July 24, 2014
Current ammo supplies (or lack thereof) aside, rimfire rifles are among America's most used firearms. Rimfires are kings of versatility and can be used for everything from training new shooters, hunting, plinking and pest control to serious target competition.
Despite the popularity of the .22 LR and other rimfires rounds such as the .17 HMR and .22 Short, optics for rimfire use are often regarded as an afterthought. Shooters who agonize over which optic to mount on their 6.5 Creedmoor commonly throw whatever scope they find lying around on their 10/22.
Failing to match a suitable riflescope to a rimfire is a mistake and can result in poor performance. Most scopes designed for traditional big game or general target shooting use a fixed parallax setting, usually at 150-200 yards. Shots at that distance are rare with a rimfire, which is the primary reason why scopes specifically designed for rimfire use are important. Optics with an adjustable objective can usually be dialed-down for use at rimfire distances, but smaller scopes are not usually adjustable.
Since experience has taught me that glass is often the weak link in a rifle's performance chain, I have no problem putting a $500 scope on a $200 rifle. In fact, my "training rifle" for hunting season is a Marlin .22 that wears a Leupold variable scope. The bore has seen better days and I'm on my second set of mounts , but the scope works like it did on day one. Not everyone shares my priorities, so we've prepared a list of rimfire optics at every price point. Whether you're looking for a $50 scope for a plinker or a $2,000 competition optic, we've got you covered.
Zeiss 3-9x40mm Conquest Rimfire
Hunters and shooters have cherished German optics for years due to their clarity and brightness. Zeiss
moderately-priced Conquest line
has a model built specifically for rimfire shooters. The 3-9x40mm rimfire model
uses the same multi-coated glass and ¼ MOA adjustments as other Conquest scopes, but the parallax is set for 50 yards. If your rimfire rifle will see duty in the diminished light of dawn or dusk, or you just want the quality and style that comes with European optics, this is your scope.
Bushnell 2-7x32mm Rimfire BDC
has always delivered good scopes at a reasonable price point, and this rimfire optic fits right in to that niche. Though the MSRP pushes this scope into the medium range, the street price is likely to put it into the low-priced column. Bushnell's 2-7
is designed for use on .22 caliber ARs but it will certainly do the job on any rimfire. The side-focus adjustment allows the optic to be dialed-in to just about any range and the ¼ MOA adjustment clicks are fine enough for close-range work. This would be an ideal scope for some of the .22 caliber AR-style carbines on the market such as the S&W MP-15/22. With big optic features in a rimfire package, the Bushnell delivers lots of scope for your dollar.
Nightforce 15-55x52mm Competition 2014
So we promised you scopes at every price point — I'm going to give that to you. If your AMEX has a big limit and you want to shoot really tiny groups with your rimfire, this is your scope. Nightforce
scopes set the standard for precision adjustments and optical clarity — there's a reason that Nightforce dominates the extreme long range shooting scene. This scope
has a ton of magnification, but it can be dialed-down to as short as 25 yards for rimfire target work. With .125 MOA clicks and HD-quality glass, this is a high-performance optic for any rifle but, unlike many in its class, can be used on a rimfire. The only bad thing about this scope if you can afford it is that you won't be able to blame it for your misses.
Vortex Diamondback 2-7x35mm Rimfire V-Plex
Many rimfire scopes are constructed in a way that assumes they'll only be used on sunny days on the covered range. Vortex
assumes that your rimfire rifle will actually get used like the tool that it is, and is built accordingly. The one-piece aluminum tube and purged argon interior are good insurance against both abuse and moisture. The adjustments are in ¼ MOA increments and the turrets can be reset to '0 ' once the scope is dialed-in for your chosen load. Like most non-adjustable rimfire scopes, the parallax is preset at 50 yards. This is a great scope for small game hunting or any gun that may see hard use.
Leupold VX-2 Rimfire 3-9x33mm EFR CDS
This is Leupold's
top-of-the-line scope for rimfire use
, with performance on-par with premium hunting scopes. A friend of mine hunted with this scope for years on a .308 and never knew the difference. The adjustable objective, rimfire parallax, and big eye box make this a very user-friendly scope. The ballistics of rimfire cartridges vary from slow .22s to super-fast .17s so ballistic compensators cannot be 'one size fits all '. For this reason, Leupold equips this scope with their CDS dial which allows you to dial the exact dope for your cartridge. Once you pick a favorite load, you can order a custom dial for that cartridge and dial in the exact range to the target. With this combo, you can reach out and touch varmints well beyond traditional rimfire ranges.
Nikon 2-7x32mm P-Rimfire
For less than $150, you can get Nikon
performance in a rimfire-designed optic. Not only does this scope use a 50-yard parallax setting, it also has adjustments optimized for a 50-yard zero. Unlike most optics that use ¼ or ½ inch click adjustments at 100 yards, this Nikon
allows you to make quarter-minute adjustments at 50. This scope is waterproof and fogproof and is guaranteed by Nikon's lifetime warranty. At 2-7x, this Nikon has a very useful magnification range, and if precise bullet drop is an issue, the scope is compatible with Nikon's Spot On turrets.
See All Open Sight
This is a unique aiming device
that I've had on hand to test for several months. Similar in operation to many red dot reflex sights, this zero-magnification optic is brutally simple and fast. A triangle inside the sight is reflected toward the shooter's eye: When the triangle is aligned with the target, you're ready to shoot. You keep your peripheral vision when shooting it, there are no batteries to die, and very few parts to break. Though this sight works on long guns and handguns of just about any caliber, its price makes it a reasonable addition to a rimfire.
Leupold FX-1 Rimfire 4x28mm
My personal favorite rimfire scopes are the Leupold 'Rimfire Specials ' in both 4x and 2-7x
. The optics are bright, the adjustments are precise, and the external dimensions are just right for a slick rimfire rifle. Most importantly for me is that the plurality of my hunting rifles wear Leupold scopes with standard duplex reticles. When I burn through a couple of bricks of .22s in late Summer preparing for one or two tough shots in the Fall, I'm doing it with the same sight picture that I'll see when it's game time. Today's optics are the best they've ever been but more moving parts still equals more things to break — the rugged simplicity of a fixed-power optic is good insurance for a rifle that will get bumped in and out of trucks or may take a spill during a squirrel hunt. If you do manage to break it, Leupold's warranty is pretty hard to beat.