12 Best Spotting Scopes for Target Shooting & Hunting 2022

Best hunting spotting scope pointing towards mountains in the distance

Best Spotting Scopes for the Money in 2022: Target Shooting & Hunting

 

You’re looking for the best spotting scopes for hunting and target shooting in 2022, and da-gum-it, you came to the right place. We’re here to help you solve one more piece of the puzzle, and this time it’s an important one.

Few pieces of gear are as coveted and cherished by hunters and shooters as their spotting scopes. A quality set of glass will likely be one of the most expensive pieces of equipment in your pack, but also one of the most important. Getting this purchase right can mean the difference between a successful harvest and going home to eat tag soup.

It hasn’t always been this way, but hunters must now spot critters from a distance these days. For this reason, we’re here to give you the low down on a whole mess of quality options from the best budget scopes (including options under $100, $200, $300, and $500) to the upper echelon of the hunting glass world.

We have a little bit of something for everyone, but rest assured, you’ll find the best spotting scope for your money here. Each option is well-reviewed and of the utmost quality.

We’ve also included a few spotting scope reviews from our own hunting buddies as well as some general advice on picking the best scopes for target shooting and hunting.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
SPOTTING SCOPES FOR TARGET SHOOTING & HUNTING

Spotting Scope FAQs

Before we get started, here are some commonly asked questions in regards to choosing a spotting scope that fits your target shooting or hunting needs. Press the ‘+’ button on the right side of the question to reveal the answer.

Do I Need a Spotting Scope for Target Shooting and Hunting?

You already have a rangefinder and a set of good 10 x 42 binoculars; what’s all this fuss about lugging a bulky spotting scope with you as well? Is it needed? Well, that depends. A tree stand hunter will likely not need a spotting scope, but anyone trying to scout or pattern animals from a distance certainly does.

If you are a target shooter, you’ll need a good spotting scope as it is impossible to see your shot groupings without one.

Spotting Scopes vs. Binoculars: How Should Both be Used?

There’s no natural replacement for a good spotting scope when it comes to scouting and glassing hillsides. The magnification and ability to see critters at a distance significantly increases when looking through a scope, which gives you an advantage over a set of binoculars.

I typically use my binoculars when walking into my hunting areas through thick foliage to ensure I don’t push animals out. Alternatively, I use my spotting scope when glassing ridges and far-off hillsides, as this is a safe enough distance to where you won’t scare animals off while setting up.

Should I Use an Angled or Straight Spotting Scope?

Personally, I prefer using an angled spotting scope, but I know many target shooters that prefer a straight scope. I like that I can use an angled spotting scope a little bit easier while seated, and it gives me the ability to use a shorter tripod.

Other hunters I spoke to that opt for a straight scope told me they can put the scope on target much faster than an angled scope. If size and weight are a concern, both styles clock in with similar numbers, so it comes down to personal preference.

What Type of Magnification Do I Need for My Hunt or Target Shooting?

Magnification needs depend on the type and quality of scope that you purchase. Some glass is simply better than others, flat out. Two scopes may both be rated at 20-60×80 magnification, but one will have vastly different image quality.

This is more important when you are target shooting rather than hunting, as you are trying to see small dime-sized holes at over 100 yards compared to a giant elk at 1,000.

I recommend that you get at least a 30x max magnification regardless of what type of scope you purchase. Anything less, and you might as well use binoculars instead.

Best Overall Spotting Scope
Leupold SX4 Pro Guide HD

Black Leupold spotting scope with a blue lens

Magnification: 20-60×85
Eyepiece Position: Angled
Eye Relief: 17.8mm – 19mm
Weight: 78.2 oz
Pros: Waterproof, durable, crystal clear image, legendary customer care, great for low-light
Cons: On the heavier side

The American-made Leupold SX4 Pro Guide HD is hands down the most powerful, high-performance spotting scope under $1000. We think it will excel for any outdoorsmen who seek impeccable performance but don’t want to shell out $2,500 for the more high-end options.

In terms of uses, this versatile glass should perform exceptionally well for target shooting, hunting, and even birding. It has ultra-sharp Leopold glass, which zooms smoothly and gives users incredibly crisp, bright, and high-contrast images. It’s also 100% waterproof and fogproof, which means it’s built to thrive in the roughest backcountry weather conditions.

So what else are you getting for all that hard-earned dough? Our favorite feature of this spotter is the DiamondCoat 2 ion-assist lens coating that helps bring maximum light to its glass. This feature allows for the most precise images possible during low-light situations around dawn and dusk when big game is most active.

Leupold has world-class and attentive customer service, and they offer the most full-coverage lifetime warranty in the industry. When you purchase Leupold, you can rest assured that they’ll stand by their products, no matter what. The SX4 Pro Guide HD checks off all the boxes and is well worth the investment.

Best Value Spotting Scope for the Money
Vortex Optics Viper HD

Green and black Vortex spotting scope for hunting

Magnification: 15-45×65
Eyepiece Position: Angled or straight
Eye Relief: 17.8mm – 19.6mm
Weight: 59.0 oz
ProsDurable, excellent customer service, perfect for glasses wearers
Cons: Focus lens is a little stiff for some

Unless you’re new to hunting, you’ve probably already heard of the Vortex Optics Viper HD. It’s a staple among hunters, hunting guides, and target shooters worldwide. But why?

This scope is located at the intersection of quality, performance, and value. Its images are crisp and bright, focusing is a breeze, and it’s as sturdy as they come. If you’re looking for one of the best spotting scopes for the money, then look no further.

I own a few pieces of Viper glass, which all work particularly well for my rough and tumble style of backcountry hunting. And though Viper Optics is known for its durability, if I were to break this while crashing through thick timber, at least I wouldn’t be out $2,000.

I have broken a pair of Viper binoculars in the past (eyepiece, my fault). I mention this because I was able to send them in on a Tuesday, and had a new pair at my house by the end of the week. Vortex customer service was very responsive, and I’ve heard similar stories from other hunters.

No hyperbole intended, this Vortex Optics Viper HD performs nearly as well as much of the glass two to three times its cost. I feel confident recommending it to target shooters and hunters long and far.

Best Cheap Option for Under $100
Emarth

Emarth 20-60x60AE spotting scope under $100

Magnification: 20-60×60
Eyepiece Position: Angled
Eye Relief: 18.0mm – 19.5mm
Weight: 48.1 oz
Pros: Cheap, solid zoom for price, good for taking photos
Cons: Clarity what you’d expect for $76, not recommended for target shooters of 200+ yards

I know what you’re thinking: how can you be serious with a $75 spotting scope? Well, we may be crazy, but this spotting scope is a pretty decent option for those with a small budget.

This entry-level and affordable spotting scope is well-reviewed on Amazon, with over 3,000 5-star reviews. Simply, this is one of the HIGHEST RATED spotting scopes online. People love this thing.

Check out some of the reviews on Amazon, and see for yourself why everyone seems to love this spotting scope. There are several pictures of the moon that people took with it that are simply stunning.

Back to the point, though. Emarth gives hunters a cheap option under $100. It’s not likely to be very durable and will not have a very sharp focus. In all, this scope will probably work best for beginners, but I wouldn’t consider this a long-term investment.

BUY ON AMAZON

Excellent Budget Scope Under $200
Athlon Optics Talos

Athlon Optics Talos

Magnification: 20-60×80
Eyepiece Position: Angled
Eye Relief: 15.2mm – 17.8mm
Weight: 38.0 oz
Pros: Affordable, crisp image
Cons: Not very durable, a tad bulky, not great for long-range target shooting

This Athlon Optics Talos is perfect for the entry-level outdoor enthusiast that doesn’t want to skimp on quality. This is the best budget spotting scope for target shooting and hunting under $200.

I’ve seen some reviews that state the Talos isn’t necessarily the best in the durability department, but it performs well and has sharp image quality. Some even reported making out individual leaves at 900 yards!

The silver coating on the outer lens helps bring extra light to your eye, creating a crisp image. It’s not as crisp as my Vortex Diamondback, but it’s close (and about half the price). When it comes to value, the Athlon Optics Talos proves one of the best spotting scopes for the money.

This is not a spotting scope that you’ll see a mosquito’s wings from 200 yards, but it’s an affordable option that works admirably for target shooting and hunting.

Popular Mid-Range Glass Under $300
Bushnell Trophy Xtreme

Bushnell Trophy Xtreme spotting scope for target shooting

Magnification: 20-60×65
Eyepiece Position: Straight
Eye Relief: 14.0mm
Weight: 21.5 oz
Pros: Super lightweight and portable, great image quality, window mount & tripod included
Cons: Not the most potent magnification, images not as large with 50mm objective lens

This Bushnell spotting scope is fantastic for hunters who like to run and gun. It takes up much less room in your pack and saves you precious ounces in your bag. It is also a very affordable option for under $300.

I used one of these in Colorado while hunting elk, and what I like about it was how quickly I was able to throw this thing on my shooting stick and get a sharp image in the eyepiece lickety-split.

When mere seconds can make or break a hunt, this portability can be a huge advantage. If quick-sight pictures are your thing, then this is one of the best scopes for 100 yards.

Although it’s small and portable, which can be good in certain situations, I probably wouldn’t use it for glassing animals over 1,000 yards. It’s passable at longer distances but not ideal for long-range target shooters and hunters.

Rock-Solid Spotting Scope Under $500
Vortex Optics Diamondback

Green and black Vortex Optics Diamondback glass

Magnification: 20-60×85
Eyepiece Position: Angled
Eye Relief: 14.0mm – 17.0mm
Weight: 33.8 oz
Pros: Durable, lifetime warranty, less eye fatigue, comfortable with glasses
Cons: Has trouble with focus at high magnification, stiff zoom according to some

While pouring through spotting scope reviews for this write-up, I was fascinated by the number of people that recommended the Diamondback spotting scope from Vortex. The problem was, I already knew that this was the best scope for target shooting and hunting under $500 (because I own one).

This was the first spotting scope I ever purchased. I thought I was splurging at the time, unaware that spotting scopes could get far more expensive than this. It was my first year guiding elk hunts, and I wanted to ensure I had something reliable that wouldn’t let me or my hunters down. Lucky for me, it didn’t, and this scope assisted in getting my hunters into three monster 6×6 bulls.

I have since upgraded to the Viper HD model, but I still use my Diamondback from time to time. If you want a little more out of your scope, I would spend the extra money and get the Viper HD. That isn’t to degrade the Diamondback; it makes a rock-solid option if this is what you can afford.

The Diamondback is the middle of the line when it comes to target shooting. You can see your shots out to about 200 yards, anything past that, and I recommend the Viper HD.

Crystal-Clear 1000-Yard Spotting Scope
Celestron Regal M2

Celestron Regal M2 80ED for 1,000 yards

Magnification: 20-60×80
Eyepiece Position: Angled
Eye Relief: 20mm
Weight: 72.0 oz
Pros: Durable, easy focus, crystal clear HD images, waterproof, great deal for its quality
Cons: A bit bulky, questionable customer service

This is another option that completely outperforms its price point. Don’t sleep on this spotter; many hunters swear by its super clear picture and color enhancement. It can zoom to 1,000 yards with clarity.

But that’s not all. The Celestron Regal is DSLR compatible and is excellent for taking wildlife photos, as the sight picture is HD quality. Many reviewers say that it’s also really rugged and they can tote it through the woods pretty easily.

My only gripe about this spotting scope is that it is a little bit heavy at almost 5 pounds. I would probably use this more for glassing far-off hillsides and then leaving it at camp. This scope works great for long-range shooting, as you can quickly see shot groupings at 300+ yards.

Celestron makes one of the most powerful spotting scopes on the market for target shooting and hunting, and at a great price to boot. If you want to take things to the next level, the 100ED model has an even better picture than the 80ED, and it’s only an extra couple hundred bucks.

That’s money well spent in my opinion.

Ultra-Compact Scope for Fully-Loaded Packs
Vortex Optics Razor HD

Best Vortex spotting scope

Magnification: 11-33×50
Eyepiece Position: Angled
Eye Relief: 16.0mm – 19.0mm
Weight: 25.0 oz
Pros: Ultralight, packable, impressive performance for size, great customer service
Cons: Not a large lens, image not as crisp image when zoomed, stiff magnification dial in cold weather

This spotting scope from Vortex gets impressive reviews across the board from hunters and outdoorsmen. People love how small it is and how portable it is on those long alpine hunts.

If you’re a backcountry drop-camp style hunter, then you know that every square inch and every ounce counts when putting together your pack. This spotting scope checks all the boxes for you: It’s lightweight, compact, and powerful enough to glass long distances.

I wouldn’t purchase this as a target shooting scope on the simple fact that it doesn’t have the most precise image when zoomed to its maximum magnification. I would go with the Diamondback or Viper HD if you plan on glassing long distances.

Remember, Vortex has excellent customer service, so you know that you always purchase peace of mind when you buy one of their products. If you have been around the sport of hunting for longer than a minute, then you know how important attentive customer care can be.

Super Lightweight & Portable Spotting Scope
Leupold Gold Ring

Lightweight black Leupold spotting scope

Magnification: 10-20×40
Eyepiece Position: Straight
Eye Relief: 17.2mm x 18.5mm
Weight: 15.8 oz
Pros: Lightest scope on the market, ultra-compact, clear image, fast target acquisition
Cons: Small objective lens doesn’t let in a lot of light, not great for target shooting

I included this little lightweight scope because I know many of you out there want to save room in your packs but still carry a quality spotter. The Leupold Gold Ring was built for you.

While I wouldn’t take this thing to the gun range (unless it’s a 50-yard range), it pulls its weight for image quality and target acquisition speed. The straight eyepiece works well when trying to find targets quickly.

I imagine an archery elk hunter who is conscious about how much weight is in their pack may get the most use out of this thing. Leupold makes good glass, no question, and I am super comfortable steering people to buying their products because I know they’re safe bets.

That said, with this particular model, the small objective lens leaves a lot to be desired, but if you consider this scope for what it is, NOT a Leica or Swarovski, you will be a-okay.

Creme de la Creme Leupold Spotting Scope
Leupold Mark 4

Black Leupold Mark 4

Magnification: 20-60x80mm
Eyepiece Position: Straight
Eye Relief: 30.0mm
Weight: 61.8 oz
Pros: Crazy fast target acquisition speed, HD-crisp quality, wonderful in low light, professional grade
Cons: Pricey, more for professionals than amateurs

If this isn’t the spotting scope the military uses, then it should be. The Leupold Mark 4 might just be the most tactical spotting scope on the market. It can do everything you ask of it, but it might be the top target shooting spotting scope on this list.

It’s lightweight compared to the Pro Guide model, only by a pound or so, weighing in right around four pounds. Even though it’s a little lighter than its counterpart, it’s every bit as strong and can withstand a beating.

In terms of features, Leupold has what’s called the Twilight Max Light Management System, which claims their lens can give you 20 extra minutes of glassing at dawn and dusk. If you’re a hunter or wildlife viewer, then you understand how vital those minutes are.

Ultimately, this Leupold is for the hunter, shooter, or birder who leaves nothing to chance. The Mark 4 is a professional tool for outdoor professionals. Buy this scope if I am describing you. You won’t regret it.

Spare-No-Expense Swarovski Scope
Swarovski High Definition Glass

Green and black Swarovski High Definition Glass

Magnification: 20-50×65
Eyepiece Position: Angled or Straight
Eye Relief: 17mm
Weight: 49.1 oz
Pros: Compact, lightweight, fluoride filled means crystal clear quality, huge field of view, lifetime warranty
Cons: Expensive

When it comes to high-end glass, look no further than Swarovski spotting scopes. Perfect is a bit of a stretch, but it’s close enough.

It has a little bit of everything: tough-as-nails durability, crystal clear images from edge to edge, and all the magnification you will ever need — no matter if you use glasses or not (due to its twist-up eyecup). Further, the ability to quickly zoom in and out at 1,000 yards is unmatched.

I got to try one of these out while on a hunt last year, and let me tell you: it’s perfect for low light situations. The ability to scan long distances, even in the twilight, makes for a deadly tool for a hunter to have in their arsenal.

All in all, this is a great spotter for long-range shooters, as well as any type of hunting. Although it is costly, it’s worth every penny for professionals, shooters, and hunters that want the best of the best.

BUY ON AMAZON

Budget Breaking Spotting Scope/Rangefinder
Newcon Optik

Black Newcon Optik high-end rangefinder

Magnification: 15-45×60
Eyepiece Position: Straight
Eye Relief: 25.0mm – 26.0mm
Weight: 56.0 oz
Pros: Cutting-edge, insanely long-distance ranging, versatile
Cons: Very expensive

The Newcon Optik oozes high-tech vibes. It’s sleek, black, and reminds you of something a sniper would use in a James Bond movie.

This spotting scope has it all: it’s lightweight, tactical, and has laser rangefinding capabilities. Target shooting and hunting are simply no match for this beast of a rangefinder/spotter. It doesn’t have the best objective lens size, but I assure you that this is the absolute best 50mm-sized rangefinder/spotting scope in the world. For long-range shooting, this is one of the best tools you can have, as it can accurately range to over 3,200 yards.

Multi-coated lenses provide pristine image quality with a straight eyepiece. These attributes give it an unmatched ability to find and range targets with accuracy and speed, making it invaluable on long-distance hunts.

The Newcon Optik does break the bank, but this is a total investment to a professional who wants nothing more than the very best spotting scope on the 2022 market. With its laser rangefinder capabilities, it combines two pieces of hunting gear, providing excellent value and convenience.

BUY ON B&H PHOTO & VIDEO

Best Spotting Scope Tripod
Vortex Optics High Country II

Spotting scope tripod

This spotting scope tripod for target shooting and hunting from Vortex is the only tripod that I own. I simply love recommending Vortex gear because of their stellar customer service. In a world where it’s easy to get burned, this is important to me. In short, you find consistency in Vortex gear.

This isn’t an ultra-lightweight carbon fiber tripod and is a bit heavier than I’d like at 3.9 pounds, but I think all that extra weight allows me to have a more sturdy and durable product that isn’t going to tip over. As I said earlier, I’m rough on my gear and have a feeling this will hold up for several seasons.

BUY ON AMAZON

Best Cell Phone Spotting Scope Mount
Celestron NexYZ 3-Axis

Black cell phone mount

I dropped my phone two years ago while trying to take a picture of a black bear through my spotting scope. Its screen shattered, and I had to explain to my wife why I had to buy a new phone. It fell because the mounting clip broke while I was glassing, and it sent my phone tumbling down a boulder. I swore to myself I wouldn’t buy cheap crap anymore.

So, I bought this thing. I found the mount to be durable and of high quality. Also, it is super easy to adjust, even for a big oaf like me. This scope mount can be used on a variety of different brands of spotters. I currently use it on my Vortex Viper HD, and it fits it just fine. It takes incredible pictures while outdoors, so I would consider getting one if you want to snap a few crisp photos of your hunt.

BUY ON AMAZON

Factors We Consider When Reviewing Spotting Scopes

Spotting scope pointing targets on a shooting range

There’s a lot to keep in mind when reviewing and analyzing spotting scopes

 

Magnification

Here’s a quick overview of what all of those numbers mean when you’re considering magnification.

An example: a spotting scope with 20-60 x 80 magnification

The first number (20) is the minimum magnification of the spotting scope, and the second number (60) is the maximum magnification.

So at a minimum, this scope will show objects to be 20x more prominent than they are in nature, and at its max, it will display objects 60 times larger than they are with the naked eye.

The last number (80) is the size of the objective lens in millimeters or mm. The larger the objective lens, the more light it lets in, and the more detail you can see.

When choosing a magnification for target shooting and hunting, you want to choose a spotting scope that fits your needs. There is no one size fits all. However, we would recommend a minimum of 30x max zoom and 50mm of an objective lens. Any less than this magnification, and you might as well use binoculars.

Eyepiece

As I highlighted earlier in this write-up, eyepiece selection is a personal choice. I like to have an angled eyepiece to sit in a chair and glass with a smaller tripod.

I would recommend trying out a straight eyepiece if you’re the type of tactical spotter that needs to acquire targets quickly and are willing to sacrifice room in their pack for a more sturdy tripod. We’ve made recommendations for both types of eyepieces in this post.

Eye Relief

Eye relief is the distance from the lens to the tip of your eyeball. Proper eye relief should produce a perfectly crisp and clear image when viewed by the viewer. That is to say, it’s not distorted and doesn’t have a black ring around it.

Eye relief is more of a concern for rifle scopes and binoculars than it is for spotting scopes, in my opinion, but some glasses wearers may choose to have a shorter eye relief because of the extra distance to their glasses.

For the sake of this write-up, we chose products with eye relief of a minimum of 17mm from the lens to the eyeball.

Weight

I’m a total lightweight nerd, so I may have a bit of a skewed perspective here. I count ounces in my pack like people on Weight Watchers count points. My theory is that the lighter my bag, the more effective I am at pushing myself just a little bit harder so I can go just a little farther.

For some, they want the absolute best glass they can get, and that likely comes with some added weight. But, the truth is, most target shooters and hunters will rarely lug their spotting scope much further than a half-mile from the truck. So weight may not be such a significant factor for you.

For the sake of this write up I went ahead and included tons of weight options in the 1-5 pound range.

Price

If you weren’t born yesterday, you probably know that target shooting and hunting are expensive sports. When choosing a budget for your glass, just know that you will get what you pay for. Cliche, I know, but it’s true with spotting scopes (and most hunting gear, for that matter).

Get what you can afford now, and upgrade as your skills and budget increase. To this end, we have included scopes for all budgets.

Which Spotting Scope is Best for Your Style of Target Shooting & Hunting?

A hunter in camo looking towards the camera through the best spotting scope of 2022

Which spotting scope do you have your eye on?

 

Ok, guys and gals, you have done all the research, read all the fluff, and now you are ready to make a purchase. Hey, I’ve given you many options here, including 2022’s best budget spotting scopes under $100, $200, $300, and $500. I’ve also included some of the more luxury brands like Swarovski and Leupold.

Spotting scope reviews are great and all, but you’ll never know what works for you by reading about them on the internet. Instead, use this guide to make a selection that suits your needs and hit that ‘Buy’ button.

Every scope on this list is returnable, so if you don’t feel like you got the best spotting scope for your money, return it and try a different one. Like I said earlier, you can’t afford to get this purchase wrong.

We’re here to help to make sure you get it right. Our sole purpose is to inform and educate our readers and make them better outdoorsmen and hunters, one write-up at a time. This is why we’re dedicated to helping you pick the right gear, from a spotting scope for target shooting and hunting to the hunting boots that lead the way.

Gear isn’t all we are passionate about; we strive to connect our readers to the best elk meat vendors in the world; because as we know, sometimes you go home empty-handed. Did you know you can have elk meat shipped to your home?

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