Best .22 Scope Reviews 2018: Top Rated Leupold and Nikon Optics for LR Rifles
The .22 is one of the most popular rifles in the world. It’s simple, effective, and inexpensive. It’s been one of the best choices for varmint control, plinking, and small game hunting since its development, and remains a favorite today.
How do you know which ones are suitable for a .22? It’s hard to strike a balance between one that’s powerful and one that doesn’t add too much size and weight to your rifle. After all, the light weight and agility of the .22 is part of what makes it so popular.
We’ve gone hunting for the best .22 scopes on the market today. We looked at those that are specifically marketed to .22 hunters, as well as other rimfire and low-caliber models. We chose these 3 models based on their price, ease of use, accuracy and durability.
They’ll be perfect companions to your much-loved .22, and will last as long as your rifle. You can read our full reviews of each model below. And at the bottom of the page, we’ve compiled a short list of things to keep in mind as you shop for yours.
First, here’s a quick look at all of our choices:
|Best Seller||Vortex Optics Diamondback||Check Price|
|Best on a Budget||Nikon Prostaff 5||Check Price|
|Best Quality||Leupold FX-II Scout||Check Price|
Top Related Article – Best Scopes Under $300
Why scope-out your .22?
There’s a common misconception that .22s are inherently weak. Many people shoot them with iron sights. However, that’s really underselling what .22s are capable of. They’re a great short-range, small game rifle that deserves a fitting scope.
Beyond 50 yards, most people can’t shoot accurately using just their iron sights and judgment. Skipping out on an optic is skipping out on lots of small game takings!
Adding an optic is a good idea for training new shooters too since they can get used to the look and feel of a scope on a small scale.
Basically, a good rifle scope will help you use your .22 out to the ranges of its ability. You’ll get more out of your small guns when you use one!
Best .22 Scope Reviews
The Vortex Diamondback is a great option for a midrange .22 optic. It comes in between the Leupold and Nikon in terms of both price and power range. While it’s not made in the USA, it has much better reliability ratings than its competition by Bushnell and others.
The Diamondback was also a featured recommendation of the very selective Guns and Ammo testing panel! We agree with them and other reviewers that between the warranty, construction quality, and imaging performance, this is one of the absolute best buys in the market.
The adjustable 2-7X power range provides versatility while keeping a lower bottom end than those that start at 3 or 4X. While extra power is nice, most .22 shooting happens down at that lower end anyway.
Both lenses are fully multi-coated to reduce glare and improve scratch-proofing. The argon-purged tube provides a water, fog, and shock-proofing solution that’s usually relegated to higher-priced models. It’s sealed with O-rings and designed to stand up to rough duty over time.
The 50-yard parallax setting is a special rimfire feature, as opposed to centerfire parallax settings at 100 or 150 yards. It suits the natural range of the .22 much better than traditional models. (Read more on what a parallax is.)
A quick-focus eyepiece makes it easy to zero in on your target as you switch zoom settings. There are also zero-reset turrets, which make it easier to get everything set up, and then make adjustments in the field.
An all-purpose reticle suits target practice and hunting as well as close-range plinking and varmint control. It’s etched into the second focal plane, which means that the reticle crosshairs stay the same size, no matter the zoom setting. That means it’ll never be so big as to obscure a target, and it’ll never be too small to see!
We also love these etched-in reticles because they’re incredibly difficult to break. As long as the lenses are in place, this reticle isn’t going anywhere!
Vortex provides very good customer service and a lifetime warranty. The warranty is also transferable, so you don’t have to be the original purchaser to receive service. Many previous buyers wrote in to say how impressed they were by Vortex’s service coverage.
Some previous buyers thought the turrets were stiff and recommended loosening the screws before using it for the first time. We didn’t run into that problem, but you can always fiddle with a new optic to get it moving the way you like.
The reticle isn’t technical. While it’s suitable for most .22 shooting, it doesn’t have any BDC or MOA markings to help you make really tight shots at a distance. If you want to get more technical, keep reading!
For us, this Nikon ProStaff is the best budget option for a variable range .22 scope. It has enough range to cover pretty much any .22 shooting, and has been specifically designed for rimfire rifles. Special features like a low parallax setting, .22-specific turrets and the BDC reticle make the Rimfire categorization more than just a badge on this one!
We’ve seen scopes that cost far more do far less than the ProStaff, so we think it deserves much more attention! It’s one of the best budget buys on the market right now.
We don’t want to understate the quality of its many features, but we think the most impressive aspect of this Nikon really is the price. It’s very affordable for most people.
The low cost makes it a great choice to give to a young hunter or other novice. The low price also makes it a low-cost solution for getting the most out of your .22 without spending more than you did on the gun itself.
It’s also very versatile, with an impressive power range. The lenses are both fully multi-coated to reduce glare, improve light transmission, and protect the lenses from scratches. According to testing, they’ll let up to 98% of light through.
The tube is well-constructed, with nitrogen moisture-purging and O-ring seals at either end. The shaft is made from one piece of aluminum, and has a nice matte finish. That’s the same basic build quality you’ll get on a $500 model, so you’re not sacrificing anything with the price here.
The turrets are coordinated to work specifically with .22 ammunition. This makes them even more accurate over distance, and means you won’t have to do as much guesswork while you’re making ballistics calculations.
The quick focus eyepiece also helps to get the scope zeroed in at higher zoom settings, once you’re in the field. These eyepieces are super convenient, since you don’t have to loosen everything up and then tighten it again between shots.
Unlike most other budget options, this one comes with a lifetime warranty. Nikon has a very good reputation for customer service. Premium coverage is a big plus for us at this price, especially since .22s tend to be handed down.
Even at its budget price, this scope comes with a BDC reticle. That’s a nice touch, since the ProStaff has a fair bit of range, and .22 ammo has a fair amount of bullet drop over distance.
The reticle is also specifically coordinated to work with the .22 ammo, as well as Nikon’s Spot On ballistics app. This makes it easier for new shooters to use, as well as making things quicker for seasoned marksmen.
We found this Nikon very easy to use. Even if you’re not a particularly skilled or experienced marksman, it can be sighted in within 5-10 shots of unpacking it.
We’re particularly impressed by the quality of the adjustment turrets, as compared to other budget scopes. The turrets are usually a weak point on inexpensive optics, but the Nikon’s are clear and precise. They have a satisfying motion and click.
The adjustment turrets are capped, but they’re not low-profile. They stand up a bit more than other rimfire models. That could be a bit of an issue in woods or scrub, but any accidents will be covered by the warranty.
This is a superb optic for the price, and the most versatile of our recommendations. However, if you don’t need as much flexibility in the magnification department, the Leupold does have better glass and an overall superior construction quality.
This is an extremely high-quality fixed scope that’s capable enough for most .22 based shooting. It’s more expensive than the other two options, but is markedly higher in quality (and it’s still less expensive than most centerfire models).
It’s an excellent choice for people who need a shorter-range model for shooting around their property and for basic target practice. A thoroughly reliable, dependable optic!
The Scout has been recommended by Guns and Ammo testers, among others, as extremely simple to use, and very hard to damage. It’s been a favorite among shooting classes and hunting centers for years for this very reason.
The fixed lens set is more durable than adjustable models, but is still capable of shots out to 300 yards. Its 2.5X power gives you a nice clear field of vision with enough range to cover most .22 shots around your property.
While it’s simple, it’s also very effective. We’ve found that it’s amazingly easy to acquire a target with this scope. Thanks to the generous eye relief and bright image, you could even sight in a target without closing the other eye!
Since it’s been designed specifically for .22 rifles, it complements the caliber’s lightness and agility. We’re big fans of the low-profile design, since it fits in naturally between the barrel and the receiver. The turrets and objective end are unobtrusive, and the scope itself is very light. That’s a result of the fixed lens as well as the lightweight aluminum tube construction.
The adjustment turrets are capped and very low-profile, so they’re also hard to accidentally damage. We particularly love how low the caps are on this model compared to the Nikon, for instance.
The quality of the glass and knobs really sets this scope apart from the competition. While there’s not really a good objective measure for how good a lens is, the lenses are the real selling point for us. An experienced eye will definitely notice a difference between this and less pricey optics.
Leupold scopes come with a lifetime warranty, which is good for as long as the scope’s around. That way you can pass it on, and every owner will be covered.
The FX-II is a scout rifle scope. That means it’s really meant for short-to-mid range shooting and practice. It’s not a long range scope, and won’t help you much over 300 yards.
Obviously, this is a fixed-magnification model. You can’t expect it to be as versatile as an adjustable optic.
Now that you’ve read a bit more about each scope, which one is right for you?
The Nikon is a very capable, reliable choice for an introductory scope, or for .22 hunters on a budget. It has a sizable range which more than covers most shots you can make with a .22, and has simple, precise adjustments. We chose it because its build quality and warranty coverage really set it apart from other inexpensive scopes.
The Nikon is one of the only budget scopes to come with a lifetime warranty. It’s also the most powerful of our options in terms of magnifications. If you’re interested in taking your .22 out to the edge of its range without breaking the bank, this will do the trick very nicely. On the downside, it’s not quite as precisely refined as our other recommendations.
If you’re looking for something a little more refined, the Vortex provides a range that caters specifically to rimfire rifles, with more precise adjustments and higher build quality. It’s also covered by a VIP warranty that ensures everyone who owns the scope can have it serviced for free.
It’s the best choice for folks who like to be able to make lots of adjustments and tweaks to make the most exact of shots. On the other hand, some more old-school shooters may find it a bit overcomplicated for a rimfire rifle.
For a simple, no-nonsense scope made to a very high standard of quality, we recommend the Leupold. Whether you’re plinking, target practicing or hunting small game, you can do no better for your .22. Unless you’re going to be shooting at long ranges, the Leupold is a premium, heirloom-quality option for .22 shooters of all ability levels.
Our team were unanimous in saying that the Leupold is more than worth the price. With all that said, it’s fairly expensive, so we don’t recommend to to new shooters who aren’t absolutely sure they’ll be sticking with it.
How to Shop for a .22 Scope
Keep things simple and durable:
It’s easy to think that you won’t need to buy something super durable to shoot accurately at this caliber. After all, .22 cartridges, like all rimfire rounds, produce less kickback. Since the ammo doesn’t cause as much recoil, you won’t need spring cushioning or rubber padding in the adjustment turrets.
That doesn’t mean you want to cheap out on quality, though .22s are generally shot in a more rough and tumble fashion than bigger rifles, so it’s a good idea to get a contained, durable scope. Since rimfire ammunition is so much cheaper, these guns also tend to be shot a lot more.
So, the end result can actually be more wear and tear. We’re recommending only scopes with lifetime warranties for that reason. Look for scopes with low-profile, lockable turrets, and shockproof tubes.
Choose between fixed or variable magnification:
- .22 scopes are available in fixed or variable magnification. Fixed magnification scopes are more durable, and better at adjusting for parallax up close. They also save on both weight and cost. They’re good for much close-to-midrange shots.
- Variable magnification scopes provide you with a bit more range and precision. If you’re going to be hunting beyond 200 yards or so, you almost certainly want a scope with adjustable power.
Look for low and adjustable parallax settings:
- For close range shooting, at under 50 yards, look for a scope with AO (adjustable objective). That helps you compensate for parallax at such close distances. Many rimfire scope models offer an optional AO version. You can also find fixed scopes with parallax settings at 10 or 20 yards.
- Regardless of whether the scope has an AO, a good rimfire scope should have a low parallax setting (usually 50 yards) as opposed to a centerfire scope (150-200 yards–distances at which a .22 is rarely shot, or indeed effective).
We hope you’ve seen one or two scopes that suit your .22 rifle and your shooting type.
Interested in our other recommendations for the best rifle scopes? We’ve got other handy guides to the best night vision scopes, .308 scopes, air rifle scopes, and more!
Check out our main page https://bestgunscope.com/!