Are Rifle Scopes Necessary When Hunting? A Guide to Hunting Optics

If you have been exposed to hunting, you might have noticed that many hunters have rifle scopes on their rifles or even crossbows. You might be wondering whether they’re needed or whether you can get by with a red dot sight.

While the simple answer is yes, they’re necessary, there are many factors that make them indispensable to hunters. A few important ones are accuracy, range, convenient features, and safety.

Even if you have a powerful rifle, having only iron sights or a reflex red dot sight may not allow you to hit your target effectively. Let’s look at the factors that make rifle scopes the superior choice for hunting weapons.

Iron Sights vs. Red Dots vs. Scopes


The three most common aiming methods are using the default iron sights on a weapon, mounting a red dot or reflex sight, or using scopes.

Each type of aiming has its benefits and drawbacks, but for hunting, scopes have a significant advantage compared to the other two options.

Why Scopes Are Superior

Rifle scopes are superior to irons and red dots because of the accuracy they provide. Popular rifle scope brands like Leupold, Vortex, and Trijicon make very accurate scopes. For more information on these brands, click here.

Full-sized rifles commonly used in hunting have a much longer range than handguns and SBRs. This means they require a sight that can help keep the shots accurate at that range.

While iron sights and red dots top out at around 100-150 yards, long-range variable scopes can reach 300 yards and beyond.

Benefits of Using a Rifle Scope

There are tremendous benefits you can enjoy when using a rifle scope. These include increased accuracy, longer range, extra features, lower eye strain, and improved user safety.

Increased Accuracy

The most obvious benefit of using rifle scopes is that you will be more accurate when shooting at further targets. The scopes can help you maintain a 1 MOA grouping at longer ranges when zeroed.

This is much better than iron sights or red dot sights that are only accurate at close range. Once you start shooting at farther targets, you’ll get less accurate quickly.

The variable magnification levels on most rifle scopes give hunters a clear and concise view of the target for tracking from close to medium and long-range, depending on their needs.

Longer Effective Range

Most of that increased accuracy comes with a longer effective range. Rifle scopes have reticles and adjustment turrets that correct for bullet drop, gravity, and increased wind speeds.

These tools and adjustments are things that iron sights, and red dots don’t have enough of, which is a shame, as at longer ranges, wind and bullet drop affect a bullet’s trajectory a lot more than at close range.

Some rifle scopes have reticles with holdover marks or notches to show a shooter how much they have to aim vertically or horizontally to make a shot count at a certain range.

That’s why most medium to long-range hunters always use scopes with higher magnifications and bullet drop/windage adjustments.

Extra Features

Since the rifle scope market is very competitive nowadays, rifle scope companies need to add extra features to distinguish their products from other competitors.

These features can range from gimmicky to absolute must-haves, like the inclusion of night vision features. Night vision scopes allow you to shoot even during low-light situations.

Many rifle scopes also have multi-coated lenses that are scratch-resistant, fog-proof, waterproof, and don’t show any glare in the sunlight.

These extra features are designed to make life easier for hunters to shoot game effectively and comfortably.

Lower Eye Strain

Using rifle scopes when shooting at either close or long ranges has one crucial benefit for long-term eyesight: lower eye strain.

If a hunter is shooting at a target 300 yards away using only iron sights, he will have to squint hard and focus to see the target and align it with the sight posts. This causes eye strain or worse.

Disregarding the fact that the hunter will probably miss anyways without sniper training, the constant squinting and focusing can put a lot of strain and damage on the eyes.

Rifle scopes have different magnification levels, so the target always appears large, clear, and easy to target, no matter how far away it may be from a hunter.


Hunting is a fun hobby that many people enjoy. Many times, people will continue to hunt even in lower-light situations.

Many scopes have either night vision or large objective lenses to absorb more light. This will allow hunters to clearly see what they’re shooting at in low or no visibility conditions.

If you’re out hunting, you’ll want to absolutely make sure that what you’re shooting at is big game and not another person. Without scopes, you might make a costly mistake.

Disadvantages of Using a Rifle Scope

There are some disadvantages to using a rifle scope, as well. Even if they are outweighed by the benefits by a lot, you should keep these in mind when buying any scope.

Adds Weight

Just like any attachment on your rifle, adding a scope to it will increase the weight and change the balance of your gun. Rifle scopes are far heavier than either irons or red dots.

This is because of the complicated construction and additional lenses included in rifle scopes.

Adds Expense

Another downside to buying a rifle scope is how hard your wallet will be hit. Rifle scopes aren’t cheap, and the high-quality ones can reach upwards of $3000!

While getting a rifle scope is definitely worth it, it is an investment that you should always budget properly for before buying.

Frequently Asked Questions

After reading about rifle scopes and why they might be worth it, you might still have some questions about how they work.

What Does a Scope Do for a Hunter?

A scope gathers light and uses mirrors and lenses to brighten up and magnify a target, depending on what magnification setting the hunter chooses.

Are There Any Budget-Oriented Rifle Scopes?

You can easily find scopes under $100 or even under $50. However, note that the cheaper you go, the lower the scope quality will be.

Final Verdict: Are Rifle Scopes Necessary When Hunting?


Rifle scopes are definitely necessary and worth it if you’re hunting. Their benefits far outweigh any downsides they may have and can be considered worthwhile investments.

Their increased accuracy, range, useful features, lower eye strain, and safety features are just some of the many benefits they can bring to your hunting experience.

You can find rifle scopes at any budget, but make sure to get a good quality one that will help rather than hinder you whenever you go on a hunting trip.