What is a big game hunting rifle without excellent optics? Unfortunately, without this critical piece, your rifle will not be as effective a tool as it could be. If you're ready to head out for a challenging elk hunt, it's time to outfit your weapon with the suitable optics for the job. A great scope helps magnify and sharpen your target, brighten the surroundings, and keep everything focused. And while that might sound great, scopes are not without drawbacks, and the wrong one can ruin even the best shot. Scopes add weight and bulk to a rifle you'll carry up and down mountains. The extra weight can unbalance your weapon or cause it to snag on nearby brush. Consider these things when choosing which optics to purchase; the fewer extra frills, the less likely something is to go wrong. So without further ado, here are our recommendations on how to choose a great scope and our favorite options.
Certain specific functions your new optics should have to be of any real benefit. Without these, you could aim at that record-sized bull and miss it by a mile. The most basic necessity to look for is whether your scope can hold zero. It isn't much use if the reticle isn't pointing to the exact spot your bullet will hit. To help keep that reticle precise, a scope must be waterproof, fog proof, and durable. You'll also need optics that project a clear, brightened image of both the target and the reticle. Elk hunting often happens in the evening, when animals are on the move, so the importance of a clear image in lowlight conditions can't be overstated. Test the scope to ensure image sharpness, brightness, and contrast.
The previous elements are relatively easy to find in quality optics, but not all of our recommendations are so simple to find. In all reality, often, the best scopes are the smaller scopes. These convenient, portable accessories are lighter and more agile than their larger cousins. Don't forget you'll be carrying this rifle through mountain ranges looking for elk; a two-pound scope might not seem heavy in your living room, but it certainly will make a difference after a 20-mile hike. We prefer scopes that weigh less than one pound, but not all smaller scopes are created equally. Find something that is easy to operate. Extra features seem great until they malfunction right before you pull the trigger.
Reticle bases can make all the difference in whether you bag that elk or not. Ideally, reticle bases should be made with a duplex reticle or something very similar and have an illuminated center dot. Test the scope at different magnification levels to ensure it stays clear at both low and high magnification. Remember, however, that higher magnification can create a shaky experience and make aiming extremely difficult. If the magnification stays clear through multiple levels, you can aim without feeling like you're watching a police chase scene. And lastly, look for a quick reference ranging reticle. This is particularly helpful for field use, which is exactly what you need when pursuing big game.
There's a reason why the name Leupold is spoken with reverence by hunters across the country. Regarding the famous saying, "Don't just buy a great rifle and put a scope on it, buy a great scope and put a gun under it," Leupold's VX 5HD 3-15x56 embodies everything you need and want for a fantastic big-game scope.
The Leupold VX offerings the best of the best from one of the world's premier scope manufacturers. The Leupold features superior glass with edge-to-edge sharpness while being lightweight, easy to use, and very rugged.
This is the scope you've been waiting for precise, ethical shots both at long range and at low light. The HD stands for high definition, and unlike other scopes that may not live up to that, the Leupold isn't kidding. The glass is crystal clear, and you'll enjoy a distortion-free image from edge to edge.
One of the most surprising and possibly best features of the Leupold VX 5HD 3-15x56 zero lock. The zero lock has been, hands down, one of the best zero set systems hunters have been raving about. Sight the rifle in, loosen the elevation turret, set the zero stop button, and that's it—you're good to go!
If you want a scop that will never fail you in the field, that is lightweight and nearly legendary in ruggedness and durability for your big game hunt, then you need this one!
If budget is an issue and you want the similar quality but at a more affordable price, look no further than the Vortex Crossfire 4-12x20 or the 4-12x50. The fast-focus eyepiece will give you a perfect sight picture, no matter which magnification setting you choose. With the Vortex Crossfire, you'll also enjoy reticle options such as Dead-Hold BDC, hash marks for easy accuracy control, and a unique coating for lowlight improvement and clarity.
The Vortex Crossfire has an objective lens that's 44mm, and with a lens that size, you have about 3.9 inches of eye relief, making this a very forgiving eye box. With anti-reflective, fully coated lenses, waterproof and fog-proof tube, and aircraft-grade aluminum, you can toss worries about scratches and damages aside and enjoy the Vortex Crossfire for years to come in demanding weather and rugged conditions.
The Vortex is one of the best budget scopes that provide the same quality as many more expensive optics, and we think you'll love this one!
Entering the world of elk hunting comes with many choices, not the least of which is the perfect optics for your hunting style. While we love the options above, trying out different scopes to see what works for you is crucial. Consider asking local big-game hunters what their tried-and-true favorites are. Also, feel free to contact our excellent customer support staff to ask about recommendations specific to you and your rifle. In the end, we've found that a scope doesn't always need every possible brand-new feature when hunting elk and other big game. Keep it light; keep it simple; keep it efficient. Your back and shoulders will thank you for carrying as little weight as possible through the rocky terrain.