Most standard bolt action hunting rifles have a standard optical riflescope.
However, I was curious about the hype around muzzleloaders and decided to try it out.
These muzzleloaders offer some advantages to centerfire rifles and may even be granted special or extended seasons in some places.
I didn’t own a muzzleloader scope at the time, so all I had was a regular rifle scope, but I wasn’t sure if it would work.
Now the question remains: can a rifle scope be used on your fancy new muzzleloader?
- So, Can You Mount Rifle Scopes on Muzzleloaders?
- How is a Muzzleloader Different from a Rifle?
- Factors to Consider When Buying Muzzleloader Scopes
- Muzzleloader Scope Recommendations
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
So, Can You Mount Rifle Scopes on Muzzleloaders?
I am glad to report that YES, most standard optical rifle scopes work on muzzleloading rifles!
It turns out they are not that different from each other; most modern muzzleloading rifles have similar ballistics (in some aspects) to centerfire rifles.
Thus, with some exceptions, a standard optical riflescope can be mounted to a muzzleloading rifle.
How is a Muzzleloader Different from a Rifle?
There are several key differences between muzzleloaders and rifles.
Let’s delve into these differences to understand if your scope can be used on a muzzleloading rifle.
Recoil is the backward energy that results whenever you fire a rifle. Everything on the rifle, including the scope, ABSORBS some of this energy.
While both centerfire rifles and muzzleloaders have significant recoil, a muzzleloading rifle delivers MORE recoil.
Naturally, muzzleloader scopes are more ROBUST to handle the greater recoil.
Compared to scopes made for muzzleloaders, regular riflescopes may not be sturdy enough to handle the recoil from a muzzleloader.
The bullets used in a muzzleloading rifle are usually BIGGER and HEAVIER than those used by centerfire rifles.
These differences in size and weight cause them to have different ballistic characteristics.
To this end, the reticles on centerfire rifles usually include bullet drop compensation.
However, the reticles for muzzleloading rifles do not provide this type of adjustment.
Eye relief refers to the distance of the shooter’s eye from the scope.
This is EXTREMELY important when it comes to using a muzzleloading rifle due to the immense power of its recoil.
As such, muzzleloader scopes need LONGER eye relief than centerfire rifles.
While most centerfire rifle optics have an eye relief of at least three inches, muzzleloader scopes need at least four inches of eye relief.
I got scope bite with a muzzleloader rifle once. It’s not fun.
Simply put, parallax causes focus problems when shooting at long ranges.
This usually manifests in a target that may appear out of focus with the reticle or vice versa.
Parallax is especially important when looking for a scope for your hunting rifle.
Most scope optics, especially those built for long range, have factory parallax settings between 100 and 125 yards.
However, unlike centerfire rifles, muzzleloading rifles are mostly used for shots under 150 yards.
Because of this, parallax settings on most muzzleloading rifles are set between 50 and 75 yards.
Factors to Consider When Buying Muzzleloader Scopes
Are you looking to purchase a new scope to mount on your muzzleloader?
Here are some things shooters need to look out for:
Durability is one of the most important things to look for in a scope. Make sure to search for a scope that is O-ring sealed.
I always look for O-ring sealed scopes to protect them from rain and dirt. After all, sometimes the shooting conditions aren’t ideal.
Additionally, check to see that the scopes you’re getting are argon and nitrogen purged for that tank-like indestructibility.
In addition to helping with light transmission, this also keeps your scope from fogging.
Another very important thing to look for in a muzzleloader scope is that it is shockproof or recoil-proof.
This is especially important as muzzleloading rifles have much MORE recoil than most centerfire rifles.
You also don’t have to worry about it shattering into pieces if you drop it! You wouldn’t want broken optics when the perfect target is within sight.
Glass quality is one of the MOST IMPORTANT things when choosing a scope. After all, you wouldn’t want a scope that you can’t see out of!
It is best to purchase a scope with fully multi-coated lenses.
If you’re confused about the different levels of coating, here’s a quick guide:
- Coated: a single layer of coating on a single surface of at least one lens
- Fully coated: at least one layer of coating on both surfaces of all lenses
- Multi-coated: multiple layers of coating on at least one lens
- Fully multi-coated: multiple layers of coating on all lenses
The coatings on lenses help to improve light transmission and reduce glare.
Thus, fully multi-coated lenses guarantee a CLEARER and BRIGHTER sight picture without harsh glare or reflections.
I can vouch that once you get fully multi-coated lenses, your images look like that of a movie!
Elevation and Windage Adjustment
Elevation and windage knobs, also known as turrets, allow the shooter to fine-tune adjustments to their scope.
These turrets can zero in your optic so that your bullets land where you want them to.
The ELEVATION knob moves the shot vertically, while the WINDAGE knob moves it horizontally.
The best turrets have audible clicks, so I can really tell if the adjustment was made.
Once again, it is important to take into consideration that muzzleloading rifles cannot fire as far as centerfire rifles.
With this in mind, it would be best NOT to go for higher magnification.
In addition to making it harder to catch your target (you may end up seeing patches of fur instead of the animal), higher-powered scopes also have a narrower field of view.
Ideally, I recommend not going for anything higher than 5x magnification.
Eye relief is very important if you are shooting with a muzzleloading rifle.
Any eye relief less than 3 inches is practically a guarantee for a black eye and possibly a missing eyebrow.
Be sure to get a scope with an eye relief of AT LEAST 4 inches.
When shopping for a scope, get the reticle design that works for you.
Your reticle design depends on your shooting style and the shooting you plan to do.
Here are some of the most popular reticle types (take note that this is generalized):
Traditional Crosshair Reticle
The traditional crosshair reticle is usually what most people imagine when thinking about a reticle.
While this is the famous reticle style, it does come with its disadvantages:
- Hard to see in certain light situations
- No aiming aids (i.e., bullet drop compensation)
- Don’t offer adjustments for windage and elevation
TAKE NOTE: Finding a muzzleloader scope with standard crosshairs can be challenging.
This is due to how difficult it would be to use a muzzleloading rifle with a simple, plain crosshair.
Bullet Drop Compensating Reticle
Many manufacturers offer the bullet drop compensating reticle for muzzleloader scopes.
The advantage of a bullet drop reticle is that it helps the shooter adjust their shot to compensate for bullet drop or how the bullet falls as it flies.
This kind of reticle can be calibrated to work with different powder loads and heavier bullets.
Mil-Dot or M.O.A. Reticle
Consistency is key when buying a scope with a reticle calibrated for either Mil-Dot or M.O.A.
For example, if you already have riflescopes or other optics calibrated in M.O.A., it would be best to get a scope calibrated in M.O.A. too.
This would be an advantage as you could easily shoot with a system you already know.
It would be best if you purchase your optics from a brand TRUSTED by many hunters.
Some great brands that you can trust include Burris, Vortex, and Nikon.
These brands have been proven to withstand the test of time with the quality of their scopes.
The thing about optics is that you get what you pay for. As such, some of the best optics may come at a higher cost.
That being said, finding affordable optics that can give you great value for your money is possible.
A warranty shows the company’s trust in the product.
If they believe that their product can really withstand wear and tear, they’re more likely to give better deals for warranty.
Some brands, such as Burris, will repair your optics at NO additional cost!
Muzzleloader Scope Recommendations
If you’re on the lookout for a new muzzleloader scope, here are just some of the best muzzleloader scopes on the market for shooters:
Nikon INLINE XR BDC 300: Best Overall
For a true scope for your muzzleloader, look no further than the Nikon INLINE XR BDC 300.
The Nikon INLINE is a scope with variable magnification that can handle whatever weather condition it finds itself in.
It features the Nikon Ballistics Calculator, which allows me to zero in on the scope with the specific grain and size that I am using with my rifle.
It also really helps to compensate for bullet drop!
However, the Nikon INLINE does have a poor eye box which can be a problem from certain positions.
The Nikon INLINE, while being rugged and reliable, can also be a bit large and heavy at 11 inches and 14.7 ounces.
However, if you can handle the size and weight, this scope practically guarantees accuracy!
Burris Eliminator IV – Best Scope for Long Distances
Very few scopes for muzzleloaders are designed for over 300 yards. This is where the Burris Eliminator IV comes in.
Unlike other scopes for the muzzleloader, the Burris Eliminator IV gives EXCELLENT performance at long range, even beyond 400 yards.
In addition to its high-quality glass and superior tracking ability, the Burris Eliminator IV stands out with its range-finding capability.
With the Burris Eliminator IV, all I need to do is enter the ballistic data of your muzzleloader to get a custom holdover at my fingertips.
These features make the Burris Eliminator IV muzzleloading scope the more ethical and accurate choice for shooters.
Leupold VX Freedom Ultraslam: Best Versatile Scope
If you want a scope that can do anything and everything, the Leupold VX-Freedom UltimateSlam is the one for you!
This quality scope from Leupold is also explicitly designed for a muzzleloading rifle.
It features the signature Leupold VX-Freedom level glass, giving the best price value.
With the strict quality control of Leupold, you can be sure that this scope gets the job done!
The Leupold VX-Freedom UltimateSlam comes in a 3-9x40mm configuration with a S.A.B.R. reticle.
This S.A.B.R. reticle is designed specifically for aiming with a muzzleloading rifle and allows for accurate shots at 300 yards.
With all the features on this scope, you will for sure be able to shoot true and hit your targets, no matter what!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Hunt With a Scoped Muzzleloader?
Yes, but you must be aware of hunting regulations in the area.
Some areas will allow you to hunt with a scoped muzzleloader, while others don’t.
Do You Need Variable Magnification For Your Muzzleloader?
It all depends on the kind of shooting you are planning to do.
Many hunters argue that a muzzleloader doesn’t require variable magnification due to its limited range.
In my experience, a fixed magnification actually helped me focus on my targets.
However, if you tend to move around and like chasing your target, getting a scope with variable magnification may be best.
If your eyesight is no longer as sharp as it used to be, you may benefit from variable magnification scopes, which is especially true among older shooters.
Is a Muzzleloader Scope the Same as a Rifle Scope?
While most rifle scopes can be used on a muzzleloading rifle, a muzzleloader scope is made explicitly for a muzzleloader.
In comparison to a riflescope, a scope for a muzzleloader has:
- More durability to handle recoil
- Longer eye relief
- Better parallax at shorter distances
Learn more about the differences between the two here!
What are Some Things to Remember When Using a Muzzleloader?
Much like any rifle and scope, it is best to be SAFE and RESPONSIBLE.
Keep your muzzle clean and maintained when not in use to preserve its quality.
Always use protection for your eyes and ears, and be careful when discharging or unloading. Safety first!
DO NOT blow down the gun’s barrel, as it might ignite some leftover ember! Use appropriate cleaning materials instead.
What are Some Things to Remember When Handling Muzzleloader Rifle Powder?
I was told never to play with fire; the same applies to muzzleloader powder.
Store and handle the rifle powder with CAUTION. It also helps to learn the different types of rifle powders.
NEVER expose it to an open flame! That’s a disaster waiting to happen.
Also, mind WHERE you store the powder. Steel, iron, or plastic containers are BIG NO-NOs, as they could spark!
Additionally, do not pour the powder directly into the barrel from the flask or horn.
A muzzleloading rifle offers the advantage of an extra punch for shooters on the hunt.
If you plan to use a muzzleloader, be aware of whether or not your scope can handle the power of your hit.
A scope designed for a muzzleloading rifle will likely be more durable and have better eye relief.
On the other hand, a regular scope designed for a rifle may not be able to withstand the demands of a muzzleloader.
Some optics can be used on a muzzleloading rifle, but not all can.
Be sure that you get the right optics for the rifle you’re using!
Don’t throw away your shot!