What does 4×32 scope mean? Do the numbers really have meaning? Yes, they do.
If you shop for a scope for a gun or bow, you have seen a number followed by an X and another number. Maybe it is 2 numbers separated by a dash, followed by the X and the last number.
These are zoom scopes. The magnification level varies from 1-6 in the first, 2.5-9 in the second, and 3-9 in the third.
Zoom ranges can vary widely.
These numbers tell you a lot about the scope if you know how to interpret them.
Briefly, the first number or numbers refer to the magnification level or zoom. The magnification level is also called power. So, a 4-power scope has a magnification level of 4.
In a 4×32 scope, this means when you look through the scope, what you see is 4 times as large as if you look at it with your naked eye.
A scope with a 1 means it has no magnification. What you see through the scope is the same size as what you see with your eye.
The second number, after the X, is the objective lens size. The objective lens, sometimes called a front bell or bell, is the front lens on the scope. This is measured in millimeters.
A 32 as the last number means the bell is 32 millimeters across.
The 4×32 is also a fixed magnification scope. You cannot change the magnification level. Changing the magnification level is called zoom.
A 4×32 is an uncommon scope. Far more common are scopes with a 4-level zoom as one of the settings. These are variable scopes.
If you can adjust the magnification level, the scope is a variable power or variable scope.
Some common variable scopes examples are:
Each of these scopes can be adjusted to zoom level 4 and go above or below it.
A common abbreviation in scopes is LPVO – Low Power Variable Optic. LPVO scopes generally have a maximum zoom of 9. LVPOs can have a lower maximum zoom as well.
Magnification levels start at 1 and go up. The highest currently available is an 80 level, meaning what you see in the scope is enlarged 80 times over what your plain eye sees.
Extremely high magnification levels like that are uncommon. At present, only March Scopes makes one with an 80 zoom level.
Long-range scopes with a magnification level of around half are far more common. These scopes, with an upper magnification level of around 50-55, are preferred by long-range shooters.
Zoom and magnification levels are only found in tube scopes. Single pane scopes like a red dot are always a 1x level. You can buy a magnifier to go with a red dot. Add-on magnifiers are usually fixed at 2 or 3.
A 4×32 only enlarges the target 4 times bigger than what you can see with your eye. This is not ideal for long-range shooting.
You want a higher zoom for long-range so you can see more of the target area. Long-range scopes generally have at least a level 20 zoom. Most are higher.
As the magnification levels increase, the image quality drops. Several reasons factor into this.
1) Light transmission. As the zoom increases, less light gets all the way through the tube to your eye.
2) Cost. Getting more zoom into a rifle scope means spending more money to improve the quality of the glass and the coatings needed on that glass.
3) Coating. The best rifle scope glass is coated with a substance that means red, green, and blue (RGB) light focus is close together. The human eye only sees RGB and black/grey light. Magnifying lenses make these light wavelengths focus at different lengths. As the zoom increases, this focus gets worse.
The objective lens, the front bell, or just the bell for short, is a vital part of the scope. This determines how much light goes into the scope.
Bell sizes range from the size of the scope’s tube to bells that are bigger, sometimes much bigger than the tube. The tube is where the scope’s internal parts are housed. It is literally a tube, usually aluminum.
The usual objective lens sizes range from 1 inch to 60mm. The most popular sizes are 30mm-50mm, with some long-range scopes having 55 or 60mm bells.
Bigger bells channel more light through the tube. Smaller bells allow less light. More light is good as it lets you extend your shooting time into the twilight hours.
In many scopes, the bell is larger than the tube of the scope.
LPVOs often have small bells. Sometimes, the objective lens is the same size as the scope tube.
The biggest drawback to a large bell is mounting the scope. You will need medium, high or very high scope rings.
You need the high rings to make sure the bell clears the barrel or the mounting rail. If your rings are not high enough, the bell will hit the barrel or the rail and prevent the scope from being mounted.
With just a 4×32 marking on the scope, you do not know what the tube size is. Tube diameter is found in the features or specifications of the scope.
A 4×32 scope could have a tube 1 inch or larger.
Tube sizes are:
- 1 inch
Some old rimfire scope tubes may be 3/4 of an inch.
Bigger tubes let more light pass through the length of the scope. This also helps extend your shooting hours into the twilight periods.
You can use a 4×32 scope in a lot of ways. It is a common scope for a crossbow, especially with a ballistic reticle. The reticle lets you adjust for the bolt’s drop over set distances.
A 4×32 is a common scope for short-range battle guns. The military likes the ACOG, Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, for this purpose. The ACOG lets troops engage the enemy from close range out to 200 yards.
A 4×32 is a good choice for a turkey hunting shotgun. The low magnification lets you zero in on old Longbeard’s neck out to 50 yards.
The 4×32 is also a great choice for carbines, especially guns like the venerable .30-30, .45-70, and some of the new straight wall cartridges like the .350 Legend and the .450 Bushmaster.
You can find a 4×32 scope to fit your budget. The cost depends on the scope’s manufacturer.
High-quality scopes like Leupold, Zeiss, Schmidt & Bender, and Nightforce command premium prices because they have superior glass, superior glass coating, superior construction, and the best warranties.
A good 4×32 scope can do a lot of things. The biggest advantage, at least with a traditional scope, is you can use low rings to mount it to your gun.
A good 2-7×40 scope can do a lot more than the 4×32, but you may need higher rings.
The exception to this is the ACOG. If I am buying a 4×32, it will be a Trijicon ACOG.