Not sure what scope to get for your handgun?
Look no further.
I’ve tested ALL the best handgun scope (plus handgun scope mounts and accessories.)
By the end of this guide, you’ll find the perfect optic for your handgun.
Let’s get started!
Are scopes right for pistols, and how do you mount them?
Sometimes. A scope or red dot sight can dramatically improve pistol accuracy.
But what is the best way to mount a scope or red dot?
In this article, we’ll look at some of the options.
Unfortunately, in the world of pistols, one simple solution doesn’t exist for everyone.
There are plenty of lists out there showcasing mods that can help your shooting, but each gun is unique, and not every option out there will work for every pistol.
Most pistols are designed with the sights fitted into dovetails. While this is wonderful for a non-moving sighting system, it increases the difficulty of fitting a scope or red dot to your pistol. But there are ways around this. You could…
- Buy a pistol that already has a sight mounted to it.
- Mill the slide, or have a machinist mill it.
- Drill and Tap the Slide for a rail.
- Fit a special top-and-bottom rail to the pistol
Any of these options would be suitable for fitting a red dot or a 1-4x scope to your pistol.
If you don’t want to mess with drilling or buying a mount, then get a handgun that already has a red dot attached.
Springfield makes a version of their XD pistol that comes with a red dot already installed.
Glock has an MOS system on some of their pistol platforms that allow you to install most red dots to the top of the weapon.
Pretty cool, huh?
Machining is another option. Instead of installing a rail to the weapon, which adds vertical height, you can send your slide and your red dot to a machine shop where they can be mated together.
The machine shop will cut a long groove in the slide, into which your red dot can be fitted, and they will add screw holes for attachment of the base.
The downside is that you are stuck with that combination unless you buy a new slide. You can’t change one optic for another with a different footprint. It can also be as expensive as a new pistol.
Here’s a video explaining these options in more detail:
A machine shop or gunsmith can typically drill and tap the slide of a pistol just the same as they would do with a rifle base. This is a process of drilling a couple holes and then tapping threads into them so that a weaver or picatinny base can be installed, just like on a rifle.
By drilling and tapping the slide, I was able to install a picatinny mount directly to the pistol. Now my 1911 can accept just about any optic made, though I stick to red dots due to the infinite eye-relief.
Mounting plates can be used directly with the existing dovetails on your pistol that hold the rear sight in place.
These aren’t my cup of tea, but people use them effectively all the time without worries. I would think that the tiny dovetail connection wouldn’t be strong enough to reliably hold a red dot in place, but it seems that I was wrong.
People even use dovetail mounted sights in competition, and do quite well with them.
Best of all, they can be installed at home if you have the right tools. All that you need is to drift the rear sight out of the slide and then drift in the red dot sight mount
with a sight pusher, which is a type of press that attaches to the slide and then forces a sight in or out of its dovetail.
- Universal pistol front & rear sight pusher tool is for Sig Sauer, H&K, CZ, Glock, 1911, S&W, and more.
- Base platform is adjustable for height to properly align your sights
- The adjustable side and top clamps secure the slide in place
It’s just like installing any other aftermarket sight system for a pistol. Attach your red dot to the mount and go play. The biggest disadvantage here is that if the optic fails or the battery dies, you are left without a rear sight.
I still remember my first time seeing the wrap-around pistol scope mount. I instantly thought it was the perfect solution to mount a scope to a pistol. Since scopes are more sensitive, they really need a sturdy mount like this that reduces the shock of firing the pistol.
This almost looks like a small holster. On the bottom is a rail mount that clamps to the light rail under the barrel of most modern pistols. There is another rail below to replace the spot it takes up. Then the whole device wraps around the gun, topped off with a rail for mounting optics just above the slide but without actually touching it.
- The sight is actually attached to the frame, meaning less shock and longer life
- Optics hold zero better and electronics aren’t damaged by the slide action
- Very stable
- Scope doesn’t add weight to the slide, so action and feeding aren’t affected
- Won’t make your weapon jam
- Hard to find a holster to put your gun in
- Kind of ugly
The design of systems like the Mako Picatinny mount may look a little over the top (quite literally), and there are some drawbacks. Are the trade-offs worth it? That’s a decision you will need to make for yourself.
- Original sights remain usable
- Facilitates prompt sight alignment
- Easy to install, additional machining may be required for some models
Mounting an actual scope to a pistol can be a nightmare. If that’s what you want, then battle scopes for AR-15s are probably in your market.
I personally prefer a red dot if anything, because the eye relief is infinite. Looking down a scope on a pistol gives me nightmares.
The advantage of a scope is range. A red dot will be a tad more accurate and faster than iron sights, but a scope can push the range of your pistol out to 100 yards or more, especially when fired from a rest.
As far as mounting goes, only a couple of the above options are really good for scopes due to the extra weight and lower resistance to slide shock. While any method above can be used on a revolver, you really want a top and bottom rail for your autoloader. This is true of all optics but especially important for scopes.
Slide mounting works well for most red dots, due to their lighter weight.
In conclusion, there are several ways you can go about scoping your pistol. If the goal is to widen the target range, a scope is best, where a red dot is probably the better option for most of us.
Scopes require a solid mount, and even the toughest have trouble standing up to slide recoil. A revolver or top and bottom rail is best for those.
Other optics can be milled, drilled, or dovetailed directly to the slide. Consider the cost carefully. Dovetail mounts are likely the cheapest, but also the most prone to breakage. Having a machine shop mate a red dot to your pistol slide is expensive, but also a durable, permanent solution. For the cost, it also might be wise to buy a pistol that is already scoped.
Which you choose is ultimately your decision, but hopefully you’ve gained the knowledge to make the best choice for your situation. There’s a lot to think about here, and sidestepping some of these pitfalls is important.
If you’re pressed on time, here’s a quick list of the best handgun scope:
- Leupold VX-3 2.5-8×32: Best Overall
- Burris Handgun 2-7×32: Best Handgun Scope for the Money
- Athlon Argos BTR 1-4×24: Best AR Pistol Scope
- Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28: Best .22 Pistol Scope
There’s something to be said for having a different scope for each of your firearms.
Sometimes though, it’s nice to have just that one perfect scope that does it all and fits on everything.
The Leupold VX-3 is the perfect pistol scope, scout rifle scope, and just all-around scope that I’ve had the pleasure of owning.
I’ve used it on a variety of firearms but right now it’s sitting comfortably on my Ruger Super Redhawk.
If you’re looking for a scope for your pistol to go hunting, or just to keep varmints off of your property then look no further.
If you don’t feel like sharing and want a scope specifically for your pistol, check out these AR pistol optics.
Otherwise, keep reading and I’ll tell you why you need the Leupold VX-3.
The glass on this scope is crystal clear.
Leupold uses a wavelength-specific lens coating to maximize light transmission.
That means that even at dawn and dusk, this optic provides crisp, super-bright visuals.
It’s made my life so much better when it’s come to getting rid of wild hogs on my property.
The reticle is a standard duplex.
Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done without the frills.
Combined with the fast focus eyepiece, the duplex reticle makes target acquisition a breeze.
The eye relief is an incredible 15 inches.
That’s one of the biggest things that makes this scope so perfect for any kind of firearm you’d think to put it on.
In addition, the eye box is extremely generous.
From scout rifles, to hunting rifles, to .44s I’ve never felt cramped or wished for more room with this scope.
If you’re looking for a scope specifically for an AR-15, take a look at these optics.
This thing is insanely durable.
It’s also surprisingly lightweight at only 10.9 oz.
It’s made of a solid piece of aircraft-grade aluminum and the design is Punisher tested by Leupold before it’s signed off on.
It’s nitrogen purged, waterproof, and fog proof.
I’ve had my rifle strap break dropping my rifle with this scope into a river and it came out in the exact same condition it went in.
It’s been banged around, dropped, and dragged through brush and it’s never lost zero once.
To top it off, it handles whatever kind of recoil I’ve thrown at it.
I’ve mounted it on a .308 and it stood up to the recoil like it didn’t exist.
If you’re concerned about durability, look no further than Leupold optics.
I’ve never had one let me down yet.
The Leupold VX-3 has ¼ MOA adjustable turrets.
They’re super smooth and easily turn with fingertip pressure and audibly click.
Both the windage and elevation can be adjusted, and are both easily returned to zero.
Sighting it in was a breeze at 100 yards, and it only took me 3 shots.
Since then I’ve shot over 500 rounds and it hasn’t shifted from my zero once.
It’s got a magnification range of 2.5-8x with a 32mm objective lens.
The zoom is super smooth thanks to the fast-focus eyepiece, and it’s still crystal clear even at 8x zoom.
I haven’t had any issues with parallax, and it’s made using my .44 a viable option at mid-long range.
It doesn’t come with any mounting or rings, so you’ll need to pick some up.
I’m a big fan of the Leupold Quick Release Rings.
They’re easy to install, sturdy, and reliable.
Plus they’re covered by the same outstanding warranty as the scope.
This is an extremely high-quality and versatile scope.
To review its got:
- 15” eye relief
- Duplex reticle
- Insanely durable
- Great low-light visibility
- Handles recoil with ease
- Waterproof and fog proof
- Versatile enough to work on multiple guns
- Coated lenses for maximum light transmission
As if all of that wasn’t enough, it’s also backed by Leupold’s Lifetime Warranty. If anything goes wrong with the optic they’ll replace it.
I could go on all day about how great this scope is, but you should probably just go check out the Leupold VX-3 for yourself.
- Leupold Model #67825 - VX-3 2. 5-8x32mm with Duplex reticle and Matte finish
- 100% Waterproof, fog proof, & shockproof
- Precision 1/4 MOA finger click adjustments for wind age and elevation offer absolute repeatability and dependability over a lifetime of extreme use
The .44 is a timeless and versatile weapon that deserves a quality, all-occasion scope.
The Burris 2-7×32 handgun scope keeps you on target on the range or at home–should the need arise. It’s a durable and affordable scope for the handgun owner who knows their weapon isn’t a toy. I put this optic on my Redhawk and couldn’t be happier.
Want to know why?
The Burris has bright and clear visibility, even in low light.
With a Magnum scope, my eye needs as much ambient light as possible to get a clear shot. Some marksmen swear by a red dot scope for pistols like these, and I respect that preference.
I prefer glass etched reticles, so I’m sticking with the Burris. Glow sights may help you see your front sight posts, but it’s all for nothing if you can’t find your target!
The Burris handgun scope has a High-Lume® multi-coat on the glass, which means your eye receives the maximum light possible. Think of it as a “No Photon Left Behind” program.
The Ballistic Plex etched reticle accounts for the bullet drop of a pistol.
No need to try and estimate an angle on the fly. All you need to do is point and shoot as you would with iron sights and let the optic take care of the rest.
This scope has eleven inches of eye relief.
Unless you shoot with a selfie stick, I think that’s adequate. The eye box is wide enough to accommodate shooting with both eyes open, which is my preferred technique for a Magnum or other pistol.
Even with a semi-auto, you are in the clear with eleven inches of eye relief. That said, if you are in the market for M&P Shield sights, I have some suggestions for those as well.
This scope is hardcore durable.
The aluminum frame shock absorbent. Don’t let the 13 ounces fool you; Burris scopes are lightweight but hard working.
The nitrogen-purged tube is fully weather-proof. Fog, rain, snow, no problem. It operates fuss-free in any climate, just like you.
The thick, multi-coated glass is scratch-resistant and durable.
The Burris has small, quarter MOA turrets for a precision adjustment that won’t change in the field.
My standard zero-check for handgun optics is to backhand my gun into a steel fence post. Harsh as it may be, I need a weapon, not a toy. The Burris did not disappoint.
Even after my stress test, it held zero like a Devil Dog holds a hill. That’s because of the
Burris Posi-lock system. Thank you, German engineering!
The Burris 2-7×32 guarantees precise and fast target acquisition for shots up to 100 yards.
The parallax is fixed for 100 yards, so you won’t have to adjust it.
If you are looking for long-range optics for an AR or other carbine, have a look at these red dot magnifiers.
This scope mounts with any one-inch ring.
I prefer to get all my parts from the same place, so I used these Burris pic rail mounting rings. The choice is yours, in any case. If you prefer a riser or a weaver mount, any one-inch rings will fit.
Burris means business, and this scope is a beast.
If you want a fancy toy with lights and BlueTooth, keep shopping. If you want a quality optic for your weapon at a reasonable price, you want the Burris Handgun 2-7×32 scope.
Let’s review the quality engineering features…
- Posi-lock turrets
- Weather-proof and shock-proof
- Patented High-Lume glass coating
- Specialized handgun bullet drop reticle
Best of all, Burris believes in their product quality, so their standard no-fault forever warranty backs this optic.
Whether you are a target shooter, survivalist, or have a “just in case” Smith and Wesson under your pillow, The Burris Handgun 2-7×32 scope is the best performing scope for your dollar.
Finding the best AR pistol scope can be challenging, but the Athlon Argos BTR 1-4×24 is a great choice.
In fact, it’s one of the best all around budget scopes out there.
I use mine in place of a red dot sight and I’m confident and happy with that choice.
Why? Keep reading to find out…
The glass on this scope is very clear, especially for the price.
Since this is meant to be used on a rifle, it has the clarity you’d expect from a quality rifle scope.
The lenses are fully multi-coated, which lets in better light and gives you a nice, bright sight picture.
This scope has an Illuminated AHSR14 MOA Reticle. It’s a little more of a complex reticle, but once you get used to it, it’s easy to use.
Plus, it’s etched on the glass, so even if your illumination fails, you can still see your target.
However, the illumination isn’t great during daylight brightness. That’s a little unfortunate, but since the reticle is etched on, you’ll still be able to get on target.
And, the reticle is FFP, so it grows and shrinks with the magnification, which is great for better accuracy on those long distance shots.
There’s plenty of eye relief with this scope, which is why it works so well for an AR pistol.
The eye relief is 3.5 inches and that is more than enough for a standard rifle caliber, much less an AR pistol.
You’ll also get a nice, wide field of view with the eyebox.
You’ll want to know your scope can hack it, especially if you’re putting it on an AR pistol rather than a rifle.
Never fear, the Athlon Argos BTR 1-4×24 can handle anything you throw at it.
With a one piece, aircraft grade aluminum housing, this thing can take a beating. Plus, it has an XPL coating on the lenses, to protect them from scratches, dirt, grease, or anything else.
On top of that, it’s Argon purged, so it’s waterproof and fogproof, for optimal performance in any weather condition.
The elevation and windage turrets are ½ MOA per click.
I do wish they were ¼ MOA clicks, but the turrets do have a pretty solid feeling click.
Zeroing was quick and easy and I had no trouble with the process. It only took a handful of rounds to get it dialed in.
Plus, it solidly tracks and the zero has held well for me over the past few years.
The magnification is 1-4x, which is a great range for close to mid range distances.
At 1x, the reticle does get a little small and hard to see, but it’s still manageable.
At 4x it’s nice and large, allowing you to make accurate shots out to 400 yards. If you need to shoot much farther than that, especially smaller targets like varmint hunting, I’d try a 1-6x scope instead.
Parallax is fixed at 100 yards and it doesn’t seem to be a problem with this scope. At least not that I’ve noticed.
At such a great price, it’s not surprising that the Athlon Argos BTR 1-4×24 doesn’t come with a mount.
I’d suggest using the Vortex Optics Tactical Rings.
Also, if you want to put this on a rifle, you might want to get a sunshade to reduce the glare. I’d recommend the Athlon Optics sunshade.
The good news is that this scope does come with a lifetime warranty. And it even includes fixing it if you break it while you’re using it!
This scope is a great value for the money, with all the features you’ll need for your AR pistol.
- Clear glass
- Rugged durability
- Illuminated, FFP reticle
- Fully multi-coated lenses
- 1-4x variable magnification
If you want to put a scope on your AR pistol, try the Athlon Argos BTR 1-4×24. You won’t be sorry.
- First focal plane reticle stays valid at all power settings allowing you to fully utilize the specially designed reticle that shrinks or grows along with your target as you zoom in or out.
- Advanced Fully Multi-Coated lenses gives you better light transmission to bring optimum brightness and true color across the entire light spectrum.
- Reticle etched on the glass that provides excellent backing support for complex reticle design and offers great durability and much higher shock resistance to recoil
The Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 is by far the best purchase I have made for my .22 rifle.
A gun that had not seen a great amount of action for years is now a usual in my range day lineup.
This is because of the impressive stats the Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 can add to an already beautiful gun.
Don’t let the comfortable price deter you, this scope is by no means a budget scope. It has some unbelievable quality features that will surprise even a shooting aficionado.
If you want to learn why this became the only scope I put on my .22, stick around…
The glass clarity on the Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 is one of the best I have reviewed at this price point.
The brightness and clarity of this scope make it one of my favorites to use squirrel hunting.
I have the scope mounted on one of my .22 plinksters and it has been an absolute pleasure to use both out on the range and in the woods.
The clarity on the Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 gives me great confidence out to about 200 yards.
I would never use quite that distance out in the woods, but it is exciting to push the limits of my rifle setup out on the range.
The reticle that comes on the Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 is a duplex reticle which has fit my shooting style exceptionally well.
It is a reticle with no bells and whistles. Simple and an absolute joy to use.
The thinned out center that this reticle has makes target acquisition quicker than ever.
Whether it’s a range or hunting setup, the clarity on the Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 has vastly improved my relationship with my trusty .22.
The Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 is originally designed for a scout style rifle.
With that being said, I have found that it fits perfectly on any rifle I have chosen to put it on.
For example, the eye relief has been absolutely perfect on my .22 plinkster.
The eye relief is rather long which has been fantastic because I have it mounted slightly forward.
In addition, with the long eye relief I have no worries about the recoil of a more powerful gun forcing the scope into my eye.
Unfortunately, I have received a good black eye from a sight with shorter eye reliefs.
Although that was probably a user error, I don’t wanna be in that situation again!
I tend to treat my .22 as a beater gun. Not usually in a case and takes the beating of a well weathered firearm.
The Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 has held up great with all of my mistreatment.
I have found I enjoy the look of a torture tested firearm and this scope certainly holds up to my expectations.
This scope has seen wind, rain, sand, and dirt. Nothing has ever impacted the performance of the Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28.
The scope is waterproof, fogproof, shockproof, and backed by an unrivaled Leupold lifetime warranty.
The elevation and windage turrets on the Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 have been great so far.
They are your typical medium price range turrets that have no issues, but nothing above strict usability.
They have a defined movement and sound which is the best I can ask for in a scope at this price range.
My experience in zeroing the Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 was very easy and straightforward.
The turrets had the perfect amount of movement for each turn and it took me maybe a half hour to get the scope perfect.
In addition, the scope has held the zero unbelievably well. I don’t think I have touched the turrets since my first zero.
The 2.5X magnification on the scope has been perfect for my range and hunting needs.
I would say that 2.5X is exactly what you need for a .22 because anything more would just be overkill.
I have yet to notice any parallax issues on the Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28.
Parallax is a personal pet peeve of mine and I make sure to do extensive research prior to purchasing a scope to make sure I won’t have this issue.
The Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 does not come with mounting rings out of the box so I purchased some on my own.
I ended up going with the Warne 1inch Quick Detach Rings in a Low Matte finish. Not only do they look great, but the quick detach is one of the better I have found on the market.
The Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 is one of the best purchases I have made to reinvigorate the love I have for my .22.
- No parallax
- Simple reticle
- Lifetime warranty
The Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 is an all around amazing scope that outperforms other competitors in it’s price range.
Whether you are heading out for a day on the range or looking to hunt game within 200 yards, I would highly recommend the Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28.
If you are still unsure whether you will like the Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 just as much as I do, give it a try you won’t be disappointed.
I hope you enjoyed my best handgun scope guide.
Now I want to turn it over to you:
Which scope will you pick for your handgun?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment down below.