How Do I Choose a Rifle Optic?

What do I need and what do I look for?


When we’re starting out in shooting, whether it is for hunting or for competition, we just want someone to answer a simple question in a simple manner. And that question is, “I just want an affordable – but quality – scope for competition and for hunting. What do I need, and what do I look for?”

Heather Miller is a Pro 3-Gun competitor and avid hunter. Sponsored by Leupold, her knowledge makes her a great person to go to for advice on choosing an optic.

“You can use the same optic for hunting and for competition,” says Miller. “There are different scopes with a specific purpose in mind, but if you want to save money you can use the same one for multiple purposes. For example, I use a Mark 6 1-6x or VX-6 1-6x for hunting and 3-Gun. It’s my favorite for everything. If I can use my 3-Gun rifle for hunting, that’s what I’ll do but I can easily mount my optic to my hunting rifle.”

For those looking to not spend as much money or aren’t comfortable with an optic with adjustable power yet, a red dot is always an easy to start with. “They can be a lot of fun, they’re a very lightweight, versatile optic that can also be used for home defense, competition, and hunting,” advises Miller.

Miller suggest when planning for competition to use a 1-6 or red dot. “Red dots will require a more skill to use at distance and the 1-6 power optic works great for close and long range. Both can also be used for multiple purposes, such as competition, hunting, and home defense.

The biggest piece of advice Miller gives though is, “Don’t skimp on your optic. Your rifle is only as good as the piece of glass on it. You can build a fantastic rifle and if you put a piece of junk on it for your glass, you’re taking away from that build. I tell people to do their research constantly. Good glass will last you forever, it will always be good glass no matter what innovation brings.”

How much you spend also depends on other variables. “If you’re not going to compete or use it at a serious level, then spend accordingly. Most optic companies have optics that come at different price points that are intended for their targeted use, so do your research and see what best fits all your needs and could be multipurpose.”

“People don’t spend enough time looking through optics before they buy them. I tell people to go to a range and look through the glass and shoot it if you can. And don’t be afraid to ask other people about their gear. People love to show off their optics, guns, and gear,” she laughs. “We put a lot of time and money into it so ask and try before you buy because it’s better to save your money and penny-pinch for a month or two and buy the higher-end optic that will last you forever.”

Images of optics taken by Nancy Keaton