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Can You Put a Scope on a Shotgun? Answers Explained!

Can You Put a Scope on a Shotgun

Can you put a scope on a shotgun? Good question!

I would normally think it’s odd to use a scope for a shotgun. After all, video games have taught me that shotguns are limited-range weapons.

However, just like any firearm, optics make hunting easier with accuracy and precision.

So does that mean you can use a scope for a shotgun? Let’s find out!

Is It Possible to Mount a Rifle Scope on a Shotgun?

Man carrying shotgun on shoulder

The short answer: Yes.

However, I do NOT recommend mounting basic rifle scopes on shotguns.

It may eventually break from the recoil, or you’ll at least get a bruise on your face, just like me. I immediately regretted it afterward.

Don’t fret! You don’t have to switch to rifles; scopes designed for shotguns EXIST.

Shotgun Scope vs. Rifle Scope

Man on beach with rifle at sunset

Firearm devices and accessories aren’t usually one-size-fits-all. Since hunting rifles differ from shotguns, their differences reflect their scopes.

Field of View and Distance

Hunting rifles are typically for far distances, while a shotgun is more short-range. Rifle magnifications are much HIGHER than a shotgun’s.

With 1x magnification, you can keep your eyes open for a quick, precise shot.

Many optics for shotguns don’t magnify anything but have red dots and give a view clearer than the naked eye.

Powerful Recoil

I remember when I first fired a shotgun; the recoil was so strong I thought I was going to be catapulted to the other side of the earth.

Shotgun loads have recoil energies that compare or exceed huge rifle calibers.

A shotgun’s recoil is sometimes comparable to an elephant gun’s recoil. 

The shotgun’s recoil power can destroy any hunting rifle reticle attached to it!

Plus, if you put your eyes near your shotgun, it will hit your face. Hence, a scope designed for shotguns has high eye relief.

There’s no reason to buy a new product that will bring a bruise to your eye. Some even offer UNLIMITED eye relief!

On the other hand, optics for rifles tend to have relatively short eye relief.

Caliber rifles also have recoil, but shooters don’t need to keep their eyes that far from the gun.

So it’s best to avoid rifle optics to keep your face AWAY from the shotgun. The worst scenario is if it hits your face and breaks simultaneously!

Moving Targets

A rifle scope’s short eye relief slows down the aiming process. This usually isn’t much of a problem for hunting rifles.

When a target is far away, it will take a lot of movement to escape your BROAD field of vision.

But when a target is close, its movement will be fast relative to your position.  Usually, I use shotguns to hit closer, moving targets – like flying pigeons.

It’s a nightmare to join a skeet shooting competition with a rifle scope mounted on a shotgun!

Types of Shotgun Scopes

Man looking through scope

There are no official categories for shotgun scopes or optics. But many shotgun-specific scopes are designed to excel for different purposes.

Shotgun Slug Scopes

There are many places where a rifle-barreled shotgun is the only option for hunting big game.

The usual deer hunting scope has an adjustable magnification of 3x-9x or similar. The low level gives a wide field of view to spot.

Once you spot one and want to ensure you’ll bag a mature buck, you can turn up the level to determine whether it’s the animal you wish to hunt.

Red dots are great and easy to use if you’re specifically targeting doe or if you aren’t dealing with antler restrictions.

Since much of the game tends to be out early in the morning and evening, they become difficult to find when the light is low. 

The IDEAL slug scope will help reduce glare and gather light to give more visibility.

Shotgun Scopes for Bird Hunting

Wingshooters who consider their sport an art might think, Are you seriously suggesting mounting an optic for wing-shooting?

To them, you shouldn’t aim. They practice and rely on their instincts to take down their targets.

With this philosophy, I find the idea of scopes designed for shotguns is laughable.

But some hunters advocate for mounting a red dot or a holographic sight. They say it makes it easier and more automatic to see flying targets.

If you’re nearsighted or astigmatic, don’t let anyone tell you that scope is useless. 

If you suffer from vision problems, reticles can change the game!

But if you’re an experienced wingshooter who never needed optics, there’s no need for that. The change might make wing-shooting more difficult.

What About a Scope For Turkey and Duck?

It’s rare to see a duck hunter who wants to mount an optic, whether a red dot or reflex sight for a shotgun.

And turkeys generally aren’t farther than 60 yards when you hunt them, so a turkey scope might seem excessive.

But I still found myself shooting quickly with a shotgun optic even though I’m used to quick shots without any optics.

A scope can even be helpful at close distances because it forces you to keep your head on the gun. 

Lifting your head and looking over the barrel to see the thanksgiving fowl can make you miss it!

This forced position is excellent for beginners who lift their heads.

Red dot sights with fiber optics or any holographic sight can help you center your shot for birds.

How to Choose the Best Shotgun Scope

Man holding rifle with hunting supplies

Not all storeowners know what constitutes a good shotgun optic. We’ll tell you how to filter out lousy shotgun optics below.

1. Eye Relief

It’s good to have enough space between your face and your weapon – you’ll want to avoid facial injuries from shotgun recoil.

Not only that – the broad field of view that helps you quickly identify and take your target down.

Mount a scope with long eye relief – i.e., above 4.5 inches.

Long eye relief is usually for shorter-range shooting like a shotgun. So it doesn’t matter that this distance doesn’t allow for extreme magnification.

FOR THOSE CURIOUS: Typically, standard high relief for long-range shooting is 3.5 to 4 inches. For most firearms, a distance less than 3.5 inches is not recommended.

2. Durability

The shotgun recoil can break optics not meant for heavy-duty and shatter poor-quality lenses.

Buy from a scope manufacturer that produces quality optics that can withstand heavy use.

They’re confident their products can endure recoil if they have a great warranty.

3. No Need For Long Distance

People tend to think that higher specs mean better performance. But you might not know what you’re looking at with a 16x optic.

If you have magnifying levels higher than necessary, your field of view can get so narrow that you can’t see the environment around your target.

Plus, high magnifying levels can also dim your lens image.

You also need to be FAST when the target is close, faster than you would need if it’s far away.

Don’t dismiss mounting optics with only 1x magnification since they’re the STANDARD for shotgun scopes.

You’ll be able to quickly shoot with both eyes open with a reticle and 1x. For a rifled slug, avoid anything beyond 4x.

4. Consider a Red Dot Sight

No need for crosshairs – complicated markings will obstruct a clear view.

Red dot sights for shotguns give QUICK target acquisition than other sights.

Unlike crosshairs, there’s no need to align your position!

And these simple sights tend to offer unlimited eye relief. That’s great for avoiding injuries from recoil!

Those with nearsightedness and astigmatism may prefer green dots.

Many optics also have adjustable MOA if you prefer your red dot bigger.

RECOMMENDATION: 2 MOA for a shotgun will make it easy to see the deer and follow through.

5. Inconspicuous to Wildlife

I thought buying a shiny scope would boost my shooting experience aesthetics-wise, but it turns out it can catch the animal’s attention!

If you can’t find a camo scope for a shotgun or don’t want one, pick a scope with a matte finish. You don’t want it to reflect the sun’s rays!

6. Lens Clarity

No one wants blurry glasses, let alone blurry optics.

If you’re mounting an eyepiece, make sure it’s quality. Your view through it should be at least as clear as your naked eye.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are a lot of manufacturers and purposes for shotguns alone, making mounting an accessory more difficult than it should be.

We’ll help clear your questions in the sections below.

Do Shotguns Require Special Scopes?


The unpleasant recoil force can easily break and shatter optics for other firearms (like those for a rifle).

They need to be DURABLE to withstand the recoil of a shotgun, so find a quality one from a reputable brand.

Fortunately, there are many optics designed for shotguns!

Are All Scope Rails the Same Size?

No. There are different types of firearm rail systems.

Picatinny rails have the same standard width but have different lengths depending on the weapons system you’re mounting them on.

Modular weapons like assault rifles have more rail space and rail options (Weaver, Keymod) providing more mounting options for accessories like sights, lights, and bipods.

A shotgun, in particular, uses a SHORT scope rail because of its exposed shotgun barrel.

And NOT ALL shotguns come with scope rails. If you don’t have it, you need to buy a base first or have it placed in a shop.

Check the shotgun scope you want to determine what scope rail you need.

Is It Worth Mounting a Shotgun Scope?

Some think shotgun optics are USELESS. Accuracy isn’t usually something shotgun shooters concern themselves with.

Many proponents against optics for clay targets and wing shooting believe they mess with the intuitive process.

Some people think you might not shoot as fast with a sight.

But it’s hard to fire precisely with slugs, and relatively stationary targets need precision and accuracy.

Deer and turkey hunters will benefit from knowing their exact point of aim. The precision also helps in making ethical shots and clean kills.

Is It Worth Mounting Shotgun Scopes For Hunting Ducks?

It’s rare to see a waterfowl shotgun optic. Many wingshooters believe that a shotgun should be pointed, not aimed.

According to this mindset, fowl hunting birds should be based on instinct, with your eyes kept on the bird.

Focusing on reticles might make you slow in follow-through.

Still, a simple red dot reticle will be helpful for those who need precision. 

People with eye issues, like cross-eyed or nearsightedness, would definitely have it easier.

What Is a Slug Gun?

A slug gun are shotguns meant for shooting slugs. They typically have a rifled barrel.

Slugs in shotguns are like the unshelled animals they share their name with because they’re almost always unjacketed. 

Slugs are large, heavy projectiles cased in plastic shotshell cases, like those for clay targets like skeet or trap.

These single-piece bullets don’t travel far, but their power can penetrate thick skin.

NOTE: Not all shotguns can shoot slugs. Those that can are primarily non-rifled (smoothbore) shotguns.

When are Slugs Used?

A slug shotgun is typically used for hunting large game like moose and elks, but they can also be used for medium-sized animals like boars and wild pigs.

In some states, the only legal way to hunt is with a slug shotgun.

Aside from hunting, competitions exist where the shooter must bring down many targets with a slug gun.

And in home invasions, hunters will have the means to protect themselves!

How Accurate Is a Shotgun?

A shotgun is practical partly because of its ability to hit close targets easily and spread the fire.

Hence they’re less accurate than other guns.

Still, shotguns can be accurate for short distances. Their accuracy depends on the ammo or shot.

  • Buckshot, meant for hunting large and medium game from hogs to coyotes, has the shortest effective range of 38 yards (35m).
  • Birdshot can hit a bit farther, but since they have the widest spread to bring down flying targets in the sky, they’re only accurate at less than 49 feet (45m).
  • Slugs have an effective range of 110 yards with their stopping power.
  • Sabot slugs in a rifled slug barrel can go even farther at 160 yards (150m).

When Should You Use Rifle Scopes on a Shotgun?

If you are hunting large, stationary animals (like deer hunting) and shooting over 50 yards, you can use rifle scopes to improve your accuracy.

However, it shouldn’t take the place of a shotgun scope.

A proper shotgun scope can extend the range of a shotgun (with either buckshot or slugs) by 100 yards/

Happy Hunting!


Not many shotguns are equipped with reticles, but many hunters and competitive shooters find them useful.

Still, not all rifle scopes are meant for a shotgun, and there’s no need to see as far as a military sniper to hunt deer or birds.

When you find an optic to mount on your shotgun, ensure it’s good enough for the recoil.

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