Ultralight Riflescope
5 - 20 x
ZEISS Conquest V4
4 - 16 x
Vortex Optics Diamondback
1.75 - 5 x
Simmons 8 Point
Meopta MeoPro Optika6
Pulsar Trail XQ Thermal Riflescope
Thor LT Thermal
3 - 6 x
ATN X-Sight II HD 5-20 Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope
5 - 20 X
13 Best Varmint Scopes (Hunter's Choice)
Best Rimfire Varmint Scopes
Many hunters and shooters began their career with a .22 caliber rifle. Of more recent times, .17 rimfire, especially .17 HMR, is another common first gun. .17 HMR takes rimfire performance out to 200 yards and more in the hands of a good shooter. Low to medium-magnification is all you need for your rimfire varmint hunting rifle.
Here are our top picks for the rimfire shooters out there.
1. Leupold VX-Freedom
You can be excused for thinking Leupold scopes cost as much as a good deer rifle because they do. High-quality scopes often come with a high price tag.
Fortunately, Leupold’s rimfire series brings the price down to the cost of a good rimfire rifle, but these scopes still meet Leupld's exacting standards for quality.
The Leupold VX-Freedom has a one-inch tube. It has a small objective lens, 33mm, but that's pretty typical of rimfire scopes.
This scope comes with a second focal plane duplex or a rimfire MOA reticle. If you plan to reach out past 75 yards, then get the MOA reticle. Spend some time on the range with your gun and hunting ammo of choice to get to know where the bullet drop lines up with the mil dots at various distances.
The VX-Freedom has a small magnification range but still delivers a decent 29.8 feet field of view (FOV) at 100 yards.
Turret adjustment intervals are 1/4 MOA and the scope has a total adjustment range of 75 MOA for windage and elevation.
2. Vortex Optics Crossfire II
Vortex produces good mid-level optics. On a rimfire, these scopes will give you many years of dependable service as they’re actually designed for larger calibers as well. They even make a scout scope version that’s basically the same, but designed for the hard-recoiling .45-70.
Like the Leupold, the Vortex Crossfire II is a second focal plane scope, but the rimfire version is only available with a duplex reticle. This simple reticle pattern is great for fast target acquisition, as is the scope’s fast-focus eyepiece. It is very comparable to the incredibly-popular Nikon Prostaff line.
The Crossfire II has a one-inch tube and a 32mm objective lens. The scope offers a 43-foot FOV at 100 yards.
The turrets’ click value is 1/4 MOA and they offer an impressive 60 MOA in each windage and elevation.
3. Simmons 22 MAG 3-9X32 Rimfire Rifle Scope
The Simmons 22 MAG scope is for those who prefer the heavier punch of .22 Mag as compared to .17 HMR and .22 long rifle, but still want something that’s light enough that anyone can shoot it comfortably.
This 3-9x scope comes in matte black or silver with a one-inch tube. The objective lens is 32mm. This scope comes with a Truplex Reticle, which is just Simmons’s name for their particular duplex reticle.
Like many rimfire scopes, this scope has a shorter than average parallax setting, with the factory parallax adjustment set to 50 yards.
The FOV at 100 yards is a tight 11 feet, making this an ideal scope for popping varmints out to about 150 yards. It has 60 MOA of adjustments for elevation and windage at 1/4 MOA click intervals.
I shoot Simmons on all my rimfires and they have never let me down.
4. Leupold FX-I 4x28mm Rimfire/Ultralight Riflescope
If you like fixed magnification scopes, the Leupold FX-I Rimfire/Ultralight Riflescope is for you.
I prefer scopes with adjustable zooms because my eyes are not as good as they used to be. I like to find the target, then zoom in. However, fixed magnification scopes allow for faster shots and tend to be more durable than their variable magnification counterparts.
The FX-I is set at 4x, a versatile magnification strength for hunting varmints, and delivers a 25.5-foot FOV at 100 yards.
The one-inch tube has a 28mm objective lens, the smallest of the rimfire scopes listed here. Adjustments are 1/4 MOA with a range of 80 MOA for windage and elevation. Like all Leupolds, the warranty is simply the best in the industry.
Best Centerfire Varmint Scopes
Varmint hunters who opt for centerfire are usually in the .22 caliber area and need the best varmint scope they can find.
The Ruger .204 has devotees and the more rare .17 and .18 centerfires do have some shooters as well. For the .22 crowd, the top three are .223, .22-250 and the screaming .220 Swift. Other calibers are certainly capable of killing vermin but may damage pelts on furbearers.
Centerfire calibers are a great way to take your varmint hunting beyond the close range. Some centerfire varmint rifles can even reach past 1,000 yards. In fact, the current world record for prairie dog shooting is 3,125 yards or 1.78 miles, held by Kreg Slack and his spotter Nadine Parry.
Of course, even for shots closer to the 1,000 yard or less range, you still need a varmint hunting scope that can handle those longer range shots.
Our picks for the best centerfire varmint scopes are as follows:
5. NightForce SHV 5-20x56mm
Look at the world record .50 BMG shooting tournaments and you will see one scope appears more often than all others: the Nightforce SHV.
The Nightforce SHV (check out this full video review here) is specifically built to handle the recoil pressures of the .50 BMG round and let shooters see 1,000 yards and beyond. If you want to nail prairie dogs at 2,000 yards, get this scope. If you want a scope that you can hand down to your grandkids, get this scope.
This Nightforce scope has a 30mm tube and a generous 56mm objective lens that makes shooting in low light conditions easy.
The turrets have 1/4 click values and a total adjustment range of 80 MOA for elevation and 50 MOA for windage. The elevation and windage turrets also allow on-the-spot elevation adjustments so you can put the crosshairs dead on out to the maximum range.
This scope has a mil-dot reticle, meaning it has hash marks to indicate windage and elevation holdovers. It’s an illuminated reticle for faster target acquisition and better low light visibility.
All these features combine to give you the most precise bullet placement possible, even at long distances. At maximum magnification, it has a five-foot FOV at 100 yards.
6. ZEISS Conquest V4
If you are serious about long-range varmint shooting, the Zeiss Conquest V4 is the scope to get.
Zeiss is one of the world's top optics makers and produces some of the world's highest quality glass for any kind of optic, varmint scopes included. Zeiss scopes are also likely to last longer than the barrel of your varmint rifle and have a warranty equal to Leupold's.
The Conquest V4 comes with a truckload of options and aftermarket accessories as well.
You can get 3-12x, 4-16x or 6-24x magnification. Depending on the magnification range you choose, the objective lens may be 44, 50, or 56mm. FOV is going to vary, depending on the magnification you choose.
Some things are the same regardless of magnification range though. The turrets have a 1/4 click value and the scope tube is 30mm in diameter.
The scope has several reticle choices, some of which are illuminated. The reticles range from a plain duplex to a Christmas tree-style reticle with hash marks for windage and elevation, great for long-range shooting.
7. Vortex Optics Diamondback 1.75-5×32 SFP BDC
The Vortex Diamondback appears in lots of our other top scope reviews, which should tell you something about the versatility and quality of this scope.
Is it the best ever varmint rifle scope? No. But will it do the job and not let you down? Absolutely. And will it cost as much as several truck payments? No.
It has 65 MOA adjustment ranges for both windage and elevation at 1/4 MOA click intervals. The scope has a one-inch diameter aircraft-grade aluminum tube and 32mm objective lens on the front.
It has a second focal plane Dead-Hold BDC reticle similar to the Burris Ballistic Plex reticle if you’re familiar with that.In addition, it has the Vortex no-fault lifetime warranty, which transfers to subsequent owners and does not require a warranty card.
However, the Diamondback is durably constructed and features o-ring seals, so it’s waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof. In other words, you’re unlikely to need to use that warranty anyway.
8. Simmons 8 Point 3-9x50mm
The Simmons 8 Point is another scope you will find in other reviews here at Hunting Mark. It is a quality scope that will not break your budget and is an excellent choice for the beginning varmint hunter.
The 50mm objective lens delivers light transmission even under dawn or dusk conditions. In addition, the scope’s optics are fully multi-coated to further improve light transmission as well as image clarity. Those who hunt at night with red filter spotlights will really appreciate the light-gathering capabilities.
The scope’s turrets feature 1/4 click adjustments over a 60 MOA range for each elevation and windage.
At 100 yards, the FOV is 10.5 feet at maximum magnification. The reticle is a simple duplex in a one-inch tube.
9. Meopta MeoPro Optika6 2.5-15x44mm
Made in Czechoslovakia, the Meopta MeoPro Optika6 offers the widest range of reticles available.
The Meopta also comes in five different models, including one designed for the .223 and another for the .308. Meopta used to make camera lenses but, like many optics manufacturers, has moved into scopes for the hunting world. Expect to see Meopta scopes on more and more rifles as word gets around.
This varmint scope has a 1/4 MOA click value with a full adjustment range of 35 or 70 MOA depending on the model. The Meopta has a 30mm tube and has a 44mm objective lens.
At max magnification, the 15x setting has a 6.9-foot FOV at 100 yards.
10. Bushnell Engage 4-16x44mm
Bushnell was founded in 1948 and has maintained a reputation for producing decent optics at equally attractive prices. I've used many Bushnells over the years and have yet to be let down. The 8 point whitetail on my wall was taken with a Ruger M 77 in .30-06 with a Bushnell on top.
Sporting a 44mm objective lens, the Bushnell Engage has 30mm body tube. The second focal plane MOA reticle allows you to make through-the-scope adjustments for elevation and windage. The turrets’ click value is 1/4 MOA.
At the 16x magnification, you have a seven-foot FOV at 100 yards. This combination delivers good light gathering capability with enough zoom to reach out and tag even the most reluctant coyote.
Other good Busnell options include the excellent Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn with the multi-x reticle.
This one is especially good if you frequently find yourself hunting at, well, dawn and dusk. It has a really great light transmission for hunting really early or really late, which is when a lot of predators like coyotes like to come out.
For full on night hunting (where legal), then check out….
The Best Varmint Scopes w/Night Vision
Night vision is limited even with the best varmint scopes, be that thermal or night vision. Past a certain point, the internal sensors start losing focus and definition. You may be able to stretch a good thermal scope past 200 yards, if you are a good shot.
For this reason, most night vision works well on rimfire and centerfire. Since most night hunts are for varmints in the coyote to wild hog size range, few people opt for rimfires, preferring the heavier punch of a centerfire instead.
More and more people are moving to thermal scopes as the choice for best varmint scopes. This is because thermal scopes have a few advantages over traditional night vision.
Thermal vision does not need infrared illuminators or moonlight. Thermal vision scopes have more range and work on a new moon just as well as a full moon. Thermal can also see through fog, although they still perform better on a fogless night.
11. Pulsar Trail XQ Thermal Riflescope
According to the manufacturer, the Pulsar Trail XQ can pick up human-sized heat sources at 1,400 yards. That's good enough for wild hogs and some big coyotes, or deer if such things are legal where you are, or you have the proper permits.
Don’t get caught night hunting illegally and tell the game warden you heard some guy on the internet say it was okay. Check your local laws and act accordingly.
The rechargeable battery is supposed to last for eight hours, but reality says you can expect a bit less. Over time, the battery life will become less and less, but that is the nature of all batteries.
The scope is capable of recording both video and still images, which can be transferred to a computer with a WiFi or wired connection. Another neat feature is the picture-within-picture zoom: just pick your target, switch to PWP, and get a magnified view above the regular view.
The Pulsar Trail comes in several different models with different magnification levels.
Each model is IPX7 waterproof and fog proof.
12. Thor LT Thermal
The Thor LT comes in at a price comparable to high-end night vision scopes, which makes it a lot cheaper than most thermal scopes. For your money, you get two color modes: black hot or white hot.
As a bonus, the Thor LT can also be used during the day. It has a 30mm tube, another unusual feature for a thermal scope.
The scope has an integral lithium-ion battery with a battery life of 10 or more hours. However, you can also get, sold separately, a portable battery pack to hugely extend battery life even more.
One downside: the Thor LT has much shorter eye relief than the two ATN night vision scopes on this list.
13. ATN X-Sight II HD 5-20 Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope
The ATN X-Sight II works daytime and nighttime, an advantage for those who want to hunt during daylight hours and stay out after the sun goes down.
In day mode, you can probably reach 1,000 yards or more with the right bullet. In night mode, that's just not going to happen. Typical shots at night are under 100 yards with 200 possible on a clear night and a full moon overhead.
This scope comes with so many features that it’s almost overwhelming. WiFi connectivity in a rifle scope? It's there. It also has a built-in rangefinder and ballistics calculator that automatically adjusts so you are centered on the target when you pull the trigger.
Your gun and the terrain are the biggest determining factors in the scope you need. A 24x is perfect for the Great Plains popping prairie dogs at 500-plus yards. Meanwhile, in the South's dense forests, even a 9x may be too much magnification to draw down on that coyote slipping through the pines.
Decide how far you will realistically shoot and match the scope magnification to that.
And, of course, regardless of what scope you choose, be sure to check the laws where you live about night hunting before you go.
What do you think about these varmint scopes? Have any caught your interest? Is there another varmint scope that you think that I should have included? Share your thoughts in the comments.