Squirrel hunting has long held a special place in my heart. It can often be social, the bag limits are generous, and they taste incredible. However, having a successful squirrel hunt is anything but easy. These are small animals. Their quick movement and seemingly endless places to hide makes them a challenging harvest for even the most skilled hunters. Quite possibly one of the most important pieces of gear for a successful squirrel hunt is your rifle’s optic. While having quality optics is undoubtedly crucial for all hunts, this is exemplified as you try to rest your crosshairs on their erratic movement. I have used both ends of the spectrum for my squirrel hunts, and using the best optics speaks volumes.
The two most popular rifle calibers for squirrel hunting are the .22LR and the .17HMR, so we’ll focus on those two when choosing optics. Here are my top picks for optics to use when squirrel hunting with these calibers. There’s an old saying amongst hunters and shooters alike that your scope should cost more than the rifle. While that’s a pretty over simplified motto to live by, there is some great wisdom in purchasing quality optics, especially when pursuing small game such as squirrels.
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1. The Best Magnification
Vortex Diamondback 2-7x35mm, $329, Vortex
- 7x zoom
- Very durable.
Vortex has made a name for themselves for producing high quality, accurate, clear, and dependable optics, and their popularity has grown tremendously over the past decade. This scope is on the higher end of what you can buy for squirrels at $329. But you get what you pay for, and this scope comes with one of the best magnifications in the business. The 7x zoom on this scope provides clear images, the glass is extremely durable, and it is fog-proof for those frostier mornings in the woods. Combining that with Vortex’s impressive warranty, this one is hard to beat for the serious squirrel hunter.
2. The Best Fixed Magnification Option
Leupold FX-3 6×42, $449.99, Leupold
- An incredibly clear optic.
- Fixed magnification might not work for all hunters.
Leupold is one of our favorite brands. They have been consistently making the clearest and most durable glass for essentially longer than anyone. While their prices aren’t ideal for the budget hunter, you are getting what you pay for in this scenario. The FX-3 is a fixed, non-adjustable scope, however, that shouldn’t be an issue for most squirrel hunting conditions. The simplicity of that design in return gives you over 17 feet FOV (feet of view) at 100 yards. That is impressive by any standard. We also just like the reticles Leupold offers in their scopes. And finally, this scope is backed by Leupold’s incredible optic warranty.
3. The Simplest Design
Vortex Crossfire II 4-12x40mm, $239.99, Vortex
- Fixed parallax
Is it that surprising that we have two Vortex scopes mentioned on this list? Probably not. But that’s for good reason. The Crossfire II has become one of the most popular scopes for deer and varmint hunters because of its clear glass, simple design, and durability. And it works great on smaller targets like squirrels too. This scope is super lightweight, weighing in at only 14.3 ounces, and having a length of just under 11 inches. The main complaint on this scope has been towards its fixed 50-yard parallax, however, if you’re solely hunting squirrels, that shouldn’t deter you from purchasing it.
4. The Best Overall Value
Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40mm, $199, Walmart
- Excellent multi-coated lenses
- Harder to find
The Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40mm is quite possibly the biggest steal in the optic market currently. Its multi-coated lenses increase light transmission up to 90% which is extremely uncommon for a scope that retails for less than $200. This scope is incredible when the hunting conditions aren’t such as lowlight mornings, and poor weather. It is parallax-free at 20 yards. It also features a rather versatile magnification dial, which could come in handy depending on what type of terrain you’re hunting squirrels in. While this scope was designed with smaller calibers in mind, it performs quite well with heavier cartridges.