Rifle Scope Comparison and Advice

red dot scope

Red Dot Scope vs. Magnified: Which Is Right for You?

When you’re hunting or practicing your shot with targets, you want to get the best shot possible. Other than skill, the best way to do this is to have a clear view of your target. Depending on how far away and small your prey is, your eyes alone won’t be enough.

To get a better, clearer view of your prey or target you need good optics. That’s where your choices get complicated. There are two types of optics, the red dot scope, and the magnified/rifle scope. Within those categories, there are hundreds of choices.

Knowing which type is for you comes down to knowing how you hunt and what you’re hunting. Are you looking for something to increase your shot consistency or to increase your range? We’ll look at choosing the best scope for your game below based on your hunting priorities.

Red Dot Scope

This scope consists of one pane of glass with a red illuminated dot that centers your target. It has three main strengths of this scope. If one or more of the following strengths are your hunting priorities, then a red dot is for you.

Close Ranges

If you hunt at a close range, less than two to three hundred yards away, then a red dot is the right choice. Since they don’t have any magnification, they aren’t good for distance.

Their range is better suited to bigger targets as well. The smaller the target, the closer you’ll need to get to it with your red dot. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to shoot at long ranges with a red dot, but your shots will be much less consistent.

Some people say that red dots are the best optics when using a rifle for self-defense because of their accuracy at a short range. As a bonus, red dots are good for close range shots in low light, exactly what you want in the case of a home intruder.


If getting your shot quickly is your priority, then you’ll do well with this kind of scope. Since there is no magnification with a red dot, the scopes themselves are smaller and don’t require any eye relief distance.

Eye relief distance is how far your eye needs to be from the lens to see clearly. When there’s magnification involved, your eye needs to be a certain distance away to be able to focus. This is why red dots are so much smaller than rifle scopes.

Without magnification and having to center your eye just right, you can set up a shot much faster than you can with a rifle scope. You’re also able to keep both eyes open, which is safer and helps you stay aware of your surroundings.

Size & Weight

Since they don’t have extra panes of glass or eye relief inches built in, red dots are much smaller than rifle scopes. If your gun is already heavy and you don’t need a far range, consider a red dot scope.

Magnified/Rifle Scope

These scopes are bigger, longer, and more complicated than the red dot scope.

Their construction is much more intricate since there is magnification involved. To make a magnifying lens, there need to be multiple panes of glass at different strengths arranged in a certain order.

Allowing for the lens space is part of the reasons magnified scopes are so long. The other is that they require an eye relief space up to four inches to allow the eye to use the lens properly.

Their magnification lenses come in a range of sizes. They start at one x (or no magnification) and go up.The weight of the scope increases with the magnification level. For the average hunter, you shouldn’t need more than a six x magnification. Some ranges allow you to adjust the level of magnification.

Specific Localized Shots

If you’re trying to hit your target in a certain area, then it’s better to use a magnified scope. With the magnification settings of a rifle scope, you’ll get a much better view.

However, that clear view comes at the cost of a more lengthy shot set up. Before you take your shot, you’ll need to close one eye and center the other to look through the rifle scope.

If you can spare the time it takes to set up and the added danger of closing one eye, then a rifle scope will get you crisp clean shots.


Yes, the magnification properties of the rifle scope make it the best choice if you’re shooting from a distance. As we discussed above, the magnification level determines the distance you’re able to shoot from.

If you don’t know what magnification you need, try to get an adjustable scope that goes from 1x to 6/7x.


Rifle scopes, like anything, have a learning curve. But once you learn to use yours effectively, you will start seeing more consistent target shots by using the crosshairs on your scope.

It would be impossible to mention magnified scopes without talking about parallax error. Parallax is when your eye, the scope, and the target aren’t all lined up correctly.

Your target could be perfectly centered with the cross hairs and when you turn your head a little it seems to move. That’s the error. Mostly it comes from not having your eye centered correctly with the scope.

Parallax is very uncommon and most scopes have preventative measures built in. However the more magnified your target is, the more likely it becomes.

Your hunting season or self-defense success can depend on having the right gun for your personal technique. The Red dot scope and the rifle scope are both great optics for hunting. As we saw, they both have things they excel at and each their weakness.

When you’re choosing a rifle scope or a red dot scope, think about your priorities. Once you identify what aspect is most important to you, go ahead and look into the best scopes in that category.

To learn more about the different options for scopes and guns, spend some time on our website.

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