In this guide I’m going to show you the best scout scope.
These are the same scopes that many optic experts and competitive shooters use.
The best part?
I’ve sorted the scopes by use. So whether you’re on a budget or need a solid scout scope mount, you’ll find it here.
Let’s get started!
Regardless of whether you’re an avid hunter, a competitive shooter, or simply use guns for home defense, you’ll most likely have come across the term “scout scope.”
In this article, you’ll learn about the scout rifle’s history, what defines a scout scope, and some of the significant considerations to take into account when buying one.
Let’s get started!
Let me take you back to the 1980s to meet gun expert extraordinaire Jeff Cooper.
The late Colonel was one of the most influential and powerful voices in the shooting, hunting, and self-defense industry.
When he started writing about the idea of a multi-purpose, “do-everything” rifle, everyone listened.
He envisioned creating a rifle that can quickly kill any animal, is light enough to carry on long treks while navigating the wilderness, and can be used for self-defense both in combat and at home.
He also concluded that this “dream rifle” would be a bolt-action weapon chambered in .350 Remington, .308 Winchester, or .243 Winchester.
Not long after, Cooper collaborated with Steyr Mannlicher, and the first scout rifle was born: the Steyr Scout. Although it didn’t meet every aspect of his original checklist, it was good enough to get his stamp of approval.
Today, modern scout rifles are made by top manufacturers like Steyr, Ruger, and Savage. With the predominance of the AR-15, it’s become easier for shooters to build their own “Scout Rifle” with varying calibers.
We all know every rifle must have a decent scope. So let’s talk about the scout scope…
A scout scope is a rifle scope that’s mounted forward of the receiver on a rifle’s barrel.
Scout scopes typically come with a lightweight and compact design, low magnification, and generous eye relief.
Scout scopes are designed to allow shooters to fire with both eyes open and gain faster recovery from recoil for quick, follow-up shots.
If you’re interested in buying a scout scope, or just want to learn more about what makes an excellent scout scope, here’s a guide for you!
If you’re looking for the appropriate magnification for your scout scope, consider first your target range.
If you fall into the close to medium range category, anywhere between 50-350 yards, you’ll want your magnification to be from 1x-6x. If you intend to shoot targets 350+ yards away, you’ll want to aim for a 7x to 9x magnification.
A variable power magnification range of 2-7x is the sweet spot for most shooters and hunters.
Since scout scopes are mounted ahead of the receiver, it’ll be almost impossible to use them without a generous amount of eye relief.
Traditionally, scopes have eye relief in the range of about 3.5-4 inches. You’ll want about 9-16 inches for a scope to function well on your scout rifle.
The long eye relief also allows the “scout” to shoot with both eyes open, maintaining situational awareness and peripheral vision.
The diameter of your objective lens should be as wide as possible. This will allow more light to reach the scope and makes aiming at targets easier. An illuminated reticle is a plus, especially in low light conditions.
You’ll also want to get durable, multi-coated lenses that can stand up to abuse, such as constant heavy recoil and accidental drops.
On top of this, find scout scopes that are gas purged with nitrogen and sealed with O-rings; that way, they’re waterproof and fog-proof.
Look for a lightweight scout scope. A bulky scope mounted forward can easily change how your rifle performs and make lining up shots more difficult.
Col. Cooper required the ideal scout rifle to weigh no more than seven pounds, including the sling and optic. That should give you a better idea.
Scout scopes may not always be the rifleman’s go-to for every hunting and shooting application, but they still offer many advantages under certain conditions.
Choosing the proper scout scope for your scout rifle is a very personal decision. I hope this article has shed light on scout scopes and helped you narrow down your options in finding the best model on the market for you.
In the 1980s Col. Jeff Cooper, father of modern firearm shooting and defensive tactics, listed the criteria for his dream do-it-all rifle in his book “The Art of the Rifle.”
It’s the perfect gun for anyone who could only have one gun. Ideally, it should meet a rifleman’s needs for both hunting deep in the wild and for defense at home.
A Cooper’s Scout was meant to be the one gun you grab when SHTF.
Cooper’s rifle should be reliable and rugged. It also needs to be light and easy to manipulate, while still being accurate.
Jeff Cooper’s list of criteria has become the insurmountable dream of the firearm industry.
Even now, more than 40 years after Cooper created his list of must-haves for the perfect rifle, many modern rifles come close, but still can’t meet every aspect of his exacting criteria.
So, what makes a Cooper’s Scout?
Any smooth, reliable bolt action will do.
Cooper argued that a bolt action would cut down on weight and would be more reliable than a semi-automatic action.
He wanted a bolt action that could be easily fed by box magazines or stripper clips.
Ideally, Cooper’s Scout would fire .308 Winchester rounds.
He felt that this caliber would be effective to neutralize threats, on two legs or four, weighing up to 1000 lbs with one shot.
Smaller framed shooters, or those that struggle to handle .308, could choose a rifle calibered in .243.
Able bodied riflemen should strive to have their rifle chambered at least at .308, but can go as large as .350.
A Scout rifle needs to be portable: light enough to carry for days and short enough it doesn’t snag on brush and rough terrain.
Overall, the ideal Scout can be no longer than 39 inches with a barrel length shorter than 19 inches.
It needs to weigh between 6.6 and 7.7 lbs with optics and sling.
Back in the ‘80s a carbine-sized bolt action was unheard of. Thanks to Cooper’s influence, smaller bolt rifles are much more common and easier to find.
Low-powered, long eye relief optics must be mounted forward of the action. This setup will give the rifleman several tactical advantages.
First, a low-powered optic will give you faster target acquisition. The long eye relief allows you to keep both eyes open when engaging your target.
Having peripheral vision is essential to maintain situational awareness.
According to Cooper, a scout is all alone without a team to back him up. You need to be able to watch your own back when no one is there to do it for you.
Second, mounting your optics forward of your action will allow you to more easily feed your rounds in the chamber.
Cooper believed that either using a metal box magazine or stripper clips would be the best ways to reload in a hurry.
Unfortunately, even the best optics can fail in the worst situations. A Scout rifle must have back-up sights. Folding iron sights or a ghost ring are great back-up options.
Cooper was a big fan of the Ching Sling. While you don’t need to use that particular sling, any fast looping sling will do. Mainly, you want a sling you can wrap around your arm to support the rifle when you are shooting.
If you are lucky enough to manage to put a bi-pod on your rifle and keep it underweight, more power to you.
Cooper theorized that a bi-pod could be a good support option if they could be manufactured in a way to keep the rifle weighing no more than 7.7 lbs.
A Scout rifle needs to be able to be accurate within 2 MOA.
In layman’s terms, you need to be able to shoot three-shot groups within a 4 inch square from 200 yards.
Using modern rifles, this is not hard to do. Improvements in machining tech has allowed manufacturers to build rifles with greater accuracy than those made in the 1970s and ‘80s.
Each point on its own is easy enough to meet. However, putting them together has proved incredibly difficult. Because of this, Cooper’s Scouts are very expensive.
Custom-made rifles that check every box can cost the shooter $4,000 to have built.
Factory-manufactured rifles like the Steyr Scout by Steyr Arms almost checks every box. It comes closer to meeting Cooper’s dreams than any other mass-produced firearm in the market.
However, these start at $1,500.
With such hefty price-tags, you could easily buy a decent, hunting specific rifle and a home defense gun.
Most modern riflemen are either range plinkers, tactical defense shooters, or hunters. Few people are actually interested in doing-it-all. So it makes little sense to spend so much money on a do-everything gun.
However, if you are the type of person who wants a worst case scenario gun in your bug-out bag, a Cooper’s Scout could be worth the investment.
If you’re pressed on time, here’s a quick list of the best scopes for scout rifle:
- Burris 200261 Ballistic Plex 2-7×32: Best Burris Scout Scope
- Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20: Best Leupold Scout Scope
- Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E 1-6×24: Best Vortex Scout Scope
- Nightforce ATACR 1-8×24: Best Long Eye Relief Scout Optic
If you’re in the market for scout rifle scopes, let me introduce you to the Burris 200261.
For the price, you really can’t beat this little powerhouse of a scope.
It’s reliable, simple, and super effective for hunting in all types of environments.
This is my go to scope for my scout rifles when I’m woodland hunting or up in the mountains.
If you’re looking for something for up close hog and varmint hunting, check out these scopes.
But if you’re looking for a great mid to long range hunting scope, keep reading and I’ll tell you why I recommend the Burris 200261 Ballistic Plex.
The glass on this is crystal clear and made of Hi-Lume multi-coated glass to reduce glare.
That’s an awesome feature when you’re hunting in the middle of the day and the sun is beating down on you.
It almost completely eliminated the glare for me, allowing for a clear shot.
It’s got a SFP Ballistic Plex Reticle which is my hands down favorite style. It’s simple, uncluttered, and does the job with no frills.
It also has trajectory compensation up to 500 yards, which has been a lifesaver more than once.
My one gripe is that it doesn’t come with a lens cover and I absolutely recommend you get one. This is the one I recommend.
- Rubberized flip-up rifle scope lens covers that conform tightly around your rifle scope tube, protecting your lenses from dust and abrasion
- Spring-loaded flip-up mechanism pops open effortlessly when needed and securely tightly when not in use
- Each package includes one Rubberized Flip-Up Lens Cover
The eye relief is a variable 9.2-12”.
Combined with the super generous eyebox, it’s amazing. The only time it gets a little narrow is at 7x magnification.
When I adjusted a little and got a bit closer to the scope that issue was gone.
One of my favorite things about this scope is that you can have both eyes completely open while sighting.
It’s great being able to be fully aware of my surroundings when I’m in the wilderness.
It also helped me find and track my targets faster and that’s a definite benefit.
If you put this scope on anything but a dedicated scout rifle, you’re really not reaping the benefits of it.
Scopes don’t get much more durable than this beast.
It’s recoil, water, and fog proof, and it’s nitrogen purged to keep out moisture.
As if that weren’t enough, it’s also got quad seals which give it double protection against water.
I’ve dunked this thing in rivers, streams, and even once in a lake on accident and it’s come out perfectly functional every time.
It’s made of a solid piece of high grade aluminium which makes it extra durable if you’re clumsy like me.
I’ve put this scope through its paces and it hasn’t disappointed me yet.
I was able to easily zero in at 100 yards and after over 500 shots I haven’t had it shift from zero yet.
The turrets turn easily with an audible click.
They’re so smooth I’m able to turn them with just my fingertips and minimal pressure.
The downside is that you’ve got to be careful not to bump them or they might shift on their own.
On the other hand, this scope has one of the best features I’ve seen in the Posi-Lock system.
This ensures that your scope remains perfectly zeroed by utilizing a coil spring assisted retractable steel post that locks in place.
I’ve been spoiled by it and I miss it when I use my other scopes.
It’s got a 2-7x magnification range with a 32mm objective lens.
That makes it perfect for hunting in the woods.
It’s missing a parallax adjustment knob, but honestly I’ve never had any issues with tunneling.
The scope is just as crystal clear at 7x as it is at 2x.
Use this for hunting up to 600 yards and it’ll treat you right.
This scope has a forward mounting design so you can get that extended eye relief.
It doesn’t come with the mounts or rings to mount it though.
I recommend the Burris Optics Picatinny mount. It’s the one I use and it works great.
In short, yes. This is the scope I use on my scout rifles and it’s never let me down.
- Super durable
- Ballistic Plex Reticle
- 2-7x mag, 32mm lens
- Recoil, water, and fog proof
- Adjustable eye relief of 9.2-12”
- Posi-lock system for unerring accuracy
- Hi-Lume multi-coated glass reduces glare
Plus, you’ll always be covered by their incredible forever warranty.
That means even if you pass it on to someone else, they’ll still be covered by it.
So no matter what happens to it, they’ll fix it or replace it.
There’s no reason to not take advantage of that kind of offer, because if a company is that confident in their product, it’s got to be amazing.
Don’t take my word for it though, check out the Burris 200261 for yourself.
- Designed for shooters who need a working rifle or fighting carbine and use the multi-purpose scout rifle; Finger-adjustable, low-profile turrets create a sleek profile
- Forward mounting design allows mounting in front of the ejection port, for extended eye relief and both-eyes-open shooting; beneficial for fast target acquisition and increased situational awareness
- Compact and lightweight at only 9.7 in. and 13 oz, makes it easy to hold and carry your rifle in the field; Quality, precision-ground lenses are larger than those of comparable scopes, for better...
If you’re looking for the best scout scope, the Leupold VX-Freedom is the answer.
Scout rifles need scopes that match a certain criteria and the Leupold VX-Freedom does that.
Not only is it lightweight and compact, it’s the perfect magnification for both hunting and home defense.
Want to know what else makes this scope so amazing? Keep reading…
The glass on this scope is crisp and gives you a crystal clear image.
The lens is fully multi-coated, which cuts down on glare while also reducing color distortion so you get a bright, accurate sight picture.
It also has Leupold’s Twilight light management system. This system is one of a kind and draws in as much light as possible, so you get an extra 20 minutes of visibility at dawn and dusk.
While it’s not a night vision scope, these low-light capabilities make this scope perfect for home defense or hunting with your scout rifle.
The best part of this scope is the Duplex reticle.
With thin crosshairs and thick outer posts, your eyes are drawn to the center quickly. This makes for fast target acquisition, which is essential for hunting and close combat situations.
I regularly use this scope for hog hunting and I can tell you that I’ve been able to spot and target those guys much faster than with other scopes.
It’s also very simple, so you don’t have to worry about tons of markings that are confusing or overwhelming when you’re trying to shoot.
You get plenty of eye relief with the Leupold VX-Freedom.
It has 4.17-3.74 inches, which is higher than average for this kind of scope. Always keep a good cheek weld and you’ll never have to worry about getting hit in the eye, especially with this much room to maneuver.
The eye box is generous and you get a nice, wide field of view with this scope.
If you’ve ever owned a Leupold, you know their brand is synonymous with quality. The VX-Freedom is no different.
It’s made from aircraft quality aluminum, so it’s solid and sturdy. This is also what makes it so lightweight and compact.
This scope is waterproof and fogproof and I can attest to that personally. I’ve dropped mine in a stream and it came out functioning as if nothing had happened.
It also has scratch resistant lenses for added protection.
Plus, Leupold offers a lifetime warranty on all their products, so you’ll easily be able to fix any problems that may arise.
This scope has ¼ MOA adjustment turrets that are accurate and precise.
For a scout rifle or an AR-15, you’ll want to make sure the turrets aren’t mushy feeling, like so many are.
The Leupold VX-Freedom provides solid, crisp clicks that are easy to feel and adjust.
The only downside is that there doesn’t seem to be any labeling on the dials for visual confirmation, but with firm, audible clicks that’s not a huge problem. Plus, I got mine a while ago, so this may have changed.
Zeroing this scope was quick and easy. I had it done in a handful of shots. I’ve shot 1000’s of rounds and have yet to readjust it, so it seems to hold zero perfectly.
You get a variable magnification of 1.5-4x with this scope.
This is almost perfect for short range hunting and home defense. My only gripe is that I wish it started at 1x instead of 1.5x, but it still gets the job done.
It also has a 3:1 zoom ratio, which makes it great for various situations.
The VX-Freedom has fixed parallax, but even if it had a side adjustment, I don’t think I’d need it. I haven’t had any issues at all.
The scope doesn’t come with any mount or rings, so you’ll need to purchase them separately.
You’ll need 1” rings to fit the tube, so I bought the Leupold QR rings, which I found to be the best scout scope mount system.
I also really like flip back covers for the lens, so I bought Leupold’s Alumina covers.
- Model #59030 - Alumina flip back lens cover in size 20mm
This scope goes above and beyond the criteria I wanted for my scout rifle.
- Clear glass
- Duplex reticle
- Lifetime warranty
- ¼ MOA finger click
- Compact and lightweight
- Twilight Light Management System
If you want the best scout scope you can get, try the Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20. You won’t be disappointed.
- Repeatable 1/4 MOA precision finger clicks offer intuitive, simple adjustment over a lifetime of dependable use
- Complete waterproof and fogproof integrity: ready for a lifetime in the field, in all conditions
- Crafted from 6061-T6 aircraft quality aluminum
Scout rifles are meant to be the one gun you grab when everything goes wrong. The criteria for a scout rifle is very demanding, especially as they relate to scopes.
The ideal scouting scope needs to be lightweight, easy to shoot with both eyes open, and disaster-proof.
I would like to introduce you to the Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E 1-6x24mm: a high quality Vortex scope for scout rifles that checks all the boxes…
In a word, the view through this optic is beautiful. Seriously.
I thought the color fidelity was topnotch. I found the image quality to be extra crisp. There was no fuzziness whatsoever from edge-to-edge through the entire magnification range of the scope.
Vortex crafted this scope beautifully. The optimally indexed lens, HD extra low dispersion glass, and XR plus lens coatings work together to provide one of the cleanest sight pictures I have seen in any scope.
All of the engineering for the Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E provides excellent light transmission, lens focus, and clarity.
This scope has no business being this light weight and this good.
I liked the illuminated BDC reticle. The crosshairs were simple and clean with hashes for bullet drop. The bullet drop estimates were most accurate for heavier loads at full magnification power.
The illuminated dot was very bright and I could use it in any shooting situation.
The variable illumination knob on the left of the scope can lock. I can also turn the illumination off between clicks to save the battery.
I have astigmatism and the dot in this scope was still very clear for me at higher illumination options.
I found the Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E to have an extremely generous eye box.
With an eye relief of 4 inches, I had plenty of room to maneuver behind or around the scope and still have an excellent view. This is a really important factor for anyone who needs to shoot from awkward defensive positions.
I could easily use this optic like a red dot for short distance target acquisition. I could shoot with both eyes open and maintain my peripheral vision while engaging my target.
I’m not sure how Vortex was able to make this scope more robust and yet cut a quarter of the weight off of its predecessor.
I honestly think I could run this scope over with my pickup and it would be just fine.
I haven’t bothered to put caps on the lenses and I’m not at all gentle with this scope. It gets tossed in my range bag. I throw it in the back of my truck. During training it gets bashed against concrete and dragged through the mud.
I don’t make any effort to keep it clean or covered. I definitely don’t try to keep it looking pretty.
After all that dust and grime from putting it through its paces in tactical training, I haven’t yet scratched the ArmorTek coated lenses or the hard anodized finish.
Even if I did manage to mangle my scope, I know that Vortex has my back with its VIP warranty. If they can’t fix it, they’ll send me a new one, at no cost to me.
The Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E is machined out of a solid piece of aircraft grade aluminium. Being crafted in one piece means there are less things to break and increases the waterproof abilities.
This scope is argon purged to prevent fogging through a wide range of temperatures. It also has rubber o-rings to seal out water.
This is my worst-case scenario scope.
I depend on this scope to function well when I need it the most. And it does.
The turrets are large, yet keep a low profile. They are easy to manipulate. In fact, I have no trouble turning them with gloves on.
Both turrets turn cleanly. I can both hear and feel the clicks as I make adjustments. I found that it was quite easy to fine-tune this scope.
Metal twist-on caps cover the turrets, so there’s no accidental adjustments.
I was able to zero the Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E in 3 shots at 200 yards.
After how poorly I’ve treated my scope, it still holds zero like a champ.
I found 1x to be very near to true on the Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E, and as I said before, I can use it as a red dot sight in short-range tactical situations.
I liked that I could zoom up to 6x and make accurate shots at 600 yards.
The higher magnification is helpful in close-combat because I can use the increased zoom to make more precise shots on known targets, or to help with positive target identification in low visibility situations.
My only gripe about the Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E is that the zoom dial is super stiff. I also have to turn it almost a full 180 degrees to move through the entire magnification range. I wish a throw lever came stock from Vortex. I have found this aftermarket throw lever to work really well.
This optic has a 30mm tube. I have it mounted to my rifle with these rings that can be mounted on both a weaver base or picatinny rails.
- The finishing touch to your rifle and optic combination. Pro Series rings combine rock-solid reliability and strength with high quality machining to ensure ultimate accuracy and consistency.
- Streamlined, lightweight and durable, these rings use four T-25 Torx-style socket cap screws for secure mounting.
- Fits Weaver and Picatinny Rails.
I definitely think that the Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E is worth it. In fact, if the late Col. Jeff Cooper was still around, he’d probably have this scope on his own Scout rifle.
It meets several of his criteria:
- Light weight
- Built like a tank
- Do-it-all versatility
- Easy to shoot with both eyes open
For anyone shooting in close-combat tactical situations, both competitively or professionally, you can’t go wrong with this optic from Vortex.
The Nightforce ATACR has the most comfortable eye relief of any scout optic.
I’ve personally bought and hand-tested this scope to see if it lived up to its claims.
Need proof? Keep reading below.
As much money as this scope costs, it proves that it’s well worth the price.
The extra low-dispersion glass ensured that my picture was always crisp and clear. There was never any blurring or distortion no matter which magnification I set it to.
The illuminated reticle is also incredibly advanced.
It’s daylight bright with external adjustment turrets to make changes on the fly.
The brightness settings also have “off” positions between each setting, making it easy to switch back to your preferred brightness.
The Nightforce ATACR uses a FC-DM reticle which does a fantastic job of not making the view busy. Even when brightly illuminated it’s still easy to see the entire picture.
It’s obvious when compared to other optics that the glass is a cut above the rest.
The great eye relief that this scope is known for is 3.74”.
Even after hours at the range, eye fatigue never became an issue. The glass is crisp and clear, and the lack of distortion makes it hard to tell I’m even looking through a scope.
The eye box is just as generous as the eye relief, and even when fully zoomed I never had to struggle to center the picture.
The Nightforce ATACR was built to withstand any kind of punishment you can throw at it.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that even after being fully submerged and roughly banged around, there was no visible damage to the exterior. It’s even considered to have bomb-proof reliability. It also held my zero perfectly throughout the entire ordeal.
How was it able to do this?
It’s completely fogproof and waterproof, meaning even the most extreme conditions won’t affect it. It’s also a one piece construct made of aircraft grade aluminum. This scope is about as tough as they come.
The turrets on the Nightforce ATACR are some of the best I’ve seen.
The low tactical turrets give audible clicks when adjusted and are finger adjustable. They also come with caps, so once adjusted they can’t be accidentally knocked out of place.
The best part?
It only took 20 rounds to find my zero, and it still held zero for the next 300.
The parallax is fixed at 125 meters. I had no issues with this no matter which magnification I shot from.
The magnification is 1-8x. This combined with the easy to use turrets makes this an extremely versatile scope. Making changes on the fly is a quick and easy process.
The reticle keeps the picture very clear from 1-4x, which allowed me to make quick and precise shots at close range. At the upper magnifications this scope did a great job bringing out the potential in my rifle.
The Nightforce ATACR is a fantastic scope, but it does not come bundled with a mount or rings.
A scope of this caliber needs a quality mount and rings, so I highly recommend the Nightforce XTRM Unimount. It’s an extra $260, but well worth it to get the most out of your scope.
- X-TREME DUTY UNIMOUNT - Nightforce Ultralite Unimount is a tough, reliable mounting system that doesn't add substantial weight. It is designed to remain attached to the scope at all times, allowing...
- UNIQUE DESIGN - This scope mount features a CNC machined 7075-T6 hard anodized aluminum body and titanium beta series crossbolts and jaws. This unique design and construction provides the performance...
- PRECISE TOLERANCES - Precise tolerances ensure that the scope is not subjected to stress, strain, or bending as the ring screws are tightened
If you’re looking for an extremely high quality rifle scope that’s worth the not inexpensive price, then look no further than the Nightforce ATACR.
- Extreme durability
- Crystal clear glass
- Very forgiving eye relief
- Intelligent and high tech reticle
- Precise and audible tactical turrets
To sum it up: while not cheap at all, the features and quality of this scope make it well worth the price.
This scope is fairly expensive because of its incredible quality and is easily among the best scout rifle scopes. Normally when spending close to $3000 on a scope, I’d be worried that I’m overpaying. However, that was not the case at all with the Nightforce ATACR.
The glass clarity, turrets, and eye relief are a cut above the rest. This is one of the toughest scopes I own, and the reticle is incredibly advanced.
So if you need a versatile rifle scope and are willing to pay for upper tier quality, then look no further than the Nightforce ATACR 1-8×24.
- MPN: C597
- Model: ATACR 1-8x24
- Reticle Position: First Focal Plane
I hope you enjoyed my best scout scope guide.
Now I want to turn it over to you:
Which scope will you pick for your scout rifle?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment down below.