.22LR is over a century old but remains to this day the single most popular firearm round. It’s comfortable and easy to shoot, and for many of us, it was the first round we ever shot.
It’s used for plinking, varmint (or small game) hunting, and competition.
It’s also highly affordable, not just in terms of the ammo itself, but also for .22 firearms and accessories.
Table Of Contents
- Our Best .22LR Scopes
- What Are .22LR Scopes?
- What Are The Different Types of .22LR Scopes?
- How Do .22LR Scopes Work?
- What Do You Look For In The Best .22LR Scopes?
- Best .22LR Scopes Reviewed
- Final Thoughts On .22LR Scopes
Our Best .22LR Scopes
- Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7×32 Rimfire Riflescope (Our Top Pick)
- Barska 3-9x32mm Plinker-22 Riflescope (Best Budget)
- Leupold VX-Freedom Rimfire 3-9×40 Riflescope (Best High End)
- Leupold FX-I Rimfire 4x28mm Riflescope
- Simmons .22 MAG 3-9×32 Rimfire Riflescope
Many people choose to just use iron sights with their .22 and that’s fine. However, .22LR scopes are essential for competition, incredibly helpful for hunting, and just plain fun for plinking.
A scope helps you get the most out of your .22 and you can get a decent .22LR scope for less than $50, so why not?
To help you choose the right .22LR scope for you, we’re going to go over some of the best .22LR scopes available. Before we get to the commendations, let’s cover some background to help you make informed choices.
What Are .22LR Scopes?
Scopes are not typically made for a particular caliber and .22 isn’t an exception to this general rule. That said, it’s definitely more common to find scopes designed for .22 or other rimfire cartridges.
Whether a scope designed particularly for .22LR or not, there are a few features that indicate that a scope’s good for use with .22LR:
Shorter Range Parallax Setting
If you’ve used a scope before, you may have noticed the reticle moving relative to your target as you move your head. This effect is called parallax.
Parallax can really mess with your accuracy, especially when you switch magnification settings. Most scopes have parallax correction to combat parallax.
Typically, a centerfire scope is focused to be parallax-free at around 150 yards. Rimfire scopes, however, are usually parallax-free at around 50 yards.
That’s because rimfire rounds are typically used at a comparatively close range.
The best scopes have parallax adjustment so you can set it for various distances.
Another result of .22LR’s short range is that .22LR scopes have lower magnification capabilities than centerfire scopes.
As a general rule, 4x to 6x is recommended for shots between 100 and 200 yards. If you’re looking for a long distance (for .22 anyway) scope, that’s the range you should be looking for.
If you want an adjustable magnification scope, make sure the upper range is at least at that level.
For shooting within 100 yards, you can go as low as you’re comfortable with. The closer you want to be able to shoot, the lower you want your magnification to go.
Remember that while higher magnification makes your target appear bigger, it also decreases your field of view.
A smaller field of view makes it easier to accidentally lose your target. It can also cause you to miss important things around your target.
BDC or Duplex Reticle
Bullet drop is more of an issue with rimfire cartridges like .22LR than with centerfire ones. That’s because rimfire cartridges tend to have a lower velocity. To help manage this, rimfire scopes often have BDC (ballistic drop compensating) reticles.
BDC reticles have a series of hash marks below the center of the crosshair. This allows the shooter to make quick, accurate adjustments while sighting.
Otherwise, they’d have to try to eyeball it or use the elevation adjustment. That’s less than ideal for a quick, one-off shot.
For .22LR specific reticles, hash marks may be positioned to show bullet drop for particular .22LR rounds at varying ranges.
While this makes correcting for bullet drop with those particular .22LR rounds much easier, it’s not very helpful for any other rounds.
That includes .22LR rounds that have different ballistics from the specific ones the scope is designed to match.
More frequently, scopes use hash marks to indicate a fixed number of MOA or MILS. MOA and MILS are standard measurements used in shooting for the size of an angle.
That way the scope can be used with multiple different rounds.
Other scopes may use a classic duplex reticle. Duplex reticles are helpful for hunters since they have thick lines that help keep the reticle nice and visible. They’re also less visually overwhelming than BDC reticles can be.
However, they don’t help you quickly and easily compensate for bullet drop like a BDC reticle.
Lightweight and Low Profile
.22 scopes tend to be lightweight and low profile compared to centerfire scopes.
.22 is not a high energy round, so a heavy, bulky scope can easily mess with the balance of a .22 rifle.
The trade-off is that a lower profile means smaller objective lenses, which means less light transmission. (We’ll talk more about that in a moment.)
The lower magnification capabilities and shorter range of magnification settings also help eliminate both extra weight and extra cos. That’s part of why .22 scopes are so affordable.
What Are The Different Types of .22LR Scopes?
.22LR is primarily used for varmint hunting and target shooting. There are .22 scopes that are ideal for each.
Hunting scopes tend to have a wider magnification range since game can turn up at any distance. Weatherproofing is especially important for hunting scopes.
Hunters are much more likely to get caught in the rain without a quick way to protect their scope.
Hunting scopes may also have a larger objective lens to allow for better light transmission in low light conditions, such as in the woods. That also allows hunters to extend their shooting hours.
Similarly, they may have an illuminated reticle to help with low light visibility.
Target Shooting Scopes
Target or range shooting scopes tend to have either fixed magnification or a smaller range of magnification. This allows shooters to choose one that matches the typical distance of their targets.
However, there are also target scopes with larger ranges of magnification for target shooting at various distances.
Target scopes designed for long-range precision competition, like NRL22, will generally have more powerful magnification.
Target scopes also tend towards price extremes. Plinking scopes are very affordable. High-end competition scopes can be very pricey.
How Do .22LR Scopes Work?
.22LR scopes work pretty much the same way any other scope works. They use a series of lenses to transmit light and a picture down the scope and to your eye.
At the front end of the scope, towards the muzzle and away from your eye, is the objective lens. The objective lens transmits light into the scope body and focuses it to a point for it to go through the other lenses.
The focusing of the light is why scopes can have such a small tube diameter compared to that of the lenses on either end.
The larger the objective lens, the more light is transmitted. The more light that’s transmitted, the brighter the sight picture, which allows the scope to be used in lower light conditions
In the middle is the erector system, which includes the reticle (or crosshairs) and the magnification lens.
You adjust magnification on a variable scope by turning what’s called a power ring. As you increase magnification, the magnification lens moves towards the front of the scope.
As you decrease magnification, the lens moves towards the back of the scope.
Depending on if the scope is a first focal plane or second focal plane scope, the reticle may be mounted in front of or behind the magnification lens.
On a first (or front) focal plane scope (FFP), the reticle is in front of the magnification lens. This causes the reticle to change size as you change magnification power. That allows the reticle to stay the same size relative to the target regardless of magnification setting.
On a second (or rear) focal plane scope (SFP or RFP), the reticle is behind the magnification lens, so it doesn’t change sizes with magnification.
Finally, the ocular lens is the lens closest to your eye, within the eyepiece. It magnifies the light back out, giving you your sight picture.
On the outside of the scope, you’ll also have turrets, or controls, for windage and elevation. For scopes with parallax correction, you’ll also have a turret for that.
What Do You Look For In The Best .22LR Scopes?
In addition to the things that we mentioned above that optimize a scope for .22LR shooting, there are a few other things to look for when choosing a scope:
Image clarity is one of the most important features for a scope.
A huge part of image clarity is a clear lens that doesn’t have warps, allows excellent light transmission, and doesn’t have an obvious tint.
Lenses should also have anti-reflective lens coating. That coating minimizes glare and helps preserve image clarity.
.22 scopes are more affordable than most others, but you still want to make sure it has features that will help it stay in good condition.
For one, you want a scope body made from a high-quality, lightweight, and durable material, such as aircraft-grade aluminum.
You also want to make sure it checks off all the important “proofs”: waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof. This will protect the scope from any drops, bumps, or wet weather conditions.
The lenses should be scratch proof as well. That said, you should still be sure to keep lens covers on them when you’re not using your scope.
Fast Target Acquisition
A scope should allow you to line up with your target quickly and easily. Two major contributors to that are long eye relief and a large eye box.
Eye relief is the distance from the eyepiece that your eye can be while still getting a clear, unencumbered image.
The eye box is the area behind the eyepiece in which you can see a full sight picture, no matter what magnification power you’re using. A larger eye box gives you more space to work with when pulling your scope up for a quick shot.
There are many factors that can cause your bullet to actually hit somewhere other than where you aimed. You can help control for these factors with the various adjustments on your scope.
We’ve already talked about how bullet drop can be a problem with rimfire rounds.
Having precise elevation adjustments can allow you to correct for it without relying on a BDC reticle. While a BDC reticle is great for one-off shots, adjusting your elevation setting is easier for multiple shots at the same range.
Windage adjustment allows you to correct for the impact of wind speed.
Your turrets should have crisp, tactile click adjustments to make it obvious that an adjustment has been made.
Parallax adjustment is also nice to have, but is especially important with centerfire scopes, so you can adjust the range down to the shorter ranges that .22LR is best for.
Best .22LR Scopes Reviewed
Now that the background is out of the way, let’s talk about our favorite .22 scopes.
1. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7×32 Rimfire Riflescope (Our Top Pick)
The Vortex Optics Crossfire II is wildly popular and widely recommended for virtually all rounds. It comes in several different magnification levels and objective lens sizes to suit a variety of needs and rounds, but our preferred one for shooting .22LR is the 2-7×32 Rimfire.
The Vortex Crossfire II goes up to 7x magnification, which is plenty for most .22 uses. It has a V-Plex MOA reticle that’s excellent for hunting, plus a fast focus eyepiece that’s great for making quick shots.
- 50 yard parallax setting
- Resettable MOA turrets
- 3.9” eye relief
- Not specifically designed for rimfire
- Reticle can be a bit fuzzy at higher magnification settings
- A bit heavy
The budget-friendly Barska Plinker-22 Riflescope is great for plinking and casual hunting. Sure, you shouldn’t expect the same quality that you get from some of the higher priced scopes on this list, but it’s still an excellent value.
It’s waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof with fully coated lenses and a matte black finish. It also has a simple 30/30 duplex reticle and goes up to 9x magnification. Windage and elevation are both adjustable at increments of ¼ MOA per click.
- Designed for .22LR
- Comes with Barka’s Lifetime Warranty
- Excellent value
- 100 yard parallax setting
- Included dovetail scope rings are incompatible with many rifles
3. Leupold VX-Freedom Rimfire 3-9×40 Riflescope (Best High End)
At the opposite price range is the Leupold VX-Freedom Rimfire scope. Of course, while this Leupold scope is pricey compared to other .22LR scopes, it’s still very affordable compared to scopes for other rounds.
The VX-Freedom Rimfire riflescope is lightweight and optimized for rimfire rounds. It uses Leupold’s proprietary Rimfire MOA reticle. The parallax is set to focus at 60 yards.
It also has the excellent image clarity that Leupold is known for. It has Leupold’s Twilight Light Management System, which reduces glare and improves light transmission. The objective lens is quite large, with a 40mm diameter. The lenses are also scratch resistant.
- Designed for rimfire
- 60 yard parallax setting
- Waterproof and fogproof
- Does not include a lens cap
Next up is the FX-I Rimfire, another great rimfire riflescope from Leupold.
Like the VX-Freedom Rimfire, the FX-I Rimfire is a high-end scope. The FX-I is a fixed 4x magnification scope, however, which makes it a little cheaper.
It, along with the scopes smaller 28mm objective lens, also makes the FX-I extremely lightweight. It weighs just 7.5 ounces, less than any other scope on this list.
To make up for the smaller lens, the FX-I features Leupold’s Multi-coat 4 lens system. This system delivers better clarity, improved contrast, and a bright sight picture.
This scope has a fine duplex reticle.
- Designed for rimfire
- 60 yard parallax setting
- Waterproof and fogproof
- Fixed magnification
- Smaller objective lens
Last is the Simmons .22 MAG Rimfire Riflescope. It’s another more budget-friendly scope that’s high on value.
It’s a bit on the heavier side, so you probably don’t want to use it for competition or hunting. However, the Simmons truplex reticle is great for plinking.
It has fully coated lenses for brighter, higher contrast images. It also has HydroShield lens coating to help keep the sight picture clear, even in wet conditions.
SureGrip rubber surfaces and the Quick Target Acquisition eyepiece make it easy to quickly zero and take your shot.
- Designed for rimfire
- Waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof
- A bit heavy
- Turrets are slightly stiff
Final Thoughts On .22LR Scopes
That covers it on the best .22LR scopes. With all the information we’ve given you, it should be easy to pick the best rimfire scope for your .22LR rifle.
All of the scopes we recommended here are a great choice. Which one’s right for you just depends on your budget and what you want to be able to do with your scope. Our reviews of each, plus the other information we’ve given you, should make narrowing it down a breeze.