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Rifle Scope Magnification vs. Distance: What You Should Know

Rifle Scope Magnification vs. Distance

We can all agree on how important accuracy is whenever we’re out hunting or target shooting. AND we’re sure you’ll also agree the right magnification scope is crucial to perfect your aim, right?

Today, we’ll be talking about rifle scope magnification vs distance, and why those two are important for your accuracy.

Magnification and Distance

Better magnification power doesn’t mean better accuracy from afar.

Inexperienced shooters don’t take into consideration the magnification power of their rifle scope, vis-a-vis the distance when they hunt. But the magnifications of your scopes are crucial!

One of the MOST COMMON MISTAKES first-timers make is choosing standard rifle scope magnification lenses thinking it’s enough for such a far distance.

Sure you’ll be able to see your targets through the glass, even if they’re on the far point. But, ASK YOURSELF: Will you be able to hit it with great accuracy?

Difference Between Magnification and Distance

This is where the difference between magnification and distance comes in.

Although the MAGNIFICATION POWER of your rifle scope lenses is 100% okay, it doesn’t always mean it can perform well at such a distance.

In other words…

  • A HIGHER MAGNIFICATION DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN HIT A TARGET ACCURATELY FROM A FARTHER DISTANCE.
  • What you see on your rifle scope is completely different from what you should expect in terms of performance.

To fully understand and unlock the potential of your rifle scope magnification, let’s start by understanding what magnification is in the first place.

Magnification

Magnification

Whenever you take a peek into your rifle scope, you’ll more or less see the image better. And that’s all thanks to your magnification scopes.

It’s a lot closer and clearer to look at, as compared to using the rifle without a scope magnification.

Although we wish the concept was as simple as that, the reality is, there’s a lot of intricacies involved in keeping your rifle scope magnification accurate in reference to the distance of your target.

Purpose

Magnification plays an important role in your rifle scope.

  • One of its important purposes is to magnify the target, focusing your field of view on that target alone.
  • Another important feature of a rifle scope magnification is that it allows you to focus on your target image with ease.
  • Sometimes, if your targets are so far, you need your scope to be able to focus so that you can see where you’re aiming.

Distance

Distance

When we talk of distance, we talk of the space in between you and your target. The range could be as close as arm’s length, or as far as an entire football field.

Similar to magnification scopes, there’s a number of factors and categories worth considering when it comes to the range: whether you’re shooting a moving target or not.

Moving Target or Hunting

Hunting usually involves great distances to practice your aim. You need a rifle scope to see far distances and provide you with great stability.

You’d also want to choose lenses by taking into consideration the size of your game. Whether it’s a big or small target like prairie dogs, you shouldn’t have any problem.

When this is the case, choosing variable power scopes is usually the best. You can swiftly change the magnification of your lens to get that shot easily.

This also very important, considering you have to be always on the go whenever you’re hunting.

Stable Target or Target Shooting

Target shooting is a lot easier as compared to hunting scenarios. It’s more predictable and allows you to practice target shooting and hit with better accuracy each time.

That being the case, you’re better off with magnification scopes and lenses that have a limited field of view and fixed power. You can focus on the shot better, which lets you focus on what you’re aiming for.

Also, distance matters when you’re doping your scope.

Rifle Scope Magnification vs. Distance: Why They Go Together

Why They Go Together

Like we said earlier, magnification rifle scopes give you a clear image of your target. Whether it’s near or far, you can always look at the target as if it was just close to you.

What does magnification power have to do with distance then? Well, let’s take an example.

  • Your target is 600 yards away from you. That’s far and is probably hard to shoot without a scope.
  • With the right scope, you can easily close in the range between you and the other end.
  • From 600 yards, the target or image can look as if it’s just 100 yards away from you. No matter how big the numbers are, you can close them in with your lenses.

You see, the higher magnification you choose, the more likely you’ll close the range between you and your target. The two work together in making sure you have a clear and full view of your target.

Now, here comes the tricky part.

Drawbacks of Choosing a Magnified Scope

Drawbacks

Not all rifle scopes are the same:

  • Some scopes can give you a close field of view of the target or image
  • Some give you a good view but not as close you might like

You’re probably thinking, “Why not go all in and go for the magnification scope which closes the range between me and my targets?”

While we wish we could say it’s easy as that, the reality is, it isn’t.

Let’s discuss what these drawbacks are. Things like light transmission, weight, mirage distortion, etc all play a role when using a magnified scope.

Kickback or Recoil

Shooting will always have some recoil/kickback. Once you fire the bullet, expect some recoil to slightly PUSH you back, especially if you’re firing at an angle.

For example, when you’re shooting a regular handheld gun, there’s no reason for you to worry about kickback.

Sure it may cause minor arm discomfort, but it should go away in a few minutes or so. It’s not much of a cause of concern. Plus, you won’t be needing a magnification objective lens for a handheld gun.

But what if, instead of using a handheld gun, you’re using a hunting rifle. Now that’s a different topic worth talking about because you can now potentially cause injury to your eye.

Remember, you’ll be looking through the magnification lens of your scope.

Whenever your targets are so far and you want to close in the range, expect the recoil to be powerful! Fair warning, it may take you by surprise. Worse, the eye reticle may leave your eyes a little bruised right after.

Aim

Your aim isn’t always improved by choosing an objective lens with a high magnification level. At times, your lens may even be the cause of why you aren’t able to perfect your shots.

Allow us to shed some light (pun intended):

  • The higher the magnification level of your lens, the less light transmission there is.
  • This means… the less light transmitted, the HARDER it is for you to focus on the image ahead of you.
  • When there’s zero to little light, you won’t be able to see properly!

And if you can’t see properly, then how do you expect to fire your shot accurately? Who would’ve thought that light was so crucial, right?!

Fast Fact: Having a high magnification level for your lens tends to be more unstable in the long run.

The image may appear so close to you, and it probably looks perfect. But whenever you make a slight side movement, it CAN disorient you.

You need to be very careful with your movements.

Mirage Distortion

Another problem that occurs whenever your image is too magnified is it can cause distortions to your view and your scope’s glass.

Whenever your rifle emits some heat, it can cause mirage distortion which is detrimental to your aim.

Using magnified scopes in humid or hot weather conditions tends to be a little harder. The glass on your scope may fog, and you just won’t be able to see clearly.

At times, you might even see the same image more than once! Because of the magnified image, it’ll be a lot harder for you to focus your aim.

Price

Magnification lens and optics tend to be pricey. This is especially true if you’re looking at a premium or high-quality magnification lens, which can give you a quality image each time.

That being said, are you willing to buy expensive magnification optics? If you ask us, there’s a number of magnification power scopes out there that’ll hardly break your bank.

They may not have the same magnification level as the expensive ones, but at least the optics provide better aim and stability. Plus, image quality isn’t bad at all.

Weight

Finally, the higher the magnification level of your objective lens, the heavier it is.

The scope tends to be a little large in terms of size. On top of the weight of your gun, you’ll also need to take into consideration the weight of your lens.

This is because there’s a lot of layers inside your scope to make sure it can magnify the target image. It isn’t just made of glass, as some might think.

Having a heavy and magnified lens isn’t always advisable, especially if you’re hunting. Just imagine the struggle of having to lug a heavy scope around. Yikes!

End Game on Higher Magnification

End Game

Higher magnification doesn’t mean better accuracy at farther distances.

Rifle scope magnification vs distance. Should they always be taken together? Yes!

  • Those two are interrelated with each other and play an important role in giving you a clear field of view regardless of the range.
  • Factors like the light transmitted, weight, recoil, price, and mirage distortion contribute to choosing a balanced scope and proper target acquisition.
  • More importantly, taking these into consideration allows better stability and accuracy whenever you’re shooting.

So fellow hunters…Don’t just choose a scope with the highest magnification. You might compromise the accuracy at farther distances.

For high-quality rifle scope options, check out our article on the Most Affordable Air Rifle Scopes.

 

About the author

Christopher Wade

Christopher Wade is a true outdoorsman. After spending most of his career as a firearms expert and instructor in Nebraska, he retreated to the great outdoors to enjoy retirement.

Christopher’s expertise in handling firearms and hunting gear are what propelled him to create the Shooting Mystery blog. He hopes for all readers to gain useful and practical knowledge for enjoying their time outdoors.