A scope is something that most air rifle shooters will end up buying at some point if only to experiment with how it impacts their shooting. Like with anything rifle-related, there is a huge variety of air rifle scopes to choose from, so if it’s your first foray into the world of scopes, there can be a lot of information to wade through before you find the right piece of kit.

Our introductory guide to air rifle scopes gives beginners a bit of insight into choosing the best scope and other common queries.

What is an Air Rifle Scope?

First things first, what does a scope actually do when used with your air gun? A scope is an optical device mounted on top of your gun that provides increased magnification (ranging from 2x to 50x) to see targets more clearly, theoretically improving your accuracy.

A rifle scope

Sights Vs Scopes

Sights are slightly different in that they also aim to help support the shooter’s accuracy but usually do not provide a magnification element. They commonly offer a red dot sight, generally used for closer targets.

You can also get laser sights which project a beam of light towards the target, making it clearer that you’re aiming in the right place.

Do You Need an Air Rifle Scope?

Most air rifles these days will come equipped with the ability to have any kind of scope mounted to them. Some air guns may also be sold with a scope as part of the package. While not always necessary, a scope can be a useful addition to your rifle.

Not only do they make your shot more accurate, but scopes can also minimise background distractions and allow you to focus solely on the target.

Scopes can also be used to judge the distance from a target by leveraging the focus to ensure you can see and hit the target. This is especially important for shooters that take part in field target or hunter-field target shooting competitions.

In an ideal world, your pellet should land at the centre of where your crosshairs intersect, although there are numerous reasons why this may not happen.

How Much Can Air Rifle Scopes Impact Accuracy?

While, in theory, scopes should help you make more precise shots, they are not the only factor that will influence the end result.

Skill of the Shooter

The weapon handling, patience, focus and muscle memory inherent to a more experienced shooter will play the biggest role in how effective shooting with a scope is. Without these core skills, even the most precise scope won’t have you hitting the target every time.

A rifle with a scope mounted on top

Quality of the Air Rifle

Likewise, if your gun is not of good quality, a scope might not help you out as much as you may hope. More expensive guns have this higher price tag because they tend to be built with higher quality materials, with careful attention paid to their level of accuracy and built-in features like adjustable triggers.

Environmental Factors

The weather can also have a role in how accurate your shot is. While you can’t control the wind and rain, you can adjust to it. You may end up adjusting your scope to account for the subtle environmental difference on any given day.

Features of the Scope

The scope provides the shooter with a clear view of the target and, if sighted correctly, should ensure they hit it each time. However, scopes that have not been set up correctly will lead to inaccurate shots and inconsistent aiming.

You should also take the time to check that your scope is in focus and at the correct magnification level if it offers variable magnification. Using a scope with a high magnification seems like a great idea, except when it’s zoomed in too close and you’re presented with a blurry mess.

For this reason, we’d suggest beginners use lower magnifications, such as 2x, 3x or 4x, to ensure that they can still hit targets in closer proximity, like when you’re practising in your garden.

How to Choose a Scope for an Air Rifle

Like the rifles they’re attached to, scopes can be incredibly diverse. Here are some factors that are worth considering when choosing your scope.

Fixed Vs Variable Scopes

Variable scopes will offer a range of magnification levels, allowing you to effectively zoom in at an increasing magnitude. When purchasing a scope, this range will be depicted in the product name – you may see something like 4-16x50. This means the scope will magnify the original image from 4 times up to 16 times, with a mode for each level in between. The number depicted after 4-16 (or whatever your scope’s range is) refers to the diameter of the scope’s lens.

Scopes with wider lenses allow more light in, ensuring your sight is surrounded by shadow, which can happen when you increase magnification with a smaller lens.

Fixed scopes will not have a range of magnification levels and will instead offer a single, fixed point of magnification.

While fixed scopes are often cheaper, they are not as versatile as variable scopes that allow you to use the same piece of kit for a number of situations. Many will recommend using a variable scope for this reason, as it offers more possibilities.

An air rifle with a scope

Scope Magnification

When it comes to the power of your scope, the magnification you shoot with will depend on your needs and preferences.

Usually, for general hunting and shooting, around 4x is ideal. When shooting is from a longer distance, around 9-12x will work well. Experimenting with different power levels will help you get a feel for what the scope can do and how it impacts your styles of shooting.

Scope Reticles

The style of the reticle (the pattern on the eye piece) may also influence your choice of scope.

  • - Crosshairs
  • - Mil-dot
  • - Duplex

Duplex reticles are most common and popular as they offer an intuitive experience, allowing you to use the lines to effectively hone in on the target. For hunting and target shooting, this will likely be the reticle you’ll want.

Consider How to Mount a Scope on an Air Rifle

As previously mentioned, setting up your scope incorrectly will lead to inaccuracies.

The main areas you need to consider when fitting your scope are securing the right scope mount (what height are you setting it to, how secure is the attachment etc.), correctly levelling the rail and zeroing the sight and adjusting the eye relief (the distance from the ocular lens to your eye).

It’s always best to choose a mount that matches the quality of your scope itself; you don’t want to pair your expensive scope with a poor-quality mount that ends up doing it a disservice. You can get either one-piece or two-piece mounts. As one-piece mounts are stronger than the latter, these may be preferable for higher-powered rifles that experience stronger recoil.

For more detailed steps, see our guide on setting up an air rifle scope.

The Best Air Rifle Scopes

Now you have some idea of what you’re looking for, it'll be a little easier to filter out the plethora of options that may not be right for you.

Hawke scopes are particularly popular and always tend to show up on best scope roundup lists. We stock a great selection of Hawke scopes for air rifles and airsoft guns that cover a range of costs for every kind of budget. With scopes under £100 and up to £1,000, you’ll likely find just what you need within this collection alone.

We also stock scopes from other top manufacturers, including Nikko, MTC and more.

So, why not browse our range of air rifle scopes and other sighting devices to start hitting target after target? You’ll also find plenty of air rifles themselves if it's time to add a new one to your repertoire!