Ah, .22 rifles, debatably my hands down favorite weapons to shoot. I love .22s, you can shoot all day, hundreds, even thousands of rounds, and still have cash in your wallet. Outside of just being fun and pleasant to shoot, they excel at pest control and hunting small game. Most of us learned on a .22, and many of us still consistently use .22s to refine our skills. Without a doubt, it is one of the most widespread and versatile calibers available. 

An upgrade to any rifle is a quality rifle optic, which will help refine accuracy, and increase your odds of getting small game at distance. 

Choosing the Right .22 Rifle Scope

When you’re on the lookout for the perfect accessory to your .22 rifle, a scope isn’t just an add-on; it’s a game changer. But how do you pick the right one? The scope’s selection should be governed by the rifle’s intended use.

  • For Hunting: A scope changes everything when hunting small game or varmints with a .22 rifle. I have “Good eye sight,” or so they tell me, but when I switched from iron sights to a scope I realized I wasn’t even seeing squirrels at 100 yards that were out in the open. After realizing there was a target, I was able to make accurate shots, and help reduce the rodent population significantly. 
  • For Competition: Competitive shooting focuses on rapid target acquisition above all else. Here, scopes with a wide field of view and clear reticle patterns can make a significant difference. Depending on the nature of the competition, variable magnification might be preferred, especially in events that feature targets at varying distances.
  • For Casual or Recreational Shooting: For those who enjoy plinking cans in the backyard or shooting at the range, flexibility is key. A versatile scope that provides clear imaging, has a durable build, and doesn’t break the bank would be ideal. Given that .22 rifles are often recommended for beginners, ease of use and simplicity in adjustments (like windage and elevation turrets) can also be valuable features.

Remember, choosing a scope also intertwines with personal preferences and comfort. Some shooters might prioritize weight and compactness, while others might look for advanced features like illuminated reticles or parallax adjustments.

Understanding .22 Rifle Scopes

Here we’ll explore the common types of scopes available for .22 rifles and discuss the pros and cons, and how they fit with the versatility of the .22 rifle. 

Traditional Magnified Rifle Scopes

Traditional magnified rifle scopes are perhaps the most recognized form of rifle optics. They utilize a series of lenses to magnify the target, allowing for more precise aiming. These scopes often come with variable magnification settings and can be equipped with different reticle styles.

Pros & Cons:

  • Pros:
    • Precision: Offers detailed target imagery perfect for hunting and sport shooting.
    • Variable Magnification: Many models allow the shooter to adjust the level of zoom, making it versatile for different shooting ranges.
    • Clear Reticle Patterns: Enhances accuracy by offering refined aim points.
  • Cons:
    • Weight and Size: Can be bulkier than other optic types.
    • Adjustment Complexity: Might be overwhelming for beginners.
    • Price: High-quality models can be pricey.

Red Dot Scopes 

Red dot scopes project a red dot (or in some cases a green dot) as the aiming reticle. They do not typically offer magnification but are great for rapid target acquisition within 100 yards, making them excellent for close to medium range. For longer shots, or to make the weapon more versatile, a red dot magnifier can be added to enable the shooter to make more accurate shots.  

Red dot magnifier
Red dot with magnifier

Pros & Cons:

  • Pros:
    • Quick Target Acquisition: Allows the shooter to quickly sight and aim.
    • Simplicity: Fewer adjustments to make compared to magnified scopes.
    • Compact and Lightweight: Often smaller than traditional scopes.
  • Cons:
    • Lack of Magnification: Not ideal for long distance shooting.
    • Battery Dependency: Red dot sights require batteries.
    • Not Always Ideal in Bright Conditions: In overly bright conditions, the dot may wash out.
    • Astigmatism: If you have astigmatism the dot may appear smudged, not round, etc, depending on the severity.

Prism Scopes 

Prism scopes are a type of compact, magnified optic that uses a prism to focus the image, as opposed to the traditional series of lenses. This unique design makes it particularly beneficial for individuals with astigmatism. Astigmatism can cause the red dot in standard scopes to appear blurry or distorted. Since prism scopes use an etched reticle (which is illuminated in many models), it remains crisp for those with astigmatism.

Pros & Cons:

  • Pros:
    • Compact Design: Often more compact than traditional scopes due to the single prism design.
    • Clear Reticle for Astigmatism: Offers a clear sight picture for those with vision issues.
    • Fixed Magnification: Provides a steady and consistent level of zoom.
  • Cons:
    • Limited Field of View: Due to the compact design.
    • Fixed Magnification: Can be limiting for those desiring variable zoom.
    • Weight: Despite their smaller size, they can be heavier than red dots.
    • Eye relief: Prism sights have a fixed eye relief like a traditional scope
    • Limited models and price: There is not as much choice with prism optics compared to other types, and they are often more expensive.

Key Features of the .22 Scope

When selecting a scope for your .22 rifle certain features determine performance, usability, and suitability of the scope for specific tasks. Understanding these features ensures that you make an informed decision that complements your shooting style and objectives.

First Focal Plane (FFP) vs Second Focal Plane (SFP) The reticle’s position in relation to the magnification system determines whether a scope is FFP or SFP. In FFP scopes, the reticle size changes with the magnification, maintaining the same perspective on the target. This is particularly useful for long-range shooting. In SFP scopes, the reticle size remains constant regardless of the magnification level, making it simpler and more intuitive for many shooters.

Reticle The reticle, or crosshair is a vital feature as it guides aiming. There are multiple reticle styles ranging from simple crosshairs to more complex designs with bullet drop compensators. Your choice depends on your shooting purpose – for instance, simple crosshairs might suffice for casual plinking, while more intricate designs could be preferable for precision shooting. Some scopes also feature an illuminated reticle, which aid in shooting under various light conditions. 

Magnification determines how close a distant target appears. For a .22 rifle, which is often used for closer-range tasks like plinking or small game hunting, excessive magnification will further complicate shooting. However, for those seeking precision at greater distances, higher magnification can be advantageous.

Lens Coatings Lens coatings enhance light transmission, reduce glare, and provide a clearer sight picture. Multi-coated lenses, which have multiple layers of coatings, offer superior clarity and brightness, especially in low-light conditions.

.22 Rifle Scope Mounts

A well-made scope is only as effective as its mounting system. Proper scope mounting is vital to maintain zero, ensure shooting accuracy, and prevent damage to the scope. While many tools can be used such as a 35-degree offset mount, it’s essential to use the right mounting system for your activity and specific .22 rifle.

.22 Compatible Scope Mounts

Not all mounts fit a .22 rifle. It’s crucial to choose a mount compatible with your rifle’s design and the specific task – whether that’s target shooting, hunting, or plinking.

Weaver-Style Rifle Mounts

Ideal for plinking – the casual shooting at ranges or for pest control – Weaver-style mounts provide a sturdy and reliable base. These mounts have a flat base with crosswise recoil slots and are generally more affordable, making them popular among recreational shooters.

Picatinny Rails

Picatinny rails have a similar design to the Weaver-style but with more regular spacing between the recoil slots. Because of their standardized spacing and broader size, they offer more mounting options and are favored for target shooting, where a shooter might need to attach various accessories.

Dovetail Mounts

Dovetail mounts feature an inverted trapezoid design, which provides a snug fit. They’re especially recommended for hunting as they offer a low-profile and stable mounting solution, reducing the chance of snagging on vegetation and ensuring the scope remains steady even in dynamic hunting scenarios.

Mounting A .22 Rifle Scope – Quick Guide

Mounting a scope onto your .22 rifle can make or break your experience. While the process might seem intricate, breaking it down into key steps simplifies the undertaking. Below, we present a step-by-step guide to help you mount your .22 rifle scope efficiently and safely.

1. Tools & Materials To mount your scope correctly and safely, you’ll need a few essential tools. Each tool has its specific function:

  • Torque Wrench: Used to apply a specific amount of force to the scope ring screws, ensuring they are neither too loose (risking the scope shifting) nor too tight (potentially damaging the scope).
  • Leveling Kit: Ensures that the reticle in your scope is perfectly horizontal, helping improve shooting accuracy.
  • Gun Stabilizer or Gun Vise: Holds the rifle steady during the mounting process. This tool is indispensable as it ensures the rifle remains in a consistent position.

2. Safety Safety should always be your priority. Before mounting the scope:

  • Safety Measures: Always double-check that the firearm is not loaded. It’s a simple step but crucial for safety. Additionally, keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction throughout the process.

3. Alignment With The Bore The bore refers to the interior of the firearm’s barrel. Ensuring your scope is aligned with the bore is crucial for accuracy:

  • Bore Sighting: Without firing the gun, this process involves looking down the bore and adjusting the scope so its reticle aligns with the target. Specialized tools called laser bore sights can simplify this process.

4. Tighten & Secure The Scope Mount After aligning your scope:

  • Hand Tightening: Initially, hand tighten the scope rings around the scope. This allows for some movement as you adjust and align the reticle.
  • Using a Torque Wrench: Once satisfied with the scope’s position, use the torque wrench to tighten each screw to the manufacturer’s recommended specifications. Over-tightening can damage the scope, while under-tightening might let it move during shooting.
  • Final Check: After securing the scope, ensure it remains aligned with the bore, and the reticle is level.

Choosing A Red Dot Rifle Scope

What is a Red Dot Scope? A red dot scope is a non-magnifying reflector sight that superimposes a red dot onto the target. The shooter aligns the dot with their intended target to aim. Unlike traditional iron sights, where the shooter must align the rear sight, front sight, and target, a red dot allows the user to simply place the dot on the target.

When is it best to be used? Red dot scopes are incredibly versatile and can be used across various shooting activities. In the context of a .22 caliber rifle:

  1. Target Shooting: The quick target acquisition of the red dot makes it perfect for target shooting.
  2. Hunting: Especially when hunting small game, the red dot can be quickly aligned with the moving target.
  3. Competitive Shooting: Many competitive shooters favor red dot scopes because they allow rapid sight picture acquisition.

Advantages over other scope types:

  1. Simplicity: Red dots are intuitive and easy to use.
  2. Speed: Faster target acquisition compared to traditional sights.
  3. Versatility: Suitable for both short-range and medium-range engagements.
  4. Eye Relief: Red dot sights don’t have a fixed eye relief, making them comfortable to use.

Red Dot Scope Considerations

While the primary function of the red dot is consistent, there are multiple factors that differentiate one red dot from another.

  1. Price: Depending on features and brand reputation, prices can vary significantly.
  2. Mounting Options: Depending on the firearm, you’ll want a compatible mounting system.
  3. Size and Weight: Depending on the application, a lighter and more compact red dot might be more desirable.

Reticle Type & Size

Different types of red dots vary in shape and size. Here are some examples:

  1. Dot: The most common type, perfect for precision.
  2. Circle Dot: Combines a circle around a dot, great for both precision and quick target acquisition.
  3. Crosshair Dot: Crosshairs with a central dot, offering a mix of traditional and modern aiming points.
Red dot reticles
Red dot reticles

The size of the dot is measured in MOA (Minutes of Angle). A smaller dot (like 1 MOA) is suitable for precise shooting, while a larger dot (like 5 MOA) is quicker to acquire, and better at close range. 

Battery Life

Battery longevity is a valid consideration. Some red dots offer thousands of hours on a single battery, while others might be less efficient. Solar-assisted red dots can extend battery life. It’s important to consider how often you’ll be using the sight and under what conditions to determine the importance of battery life for your needs. 

Durability & Construction

A good red dot scope should be:

  1. Shockproof: To withstand the recoil and rough handling, though this is less important with smaller calibers. 
  2. Waterproof: To ensure functionality in wet conditions.
  3. Fog-proof: Internal fogging can obscure your vision; nitrogen or argon-purged scopes prevent this.

Material matters too. Aircraft-grade aluminum is a common and durable material for scopes. Lens coatings can also play a role in the durability and clarity of the sight.

Good construction is evident in smooth controls, crisp reticles, and a robust feel. Poor construction might manifest as wobbly mounts, easy scratching, or a quickly fading reticle.

When choosing a red dot scope, always consider the type of shooting you’ll be doing, your budget, and the specific features that are most important to you.

Maintenance & Caring For Your .22 Rifle Scope

Maintaining and caring for your .22 rifle scope is pivotal to ensuring its longevity, optimal performance, and accuracy. Just like the rifle itself, a scope is an intricate piece of equipment that requires attention to detail during its care.

Importance of Maintenance:

  1. Performance: A clean lens provides a clear view, ensuring accuracy and quick target acquisition.
  2. Longevity: Regular maintenance prevents buildup of dirt, moisture, and other elements that can deteriorate your scope over time.
  3. Value Retention: Well-maintained scopes tend to retain their value better over time.

Negatives of Improper Care:

  1. Reduced Visibility: Dust, smudges, or fogging on the lens can impair your ability to get a clear shot.
  2. Internal Damage: Moisture or debris that infiltrates the scope can damage the internal mechanics.
  3. Adjustment Issues: Dirt and grime can cause turrets to become stiff, making adjustments difficult.

Proper Storage

When not in use, a rifle scope should be stored in a manner that ensures its protection from external elements.

  1. Rifle Cases: A padded rifle case not only protects the rifle but also the attached scope. They help shield the scope from potential dings, dirt, and moisture.
  2. Desiccant Packets: These are great to keep in the case with the rifle and scope. They absorb moisture, which prevents fogging and internal water damage.
  3. Lens Covers: Always use lens covers when the scope isn’t in use. They protect the optics from dust and potential scratches.
  4. Climate Control: Sl, dry place. Extreme temperatures or high humidity can negatively affect your scope.

Common Mistakes

When handling and caring for rifle scopes, these are some common mistakes to be wary of:

  • Touching the Lens: Your fingers can leave oils and smudges, reducing clarity. Always use a soft lens cloth.
  • Using Improper Cleaning Solutions: Not all cleaning solutions are suitable for scopes. Use solutions designed specifically for optical lenses.
  • Over-Tightening Mounts: This can warp or damage the scope body.
  • Making Adjustments with Force: If turrets don’t turn easily, they may need cleaning or there might be a bigger underlying issue.
  • Ignoring Maintenance: Even if it looks clean, dust and moisture can accumulate over time. Regular check-ups are essential.
  • Exposing to Excessive Moisture: While many scopes are water-resistant, they are not always waterproof. Extended exposure can lead to fogging or internal damage.

Understanding the importance of maintenance and avoiding these common pitfalls will ensure that your .22 rifle scope remains in working condition, providing accurate and reliable performance for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best scope to use on a 22 rifle?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, as the best scope depends on your intended use. For general purpose and plinking, a variable power scope like 2-7x or 3-9x will fit your needs, and possibly more down the line. Brands like Nikon, Vortex, and Leupold have well-regarded models for .22 rifles.

What is the best range to sight in a 22LR rifle?

For many .22LR shooters, the most common distances to sight in are 50 yards or 100 yards. This is because the .22LR is most accurate at these ranges. However, the ideal range depends on your primary shooting activity. Keep in mind that a scope mount adds height over the bore of the rifle, meaning if the rifle is sighted in at 50 yards the round will be anywhere from 0-2 inches low at any point closer. 

How far is a 22 rifle accurate?

With standard ammunition, a .22LR caliber rifle can maintain accuracy up to 200  yards. Beyond this, the bullet will start to drop significantly, and environmental factors like wind can have a greater impact.

Can you use any scope on a 22 rifle?

Technically, yes. A .22 rifle can accommodate a variety of scopes. However, it’s best to use scopes designed or suitable for rimfire rifles as they are parallax-adjusted for shorter distances, which are typical for .22LR shooting.

Is it worth putting a scope on a 22?

Absolutely. A scope can greatly increase accuracy and precision at all distances. While .22 rifles are often used for short-range, a scope is beneficial for tasks like small game hunting or target shooting at longer ranges.

How far will a .22 bullet travel before dropping?

A .22LR bullet starts dropping as soon as it exits the barrel due to gravity. However, its noticeable drop (where adjustments to aim are required) usually starts around 100-150 yards and becomes more pronounced the further the distance. In terms of maximum distance, a .22LR bullet can travel up to 1.5 miles under the right conditions, but this is far beyond its effective or accurate range. Always ensure a safe backstop when shooting.

Remember, shooting conditions, ammunition type, and the specific rifle can affect these general answers. Always test and calibrate based on your unique setup and conditions.

Final Thoughts

Owning and using a .22 rifle scope greatly augments the precision and experience of shooting. Remember, the essentials include:

  • Maintenance & Care: Regular upkeep guarantees optimal performance and prolongs the life of your scope.
  • Proper Storage: A safeguarded scope ensures protection from potential damage and environmental factors.
  • Avoiding Mistakes: Simple missteps can lead to significant long-term issues or reduced performance.

While this article provides a broad overview, the world of .22 rifle scopes is vast and detailed. Every shooter might have unique requirements, dictated by their purpose—be it hunting, tactical scenarios, or long-range shooting.

It’s important to assess personal needs and weigh the available options carefully. No single scope fits all; your choice should resonate with your objectives and style. Delve deeper, understand the nuances, and equip yourself with a scope that truly elevates your shooting experience. 

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Tacticon Armament.