Considerations When Choosing a Sniper Scope

While choosing a sniper scope for a rifle is ultimately a very personal choice, there are several issues you should consider when deciding which scope is the best for you. Many people wonder why the military chooses to use a 10X scope, while those who are thinking of building their own tactical rifle are unsure of which scope magnification is the best. The answer to this particular question depends largely on your intended application for your rifle and scope. Perhaps you are engaged in civilian competition, or even tactical competition, you could even be a member of the military or a police officer. All of these applications require different scope magnifications, so consider your application.

Law Enforcement Sniper Scope

If you are a police officer or in some form of law enforcement, you should be considering a scope in the range of 4 to 6, with a 6X scope pushing the limits. The reason for this thinking is that few riflemen in the field of law enforcement are sanctioned to take a shot beyond 100 yards, with most being taken at 60-70 yards. World War II saw the most effective snipers the German army to be using mostly 4X scopes, and these shooters were actually nailing 600 meter shots with limited optics. It is generally thought that in the law enforcement field, the terrain operated in requires a fairly close-range shot.

Military Application

The military tends to have an entirely different application and use for sniper scopes than law enforcement, as their needs extend more to making medium to long range body shots, thus their standard use of the 10X magnification scope. The 10X is known to offer the shooter a good amount of light transmission as well as medium range reasonable field of view. All in all, the 10X can offer the operator a reliable aiming device that is not so large as to be bulky or burdensome. While a 20X scope used on a blistering day could cause a mirage that makes the target almost disappear, the 10X is a fairly good compromise.

Competition Shooting Scope

If you're not really a designated "sniper," but like participating in tactical shoots, you may be able to get by with either a 10X, 6X or 4X scope. Competition shooters are not under the same stress levels as military or law enforcement-in other words, lives are not dependent upon the results of a competition shoot. While field of view is important, it doesn't have the same level of importance in a competition shoot as it does for a police officer or military personnel. It is also important to note that while you may be able to shoot a moving target made from cardboard at 100 yards with a 10X scope, this is entirely different from shooting a moving human target. The competitor can use most magnifications as long as they are not on the extreme end, therefore anything from 3X to 10X can make sense for competition shooting.

After deciding upon your application, you must consider fixed power vs. variable power on your sniper scope. Our American military currently uses a fixed power scope to eliminate the necessity of calculations in a tight situation, however variable power has legitimate applications for civilian or law enforcement. A variable power scope can be helpful if used correctly, or not-so helpful when the person behind the scope simply wants to dial it up to the maximum level. Keep in mind that at 10X, your field of view is barely a couple of feet at 100 yards. For civilians and hunters you will find a wide range of scopes on the market which offer a fairly high quality scope for a reasonable price.