If you’ve ever had to deal with varmints, that is to say destructive animals, then you know that it’s a totally different ball game than hunting deer. This means different equipment from what you might be used to and whether you’re eliminating coyote or ground squirrel you need similar profiles for your rifle.
One of the most important pieces of this is your optics, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the best varmint scope you can find in order to hit your target cleanly and smoothly, and help make your varmint problems a thing of the past.
Best Varmint Scopes
Why a Varmint Scope?
Hunting varmints is generally a pretty specialized gig. Low light conditions, rapid movement of prey, and varied terrain means that you’ll need a different kind of scope than when you’re hunting deer from a blind or stand.
Depending on your area, you might be tagging prairie dogs, coyote, rabbits, or squirrel. Sometimes you might even be using the rifle for a combination of the above. The wide variety of behaviors of smarter varmints, like coyote and raccoon, can mean that you’ll be taking shots from anywhere from a 100m to over 300m.
This means that “varmint scope” is something of a catch all term, no one really agrees on what the best is. In general, however, you want something that catches light well and allows you to quickly compensate with the reticule in order to make sure of the kill.
So let’s talk about what makes the best varmint scope for your own pest control needs, then we’ll show you five of the best on the market.
How to Pick a Varmint Scope
The first thing you’ll need to do is ask yourself what you’re going to be shooting, and at what difference. Coyote, for instance, vary wildly in their behavior. Human-acclimated coyote can often be approached up to a couple of hundred feet, while in other areas they’re so human shy that getting within 200m of one is something of a feat.
Ground squirrel and lagomorphs like hare and rabbit are generally much easier to go after, but some of them are famously shy such as prairie dogs.
What this adds up to is a wildly differential type of hunting, so decide on what you’ll primarily be using the rifle for before you pick out a scope. The following should give you a good idea of what you need.
Clarity is always a factor when utilizing optics, but when hunting varmints it becomes paramount. A ground squirrel or rabbit hiding in browned brush is going to be hard to see even with the naked eye and within spitting distance, looking through a scope without a ton of clarity you might not even see it properly when you’re locked on target.
For this reason, clarity should be your foremost consideration.
Magnification ranges will depend on how you’re shooting. Many varmint hunters prefer something in the 3x-12x range, but for truly long distances a maximum magnification of 20x may be preferable.
This will depend largely on the animal you’re hunting, many of us know that rabbits and squirrel are often easy enough to approach within twenty feet if you’re careful and upwind, but getting that close to a coyote is damn near impossible.
The Objective Lens
The objective lens is a huge factor, especially since animals like bobcats and raccoon are primarily active at dusk and dawn. A good one will gather extra light, allowing you to make sure that you’ve got a clear line of sight no matter what the extenuating circumstances are.
A bad one isn’t going to help at all with the low lighting conditions. This can make going after particularly small animals anywhere from frustrating to absolutely impossible.
A larger objective lens will collect more light even in the dimmest conditions, which makes for an advantage that can only be outdone by a twilight scope which are both insanely expensive and illegal in many places.
Don’t let anyone fool you, unless you’re just tagging squirrels in broad daylight then you want at least a 46mm lens and 50mm is much preferred.
This is based largely on personal choice and how much practice you get in with your rifle. If you know it well and are staying within the ranges where you still have a flat trajectory with your round, then a red dot is preferred by some people since almost none of their vision is taken up by the reticule itself.
If you’re having to vary terrain and conditions frequently, however, you’ll find that military style reticules are fantastic since they’ll let you calculate the lead and drop with a whole lot of ease once you’re in the field.
This is especially important if you’re hunting fast animals with good senses, a coyote might take flight at any time and you’ll need to be able to sight in before you lose it and still make a clean shot or you risk both prolonging the animal’s suffering and damaging the valuable pelt.
Lighted reticules are also a huge advantage in the field, since a plain black one can be hard to see in the early and late hours you’ll generally be chasing the animals down in.
The price point is always going to be a factor when it comes time to pick your scope out, and there’s a lot of variation at different price points. Some companies put out fantastic scopes on a relatively small budget for the amount of utility you’ll be able to get from them, to the point where a scope which is only a little bit better can cost twice as much or more.
Optics are varied, and paying more doesn’t always mean ending up with a better product at the end of the day. You’re not going to get a top of the line scope for peanuts, however, no matter how hard you look.( you should check best .22 rifle scope and best rifle scope for ar 10)
The Five Best Varmint Scopes On The Market
We’ve dug deep, and pulled up some of the best varmint scopes available anywhere. If you’re looking to find the best varmint scopes reviews around then just read on, one of them is perfect for just about any task.
Best Varmint Scopes
Bushnell Elite Tactical Illuminated Mil-Dot Reticle ERS Riflescope, 6-24x50mm (Long Range Varmint Scopes)
First up, we have a scope that’s pretty much ideal for any kind of varmint hunting. With a 6-24x magnification and 50mm objective lens you’re looking at exactly what we’re talking about.
This one is crystal clear, you’re not going to be missing anything by looking through the scope and the illuminated mil-dot reticle will make sure that you’re dead on target. Of course, you’ll need to practice a bit to make sure you’ve got everything down, but it’s as close as a scope can come to shooting for you.
You can correct for parallax for those super long shots and the impressive, clear magnification will help keep you on target for as far as you can see.
There’s a couple of drawbacks to this one, however. It’s very large, and you’ll want to make sure you have the rise to keep it clear of the top of the firearm and, well, you’ll be paying for this one.
This is ideal for pretty much any varmint hunter who can afford it, coming with all of the qualities you really need.
- Crystal clear
- 50mm objective lens
- Wide range of magnification
- Illuminated mil-dot reticle
- Parallax correction for extra long distances
If you can’t afford the Bushnell above but want something with similar specifications, them this scope from Simmons might be what you’re looking for.
It has HD-quality optics to give you a clearer than day picture while you’re looking down the scope, and it also comes with 6-24x magnification which will allow you to shoot at nearly any distance your bullets can reach.
The TruPlex reticle is pretty much a standard cross shape with thinner lines in the center. It doesn’t have any dots or lines to mark for drop off, which is unfortunate but can be compensated for with a lot of practice or just getting close enough to your quarry that you can maintain a flat trajectory.
It’s not perfect, but it makes a fine companion for any kind of predator or varmint hunting and it’ll far exceed your expectations for the price tag.
- 6-24x Magnification
- HD-quality Optics
- 50mm Objective Lens
- Easily adjustable with fingers
- Super durable
- Fogs up easily
- Clarity is lost at high magnifications
Looking for something cheaper to handle relatively short distances? This scope from UTG is perfect and comes in at a budget price.
We’ve focused a lot on making sure we find quality scopes with a big enough objective lens, since this is a vital factor in making sure you’re shooting straight in low light conditions. It’s a fantastic amount of value for the relatively low cost.
The zoom only reaches 16X at maximum magnification and it’s no Bushnell when it comes to clarity, but if it suits what you’re doing it’s the best value for your money that you’re likely to be able to find anywhere.
It’s cheap enough that they’re a common sight on air guns, but many users of higher caliber rifles have claimed it holds zero for hundreds of shots. That’s not something many scopes in this price range can claim, and since it has almost optimal specifications for varmint hunting… well, you can see where we’re going with this.
Pick this one up if you don’t want to spend too much money but still want to take care of the problem.
- Mil-dot Reticle
- Amazing value for money
- Holds zero for hundreds of shots
- Parallax adjustment
- Comes with rings for picatinny rail system
- Not the highest optical quality
- Not recommended for anything bigger than .308
Looking to manage things at a closer range? The Crossfire II is a great choice, with a 4-12X zoom which is optimal for many conditions and a 50mm lens which will allow the light to come flooding in when you’re aiming.
You’ll get a crisp sight picture as well. The optics are more than fair in the Crossfire II, allowing you to distinguish prey from whatever they’re camouflaged in. It does suffer a bit if you get over 9X or so, so you’ll want to get as close as possible before taking the shot.
One of the big things is the fact that it holds zero quite well, something which a lot of cheap scopes just don’t manage.
The main issue most people will have with it is that it’s quite bulky for a scope intended to be used at smaller ranges, taking up as much space as many that are intended to shoot out to hundreds of meters.
If you can stand the bulk and your varmints aren’t too shy, however, you’re in good hands with this one.
- 50mm Objective Lens
- Quite Cheap
- 4X-12X zoom is good for close and moderate distances
- Clear sight picture
- Well sealed and durable
- Sight picture loses clarity over 9X
Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Multi-X Reticle Adjustable Objective Riflescope (Bushnell Varmint Scope)
Sometimes it’s worth a bit of compromise in order to make sure you can get the clarity you need. This scope isn’t the one you’re looking for if you’re going to be trying to cull coyote and raccoon at dusk and dawn, despite the name, but it’s perfect for smaller varmints.
In this case, the trade-off is primarily the fact that the 40mm objective lens isn’t quite as bright as any of the others on this list if you use the smaller option, but you’ll be getting the Bushnell level of clarity for around a hundred bucks if you choose to make the investment.
This slim scope maintains clarity throughout its range of magnification and comes in both a 4X-12X40mm variety and a 6X-18X50mm depending on what you need.
If you’re able to hunt your intended prey during the day, give the smaller, cheaper variant a shot. The larger still has its place for dusk and dawn hunting but the price runs quite a bit higher. The value for the money is fantastic, but it’s not going to be the absolute best for all situations.
- Super clear sight picture
- Comes in a couple of different zoom configurations
- Highly durable
- Fast focus
- Slim and light
- Smaller objective lens than recommended
- 4-12X is only available with a 40mm objective lens
It can be trying to figure out which varmint scope is the best for you to be using. Thankfully, we’re here to help and all of the above are suitable and one is probably perfect for every hunter and their budget.
If cost is no object, we recommend the Bushnell Elite Tactical Illuminated Mil-Dot Reticle ERS Riflescope but if you’re looking to save money and it suits your quarry then the smaller variant of the Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Multi-X Reticle Adjustable Objective Riflescope might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Have fun, and happy hunting is yours if you make sure you have the best varmint scope around.