There are far fewer handgun scopes than rifle scopes on the market, yet choosing a handgun scope can be much more confusing.
There are a lot of factors involved and they can be very different from those that you have to consider when choosing a rifle scope.
To help you out with this process, we’ve put together this guide to the best handgun scopes. We’ll start with some background info to help you better understand handgun scopes. Then we’ll move onto our recommendations for the top five best handgun scopes.
What Are Handgun Scopes?
Obviously, handgun scopes are scopes for handguns. But let’s go into a little bit about how that makes them different from rifle scopes.
Of course, handgun scopes help extend shooting accuracy to longer ranges, but handguns still aren’t long-range weapons. The barrel length is a pretty significant limiting factor.
Because of this, handgun scopes tend to have lower magnification than rifle scopes.
In fact, it’s very important to make sure that the magnification isn’t too high since it makes it difficult to shoot close range targets because it limits the field of view.
Similarly, the shorter range of handguns means that handgun scopes need a closer parallax setting than rifle scopes.
In addition, handguns aren’t held up close to the face the way long guns are. Handgun scopes, therefore, need much longer eye relief than rifle scopes.
They also need to be built for different recoil, since the size and shape of handguns cause the energy to distribute differently. This is especially the case for handgun cartridges with a lot of recoil, such as magnum rounds.
What Are The Different Types of Handgun Scopes?
Handgun scopes have either fixed or variable magnification.
Fixed magnification scopes have single possible magnification power, while variable power scopes have mobile magnification lenses which allow magnification power to be adjusted within a particular range.
That makes variable power scopes more versatile, but also heavier, easier to break, and more expensive.
A good fixed magnification scope with a moderate magnification power can still be a great option. It just won’t perform as well at as wide a range of distances.
How Does A Handgun Scope Work?
As for the actual optics, a handgun scope works largely the same as a rifle scope.
Light enters the scope through the objective lens, then travels into the main tube. The main tube houses the magnification system and the systems for windage, elevation, and (if applicable) parallax adjustments.
This causes the reticle to stay the same size regardless of the magnification power setting.
After the light exits the main tube, it enters the eyepiece where it goes through the ocular lens to exit the scope.
What Do You Look For In The Best Handgun Scopes?
We already mentioned things like magnification strength and eye relief above, but let’s talk about a few more important things to consider when selecting a handgun scope.
Most handgun scopes have a fine crosshair or duplex reticles. This helps with sighting for accuracy without blocking your view of your target.
Second focal plane scopes ensure that the reticle is always clearly visible without being too thick or too thin, regardless of your magnification setting.
Handgun scopes don’t need fancy ballistic reticles like BDC or mil-dot reticles.
Handgun scopes tend to be very affordable in comparison to rifle scopes. You still want to get the most out of your money though, so be sure to choose a durable scope.
Look for a scope that’s waterproof, fog-proof, and shockproof. O-ring seals and gas purging prevent fogging and water damage. Solid construction and a single-piece scope body help ensure that a scope is recoil proof.
Finally, a scope can be top-of-the-line in every other way, but if it doesn’t have good optics, it’s still a bad scope.
Lenses should be made from good quality glass without any warps or distortions. It should be at least fully coated and preferably multicoated. Lens coatings improve image clarity by improving light transmission and image definition.
Best Handgun Scopes Reviewed
Now that we’ve covered the background info, let’s talk about our picks for the best scopes for handguns.
Burris Handgun Scope 2-7x32mm (Our Top Pick)
Our top pick for the best pistol scope is the Burris Optics Handgun Scope.
It’s available with a Burris Plex reticle, which is a simple duplex reticle, or with a Ballistic Plex reticle, which is a similar design with finer lines and three hash marks below the center of the crosshairs to help with bullet drop compensation.
Finally, the Hammers Pistol Scout Scope is another great budget-friendly scope and only costs a little more than the NcStar scope. It’s also a long eye relief scope that’s set up to be optimal for pistol target shooting.
However, it can also be used as a scout scope for rifles and the long eye relief allows for forward mounting.
It has a fine 4plex reticle and precise, finger-adjustable windage and elevation turrets. The model we’ve linked above has a matte black finish, but the Hammers Pistol Scout Scope is also available with a silver chrome finish.
Comes with Weaver scope rings and bungee corded see-through lens caps
Quick focus eyepiece for fast, easy target acquisition
The image becomes less clear at higher magnifications
That wraps things up on the best handgun scopes. They can certainly be confusing, but hopefully, by now you have a much better understanding of how to choose the right one for you.
Each of the scopes that we’ve discussed here is a great option, though, so don’t sweat your decision too much. In fact, as affordable as several of these scopes are, you may even want to pick up a couple to try out yourself!