Shooting Mystery is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Fixed vs Variable Scope: Which Scope Is Better for Hunting?

Fixed vs Variable Scope

Looking for a new scope for your rifle in time for hunting season is a tiresome and troublesome thing to do, especially since getting the right rifle scope is INTEGRAL to a good hunt.

One of the choices you need to make to find a good scope is whether you want a FIXED or VARIABLE SCOPE.

We’ll be discussing all the details you’ll need to know about each kind of scope, so you can determine if fixed power scopes or variable power scopes are for you.

What Are Fixed Power Scopes?

Fixed power scope

As the name suggests, fixed scopes are riflescopes that only offer a certain amount of power in their magnification.

That means you cannot adjust the magnification to be greater or lesser than what it’s already set to.

This makes a fixed scope much MORE RELIABLE than a variable power scope.

Pros of a Fixed Power Scope

Good magnified optics give any hunter a DISTINCT ADVANTAGE whenever they hunt. It can offer you a magnified view of your surroundings and give you greater precision when shooting.

Indeed, there are a lot of benefits you can gain from using a fixed scope, especially if you’re a beginner hunter or shooter in general.

Let’s go over these ADVANTAGES!

#1 Clear Vision

If you get yourself a fixed power scope, then you’re going to enjoy clear sights with it.

Since it’s fixed in one magnified setting, the preset you’ll get it in will ensure that your line of vision is clear with it to enhance your shooting capabilities.

The PRESET PARALLAX means that a fixed power scope will ensure that the eye box will have a forgiving window when you quickly need to get snapshots of what you’re hunting.

#2 Fixed Magnification

The fixed parallax on a scope like this makes it EASIER for hunters to use.

There’s no need to adjust the dilation of fixed magnification scopes since they’re already set in place.

The numbers on these scopes are also easier to read and understand if you’re a beginner shooter.

#3 Lightweight

If you hate dragging a lot of heavy equipment around with you during your hunt, then there’s no need to worry.

Fixed power scopes have a LIGHTER WEIGHT since they don’t have the extra dials a variable scope may require.

#4 Easy to Use

If you need to attach your fixed power optic to your hunting rifle, all you need to do is sight the scope using adjustable turrets.

There’s nothing complex about using one during your hunts with that feature.

#5 Inexpensive

You may also want to invest in fixed power scopes since they’re CHEAPER compared to variable power scopes.

Because of that, you get to SAVE MONEY, especially if you need to save up for a new hunting rifle as well.

Cons of a Fixed Power Scope

While all the pros make fixed scopes sound lovely to work with, there are a few downsides that may cause you to be wary about them.

#1 Inaccuracy

Since you can only work with one magnified power, you may end up shooting off target if the animal you’re hunting goes farther away from you or too near.

#2 Location Adjustments

Fixed power scopes tend to cause a lot of hunters to move around a lot, especially if the target moves away.

Since you need to get the perfect view of your target, you’ll be the one constantly adjusting instead of the rifle scope you have.

What Are Variable Scopes?

Variable scope

Variable Scopes are made to be used by EXPERIENCED and EXPERIMENTAL HUNTERS.

Since you can adjust the magnification of variable power scopes, they’re way more versatile than fixed scopes are.

Variable magnification scopes allow you to adjust your lens based on your location, proximity of the target, and the type of prey you’re hunting.

Pros of a Variable Scope

While the variable power scope may sound intimidating to use for some, it can offer distinct advantages you can utilize.

#1 Location

It doesn’t matter if you’re several hundred meters away from your prey. All you have to do is adjust your variable magnification scope to get a good image.

You can also do the opposite if your target is closer to where you are.

#2 Control

There’s no reason for you to panic if your target wanders away from you or approaches you — you have TOTAL CONTROL over the magnification power of your scope.

You can adjust the magnification to your liking for any particular shot you make, whether you’re hunting small game or big game.

Cons of a Variable Scope

Before using variable power scopes, you should be aware of all the downsides they can present.

#1 Low Clarity

Since you have no preset magnification with a variable magnification scope, the images you’ll get from your snapshots may be BLURRIER than a fixed power scope.

Several lenses in the scope may make the image appear blurrier due to its high magnification.

#2 Complicated

Using a variable scope can be way more complicated than a fixed power scope since it may require PARALLAX ADJUSTMENT and magnification of the exit pupil.

You may take too long during the aiming process and cause your target to run away before you can take a shot. This can be especially crucial for short-range hunting.

If you’re a beginner, you will probably also find it difficult to adjust your scope in the first place.

#3 Heavy

Variable scopes are HEAVIER than their fixed scope counterpart.

They contain more dials for adjustment, which may affect the overall weight of your rifle.

#4 Costly

These types of optics cost way more than fixed scopes do.

That’s because they’re composed of more parts. However, there may be ECONOMICAL OPTIONS out there.

Fixed vs. Variable Scope: Side-by-Side Comparison of Features

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of fixed and variable scope features.

1. Cost

Cost icon

If you want a scope with a LOWER PRICE, you may get a fixed power scope.

You could also try finding a LESS EXPENSIVE variable optic.

However, as always, if you want a scope with BETTER PERFORMANCE, you should find a scope that isn’t too cheap.

2. Weight

Weight icon

If you want to bring a LIGHTER RIFLE with you during a hunt or a target shooting session, then you should probably opt for a fixed scope.

Many fixed power scopes are shorter in both length and height. It won’t affect the overall balance of your rifle.

A variable scope might be heavier since there are more dials and other parts to make the lenses adjustable.

3. Ease of Use

Ease of use icon

If you want a STREAMLINED EXPERIENCE when using your riflescope, you should probably get a fixed scope.

All you need to do is pop it on your rifle, and you’ll be good to go.

If you use a variable optic, you may end up fiddling with the scope now and then to make the proper adjustments.

When Should You Use a Fixed Scope?

There’s a lot of reason to use a fixed scope, even if you’re not even a newbie anymore.

Many hunters use these scopes since they’re LIGHTER and EASIER TO USE than the other type of scope, which makes perfect sense.

No one wants to lug around a heavy gun if they’re moving a lot. A lighter rifle will lessen your fatigue in the long run.

You can use a light carbine in the northern evergreen forests or southern swamps along with your rifle and optics, and you wouldn’t break a sweat because of how light your equipment is.

If you’re worried about the MAGNIFICATION RANGE of your scope, especially for long-range situations, make sure to get one with a large objective lens and a large objective bell.

When Should You Use a Variable Scope?

It looks like there are a lot of downsides to using a telescopic optic, but there are good reasons you might want to use one.

A COMMON MISCONCEPTION with hunters is the more magnification you need if you’re farther away from your target.

Small game hunters need ADJUSTED LENSES when hunting something like ground squirrels, with just as much magnification a deer hunter will need.

When it comes to scopes and hunting, remember that range does not always determine magnification, so whether you’re hunting from a closer distance or long distance doesn’t matter.

Using variable optics will depend on your experience and your personal opinions.

Check out our list of the best 1×6 scopes to get started!

Final Verdict: Which Is Best for Hunting?

Man hunting in forest

So what is the best scope type to use for hunting?

In the end, the right equipment comes down to your PERSONAL PREFERENCE and NEEDS.

You may need scopes capable of incorporating red dot reticles and other different reticles available on the market for short-range or long-range shooting.

You need to find optics with excellent light transmission, eye relief, and other variables.

With this article, we hope you get those rifles out of your gun safely, find the perfect scopes for them and enjoy shooting once more.

To learn more about how a rifle scope works, you can check out our guide!

FINAL TIP: If you want to expand your search for the right scope, we have a handy list of the best scopes under 500 to help you out!



September 1, 2022 - Added 1 new article link
August 9, 2022 - Added 2 new article links
May 26, 2022 - minor content and formatting edits 
May 11, 2022 - Added 1 new article link

About the author