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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.

It’s alright, Juliet. I didn’t know the difference between a muzzleloader scope and rifle scope either.

Lucky for Romeo, I’m here to help him and his beloved with my muzzleloader scopes vs. rifle scopes guide!

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 while the objective lens 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. 

Additionally, 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.

On the other hand, VARIABLE magnification scopes 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 3-9×24 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.

In my experience using scopes, perfecting zeroing takes a bit of trial and error, but using these turrets is a huge help.

What is a Rifle Scope?

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.

  • This scope is great for long-range shooting (the BDC ladder allows for shooting up to 1000 yards)
  • Comfortable eye relief
  • Can't withstand heavy recoil
  • Bad parallax at shorter distances

What is a Muzzleloader Scope?

Muzzleloader scope

A muzzleloader scope is a scope designed specifically to work with muzzleloading rifles.

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.

  • This scope can withstand stronger recoil
  • Better parallax at shorter distances
  • Longer eye relief
  • Low magnification
  • Worse parallax at longer distances

Muzzleloader Scopes vs Rifle Scopes: Key Differences

Rifle scope vs. muzzleloader

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.

In my experience, a muzzleloader is made to pack a HUGE hit over a short distance. However, it doesn’t stand up to the long-range precision of a rifle.


Most muzzleloader scopes I’ve seen go up to 9x magnification due to 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 refers to the “pushback” of the rifle every time a bullet is fired.

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

Rifles with a smaller caliber usually have less recoil than those with a larger caliber.

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 by the recoil of your shot.

Ideally, I think 3-4 inches of eye relief is the best amount to have, which is what most rifle scopes have.

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

On the other hand, muzzleloaders require AT LEAST 4 inches of eye relief due to the harder and faster recoil.

As a result, the kickback of a muzzleloader is longer.

You don’t want to get scope bite from a muzzleloader. I learned that the hard way.


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.

One example 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.

Rifle Scope Recommendations

If you’re looking for good, affordable 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, I 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. 

I can only say good things about this scope, as it has great glass quality and durability for its price.

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

It has a thick donut which greatly helps me with 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.

The illuminated reticle also works wonderfully during dawn or dusk, so I recommend using it at these times.

For more reviews on 1×6 rifle scopes, check out this guide!

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.

I’ve had nothing but good experiences with the Leupold VX Freedom!

My images were clear, the eye relief was just right, and it stayed as good as new even in the rain and snow.

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

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 at dusk and dawn, the Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn is the rifle scope for you.

Here are a few reasons why:

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

The clear glass on this scope, combined with its Multi-X reticle design, really helps my 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, I highly recommend the Burris Eliminator IV.

Its range-finding ability are unlike other muzzleloader rifle scopes I’ve tried.

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

This scope was one of my first muzzleloaders, and I fully recommend it to anyone starting out too!

This muzzleloading scope offers you quality optics without breaking the bank. 

Further more, this best 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.

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.

I can trust this scope to hold zero even in the harshest of conditions!

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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, resulting 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 use the same scope on multiple platforms, take note that the mounting and zeroing process of switching between platforms, is a lot of trouble

It may not be worth any money you save.

Final Thoughts

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.

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 a difference.

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