Best Rifle Scopes For Deer Hunting

If you’re shopping for the best rifle scope for deer hunting, you’re both blessed and cursed with an abundance of options. 

The easiest way to narrow your search is to figure out the conditions you’re likely to be hunting in.  Remember, one man’s choice for best long range hunting scope isn’t going to be the same as another man’s choice for best budget hunting scope. 

Decide what features you need, and which you don’t.  Nobody wants to overpay for something if you won’t use it to its fullest potential. 

Each of the below entries was weighed by performance metrics found in the Buying Considerations section below.

Summary Of The Best Rifle Scopes For Deer Hunting

Leupold Mark 5HD 3.6-18×44Best Overall Rifle Scope$1,599.99 at EuroOptic
Primary Arms GLx 1-6x24mm FFP Rifle ScopeMost versatile rifle scope$699.99 at Primary Arms
Leupold VX-3HD 3.5-10×40Best for Deer Hunting$499.99 at EuroOptic
Trijicon ACOG 3.5x Dual IlluminationMost Durable$1,080.25 at EuroOptic
Vortex RAZOR HD GEN III 1-10X24 FFPMost Expensive$2,499.00 at EuroOptic
Meopta Optika6 3-18×56Lesser Known but great option$849.99 at EuroOptic
Bushnell Engage 3-9×40Best Budget Rifle Scope$239.99 at EuroOptic

Buying Considerations

Eye relief

Eye relief is, in short, how far your eye needs to be from the scope to get a full view through the glass.  A more forgiving eye relief is great on a higher caliber rifle, reducing the odds you’ll be scope bit.


Unless you own some heavy-duty testing machinery, durability is usually a crowd-sourced metric. 

You’ll likely be gathering opinions from professional reviewers, casual consumer reviews, and anecdotal experience from those you know, and adding all that to your own brand experiences.

Glass coatings/Light transmission

"Good glass" is a combination of both high-quality physical glass, as well as coatings that provide good light transmission and color pass-through.   

Light transmission becomes a critical consideration if you find yourself hunting near the break of dawn or late into the evening.  You want to get as close to 100% as possible. 

While a larger objective (front) lens helps, one of the biggest factors to brightness is magnification.  The more you’re using, the less light can get through. 


Magnification is a very personal preference, and in large part dependent on the environment you will be hunting in. 

A 3×9 power variable scope is the traditional (and versatile) choice for American deer hunters.  These days, 1-6x, 1-8x and others provide a wider variety of options in the low magnification range.   

Those hunting at extended ranges in the desert, mountainous, or high plains areas will likely seek something closer to a 3-18x or 4-24x optic.

best deer hunting scope

Fixed versus variable

Fixed magnification is also a very viable option, providing you with the exact same optical environment every time you look through the scope.  This is important in areas such as Southeast Alaska, where you’re going from dense forests to wide-open muskeg repeatedly. 

If you forget to adjust your magnification, you may find that Sitka Blacktail bounding away as you try to belatedly switch from 8x to 1x.

Contrary to common intuition, a scope with a massive high-end magnification isn’t necessarily better as a long-range hunting scope, as it is usually considerably heavier and that extra magnification can even induce a few shooting errors you won’t find at a more moderate level of zoom. 

Sometimes though, that extra magnification is nice to check out the rack on the buck or tines on the bull to make sure it’s legal. 


You’ll see these two acronyms thrown around a lot if you’re shopping for a new scope, and they stand for First Focal Plane and Second Focal Plane.  This is referencing which focal plane in the scope the reticle resides in. 

The main difference?  When you zoom in on an SFP optic, the reticle stays the same size.  In an FFP optic, the reticle is thin at low magnification and grows larger as you zoom in. 

If you’re using a reticle that you’re expecting to give you accurate bullet drop information, that information stays the same in an FFP scope while an SFP scope will be calibrated to give accurate information at one specific magnification level.

Linear Reticle vs BDC

Which do you prefer, a reticle that shows expected bullet drop at 200-800 yards in 50-yard increments or one that provides a steady, linear set of dots or hash marks?  That’s the difference between a Bullet Drop Compensation (BDC) reticle, and one based in Minute Of Angle (MOA) or Milliradian (MRAD). 

In short, MOA works out to approximately one inch per 100 yards, while MRADs are one centimeter per 100 meters.  With either MOA or MRAD, you’ll be figuring out the range of the target, then adjusting or holding over the correct amount. 

With a BDC reticle, you estimate the range and then hold over to the hash mark that correlates with that range.  One important thing to remember with a BDC reticle, it is calibrated for a specific round traveling at a particular velocity out of the barrel. 

If your deer hunting round deviates from that calibrated round, the BDC may be close (or it may not!).

What is The Best Scope For Deer Hunting?

Leupold Mark 5HD 3.6-18×44

The Mark 5HD is like a tank in the scope world. It can handle everything from rough terrain to being exposed to inclement weather. You can rely on it to keep working, no matter what you’re up against. So, if you want a scope that’s super clear, tough as nails, and trusted by the pros, the Mark 5HD is the one you’re looking for.

The family of Leupold Mark 5HD scopes can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Although they have several options that would make killer deer hunting scopes, we wanted to give our opinion on which one we would choose if we had to pick one. That scope is the Mark 5HD 3.6-18×44.

Leupold Mark 5HD 3.6-18×44 (35mm) – MOA

at EuroOptic
Prices accurate at time of writing

Why that scope? When it comes to the Mark 5HD family of scopes, this particular deer hunting scope stands out as the absolute best. The effectiveness of your magnification range really hinges on your shooting environment and your target. In dense, wooded areas, opting for a 1-10X or 3-18X deer scope should suffice. However, if you find yourself in the vast expanses of the western wilderness, a 5-25X or higher magnification scope might be more suitable.

Personally, I find that the 3-18X scope strikes the perfect balance. It offers the versatility to make precise shots within 100 yards while also providing the clarity and magnification necessary for accurate hits extending beyond 1,000 yards.

Primary Arms GLx 1-6x24mm FFP Rifle Scope – Illuminated ACSS Griffin-M6 Reticle

If you’ve been a gun enthusiast in the last 10 years, you’ve heard of Primary Arms.  Far more than just an online retailer, they’ve been producing their own line of optics, separated by the Silver, Gold, And Platinum (SLx, GLx, PLx) lines to denote where they were built, the expected price range, and how many features are stuffed in.  

Primary Arms GLx 1-6×24

at Primary Arms
Prices accurate at time of writing

This particular scope features a version of the fantastic ACSS reticle in the FFP, premium glass, steel-on-steel internal precision adjustment mechanisms, and rock solid durability which is backed by a lifetime warranty. 

The GLx 1-6x scope straddles the price line between budget and premium but cuts no corners on quality.  If you’re needing a versatile new scope for your deer hunting rifle, this can be your first (and last) stop.

Leupold VX-3HD 3.5-10×40

Oregon based Leupold has been a front runner for buyers seeking deer hunting riflescopes since the early 1900s.  While they’ve branched off into nearly every type of scope you can imagine, their reputation for quality and durability keep them industry leaders. 

Leupold VX-3

Prices accurate at time of writing

The Vari-X 3HD scopes are a phenomenal balance of durability, performance, and affordability.  Bringing with it a SFP duplex reticle, a light weight of 13.9 ounces, and American made quality, Leupold remains competitive as ever, even 100 years later.  

Trijicon ACOG 3.5x Dual Illumination

There are few, if any, optics with the real-world durability reputation enjoyed by the Trijicon ACOG.  If thousands of Rangers, Green Berets, and SEALs agree that an optic is nearly indestructible, believe it! 

The truth is, the ACOG is overbuilt for what the vast majority of deer hunters might put it through.  If you crawl over rocks and through streams to find your trophy buck, the ACOG might be for you.

Trijicon ACOG

Prices accurate at time of writing

One of the more interesting features the ACOG brings is its dual illumination, mean the reticle is lighted solely by (mildly) radioactive tritium at night, and enhanced further during the day by virtue of a fiber optic cable. 

The compact, robust housing of the ACOG is one primary reason for its toughness, but quality glass and a wealth of choices for reticles mean the ACOG is just at home in the deer blind as it is the foxhole.  As with the Vortex Razor HD, bring your checkbook.

I personally used an ACOG on top of a 6" barreled .300 Blackout SBR to drop an eastern Oregon mule deer at 200 yards, DRT.  The wide field of view was instrumental in allowing me to observe all 9 deer in the area at once, allowing me to pick my buck and shoot at the right moment.

Best Deer Hunting Scope
Author with his personal hunting rifle setup with an ACOG.

Vortex RAZOR HD GEN III 1-10X24 FFP EBR-9 (MRAD) Reticle | 34 mm Tube 

Vortex has been one of the biggest names in rifle scopes for years, due to their quality, competitive pricing, and versatile product lineup. 

Vortex Razor

Prices accurate at time of writing

The Razor HD Gen III 1-10x is a phenomenal optic, featuring an FFP EBR-9 (MRAD) illuminated reticle, top-of-the-line glass with coatings for fog, light transmission, and scratch resistance. 

With extreme durability and a true 1x magnification at the low end, the only things holding back the Razor are the fact that for most deer hunters shopping for a new scope, price is a concern, as is Chinese manufacture. 

If money is no object to you and you don’t mind buying Chinese, check this one first.

Meopta Optika6 3-18×56 DichroTech 4D 30mm FFP Riflescope

Meopta has been quietly making excellent optics for many years, not getting the attention they deserve from the popular press. 

Meopta Optika6

Prices accurate at time of writing

The Optika6 is a fine example of this quality, featuring 3-18x magnification, a whopping 90 MOA adjustment travel range, generous 3.9" eye relief, and the innovative Dicrotech reticle that seems to change color from black to red to suit your eye depending on lighting conditions.

Bushnell Engage 3-9×40 Illuminated Multi X Reticle Rifle Scope

Bushnell has been making great budget optics for a while, and the Engage is no different. 

Bushnell Engage 3-9x

Prices accurate at time of writing

With traditionally popular 3-9x magnification and an illuminated multi-x reticle, the Engage checks all the basic boxes while coming in at a very reasonable price.  The Engage is a solid choice for those needing an entry level deer hunting scope.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best rifle scope for deer?

The Leupold Mark 5HD 3.6-18X is the standout choice in the Mark 5HD scope family for deer hunting. Its 3-18X magnification range strikes a versatile balance, suitable for both close-range shots in dense woods and accurate long-range hits in wide-open spaces like the western wilderness.

What size scope is best for deer hunting?

Traditionally 3-9x power scopes are used most for deer hunting, but more 1-6x and 1-8x scopes are in use than ever before.

What is the best hunting scope brand?

While Leupold has been an industry leader for years, they’re not alone at the top.  Trijicon, Primary Arms, and Vortex are also worth consideration.

What is the most popular hunting scope?

In a comprehensive nationwide gun census, I think you’d find more Leupold Gold Ring 3-9x scopes than any other brand, due to their market dominance and brand name recognition over the last 50 years.

Is your favorite hunting scope missing from the list?  Sound off in the comments section below!

-Jens “Rex Nanorum" Hammer


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Table of Contents

  • Summary Of The Best Rifle Scopes For Deer Hunting
  • Buying Considerations
  • Eye relief
  • Durability
  • Glass coatings/Light transmission
  • Magnification
  • Fixed versus variable
  • FFP vs SFP
  • Linear Reticle vs BDC
  • What is The Best Scope For Deer Hunting?
  • Leupold Mark 5HD 3.6-18×44
  • Primary Arms GLx 1-6x24mm FFP Rifle Scope – Illuminated ACSS Griffin-M6 Reticle
  • Leupold VX-3HD 3.5-10×40
  • Trijicon ACOG 3.5x Dual Illumination
  • Vortex RAZOR HD GEN III 1-10X24 FFP EBR-9 (MRAD) Reticle | 34 mm Tube 
  • Meopta Optika6 3-18×56 DichroTech 4D 30mm FFP Riflescope
  • Bushnell Engage 3-9×40 Illuminated Multi X Reticle Rifle Scope
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the best rifle scope for deer?
  • What size scope is best for deer hunting?
  • What is the best hunting scope brand?
  • What is the most popular hunting scope?

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