First adopted in 1906, the .30-06 is still going strong today as one of the most accomplished hunting cartridge. The commercial grain can take down almost any walking game in Northern America. And perhaps one of its most alluring charm is the versatility of handloads the .30-06 offers. You can obtain muzzle energy ranging from 1,000+ to 3,000+ ft-lbs, depending on your needs. With the right load recipes, the .30-06 can surpass .308 in many aspects including bullet penetration and killing performance. All of this is made possible by .30-06’s cartridge capacity.
The best scope to go with the .30-06 should aid shooter in big game hunting and long range shooting simultaneously. Furthermore, it must hold zero against the high recoil rounds these .30-06 “hot” loads.
To summarize, here’s my list of the Best .30-06 Scope.
Best Scope for 30-06
Before diving into the details of each scope, let’s discuss what we’re looking for in general terms. So that we’re on the same page.
What makes a good .30-06 scope ?
Since .30-06 is a versatile round capable of shooting long range and hunting big game, a wide range of variable power scope seems like a good choice. Of course, some users might not care much for long range shooting and are more concern of only the hunt. In that case, the scope should cater to only that particular need.
Standard magnification for big game hunting is 1.5-5x or 2-7x. While magnification for long range depends on desired range and target size, I personally don’t like optics with magnification over 16x as they tend to require much higher quality glass for usable image quality. Plus, normally there’s rarely any need to go beyond 16x. Just for a point of reference, 10x is adequate to shoot a human torso target size at 1,000 yards.
2-7x should be good for those who only hunts big game and 4-16x is the more versatile choice for those who do both.
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
Pick larger objective lens if you use high magnification and smaller objective lens it you use low magnification.
The downside of too big objective lens are higher price and heavier weight. In some case, it’s also higher mounts.
Adults normal pupil size is between 2 to 4 mm diameter in bright light and 4 to 8 mm in the dark. If the exit pupil greatly exceeds these numbers, it becomes a bit of a waste. On the other hand, too small exit pupil results in smaller image through the tube. And exact exit pupil to eye pupil diameter will result in very tight eyebox.
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.
Look for things like ED glass (Extra Low Dispersion Glass), HD glass (High Density Glass) and Fully Multi Coated lens if you can afford it.
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
Eye Relief and Eyebox
Eye relief = Space between your aiming eye and the scope for optimal sight image
Generally, bigger eye relief means that your eye is safe from recoil. However, too much eye relief might lead to uncomfortable head and eye position.
Standard eye relief is 3”-4”. Since .30-06 possess quite a kick, an eye relief of 3.5” – 4.2” is appropriate for your eyes safety.
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 the same thing as small eyebox. This results in much slower target acquisition and frustration during field use. This issue normally magnifies itself on higher magnification scopes.
Larger tube has the advantage of added durability and larger range of turrets internal adjustments. The downside is that it’s more expensive and heavier than smaller tubes.
For long range shooting, one might need to adjust the elevation and windage a lot. So, if you intend to also shoot long range, larger tube scope is favored. Larger tubes means 30mm, 34mm or even 35mm diameter tube.
Some people think that bigger tube size equals better light transmission. But in my opinion, it’s just the fact that manufacturer’s often put larger objective lens, better glass and better lens coating into bigger tube scopes, due to their higher price.
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. But if you intend to also shoot long range, Simple reticles are not good enough as they provide no holdover nor distance measurement tool.
Mil-Dot and MOA type are preferred for range beyond 800 yards as most BDC reticle don’t reach beyond that range.
First Focal Plane or Second Focal Plane
First focal plane makes the reticle holdovers accurate on all magnification but is often not available no 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.
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.
The point of illuminating the reticle is to make target acquisition faster. Because the reticle becomes easier to spot. It’s nice to have but is not a necessity.
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.
Parallax adjustment is necessary for long range shots. It help reduce the need to perfectly align your eye to the scope and raise the odds for precision shots. Preferred position is the side knob for ease of use.
That said, if you don’t shoot beyond 250 yards, there’s no need for parallax adjustment.
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.
1. Bushnell Trophy Xtreme X30 4-16×44 Scope with DOA LR600 Reticle
The Bushnell Trophy Xtreme is a good hunting scope with wide magnification range suitable for big game hunting and long range needs. Image quality is crisp and clear. No noticeable blurry edge even on highest magnification. With its fully multi-coated lens, light transmission is high and if you dial its power down a bit and will allow 30 minutes of extra hunting time after sundown.
The scope is well built that it can hold zero from the recoil of .30-06. Elevation and windage turrets adjustment are 1 inch at 100 yards per click and they are repeatable. Turret caps are also provided as the model is made for hunting purpose. It is also zero resettable with a jeweler screw.
This model features the DOA LR600 reticle which is a kind of BDC reticle with windage marks. Note that the reticle is in second focal plane, meaning that the it will not resize according to magnification and is accurate only on the highest magnification. My advice is to use it along with the Strelok App, then the holdovers should be easy to master.
One complain is that it’s a bit heavy at 20 ounce but that makes it quite durable and can be used in the fields without worries. It is waterproof, fogproof and shockproof. The scope also comes with transferable No Question Asked Warranty from Bushnell, which is considered reliable.
|✓ Good for hunting and long range shooting||✗ Heavy|
|✓ Good glass that can see well in low light||✗ Second Focal Plane|
|✓ Durable, weather resistant and holds zero|
|✓ Turrets are finger adjustable, repeatable and zero resettable|
|✓ No Questions Asked Lifetime Warranty|
Price : $$$
2. SWFA SS 3-15×42 Tactical Rifle Scope
The SWFA SS 3-15×42 offers highest versatility magnification range. It can be used in dense woods to long range target shooting beyond 1,000 yards. That said, with 5 zoom ratio like this, the scope ain’t cheap.
The scope has all the desired features mentioned above. Glass and lens quality is very good. Image provided are clear and crisp on all magnification. There are slight chromatic and spherical aberrations on highest magnification but nothing crazy.
Eye relief and eyebox are positive and easy to use. The SWFA SS is housed in a 30mm tube with 123 MOA range of adjustments which is plenty. The turrets are very exact and repeatable. There are no zero stop but has the zero reset and side parallax adjustment. One thing to mention is that the markings on parallax distance aren’t very exact. You need to adjust while looking through the scope instead.
The reticle is clear and very fine to not obscure long range targets. Plus, reticle pattern is in Mil-dot which matches turrets 0.1 mil per click adjustment.
Furthermore, it’s a very durable scope and will hold zero on even .50 caliber with ease. Waterproof, fogproof and shockproof, the scope is built like a tank. Last but not least, SWFA offers a reliable and transferable Lifetime Warranty that few people had the occasion to use due to the scope’s high durability.
|✓ High quality glass||✗ Not accurate parallax adjustment markings|
|✓ Precise tracking turrets||✗ Rather heavy (24 ounce)|
|✓ Matching reticle and turrets units||✗ HIgher priced|
|✓ Very durable with reliable Lifetime Warranty|
Price : $$$$$
3. Leupold VX-2 2-7x33mm Riflescope, Duplex Reticle
Leupold is an established name in American scope business for a very long time. They are a 5 generations family business which has supplied many quality products to the U.S. military.
This VX-2 2-7×33 is a nice option for people who doesn’t care for long range. It has more than enough magnification for dense wood hunting. Image quality is crisp and clear with no blurry edges on all power level. Field of view is wide and the optics also provided extra 15-30 minutes during low light period where game are most active.
Suitable for hunting, this scope weighs only 9.9 ounce, Making long hike a much more memorable experience.
Eye relief and eyebox are generous. Reticle pattern is a simple Duplex with no holdovers whatsoever. These attributes make target acquisition faster and is a good thing as long as you don’t plan to shoot long range.
The turrets are finger adjustable and precise enough for general hunting purpose. However it’s not made for long range.
The scope is solid, holds zero even with high recoil ammunition and is weather tolerant. No fogging and waterproof. Plus the scope is backed by Leupold Lifetime Warranty. In my opinion, Leupold VX-2 is a no frill hunting scope that does its job very well.
|✓ Clear and crisp image quality with nice low light capabilities||✗ Not for long range shooting|
|✓ Durable, weather resistant and reliable Lifetime Warranty||✗ Not a low price scope|
|✓ Forgiving eye relief and eyebox|
|✓ Lightweight (9.9 oz)|
|✓ Made in USA|
Price : $$$
4. Vortex Optics Diamondback HP 4-16×42 Second Focal Plane, Dead-Hold BDC Reticle
Due to the .30-06 versatility, 4-16x magnification should be suitable as long range shooting and open plain hunting can be done with it. This Vortex Optics Diamondback HP 4-16x is an upgrade from the Bushnell Trophy Xtreme mentioned above.
Image quality is clear and crisp from 4x to 16x power. It works well in low light and offers generous eye relief of 4”. Field of view is acceptable and it also has side parallax adjustment. This Vortex Optics Diamondback HP employs a BDC reticle which makes long range shooting and holdover much easier.
Turrets are precise, repeatable and finger adjustable with caps to prevent accidental adjustments. Furthermore, it can do a zero reset with a coin or a flat head. However, there’s no zero stop feature as some higher end scopes do.
Single piece aircraft grade aluminium with Argon gas and O-rings makes this scope durable and weather tolerant. It can easily handle the recoil of .30-06. Plus Vortex Lifetime Warranty is very reliable and transferable.
Unfortunately, it’s rather heavy (18 ounces) and has second focal plane reticle which reduce its reticle holdovers usefulness. The focal plane reticle can be fixed by using Strelok App.
|✓ Good image quality on all magnification||✗ Higher priced|
|✓ Good low light capabilities||✗ Rather heavy|
|✓ Durable with Reliable warranty||✗ Second Focal Plane|
|✓ Precise and repeatable turrets|
|✓ Turrets come with caps and is zero resettable|
Price : $$$$
5. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7×32 Second Focal Plane Riflescope
The Vortex Crossfire II is budget choice for 2-7x scopes which is suitable for big game hunting and other dense wood hunting.
Glass quality and lens coating are ok but not as good as higher priced scopes. On 6x-7x magnification, it is noticeably less clear and more blurry. Low light image is not that great either. That said, image quality is usable on lower zoom. Eyebox is rather small as the sweet spot for optimal image is hard to find.
The turrets are finger adjustable and zero resettable. For the reticle, you an the option to choose between a BDC or a V-Plex reticle. BDC is more for longer range while the V-Plex gives an uncluttered view.
The good thing about the scope is its wide field of view and its ability to hold zero. This optic is made in China and is backed by Vortex Lifetime warranty, which is very reliable.
|✓ Can handle high recoil rounds||✗ Not good in low light|
|✓ budget scope||✗ 6x-7x edges not clear and gets more blurry|
|✓ Clear on lower magnification||✗ Narrow eye box on high magnification|
|✓ Nice FOV||✗ Made in china|
|✓ Reliable warranty|
Price : $$
The SWFA SS 3-15×42 is the Best Scope for .30-06 in my humble opinion. That’s due to the fact that the optics can be used for any hunting purpose. Plus it’s totally capable of shooting beyond 1,000 yards. This way, you don’t have to change in rifles or using lots of quick detach mounts. It’s just one rifle, one scopes, lots of ammunition and you’re good to go.
Overall quality is superb. Image quality is sharp and clear both in daylight and low light. Turrets and reticle are suited for long range shooting. Plus the scope is very durable that you should have no worries about it failing the field. And warranty from SWFA is also a reliable one.
The downside to it are just that it’s rather heavy and very expensive. But consider the fact that you’ll never need another scope for years to come. Plus you’ll get to enjoy this high quality scope and be able to fill your freezer for most part of the year, the SWFA SS 3-15×42 might look more affordable.