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What Is Scope Eye Relief? — What It Is and How to Adjust It Properly

Scope Eye Relief

Many shooting enthusiasts will encounter problems when trying to get a full field of view through their riflescopes.

For amateurs, this can be quite intimidating…

…But don’t worry, we got you. We’ll give you EVERYTHING you need to know about eye scope relief and rifle scopes.

Scope Eye Relief EXPLAINED

First things first, what IS scope eye relief?

Eye relief is the distance between your eyes and the ocular lens of your eyepiece.

Eye Relief Illustration

The ocular lens is the rear part of your rifle scope. They function the same way as binoculars where it allows you to see a clear and unobstructed image of your field of view.

Many optics come with adjustable eye relief, and rifle scopes with fixed magnification are one such optic.

Adjusting your eye relief range is CRITICAL to ensure you have a clear image and prevent you from straining your eye too much.

Rule of thumb: The more you increase the magnification, the more you compromise your field of view.

  • If your rifle scope has a high power magnification, your eye relief should be shorter because of the shortened range
  • The same goes for scopes with low power magnification. The lower the magnification, the longer the eye relief

The scope eye relief is measured in either millimeters or inches but for rifle scope clearance, they’re typically measured in inches.

Now that we’ve covered what scope eye relief is, let’s go in-depth about the 3 eye relief scope options.

Short Eye Relief Scopes

Short Eye Relief

First off we have the Short Eye Relief Scope. Scope clearance below 13 millimeters is referred to as short eye relief.

The main issue with a shorter eye relief scope is even though your field of view seems fine, you may find yourself changing your position constantly and pressing your eye CLOSER to the scope lens just to see through it.

This is why some hunters consider this as inadequate eye relief.

We must emphasize you want to LESSEN the pressure and strain on your eye. For glasses wearers, you definitely want to stray away from short eye relief.

Standard Eye Relief Scopes

Standard Eye Relief

Most shooters and hunters consider the standard eye relief ranges from 13 millimeters to 4 inches.

With a standard eye relief scope, you can get a decent amount of scope power and magnification while still having a full field of view as well.

The advantage of this scope is its range is incredibly versatile and it allows you to alter your scope reticle position for short and long-range shots.

Scopes with standard eye relief is a classic for many shooters and hunters because it will help you improve the overall focus of your picture, it maintains the right balance in your gun AND it will give you sufficient eye relief.

With the standard eye relief, the sight picture will be the least of your concern since this scope will provide a crisp, clear picture and high-quality optics.

Long Eye Relief Scopes

Long Eye Relief

Long eye relief scopes are popular among many hunters. But if you’re someone who wears glasses, this is the perfect optic and eye relief scope for you!

A long eye relief scope is anything greater than 4 inches.

Most hunters are comfortable with a long eye relief scope because it gives you enough room for movement.

In fact, a scout scope is one example that has an eye relief of 12 to 16 inches!

However, the downside of these types of scopes is that the farther your eye is from the scope, the faster you can lose light transmission.

This can, of course, affect your sight picture quality and shooting accuracy.

BUT, longer eye relief can still be beneficial for amateurs because you can make the tiniest movement and it will not change or disturb your field of view.

So, if you have a rifle with heavy recoil (e.g., bolt action rifles), then scopes with long eye relief are your best option.

And the best part? This scope is ideal to avoid scope bite!

Wait… What’s Scope Bite?

Scope bite is when you have a scope that’s too close to your eye. It happens when you are not in the correct position while holding your rifle and the recoil slams the scope into your eye socket…

Ouch.

Scope bites can also happen when your riflescope doesn’t offer adequate eye relief. That can also lead you to strain your eye and hurt yourself even more.

Ouch again.

The scope hitting your face, eyes, forehead, or eyeball from the recoil can cause terrible headaches, nasty scars, or even internal bleeding if you’re not careful.

Thing is, these are injuries that band-aids can’t fix. It could lead to SERIOUS and LIFELONG problems. This is why having the correct eye relief is a MUST for all shooters.

But don’t worry, there are preventive measures you can do so you won’t hurt yourself in the long run.

What Can I Do to Prevent Scope Bite?

Proper Body Posture

We can’t emphasize these enough…

Just like weightlifting, there’s no point lifting all that heavyweight if your posture isn’t right. 

So stand or lie down firmly on the ground, and then…

  1. Place the buttplate on your shoulder
  2. Your eye should be a good distance away from the eyepiece
  3. Make sure you are COMFORTABLE holding this position. If not, adjust until you achieve a desired level of comfort

You might stay in that same situation for quite some time while looking for a target. The last thing you want is to strain your eyes, back, or your whole body in the process.

Correct Scope Mount Position

Remember, having good eye relief on your scope means nothing IF you mount your scope too close to your face.

Having the proper eye relief also depends on factors such as the length of the stock, the positioning of the rings on the mounting rail, the mounting position on the gun, etc.

Keep in mind that rifles have different rifle scopes.

A scope with sufficient eye relief on one rifle might be too short on a different rifle. The recoil on those rifles also differs.

When choosing a rifle, you need to position the scope backward or forward on the rail of the gun depending on the distance between the lens and your eye.

These positions can make a HUGE difference and you won’t have to sacrifice your eye in the process.

How to Measure My Eye Relief for a Scope?

It’s pretty simple to measure your eye relief on a scope. You can even do this with a pair of binoculars just to practice.

  1. Place your scope on the rifle and set your eye in a comfortable position
  2. Make sure you have a full field of view through the scope
  3. Get a ruler or measuring tape and measure the distance between your eye and the eyepiece
  4. Memorize that measurement. You’ll be using that number A LOT

That’s it! As easy as 1-2-3 right?

Finding the Right Eye Relief Setting

Before you decide on a rifle scope, look at the specifications of your scope FIRST because this determines WHERE it should be mounted on.

Each rifle scope has corresponding measurements for the eye relief that best suits you.

IF you do not mount according to the specifications of your scope then, frankly speaking, you won’t get the best image quality and field of view.

High-powered scopes will have a shorter eye relief, especially at full zoom.

So although high-powered scopes are great because they have a heavy recoil caliber, just be aware the eyepiece IS MUCH CLOSER to your eye.

The lens of your scope should match the dilation of your exit pupil, the industry average is generally around 5 millimeters.

REMEMBER: If your eyes are too close to the scope, you’ll get punched in the eye from the kickback of your rifle.

But if your eyes are too far away from the scope, you’re most likely going to miss your target.

How to Adjust Eye Relief on a Rifle Scope

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of adjusting eye relief on your rifle scope.

First, each rifle will come with optimal eye relief sizes provided by the scope manufacturers. These scopes could have short, standard, or long eye relief.

The eye relief on rifles also differs depending on the model, manufacturer, or type of optic.

But everyone has different optical requirements and there are certain calculations that scope manufacturers need to do to get the best and optimal eye relief measurements.

General eye-relief settings are available and it may work for a few people but that doesn’t mean it will work for you…

…And if you’re constantly missing more shots or your target then you might want to consider adjusting eye relief settings.

That’s why it’s recommended to get your scope customized and calibrated so it has the right amount of inches of eye relief.

Step-By-Step Guide for the Ideal Eye Relief on a Rifle Scope:

Step 1: Before attaching the scope to your rifle, make sure the scope rings are loosely tightened. We’ll be adjusting eye relief settings and other things along the way.

Step 2: Place your rifle on a STABLE platform. Also, make sure you are in a comfortable shooting position and that the area has sufficient light transmission.

Step 3: Place the rifle in a firm and balanced position on your shoulder. Stand in your ‘Hunter’s position’. Remember, your posture is KEY.

Step 4: Make sure the rifle scope is at a comfortable distance from you, not too far and not too close. Look through the eyepiece and make sure you have a clear view.

Step 5: Once you have a clear image, full field of view, and a good eye relief distance, SECURE this position. The elevation dial should be at the top, if not rotate the scope to bring it on top.

Step 6: You can now tighten the loose scope rings to lock in your scope. This way, you won’t have to make any more adjustments while you’re hunting.

This process is something people need to take their time with. The keywords here are RELIEF and COMFORT.

So take your time adjusting the scope, the rings, your body posture, etc.

Trust us, you’ll get the most out of your hunting experience and your aim will keep improving as you progress.

What Are the Benefits of Adjusting the Rifle Scopes?

Now if we haven’t already given you enough reasons as to why adjusting the riflescope is crucial for your hunting journey and your overall health.

Let’s break it down for you.

The Benefits of Customizing Your Riflescope and Its Settings:

  • It has the appropriate optics for your needs
  • It will give you an unobstructed image and field of view
  • The scope should match your exit pupil
  • Will provide the best light transmission when you aim
  • Shots at your target will be fast and accurate
  • Safe and comfortable shooting experience

We could come up with more benefits but you get the picture, right?

When your eye relief and rifle scopes have been adjusted correctly, you’ll never get enough of shooting.

What Is the Best Eye Relief Setting?

3.5 to 4.5 inches of eye relief is ideal for most people.

BUUUT but it may result in severe recoil.

So more shooters prefer to have their rifle scopes and optics calibrated and customized to their liking so their shots are more accurate.

This is something more experienced hunters can recognize once they have tried different scopes or know what type of optic they prefer.

So it’s often recommended to get an eye relief distance of 4 to 4.5 inches.

For instance, the brand Bushnell has scopes that provide up to 6 inches of eye relief.

As we mentioned, most shooters and hunters prefer using a rifle scope with long eye relief because of its flexibility; there is more room for movement while still having a full field of view.

If you are a new hunter or if you are a glasses wearer, it’s recommended you use a scope with LONG EYE RELIEF.

Using a scope below the long eye relief measurements could be problematic for you.

What’s a Scope Eye Relief Extender?

An eye relief extender is a device that prevents light from entering the ocular part of your rifle scope.

It’s made with rubber and it’s mounted on at the back of your rifle scope. It’s basically an extension of your rifle scope and will prolong your scope’s tube by 2 to 4 inches.

Features like an eye relief extender can be beneficial for amateur shooters because it prevents your eye from injuries especially after recoil.

DON’T Ignore the Recommended Eye Relief Distance!

We don’t want to sound like a broken record…

But it is critical that shooters, whether amateurs or professionals, don’t overlook the recommended eye-relief settings and distance.

YOUR EYE RELIEF MATTERS!

Ignoring these eye relief recommendations will lead to a LOT of issues and consequences along the way such as:

  • Reduced light transmission
  • Low image quality
  • Unclear or distorted field of view
  • Scope bite
  • Injuring yourself with your riflescope during recoil
  • Headaches & Migraines

There is absolutely no reason to put YOURSELF AND YOUR EYES at risk!

Nobody wants a hunting experience that’s frustrating or worse, you could end up hurting yourself.

Final Thoughts

It’s always a RELIEF to be a well-informed buyer and user of rifles (pun intended).

So don’t be shy to ask about eye relief when deciding on a riflescope. Those measurements and specs are ESSENTIAL in your hunting journey and they won’t hinder your performance.

If you’ve already invested in a good rifle, why not shell out a couple of extra bucks on a good scope as well?

A good scope will last you a long time AND it will be perfectly calibrated just for you. Those days of missing targets and aching shoulders are GONE.

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.