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What Does 4-16×50 Mean On a Scope [Explained Simply]

Jeramy Smith | Updated February 25, 2024 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money
A hand adjusting the windage knob of a 4-16x50 scope

What is the first feature you look at when purchasing a scope? For most people, it’s magnification. Given that the point of a scope is to magnify a target, it’s no wonder why magnification is the most important feature to consider. 

But what does 4-16×50 mean on a scope? Well, here we’ll examine these numbers and how they matter to your shooting.

For more on scopes, see our article on top DMR optic choices.

What Does 4-16×50 Mean on Rifles Scopes?

4-16×50 represents scope magnification. If this is the number marked on your scope, it means it can magnify the size of your target, starting from 4 to 16 times. The number 50 represents the objective lens diameter.

So, what does 4-16×50 mean on a scope? Well, it means this scope has a power magnification range that starts at 4X and can be adjusted to 16X.

The set of numbers that appear before the ‘x’ refers to the magnification power. When you look through a scope, that’s how magnified the target will be.

In this case, we have 4-16 magnification. That means you have an adjustable scope that lets you see the target between 4 to 16 times larger than its normal size. Such a scope is called a variable scope.

Next, we look at the objective diameter, the number after the ‘x.’ This is the objective lens diameter measured in millimeters.

In this case, we have 50, which means the objective lens diameter of our scope is 50mm. The size of an objective lens dictates the amount of light that will enter the scope. As a rule, the larger the diameter, the more light the scope can gather, making the target appear clearer and brighter even in low-light situations.

Once you understand these two concepts, it becomes easy to decipher the 4-16×50 scope meaning.

4-16×50 Scope Range

The range of 4-16×50 is about 400 yards. However, some users claim they can make long-range shots of further than 400 yards. In addition, a shooter’s ability and ammunition also contribute to the range of this scope.

Learning How to Read Scope Numbers

Vortex Crossfire II ocular housing

At first glance, scope numbers may seem confusing, especially if this is your first time purchasing a scope. But once you know what to look for, picking a scope tailored to your needs becomes easier.

As we’ve mentioned, these numbers represent magnification power and objective lens diameter. From these numbers, you can also find out whether it’s a fixed power or a variable scope.

For instance, if you pick one marked as 4×32, it means the scope has a fixed magnification power of 4, and the objective lens diameter is 32mm.

On the other hand, a variable scope features three different numbers. A 4-16×50 is a variable scope. The first number represents the lowest magnification power, and the second represents the highest.

The last number is the objective lens diameter. Now, you might be wondering which lens this is, considering that most scope comes with two lenses. Well, the lens located the farthest from your rifle’s stock and closest to your target is the objective lens.

There are occasions where the scope number won’t have a dash. For instance, you can get a scope marked 4 16×50, but this is still a variable power scope with a magnification power that ranges from 4 to 16 and an objective lens size of 50mm.

Not all rifle scope manufacturers include a dash between the first two numbers. Just know that even without the dash, all scope manufacturers employ the same format when highlighting magnification power. (1)

Riflescope mounted on a gun on leaves

Why Do Scope Numbers Matter?

Anyone who has been to a shooting range knows that scope numbers are significant. As it tells you how much a scope can magnify a target, it’ll inform your buying choices as you pick based on your shooting needs.

The higher the magnification, the closer the target will appear. This will allow you to make accurate shots, especially in long-range situations. And as any experienced shooter will tell you, accuracy is key to taking down targets.

Common Types of Scopes

Another aspect of choosing a scope is understanding the different types that exist in the market and picking one that meets your needs. Take a look at the most common scopes:

First Focal Plane

A first focal plane scope is also called a front focal plane scope (FFP). In this type of sight, the reticle is placed toward the front of the scope’s tube, in front of the magnification lens.

With this type of scope, the reticle size will appear to shrink or grow as you decrease or increase the magnification respectively.

The advantage of this is that your holdover values or trajectory markings remain accurate despite the magnification setting you choose. If you hate doing math, you’ll love this scope. The drawback is that these scopes tend to be more costly.

Second Focal Plane

In a second focal plane scope (SFP), the reticle is located behind the magnification lens and closer to your eye. Also referred to as the rear focal plane, the reticle size doesn’t change as you increase or decrease magnification. Such reticles are great for low-light hunting situations or in scopes that don’t use hash marks to estimate range.

It’s actually quite popular among law enforcement and hunters as the SFP scope has great resolution and a more compact design. They’re also less expensive, but they’re not as accurate or reliable as FFP scopes at longer ranges.

Illuminated mil-dot reticle with second focal plane aiming at deer

Fixed Power Scopes

Fixed power scopes are probably the most basic type of scope in the market. As the name suggests, they have a fixed magnification setting. For instance, if you buy a scope marked 4×32, it means the scope magnifies the target four times only.

These have become quite rare as most manufacturers have realized many shooters prefer scopes with variable magnification.

But with that said, they still have a few advantages. For one, they’re easy to use. You don’t need to adjust any magnification settings. Just aim at your target and shoot.

In addition, the fixed rifle scopes have fewer lenses, making them brighter than their variable magnification counterparts. However, this comparison only stands if the quality of the glass and coating are the same.

Another advantage of fixed power scopes is that they’re lighter because they lack the extra dials. So, you might want to consider these scopes if you want to carry lighter equipment in the field.

On the other hand, fixed power scopes aren’t as accurate as variable power scopes. If you’re hunting and your prey comes too near or far away, some of your shots may go off target.

Variable Power Scopes

Variable power scopes offer a range of magnifications, and it’s what makes them so versatile. You can pick a low-power setting for close-range shooting or a high-power setting for long-range distances, and all it takes is a turn of a dial.

With these scopes, you get total control over the magnification you want. Whether the target moves farther away or approaches you, you can adjust the magnification to suit your situation.

Variable power scopes have become the standard today. In fact, only a few companies are still producing fixed power scopes.

While learning to use them takes time, you’ll find them effective once you grasp how the adjustments work.

To get the best shots, select a magnification power that is right for your usual distances. Too much magnification comes with disadvantages, like a limited field of view. (2)

For more reading see our article on what do the numbers on a scope mean?

Frequently Asked Question

What range is a 4 16×50 scope good for?

A 4 16×50 scope is good for up to 400 yards (365.7 meters). However, it’s possible to shoot further based on a shooter’s skills and the ammunition used.

How far can a 16×50 scope see?

A 16×50 scope can see beyond 800 yards (731.5 meters). For larger targets, it’s possible to get a good image at 1000 yards (914.4 meters).

What does 4 16 mean on a scope?

A 4 16 on a scope represents the magnification range. In this case, you can see targets between 4 and 16 times larger than they appear to your naked eye.

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