9 Best Low Light Hunting Scopes For Your Rifle (2024)

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What’s the best low light hunting scope you should take afield?

I think most hunters can likely agree that choosing the best low light hunting scope can be pretty tough, especially for those who are new to hunting or just don’t know a lot about optics in general.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when searching for hunting scopes on the internet or when browsing the optics section of a sporting goods store. Even if you get past that initial overwhelming shock of seeing the sheer variety of optics choices billed as “low light hunting scopes,” cutting through the marketing jargon optics companies use to sell their products is a massive task itself.

I know how you feel and I’ve experienced much of that same frustration myself.

Though I’ve never owned a truly bad scope, I freely admit that I’ve purchased a few models that I wasn’t happy with and would not recommend to others. Nobody likes wasting money on a product that doesn’t live up to expectations and finding out you bought a sub-par rifle scope after having high expectations about how it would perform will definitley leave a bad taste in your mouth.

The good news is that we’re living in something of a golden age for hunting optics and the best scopes today are much better than was the case even 10 years ago. Indeed, there is a plethora of quality hunting scopes on the market today that provide exceptional performance at the range and afield.

In this post, I share my picks for the best low light hunting scopes. None of them are perfect, but the right scope can provide a vital edge when you need it most.

This is especially true during low-light conditions when many species of big game are most active. A scope with good low light performance can mean the difference between going home empty handed and punching your tag on the buck or bull of your dreams in a situation like that.

Before we get started, here’s a disclaimer: some of the links below are affiliate links. This means I will earn a small commission if you make a purchase.

This commission comes at no extra cost to you. This helps support the blog and allows me to continue to create free content that’s useful to hunters like yourself. Thanks for your support.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get started.

Feel free to scroll straight through the article, or click one of the links below to jump straight to the best low light rifle scope in the specific category you’re looking for.

Best Value Low Light Hunting Scope

Best Low Light Hunting Scope Under $200

Best Low Light Hunting Scope Under $1,000

Best Low Light Hunting Scope Under $2,000

Best Low Light Hunting Scope Under $3,000

Best Overall Low Light Hunting Scope

Best Leupold Low Light Hunting Scope

Best Vortex Low Light Hunting Scope

Best Long Range Low Light Hunting Scope

Best Value Low Light Hunting Scope

Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44mm

I’ll cut straight to the chase: I think the Leupold VX-5HD is the best value low light hunting scope currently available on the market. Not only that, but this is my favorite hunting scope in general. Period.

Why? Well, the VX-5HD has fantastic glass with special anti-reflective coatings to provide outstanding light transmission. Plus, this particular model of the VX-5HD I’m recommending here also uses an illuminated FireDot Duplex reticle. Basically, it’s a standard duplex crosshair with an illuminated red dot in the center that you can turn on and off.

It works just like a typical scope during the day, but you can turn on that illuminated reticle to aid in aiming during low light conditions. I’ve been in several situations where I had game come out during legal shooting light, but it was dark enough that I had trouble seeing the animals with my naked eye.

Fortunately, the light gathering capabilities of the VX-5HD are so fantastic that I could see much better while looking through the scope.

For example, I successfully and cleanly took a big blue wildebeest with my VX-5 on a recent hunt in Africa at dusk when it was dark enough that I could not see the black crosshairs on his dark body. However, I just turned on the illuminated reticle, put the dot where I wanted to hit, squeezed the trigger, and he dropped at the shot.

There’s no way I could have ethically or practically taken that shot with a scope without that fantastic light transmission and without the illuminated reticle.

It’s also really easy to adjust the brightness of that FireDot reticle as well to turn it up for use during the day if desired, or turn it way down to minimize glare inside the scope for use in low light conditions.

The Leupold VX-5HD also comes with Leupold’s CDS-ZL system and a side focus parallax adjustment dial. Additionally, it has a wide zoom range from 3x all the way up to 15x on the high end that make it well suited for basically any hunting situation you can think of from whitetail in thick timber to open country pronghorn hunts.

This scope is also really well built, tracks beautifully, and holds a zero exceptionally well.

To be fair, the Leupold VX-6HD line has a few additional features that some hunters really like, but I own and have hunted with both. In my opinion, the VX-5HD provides the best balance of size, weight, price, and the features that are most important to me.

And yes, a couple of other scopes on this list provide even better low light performance, but all are considerably more expensive than the Leupold VX-5HD.

All in all, this is a fantastic low light hunting scope that provides high end performance at a surprisingly reasonable price. If that big buck or bull of your dreams steps out of the woods right at last light, you want a scope like the VX-5HD on your hunting rifle so you can make that shot when it counts.

See also  East Tennessee Outdoors: The Whitetail Rut - Part 2 - www.elizabethton.com | www.elizabethton.com

Key Features

  • Weight: 19.7 ounces
  • Magnification Range: 3-15x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 44mm
  • Exit Pupil (low magnification): 14.67mm
  • Exit Pupil (high magnification): 2.93mm
  • Tube Diameter: 30mm
  • Field of View: 38.3-7.7 feet at 100 yards
  • Turret Click Values: .25 MOA
  • Reticle Focal Plane: Second
  • Parallax/Focus: Side adjusting parallax/focus knob
  • Knob Style: Capped Windage & Custom Dial System-ZL Elevation (CDS-ZL)
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes

Pros

  • Wide magnification range
  • Excellent quality glass
  • Great low light performance
  • Illuminated reticle is perfect for low light situations
  • Great balance of useful features without too many unnecessary “extras”

Cons

  • On the heavy side
  • Lacks throw level on magnification ring
  • Higher price point

BUY A LEUPOLD VX-5HD SCOPE ON AMAZON HERE

BUY A LEUPOLD VX-5HD SCOPE AT EURO OPTIC HERE

BUY A LEUPOLD VX-5HD SCOPE AT OPTICS PLANET HERE

Best Low Light Scope For Hunting Under $200

Vortex Crossfire II

The Vortex Crossfire II is a great entry level rifle scope and is exactly what you need if you want a no frills low light scope under $200 and don’t want to do a lot of shopping.

Let’s be realistic here: the Vortex Optics Crossfire II does not provide light transmission or image quality on par with some of the more expensive optics on this list. However, it’s still a capable low light hunting scope for those who don’t need a high performance optic and is a big step up over other lower price point scopes like the Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn.

This is because it has multi-coated lenses that facilitate light transmission and clarity under a variety of circumstances. It’s also available with a V-Brite Illuminated reticle as an additional option for those who want a more clearly defined aiming point at dawn or dusk.

Make no mistake: it’s more than adequate for many hunting situations, especially for hunters on a tight budget. I’d recommend moving up to something a little nicer if your budget allows though.

Key Features

  • Weight: 14.3 ounces
  • Magnification Range: 3-9x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 40mm
  • Exit Pupil (low magnification): 13.33mm
  • Exit Pupil (high magnification): 4.44mm
  • Tube Diameter: 1-inch main tube
  • Field of View: 34.1-12.6 feet at 100 yards
  • Turret Click Values: .25 MOA
  • Reticle Focal Plane: Second
  • Parallax/Focus: Fixed at 100 yards
  • Knob Style: Capped
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes (optional)

Pros

  • Light and compact
  • Very reasonable price
  • Perfect for a budget conscious deer hunter
  • Good glass

Cons

  • Lower image quality than the higher end scopes
  • Restrictive eye box
  • No parallax adjustment dial

BUY A VORTEX CROSSFIRE II SCOPE ON AMAZON HERE

BUY A VORTEX CROSSFIRE II SCOPE ON EURO OPTIC HERE

BUY A VORTEX CROSSFIRE II SCOPE AT OPTICS PLANET HERE

Best Low Light Hunting Scope Under $1,000

Zeiss Conquest V4 3-12x44mm

European companies like Zeiss, Schmitt & Bender, and Swarovski (more on the others in a minute) are all known for producing outstanding quality optics in general. You tend to get what you pay for with that stuff though and European optics are also generally very expensive.

Fortunately, the Zeiss Conquest V4 is a great way to get a high quality European rifle scope with excellent light transmission capabilities for less than $1,000. This scope does not have a lot of “bells and whistles”, but it’s still an excellent German scope with great low light performance. Indeed Zeiss advertises that it uses six-layer multi-coated lenses to offer exceptional 90% light transmission and a clear sight picture.

This is not billed as an extremely lightweight hunting scope or one that’s ideally suited for long range hunting situations (look at something like the Zeiss Victory V, Victory HT, Conquest V6, or V8 if you want something along those lines). However, the Conquest V4 is an outstanding choice for a hunter who wants a good low light scope without paying for a bunch of extra features.

Key Features

  • Weight: 22.5 ounces
  • Magnification Range: 3-12x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 44mm
  • Exit Pupil (low magnification): 14.66mm
  • Exit Pupil (high magnification): 3.66mm
  • Tube Diameter: 30mm
  • Field of View: 19-4.8 feet at 100 meters
  • Turret Click Values: .25 MOA
  • Reticle Focal Plane: Second
  • Parallax/Focus: Fixed at 50 yards
  • Knob Style: Capped
  • Illuminated Reticle: No

Pros

  • Excellent light transmission at a reasonable price
  • Very good quality glass
  • Perfect for a hunter who wants a good scope without a bunch of “extras”
  • Very durable

Cons

  • Physically on the large and heavy side
  • Smaller field of view
  • No parallax adjustment dial
  • No illuminated reticle

BUY A ZEISS CONQUEST SCOPE FROM AMAZON HERE

BUY A ZEISS CONQUEST SCOPE FROM EURO OPTIC HERE

BUY A ZEISS CONQUEST SCOPE FROM OPTICS PLANET HERE

Best Low Light Hunting Scope Under $2,000

Schmidt & Bender 3-12×50 Klassik

The Schmidt & Bender 3-12x50mm Klassik rifle scope is yet another great low light hunting scope from a European manufacturer. Closely related to the 3-12x50mm PM II USMC model the United States Marine Corps used on their sniper rifles for years, the Schmidt & Bender Klassik delivers a great balance of incredibly clearly glass, exceptional light transmission, and outstanding durability.

Don’t let the price of relative lack of marketing for this scope in the Untied States fool you: this is definitely one of the best low light hunting scopes available and has light gathering and transmission capabilities that perform right up there with some higher end (and much more expensive) models also on this list. Plus, it also has an illuminated reticle to further facilitate precision shooting under challenging lighting conditions.

To be perfectly honest, this scope is so good under low light conditions that it could even potentially get you into trouble by allowing you to take a shot outside legal shooting hours if you’re not careful!

See also  9 Best Hunting Rifles in 2024: I tested 40 rifles to find the best

All things considered, the Schmidt & Bender 3-12x50mm Klassik rifle scope is the perfect low light hunting scope for someone who wants the best possible light transmission and incredible durability without any extra or unnecessary features and without spending over $2,000.

Key Features

  • Weight: 21.8 ounces
  • Magnification Range: 3-12x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Exit Pupil (low magnification): 14.4mm
  • Exit Pupil (high magnification): 4.2mm
  • Tube Diameter: 30mm
  • Field of View: 11.1-36.4 feet at 100 meters
  • Turret Click Values: .25 MOA
  • Reticle Focal Plane: First
  • Parallax/Focus: Fixed
  • Knob Style: Capped Windage & Elevation
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes

Pros

  • Extremely durable
  • Outstanding glass
  • Illuminated reticle
  • Great for a hunter who wants an outstanding good scope without a bunch of “extras”

Cons

  • On the heavier side
  • Higher price point

BUY A SCHMIDT AND BENDER KLASSIK SCOPE FROM EURO OPTIC HERE

BUY A SCHMIDT AND BENDER KLASSIK SCOPE FROM OPTICS PLANET HERE

Best Low Light Hunting Scope Under $3,000

Swaroviski Z6i 2-12x50mm

We can’t talk about low light hunting scopes without mentioning Swarovski. Specifically, I think the Swarovski Z 6i 2-12x50mm scope is the best low light hunting scope under $3,000.

Swarovski optics are known for having some of the absolute best quality glass in the business. Well, the Z6i is one of their higher end scopes and uses incredible glass that provides outstanding transmission while at the same time minimizing glare and reflection.

The Swarovski Z6i also has an illuminated reticle that also facilitates aiming under dim lighting conditions. Users also have the option of adding a custom elevation turret for use at longer range. The wide zoom range combined with the with the large 50 mm objective lens also makes this a very flexible scope with a large exit pupil across a wide magnification range.

Plus, this scope is surprisingly lightweight considering its overall quality and the extra features it comes with.

All things considered, it’s tough to argue with a combination of crystal-clear images, incredible light transmission, moderate weight, and those additional features that make the Swaro Z6i such an excellent hunting scope both for use during the middle of the day as well as at dawn and dusk when things are so challenging.

In fact, someone could definitely make the argument that the Swarovski Z6i is the top overall pick on this list of the best low light rifle scopes.

Key Features

  • Weight: 18.3 ounces
  • Magnification Range: 2-12x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Exit Pupil (low magnification): 25mm
  • Exit Pupil (high magnification): 4.16mm
  • Tube Diameter: 30mm
  • Field of View: 63-10.5 feet at 100 yards
  • Turret Click Values: .25 MOA
  • Reticle Focal Plane: Second
  • Parallax/Focus: Fixed
  • Knob Style: Capped Windage & Optional Custom Elevation Turret
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes

Pros

  • Reasonable size and weight
  • Outstanding quality glass
  • Illuminated reticle
  • Excellent image quality

Cons

  • Higher price point
  • No parallax adjustment dial

BUY A SWAROVSKI Z6i SCOPE FROM AMAZON HERE

BUY A SWAROVSKI Z6i SCOPE FROM EURO OPTIC HERE

Best Low Light Hunting Scope

Tangent Theta TT315 3-15x50mm

If price is no option in your search for the absolute best possible low light hunting scope, then the Tangent Theta TT315 is what you need. A word of warning though: there’s a good chance you’ll never want anything else after you try out a Tangent Theta TT315.

This scope is specifically designed for professional marksman and incorporated all the features most useful in that role. Since those marksmen must look through their scope for long periods of time and depend on that scope to see minute target details, the TT315M has unsurpassed image quality and light transmission capabilities that allow the shooter to see the tiniest details of their target without eye fatigue and under periods of low light.

There are two downsides of this scope though: it’s very heavy and it’s very expensive.

To be perfectly honest, the vast majority of hunters do not need the low light performance of the Tangent Theta TT315 and there are plenty of other great low light scopes that aren’t quite as heavy or expensive. However, this is definitely the best low light rifle scope for those who do want/need that performance and who don’t mind shelling out a bunch of cash for this scope or lugging it around.

Key Features

  • Weight: 36.15 ounces
  • Magnification Range: 3-15x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Exit Pupil (low magnification): 11.5mm
  • Exit Pupil (high magnification): 3.5mm
  • Tube Diameter: 34mm
  • Field of View: 12.8-2.8 meters at 100 meters
  • Turret Click Values: .1 Mil
  • Parallax/Focus: Side adjusting parallax/focus knob
  • Knob Style: Non-translating knobs with elevation zero-stop & mechanical windage direction indicator
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes

Pros

  • Wide magnification range
  • Optimized for long distance performance
  • Illuminated reticle
  • Exposed elevation turrets facilitate rapid adjustments
  • Side focus parallax
  • Unsurpassed low light performance
  • Excellent image quality

Cons

  • Large and heavy
  • Expensive

BUY A TANGENT TT315 SCOPE FROM AMAZON HERE

BUY A TANGENT TT315 SCOPE FROM EURO OPTIC HERE

BUY A TANGENT TT315 SCOPE FROM OPTICS PLANET HERE

Best Leupold Low Light Hunting Scope

Leupold VX-6HD 3-18x50mm

The Leupold VX-6HD product line is Leupold’s top end hunting scope lineup and the 3-18x50mm version of the VX-6HD is definitely the best Leupold low light hunting scope. I also think this line contains some of their best rifle scopes overall as well.

This is because it uses outstanding glass with superior coatings that facilitates excellent light transmission. Plus, this particular scope also has an illuminated FireDot Duplex reticle. Just like the VX-5HD I mentioned earlier, the FireDot Duplex reticle is a standard duplex crosshair with an illuminated red dot in the center that you can turn on and off.

The VX-6HD is basically an upgraded VX-5HD with a wider zoom range (6x instead of 5x), a little bit better quality glass, and a couple of other extra features many hunters like having like a reversible throw lever, an electronic reticle level, and flip up alumina lens covers.

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While I think the VX-5HD is the best value low light hunting scope, those extra features and capability of the VX-6HD make it a better choice for other hunters who want a little bit better scope with slightly better low light performance, a couple of extra features, and who don’t mind spending a little bit more.

All things considered, the Leupold VX-6HD is an outstanding low light hunting scope. This scope provides a substantial improvement in low light performance over the VX-Freedom and VX-3HD scope lines as well as a modest improvement over the VX-5HD both overall and in the role of a low-light scope.

The VX-6HD definitely won’t let you down if you need to make a shot under low light conditions.

Key Features

  • Weight: 22.9 ounces
  • Magnification Range: 3-18x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Exit Pupil (low magnification): 16.67mm
  • Exit Pupil (high magnification): 2.77mm
  • Tube Diameter: 30mm
  • Field of View: 38.3-6.4 feet at 100 yards
  • Turret Click Values: .25 MOA
  • Reticle Focal Plane: Second
  • Parallax/Focus: Side adjusting parallax/focus knob
  • Knob Style: Capped Windage & Custom Dial System-ZL Elevation (CDS-ZL)
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes

Pros

  • Wide magnification range
  • Excellent quality glass
  • Illuminated reticle is perfect for low light situations
  • Just about every feature you could want on a hunting scope

Cons

  • On the large and heavy side
  • Higher price point

BUY A LEUPOLD VX-6HD SCOPE ON AMAZON HERE

BUY A LEUPOLD VX-6HD SCOPE ON EURO OPTIC HERE

BUY A LEUPOLD VX-6HD SCOPE AT OPTICS PLANET HERE

Best Vortex Low Light Hunting Scope

Vortex Razor HD LHT 3-15×50

Look no further than the Vortex Razor HD LHT if you want the best Vortex low light hunting scope. This scope uses high quality glass, has a reticle with a center illuminated dot, a side parallax knob, and an exposed elevation turret with Vortex’s RevStop Zero System (their version of a a zero stop).

There’s a reason why Vortex Optics markets the Razor HD LHT as “one scope to rule them all” and this scope has much improved low light performance over their lower tier Crossfire, Diamondback, and Viper lines. Not only his the Razor HD LHT a better low light hunting scope, but it’s also just a better performing rifle scope overall.

Indeed, it’s well suited for use in dark-timber on whitetails as well as for open country antelope or elk hunts where precision long range shots may be necessary.

The Razor HD LHT also comes with a coupon you can redeem with Kentron Industries to receive a custom elevation turret matched to your favorite hunting load to assist with making long shots on game and at the range.

Finally, the illuminated reticle is especially nice for use in low light conditions where there’s still legal shooting light, but it may be too dark to see the reticle. Just turn on the illuminated center dot, place that red dot where you want to hit, and squeeze the trigger. The reticle also works just fine during the daytime when illumination is turned off.

If you want the absolute best Vortex low light hunting scope, then the Vortex Razor HD LHT is just what the doctor ordered.

Key Features

  • Weight: 19.1 ounces
  • Magnification Range: 3-15x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
  • Exit Pupil (low magnification): 14mm
  • Exit Pupil (high magnification): 2.8mm
  • Tube Diameter: 30mm
  • Field of View: 35.3-7.0 feet at 100 yards
  • Turret Click Values: .25 MOA
  • Reticle Focal Plane: Second
  • Parallax/Focus: Side adjusting parallax/focus knob
  • Knob Style: Exposed elevation turret (MOA)
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes

Pros

  • Can order a custom elevation dial
  • Excellent glass quality
  • Illuminated center dot
  • Well suited for a variety of deer hunting situations

Cons

  • Busy reticle
  • On heavy side

BUY A VORTEX RAZOR SCOPE ON AMAZON HERE

BUY A VORTEX RAZOR SCOPE ON EURO OPTIC HERE

BUY A VORTEX RAZOR SCOPE AT OPTICS PLANET HERE

Best Long Range Low Light Hunting Scope

Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56

With a gigantic 56mm objective lens and fully multi-coated ED glass, the Nightforce ATACR is another excellent addition to this list of low-light scopes. This scope also has a large 34mm main tube and a zoom range from 5x all the way up to 25x on the high end that facilitates use at longer ranges.

It also provides over 35 mils of elevation adjustment. This scope is also available in first focal plane and second focal plane configurations. For those reasons, I think the ATACR is the best long range low light hunting scope.

So, this is the best rifle scope for you if you’re looking for something with excellent low light performance that you can also use to reach out to extreme ranges with.

Key Features

  • Weight: 39.1 ounces
  • Magnification Range: 5-25x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 56mm
  • Exit Pupil (low magnification): 10.5mm
  • Exit Pupil (high magnification): 2.2mm
  • Tube Diameter: 34mm
  • Field of View: 18-4.9 feet at 100 yards
  • Turret Click Values: .25 MOA or .1 MRAD
  • Parallax/Focus: Side adjusting parallax/focus knob
  • Knob Style: Capped
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes

Pros

  • Wide magnification range
  • Optimized for long distance performance
  • Illuminated reticle
  • Exposed elevation turrets facilitate rapid adjustments
  • Side focus parallax
  • Unsurpassed low light performance
  • Excellent image quality

Cons

  • Large and heavy
  • Expensive

BUY A NIGHTFORCE ATACR SCOPE ON AMAZON HERE

BUY A NIGHTFORCE ATACR SCOPE ON EURO OPTIC HERE

BUY A NIGHTFORCE ATACR SCOPE AT OPTICS PLANET HERE

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>