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Choosing The Best Rifle Scope For Survival

Choosing The Best Rifle Scope For Survival
Choosing The Best Rifle Scope For Survival

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When you’re in a sudden SHTF situation, a lot of things will probably go through your mind.

Have you prepared enough? Do you have enough food? Does your family have enough protection? Do you have a plan? Will you survive?

One of the most important things to consider if ever caught in a survival situation is to make sure that you have a dependable firearm.

The right equipment to help aid the firearm, like the best rifle scope is also necessary.

Preferably, you will want a rifle that can take on several different tasks, from hunting for food to self defense for protection.

Though there is no “perfect” survival gun, popular survival rifles out there to have for an SHTF situation is a rimfire rifle or some form of a .22 LR.

Factors to Consider When Choosing The Best Rifle Scope For Survival

Regardless of the type of rifle you choose, there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the best survival rifle, including:

  • Ammo costs (ammo costs are usually determined by the caliber size. The bigger the size the more expensive the round.)
  • Killing power (You want a caliber that kill varmint for food, and potentially bigger game like a deer)
  • Protection (not considered a ‘man stopper’ but it will get the job done if you need it to)
  • Long Range (A rifle with range at least up to 100 yards for defense or hunting. A handgun is really only effective within 25 yards)
  • Cost (depending on your prepper budget, you may want to find a rifle that is at a lower cost but still built well)
  • Weight and Mobility (You may need a lightweight rifle because you’ll be using it a lot for hunting and potentially for defense)
  • Equipment (the equipment needs to be top quality and durable to aid your rifle so you can be more efficient)

What’s the most important factor to consider?

The reasons above are ALL important factors when picking a firearm. One of the most important things that will help you in almost every area is by getting a high quality rifle scope

Even if a .22LR wasn’t your top choice, having a rifle scope equipped to your survival rifle may be the difference between food for the next few days or not.

Is a rifle optic really that important?

The answer is a big YES! A rifle scope does so many things for you and makes your survival situation that much easier to bear.

Basically, a scope improves accuracy and allows you to see your target with clarity, even at long distances. Improvements in rifle scope design have allowed even entry level scopes to be high quality.

Let’s explain more reasons why an optic is important for survival:

Needed for hunting

Obviously, a scope isn’t the only thing that will aid you when you are hunting. Consider these essential items no hunter should be without. But a rifle scope is valuable to your success rate.

A rifle scope can allow you to in low light conditions.

Like hunting later in the evening, when it’s dark and way past the time that you would normally be able to see your target with just the iron sights. The same is true at dawn. Sure, you would be able to see with the iron sights, but not as quick nor as early as with a scope.

When you and your family are hungry, and there are no grocery stores open and you need some food, you need to go hunting for it. Using a rifle scope will help with higher precision and accuracy. Your success rate of getting food on the table greatly increases with the proper rifle scope.

Depending on what you are hunting for, you need to be able to have proper shot placement for a clean and fast kill. Having a rifle scope will increase your chances of hitting the proper spot of the animal. This will also increase your chances to actually kill the animal in less shots.

You’ll likely be shooting more varmint than big game, but in either case, the animal will likely run away if you miss after the first shot. This makes precision and accuracy an important factor. Even if you hit the target, but miss your spot, it may still run and even get away.

Long Range Shooting

When hunting for food in survival mode, you’ll likely be shooting animals up to 100 yards away. If you want an accurate and efficient kill, using a scope is essential. A scope can also help those of whose vision is not what it used to be.

Most scopes on the market have a magnification power setting that will allow you to see very clear up to 100 yards, no problem.

Depending on your budget, you can find a scope that can even reach up to 500 yards or more. Keep in mind that you will need to consider which rifle caliber you choose for survival if you are going to shoot targets at long distances of 200 yards or more.

For example, if you got a scope for a .22 LR, 100 yards is about as far as you should go for the highest efficiency, especially if you were going to shoot a deer.


Scope prices vary greatly. From as low as $30 in some cases all the way up in the thousands of dollars. For survival, you need a high quality scope that is durable, will hold its zero, and is clear with enough focus and power to get the job done when needed.

You just need a rifle scope that does the basics, without any fancy features and add-ons. The extra features on a scope are what drive the price of the optic up dramatically.

The old rule of thumb was that a scope should cost at least half of what your gun did in order to get a quality scope for your rifle. Nowadays, this isn’t the case. You can find a high quality scope for under $200 and even under $100 in some cases.

$100-$200 is a small price to pay for the value you will be getting by adding an optic on your rifle.

How to choose the best rifle scope

Choosing the best rifle scope for an SHTF situation can be difficult, as there are a lot of different factors that determine the best rifle scope.

Assuming that you are limited and need an all around great scope for survival narrows the choices down.

The best way to prepare yourself for an important purchase like this is to learn how a scope works so you can fully understand the mechanics behind it. Below is a quick diagram for your reference.

Now that you have an idea of where things are located and the important terms on an optic, there are a few things to consider when choosing the best optic:

Objective Lens

An objective lens is the front lens of the scope. It gathers the light and its size gives the field of view. The bigger the objective lens, the more light is able to come into the scope allowing for greater clarity and a brighter sight picture. This is especially important if you are hunting at dusk or dawn or in other low-light conditions.

A bigger objective lens also affects the field of view (FOV). The bigger the lens the more ground you will be able to see through the optic. For example, a FOV of 100 yards means that you can see 100 yards from left to right through your scope.

The best objective lens size for a scope in survival mode is probably between 30mm and 40mm. Anything bigger and the scope starts to get too bulky making it hard for mobility and ease of use.

Also, if the objective lens gets too big you will need higher mounts and scope rings in order for the objective lens to avoid touching the gun barrel, making it seem even bulkier when on your rifle. Cost usually goes up as well if you go higher than 40mm.

Optic Style and Tube Size

The best type of scope style you can get for survival is a tube body style. These are more high quality and best all around scopes. The other style to get for your optic is a heads up style or holographic style, but with these scopes there is no variable magnification setting. Instead, you are stuck focusing at a specific magnification (fixed magnification).

30mm tube style size is pretty standard and a great size for a survival situations. Anything bigger will start getting too heavy and bulky and less mobile. Remember that the scope rings you buy must match the diameter of the scope body.

Variable or Fixed Magnification

Magnification power allows the user to adjust the power given. A typical scope you will see is 3-9x40mm. What this means is that at 3x, you will see 3 times larger than the naked eye and at 9x, 9 times larger than the naked eye. 40 refers to a 40mm wide objective lens.

This magnification set is a variable magnification as you can adjust the power between 3x and 9x allowing you to shoot at short and long distances with great focus and clarity.

Some scopes are single or fixed power (1×25 or 4×30 for example) which means no adjustments.

Make sure you choose a variable magnification scope. The best variable magnification scope that you can get is probably the 3-9x40mm. This allows you to shoot at very long distances (up to 500+ yards if needed at the 9x) but still be able to have great clarity and focus at shorter distances (50 to 100 yards with the 3x)


You don’t need anything fancy when it comes to adjustments. All it does is raise the price of the scope by adding unnecessary features. You just need the basics. All you need on your optic for survival is elevation and windage adjustments, parallax adjustments if you choose a higher magnification, and eyepiece focus adjustments capabilities. For windage and elevation, the standard is one click changes impact ¼” at 100 yards.


Choosing the right type of reticle is extremely important as well. There are all types of reticles like simple cross hair, mil dots, duplex reticles, BDCs, and many other variations. Some reticles are even illuminated or light up using a battery or ambient light.

Having the correct reticle is extremely important, especially for survival. When choosing the right reticle, you don’t want so much going on that you lose focus on what is really important, which is simply hitting your target.

The best reticle for survival is a Duplex reticle. Manufacturers making variations of the duplex reticle but the concept is the same. It’s a modified crosshair style that features thick bold lines on the outer part of the crosshair for fast target acquisition, but at the center where the two lines cross are much finer lines so you can still see the target you are shooting at. Some duplex reticles have dots that help measure the distance for bullet drop (BDC) at longer distances.


You need a scope with some necessary features for long term use and durability. Pick a scope with lens coatings. This block different wavelengths and repels water.

Also make sure the scope is seals for air tight use or it will get foggy with moisture and you won’t be able to see through the glass.

Getting high quality mounts and scope rings are also important. Don’t buy cheap scope rings. Cheaper scope rings are more likely to cause the scope to lose its zero from getting loose after long term use.

The downside to scopes

The downside to scopes is that they are more fragile than iron sights. You must keep your iron sights for backup. Redundancy is the name of the game in survival preparations and could save your life in a survival situation.

Though a good quality scope can last a long time, things happen. You could drop your rifle and damage the scope. The scope could for some reason lose its zero after a few hundred rounds. The glass could fog up on a cold day if the seal breaks. These are all things to consider.

Due to some of these unplanned scenarios, having back up scopes is something that a lot of shooters live by. Some hunters have 2 to 3 scopes just for one rifle depending on the situation and perfect as backups in case something happens.

Having easy off mounts can be a solution to increase the life of your rifle scope. You can make sure to take the scope off of the rifle and carry it in your pack when you are traveling. Wrap it with something soft, like blankets or extra clothes for some cushion. Taking it off and on may be a hassle without easy off mounts. What’s important is that the scope should not change zero when it is reattached.

Take good care of your rifle as well. If you drop your rifle with the scope attached, the scope is much more fragile and will break easier and faster than your rifle will.

Choosing the best rifle scope for survival

Find the best rifle scope for survival is tough. With so many factors to consider and so many different scopes to choose from it can be a daunting task. To makes things easier, just be sure to understand the situation you are in when SHTF. You will need a good all around scope that will get the job done. Get a great scope for the money that is still high quality and durable and will help you put food on the table and for protection when trying to survive.

In the end, I recommend a scope that is a 3-9x40mm. This is a great scope for a variety of calibers and environments.

Which size of scope would you recommend for survival? Do you have any specific scopes models that you would recommend for an SHTF situation?

Guest post by Gary Fretwell, rifle optics guru and big game tracker at GoShootGuns.com. He is a 33-year-old die hard hunter from Wyoming. He served in Iraq, loves his Ar-15, and is an Asset Protection Officer and a big game tracker who helps hunters like himself find big game.

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