A Target Shooter’s Guide to Buying a Great Spotting Scope

A spotting scope is widely used for birding, scoring targets, surveillance, hunting, and viewing wildlife or landscape at different distances and is often considered as an integral part of a target-shooter. The price of a scope, which can drive you crazy, varies drastically with the optical quality and magnification of the scope. A lot of things are to be considered before buying a spotting scope, and a little careful observation often pays the price. However, things can go wrong with a scope even after purchasing it wisely. As it turns out, scopes are not the only thing to blame, and it’s generally a much more intricate issue to handle with. The atmosphere, unfortunately, can be your main enemy from time to time in target-shooting as well.

Recommended Product: Vortex Optics Diamondback

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the number of spotting scopes available in the market. However, if you’re looking for a quick-fix and doesn’t want to delve into the myriads of specifications that comes with the scope, definitely you can pick Vortex Optics Diamondback. This is a quite reasonable and affordable product to go with. Vortex Optics Diamondback can be found in two different objective diameters (60mm and 80mm) with a magnification of 20-60X, and each size comes with angled and straight viewing configuration. If you’re yet to decide about the right one for you, then don’t stop and keep on reading. This scope comes in Porro prism design and offers fully multicoated and dielectric prism coating, which are generally considered as praiseworthy. Considering the features, this one is a heavyweight performer in a light and compact package. You will be getting a retractable built-in sunshade, which will ensure excellent light transmission and crystal-clear image. You can also have the flexibility of rotating the scope for various glassing position thanks to the twist-and-lock collar. The eye relief is 0.78-0.65 inches, meaning you won’t be facing a problem even with a glass to see the entire field of view. Other features including waterproof and fog-proof, durable rubber twist-up eyecups, rotating tripod ring are also available in this model. Needless to say, this item is going to be backed by VIP warranty, an unconditional lifetime warranty, from Vortex.

That being said, let’s get a bit more pragmatic. If you want to score targets at 100-150 yards, you don’t need to search for a top-notch target shooting spotting scope with premium grade optics and very large objective. However, if you look for the exact same quality while spotting beyond 150 yards, you will surely be disappointed. This is not a high-end spotting scope, rather an entry-level product at an affordable price from Vortex. You definitely need to pay the price if you want the same image quality at 60X as it is at 20X magnification. Vortex Optics Diamondback will serve great for you within 150 yards even in higher magnification. The image will remain bright, and you’ll get brilliant clarity. However, after this range, the optical quality will be decreasing drastically and noticeably. Also, this product features single focus, which may create some problems. However, this Diamondback is made of BAK4 prism glass and overall delivers a great product quality. So, considering the affordability and spotting within 150 or so yards, Vortex Optics Diamondback is a product of great value, and you can certainly keep it on your top wish list.


  • Price
  • Adaptable Digiscope
  • Weatherproof
  • Rotating Tripod Ring
  • Ease of Use & Quality of Product


  • Single Focus
  • Clarity at Higher Magnification

A Definitive Guide to Buying a Spotting Scope

Spotting scope, a modified small telescope, is designed to provide more magnification than a traditional binocular. You will need a spotting scope for hunting, birding, viewing objects at distance, or target shooting on a rifle, pistol, and archery. Sometimes, spotting scopes are used to take the long-distance shot with cameras. As it’s mentioned earlier, buying spotting scope can be a great confusing and overwhelming task. When it comes to buying a spotting scope for target shooting, it doesn’t matter what you prefer or love but what you specifically require. The budget should vary wildly depending on your requirement, and it’s not uncommon to waver between a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. This is just a quick-read for you to get yourself acquainted with various features of a spotting scope.

  • Decide Angled vs Straight: Firstly, there are angled and straight spotting scope, and they generally have different purposes to serve. In a straight spotting scope, you keep your eyes parallel to the object you see through. So, if you are watching bird from a car or doing something that calls for a scope setting at your same level, go for a straight spotting scope. However, our necessities are often much more complex than this, and we need to observe objects at different heights. At the same time, we don’t want to take the hassle of adjusting the height of the scope. Generally, angled spotting scopes are more preferred than straight counterparts.
  • Scope Yardage: While choosing a spotting scope, this is the most pivotal aspect to consider. Optical quality and price of a spotting scope will vary wildly for different yardage. Let’s get straight to the point:

Up to 100 yards of spotting range, a target shooter doesn’t have to be very selective, and won’t need large magnification, large objective, premium optical quality. 18-36X magnification will often serve your purpose effortlessly, and even a good 50mm objective won’t give you hard time seeing a 22-bullet hole. However, just stick with a 60mm objective, and if you’re doing firing competition, you definitely want to check out close focus feature of a scope.

Being a little more selective while buying spotting scope to spot beyond 100 yards can save you in the long run. Optical quality comes into play in this range of scope. As the magnification goes up, you will be requiring more optical quality. A cheap scope which looks good at 20X will be doing much worse as the magnification goes up. If it’s producing a blurred image at 30X magnification, at 60X the image produced will be horrifying to look at. It all depends on how the lens is made, quality and type of the glass, lens coatings, alignment of the optical system, and this is a down-to-the-earth issue to look at.

Going to the 300 yards range is a big jump for your scope and the price you pay. Please forget about the cheap scope and invest in the supreme quality product. I’ll recommend going for a reasonable quality ED glass. Never get baffled with fake advertising. Beyond 400 yards, unsurprisingly, optical quality becomes a very critical issue. At least 80mm objective lens is required with excellent optical quality. Beyond 500 yards, needless to say, a top-notch perfect product is required. However, only a premium scope doesn’t guaranty success. You will need the help of a spotter or tagger at the target due to an ever-changing atmospheric condition.

  • Tripod: Generally, it’s not possible to handle a scope without a tripod in high magnification. You really need to steady the spotting scope. A monopod or shoulder stock will do the trick, but at a magnification higher than 40X, there is no shortcut. Keep in mind that for a large and heavy spotting scope, you need to use a large and heavy tripod.
  • Always consider eye relief, close focus, weight, and waterproof and fog proof spotting scope. Eye relief becomes more important if you wear glasses. Never choose below a 15mm eye relief.

Some Additional Products to Consider:

Celestron 52252 100mm Ultima Zoom

A powerful spotting instrument with the versatility of using. This product features a 100mm objective (capturing 50% more lights than 80mm), a magnification of 22-66X, and ensures clear views for an object beyond 500 yards. It comes with a T-mount adapter, folding eyecup, reasonable eye relief (18-15mm), waterproof protection, multicoated lens, and many more. If you don’t need more than 40X magnification and don’t want to spot beyond 200 yards, it can be a fine choice. However, you won’t be getting a sunshade in the objective lens, a padded-carry case, and this is a heavy scope to carry. That being said, it does a pretty good job in the low-light condition.

Kowa TSN-880 Series Angled Body

A top-notch leading product in the class of alpha scopes. If you can afford, definitely it’ll impress you with the performance. This is an angled 88mm spotting scope with dual focus mechanism. Built quality is absolutely perfect featuring magnesium alloy body and fluorite crystal lens. Waterproof to JIF class 7, unmatched optical quality, limited time warranty from manufacturer makes it a great product. However, the only drawback is its price; it’s, though, reasonable considering the excellent quality.

Bushnell Elite 20-60 x 80mm

Don’t want to spend like a crazy and want to spot beyond 500 yards? Then, look no more. A spotting scope from Bushnell with 20-60X magnification with 80mm objective featuring ED Prime fluoride glass. This 45-degree Porro prism spotting scope won’t disappoint you with its superior optical quality providing flawless color fidelity and brilliant clarity. For a professional shooter, this is a best-buy for the money.

Pentax PF-80ED

Another great product from Pentax which is worth considering. It comes with large 80mm objective featuring an ED glass in a 45-degree slanted body. You will be getting a great view at large distance with a crisp and clear image. Construction quality of this product is very good, and this is a great product of professional category in a reasonable price tag.

Final Words

Hope, by now, you have got the vibe of what to expect while purchasing a spotting scope. However, I’ll recommend you to think very carefully before deciding which one to buy. Now that you know how to find your desired product considering various features, take a moment’s pause and decide. Certainly, there are other products to consider. But, this is a comprehensive list which is worthwhile to look at. But the most successful outcome that lies ahead depends greatly on what is your requirement and how much you’re willing to pay for it.