Choosing the Best Air Rifle Scope: What You Need to Know


If you’ve just bought your first air rifle, you might be wondering if you should get a scope specifically for it or if you can just use a rifle scope you already have in your workshop.

When picking out a scope for your air rifle, there are many considerations, such as zoom level, optic quality, objective lens size, and the mounting system.

Shooting Mystery has the answer to the most commonly asked questions about air rifle scopes and compares them directly to regular rifle scopes in terms of their effectiveness and durability.

Can You Use a Rifle Scope on an Air Rifle?

No, you cannot and should not use a regular rifle scope on your air rifle. Doing so might actually break the rifle scope beyond repair.

Standard rifles fire bullets out of the barrel through pressure from ignited gasses inside the bullet. This combustion causes the familiar backward recoil you feel after pulling the trigger.

bMw4IB Choosing the Best Air Rifle Scope: What You Need to Know

On the other hand, air rifles fire using a different method that gives it recoil that moves forward after the initial backward-moving recoil. This movement is something standard rifle scopes aren’t designed for.

This is why the inner assembly on your rifle scope will break if you use it on an air rifle scope. It’s just not designed to be used with that weapon system or handle the forward recoil it creates.

=> Read more 7 Things To Look for When Buying Your First Scope for Your Air Rifle

Things to Look For in an Air Rifle Scope

Instead of using regular rifle scopes, you should pick out a dedicated air rifle scope that’s designed to handle the recoil from the weapon.

Here are the essential things to consider when picking out an air rifle scope.

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Zoom Level

There are two main types of air rifle scopes – fixed magnification and variable magnification scopes. Fixed zoom scopes are stuck on only one zoom level.

Zoom is the main feature that explains how a telescopic sight works. It allows a shooter to see at longer fixed ranges and hit a target effectively.

Meanwhile, variable zoom scopes are much more versatile because you can switch between magnification levels, such as zooming in from 3x to 15x. This is helpful when aiming at varying distances.

However, this can make the scope heavier than fixed zoom alternatives. You’ll also have to make more adjustments and re-zero the scope more often than fixed zoom scopes.

Optic Quality

An air rifle scope can have as many zoom levels as needed, but if the actual optical glass quality is poor, your shooting performance will still suffer.

You should get an air rifle scope that is clear and scratch and glare resistant. Despite the added cost, other features, like being fog-proof and waterproof, are also worth considering.

Variable scopes might have different optic lens qualities depending on the zoom level. Check reviews of the specific scope to see if the sight image quality drops when you zoom in.

Recoil Management

Some air rifles are very powerful, producing noticeable forward-jerking recoil. This can hurt or even destroy the scope if you’re not careful.

Thankfully, rifle scopes made explicitly for air rifles can easily withstand the forward recoil. Just don’t go buying cheaper, standard rifle scopes for your air rifle.

Check the product details and reviews to see if the scope is designed to be used on air rifles. If there’s no information, it’s best to pick another option.

Objective Lens Size

The objective lens size is significant in how an air rifle scope functions. The main reason to get a rifle with a smaller objective lens is that it’s more portable and generally lighter, making it a better fit for a lower-caliber air rifle.

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On the other hand, getting a larger objective lens can have the crucial benefit of letting in more light into the scope. This allows you to see clearer in low-light situations.

Purchasing a scope with a larger objective lens size (40-50mm) is recommended if you regularly shoot at dawn or dusk.

Mounting System

This is how your scope optic will be attached to your air rifle. There are two main types of mounting systems: one-piece and two-piece.

Two-piece mounts are fine for most rifles and can be easier to install and take off. They’re also cheaper than one-piece mounts.

However, getting a one-piece mount is your best bet if you have an air rifle with a lot more power. These mounts are a lot better at handling recoil than two-piece mounts.

You should also get a higher mount for larger scopes and standard-sized ones for scopes that aren’t as big. This is directly connected to objective lens size. The larger the lens, the larger the mount needed.

Benefits of Using a Scope on an Air Rifle

  • Makes you more accurate
  • Variable zoom is idle for hitting targets at unique distances
  • Decreases eye strain versus looking through iron sights
  • Increases the effective range of your air rifle
  • Large objective lens scopes help shooters see in low light

Disadvantages of Using a Scope on an Air Rifle

  • Adds weight to your air rifle
  • Added expense for the shooter

Frequently Asked Questions

After learning more about air rifle scopes, you might have other questions about how they work. Here are the answers to the most commonly asked questions.

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What’s the Best Magnification Level for an Air Rifle Scope?

The ideal magnification range for an air rifle scope is between 1x and 16x. Whether you get a fixed or variable zoom scope is up to you and your shooting preferences.

Getting a scope with a higher zoom level than 16x might not be worth it because the range on air rifles isn’t as far as on conventional rifles.

PRO TIP: If you’d like to survey your surroundings and keep an eye on elusive game, consider getting a drone with a camera to act as a scout or overwatch. 

What Is a Good FPS for an Air Rifle?

Most shooters prefer a “feet per second” (FPS) count of between 600 and 900 FPS for air rifles. This is ideal for accuracy while maintaining a decent pellet size.

Handguns using the same firing technology usually have a lower FPS count because of the shorter barrel and less robust and weaker firing mechanism.

Final Thoughts

You might be tempted to save a few bucks by sticking an unused conventional rifle scope onto your air rifle. You shouldn’t do this because it might break the optic.

There are plenty of excellent air rifle scopes out there that are designed to take the forward recoil and have all the great features that you love on conventional rifle scopes.

The crucial thing to remember is that optical quality, zoom level, recoil management, mounting, and objective lens must meet your needs and that of your air rifle.


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