Spotting scopes don't have to be super expensive to get the job done. These are the spotting scopes I have identified to be the best for the money spent.
For long range shooting, other than your rifle and scope combo, there is no tool that is more of a requirement than a good spotting scope. When combined with a good spotter, you can get on target very quickly which after all is really the object of this game.
The shooter can't always see impact, especially if the shot is off target. Recoil, wind, fog, background, cold barrel, and more all contributors to missing the first shot. In those conditions the measure of a shooter's ability is how fast can he adapt and put the next one on target. Unless you as the shooter are extremely gifted, a good spotter can help you do this.
Of course the spotter is only going to be as good as the equipment he is using but you don't want to just run out and buy an expensive spotting scope thinking that because it's expensive....it's got to be good. Like with anything else quality is not always directly related to price.
When searching for the right spotting scope for your needs the first thing you discover is the market is huge. Offerings exist from $50 up to thousands of dollars.
A spotting scope is somewhat like a rifle, you can spend as much as you want. Many different choices exist. It can quickly become overwhelming to find the best one for your situation but that is what you should strive for. Finding the best one that fits your needs for the least amount of money.
This article is written to help those interested in long range rimfire shooting cut to the chase quickly based on my trials and experiences with long range spotting scopes.
Rarely will we be shooting more than 400 yards and certainly not more than 500. We don't need scopes with top of the line glass in order to see a flea at 1000 yards or more. A spotting scope with clear glass at 500 yards will work for us just fine.
Now I am not opposed to buying one of the higher priced option. In fact, I own a Leupold that I paid around $1500 for. It's a fantastic piece of equipment, but I can tell you, the view at 1000 yards isn't $1500 better than one of the cheaper scopes. I also doesn't make my shot any more accurate either.
Features of good spotting scopes
There are differences in the materials and methods used for lens manufacture as well as in the coatings used. High quality glass is clearer at longer range and has better light gathering properties. Because higher quality glass costs more to manufacture, price goes up with quality.
During the last few years though, new developments in technology have tightened the gap between the so called lower quality and higher quality glass.
Most of us will have a problem identifying lower vs high quality. Don't get me wrong, you will easily be able to tell the different between a $5000 scope and a $50 one but the difference has now been reduced to the point that begins to question if the difference in quality is worth the cost.
Most spotting scopes used today will have a magnification range of anywhere fro 20x to 60x and be of the variable variety vs fixed. This is the range where most people find the greatest use. Spotting scopes can also be found up to 80x or even higher but these are usually for specialty use as opposed to target shooting or hunting.
Variable magnification is preferred because it increases the usefulness of the scope. In hunting, a lower power is best for scanning an area for game, then a high power is used once the game is located.
In target shooting or competition, being able to accommodate different distances is a must, as well as being able to adjust magnification to just the right amount to allow the spotter to pick up shots that are off target.
The ability of a scope to gather light, which makes the image brighter and clearer, is determined by the objective size and usually ranges from 50 mm to 100 mm. The larger the objective, the better the image will look with any given scope.
The trade off is a larger objective calls for a larger body on the scope which reduces compactness and increases weight. Everyone should weigh these factors to deteremine the appropriate trade off they are willing to accept.
Most spotting scopes will have one of two ways to focus the image. Some of the older or very cheap scopes will have a focusing collar located somewhere on the body of the unit. Others will have a separate smaller knob usually located on the top of the unit.
It's really up to individual choice as to which you prefer. The smaller know seems to allow a more accurate focus for me and because of the top location is easy to access while looking through the scope. It just seems easier to get a precisely sharper image.
The normal amount of eye relief (how far away from the eyepiece your eye is to get a full picture of the image in the scope) is 12mm to 15mm for most spotting scopes.
Anything shorter than this will cause a problem for eyeglass wearers. Eye relief longer than this just makes the scope a little more awkward to use. Just try to stay within the eye relief recommended above and you will be ok.
Comparison of the Best Spotting Scopes for the Money
I have collected and analyzed data from Amazon to back up and help form my opinion. Data on best sellers, product rank, customer rating, feedback from customers who actually purchased, etc were all used to identify "the best spotting scope for the money".
The idea here is to identify the best value in spotting scopes. I have put together a table below for comparison of features. The table compares the top 5 spotting scopes sold on Amazon below $200.
In order to make this Top 5, the scope had to have a customer satisfaction score of 4.5 or better out of 5 possible points with more than 100 reviews. The higher the number of reviews, the more confidence we can put into the score.
From comparison of this data, and an afternoon of looking through these scopes at long range, I have ranked them below in my order of preference. I also took into account the difference in objective size which we all know will affect it's performance in low light conditions. The larger objectives perform better.
#1 Spotting Scope for the money - Emarth 20-60x60
The Emarth is pictured left. Click on the image to check it out on Amazon.
According to the sales data I accumulated and analyzed, the Emarth ranked #1 in total units sold for scopes in this price range. Customer satisfaction rating was 4.5 for 1138 reviews submitted
This is a huge indicator that this scope delivers what it promises and maybe even a little extra.
I was very surprised at the clarity of the scope at 500 yards. This may be the reason why it was rated so well. I live in the southeastern part of the country so I haven't stretched it beyond 500 yards but I can say that at that distance or less, the sight picture is clear enough to easily see impacts that are off target.
Now I am not saying that clarity is as good as a scope that is 10 times the price but it really isn't that far behind either. The magnification is perfect for our purpose which is rimfire shooting at 400 yards or less.
Those on target are as easy to see making fine tuning at long range quick and effective. I found no mechanical or issues otherwise.
I was so pleased with glass clarity, I purchased one for myself and have used it several times during the last hunting season. For my purposes, the portability was a huge plus. The less awkward a piece of equipment is to handle the better I like it.
One of the things I like most about it is it's rugged construction. The scope and it's table top tripod can both take a beating and keep on ticking. After several trips to the range and one hunting trip where it was exposed to rugged handling in and out of boats and into jeeps, then to hunting locations etc., I have experienced no issues.
In addition this scope is priced at only $4 higher than than the lowest scope in this category. The casing seems to be tough and able to withstand rough normal handling. At less than $80 you can't really go wrong.
After using it for a while, I stand by my claim, this little scope is the best value out there and the best for the money. Check out the other scopes detailed below that are in the same class and price range as the Emarth.
Second runner up - Glasshawk Creative XP HD 20-60x80
This scope was surprisingly clear at 60x which is max zoom. Generous eye relief at 17-12 mm made it comfortable to use and easy to focus.
There are two fine focus knobs that allows you to obtain an image that is vibrant. Zooming and focusing controls are very smooth and an be set for your specific situation quickly.
Bullet holes at 300 yards on a splatter target were very easy to see allowing the correct rifle scope adjustments to be made quickly.
The lenses are multi treated to eliminate reflections and keep them scratch resistant. The casing seems to be able to withstand rough handling as is normal in hunting. It is water, fog, and shock proof. At 80mm the objective is slightly larger than the Emarth which means is should have slightly better performance in low light conditions.
It comes with a small tripod, a phone adapter, carry case, and remote clicker.
The scope is produced by a family owned business out of New York who appear to take great pride in their work. At $180 I don't see how you can go wrong.
#3 Landove Prism 20-60x80
The Landove Prism has 20x to 60x adjustable magnifiation with an 80mm objective lens. The lens is multicoated to deliver astounding brightness and clarity for optimal viewing. The BAK4 prism system transmits bright contrast-rich images throughout the entire zoom range.
It is waterproof, shockproof, and fogproof making it ideal for all weather conditions. The body is completely sealed contained a solid metal framework and is coated with a rubber armor.
It comes with a universal smart phone adapter and a large focus wheel. It also comes with a metal table tripod.
It's ideal for shooting, hunting, bird watching, camping, travel, hiking, and spotting at the target range.
Gosky Updated Newest 20-60x80 Spotting Scope - Variable 20x to 60x magnification and dynamic lens focusing system brings better optics, more stable images and easier focusing power. It’s the best choice for target shooting, archery, hunting, bird watching, wildlife watching, hiking, camping, scenery, outdoor sporting, astronomical observation, etc.
Fully multi-coated 80mm green film objective lens provides a field of view at 82.9-48ft/1000yards. The quality BAK4 Porro prism optics increases light transmission and make your view brighter, clearer and delivers crisp images.
Durable Magnalium Framework and Rubber Armor makes it able to withstand the toughest weather conditions and rough handling.
O-ring seals prevent moisture, dust and debris from penetrating the scope for reliable performance in all environments. Nitrogen gas purging delivers further waterproof performance.
A T-ring and M42 T mount for Canon camera included enable you to take photos and videos by smartphone or camera. A tripod provides you a more stable observation from any angle. A carry case, eyepiece, lens protection covers, and leaning cloth make you more convenient to carry and maintain
At around $140 it is a bargain. More detailed information in the review below.
The Huicocy is another 20-60 variable power spotting scope with a 60 mm objective lens. This won't quite gather as much light in low light conditions as the three 80 mm's discussed above but it is much more compact. If you will use the scope to travel or hunt in the back country this little bit of space saving and weight reduction can mean a lot.
The telescope’s fog proof design allows you to observe the target easily in rainy and fogy weather. It comes together with a free table tripod and phone mount kit. The scope’s screw base is standard 1/4-20 tapered hole which is universal for most floor tripod. That means you may install this scope on any floor tripod you own.
It has a 45 degree angled eyepiece offering a comfortable viewing position with a field of view of 39-19m/1000m.
It features a rugged non-slip surface with a large "Smooth Glide" textured focus ring on the main barrel, (NOT a tiny separate knob above) It has an extendable/retractable eyepiece for use with or without glasses plus an extendable sunshade to reduce glare.
This is the least expensive of all scopes examined in this article at around $66. Customer service has been touted as excellent. You can't go wrong with this one.
Happy long range shooting!