Whether shooting a 22 lr at long range, for precision, or just plinking fun, the game is lways much more fun when you hit what you shoot at. The foundation of shooting success begins with the right rifle.
Choosing, or building the right one, can make a big difference in the results you are able to obtain. Check out this article I have written which compares several of the best factory produced precision rifles on the market today.
Why use a scope designed specifically for a 22 lr rifle ?
Once the rifle is chosen, the next requirement in order to "shoot with the big boys, and girls", is to identify the right optic. At this point most people jump toward the scopes on the market today that are specifically labeled for 22 lr.
Although these scopes can be enjoyed in shooting these little rifles they do differ in a few ways from other lower end center fire scopes that could make the shooting experience much more fun.
Most people go for these little 22 scopes first because they are cheap...relatively speaking. Most of them can be had for slightly over $100 to below that amount. Now if you decide to purchase one of these little scopes the first thing you should understand is there is a reason for their cheaper price.
They are made with cheaper components that will not be super accurate for a long period of time. The glass is cheaper making the sight picture at long distance a much lower quality than that of a lower end center fire scope.
In my opinion, you are much better off to look at a slightly higher quality scope even for a 22 lr. With the low recoil, you will probably get a lifetime of use from a better scope, magnification will be higher, they will have a clearer picture, and your shooting will be much more accurate. Plus, you can interchange the scope onto a big bore rifle later if needed.
The scopes I recommend below are a much better investment than one of the little 22 lr scopes.
What scopes are the best value ?
Here is a quick list of the Top 3 22 lr scopes we have selected for 2020 ranked in order of preference. More details and our reasoning or choosing these is below.
Top 3 22 lr scopes
How did I choose the best 22lr scope for 2019
To begin the process, I compared the major design features of each scope. There are many who will say scope design doesn't make a better shooter. I disagree and believe that of the major design characteristics measured today, I want as many of these helping me as I an afford.
The cells highlighted in green identify the scope with what I consider to be the best in the row of feature metrics. Once this rating was complete, the number of green cells for each column were totaled and number displayed at the bottom of the chart row entitled Design Score.
Other tests were conducted by me and the methodology will be discussed below. None of these test are purely scientific but all are in my opinion very important indications of the best long range scope for the money. Totals beneath the test results indicate how many green cells were awarded for that scope.
Value points are simply the total of these two categories divided the cost of the scope by times 100 to give a reliable indicator of which scope is actually the best for the money spent. A larger number indicates more value for the dollar spent.
I understand that there will be some who may disagree with what I consider to be green cells or best among all of the scopes, but my choices are based on years of long range shooting experience. You are welcome to make any changes you would like for your own selection purposes.
Glass clarity is simply which optics presented the clearest picture at 300 yards. Glass quality is one of the primary indicators of a good scope. Remember, if you can't see it, you can't hit it.
Tight clicks mean that the optic has a mechanism that delivers clean, crisp clicks when adjusted. No slop was seen in between clicks and no shift in zero once the adjustment was set.
If a scope had an unsatisfactory rating on the 10 shot big bore test, it means that the shock of the recoil from a securely mounted Remington 700 in 308 caliber caused the zero point to move during the 10 shot test. This is a deal breaker in my opinion even though we will only be utilizing the optic we choose on rimfire rifles. This doesn't mean that the scope was broken by the recoil but the internals were not designed to be strong enough to perfectly hold zero due to the recoil.
A green cell rating for reticle design just means that it is the reticle I prefer. I look for a reticle that has useful graduations but is not so complex that it could be confusing.
After all of this information was assembled in the table above, I simply counted the number of green cells for each scope. This total was divided by the price of the rifle in dollars then muliplied times 100. The resulting number is what I call value points. It is just an indicator of how well the scope performed plus how many desirable features it offers above it's competitors per dollar spent. In other words, value points are just an indicator of which scope is the best for the money. A higher number is a better value.
What is THE best long range 22lr scope for the money in 2019?
#1 Athlon Argos BTR 8-34 X 56
The old saying "you get what you pay for" doesn't apply when searching for the best value in long range 22lr scopes. My choice for the #1 best value is the Athlon Argos BTR 8-34 X 56, the second highest price scope examined. Almost $100 cheaper than the Vortex 6-24.
Over the past several years, Athlon has developed a reputation for offering high value in their products. This scope is no different. This scope stands out in the scoring above simply because it has the lowest price, the most desirable features and has top performance on both rimfires and big bore rifles.
Athlon optics were the overwhelming scope used in the 2018 NRL Nationals as witnessed from the chart below from their website where shooter's equipment types were surveyed. This kind of majority doesn't happen by accident.
The fact that it finished first in this comparison is no surprise to me. I have owned this scope for a little over two years myself and couldn't be any happier with it. It is responsible for helping me win a few local competitions, several bets, and the elimination of more than a few varmints.
It was no surprise that this scope easily passed the big bore 10 shot test. Being the proud owner of this scope for over a year now, I have shot this scope on several big bore rifles as well as my little tack driver rimfires. It has not missed a beat and I have never seen zero shift. It even served as the optic on my 7mm mag Remington 700 for a while and took the abuse like a champ.
It is a first focal plane scope which is a feature that usually drives the price into the stratosphere. It's also a feature that no professional shooter in PRS would be without. For those not familiar with what first focal plane means, I will give my most brief n oncise explanation here.
The reticle graduations are marked on the first focal plane which allows you to zoom or use less magnification without affecting the distances between marks. This helps when using the reticle to range a target and / or when using graduations for hold over instead of dialing elevation which allows a much quicker shot. Very important in certain competitions.
Pictured right is the MOA reticle you get with this scope with 2 views - 8X and 34X. Remember, this is a first focal plane reticle meaning the graduations do not change in relation to the target when magnification is zoomed in. You don't have to dial out to a certain power to do ranging tasks. I love simple but effective reticles like this. You can get more information on the reticle at Athlon's website if you like.
When looking at the table you can see there are several features where the Athlon is beaten by the Vortex. I will not say the Vortex is not a good scope because it is. I also have owned this model for 2 years and it has performed perfectly.
I can say the Athlon sells for almost $100 less. To me extra features on the vortex, does not outweigh that additional cost.
#2 UTG 8-32X56
This result might surprise many but for the price, the features offered, the dependability and suitability for long range rimfire shooting, the UTG 8-32x56 is my number two pick with 4.6 value points. Is it THE BEST scope of the group - no, but it is the best value of the group, with the exeption of the Athlon discussed above. The only reason it isn't is because it did show some minor amount of zero movement after 10 shots being fired from a 308 caliber rifle.
The movement was very small. Most of what I saw could really be more related to my ability, but I want to be completely honest with the results I obtained. The zero movement on the UTG was much less than what I saw on the other scopes that failed this test.
If your primary use will be for big bore rifles, go with the Athlon for $60 more, but if it's only use will be on rimfires, this is your baby. It will be as accurate and consistent on a rimfire rifle as a $1000 scope would be.
If you sense my confidence in making that statement it is because I have owned and shot this scope, or it's predecessor, for more than 5 years. It is mounted on a 17 hmr and has played a large part in this rig being one of the best tack drivers in my region, strictly from a performance standpoint, not cost or beauty.
This scope is mounted on a $300 factory Savage fvsr 93R17. With a rig that costs much less than $500, I consistently see less than 1 MOA performance, super good for rimfires. This combination is definitely one of my favorites. Check out the most recent price here on Amazon.
It has never changed zero and the glass clarity is amazing for a lower class optic. When shooting with this scope I don't find it necessary to use a spotter or spotting scope because I can easily see the tiny little 17 caliber holes in paper at more than 200 yards and still don't have to max out it's capability at 32X.
The extra large 56mm objective combined with the 30mm tube gathers light really well. You will think you are looking through a much more expensive optic in low light conditions.
Below is a shot of the reticle that comes with this scope. Simple but effective. With a full 50 MOA range of adjustment, you can easily adjust to hold dead on at 300 yards.
#3 Vortex Diamondback 6-24X50 Tactical
The Vortex Diamondback is an excellent scope that was priced a little too high to yield enough value points above to become my first or second selection. The features of this scope are outstanding, and with a lower price would probably become my selection for the best long range 22lr scope for the money.
IF I were looking for a great scope, and cost didn't matter, this would be my choice out of the group examined. Of course if cost were not object, I would probably buy all Kahles or top of the line Vortex, Night Force, etc.
One primary advantage to this scope over the Athlon is that it has more built in MOA elevation adjustment which allows you to shoot further while holding dead on. Of course the lack of adjustment on the Athlon can be corrected with a scope base with a built in MOA angle.
For a few bucks more, you won't go wrong with this optic. Check it's price here on Amazon.
The other scopes examined
The other scopes examined all have one thing in common. They were "designed" for rimfire rifles only. Manufacturers today and for quite some time see the 22lr as a caliber that will only be used for plinking out to 50 yards and that is what these scopes were designed for.
Personally, because my intentions with rimfire rifles are much more serious than that, I tend to stay away from "rimfire" only scopes. Even though some are made with reticles made specifically for the caliber with hold over dots, they are never very accurate and certainly not investments that will perform at a high level.
None of these scopes could pass the 10 shot big bore test and are not a great value for the dollar spent.