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Why Are Rifle Scopes So Expensive? Are They Worth It?

Why are Rifle Scopes So Expensive

Rifle scopes are complex machines that take a lot of time to perfect and build. Despite that, there are a lot of affordable ones on the market!

At the same time, some are quite pricey, and we all know we would rather save our money for other things.

So why does a quality scope costs so much?

Continue reading to learn more about why rifle scopes are so expensive and if they are worth the money!

5 Reasons Why Rifle Scopes Are So Expensive

1. High-Quality Optical Glass Is Costly to Manufacture

The eyepiece or ocular lens is what you see through when you look down a rifle scope. This has to be clear and not distort objects.

Getting a higher quality glass is crucial because rifle scopes are often used at long range. Without a clear sight picture, shooters might miss essential shots!

Many lenses are also needed to construct even the most basic rifle scope.

High-quality glass lenses are only made in a few factories worldwide, so the higher the glass quality, the more expensive the scope becomes.

2. Grinding and Polishing Optical Lenses Is Expensive

Understanding scope manufacturing and why it’s so expensive includes knowing the value of precise image quality in modern scopes.

The cost of the lens is one thing, but scope manufacturing for lenses requires precise laboratory conditions to produce quality internal parts consistently.

A few changes in temperature, humidity, or micrometers in cutting width can mean the difference between a sharp, clear lens and a distorted one.

Multiply this process with the required size and shape of lenses on a rifle scope and your cost compounds.

The best rifle scopes need precisely cut and manufactured glass surfaces to achieve maximum clarity.

3. Variable Zoom Levels Increase Costs

Variable zoom scopes have been rising in popularity in recent years. However, variable scopes need more lenses. 

Very high variable magnifications need special lenses to view, which can quickly jack the price.

Additionally, variable scopes have different focus and parallax adjustment settings for each zoom level. Complications like these add to the cost of the scope.

CONSIDER: If you already have a red dot and only need one more zoom level, look for red dot magnifiers. They add zoom level while retaining the benefits of red dot sights.

4. Windage and Elevation Turrets Add Complications

Regarding complications, adding cost, windage, and elevation adjustments must be added to any long-range capable rifle scope. 

With one turret on top and one on the side, and both including rotating mechanisms which attach directly onto the scope tube, there’s no wonder why it increases cost.

Are these adjustment tools necessary in a shooter’s scope?

Absolutely! Without these adjustment parameters, you would have to manually calculate for it, which would be slow and inconvenient.

Shooters need precision at longer ranges. You wouldn’t buy a rifle scope for only close-range applications. 

You’d be better off with a red dot scope or iron sights, which are light and cheap scopes.

5. Enclosure Materials Need to Be Both Light and Durable

Even the cheapest scope needs an enclosure that is durable enough to survive being banged up against a shooter’s body or other equipment inside a carrying bag. 

Some manufacturers will sacrifice durability, but most choose to sacrifice being lightweight.

If cheaper scopes are at least durable, expensive scopes need to be BOTH durable and light. Materials like titanium and aircraft-grade aluminum are common in higher-end scopes.

These premium materials need to be more shock and dustproof than the internal materials they’re encasing while maintaining a low weight.

This stacks additional costs onto the scope’s manufacturing expenses.

Are Expensive Rifle Scopes Worth It?

Now that you know why these scopes are so heavy on the wallet, you might wonder if it’s worth picking up high-end scopes.

Pros

Expensive scopes offer:

  • Unmatched image quality
  • Better low light performance
  • More forgiving eye box 
  • Usually uses a first focal plane reticle that has illumination
  • More durable and lightweight

Cons

Even the best optics have some downsides. They are:

  • Expensive (obviously)
  • Complex optical tools can be challenging for beginners
  • Availability at scope retailers is not as comprehensive as cheap scopes

Understanding a Rifle Scope: What Are the Different Parts?

Now that we’ve answered the main question, you must first understand how many parts there are in a rifle and how they work together.

After seeing how many parts go into a rifle scope to make it function, you might better understand why they’re so expensive.

External Parts

First, check out the parts of a scope you can see on the outside.

Objective Lens

The objective lens is a large circular glass that allows light in so the shooter can see through. It’s found at the other end of the scope facing the barrel.

Larger objective lenses let in more light but are heavier.

You need these bigger lenses for shooting at higher magnification levels in lower light situations.

Objective Bell

The objective bell is the area on the front end of the scope where objective lenses can be found. 

Light bounces around and comes in from this section of the scope towards the shooter’s eye, allowing them to see the target.

Turrets

There are usually two turrets on most rifle scopes.

The knob on top is called the elevation turret. This controls the scope’s bullet drop compensation.

The knob on the side is called the windage turret. This controls how much the reticle accounts for the windage and elevation.

Some older rifle scopes have scope keys to adjust these turrets, but most modern rifle scopes use a built-in rotation mechanism.

Scope Tube

The scope tube is the “main body” of the rifle scope. Its rings allow it to be attached to a mount, which then connects to the Picatinny rail on a weapon.

Ocular Lens

Alternatively known as the eyepiece, this is a small circular glass towards the back of the scope where the shooter looks through.

Different scopes have different eye relief.

Eye relief is the optimal distance your eye has to be to the scope to see the full image clearly.

Diopter Adjustment

Also called the focus control ring, the diopter adjustment allows you to adjust the focus inside the scope. This is usually for the reticle to be sharper.

Magnification Ring

The magnification ring is how you control the zoom/magnification level on the rifle scope.

Internal Parts

A rifle scope isn’t just what’s on the outside – there are more unseen components inside that work together to give a shooter optimal image clarity.

Magnification Lenses

Magnification lenses are placed in an assembly and move along with the magnification ring to adjust the zoom level.

This is what makes variable zoom scopes have smooth zoom transitions.

Reticle

The reticle is where you place your aim on a target. This has two placements – the first and second focal plane.

The first focal plane reticle sits closer to the objective lens, on the front of the scope. This makes the reticle EXPAND or CONTRACT depending on the zoom level.

Second focal plane reticles sit closer to the shooter’s eye. The reticle doesn’t change size or shape depending on the zoom level.

A second focal plane reticle is the most common design.

At lower zoom levels, the first focal plane reticle may appear very small, so some rifle scope manufacturers include an illuminated reticle to make target acquisition easier.

IMPORTANT FACT: More expensive rifle optics will have first focal plane reticles with illumination. You may have to spend more if you want these two features.

Focus Assembly

This assembly contains lenses that are controlled by the diopter adjustment to change the focus and make it optimal for the zoom level the shooter is in. 

Parallax adjustment is usually made through here as well.

Image Erector Assembly

The image erector assembly ensures that the image the shooter sees is upright through prisms.

Erector Tube

This tube works with the turrets using springs to allow adjustments to wind and bullet drop.

How Much Should I Spend on a Rifle Scope?

Most scopes will serve your shooting needs well, depending on your budget. However, you should pick the proper scope for your needs.

Cheap Scopes

Cheaper scopes are worth it if your budget is a maximum of $1000. They still provide relatively accurate shots at respectable ranges.

These scopes are usually for new shooters looking to get into the hobby. You’ll get the absolute basics and not much else.

BEWARE: Many cheap optics have a lower quality glass, a poor quality internal lens, a foggy ocular lens, and struggle to stay zeroed.

The last point is crucial to longer-range shooting. As target magnification increases, the effect that poor-quality optical glass has on aiming point accuracy gets bigger! 

Placing low-quality, cheap scopes on large caliber rifles can make them lose zero in a few shots. The rifle’s recoil might offset the flimsy scope tube and mounting brackets.

That’s why it’s vital to pick out well-reviewed budget scopes. Here are excellent budget optics under $1000:

  • Bushnell Scope Banner 3-9×40 at $80
  • Vortex Optics Crossfire II at $125
  • Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6×24 at $350
  • Vortex Optics Viper HS-T at $600

An advantage of cheaper scopes is that they’re usually available at your local sporting goods store.

Premium Scopes

These scopes are for shooters who need a high-end scope regularly.

These shooters need reliable performance and a quality scope mechanism and will use all the features that good scopes offer.

These rifle scopes can usually be found at well over $1000. Although you can find some expensive scopes at most scope retailers, many are only available through direct order online.

A pricier scope is worth paying for if you’ll use ALL of the features and can appreciate how the high-quality lens focuses on a target.

Remember, quality affects performance!

All the cost will be worth it, not just with what you see from the outside, but its internal quality too.

Great premium rifle optic options are:

  • Horus Vision HoVR 5-20×50 at $1500
  • Leupold VX-6HD Side Focus at $2100
  • Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen III at $2500
  • Nightforce ATACR 5-25x56mm at $3100

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we’ve given you decent options for rifle scopes at different budgets, let’s try to answer the most frequently asked questions about rifle optics.

What’s the Most Expensive Quality Scope?

The most expensive rifle scopes are usually around $4000-5000. However, the Hensoldt 6-24×72 SAM scope comes at a whopping $12,000!

This shows how crucial precise aiming is to some people willing to spend that much on a scope.

How Long Should a Rifle Scope Last?

Most scopes are built to last for life IF you care for them properly.

However, if you regularly beat up your rifle scope and purchase a cheap one, it might break after a few months.

The primary consideration regarding scope longevity besides build quality is how you take care of it.

Are Optics Better Than Iron Sights?

All the scopes you can use will be better than iron sights. Very few shooters use irons as main sights, as most use them only in emergencies.

Placing any scope on a target rifle will increase your view in front and around the gun, especially if the iron sights are big and clunky.

Longer range shooting having to account for bullet drop and windage is also near impossible using iron sights.

A rifle scope is superior in every way!

Should I Upgrade to a Rifle Scope From a Red Dot Sight?

A red dot sight and a rifle scope have different strengths and weaknesses. Red dots are generally better for close quarters, while rifle optics excel at longer ranges.

You should upgrade if you need to shoot targets at farther distances and only have a red dot.

However, stick to the red dot if you only use your weapon at close range.

Conclusion

Choosing a rifle scope to buy can be a daunting task. There are many options, all at different price points, offering various features.

Instead of springing for the most expensive scope and hoping it will fit you, we suggest thoroughly researching the scope’s features and reviews first.

This will save you and your wallet a lot of pain!

We hope we’ve answered your questions on why rifle scopes are so expensive and narrowed down your buying options.

Good luck on your hunt for a rifle scope!

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