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Muzzleloader Scopes vs. Rifle Scopes: Differences Explained

Muzzleloader Scopes vs. Rifle Scopes

As Juliet gazed into the scope and optics shop after having found the rifle of her dreams, she is said to have uttered the following words:

“A scope by any other name would shoot as sweet.”

In the distance, Romeo hears those words and frowns in confusion.

Is a muzzleloader scope the same thing as a rifle scope? Lucky for him, we’re here to help him and his beloved.

What Are Scopes?

A scope is a tool that uses a combination of lenses to magnify the image.

On one end of the scope is the ocular lens, and on the other is the objective lens.

  • The ocular lens is the lens that the shooter looks through.
  • The objective lens, on the other hand, lets light in.

The larger the objective lens diameter, the brighter the image seen through the scope will be.

However, the larger the objective lens diameter, the more space it occupies on the rifle. The larger the objective lens diameter, the heavier the scope will be.

Types of Scopes

There are two types of scopes: fixed and variable magnification scopes.

As you can probably tell by the name, fixed scopes have only one fixed magnification the whole time.

Variable magnification scopes, on the other hand, can zoom in and out of their target.

Additionally, a variable zoom scope is often described using its objective diameter and magnification.

  • For example, a variable zoom scope described as 2-9×24 has a minimum magnification of 3x and a maximum magnification of 9x.

The latter number describes the objective diameter of 24 mm.

Zeroing In

When shooting with a scope, the shooter must adjust it after mounting to be sure that their bullets hit where they’re aiming.

These adjustments can be made using the windage and elevation knobs on the scope.

What is a Rifle Scope?

A rifle scope is an optical device mounted to the rifle to help the shooter aim so that their shots land on the target.

It uses a combination of prisms and lenses, including an objective and ocular lens, to magnify the image.

What is a Muzzleloader Scope?

A muzzleloader scope is a scope designed specifically to work with muzzleloaders.

Just like the rifle scope, it uses lenses to magnify the image.

While a muzzleloader scope serves the same purpose as a rifle scope, the special demands of a muzzleloader mean that it is designed differently.

Rifle Scope vs. Muzzleloader Scope: Key Differences

While rifle scopes and muzzleloader scopes work almost the same way, the two firearm styles have very different demands.

This difference thus results in two different scopes.

In general, muzzleloaders have a LARGER PAYLOAD than any other rifle caliber (except .50 BMG).

A muzzleloader is made to pack a huge hit over a short distance but doesn’t stand up to the long-range precision offered by a rifle.

Magnification

Most muzzleloader scopes go up to 9x magnification due to both the maximum effective distance of muzzleloading firearms and their strong recoil.

On the other hand, a rifle scope can go from 3x to 20x magnification, or even less or more.

Recoil

Recoil refers to the “pushback” of the rifle every time a bullet is fired.

Recoil is a big issue for the scope since the scope often absorbs the resulting energy from recoil.

Rifles with a smaller caliber usually have lesser recoil than those with a larger caliber. Most rifle scopes can withstand the recoil of common rifle calibers such as .223, .270, and .308.

A scope with cheap glass on a .50 BMG is likely to withstand only a few rounds before losing zero or even breaking.

However, muzzleloaders tend to have a stronger recoil that the sensitive glass inside the scope might not be able to stand.

As such, rifle scopes designed for the .270 and .308 often are best for holding up to muzzleloading rifles.

Eye Relief

Eye relief refers to how far you need to keep your eye from the lens to see clearly without getting hit in the head from the recoil of your shot.

Most rifle scopes have between 3 to 4 inches of eye relief.

However, eye relief can go as low as 1.5 inches on those with even lower magnification.

This can’t be the case with muzzleloaders and eye relief. Due to the immense power of the kick from a muzzleloader, recoil is harder and faster.

This ultimately makes the muzzleloader scope kick back longer.

With this in mind, muzzleloader scopes have a longer eye relief of AT LEAST 4 inches.

Parallax

Simply put, parallax describes how things closer to you may seem to be moving faster than things further away.

This can be a bit of a problem when you’re trying to line up your scope to hit your target.

Rifle scopes usually have factory parallax settings to correct parallax when shooting at 100 yards.

If the scope has a higher magnification setting, it may go up to 200 or 400 yards.

Muzzleloaders, on the other hand, are often not used for long-range shooting.

To this end, muzzleloader scopes are usually designed to correct parallax at 50 yards instead of 100 yards.

Reticle Design

Most rifle scopes have standard crosshair reticles with other markings to help with the shot adjustment.

The most common of these markings is the Bullet Drop Compensation reticle/ladder.

These markings on reticles help the shooter know where to place their shots to make for the “fall” or “drop” of the bullet as it flies.

While both rifle and muzzleloader scopes offer BDC ladders, the BDC ladders on muzzleloader scopes reflect the bullet’s size and velocity.

Which is Better to Use?

It all depends on what you’re using to shoot.

  • If you are shooting with a muzzleloader, it is best to find good muzzleloader scopes.
  • If you are shooting with a rifle, you’ll be fine with good rifle scopes.

For a more in-depth look at what the right scope is for you, here is a quick summary:

Muzzleloader Scope

Pros:

  • This scope can withstand stronger recoil
  • Better parallax at shorter distances
  • Longer eye relief

Cons:

  • Low magnification
  • Worse parallax at longer distances

Rifle Scope

Pros:

  • This scope is great for long-range shooting (the BDC ladder allows for shooting up to 1000 yards)
  • Comfortable eye relief

Cons:

  • Can’t withstand heavy recoil
  • Bad parallax at shorter distances

Rifle Scope Recommendations

If you’re looking for good rifle scopes, here’s a quick rundown of some of our top recommendations.

Primary Arms 1-6×24 ACSS Gen III – Best LPVO

If you want a good low variable optic (LPVO) for your rifle, we recommend the Primary Arms 1-6×24 ACSS Gen III.

With a comfortable Goldilocks magnification range of 1-6x, this is great for CQB engagement and competition. 

  • Great glass quality for its price
  • Trustworthy brand
  • Durable

What makes this scope stand out is its well-designed reticle that helps with aiming. 

It has a thick donut which is great for close-up shots. On top of that, this scope also has elevation drops for longer distances.

It can estimate wind holds, the height of a target, and moving targets.

However, the illuminated reticle is best used at dawn or dusk.

Leupold VX Freedom 3-9x – Best for Hunting

If you want a good hunting scope for your rifle, you need to find one that can withstand extreme weather and rough treatment.

We believe that the Leupold 3-9x VX Freedom fits all the requirements for the PERFECT hunting rifle scope!

  • Durable construction
  • Clear glass
  • Comfortable eye relief

This scope guarantees a clear image of whether you’re at 3x or 9x magnification.

The appropriate eye relief allows for shooting in a comfortable position without having to worry about a shiner.

Additionally, this scope can resist the heavy recoil of a 30.06 rifle!

Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn 3-9×40 – Best for Low Light Shooting

If you’ve taken on the challenge of shooting in dusk and dawn (arguably the best time to hunt), the Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn is the rifle scope for you. 

  • Superior optics
  • Durable construction
  • Fast focus eyepiece
  • Forgiving eye box

This clear glass on this scope, combined with its Multi-X reticle design that has thick cross lines that become thinner in the center, really helps your bullet land where you want it to.

However, take note that the Bushnell Banner may not be the best for high calibers like the .308 or .30-06.

Muzzleloader Scope Recommendations

Here are some of the best muzzleloader scopes if you’re looking out for a new scope for your muzzleloader.

Burris Eliminator IV – Best for Long Range

Most muzzleloader scopes are made for a maximum distance of up to 300 yards.

However, if you still do want to go for a long-range scope (400+ yards) for your muzzleloader, we highly recommend the Burris Eliminator IV.

  • High-quality glass
  • Superb tracking ability
  • Durable construction

Its range-finding ability really sets the Burris Eliminator IV apart from other muzzleloader scopes.

You can enter your muzzleloader’s ballistic data into the scope and immediately get a custom holdover at the push of a button.

This feature not only elevates your accuracy but also makes hunting more ethical.

TAKE NOTE: The Burris Eliminator IV is illegal for hunting in some states.

Muzzle Loaders Genesis Scope – Best Budget

If you’re a new muzzleloader shooter or a hunter on a budget, this is the perfect scope for you.

This scope offers you quality optics without breaking the bank. 

  • Clear glass
  • Amazing features
  • Durable construction

This muzzleloader scope comes with a standard duplex reticle which is awesome for hunters.

Don’t be fooled by its price point! This baby can handle all the recoil and bumps that come with muzzleloading!

For extra protection, this scope comes with a set of flip caps.

Leupold VX-Freedom UltimateSlam – Best Versatile

If you want Leupold scopes that can do anything, look no further than the Leupold VX-Freedom UltimateSlam.

This is made specifically for muzzleloading firearms.

  • Insanely durable
  • Great value for the price
  • Clear glass

The muzzleloader-specific SABR reticle on this scope is designed with muzzleloading ballistics that allows for shooting accurate shots up to 300 yards.

As an offering from Leupold, you can be assured of only the best, thanks to their strict quality control.

This scope can be trusted to hold zero even in the harshest of conditions!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Any Scope Be Used on a Muzzleloader?

Not necessarily.

While most standard optical rifle scopes can work on a muzzleloading rifle, the demands of a muzzleloader may be too much for a riflescope.

As such, any scope you use should be more durable and have longer eye relief to handle your shots.

Be sure to check if the scope you plan to use is compatible with a muzzleloader.

What Makes a Gun a Muzzleloader?

A muzzleloader is a firearm that can be loaded through the muzzle of the barrel.

This term encompasses everything from revolvers and single-shot pistols to shotguns and rifles.

A muzzleloader works by igniting a propellant within the firearm. This results in expanding gases that push the projectile out of the barrel.

This procedure is controlled by an ignition system in the firearm known as the lock. In modern conventional firearms, the lock has been replaced by actions.

While the rifle is the most common muzzleloader used for shooting, the smooth-bored muzzleloader-shotgun, known historically as a musket or fowler, also exists.

These shotguns are available with either just a single barrel or double barrels that are joined side by side.

Three of the most popular muzzleloading firearms currently in use are:

  • In-line rifle
  • Percussion lock (also known as caplock) rifle
  • Flintlock rifle

Can You Hunt With a Scoped Muzzleloader?

It should be fine, but it all depends on the rules in your area.

While most hunting grounds allow for hunting with a muzzleloader, some prohibit it.

Be sure that the scope you plan to use is allowed in the state you are in.

What’s the Price Difference Between Muzzleloader and Rifle Scopes?

The differences in cost between the different types of scope for muzzleloaders and rifles are pretty much the same.

Unless you have plans of putting the same scope on multiple platforms, you aren’t likely to save money by choosing one type over the other.

If you plan to use the same scope on multiple platforms, take note that the mounting and zeroing process of switching between platforms, including any necessary adjustments, is a lot of trouble.

It may not be worth any money you save.

Final Thoughts

While it may seem that rifle and muzzleloader scopes are the same, there are actually a number of differences between them.

These small differences, as well as other factors, can really affect your shots and hunting experience.

While some rifle scopes may be compatible with muzzleloading rifles, this is not always the case.

  • For example, a rifle scope designed with a BDC ladder for a .223 round up to 1000 yards may not give you the best sight picture when you’re using it with a muzzleloader at 50 yards.
  • Additionally, parallax that is good at 50 yards may be an absolute nightmare at 250 yards.

The difference could really put your bullet off! You also wouldn’t want to end up without enough eye relief when shooting.

It is important to recognize these differences to be able to know the right optics for you.

So no, Juliet, a scope by any other name may not necessarily shoot as sweet. There’s quite the difference.

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