Note: This post is about scope setups that can provide both long & short range capabilities. I also wrote a buyer’s guide for long-range scopes, which includes what features to look for and specific recommendations by price point. You can find that here: Best Long-Range Scopes: Buyers Guide & Features To Look For.
Lots of people have asked me about what the best scope setup is for a long-range rifle that they plan to take hunting. The problem with most long-range scopes is that it can be almost impossible to engage targets that pop-up at close ranges unexpectedly. Nothing is more frustrating than bumping up a trophy animal at close range, and struggling to find them in your scope to take the shot.
My first tip, is to always start with your scope set on the lowest zoom power possible. You virtually always have time to zoom into a long-distance target, but when a target pops up at close range you rarely have the luxury to adjust the zoom before you need to make the shot. If you find yourself fumbling around with the zoom in that moment, chances are the opportunity will be gone before you get your gun up. So as you are walking to your stand, or anytime you are stalking just go ahead and zoom out your scope to give you the widest possible view for those quick shots.
There are a couple other options for handling the combination of long-range and close-range shots with the same gun:
Option 1: Higher Priority Long-Range Shots, but Short-Range Capable
My personal favorite, is a setup with a quality long-range scope (in the 5-25x zoom range) with a reflex red-dot sight attached to it (such as the Burris FastFire, Trijicon RMR, Dr. Optics, or J-Point models). This allows you to engage long-range targets with an ideal setup, but still dispatch short-range targets using the reflex sight instead of trying to find something in a scope that best-case scenario is still zoomed at 5x. This is the approach used by many 3 gun competitors, who essentially have to engage targets at both long and short ranges in a single course of fire. So it is a proven approach to this problem.
I was talking with Hans Spuhr about this at the 2013 Shot Show, and he showed me that if you mount the reflex sight at a 45 degree angle on the right side of the weapon (as shown in the first photo), you can simply rotate the weapon while keeping your normal cheek weld to get your line of sight inline with the reflex sight. Some people prefer the red dot be directly above the scope, which keeps it more streamlined. In that case you would just raise your head up slightly to view through the reflex sight … not as natural to get in the right position, but many shooters can make it work.
You can find quality mounts for this type of setup made by Spuhr (the coolest scope mount system on the planet) or LaRue. If you are on a really tight budget, you can also just find a cheap $20 attachment off Amazon that mounts to your scope tube and essentially gives you a picatanny rail you can attach the red-dot to.
Option 2: High-Priority Short-Range Shots, but Long(er)-Range Capable
This setup doesn’t have the same long-range capabilities that a true long-range scope could provide, but it is another way people solve problem of transitioning from short to long range shooting. The setup below is an EOTech HHS II setup with a flip-to-side 3x magnifer. There is essentially a lever below the magnifier that when you push it will cause the magnifier to flip to the side in the blink of an eye. You just reach up and move the magnifier back inline with the sight to go back to a magnified view. This really is a setup primarily designed for short-range targets, but with some capability to engage targets that a 1x zoom (i.e. iron sight or reflex sight) setup couldn’t on it’s own. There are third parties like Patriot Arms that offer 7x zoom magnifiers, instead of the standard 3x magnifier offered by EOTech.
Other options for this is the Trijicon ACOG 4x32mm with RMR Red Dot Sight or the Leupold Mark 4 HAMR 4x24mm with DeltaPoint. These are similar concepts, but more of a cross between the EOTech and Option 1. There isn’t a magnifier to flies in and out of place, but instead just a shorter range scout-style scope with a red dot on top … in a very compact package.
Option 3: RIDICULOUSLY HUGE Zoom Range … One Scope To Rule Them All
One other option is to go with a scope that has a zoom range into the lower numbers. Essentially iron sights or reflex sights are 1x, so if the scope goes down to 1x (i.e. no zoom) it should be fairly easy to find a target at short ranges. You could go with a “scout” or “patrol” style scope that have a 1-8x, or some of the new scopes coming out have a huge range such as 3-18x. Finding an animal in 3x zoom seems feasible, and 18x of zoom is also enough to engage most long-range targets (I’ve personally hit targets at 3/4 of a mile with an 18x scope).
The problem is the technology to pack that range into a scope is really new, and typically only found on very high-end, just released scopes. You will essentially be paying for the R&D that went into making the scope, so they are virtually all very pricey. If you can make some compromise on the range (a couple numbers on the low end, or a few numbers on the high-end) … you can find similar options that are more affordable.
Here are a few examples of scopes related to this option:
- Schmidt Bender PM II 3-27×56 High Power ($6150 street)
- Leupold Mark 6 3-18x44mm ($1,850 street)
- Leupold Mark 8 3.5-25x56mm ($3,300 street)
- U.S. Optics SR-8s 1-8x27mm ($1,900 street)