Understanding the importance of magnification in terms of rifle scopes is a fundamental aspect of accurate shooting. The right magnification can make all the difference in hitting your target with accuracy and confidence. Here we will discuss rifle scope magnification, provide insight into its terminology, applications, and what may be best for your needs.

Understanding Rifle Scope Magnification

Rifle scope magnification refers to the degree to which an image is enlarged when viewed through the scope. This is typically expressed as a range, such as 3-9×40 or 4-24×50, where the first number represents the lowest magnification level and the second number represents the highest of a particular optic. The third number, in this case, 40 or 50, refers to the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters. The larger objective lens a scope has allows for more light to be transmitted through the scope for better vision.

Magnification Terminology

  • 3-9×40: This is a common magnification range for general-purpose shooting. The lower end, 3x, provides a wider field of view, making it suitable for close-range shooting or hunting in dense terrain. The higher end, 9x, offers greater magnification for more precise shots at medium distances.
  • 4-24×50: This is a high-magnification range ideal for long-range shooting. The lower end, 4x, still provides a wide field of view for situational awareness, while the higher end, 24x, allows for precise aiming at distant targets.

Magnification, Field of View, & Clarity

  • Magnification: This is the degree to which an image is enlarged when viewed through the scope. Higher magnification allows for more precise aiming at distant targets but can reduce the field of view and make it harder to track moving targets.
  • Field of View: This is the area visible through the scope at a given magnification. A wider field of view is beneficial for situational awareness and tracking moving targets, while a narrower field of view provides more detail for precise aiming.
  • Clarity: This refers to the sharpness and detail of the image seen through the scope. Higher-quality scopes with better lenses and coatings will provide clearer images, even at higher magnifications.

Red Dot Magnifiers

Red dot magnifiers are optic devices designed to enhance the magnification of a red dot sight. They are mounted behind the red dot sight and provide a set level of magnification, most commonly 3x to 5x. The primary purpose of red dot magnifiers is to improve target acquisition and accuracy at longer distances while maintaining the speed and ease of use of a red dot sight.

Red dot magnifier
Red dot magnifier

Determining the Best Magnification for a Rifle

Several factors come into play when determining the best magnification for a rifle scope. These include the rifle’s intended purpose, the shooter’s skill level, and shooting environment.

Rifle’s Purpose

  • Hunting: For hunting a lower magnification scope, such as a 3-9×40, is often the baseline. This provides a wide field of view for tracking moving targets and allows for quick target acquisition in dense terrain.
  • Precision Shooting: For precision shooting a higher magnification scope, such as a 4-24×50, is typically used. This allows for precise aiming at distant targets and provides the detail needed for accurate shot placement.
  • Tactical: For tactical use a variable magnification scope, such as a 1-6x LPVO, is often preferred. This provides versatility for engaging targets at various distances and allows for quick transitions between close and long-range targets. Many LPVOs are often used with an offset red dot as well.
Magnifier optic with offset red dot
Magnified optic with off set red dot

Environmental Factors

  • Day vs. Night: In low-light conditions such as at dawn or dusk, a scope with a larger objective lens, such as a 50mm, can gather more light and provide a brighter image.
  • Wind: Wind can affect bullet trajectory especially at longer distances. A higher magnification scope can help compensate for wind drift by allowing for more precise shots, as can a scope with a reticle designed to account for wind.
  • Fog, Rain, Snow: Inclement weather can affect visibility. A scope with a larger objective lens and high-quality lens coatings can help maintain clarity in adverse conditions.
  • Temperature, Dust: Extreme temperatures and dust can affect the performance of a scope. High-quality scopes with rugged construction and weatherproofing can withstand these conditions. Certain holographic optics have been known to “Shift zero” due to changes in temperature. 

The best magnification for a rifle scope depends on several factors, including the rifle’s purpose, environmental conditions, and the shooter’s skill level.

Magnification Uses

Understanding magnification terminology helps for selecting the right scope for your needs. The numbers in a scope’s magnification range, such as 3-9×40 or 4-24×50, represent the lowest and highest magnification levels, respectively. The last number, in this case, 40 or 50, refers to the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters.

What Distance is a 3-9×40 Scope Good For?

A 3-9×40 scope is a versatile option for a variety of shooting distances. At its lowest magnification of 3x, it provides a wide field of view, making it ideal for close-range shooting or hunting in dense terrain. At its highest magnification of 9x, it offers enough for precise shots at medium distances, such as 300 yard magnification. This makes it a popular choice for hunters and target shooters who need a scope that can handle a range of distances.

What Distance is a 4-24×50 Scope Good For?

A 4-24×50 scope is a high-magnification option designed for long-range shooting or precision target shooting. At its lowest magnification of 4x, it still provides a wide field of view for situational awareness, making it suitable for medium-range shooting. However, at its highest magnification of 24x, it allows for precise aiming at distant targets, making it ideal for long-range shooting at distances of 500 to 1,000 yards or more. This makes it a popular choice for competitive shooters and long-range enthusiasts who need a scope that can handle extreme distances.

What Distance is a 1-6×24 Scope Good For?

A 1-6×24 scope is a really strong all around option. At its lowest magnification of 1x, it provides a wide field of view for close-range shooting. At its highest magnification of 6x it offers enough magnification for precise shots at medium distances of around 600 yards. The jack of all trades nature of low power variable optics makes them a great option for tactical rifles. 

1-6 rifle scope
LPVO 1-6 magnification

Long-Range Scope Power

For long-range shooting a scope with high magnification will make your life a lot easier. However, it’s important to balance magnification with clarity and field of view. A scope with too much magnification may provide a clear image of the target but have a narrow field of view, making it difficult to track moving targets or maintain situational awareness. Conversely, a scope with too little magnification has a wide field of view but lack the clarity needed for precise aiming at long distances.

For precision shooting at 1,000 yards a scope with magnification of at least 24x or higher is recommended. This provides enough magnification for precise aiming at extreme distances while maintaining a clear image of the target. For shorter ranges, such as 500 or 300 yards, a scope with a magnification range of 3-9×40 or 1-6×24 is sufficient, depending on the shooter’s skill level and shooting conditions. 

Magnification in Rifle Scopes

When considering a rifle scope determine the level of magnification needed for your shooting needs. This depends on factors such as the intended shooting distance, the size of the target, and the shooter’s skill level. For example, a hunter may prefer a lower magnification scope for close-range shooting, while a precision shooter may opt for a higher magnification scope for long-range accuracy.

Magnification In Shooting Goals and Use Conditions

For example, a hunter may need to quickly acquire and track a moving target, requiring a scope with a wide field of view and low magnification. In precision shooting, a shooter may need to accurately engage targets at long distances, necessitating a scope with high magnification and clarity.

However, it’s important to avoid over-magnification, as this leads to a narrow field of view, making it challenging to acquire and track targets. Additionally, high magnification can amplify movement and vibrations, making it difficult to maintain a steady aim.

High Zoom Rifle Scope Options

For those getting into long range shooting high-zoom scopes are available. These scopes offer magnification levels of 20x or higher, making them suitable for long-range shooting and precision target shooting. However, it’s important to consider the limitations of high-zoom scopes, such as reduced field of view and increased sensitivity to movement and vibrations. There is such thing as too much magnification.  

Rifle Scope Magnification FAQs

What distance is a 3-9×40 scope good for?

A 3-9×40 scope is versatile and suitable for various shooting distances. At 3x magnification, it’s ideal for close-range shooting, while at 9x, it can be used for medium-range shooting, typically up to 300-400 yards.

How far can a 4-24×50 scope see?

A 4-24×50 scope is designed for long-range shooting. At 4x magnification, it can be used for close-range shooting, while at 24x, it can be effective for distances up to 1,000 yards or more.

What distance is a 1-6×24 scope good for?

A 1-6×24 scope is versatile and suitable for various shooting distances. At 1x magnification it provides a wide field of view for close-range shooting, while at 6x it can be used for medium-range shooting, typically up to 300-400 yards.

What power scope for 1,000 yards?

For shooting at 1,000 yards, a high-magnification scope, such as a 4-24×50 or higher, is recommended. This allows for precise aiming and target identification at long distances.

What is the most popular scope size?

The most popular magnified scope is a 3-9x variable scope

How much magnification is needed in a rifle scope?

The amount of magnification needed in a rifle scope depends on the shooting application. For close-range shooting, lower magnification, such as 1-6x, is sufficient. For long-range shooting, higher magnification like 20x is recommended.

What is the highest zoom rifle scope?

For 50 caliber rifles and other calibers capable of firing well over a mile there are scopes that have magnification of 80x

What size scope is best for hunting?

The best size scope for hunting depends on the type of hunting and the shooting distances involved. For general-purpose hunting, a 3-9×40 scope is often recommended.

Final Notes


Rifle scope magnification is an important factor in determining the limits of a firearms and the situations it will be best in. Depending on your particular shooting activity, hunting, precision, or target shooting will determine the maximum magnification ideal. Over magnification will result in a heavy firearm that does more than intended.

At Tacticon, we understand the importance of finding the perfect scope for your needs which is why we offer a wide range of scopes and magnified optics to suit different shooters needs.

From the versatile 3-9×40 scope to the a simple red dot, or LPVO, we have options for every shooting distance. Our goal is to provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to make an informed decision and achieve success in your shooting endeavors.

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