Rimfire cartridges are known for its affordability and light recoil. In the past, rimfire cartridges of .44 caliber up to .56 caliber used to be commonplace. Today, larger rimfire cartridges are replaced by centerfire cartridges. What’s left now are .17 and .22 cartridges which are great for plinking and varmint hunting.
.22 are very cheap and can cost only one tenth of .308. Hence .22 are ideal for plinking due to very cheap costs. .17 are 3-4 times more expensive than .22 (still cheaper than most centerfire cartridges) but has flatter bullet trajectory (better for longer range) and better expansion. This makes .17 ideal for varmint hunting.
One thing to note is the difference between rimfire scopes and centerfire scopes. There are 2 major distinct features for rimfire scopes :
- Less durability – Due to the fact that rimfire recoil is much less than centerfire recoil, rimfire scopes are less durable than centerfire scopes.
- Parallax settings – Due to less effective range, fixed parallax rimfire scopes are set to be parallax free at 50 or 100 yards while fixed parallax centerfire scope are set at 100 or 150 yards.
Note that it’s ok to put centerfire scopes on rimfire rifles but it’s a bad idea to put rimfire scopes on centerfire rifles.
To summarize, here’s my list of the Best Rimfire Scope.
Best Rimfire Scope
Before diving into the details of each scope, let’s discuss what we’re looking for in a rimfire scope.
What makes a good rimfire scope ?
Since the effective range for rimfire cartridges are between 20 to 150 yards, one doesn’t need high magnification for rimfire rounds. A 2-7x or 3-9x should do the job. An exception to this is if you want to hunt varmints and do headshots (to preserve meat) higher magnification like 4-16x might be warranted.
Fixed 4x magnification scope is also another good option to consider. It obviously offers less versatility but has better quality to compensate. This is due to the fact that fixed magnification scopes are easier to manufacture.
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.
Pick larger objective lens if you use high magnification and smaller objective lens it you use low magnification.
Large objective lens has better light transmission. However, the downside of too large an objective lens are higher price and heavier weight. In some case, it’s also higher mounts.
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 rimfire’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.
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
This is a matter of preference. Simple reticle will be good enough for most case. It is a no clutter reticle type which makes fastest target acquisition. However if you plan on shooting at longer range, a BDC, Mil-dot or MOA reticle might come in handy.
Desirable turrets are precise and repeatable. Each click must be tactile, audible and exact as shown on the markings. 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 rimfire, it depends on what you’re likely to use it for, hunting or target shooting.
Rimfire scopes can have fixed parallax settings at 50 or 100 yards. This help eliminates parallax error at closer range. Higher end scopes offer adjustable parallax feature which eliminates parallax issue on any given range.
That said, parallax error isn’t that big of an issue if you don’t shoot at long range or very short range. This is especially true for low magnification scopes.
Although rimfire recoil is mild and not going to be an issue, one wants a scope that will last for years to come. And it must be able to withstand field conditions such as pouring rain, extreme cold or extreme heat and lots of bumps from your truck.
Reliable warranty is another factor. Luckily, the scope industry is in an intense competition. Each business tries to outdo their rivals, so intensely that they offer very generous warranties. Easily, you can find Full Lifetime warranty that even covers for scope damage by your fault, such as dropping. Some warranties are even transferable if you ever need to sell the scope.
A perfect scope for rimfire shouldn’t be too heavy. Due to lightness of rimfire rounds and rifles, a heavy scope could unbalanced your rifle and make it feel “top heavy”. This also depends on your mounting position.
1. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7×32 Rimfire,V-Plex Reticle
Now a major brand in rifle scopes industry, Vortex Optics has converted many big name fans to their own in just a period of less than 15 years. Most seasoned hunters cited Vortex as quality with affordable price scopes.
2-7×32 magnification from this scope is adequate for plinking and varmint hunting within 75 yards. Magnification ring is smooth to turn. Glass quality and lens coating is clear and crisp especially on low magnification. Light transmission is also decent.
The optic’s reticle pattern is V-Plex, which is a simple duplex reticle version from Vortex. This reticle doesn’t support any holdovers but is more of a non-cluttered, fast target acquisition reticle. The crosshairs are fine and won’t obscure your targets.
The turrets are finger adjustable with zero reset feature. They’re easy to adjust, but not that precise. That’s to be expected for scopes in this price range. Eye relief is 3.9”. Parallax is factory set at 50 yards. As long as you don’t shoot under 20 yards or above 125 yards, parallax error should be minimal.
Vortex scope’s durability is generally good. It’s the case with this Vortex Crossfire II rimfire. As long as you use it on rimfire rounds, the scope would hold zero well. Plus it’s also waterproof, fogproof and shockproof. And the optic is backed by reliable and transferable Vortex’s Lifetime Warranty. Lastly, customer service from Vortex is top notch.
|✓ Good quality glass||✗ Not for longer range|
|✓ OK light transmission|
|✓ Easy to use|
|✓ Durable with reliable and transferable warranty|
Price : $$
2. Leupold FX-I Rimfire 4x28mm Fine Duplex
This fixed 4×28 from Leupold is another high quality scope candidate. Due to its easier construction of fixed power scope, image quality is razor sharp. It’s also very lightweight (7.5 oz) and compact (Length 9.2 Inches).
The objective lens is small at 28mm, but with 4x magnification your exit pupil diameter is 28 / 4 = 7. This is big enough for use in low light condition.
Reticle type is a duplex with no holdovers, plus magnification is only at 4x, the scope is not suited for .17 HMR long range varmint hunting. But if you’re plinking or varmint hunting at close range, the scope is a nice option.
Turrets track well, but have no zero reset nor zero stop. Eye relief and eyebox is also generous. This scope, along with other Leupold products, is durable and weather resistant. You can use it in the field with confidence that the scope will not fail you. Furthermore, Leupold products are a safe bet.
|✓ Very clear image||✗ Fixed power scope|
|✓ Very lightweight (7.5 oz) and compact||✗ Not for long range|
|✓ Turrets track well|
|✓ Good eye relief and eyebox|
|✓ Durable with transferable reliable Lifetime Warranty|
Price : $$$
3. Tasco MAG 3-9X32 Rimfire Series
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. 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 works 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 still 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 to be 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 : $$
5. Nikon P-RIMFIRE BDC 150 Rifle Scope
The Nikon P-Rimfire 2-7×32 has the clear and crisp image quality on all magnification. Light transmission, however, could use some improvements.
The scope features a BDC reticle which is suitable for longer range shots. This BDC 150 reticle is calibrated to .22LR with muzzle velocity of 1,600 fps which is a bit hard to find. You can fix this by using the Nikon Spot On App to get an accurate yardages for your exact load. The scope should be zeroed at 50 yards and have 25 yards for each increment markings.
Featuring target style turrets, they are finger adjustable and zero resettable. There are no parallax adjustment knob and is factory set at 50 yards. This wouldn’t be much of a trouble considering the range of the Ruger 10/22.
Eye relief is 3.8” and is deemed plenty for low recoil rifle such as the Ruger 10/22. The scope is durable and has Nikon Lifetime Warranty, which is reliable in my experience.
|✓ Good image quality||✗ BDC reticle calibrated to hard to find load|
|✓ BDC reticle||✗ Not great in low light|
|✓ Nikon Spot On App|
|✓ Durable with reliable warranty|
Price : $$
For most people who don’t intend to shoot long beyond 100 yards, 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.