The 3 Best Varmint Scope [2020 Update]

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In this guide I’m going to show you the best varmint scope.

In fact:

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 AR 15 varmint scope, you’ll find it here.

Let’s get started!

The 3 Best Varmint Scope

If you’re pressed on time, here’s a quick list of the best varmint scope:

  1. Nightforce SHV 5-20×56: Best For AR-15
  2. Leupold VX-3i 6.5-20×50: Best for 223
  3. Vortex Crossfire II 6-18×44: Best For 17 HMR

1. Nightforce SHV 5-20×56: Best For AR-15

Every once in a while a really high-end company will listen to the masses and make a product that’s top of the line while still being affordable.

This is one of those times.

Nightforce is well known as the pinnacle of high-end precision scopes.

Their scopes are so tough that one literally took a bullet through the scope in the middle of combat and it kept working.

That’s a level of quality you’re just not going to see on a budget scope.

The average firearm owner is finally in luck though, because Nightforce has released the Nightforce SHV.

This is the perfect AR-15 varmint scope.

It’s got all of the quality, most of the features, and it’s a third of the price.

Keep reading and I’ll tell you exactly why you need to add this scope to your collection.


Glass Clarity & Reticle

The glass on this lens is pristine.

The clarity even when cranked up to 20x power is unbelievable.

The FOV is huge and the edge to edge images have incredible color contrast.

I’ve used this scope to look out to 1,000 yards and I could still see everything clearly like it was right in front of me.

The glass is fully multi-coated and thanks to that it has super high light transmissions.

Whether you’re shooting in full daylight, dawn, dusk, or anywhere in between you’ll be able to see everything you’re aiming at.

The Nightforce SHV comes with an etched SFP MOAR reticle which you can choose to have illuminated or not.

You want the illuminated option.

Without it, you’re not going to be able to see at 20x power at dawn or dusk.

With it though, it makes sighting and zeroing a breeze.

Some people aren’t fans of the extra hash marks on the MOAR reticle, and if you’re one of them you can get an IHR reticle on it instead.

Either way, if you’re shooting in low light often get the illuminated reticle.

It eliminates distortion due to low light conditions and it’s gonna make your life easier.


Eye Relief & Eye Box

The eye relief is 3.15”-3.54”.

That’s pretty standard and works well for me on my AR.

If you’re looking for an option with a little more room, check out these AR scopes

It’s got a generous eye box and the turrets are extremely adjustable to make it work for you.

Add to that the fast focus eyepiece it comes with and you’ve got a great scope on your hands.


Durability

This thing is a beast.

At 29.1oz it’s absolutely massive, so you’ll want to take that into account if you’re going to be lugging it around.

On the other hand, it’s extremely durable.

It’s made of a solid 30mm piece of aircraft-grade aluminum that’s reinforced with hardened bronze throughout it.

The walls of the scope are also 3x thicker than any of its competitors which helps reduce stress and improves thermal stability.

On top of that, it’s water, fog, and shockproof.

Literally whatever you can think to throw at this scope it’ll be able to withstand.

I had a sling malfunction while hauling my rifle on a hunt and my rifle dropped and landed right on the scope.

It took no damage.

Not a scratch, not a ding or dent, and it still held it’s zero when I shot it afterward.

For me that more than made up for its weight.


Elevation & Windage Knobs

The turrets are capped and have metal dials that allow for fingertip adjustments.

They move easily and click audibly and keep their position when they’re supposed to.

It also comes with a zero-set feature that allows a quick return to zero.

It doesn’t matter how many elevation adjustments you’ve made, it’ll return to your initial zero in a snap.

It took me three shots to get it perfectly zeroed, and I’ve never had an issue with it since.

I’ve shot it from 100-600 yards and the return to zero was spot on each time.


Parallax & Magnification

The magnification range is 5-20x, and it’s got a 56mm objective lens.

It’s the perfect scope for any kind of hunting you want to do.

I’ve used it to pick off varmints on my land, to take down 8pt bucks, and for target practice.

The clarity is as perfect at 20x as it is at 5x, and I’ve never had an issue with tunneling like I have with other scopes.

This scope comes with a side parallax adjustment knob to manually fix any parallax you might encounter.

It starts at 25 yards and goes to infinity, and it’s clearly marked with the distances


Mounting & Rings

It doesn’t come with rings or a mount, so you’ll need to order one separately.

I decided to stick with Nightorce and picked up their 1.125 Titanium Alloy Ring Set and it’s worked great for me.

NightForce X-Treme Duty Ultralite Aluminum 30mm 4 Screw Ring Set - 1.125" High (A107)
  • NIGHTFORCE X-TREME DUTY ULTRALITE RINGS - Nightforce X-Treme duty ultralite rings are available in both four-screw and six-screw versions
  • MATERIALS - Rings sets are crafted of machined 7075-T6 hard anodized aluminum, with titanium crossbolts and jaws, they give you the performance of steel at half the weight
  • CONSTRUCTION - The unique construction of the rings provides strength well beyond that normally found in lightweight rings

I’ve also recently discovered how great ghillie suits are when hunting, so check out these suits if you’re interested.


Is the Nightforce SHV 5-20×56 worth it?

Without a doubt.

This is an insane amount of quality and features at what is a steal of a price for Nightforce.

Let’s Review:

  • 5-20x magnification
  • Water, fog, & shockproof
  • Super clear at every power
  • Illuminated MOAR or IHR reticle
  • Capped turrets and hugely adjustable knobs
  • Great for varmints, hunting, or target practice
  • Incredible durability with aircraft-grade aluminum & hardened bronze

On top of all that is the Nightforce transferable limited lifetime warranty.

This is an incredible scope from an incredible company.

Don’t just take my word for it though, check out the Nightforce SHV for yourself.

NightForce SHV 5-20x56mm Zeroset .250 MOA, Matte Black
  • NIGHTFORCE SHV 5-20x56 - The most powerful of our SHV series performs beautifully at both close and extended ranges on varmints, big game, and for making tight groups on paper
  • SPECS - It features a full 80 MOA of elevation adjustment, side parallax adjustment and ZeroSet technology which allows a quick return to your initial zero setting, regardless of how many elevation...
  • WHAT'S IN THE BOX - Rubber Lens Covers, Cleaning Fob/ Cleaning Cloth, Owners Manual, Other Tools (Loose Allen Keys, etc)

2. Leupold VX-3i 6.5-20×50: Best for 223

If you want a scope that pairs perfectly with your 223, the Leupold VX-3i is the best.

In fact, its low light capabilities make it one of the best scopes around for hunting.

It has quickly become one of my all time favorite scopes.

Want to know why? Keep reading.


Glass Clarity & Reticle

With this scope you get crystal clear glass for optimum clarity.

Leupold uses their own lens coating, called DiamondCoat2, that cuts back on glare, protects from scratches, and lets in tons of light! This, by itself, provides you with an amazing sight picture.

Plus, they have the Twilight Max Light Management system, which gives you better clarity at dawn, dusk, or any low light conditions. You’ll get an average of 20 extra minutes of hunting time at the beginning and end of the day.

While it’s not a night vision scope, it’s the closest you’ll get in a regular scope.

If that’s not enough, this scope has a Fine Duplex CDS reticle.

CDS stands for Custom Dial System. What this allows you to do is customize it to your weapon and ammo. Then it calculates ballistics and holdovers for you, which means long range shots just became a piece of cake!

The fine duplex draws your eye right to the center of the target with thicker edges that melt into fine lines at the center, making target acquisition fast and easy.


Eye Relief & Eye Box

The eye relief on this scope is 3.7 at high magnification and 4.5 at low magnification.

For the most part, I find this to be more than adequate, but it can be a little tight at those super long ranges. It’s easy to manage with a good cheek weld though.

The nice, wide field of view from the eyebox allows you to cover a larger area, which makes this a great 223 varmint scope.


Durability

Leupold makes scopes that are rugged and highly durable and the VX-3i is no exception.

In fact, Leupold puts all their scopes through 5000 impacts with their recoil simulation machine, aptly named the Punisher, to ensure that their scopes will survive anything you can throw at it.

The aircraft quality aluminum that this scope is made from keeps it lightweight, while also being tough as nails.

The VX-3i also has Leupold’s proprietary gas blend and seals that safeguard the scope from water and keep it from fogging up.

On top of that, Leupold offers a lifetime warranty on this scope, so if you have any problems, they’ll take care of it for you.


Elevation & Windage Knobs

The elevation and windage turrets are ¼ MOA precision finger clicks.

They are easy to adjust and you get audible, solid clicks each time. The numbers on the dials are pretty big too, so they’re easy to see even if your eyesight isn’t so great.

What about zeroing?

I had mine zeroed in just a few shots. It was quick and painless.

Not only that, I’ve easily shot over 5000 rounds and have yet to readjust the zero. It’s held true for me.


Parallax & Magnification

With this scope you’ll get a variable magnification of 6.5-20x.

If you’re like me, you use your 223 for varmint hunting, which makes this scope perfect for those intermediate to long range targets.

If you’re looking for something that will help you with short to medium ranges, check out this list of the best 1-6x scopes.

What I love most about the VX-3i is that it has a side focus parallax adjustment. It’s easy to use and means you’ll never have to worry about distortion.


Mounting & Rings

While this doesn’t come with any type of mount, it does come with a bikini lens cover.

However, I didn’t really like that cover much and ended up buying the Alumina flip cover instead. It works much better and is easier to use.

Leupold Alumina 50mm and Standard EP Flip Back Lens Cover Kit
  • Model #62995 - Alumina Flip Back Lens Cover Kit for 50mm and Standard EP

For the mount, I purchased these Leupold Savage rings, but you can get whichever rings you prefer as long as they’re 30mm.


Is the Leupold VX-3i 6.5-20×50 worth it?

Varmint hunting with a 223 at dusk and dawn has never been easier than with this scope.

It has:

  • Clear glass
  • DiamondCoat2
  • Fine Duplex CDS reticle
  • Precision ¼ MOA turrets
  • 6.5-20x variable magnification
  • Rugged, light-weight, durability
  • Side focus parallax adjustment
  • Twilight Max Light Management System

If you’re looking for the best scope for your 223, try the Leupold VX-3i 6.5-20×50. You won’t be disappointed.


3. Vortex Crossfire II 6-18×44: Best For 17 HMR

I don’t always use an HMR rifle, but it’s perfect for getting rid of varmints on my property.

In that case, I’m not going to use just any scope.

I want a 17 HMR scope that’s going to work perfectly with my HMR.

If you’re looking for something with more power check out these Ruger scopes.

But if you’re just wanting to do some close to mid-range hunting, then that’s where the Vortex Crossfire II comes in.

It’s a redesigned version of Vortex’s best selling rifle and you can pick it up for an incredible price.

The original was fantastic, but somehow they’ve managed to improve it even more.

Keep reading and I’ll tell you why the Vortex Crossfire II is the perfect scope for you.


Glass Clarity & Reticle

The lenses are fully multi-coated with an anti-reflective coating which gives you great light transmission and clarity.

That means this scope is perfect for low-light shooting and for catching varmints just before dawn.

It’s not the clearest glass on the market, but to find anything comparable you’ll be paying at least twice the amount.

For the insanely low price though the clarity and glass are pretty darn great.

I was able to shoot a coyote at 300 yards and it felt like it was only 50 yards away.

Once you start getting past 700 yards or so though tunneling became an issue for me.

I was able to adjust it, but it was still noticeable.

In short, use it for close to mid-range shooting and it’ll treat you right.

If you’re looking for a long-range scope, check out these scout scopes instead.

It comes with an illuminated Dead-Hold BDC reticle, which is fantastic once you get used to it.

It’s great for experienced shooters as it helps eliminate guesswork from holdover and windage corrections.

If you’re new to shooting, you may want to stick with a more basic reticle.


Eye Relief & Eye Box

The eye relief is 3.7-4.4”.

That’s perfect for most rifles, and I found it incredibly comfortable.

Combined with the fast-focus eyepiece and the generous eye box, I had no issues easily acquiring my targets.


Durability

This scope is made of a single solid piece of aircraft-grade aluminum which makes it incredibly durable.

I dropped it out of a blind one day on accident and I just knew it was gonna be wrecked.

When I retrieved it not only was it still intact and functioning, but it still held my zero perfectly.

It’s fog and shockproof, plus it’s nitrogen purged and O-ring sealed.

That means it’s 100% waterproof in any environment.

Vortex is known for the incredible durability of their scopes, and they back it with a lifetime warranty.

At this price, you’re not going to find another scope that’s anywhere close to this level of quality.


Elevation & Windage Knobs

The ¼ MOA turrets are capped and finger adjustable, so you don’t need any tools to get the job done.

They audibly click and easily reset to zero.

It only took me 3 shots to zero it, and it’s held that zero for over 500 rounds now.


Parallax & Magnification

It’s got a 6-18x magnification range with a 44mm objective lens.

The magnification changes are smooth and there are tons of adjustments you can make.

The Vortex Crossfire II comes with a parallax adjustment knob that starts at 10 yds and goes to infinity.

The tunneling I mentioned earlier at higher mags was easily and quickly fixed with that feature.


Mounting & Rings

No mounts or rings are included, so you’ll need to buy them.

I use the Game Reaper Marlin Medium Mount and it’s worked perfectly for me.

Game Reaper Marlin 1894,1895 and 336-Medium Mount
309 Reviews
Game Reaper Marlin 1894,1895 and 336-Medium Mount
  • The Game Reaper One-Piece Scope Mount from DNZ Products is lightweight and rugged, with extreme accuracy. It is also the simplest, easiest scope mount to install in the firearms industry.
  • No Lapping Required
  • Machined from a solid block of 6061T6 aluminum

Is the Vortex Crossfire II 6-18×44 worth it?

For the price, there’s no other scope on the market that comes close.

When you factor in all its great features this scope is a steal.

Let’s look at the best features again:

  • 6-18x mag
  • 3.7-4.4” eye relief
  • Incredible durability
  • Water, fog, shockproof
  • Illuminated Dead-Hold BDC reticle
  • Fully multi-coated, anti-reflective lenses
  • Finger adjustable ¼ MOA capped turrets

As if all of that weren’t great enough, Vortex adds their amazing Lifetime Warranty.

If anything ever happens to your scope they’ll replace or repair it.

That’s a pretty solid statement for a company to put behind their products.

Go look at it for yourself. Check out the Vortex Crossfire II here.

Vortex Optics Crossfire II 4-12x40 AO, Second Focal Plane Riflescope - Dead-Hold BDC Reticle (MOA) , black
  • The 4-12x40 Adjustable Objective Crossfire II riflescope is one of many configurations in the Crossfire II line. The Dead-Hold BDC reticle is good for hunting/shooting at varying ranges where...
  • The adjustable objective provides image focus and parallax removal to the shooter while anti-reflective, fully multi-coated lenses provide bright and clear views
  • With long eye relief and an ultra-forgiving eye box, you'll be able to quickly get a sight picture and acquire your target. The fast focus eyepiece allows quick and easy reticle focusing

Now It’s Your Turn

I hope you enjoyed my best varmint scope guide.

Now I want to turn it over to you:

Which scope will you pick for your firearm?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment down below.

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