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December 22, 2016

Picking Out The Best 22LR Scope For Your Rifle - Our Top 5 Rimfire Rifle Scope Reviews

Learning to shoot on a .22lr rifle will be a fond memory for many marksmen – it is for me. Being virtually the only rimfire caliber to retain mass popularity over the decades, the .22is perfect for short-to-mid range plinking and varmint clearing, so it can be used for practical applications as well as for initiating rookies in the art of ranged shooting.

Top 5 22LR Scope Comparisons

Model

Weight

Reticle Type

Warranty

Our Ratings

Nikon P-Rimfire

16.1 oz

Nikoplex

Limited Lifetime Warranty

rifle scope review of the vortex viper

Leupold VX-1 Rimfire

8.5oz

Fine duplex

Unlimited Lifetime Guarantee

Top rifle scope

BSA Sweet .22

16.8oz

BSA 30/30 w/ bullet compensation for .22LR

Limited Lifetime Warranty

Top rifle scope

Barska 3-9x32 Plinker

11.46oz

Standard 30/30 reticle (illuminated)

Limited Lifetime Warranty

Top rifle scope

UTG 3-9X32 1" BugBuster Scope

13.9oz

Mil-dot (illuminated)

Limited Lifetime warranty

The scopes utilized for .22 rimfire rifles also don’t require a lot of high end features (large zoom range, wide objective lens, and extreme internal adjustments) as a consequence, so one would expect the selection of the best 22 scope to be a rather straightforward process.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case – given the less critical demands of this shooting caliber, lots of manufacturers have seen this as an opportunity to flood the market with cheap products that offer little functionality even for amateur riflemen, under the pretense that these ‘low end’ scopes go well with this light caliber.

This guide has been written with the aim of helping you choose the right .22lr scope for your rifle, without having to sift through most of the trash masquerading as a 22 rifle scope!

The maximum effective range of a .22 LR bullet

In order to explain the rather less demanding criteria for the selection of a proper 22 scope, it is necessary to understand the capabilities and limitations of the 22 LR bullet.

There is a general consensus that a .22 LR bullet is effective to about a 100 to 150 yard range, beyond which it can become very difficult to compensate for its large bullet drop. There have been reports of successful target penetrations up to 300 yards from individual tests, however, this largely comes down to the skill of the individual.

The point is that even 300 yards is a far cry from long range, hence a 22LR rifle doesn’t require a top-of-the-line sniper optic.

What to expect from a decent .22LR rimfire scope

Zoom Range


You can go for either a fixed power scope e.g. 4x, or a variable zoom scope e.g. 3-9x. Fixed zoom scopes have the advantage of better parallax adjustment at close range, and they are also more durable. However, you can only use them for close quarter activities such as squirrel shooting that requires quick reflexes more than accuracy.

Variable power scopes let you shoot beyond 100 yards but given the lightweight nature of this caliber, you won’t have to go much further down range, so 3-9x (or even 2-7x) is more than enough. Going for a higher power setting will be overkill for a .22lr rifle in most cases.

Lens Quality


This is one feature that you shouldn’t compromise on: multi-coated optics is the minimum I recommend for any scope – and this applies to22LR scopes as well. However, the best rimfire scopes will utilize fully multi-coated optics instead which yield even better light transmission and visual fidelity.

Objective Diameter


Again, considering the fact that you won’t be operating a .22lr at long range and high magnifications, you don’t require a super-sized objective lens to gather a lot of light for a clear picture. A 32mm objective will be more than enough for a 22 scope – even a 28mm will do you fine in most situations.

If you’ll be using a fixed zoom scope, you’re allowed to go even lower.

Internal Adjustment


Since the effective range of this bullet doesn’t exceed 300 yards, you don’t need to manage the bullet drop beyond a reasonable range, which is why even a 60 MOA internal adjustment will be fine.

Parallax Adjustment


Because the 22LR caliber is typically used for close range shooting, you should look for a scope with a parallax setting under 100 yards. 50 and 75 yard parallax settings are quite common, and they work fine for varmint hunting and target practice.

A scope with an adjustable objective will let you compensate for parallax at lower distances, so that’s always a welcome feature. Going for a higher parallax scope (e.g. 150+ yards) will be useless if it can’t be adjusted to lower settings at which the 22 rifle is frequently used.

Reticle


With 22LR scopes, you don’t have to make nuanced hold-offs or range estimations, so intricately marked reticles aren’t necessary.

If you will be using your scout rifle for 100+ yards shots, I’ll advise sticking with a simple mil-dot reticle that will let you compensate for wind / elevation, and also estimate range with reasonable ease.

However, if your primary application is short-range plinking / hunting, it’s better to go for a duplex reticle for viewing tiny targets such as squirrels and crows.

Turrets


Finger adjustable turrets are always a desirable feature in rifle scopes, but they aren’t very significant for 22 scopes because there isn’t a whole lot of dialing that needs to be done in a sub-300 yard range. If you feel that you can save money by going for less tactical turrets, go ahead with the more affordable option.

Turrets that can reset to zero are present in some of the pricier products, and might come in handy if you plan to use your scout rifle at varying ranges.

Tube Size


The standard 1 inch main tube size is more than enough for these scopes, because they don’t require as large an internal adjustment as offered by higher-end 30mm main tube scopes.

However, there are some very cheap products that have tube diameters lower than 1 inch: they are advertised as training scopes but they aren’t even good for that because of their generally inferior construction, which is why I’ll advise you to steer clear of them.

Pricing


In general, just like the bullet itself, 22LR scopes are considerably cheaper than fully fledged long range rifle optics – you can find premium 22 scopes with 4-12x variable zoom and 32mm objective at around $250. Fully workable budget scopes can even be purchased for as low as under $100!

Of course, if you’re interested in spending big, there are $400+ products available in the market as well, but these will only have somewhat superior build quality that will likely not have any impact on field performance.

Top Rated 22 Rimfire Scope Reviews

Nikon P-Rimfire 2-7x32 Nikoplex Rifle Scope

  • Zoom Range: 2-7x
  • Parallax setting: 50 yards fixed
  • Internal Adjustment: 80 MOA @ 1/4 MOA increments at 100 yards

The Nikon P-Rimfire scope has been designed as high quality 22LR scope that can be afforded by the average marksman.

Incorporating fully multi-coated lenses that allow for a zoom range of 2-7x, the scope performs perfectly for close-to-medium distance shooting from dawn through dusk. The 32mm objective diameter transmits just enough light while remaining quite manageable in size.

The scope’s 80 MOA of internal windage / elevation adjustment is on par with many heavier caliber rifle scopes, and will let you compensate for as much bullet drop as can be physically allowed with a .22LR scout rifle. The turrets used for making these adjustments provide tactile positive click feedback and can be turned by hand in the field.

A zero reset feature lets you revert to your original settings with a simple pull and dial maneuver. That this is a dedicated close-to-mid range scope can be gleaned from the way it subtends to ¼ MOA at 50 yards, instead of the standard 100.

The Nikoplex reticle will appeal to both beginners and purist hunters who want a clean, clutter free aiming crosshair that allows for sighting in smaller prey and/or targets. Thanks to the robust construction of the scope, it can maintain your adjustment settings even under heavy recoil. It is fully waterproof and fogproof, so you can use it in trying field situations.

Most riflemen have been well pleased by this scopes field performance – in particular praising its superb visuals at such a balanced price point, and ease of configuration and adjustment. It is also worth noting that it carries a lifetime warranty, as well as a free extra turret.




What We Liked

  • Reasonably priced.
  • Strong core construction.
  • Excellent visual clarity.
  • Generous adjustability.
  • Clean, traditional reticle.
  • Lifetime warranty.

What We Didn't


Leupold VX-1 Rimfire 2-7x28mm with fine duplex reticle

  • Zoom Range: 2-7x
  • Parallax setting: 60 yards fixed
  • Internal Adjustment: 85 MOA @ 1/4 MOA increments at 100 yards

Sporting advanced functionality in a very cheap package, the BSA Sweet .22 3-9x40 is a suitable optic solution for both rookies taking their first plink shots, as well as pros who are bound by a tight budget.

The scope utilizes a standard (for .22 rifles) 2-7x zoom, with a 28mm objective lens diameter, to give sufficient sighting ability to the marksman. Thanks to the premium Multicoat 4 lens coating and DiamondCoat abrasion-resistant treatment, the scope yields crystal clear visuals year after year.

The scope’s parallax is set to 60 yards, higher than the standard 50 yard setting on most 22 optics, but at these shorter ranges, it doesn’t really make much of a difference. The VX-1 packs a surprisingly generous 85 MOA of both windage and elevation adjustments. The micro-friction adjustment dials are graduated in ¼ MOA increments, as per market standard.

The fine duplex reticle allows for easy aiming at close range, maximizing your ability to sight super small targets. Thanks to the 2nd Gen Argon/Krypton purging, this scope remains moisture free even in the harshest of environments. As per market feedback, it can also hold its zero precisely even after jerks and bumps in the field.

Leupold has also managed to get the weight down to just 8.5 ounces, which makes the scope very easy to transport and also easier to manage on your rifle. The fact that it is US made, and comes with a lifetime warranty makes it very popular among North American shooters. There have been no major complaints about the scope’s functionality, but it is slightly expensive for a 22 scope.




What We Liked

  • Remarkably crisp, bright visuals.
  • Tough yet very light construction.
  • Offers plenty of internal adjustment.
  • Extra thin reticle allows for aiming at very small targets.
  • Unlimited lifetime guarantee.

What We Didn't

  • Slightly expensive.


Leupold VX-1 Rimfire 2-7x28mm with fine duplex reticle

  • Zoom Range: 2-7x
  • Parallax setting: 60 yards fixed
  • Internal Adjustment: 85 MOA @ 1/4 MOA increments at 100 yards

Sporting advanced functionality in a very cheap package, the BSA Sweet .22 3-9x40 is a suitable optic solution for both rookies taking their first plink shots, as well as pros who are bound by a tight budget.

The scope utilizes a standard (for .22 rifles) 2-7x zoom, with a 28mm objective lens diameter, to give sufficient sighting ability to the marksman. Thanks to the premium Multicoat 4 lens coating and DiamondCoat abrasion-resistant treatment, the scope yields crystal clear visuals year after year.

The scope’s parallax is set to 60 yards, higher than the standard 50 yard setting on most 22 optics, but at these shorter ranges, it doesn’t really make much of a difference. The VX-1 packs a surprisingly generous 85 MOA of both windage and elevation adjustments. The micro-friction adjustment dials are graduated in ¼ MOA increments, as per market standard.

The fine duplex reticle allows for easy aiming at close range, maximizing your ability to sight super small targets. Thanks to the 2nd Gen Argon/Krypton purging, this scope remains moisture free even in the harshest of environments. As per market feedback, it can also hold its zero precisely even after jerks and bumps in the field.

Leupold has also managed to get the weight down to just 8.5 ounces, which makes the scope very easy to transport and also easier to manage on your rifle. The fact that it is US made, and comes with a lifetime warranty makes it very popular among North American shooters. There have been no major complaints about the scope’s functionality, but it is slightly expensive for a 22 scope.




What We Liked

  • Remarkably crisp, bright visuals.
  • Tough yet very light construction.
  • Offers plenty of internal adjustment.
  • Extra thin reticle allows for aiming at very small targets.
  • Unlimited lifetime guarantee.

What We Didn't

  • Slightly expensive.


BSA Sweet .22 3-9x40mm Rifle Scope

  • Zoom Range: 3-9x
  • Parallax setting: 7.5 yards to infinity
  • Internal Adjustment: 45 MOA @ 1/4 MOA increments at 100 yards

Sporting advanced functionality in a very cheap package, the BSA Sweet .22 3-9x40 is a suitable optic solution for both rookies taking their first plink shots, as well as pros who are bound by a tight budget.

The scope has a higher than usual 3 – 9x zoom range, which lets you get up close and personal with small targets at 100 yards or more. The objective diameter too, is larger than usual, at 40mm, and yields solid light transmission at the higher zoom powers. It has received a lot of praise from consumers about the quality of its visuals, in spite of the remarkably low price point.

The reticle is BSA’s standard 30/30 crosshair, but it features markings optimized for .22LR bullets that will help your account bullet drop at longer ranges. While the reticle is quite useful and easy to read, there have been several complaints about it developing a skew after a few shots have been placed down the range, indicating that it has been manufactured using sub-par elements, or with poor quality assurance.

The 45 MOA of internal adjustment, graduated in ¼ MOA increments, is somewhat low when you look at some of the higher priced 22LR products, but is still adequate for this bullet caliber’s trajectory. Furthermore, the BSA Sweet 3-9x has three interchangeable elevation turrets designed for .36GR, .38GR and .40GR varieties of the bullet.

A very pleasant surprise was the adjustable parallax feature – that lets you set the parallax from 7.5 yards to infinity, to completely eliminate false target movement at all ranges (even the more expensive models normally have fixed parallax at around 50 yards). Another thing: the scope is waterproof, fogproof and shockproof just like it’s considerably more expensive counterparts.

The public opinion for this scope is extremely positive: even the individuals who ended up with defects praised its clear optics. The presence of manufacturing defects, such as the skewed crosshair problem, is to be anticipated in a product so cheap; however, it is worth mentioning that the manufacturer doesn’t hesitate to address its users’ complaints and send them replacements, as per its lifetime warranty..




What We Liked

  • Very cheap.
  • Commendable visual clarity for a cheap product.
  • High 3-9x magnification range.
  • Drop compensating reticle for 22LR trajectory.
  • Changeable adjustment turrets for different .22 varieties.
  • Changeable adjustment turrets for different .22 varieties.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.

What We Didn't

  • Several complaints of manufacturing defects and short lifespan.
  • Low internal adjustment compared to higher priced scopes.


UTG 3-9X32 1" BugBuster Scope, AO, RGB Mil-dot, QD Rings

  • Zoom Range: 3-9x
  • Parallax setting: 3 yards to infinity
  • Internal Adjustment: ? @ ¼ MOA increments at 100 yard

Moderately priced, with a 3 yards to infinity parallax adjustment and an illuminated mil-dot reticle, the UTG 3-9x32 1” BugBuster is intended for situations that require precise, measured shots.

The emerald coated lenses allow for maximum light transmission, ensuring detailed target imagery at the zoom powers close to the 9x mark. There have been some complaints about fish-eyeing at the lower magnification settings though, but quite frankly, this has to be tolerated in cheaper products.

The scope comes with zero-resettable adjustment turrets graduated in 0.25 MOA increments. Lasting precision of these adjustments is guaranteed thanks to the True Strength platform that smartly controls the scope’s internal and external tubes.

An enhanced mil-dot reticle incorporating 9 dots in each direction lets you perform bullet drop / windage corrections, and estimate range, with greater precision as compared to traditional mil-dot reticles with only 4 dots in each direction. The reticle is illuminated too, for use in dim light, and the color can be set to varying levels of green and red.

A dedicated knob allows you to eliminate parallax from 3 yards upwards – a feature that is lacking in several pricey competitors. Being 100% nitrogen filled as well as thoroughly sealed, the scope is advertised as being able to sustain both climatic effects as well as heavy recoil. While the former holds true, the latter claim is a bit questionable, given that there have been complaints pertaining to an inability to hold zero after several dozen rounds have been fired, as well as some issues with rotated reticles.

These problems obviously stem from a sub-par manufacturing process, since the product is quite cheap. However, it does come with a lifetime warranty that has you covered if you end up with a defective product.




What We Liked

  • Inexpensive.
  • Tactically designed enhanced mil-dot reticle.
  • Reticle is illuminated.
  • Infinitely adjustable parallax.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.

What We Didn't

  • Fisheye issue at lower magnifications.
  • Scope isn’t effectively shockproof (or suffers from QC issues).


Conclusion

Now that you’ve gone through the guide and the reviews of both cheap and (relatively) expensive products, you will hopefully have an idea of how reliability of the scope is tied – up to a certain point – to the price. The reason is that a higher price tag means that the manufacturer is able to use quality design practices as well as implement product testing, ultimately ensuring that the .22 scope you get is able to perform reliability in harsh conditions.

Features such as adjustable parallax and reticle illumination are good to have, but they’re useless if the scope fails after the rifle is used for 2-3 hours in trying conditions. Visual clarity is passable even in cheaper 22LR scopes, so it all comes down to how long it is able to offer the advertised optic precision i.e. how reliable it is.

With that in mind, my pick for the best 22 scope will have to be the Leupold VX-1 Rimfire 2-7x28mm with Fine Duplex Reticle: besides its superb visual clarity and simple yet effective fine duplex reticle, it has a robust construction that ensures optimum performance shot after shot. Incidentally, it is also one of the lightest 22LR scopes around, which goes perfectly with the low-profile design of the average 22 scout rifle.

Its performance in the field has been admired by virtually every marksman who has used it, and this combined with an unlimited lifetime guarantee, makes for a very compelling ranged 22 optic, even if it is a tad more expensive than the average rifle scope.

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