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Scope Magnification Chart: How Much Do You Need?

Dakota Potts | Updated February 26, 2024 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money
Cover photo of scope magnification chart with a scope view of an orange and white target

The magnification you should get for your scope depends entirely on what you’ll be using it for.

But how do you decide that?

That’s where a scope magnification chart comes in handy to simplify it for you. Take a look at the charts below and find out the other factors to consider when looking at scopes to buy.

And after this, take a look at our guide to what is a good hunting scope for a 30 06 rifle.

Key Takeaways

  • Scope magnification charts help in selecting the appropriate magnification for various shooting distances and target sizes
  • Your shooting style, skills, and preferences play a big role in deciding the best scope option for you
  • Understanding variable vs. fixed scopes allows you to make informed decisions for your shooting applications

Scope Magnification Chart

Scope view of a white target in a field

Scope magnification is vital for optimal shooting at longer distances. You need good target visibility, simple as that. And more magnification means clearer distant targets.

When you buy a riflescope, you need to consider its magnification. Options like 3-9x or 4-12x exist, with more expansive ranges offering versatility but costing more.

But what’s the best magnification for you?

“I would like to have my gun for protection.”

Taya Kyle

All these numbers don’t mean anything unless you understand how to apply them to distances and targets you’ll actually be shooting.

That’s why a scope magnification chart is such a useful tool that helps you choose the best magnification for your specific needs according to a specific distance or the type of target. 

So, here’s a diagram that grasps the broad strokes of magnification and distance in a scope. It also shows the differences between a reticle in the first focal plane (FFP) and the second focal plane (SFP): 

FFP and SFP scope views of a deer at different magnifications

Broadly speaking, short-range shooting (under 100 yards) needs 1x to 4x magnification. Medium-range (100–300 yards) requires 5x to 8x. For long-range (300–800 yards), opt for 8x to 12x, while extreme long-range (800+ yards) needs 12x to 25x.

Note that the objective lens size also matters. This is situated at the scope’s front and governs light entry. Larger lenses give you better light transmission and image quality, especially at high magnifications.

To sum it up, the right magnification depends on your rifle’s intended use, shooting range, target size, and personal preferences.

Scope Magnification by Distance Chart

Range in YardsRange in MetersScope Magnification (Large Targets)Scope Magnification (Small Targets)

Here’s a chart that offers initial values to help you find the optimal magnification for your shooting distance. But keep in mind that your shooting conditions may call for adjustments.

For example, at 50 yards, 2x to 4x magnification suits large targets, while 4x to 6x works for small ones.

Also, know that high magnifications can narrow your field of view and lessen light transmission. That’s why you need to pick the right magnification for both target size and distance to ensure you get a balanced and optimal shooting experience.

Thumb adjusting magnification ring on a scope

Best Scope Magnification for 50 Yards

Choosing the right scope magnification for 50-yard shooting hinges on target size and what you prefer. Typically, a 2x to 4x magnification suits large targets, while a magnification of up to 6x helps with precision on smaller targets.

Magnification choice can also be influenced by specific competitions. In 50-yard rimfire events, high magnifications like 24x are common, with some shooters even preferring up to 32x.

Fun Fact

In an effort to help protect endangered wildlife (like the native Condor), California passed a controversial bill banning the use of lead-based ammunition for hunting, with a second phase of banning the use of shotguns for small game mammals and upland game birds. Source: littlbug.com

In this case, ensure your chosen scope has an adjustable objective (AO) or is designed for rimfire shooting to allow for optimal 50-yard accuracy. Scopes set for 100-yard parallax may underperform at 50 yards.

Some great scopes to consider for 50-yard shooting include the Simmons 22 MAG 3-9×32 and Monstrum Tactical 2-7×32 AO.

Regardless of your choice, remember to prioritize optical quality and adjustability for top performance.

How Do I Choose the Right Magnification for Me?

Vortex Viper scope with a large objective lens mounted on a grey rifle

Now, the golden question. Selecting the correct scope magnification will enhance your accuracy and comfort in shooting.

But the questions you need to answer to figure this out are: What’s the target size you will usually come across? And what’s the typical distance?

Generally, larger targets or shorter distances need less magnification. As a guideline, use 1x magnification for every 100 feet. So, for a 300-feet target, a 3x magnification scope fits well.

Yet, personal preferences and shooting type matter too.

“In Arizona, anyone over 18 can buy an assault rifle, at 21 you can get a pistol, and you can carry your gun, loaded or unloaded, concealed or openly, just about anywhere.”

Jeanne Marie Laskas

If you engage in long-range shooting or hunting, you might prefer a higher magnification. For close-range situations, like tactical or self-defense, a lower magnification gives you quicker target acquisition and better peripheral vision.

To find your ideal magnification, the best way is to test different scopes in the field or at a shooting range. This experience can reveal what magnification best meets your needs.

Many shooters opt for variable magnification scopes, allowing for easy magnification adjustment. This versatility makes them popular among both beginners and experienced shooters.

So, to find the right magnification, consider your target size, shooting distance, personal preferences, and purpose. Trying out various magnifications and variable scopes will quickly clarify for you the ideal fit for your specific shooting needs.

Scope magnification chart for different-sized animals

Variable vs Fixed Scopes

When it comes to choosing a rifle scope for hunting or shooting activities, it’s essential to understand the differences between variable and fixed scopes. 

The thing is, both types have their advantages and drawbacks, and that all depends on your specific needs and preferences.

Variable scopes offer you the ability to adjust magnification levels depending on the situation. This flexibility makes them an attractive choice for those engaging in various shooting scenarios, from close-range to long-range shooting. 

Many variable scopes come with popular adjustments like 3-9x, 4-12x, or 2.5-10x magnification ranges. A higher-end option like a 4-16x can cover almost all shooting applications but may come with a higher price tag.

Fixed scopes, on the other hand, have a preset magnification level that cannot be adjusted. This limitation may seem like a disadvantage at first, but it can offer distinct benefits. 

One significant advantage is the clarity of fixed scopes. Since their settings remain constant, they typically provide a clearer line of sight, improving overall shooting capabilities. 

These scopes are also known for their durability and simplicity, allowing users to focus on their target without worrying about adjusting their scope’s settings.

Now, when comparing the two types of scopes, it’s crucial to consider your specific needs. I know I keep saying it, but it really is what counts. 

For shooting sports where various magnification ranges might be advantageous, a variable scope is likely the better option. However, if you want a simple and durable scope for hunting at a consistently manageable distance, a fixed scope may be a better fit.

So, simply put, variable scopes provide flexibility and adaptability for various shooting situations, while fixed scopes offer clarity, simplicity, and durability. The choice between the two comes down to you and your requirements.

For similar reading see our write up on the most powerful scope magnification in the world.


What is the range of a 3x9x40 scope?

The range of a 3x9x40mm scope is around 100–300 yards (91.4–274.3 meters). This is suitable for short to medium-range shooting, but the actual range depends on the rifle’s capacity, shooter’s skill, and environment.

What magnification do I need on my scope?

The magnification you need for your scope depends on what you’ll use it for and your personal preferences: close range, (25–100 yards / 22.8–91.4 meters) requires 1x to 4x, medium range (100–400 yards / 91.4–365.7 meters) needs 4x to 9x, and long-range (400+ yards / 365.7+ meters) requires 9x or more. Choose based on what suits your needs 80-90% of the time.

What is a 3 9×40 scope?

A 3 9×40 scope is a scope that offers 3x to 9x variable magnification and a 40mm objective lens. It is a great scope for short to medium ranges (100–300 yards / 91.4–274.3 meters), has good light-gathering capabilities, and its versatility is why hunters and target shooters favor it.

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