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Variable Power Rifle Scopes: A Complete Guide

Whether you’re an experienced shooter or new to the world of rifle scopes, having the right optics can make all the difference in your shooting performance. One popular option is variable power rifle scopes, known for their versatility and adaptability in various situations.

In this complete guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about these powerful tools – from understanding how they work to selecting the perfect one for your needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Variable power rifle scopes allow for greater accuracy and adaptability in various shooting situations thanks to their adjustable magnification levels.
  • When choosing a variable power scope, it’s essential to consider features such as the magnification range, objective lens size, reticle type, parallax adjustment, eye relief, turret style and focal plane.
  • Fixed power scopes offer simplicity and affordability while variable power scopes provide greater versatility but require more skill to use effectively.
  • Proper maintenance and care are necessary for keeping your scope in excellent condition for years of use.

Understanding Variable Power Rifle Scopes


Variable power rifle scopes allow shooters to adjust the magnification level of their optics, making them versatile and useful for a range of shooting distances.

What Are They And How Do They Work?

Variable power rifle scopes are a popular choice among shooters looking for added flexibility and greater precision when engaging targets at varying distances.

These versatile optics allow users to quickly adjust the magnification levels, providing an optimal level of zoom depending on the shooting situation.

In essence, variable power rifle scopes function by using two separate lens groups within their optical system: one group that remains stationary (containing objective lenses) and another that can be adjusted (the eyepiece lenses).

By simply rotating a ring or knob on the scope body, you are able to move these adjustable lenses closer or further apart from each other. This movement changes how light is focused through the optic, resulting in different levels of magnification as desired.

For example, let’s say you’re out hunting deer with a variable power riflescope set at 3x magnification to maintain clarity when scanning your surroundings.

Fixed Vs. Variable Power Scopes

When it comes to rifle scopes, you have the option to choose between fixed and variable power scopes. Both types offer unique advantages and drawbacks, depending on your preferences and shooting needs. To help you understand the differences between fixed and variable power scopes, we’ve compiled a comparison table below.

Fixed Power ScopesVariable Power Scopes
Offer a single magnification level, which cannot be adjusted.Allow you to adjust the magnification level, providing greater versatility in different shooting situations.
Generally simpler and more affordable, making them a popular option for beginners or budget-conscious shooters.Often more expensive due to the additional components required for their adjustable magnification.
Tend to have fewer moving parts, resulting in increased durability and reduced potential for mechanical issues.May be more prone to mechanical issues, as they have more moving parts than fixed power scopes.
Can be easier to use, as there is no need to adjust the magnification while aiming.Require more skill to use effectively, as changing the magnification can alter your view and require additional adjustments.
Typically lighter and more compact, making them a good option for those who prefer a minimalistic setup.Usually larger and heavier than fixed power scopes, which can affect the overall balance and handling of your rifle.

Carefully consider your shooting needs and preferences when deciding between a fixed or variable power rifle scope. Variable power scopes offer greater flexibility and adaptability, which can be beneficial for those who engage in various shooting activities or encounter diverse shooting conditions.

Magnification And Reticles

When it comes to understanding variable power rifle scopes, one of the critical factors to consider is magnification. Magnification refers to the degree of enlargement that a lens provides when focusing on an object.

Variable power rifle scopes have adjustable magnification settings, allowing shooters to zoom in or out on their target as needed.

Another critical factor in selecting a variable power scope is the reticle type. Reticles are crosshairs or aiming points within a scope and can significantly impact accuracy and precision.

Different reticle styles, such as duplex, mil-dot, BDC (bullet drop compensator), among others, offer unique benefits depending on your shooting needs and preferences.

Overall, understanding how magnification works and selecting the right reticle type for your shooting situation will help you get the most out of your variable power rifle scope.

Features To Consider When Choosing A Variable Power Rifle Scope


Consider the magnification range, objective lens size, reticle type, parallax adjustment, eye relief, turret style and focal plane when choosing a variable power rifle scope.

Magnification Range

The magnification range is an essential factor when selecting a variable power rifle scope. It refers to how much the image can be magnified, which affects the accuracy of your shot.

The ideal magnification range depends on the type of shooting you do and your personal preferences.

On the other hand, if you’re doing close-range hunting or tactical shooting, then a lower-powered scope will serve you well.

Consider what distance you typically shoot from and choose a scope that offers enough magnification to hit your target accurately but not too much that it limits your field of view.

Objective Lens Size

The objective lens size of a variable power rifle scope is an important factor to consider when selecting the right optic for your shooting needs. This lens determines how much light enters the scope and is measured in millimeters.

However, with larger lenses come increased weight and bulkiness which may not be suitable for some shooters. It’s crucial to find a balance between lens size and weight that suits your preferences and intended use.

For example, if you plan on taking long-range shots or hunting at dusk or dawn, opt for a larger diameter objective lens such as 50mm or above.

Overall, understanding what type of shooting situations you will encounter frequently will help determine what kind of objective lens size you need before making a purchase decision on your next Variable Power Rifle Scope selection.

Reticle Type

The reticle is the crosshairs of your rifle scope that helps you to line up shots. When selecting a variable power rifle scope, it’s important to consider the type of reticle that best suits your shooting needs.

There are several types of reticles available, including duplex, mil-dot, BDC (bullet drop compensator), and illuminated reticles. Duplex reticles are simple and great for beginners or those who want a clear view.

Mil-dot reticles can help with range estimation and holdovers for bullet drop calculations. BDCs can also aid in long-range shooting by calibrating the elevation adjustment based on distance to target while illuminated options make aiming easier in low-light environments like dawn or dusk hunting trips.

Parallax Adjustment

One of the critical factors to consider when choosing a variable power rifle scope is the parallax adjustment. Parallax is an optical illusion caused by the misalignment of the reticle and target image, which can lead to inaccurate shots, especially at longer ranges.

Different scopes offer varying degrees of parallax adjustments, with some having none at all. It’s essential to choose a scope with enough adjustment range to suit your shooting needs and conditions.

Overall, understanding how parallax affects your shot placement and selecting a rifle scope with appropriate parallax adjustment capabilities will significantly improve your shooting experience and accuracy.

Eye Relief

Eye relief is an essential factor to consider when choosing a variable power rifle scope. It refers to the distance between the ocular lens and your eye, ensuring that you can maintain a clear and comfortable view of your target while aiming.

A long eye relief means that even if you wear glasses or goggles, you’ll still be able to see clearly through the scope without any discomfort.

When selecting a variable power rifle scope based on eye relief, it’s crucial to ensure that it fits well with your shooting style and the type of firearm you’re using. For instance, if you’re using a shotgun or any other high-recoil firearm, consider getting a scope with at least four inches of eye relief.

Some popular examples of such scopes include Vortex Crossfire II 2-7x32mm Riflescope and Nikon Buckmasters II 3-9x40mm Riflescope.

Turret Style

When choosing a variable power rifle scope, the turret style is an essential feature to consider. The turret controls allow for adjustments to be made to your aim without having to adjust your body’s position.

There are two main types of turrets: capped and uncapped. Capped turrets protect against accidental movement that can throw off your accuracy while shooting.

For those who need quick, easy access to their settings, exposed tactical-style knobs may be more suitable than traditional hunting-style capped dials which require additional steps before making any adjustments.

The type of turret you choose ultimately depends on what kind of shooting or hunting you plan on doing with your rifle scope.

Focal Plane

When choosing a variable power rifle scope, it’s important to consider the focal plane. The focal plane is where the reticle or crosshairs are located inside the scope.

There are two types of focal planes – first and second. In a first focal plane scope, the reticle changes in size as you adjust the magnification, making it proportional to your target at any distance.

On the other hand, second focal plane scopes have a fixed-size reticle independent of magnification. While they may not be as versatile for long-range shooting as first focal plane scopes, they can be more affordable and suitable for shorter distances or hunting purposes.

It’s crucial to choose a rifle scope with an appropriate focal plane that matches your preferred style of shooting and budget considerations.

Benefits Of Variable Power Rifle Scopes


Variable Power Rifle Scopes offer shooters versatility and flexibility with their magnification range, allowing for improved accuracy and precision in various shooting scenarios.

Versatility And Flexibility

Variable power rifle scopes offer shooters versatility and flexibility when it comes to magnification, making them ideal for different shooting situations. With the ability to adjust magnification levels on the fly, variable power scopes can be used for long-range shooting or up-close targeting with ease.

Additionally, variable power scopes allow shooters to experiment with different magnification settings based on personal preference and comfort without needing to switch out riflescopes completely.

Improved Accuracy And Precision

One of the main benefits of using a variable power rifle scope is the improved accuracy and precision it provides. With the ability to adjust magnification levels, shooters can easily zero in on their target with greater clarity and detail.

Another factor that contributes to improved accuracy is the reticle type. While some scopes have simple crosshairs, others have more complex reticles that include bullet drop compensation markings or range-finding capabilities.

These additional features make it easier for shooters to account for distance and windage when targeting their prey or hitting targets at long range.

Enhanced Shooting Experience

Variable power rifle scopes can provide an enhanced shooting experience for hunters and shooters. By giving you the ability to adjust your magnification, you have more flexibility in different shooting scenarios.

Additionally, variable power scopes often have features such as parallax adjustment and turrets that allow you to fine-tune your shot placements with precision.

This kind of control over your optics can improve accuracy and give greater confidence in your shooting skills.

Maintenance And Care For Variable Power Rifle Scopes

To ensure the longevity and optimal performance of your variable power rifle scope, regular cleaning and proper storage is essential.

Cleaning And Storage Tips

Keeping your variable power rifle scope clean and stored properly is crucial for its longevity and accuracy. Here are some tips to help you maintain your scope:

  1. Use a soft cloth or brush to remove any dirt or debris from the lenses.
  2. Avoid using water or cleaning solutions on the lenses unless absolutely necessary, as they can damage the coatings.
  3. If you need to use a cleaning solution, make sure it’s specifically formulated for optics and apply it sparingly with a microfiber cloth.
  4. Store your scope in a dry, cool place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.
  5. Protect your scope with a cover or sleeve when not in use to prevent dust buildup or accidental damage.
  6. If you notice any issues with your scope, such as fogging or distortion, take it to a professional for repair rather than attempting to fix it yourself.

By following these simple cleaning and storage tips, you can keep your variable power rifle scope in top condition and ensure accurate shots every time you use it.

Proper Adjustment And Calibration Techniques

To get the most out of your variable power rifle scope, it’s essential to ensure that it is properly adjusted and calibrated. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:

  1. Zero Your Rifle: Before adjusting your scope, make sure your rifle is zeroed as this will give you a baseline from which to work.
  2. Adjust the Eye Relief: Adjust your eye relief until you can see the entire field of view without any distortion.
  3. Adjust the Parallax: Use the parallax adjustment to ensure that your reticle and target are in focus at all magnification levels.
  4. Adjust for Windage and Elevation: Make small adjustments to windage and elevation until your bullets hit where you aim.
  5. Test at Different Magnification Levels: Once you’ve made adjustments, test your scope at different magnifications to ensure consistency across all ranges.
  6. Recheck Frequently: Check your scope’s calibration regularly, especially after traveling or if you’ve dropped or bumped it.

By following these simple adjustment and calibration techniques, you’ll be able to take advantage of all the benefits offered by your variable power rifle scope- improved accuracy, precision, and an enhanced shooting experience!

Troubleshooting Common Issues

If you experience any issues with your variable power rifle scope, there are a few common problems that you may be able to troubleshoot yourself. Here are some tips to help you tackle those pesky issues:

  1. Blurry Images: If your scope’s image appears blurry or distorted, check the lens for dirt, dust, or debris. Clean the lens with a soft cloth and gentle cleaning solution if necessary.
  2. Parallax Error: If your scope’s reticle appears to move when you shift your eye position slightly, it could indicate parallax error. Adjust the parallax knob until the reticle remains stationary regardless of eye position.
  3. Scope Drift: If your scope moves out of alignment after firing a shot, it could be due to recoil or other factors like improper mounting. Check the mount and rings for looseness and ensure they are properly tightened.
  4. Battery Issues: If your scope has an illuminated reticle feature that uses batteries, make sure the batteries are fresh and properly installed. Check for any corrosion on battery terminals and replace as needed.
  5. Limited Eye Relief: If you find it difficult to get a clear view through the scope due to limited eye relief distance, adjust the position of the scope on your rifle or try using different types of eyewear like shooting glasses or contacts.

By following these troubleshooting tips, you can potentially avoid costly repairs or replacements and keep your variable power rifle scope working properly for longer periods of time.


In conclusion, variable power rifle scopes offer shooters unparalleled flexibility and accuracy. When choosing a scope, it’s essential to consider features like magnification range, objective lens size, reticle type, parallax adjustment, eye relief, turret style and focal plane.

Despite the bells and whistles that come with some models, budget considerations should not be overlooked. Proper maintenance and care must also be taken to keep your scope in excellent condition for years of use.

Whether you’re a seasoned shooter or new to long-range shooting altogether- understanding the critical factors involved in choosing a riflescope is paramount.


1. What is a variable power rifle scope?

A variable power rifle scope is a type of optic that allows the shooter to adjust the magnification level of their scope, giving them more flexibility in targeting and precision shooting.

2. How do I choose the right magnification for my variable power rifle scope?

The ideal magnification will depend on several factors including distance to target, lighting conditions and personal preference, but general rule of thumb: Lower magnifications (around 3-9x) are best suited for close-quarters or fast-moving targets while higher settings (10x and above) help with longer shots where precise targeting is necessary.

3. What features should I look for when choosing a variable power rifle scope?

When selecting your next riflescope, consider variables such as durability & quality build/materials (ocular/reticle), objective lens diameter & focal plane measurements which can optimize visibility even in low-lighting environments

4. Can I use my variable power rifle scope with different rifles?

In most cases – Yes! Variable Power Rifle Scopes feature easily adjustable mounting options that allow users to switch between multiple firearms quickly providing versatility. Visit our homepage ScopesGeek.com

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George Grey

Being an avid outdoorsman since I can remember, my passion for survival, hunting and the outdoors has grown every year. I love being out in the country and living off it whenever time allows. Huge Rifle Scopes aficionado!

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