.22 is one of the most popular cartridge in the world measured by units sold. There are numerous variants both in centerfire and rimfire cartridges. Popularity perhaps originated from the fact that .22 is such a cost effective round for varmint, small game and plinking.
.22 rimfire has effective range up to 125 yards in some variants compare to 400 yards for .22 centerfire. This is expected of centerfire rounds.
Thus, the best .22 scope must accommodate the characteristics of these rounds and enhance the shooter’s accuracy. I’ve handpicked some of the scopes I see fit for this task.
To summarize, here’s my list of the Best .22 Scope.
Best .22 Scope
Before diving into the details of each, let’s discuss what we’re looking for in a .22 scope.
What makes a good .22 scope ?
Rimfire – Since the effective range for .22 rimfire cartridges are between 20 to 125 yards, one doesn’t need high magnification for this task. A 2-7x or 3-9x should do the job.
Centerfire – Varmints are considered small targets. Depending on your target range, appropriate magnification might be 4-16x or higher.
Objective Lens Diameter
Objective lens diameter, coupled with magnification power leads to exit pupil size. This is define by : Exit Pupil Size = Obj. Lens Diameter / Magnification Power
Too small exit pupil size leads to small sight picture through the lens. For an extreme case, imagine looking through a straw. Too large exit pupil size, meaning larger than your eye pupil by a wide margin, wasted some light as it doesn’t enter your eye.
Larger objective lens gives better light transmission. However the downside of too big objective lens are higher price and heavier weight. In some case, it’s also higher mounts.
Pick larger objective lens if you use high magnification and smaller objective lens it you use low magnification.
Glass and Lens Coating
Every quality scope needs good glass and lens coating. This is especially true on high magnification scopes with wide range of zoom. Since these are the main factor contributing to image quality and light transmission. Durability is also enhanced due to waterproofing and scratch resistance coatings.
Here are some normally quoted jargons for lens coating.
- Coated: A single layer on at least one lens surface
- Fully Coated: A single layer on all air to glass surfaces
- Multicoated: Multiple layers on at least one lens surface
- Fully Multi Coated: Multiple layers on all air to glass surfaces
That said, these lens coating jargons don’t mean much for determining quality. As high quality “coated lens” can beat low quality “Fully Multi Coated lens”. Quantity doesn’t beat quality for lens coating.
Eye Relief and Eyebox
Eye relief = Space between your aiming eye and the scope for optimal sight image
With .22’s low recoil, small eye relief would not lead to scope kicking your eye. However a scope with small eye relief mounting too far forward might lead to uncomfortable shooting position. Make sure the scope’s eye relief and mounting platform fit your needs.
Note that standard rifle scope eye relief is 3”-4”.
Eyebox = Amount of wiggle room for your aiming eye placement
A small eyebox scope can mean less than half an inch room for optimal eye placement. When people complain about “small sweet spot”, it’s equivalent to small eyebox. This results in much slower target acquisition and frustration during field use. The issue normally magnifies itself on higher magnification scopes.
Larger tube has the advantage of added durability and larger range of internal turrets adjustments. The downside is that it’s more expensive and heavier than smaller tubes. Another added benefit for bigger tube is that it normally also comes with larger objective lens, thus improving light transmission.
Rimfire – 1 Inch tube is suitable for this.
Centerfire – Both 1 inch or 30mm tube are good.
There are 3 main groups of reticle pattern
- Simple – Duplex, NikoPlex, V-Plex, Dot, etc.
- Mil-Dot, MOA – Crosshairs
- BDC – Bullet Drop Compensation calibrated to particular rounds
Rimfire – This is a matter of preference. For me, simple reticle is good enough. It is a no clutter reticle type which makes fastest target acquisition.
Centerfire – If you intend to also shoot long range, Simple reticles are not good enough as they provide no holdover nor distance measurement tool.
First Focal Plane or Second Focal Plane
First focal plane makes the reticle holdovers accurate on all magnification but is often not available on cheaper scopes. Second focal plane on the other hand, doesn’t keep up with zoom level which means the holdovers are accurate only on one magnification, mostly the highest.
Rimfire – Second Focal Plane
Centerfire – First focal plane reticle is the go to choice if you intend to also shoot long range. If not, pick second focal plane to save costs.
Turrets and reticle matching
If you choose Mil-dot or MOA reticle, you would want to check whether turrets markings match the reticle. For example, a Mil-Dot reticle should go along with Mil-dot turrets. Or MOA reticle and MOA turrets. That way you don’t have to do unit conversions in the field.
If you choose other reticle type or don’t care about long range shooting, this isn’t a thing to consider
Desirable turrets are precise and repeatable. Each click must be tactile, audible and exact as shown on the markings. Turrets should be easy enough to adjust with your fingers as you will be doing that a lot if you’re into long range shooting. But must not be too loose to prevent unintentional adjustments. Furthermore, Zero resettable and zero stops features are a plus.
Hunting style turrets often are low profile and come with caps to prevent unintentional adjustment especially when out hunting. Target (shooting) style turrets are high profile without caps. This makes adjusting on the fly easier.
For your .22, it depends on what’s your main purpose for it.
If you intend to shoot under 20 yards or over 250 yards range, getting a parallax adjustment is a good idea as it helps eliminate parallax error. On the other hand, if you shoot between 20 to 250 yards, get fixed parallax scope to save cost.
The ability to hold zero, precise turrets adjustment over time, lens and body durability are essential for any scopes. Furthermore, the scope must be able to endure the harsh field environment, such as extreme temperature, water submersion and a healthy amount of force.
In addition, reliable manufacturer’s warranty goes a long way to ensure usability of a scope. This aspect also helps maintain reasonable price when selling the scope in second hand market.
A perfect scope for .22 shouldn’t be too heavy. A too heavy scope could unbalanced your rifle and make it feel “top heavy”. This also depends on your mounting position.
1. Vortex Optics Diamondback 2-7×35 Rimfire, V-Plex Reticle
Vortex diamondback rimfire has very clear glass with little to none chromatic aberrations on it. It’s clear all the way from 2x up to 7x. The optic also work well during dawn and dusk when game are most active. It is good for both varmint hunting and plinking.
Magnification 2-7x is adequate for most rimfire use. But it has simple V-Plex reticle which provides no holdovers. That means longer range shot might be a bit difficult for this scope.
Turrets are crisp, audible and tactile. This reduce the need to look at the turrets marking when adjusting on the fly. That said, the scope is more of a set and forget type. It sure makes zeroing easier, but the important thing is that it holds zero.
For rimfire rounds, the scope is made durable enough and would not budge on mere 1,000 rounds. Plus, it is durable for field use, waterproof, fogproof and shockproof. Furthermore, Vortex offers very reliable and transferable Lifetime Warranty. Another safe bet I presume.
One shortcoming is that it’s rather heavy at 14.2 ounce.
|✓ High quality glass||✗ A bit heavy (14.2 oz)|
|✓ Crisp and tactile turrets|
|✓ Durable with transferable reliable Lifetime Warranty|
Price : $$
2. Leupold FX-I Rimfire 4x28mm Fine Duplex
This fixed 4×28 from Leupold is another high quality scope candidate. Due to its easier construction of fixed power scope, image quality is razor sharp. It’s also very lightweight (7.5 oz) and compact (Length 9.2 Inches).
The objective lens is small at 28mm, but with 4x magnification your exit pupil diameter is 28 / 4 = 7. This is big enough for use in low light condition.
Reticle type is a duplex with no holdovers, plus magnification is only at 4x, the scope is not suited for long range. But if you’re plinking or varmint hunting at close range, the scope is a nice option.
Turrets track well, but have no zero reset nor zero stop. Eye relief and eyebox is also generous. This scope, along with other Leupold products, is durable and weather resistant. You can use it in the field with confidence that the scope will not fail you. Furthermore, Leupold products are a safe bet.
|✓ Very clear image||✗ Fixed power scope|
|✓ Very lightweight (7.5 oz) and compact||✗ Not for long range|
|✓ Turrets track well|
|✓ Good eye relief and eyebox|
|✓ Durable with transferable reliable Lifetime Warranty|
Price : $$$
3. Tasco MAG 3-9X32 Rimfire Series 30/30 Reticle
This one is a budget option for 3-9x rimfire scopes. Image quality is not as clear nor bright as other scopes mentioned in this article. Plus, on higher magnification it gets dimmer noticeably. But it’s usable and good for plinking.
The scope features a simple reticle type with no holdovers. The turrets work fine for zeroing but are not finger adjustable. And there are no features such as zero reset nor zero stop.
One good thing about the scope is that it’s lightweight (11.3 oz) and the parallax is set at 50 yards like most rimfire scopes. Unfortunately, the scope is not very durable and comes with only 1 year warranty.
|✓ Very low price||✗ Not very durable|
|✓ Good for plinking||✗ Not great in low light|
|✓ Lightweight (11.3 oz)||✗ 1 Year Warranty|
|✗ Turrets not finger adjustable|
Price : $
4. Bushnell Optics Drop Zone-22 BDC Rimfire Reticle, Target Turrets, 2-7×32
The Bushnell AR-22 is made specifically for rimfire rifles with .22 ammunition. Its BDC (Bullet Drop Compensation) reticle is calibrated to 40g .22LR bullet trajectory. This way, you can extend your range farther with ease.
Image quality is clear and bright. But there’s a slight distortion around the edges. It comes with target style turrets, which means high profile, no caps and finger adjustable and zero resettable. The clicks are audible but are rather stiff. That said, magnification ring is also stiff too.
The scope has side parallax knob, which normally is not that useful for range within 20-75 yards. But I suppose it’s better to have it than not. One complain is that the parallax knob is also hard to turn.
On the bottom of the turrets, there is a protruding knob which will prevent you from using low mount. So make sure to get medium or high mount to go with this scope.
The optics weighs 19.6 ounce which is considered heavy for a rimfire scope. But the good thing is that it is durable and will hold zero even with some minor bang on the scope. Furthermore, it has a reliable warranty from Bushnell.
|✓ Clear and bright||✗ Slight distortion around the edges|
|✓ BDC for .22LR||✗ Stiff magnification ring, turrets and parallax adjustment|
|✓ Has parallax adjustment||✗ Can’t use low mount|
|✗ Heavy (19.6 Oz)|
Price : $$
5. Primary Arms 4-14X44 Tactical Scope, SFP (Centerfire)
This is an option for .22 Centerfire to shoot varmint beyond 100 yards. The Primary Arms 4-14×44 is designed for affordable tactical and long range shooting. It also has matching Mil-Dot reticle and Mil-Dot turrets. This is a very good thing as you don’t have to do conversions during your shots.
Magnification power of 4-14x is enough for long range shooting. And 44mm objective makes low light shooting on high magnification possible. Image quality is clear and crisp on all power.
At this price, it is very challenging to make a First Focal Plane scope. But Primary Arms does it. This optics is built on a 30mm tube, which makes it more durable. The turrets are precise and repeatable. Each click is just 0.1 Mil and have internal adjustments of 30 Mil which is quite generous. However, the clicks feel a bit mushy and could use some improvements. The turrets are also zero resettable with an Allen wrench but no zero stop function. The scope also features side parallax adjustment.
Eye relief is a bit small at 3.14″ – 3.22″. But it’s not a big deal as long as heavy recoil rounds are not used.
The downside are that the Primary Arms is heavy (24 ounce) and has only 3 year warranty. This Primary Arms can hold zero up to .308 caliber. This spells no trouble for .22 Centerfire. Further more it is waterproof, fogproof and shockproof.
|✓ Matching Mil/Mil reticle and turrets||✗ A bit small eye relief|
|✓ Good image quality on all magnification||✗ Heavy (24 oz)|
|✓ First Focal Plane||✗ Slightly mushy turrets|
|✓ Precise, repeatable and zero resettable turrets||✗ 3 years warranty|
|✓ Wide range of 0.1 Mil turrets adjustment||✗ Not expensive but not so cheap|
|✓ Has parallax adjustment|
Price : $$$
For .22 rimfire, the Vortex Diamondback 2-7×35 is the best rimfire scope in my opinion. With its high quality glass and good low light capability, it can be used to both varmint hunting and plinking effectively.
Its V-Plex reticle is uncluttered and ideal for fast target acquisition. The turrets are crisp, audible and easy to zero. It is a bit heavy at 14.2 ounce, but that makes the scope durable. It can withstand recoil and harsh weather for years to come. Plus, if things go wrong you still have Vortex VIP Lifetime Warranty which is considered very reliable and transferable. This is good in case you want to sell it in the future.
For .22 centerfire, go for the Primary Arms for high magnification, durable has parallax adjustment and first focal plane scope.