Picking an airgun scope can be a real challenge. Many of us got into airguns to be able to shoot more often and affordably. Then, we get into the sport, and the costs start adding up. We did a test some time back to see which option was better; Buying an affordable airgun and an expensive scope or buying an expensive airgun and an affordable scope. The result was that the expensive airgun and the expensive scope were the best bet, but we kind of figured that was going to be the case. The next best option however, was to put the bulk of your available cash into the airgun and then look to find a decent scope to start. Adding a new scope down the road is probably something you’re likely to do anyway, and frankly, adding a new airgun to the collection is probably going to happen too. So having an extra optic on the bench isn’t going to go to waste. But what makes up a “decent” affordable scope? This article will look at a few key features you never want to forgo and what scopes under $250 are good options.
Before we start tossing out brands and models, let’s look at some of the key features every airgun scope must have. First and foremost, you need to have adjustable parallax. This is often called “focus,” and it certainly provides that function, although it’s not really accurate. But for our needs, it’s close enough. An adjustable parallax allows you to get the full magnification range regardless of range, usually down to 10 yards, sometimes less. We’ve all had the experience of getting a bundled 3-9 optic, and when we try to zoom in to 9x at close range, the image is all out of focus; having an adjustable parallax solves this problem. Some scopes have a “side focus” adjustment, whereas others have an adjustable objective. They both serve the same purpose. Most budget scopes will have an adjustable objective. While this isn’t as convenient as a side focus, it works and will get the job done just fine.
The second, less important, must-have is a mil-dot or some sort of range estimating reticle. Duplex is dead for airgun scopes. It may work great for firearms because they have a much wider “flat trajectory” range, but airguns shoot on an arc. So we need some sort of way to estimate pellet drop and windage at all ranges. Mil-dots give us this ability.
The last and least important feature is variable power. If you are shooting past 50 yards, you probably want to have more than 9x on tap. Something like 16x or even 12x will help when trying to take that clean headshot. But, it’s not really a requirement, just nice to have.
Top Air Rifle Scopes
With that under our belt, let’s look at some options. The most features per dollar is probably going to come from UTG. Not only will you get decent glass with high magnification, but also illuminated mil-dot reticles, and some models under $250 even offer side focus parallax adjustment. That’s a lot of scope for under $250. Something like the UTG SWAT IR 3-12×44 AO is a perfect example and at under $180 is a great value. Additionally, the UTG ACCUSHOT 4-16×44 offers side focus and illuminated mil-dots on 30mm tube chassis. It’s hard to overlook the feature-to-dollar ratio delivered by UTG, and it’s why they are some of our most popular scopes at any price.
If you want better glass, possibly with fewer gadgets, then the Hawke Vantage IR is where you want to look. Hawke’s Vantage IR line delivers great clarity, illuminated etched glass mil-dot reticles, adjustable objective parallax focus, and good magnification. Their 4-16×50 is a great example that fits right under our $250 budget.
Our last featured “budget” optic offers us the most magnification at 24x. The Athlon Optics Talos 6-24×50 offers high-end glass with side focus parallax and illuminated etched glass reticle. The fully coated optics deliver a clean sight picture for those looking to squeeze the most accuracy even at long range.
More Budget Scopes to Consider
We’ve only scratched the surface of budget-minded scopes. If you want to take a look at some more, visit the airgun scopes section of our site. You can sort scopes based on price range which is a great way to help you dial in on something that will deliver on your budget. And if you have any questions, just give us a call. We are always here to help.