I am embarrassed to admit that I thought scopes worked just like telescopes where you place your eye directly on the eyepiece.
Boy, was I stupid.
As a result, I had a nasty scar on my eyebrow and learned about the importance of 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.
I’ll give you EVERYTHING you need to know about a little thing called eye relief and rifle scopes so you don’t make the same mistake I made.
- What Is Eye Relief on a Scope?
- Why is Eye Relief Important With Rifle Scopes?
- Practical Applications of Eye Relief
- What Is Scope Bite?
- How to Measure My Eye Relief for a Scope?
- Finding the Right Eye Relief Setting
- How to Adjust Eye Relief on a Rifle Scope
- The Benefits of Customizing Your Rifle Scope and Its Settings
- DON’T Ignore the Recommended Eye Relief Distance!
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
What Is Eye Relief on a Scope?
Eye relief is the distance between your eyes and the ocular lens of your eyepiece.
The ocular lens is the rear part of your rifle scope, which allows you to see a CLEAR and unobstructed image of your field of view.
You can adjust eye relief with many optics, 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
Scope clearance below 13 millimeters is referred to as short eye relief.
My main issue with shorter eye relief is constantly changing my position and pressing my eye CLOSER to the lens.
You are guaranteed to get a scope scar with this amount. This is why some hunters consider this inadequate eye relief.
I 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
Most shooters and hunters consider the standard eye relief ranges from 13 millimeters to 4 inches.
With this eye relief scope, you can get a decent amount of scope power and magnification while still having a full field of view as well.
In my experience, this amount of eye relief is incredibly versatile as it allows me to alter the scope reticle for short and long-range shooting.
Scopes with regular eye relief are a classic for many shooters and hunters because they help improve the overall focus of the picture.
It maintains the right balance in your gun AND gives you sufficient eye relief.
With this 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 scopes are popular among many hunters. But if you wear glasses, this is the perfect optic and eye relief scope for you!
A long eye relief scope is anything greater than 4 inches.
I love scopes with long eye relief as it gives me A LOT of room to move around while out on the field.
In fact, a scout scope is one example with an eye relief of 12 to 16 inches!
Scout scopes are specifically marketed to be lightweight, easy to handle, and have generous eye relief.
They also have a low magnification range and are meant for easy and comfortable aiming at short distances.
However, the downside of a long eye relief scope 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.
Despite that, I still recommend longer eye relief as they are beneficial for amateurs because even the tiniest movement won’t 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? Long eye relief scopes are ideal for avoiding scope bites!
Why is Eye Relief Important With Rifle Scopes?
Rifles and other firearms have heavy recoil when you fire a shot; you would naturally want to prevent the scope from bouncing back and hitting you in the eye.
Eye relief is important because shooters would get black eyes left and right without it!
Because of my carelessness, I had a nasty black eye and was the center of attention from my family and friends.
Do not make the same mistake. Be vigilant and careful when finding scopes with ample eye relief!
That distance between your eye and the eyepiece could save you a trip to the hospital.
Not only that, but the right amount of eye relief is essential for seeing a clear, undistorted image through the scope WHILE keeping your eye safe.
It pays off to be extra careful when choosing a scope that gives you that sweet spot of protection from rifle recoil AND a clear sight picture.
Practical Applications of Eye Relief
Long and standard eye relief have different applications, depending on the kind of firearm you use.
Here is a quick breakdown of the differences:
Handguns are used with your arms stretched out and far from your eye, so LONG eye relief is ideal.
Scopes for handguns usually have eye relief in the double digits, at around 11 inches, with some extending up to 20 inches.
It’s necessary to have this much because pistols and handguns have quite a high recoil. You don’t want to get smacked with it!
Shotgun scopes with an eye relief of AT LEAST 3.5 inches are ideal. I say at least because 3.5 inches is a good amount of eye relief for any scope, for that matter.
But since shotguns have a higher recoil, any scope that has a higher eye relief should work just as well.
If you are shooting flat ground, scopes with standard eye relief should be enough for rifles.
On the other hand, longer eye relief scopes are best for shooting uphill.
Eye relief naturally shortens when shooting upward, so you want a longer eye relief to compensate for the recoil.
What Is 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.
Scope bites can also happen when your rifle scope doesn’t offer adequate eye relief, which leads you to strain your eye and hurt yourself even more.
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.
I must emphasize that these are injuries that band-aids CANNOT 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
I 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…
- Place the buttplate on your shoulder
- Your eye should be a good distance away from the eyepiece
- Make sure you are COMFORTABLE holding this position. If not, adjust until you achieve the 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 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!
- Place your scope on the rifle and set your eye in a comfortable position
- Make sure you have a FULL field of view through the scope
- Get a ruler or measuring tape and measure the distance between your eye and the eyepiece
- 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 eye relief measurements that best suit 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 shorter eye relief, especially at full zoom.
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’ll most likely miss your target.
How to Adjust Eye Relief on a 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 they may work for a few people, but that doesn’t mean they will work for you.
I used to miss my shots a lot, and I thought I was just bad, but it turns out it’s because I was using a scope with the wrong 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: Make sure the scope rings are loosely tightened before attaching the scope to your rifle. 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.
Take your time adjusting the scope, the rings, your body posture, etc.
Trust me, you’ll get the most out of your hunting experience, and your aim will keep improving as you progress.
The Benefits of Customizing Your Rifle Scope and Its Settings
If I haven’t already given you enough reasons, adjusting the rifle scope is crucial for your hunting journey and overall health.
Here’s a quick rundown:
- 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
- It will provide the best light transmission when you aim
- Shots at your target will be fast and accurate
- Safe and comfortable shooting experience
When your eye relief and rifle scopes have been adjusted correctly, you’ll never get enough of shooting!
DON’T Ignore the Recommended Eye Relief Distance!
I 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Best Eye Relief Setting?
3.5 to 4.5 inches of eye relief is ideal for most people.
BUUUT 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.
More experienced hunters can recognize this once they have tried different scopes or know what type of optic they prefer.
Therefore, getting an eye relief distance of 4 to 4.5 inches is often recommended.
For instance, Bushnell scopes provide up to 6 inches of eye relief.
As I 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 a glasses wearer, you should 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 basically an extension of your rifle scope and will prolong your scope tube by 2 to 4 inches.
Features like an eye relief extender can benefit amateur shooters because it prevents your eye from injuries, especially after recoil.
Can I Return a Scope to the Factory to Adjust or Extend the Eye Relief?
In my opinion, it would make sense to return a scope to adjust the eye relief if it does not match the specified measurements that were stated.
For example, if a scope promises 3.5 inches of eye relief, but all you got was 2 inches (probably due to a mechanical issue), it would make sense to return in.
However, if you simply do not like having only 3.5 inches of eye relief, it wouldn’t seem fair to send it back.
The most you can do is contact the manufacturer and inquire about this.
It’s always a RELIEF to be a well-informed buyer and user of rifles (pun intended).
Don’t be shy to ask about eye relief when deciding on a rifle scope.
Those measurements and specs are ESSENTIAL in your hunting journey and won’t hinder your performance.
If you’ve already invested in a good rifle, why not also shell out a couple of extra bucks on a good scope?
A good scope will last you a long time and be perfectly calibrated just for you. Those days of missing targets and aching shoulders are GONE.