The buzz around advancements in crossbow scopes is growing, urging archers to venture into a domain where pinpoint accuracy becomes more attainable. While rifle scopes have long enjoyed a solid rapport with firearms, the relationship between crossbow scopes and crossbows is evolving, heralding a blend of traditional archery with modern optical technology.

The concept of scopes isn’t novel; firearms have been paired with sights and optics for a long time. However, the advent of scopes in the crossbow domain is a relatively fresh narrative, broadening the horizon for accuracy and efficiency. As we navigate through the intricacies, compare the optics, and provide insights to the question ‘Can you put a rifle scope on a crossbow?’, we aim to assist you in making an informed choice in your pursuit of the ideal crossbow scope. Let’s cut to the chase.

Can You Put A Rifle Scope On A Crossbow?

Yes, you can mount a rifle scope on a crossbow, but it isn’t really the most ideal option for several reasons as we will discuss below. Long story short, the mechanics of shooting a crossbow differ significantly from rifle mechanics making the crossover physically possible but not practical.

Crossbow scopes
Crossbow Scope

Crossbows Vs. Rifles

Crossbows and rifles, two distinct arms from different eras, share a common goal—precision. Yet, when it comes to scopes, using the right scope matters. Let’s talk about some of the differences.

  • Focal Plane:
    • Rifle Scopes: Typically have a second focal plane (SFP) which keeps the reticle size constant. This feature is beneficial when aiming at varying distances, as it provides a consistent sight picture.
    • Crossbow Scopes: Often operate on a first focal plane (FFP), where the reticle size changes with the zoom level, assisting in range estimation—a critical factor in crossbow hunting.
  • Magnification:
    • Rifle Scopes: Offer a wide range of magnification options suitable for long-range shots common in rifle shooting.
    • Crossbow Scopes: Tend to have lower magnification suitable for the shorter effective range of crossbows.
  • Reticle Design:
    • Rifle Scopes: Feature a simple crosshair or more complex ballistic reticles to accommodate the flat trajectory of bullets.
    • Crossbow Scopes: Come with reticles designed with multiple aiming points to compensate for arrow drop over different distances.
  • Adjustment Range:
    • Rifle Scopes: Provide a broad adjustment range for windage and elevation to accommodate long-range ballistics.
    • Crossbow Scopes: Have limited adjustment range, tailored to the relatively short-range engagements of crossbow shooting.
  • Parallax Adjustment:
    • Rifle Scopes: Often come with parallax adjustment to ensure reticle stability over long distances.
    • Crossbow Scopes: Typically lack parallax adjustment due to the shorter distances involved in crossbow shooting.
  • Durability
    • Rifle Scopes: Rifle scopes are built to handle recoil and the associated stresses
    • Crossbow Scopes: Crossbow scopes are designed to withstand the unique vibrational forces of a crossbow. 

Additionally, rifles and crossbows exhibit distinct differences in recoil and projectile trajectory which impact the suitability of rifle scopes for crossbow use. While rifles have a noticeable recoil, crossbows generate vibration, a characteristic that rifle scopes are not designed to handle. Ballistically, rifles shoot bullets that follow a more linear trajectory whereas crossbows fire arrows or bolts that follow a more parabolic path, dropping more quickly. These inherent disparities in recoil and ballistics highlight key challenges faced when adapting rifle scopes to crossbows, requiring careful consideration to ensure effective optics performance.

So while a rifle scope can be mounted on a crossbow it really shouldn’t be.

Red Dot Crossbow Scopes

As an alternative to the traditional scope, micro red dot sights represent a leap towards precision and ease of use in the realm of crossbow shooting. Unlike traditional crossbow scopes, red dot scopes do not have magnification lenses. They project a simple red dot reticle onto a lens, providing a precise point of aim that simplifies the shooting process. This straightforward optical aid helps shooters acquire targets quickly and accurately, making each shot count. For longer distances they can also be paired with a red dot magnifier, to provide the shooter with some magnification, or an offset rifle mount if the shooter primary uses a scope. 

35 degree offset mount
35 Degree offset mount

Benefits of red dot crossbow scopes

  • Simplicity: Red dots are intuitive to use, making target acquisition faster.
  • Versatility: Suitable for both daylight and low-light conditions.
  • Accuracy: Allows for consistent and precise aiming at close to mid range distances.

Choosing Crossbow Red Dot Scopes

When selecting a red dot scope for a crossbow, consider:

  • Dot Size: A smaller dot offers precision at longer distances, while a larger dot provides quicker target acquisition at closer ranges.
  • Battery Life: As these scopes rely on batteries, ensure the model offers adequate battery life for your needs.
  • Durability: Given the vibrations produced by crossbows, opt for a robust and durable design.

Maintenance & Calibration

As with any weapons optic, proper maintenance and calibration of a crossbow scope are essential to ensure longevity, clarity, and accuracy. Without consistent care and regular checks, a scope can lose its accuracy, or get damaged. Ensuring that your scope is well maintained and calibrated can be the difference between hitting a target or losing an arrow off into oblivion.

Calibrating (Zeroing)

Zeroing, or calibrating a scope ensures that the point of aim and the point of impact are the same at a specified distance. Here’s a simple guide to zeroing your crossbow scope:

  1. Stable Position: Place the crossbow on a stable surface or shooting rest to minimize movement.
  2. Shoot a Group: Fire three bolts at a target from a known distance, usually 20 yards for crossbows.
  3. Analyze: Determine where the group has landed relative to where you were aiming.
  4. Adjust: Based on the group’s location, use the windage (left-right) and elevation (up-down) adjustment knobs on the scope to move the reticle. This will shift the point of impact to the desired location.
  5. Repeat: Fire another group of bolts and make further adjustments if necessary.
  6. Verify: Once satisfied with the 20-yard grouping, you may want to verify accuracy at further distances, like 30 or 40 yards, and adjust accordingly.

Maintaining A Scope

  • Clear Optics: Clean the lenses regularly with a lens brush or microfiber cloth to remove dust, dirt, and fingerprints. Avoid touching the lenses with bare fingers.
  • Keep It Debris-Free: Ensure the scope is free from external debris. Use lens covers to protect the optics when not in use.
  • Securing the Mount: Periodically check and ensure that the scope mounts are tight and secure. Over time, vibration and shooting can loosen mounts.

Crossbow Scopes FAQs

Are crossbow scopes the same as rifle scopes?

No, while they may appear similar crossbow scopes are designed specifically for the ballistics of crossbows. The reticles, magnification, and other features often cater to the unique needs of crossbow shooting.

What scope is best for a crossbow?

The best scope largely depends on the user’s needs. For hunting in varied conditions an illuminated, multi-reticle scope might be preferred. For target shooting, a scope with clear optics and precise adjustments would be suitable.

What are the distances on a crossbow scope?

Most crossbow scopes come with multiple reticles or markings representing different distances. Commonly, these are set for 20, 30, 40, and sometimes 50 yards or more, based on the bolt’s trajectory.

What is the zero distance for a crossbow?

Typically, crossbow scopes are zeroed at 20 yards. This provides a baseline for shooting at further distances using other reticle markers.

Final Thoughts

Crossbow scopes are very different from rifle scopes in construction, design, and durability.

The recoil, vibration, and ballistics of crossbows make them unique, necessitating specialized scopes. While rifle scopes can be mounted on crossbows, doing so may not yield the best or safest results.

Crossbow-specific scopes with tailored reticles and eye relief are designed to gauge the trajectory of bolts, rather than bullets. Whether you’re into hunting, or shooting for fun, it’s important to find a scope that matches your goals and uses. Taking the time to evaluate your requirements and understanding the various options available will undoubtedly enhance your experience.

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