For many varmint hunters, varmint hunting isn’t just sport. It’s also a necessary part of caring for their property and even livelihood.
But what is a varmint exactly?
In short, it’s a non-game pest species.
Table Of Contents
- Our Best Varmint Scopes
- What Are Varmint Rifle Scopes?
- What Are The Different Types of Scopes for Varmint Hunting?
- How Do Varmint Scopes Work?
- What Do You Look For In The Best Rifle Scopes for Varmint Hunting?
- Best Scopes for Varmint Hunting Reviewed
- Final Thoughts On Varmint Scopes
Our Best Varmint Scopes
- ATN X-Sight II HD 3-14x Day & Night Rifle Scope (Our Top Pick)
- Tasco Target & Varmint 2.5–10x 42mm Riflescope (Best Budget)
- NightForce NXS™ 5.5-22X56 Riflescope (Best High End)
- Vortex Optics Crossfire II Hog Hunter 3-12X56 AO Riflescope
- Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40mm Riflescope
“Varmint” most commonly brings to mind small pest mammals and birds. For example, things like rabbits, rats, squirrels, prairie dogs, crows, and beavers.
However, it can also refer to larger invasive species.
These include wild boars, and potential predators, such as coyotes, owls, or weasels.
Varmint hunting can occur with a variety of different rounds: .223 Remington, .22LR, .22 Hornet, .22-250 Remington, and .17 HMR are popular choices.
Most any round in that caliber range works, though. High-velocity rounds are particularly favored.
Whichever round you prefer, having a good scope is essential for getting the most out of your other equipment.
To help you choose the right varmint hunting scope for you, we’ve put together this buying guide. We’ll start with some background, then move on to our top 5 picks for the best varmint hunting scopes.
You can take a sneak-peek at that list below.
What Are Varmint Rifle Scopes?
Varmint hunting scopes are what the name sounds like. They’re scopes optimized for hunting varmints. Many scopes are advertised for varmint hunting.
However, there are also plenty of other scopes that are well-suited for it. Look for these features to identify a high-quality scope:
The most common reticle for varmint scopes is the bullet drop compensation reticle. BDC reticles are sometimes also called rangefinding reticles.
BDC reticles are similar to a traditional crosshair or duplex reticle but have hash marks along the 6 o’clock line.
These hash marks are positioned in fixed intervals, measured in MOAs or MRADs. These units are angular measurements, so the hash marks help you calculate holdover.
Mil-dot reticles are also relatively common. These reticles resemble BDC reticles, but also have marks along the horizontal line. These marks allow for windage adjustment.
Varmint hunting seldom occurs at long distances. Even “long-range” varmint shots generally max out at around 300 yards. Therefore varmint scopes don’t typically have very powerful magnification.
At the same time, varmints are frequently smaller than game species. To counter that, you may want higher magnification than you would when hunting a larger animal at the same range.
On the other hand, be wary of using magnification that’s too strong, as it limits your field of view.
What magnification you want also depends on whether you’re using a fixed or variable magnification scope. And that brings us to our next section…
What Are The Different Types of Scopes for Varmint Hunting?
Varmint hunting scopes fall into one of two categories:
Fixed Magnification Scopes
Fixed magnification scopes don’t have adjustable magnification. Because of this, when choosing a fixed magnification scope, you’ll want a magnification power that works for the most possible distances.
However, fixed magnification scopes are best for hunting varmints within a relatively small range of distances and that are relatively consistent in size.
For hunting within about 100 yards, a magnification of about 4x is ideal. For 100 to 200 yards, around 8x is good. And for 200 to 300 yards, 10x is good.
However, you may prefer a stronger or weaker magnification. It depends on the size of the varmints you’re hunting and your personal preferences.
Variable Magnification Scopes
Variable magnification scopes allow shooters to adjust the magnification strength. This is great for hunting in a wider variety of situations, including at various distances and varmints of different sizes.
For hunting within about 100 yards, look for a magnification range of about 3-9x. For 100 to 200 yards, look for approximately 4-12x.
And for 200 to 300 yards, look for 6-18x. Again, however, these are approximate ranges. You may want something a little different based on what you’re hunting and your personal preference.
How Do Varmint Scopes Work?
Varmint scopes work pretty much the same way as any other scope. They transmit a picture by allowing light to travel through a series of lenses.
The light enters the scope through the objective lens. This is the lens farthest from your eye. The objective lens focuses the light to a narrow beam to travel through the other lenses. It may also transfer out certain wavelengths of light for a clearer image that’s free of glare.
Next, the light enters the erector tube, which contains the reticle and magnification lens. Most varmint scopes have second focal plane (SFP) reticles.
This means that the reticle is positioned behind the magnification lens.
From there, the light travels into the eyepiece, where it’s spread back out. It exits through the optical lens, where you see the sight picture.
What Do You Look For In The Best Rifle Scopes for Varmint Hunting?
Aside from being well-suited for varmint hunting, you also want your varmint scope to be a good scope in general. Here are some features to look for to make sure you’re choosing a high-quality scope:
Scopes can face a lot of abuse, so make sure that you’re choosing one that can take it.
Look for a scope that’s O-ring sealed and nitrogen or argon-purged to make it waterproof and fog proof so it can handle wet weather conditions.
Also, look for one that’s ruggedly constructed. Your scope should have a single-piece tube. It should be made from a durable material like aircraft-grade aluminum. This helps ensure that the scope is shockproof.
Ideally, the lenses will have a scratch-resistant coating, but at the very least you should make sure you have lens covers for them.
Most scopes come with them, but if not, the manufacturer typically sells compatible ones separately.
At varmint hunting ranges, parallax adjustment isn’t super important. You do still want to make sure you have windage and elevation adjustment.
The adjustment turrets should be relatively easy to manipulate. At the same time, you shouldn’t be able to accidentally move them.
They should provide an audible and tactile click when an adjustment is made. They should move smoothly between adjustment intervals.
Smaller adjustment intervals allow for more precise adjustments. However, they also require more time for making larger adjustments.
You want a crisp, clear, and bright sight picture with excellent definition and color fidelity.
Multicoated lenses are ideal, but at the very least, lenses should be fully-coated. Lens coatings help ensure good contrast, improve light transmission, and reduce glare. Coatings may also provide scratch resistance.
Best Scopes for Varmint Hunting Reviewed
Now let’s move on to the scopes themselves.
ATN X-Sight II HD 3-14x Day & Night Rifle Scope (Our Top Pick)
Our top pick is the ATN X-Sight II. With built-in night vision, in not only a green but also a black and white setting, this scope is great for varmint hunting in low light conditions.
It also has a built-in smart rangefinder and ballistic calculator, for the easy possible target acquisition. It even has a profile manager that allows you to create different profiles for different caliber weapons.\
- Night vision
- Built-in range finder and ballistic calculator
- Profile manager
- Eye relief is a little short
Tasco Target & Varmint 2.5–10x 42mm Riflescope (Best Budget)
If you’re looking for a quality scope on a budget, the Tasco Target & Varmint is a great option.
It features parallax adjustment as well as windage and elevation adjustment for the utmost precision. The True Mil-Dot reticle helps with precision even more.
The 2.5-10x magnification range is versatile enough for virtually any varmint within a few hundred yards.
- Shock-resistant, fog proof, and waterproof
- Illuminated True Mil-Dot reticle
- Fully multi-coated lenses
- Doesn’t have the optical quality of other scopes on this list
NightForce NXS 5.5-22X56 Riflescope (Best High End)
If money isn’t an object, the NightForce NXS is hard to beat.
The 5.5-22x magnification range is the most powerful on our list, making this scope ideal for small varmints and extended ranges.
It has adjustable parallax starting at 50 yards to help with accuracy. The side focus adjustment knob makes it easy to change your setting. It also has a MOAR illuminated reticle.
- Illuminated MOAR reticle
- Powerful magnification
- Zero stop turrets
- High price
Vortex Optics Crossfire II Hog Hunter 3-12X56 AO Riflescope
The Vortex Optics Crossfire II is one of our favorite and most commonly recommended scopes. The Hog Hunter AO version is specifically designed for hunting large varmints, like feral hogs.
AO stands for adjustable objective, which means that parallax is adjusted through a rotating objective bell. On the other end of the scope is a fast-focus eyepiece, for easy reticle focusing.
And speaking of the reticle, this scope has a V-Brite illuminated reticle. This reticle uses Vortex’s V-Plex reticle as a base but adds an illuminated center dot.
- Matte hard-coat anodized finish
- Fully multi-coated lenses
- Capped reset turrets
- Some shooters may prefer as side parallax adjustment knob
Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40mm Riflescope
Last up is the Leupold VX-3i, another scope that we find ourselves recommending a lot.
This scope’s best feature is the Twilight Max Light Management System. This system optimizes the scope’s light transmission to reduce glare and provides excellent lens clarity. It also adds up to 20 minutes of additional shooting light.
The scope is also highly compact and lightweight. At the same time, it’s very durable. It’s waterproof, fog proof, and impact resistant. The lenses as scratch-resistant.
- Twilight Max Light Management System
- Excellent durability
- Unilluminated duplex reticle
Final Thoughts On Varmint Scopes
That brings us to a close on the best varmint scopes.
Each of these is an excellent option that would be a great addition to your varmint hunting setup. Which of them is best, however, just depends on your personal preferences and needs.
Finally, the NightForce NXS is ideal for shooters looking for a scope that pulls out all the stops.
Now just grab the one that fits you best and get hunting.