Best 3-Gun Scope in 2020: The Complete Buyer’s Guide

man at shooting practice

The best 3-gun scope can be used for competition use and hunting. This type of scope will feature a sleek design and offer the type of optics needed to make a shot. However, purchasing this type of scope will take plenty of research since high-quality optics will be essential and should be designed for use in a wide variety of applications.

I’ve created a buyer’s guide that includes all of the features to look for, how to choose a top of the line scope, and why a 3-gun scope is a must have for every competitive shooter and hunter. I’ve also tested out several of the leading scopes on the market, narrowing it down to six of the most versatile and accurate models around.

Below, you’ll find a comparison chart which lists each scope that landed on my list, the top features, and how each scope rated.

3-Gun Scope Comparison Chart

ProductLens CoatingBrightness LevelsWeightRating
Vortex Optics Razor First
Focal Plane Riflescopes

Shop On Amazon!
Waterproof/
Fog-Proof
1137 Ounces
Bushnell Elite Tactical
Riflescope

Shop On Amazon!
Dust/Waterproof/
Fog-Proof
1123 Ounces
Weaver Tactical Close
Intermediate Scope

Shop On Amazon!
Dust/Waterproof/
Fog-Proof
1018 Ounces
Trijicon AccuPoint
Riflescope

Shop On Amazon!
Dust/Waterproof/
Fog-Proof
Automatic19.2 Ounces
Bushnell AR Drop
Zone Optics

Shop On Amazon!
Dust/Waterproof/
Fog-Proof
101.7 LBS
BARSKA Huntmaster
30/30 Riflescope

Shop On Amazon!
Dust/Waterproof/
Fog-Proof
1212.2 Ounces

Vortex Optics Razor First Focal Plane Riflescopes


Our Rating: (5/5)

This Vortex Optics scope is designed for long range shooting situations and it’s a great choice for precision shooting. The extra-low high-density dispersion glass, combined with the XR coatings provide optimal brightness and image quality. The first focal plane, glass-etched reticle ensures that sub tensions remain accurate. The scope’s side focus provides optimal parallax removal and image focusing. The scope’s single piece tube measures in at thirty-five millimeters. The tube is anodized and precision machined, for improved durability. The fog proof and waterproof coatings will protect the scope from water damage and prevent the lens from fogging up in cold or humid weather conditions.

Pros

  • Anti-fog coating
  • Precision machined tubing
  • Made out of aircraft-grade aluminum
  • Provides fast windage adjustments

Cons

  • Price
  • May be too heavy for some users

Conclusion

This model by Vortex Optics features extra-low dispersion glass that’s designed to deliver ultimate color fidelity and resolution, providing high def images. The included fiber optic turret rotation indicator delivers a highly visible point of reference for turret rotations, while the precision tube system is precision machined and features anti-galling properties for improved durability and strength. The scope is made out of aircraft-grade aluminum which keeps the weight down, yet, provides the type of durability you need in a scope that’s designed for optimal performance, precision shooting, and a model that’s perfect for 3-gun shooting competitions.

Bushnell Elite Tactical Riflescope


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This beautifully designed scope features adjustable 1 to 8.5x magnification, a twenty-four-millimeter objective lens for precision shooting, and an ultra-wide band coating, complete with fully multi coated optics. The multiple lens coatings are designed to improve image clarity and light transmission. The lens coatings include both fog-proof and waterproof protection, preventing the scope from fogging up in cold or humid environments.

This scope offers eleven illumination settings, elevation turrets, and T-Lok locking windage. This model is designed to seamlessly transition between midrange and close quarter targets, making it a great scope to have for fast, precise shooting.

Pros

  • Argon-filled optics
  • Fog-proof
  • Lightweight design
  • Multiple lens coatings

Cons

  • Tube diameter makes it difficult to find compatible mounts and rings

Conclusion

This tactical rifle scope is one of Bushnell’s top selling models for a variety of reasons. This is a scope you can rely on in close quarters, a model that won’t let you down regardless of light and weather conditions, and a scope that’s versatile, well-built, and lightweight.

Weaver Tactical Close-Intermediate Scope


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This model by Weaver Tactical features a thirty-millimeter one-piece design with an argon purged lens. The manufacturer claims the scope offers aggressive knurling on power adjustment and true one power at the lowest magnification setting. The lenses are fully multi-coated. This results in optimal image clarity and brightness in a variety of light conditions, which is exactly what the 3-gun competitor, precision shooter, and hunter need, resulting in a scope that’s powerful, versatile, and reliable.

Pros

  • Fully multi coated lenses
  • Lightweight
  • Aggressive knurling on power adjustment
  • Versatile

Cons

  • Eye box may be too small for some users

Conclusion

This model weighs in at just eighteen ounces, making it one of the lightest models on the market. The lightweight design makes it more beginner-friendly, since the shooter will not have to adapt to a heavy scope. The fully multi coated lens allows the shooter to clearly see their target, in a variety of light conditions. Additionally, this model features reset to zero turrets, with extra battery storage in the turret caps, and simple installation.

Trijicon AccuPoint Riflescope


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The Trijicon scope features multi-coated lenses that deliver superior light gathering capabilities and top of the line image clarity. The scope’s battery-free illumination is the latest in fiber optic technology. The scope’s optic technology will adjust its brightness level automatically, in addition to automatic contrast of the reticle aiming point, based on the available light conditions. In low light or no light conditions, the tritium phosphor lamp will illuminate the reticle. The illuminated reticle will not project illumination from the objective lens. Additionally, the reticle size will remain constant as the magnification increases. This will allow the scope to provide more precise aiming at a higher magnification.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Multi-coated lens
  • Superior light gathering capabilities
  • Reticle size stays the same as magnification increases

Cons

  • Light must be directly above the scope, otherwise the green light fades

Conclusion

The scope itself is made out of lightweight aluminum that’s aircraft-grade. While aluminum is often used for scopes for it’s lower weight, this aircraft grade material is also incredibly durable.

This is a great scope to use in low light conditions in which the crosshair is difficult to make out. The scope’s lightweight design and simple installation make it a great choice for the beginner, while the overall quality makes this model a must-have for competitive shooters and hunters alike.

Bushnell AR Drop Zone Optics


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The AR Drop Zone scope features fully multi-coated lenses that deliver high-contrast, bright images, in a variety of light conditions. The construction is described as shock-proof. The scope is designed to handle drops, bangs, and bumps, so it’s a great choice for the serious hunter. The lens features a rain guard, which will protect the lens during light to moderate rainfall. This model features a side parallax focus and target turrets, both of which are designed for precise adjustments. The scope’s drop zone 223 reticle is calibrated for .223 ammo. The thirty-millimeter aluminum tube is what makes this one of Bushnell’s most rugged scopes to date.

Pros

  • Shock-proof design
  • Fully multi-coated lens
  • Rain guard
  • Rugged

Cons

  • Heavy

Conclusion

This model features exposed turrets that will allow the shooter to adjust the scope for elevation and windage, accurately, and quickly. The ten-yard infinity side parallax adjustment provides easy and fast focusing. Additionally, the scope has a IPX7 waterproof rating, so it can handle light to heavy rainfall, easily. In terms of clarity, this model also scored well, thanks to the fully multi coated lens that offers impressive image clarity in a variety of light conditions.

BARSKA Huntmaster 30/30 Riflescope


Our Rating: (4/5)

The Hunsmaster by Barska features a beautifully designed, sleek black matte one-inch tube, with a shockproof design that allows this scope to easily handle a fall, without damage to the tube or lens. This model features a 3-9x magnification, and lenses that are fully multicoated. The lens coatings will protect the scope from water damage, while preventing it from fogging up in cold or humid weather conditions. This lightweight scope weighs in at an impressive 12.2 ounces, which will make it easier to aim and shoot with, unlike heavier scopes that require a learning curve. Additionally, the manufacturer provides a limited lifetime warranty, which is enough to cause many shoppers to hit that buy now button, knowing the manufacturer clearly stands behind its products.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Fully multi coated lens
  • Shockproof design
  • Low price

Cons

  • Difficult to focus after 6x

Conclusion

This model is lightweight, durable, and easy to use. It comes equipped with fully multicoated lenses that are designed to protect the lens while ensuring the shooter enjoys optimal visibility in a variety of light conditions. This scope is a great buy for the 3-gun shooter, the hunter on a budget, and anyone searching for a durable, reliable scope that provides excellent image clarity in a variety of light conditions.

3-Gun Scope Buyer’s Guide

The optics for a three-gun must be tough, accurate and ready for use in a variety of applications. When participating in this type of fast-paced sport, rapid movements and makeshift rests are par for the course.  Since these three-gun competitions are now more popular than ever, many old school manufacturers are introducing products for this exciting sport, especially when it comes to optics manufacturers. Other than the open classes and in the iron-sight classes, the 3-gun shooter will be limited to a single optic, which is universally mounted on the rifle. This type of sport will require significantly more from that single optic, so you’ll notice that new designs are pushing the envelope and expanding. These days, the scopes for 3-gun use are much different compared to models produced just a few years ago.

Additionally, 3-gun is viewed by serious civilians, law enforcement, and the military as one of the best defensive training options that’s readily available. Many of the latest optic advancements for 3-gun carry over to the competitive and tactical side of rifle shooting. Long distance targets that measure in at over eight hundred yards are all part of the equation for 3-gun shooting, so a scope must offer better than average magnification capability.

What is 3-Gun Shooting?

hunter and his rifle

3-gun shooting is considered the most exciting and one of the fastest growing shooting sports out there. These competitions consist of a set of courses in which a person will shoot three different guns, a shotgun, a pistol, and a rifle, and engage in various long and short-distance targets from different positions. Scoring will be based on hits and time. The shooter who hits the most targets the fastest will win the competition. This sport is very competitive and exciting. It requires a combination of shooting accuracy and speed, and many years of practice.

For new shooters, this type of shooting can be a little intimidating. This type of equipment driven sport can be confusing, especially when the newbie takes a look at the different types of high-speed gear that most shooters are using.

There are many divisions of 3-gun shooting, each of which is determined by the type of gear the shooter uses. Tactical optics is by far the most popular division and it’s often the place where new shooters start.

Tactical Division

This division is dominated by the AR15 rifle, however, the shooter with an semi-automatic that’s magazine fed and has optics bolted on it can compete.

The tactical optics division will allow shooters to use a scope that’s 1-6 X. While any type of low power variable is a great choice for beginners, a scope that allows you to dial it down to 1 X will allow the shooter to keep both of their eyes wide open when they’re taking a shot. This 6 X is enough magnification for most long-range shots. Shooters who want to shoot with a non-magnified optic or a red dot scope can enter the limited class.

In a competition, the shooter will need to have a minimum of three thirty-round magazines for their rifle. The shooter can carry them in their pocket; however, a one belt-mounted magazine holder will come in handy.

For the tactical optics division, the competitor must use a semi-automatic shotgun. While a pump-action shotgun can be used, it can be a disadvantage since shooters in this division almost always choose a semi-automatic. This division will allow nine shells to be loaded into the shotgun. A competitor with a shotgun that only holds five shots can still compete, but they will be at a major disadvantage.

Most competitions will use a high capacity 9 MM handgun and a minimum of four magazines, in addition to enough belt-mounted pouches that can store up to three of them. As a beginner gains experience, they may want to upgrade their sights or have the trigger weight reduced. A sight upgrade can consist of a fiber optic sight that has contrasting colors. An adjustable sight will allow the user to sight in the gun with their ammo of choice, they can also consider adding a beveled magazine or they can modify their existing magazine to enable faster reloading times. Aside from the handgun, you’ll also need a quality holster with tension. A holster will provide proper retention of your gun as you move and run, allowing for faster draws, without the need to disengage any type of retention device.

Last of all, shooters will need to have cases for each of their guns and a way to transport them from stage to stage. Some ranges may also require you to bring along chamber flags to indicate that they’re empty.

Benefits of a 3-Gun Scope

  • These scopes are suitable for 3-gun competitions and other types of applications. This type of scope offers the ideal magnification that allows shooters to see clearly, even at a longer distance. The scope will make the image look sharp and clear and will not distort it.
  • A shooter will increase their chances of hitting the target without any hassle. Additionally, the scope will also improve a user’s overall shooting quality.
  • These scopes feature a rugged construction, which makes them suitable for any shooting or hunting terrain.
  • Most models are fog-proof and waterproof, allowing users to practice in any type of weather.

Now that you know more about the main benefits of using this type of scope, let’s check out the most important features to look for to ensure you end up with a scope that can do wonders for your shot accuracy.

Must-Have Features

For this type of scope, magnification quality and range are by far the most important factors to consider when you’re shopping for a new 3-gun scope. However, eye box, eye relief, reticle, focal plane, are other important factors that can help you narrow down your search to find the perfect scope for practice, competition use, hunting, and a wide range of other applications.

Magnification Range

For 3-gun shooting, every stage at each match is different, there is no set course of fire. Competitors will never know what the targets will be, far or near, stationary or moving, small or big, until they walk through a course before the shooting. Because of this, many shooters will choose a scope for the low-power feature. This is because many shooters believe that a 1 x optic is important in terms of speed for targets that are close range. For some shooters, even slight magnification can be very disorienting when attempting to shoot rapidly on several targets while keeping both eyes open.

Typically, the mandatory multiple close-range targets will require a double tap for each one. With a scope that offers true 1 X magnification, the view through the scope will be identical to that of the unassisted eye. This will allow the shooter to keep both of their eyes open, resulting in significantly faster acquisition of the next target during the transition.

Shooting Technique

Pro 3-gun competitors stress the importance of optics and the visual aspects of this type of competitive shooting. A shooter must keep both eyes open, allowing them to quickly focus on their next target and view it as the crosshairs slide into place for the shot. Any type of magnification in the optic makes this technique tricky, since the eyes are viewing different perspectives on the target. One eye has a magnified view, while the other does not, so it can easily confuse the brain’s ability to decode this information obtained by the eyes.

The standard 1 X scope has been around for years, but the high end of the magnification has changed. In the past, the majority of 1 X scopes maxed out at 4 X. These days, the top end is often 6 X, which has made a world of difference.

Most 3-gun competitions try to stress every aspect of shooting, which is why they usually include long-range targets in the mix. This is very common in matches that take place out west. In these competitions, 4 X magnification is not enough.

Mount

In a 3-gun scope package, the mount is critical. Even a top of the line scope will be difficult to use if it comes loose during a match or if it’s unable to hold zero.

Reticle

The reticle is designed to draw the shooter’s eye to the center for the close-range aspect of this type of shooting. At the same time, it must be able to handle any long-range targets that require increased precision. For that type of job, most reticles will come equipped with several aiming points on the descending vertical stadia. Most competitive shooters will use the hold-over method for any type of long-range target because it’s significantly faster than having to dial in a correction. When you’re in a 3-gun competition, every single second will count.

There are a variety of ways to space aiming points. Many manufacturers will use one-millimeter increments. When the scope is zeroed for a specific distance, such as one hundred yards, each of the aiming points should correspond with 100, 200, 300, yards, etc. The majority of aiming points are based on a specific velocity and bullet weight. With the wide range of bullet weights and the shorter barrels used in 3-gun, it’s crucial to verify the point of impact for every aiming point. This is done by shooting at the range, then measuring the results.

Which zero should be used will vary, however, most competitors will zero at one hundred or two hundred yards, depending on personal preference. It’s more important to know the holdovers for the zero that’s chosen at any range. The less cluttered reticles are, the better. Some reticles that are long range can be very complex. While this is fine for long-range shooting, it can be too confusing for use in a 3-gun competition.

Focal Plane

commando officer

Focal plane scores are a great choice for the long-range shooter who relies on high-magnification optical. 3-gun shooters will use low-power scopes, which makes the image relatively small. A first focal plane reticle can grow so large that it can completely cover some small long-range targets and it’s magnified along with the image in the scope. When it comes to 3-gun competitions, a second focal plane reticle that is non-magnifying can work better at either end of the spectrum.

Illuminated Center

When you have to shoot with both of your eyes open at close range, an illuminated center will be a big help. This usually takes the shape of a dot. A bright dot, one that’s easy to spot in any type of light condition, will draw the eye to it. Some models will come with adjustable settings, so you can switch it up based on current light conditions. Red dot sights are basically the only sight you’ll ever see on an open class gun for a reason- they’re the best choice for shooting and aiming fast. This type of sight will work on a basic principle- the shooter will keep both of their eyes open with their vision focused on the target, floating the dot over the aiming point. It’s the simplest and quickest way to aim at close targets.

With a magnified scope, the difference is that the dot is fixed in the center, unlike with other types of scopes where the dot is floating. This will be helpful for competitive shooters since it works to keep their focus in the center of the optic. With both eyes wide open, the shooter can allow the dot to float on the target before they fire. Using a magnified optic, the user will still have the option to zoom in for long-range precision shots, with a standard red dot scope, you won’t.

Eye Box

The eye box is the place the shooter can move their head around, side to side or up and down and still be able to see through the scope. Some models will require the shooter’s eye to be perfectly aligned with the center of the lens, while other models will offer more latitude. A larger eye box can be helpful when you’re moving and shooting rapidly since the shooter will have more leeway for how they hold and mount the gun. A three position rifle shooter will have plenty of time to correct a poor gun mount. Unfortunately, the 3-gun shooter doesn’t. Additionally, a bigger eye box also allows shooters to pick up the scope and target faster.

Eye Relief

Eye relief refers to the distance of the shooter’s eyes where they will get a full view through the scope to the lens. With a hunting rifle, long eye relief is important because it will prevent the shooter from being hit by the scope with recoil.  Most 3-gun shooters will have a brake on their rifle, so recoil isn’t really an issue. With a wider eye relief range the shooter will have more latitude for shooting in an awkward position or with a gun mount that’s less than perfect.

Max Distance

Those new to 3-gun competitions often ask what the max distance you can expect to shoot in a competition. Typically, the longest distance will range from five hundred up to six hundred yards. As long as you have a scope that’s designed to allow you to shoot at that distance comfortably, you should have no trouble hitting your mark.

Performance

These competitions are all about shooting precision and skill, so you’ll obviously want to choose a scope that provides a higher performance. If you’re new to the sport, then you’ll want a model that offers excellent usability as well. During a competition, you don’t want to waste too much time fidgeting with the scope or adjusting the settings before you take a shot. You need a model that allows you to quickly and easily go from one target to the next, so choose a scope that provides that type of performance.

Scope Versus Red Dot

1 X prism scopes, holographic sights, and red dots are all that’s allowed for the factory division in 3-gun shooting, so if that’s where you prefer competing, then you’ll need to choose one of these.

Fortunately, there are many great options to choose from that can help when it comes to improving shooting accuracy and speed. However, if you’re moving into open or tactical categories, then you’ll be at a disadvantage without a magnified scope. Top of the line scopes will help a shooter hit targets that are farther away. Yet, a low-quality scope can be a major hindrance. If the scope has a power ring that’s tricky to operate, too narrow of a field of view, too much minimum magnification, or poor eye relief, the scope may actually slow the shooter down in a competition.

Low-quality lenses can be found on cheap scopes that can end up distorting the shooter’s view through the scope, creating a type of fisheye effect that will provide a major challenge.

Shooters also have the option of using a magnified and red dot scope when shooting during an open division. In an open competition. It’s pretty common to see a scope that’s mounted as the main optic with an offset red dot used as a secondary optic for shots at close range. This provides the shooter the benefit of using magnification for farther targets and transitioning to point blank ranges without making any adjustments. It can also give the user the advantage of faster target acquisition at close range compared to backup iron sights.

Warranty

Many major manufacturers will offer five-year warranties on top of the line models. In fact, you can also find limited lifetime warranties on the best-selling scopes. Lower priced scopes may also be covered by an extended warranty, however, this depends on the manufacturer. In most cases, models under $100 will be covered by a warranty that ranges from three to six months.

Price

These scopes can cost as little as $20 or as much as $1800. How much you’re willing to invest in a new scope all depends on how serious of a shooter you are and how much time you normally invest in 3-gun practice and competitions. The serious competitor is going to want to invest in a top of the line scope, one that offers excellent image clarity in a variety of light conditions. Of course, beginners may want to start off small and choose a moderately priced model, until they get the hang of using a scope and determine whether or not they want to stick with the sport.

Other Considerations

Choosing the right optics for a competition will have its own set parameters that you’ll need to consider. Rifles often get banged and bumped around a lot, so they need to be able to hold zero through a reasonable amount of use and abuse.

The scope should also be lightweight, which will help you to maneuver the rifle around barriers and obstacles. A rifle engagement can range from just a few feet up to a few hundred. When magnification is allowed, you need a variable zoom that has minimum magnification that’s as close to 1 X as possible. You’ll also need your scope to have a slim profile, which will help to improve awareness down range. This will assist with fast transitions between targets.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a 3 Gun Scope?

The average three-gun shooter will use a low powered scope, making the image small through the optic. A first focal plane reticle will be magnified along with the image seen through the scope. The image can grow larger so that it will cover some small long-range targets.

What Does 3 9×50 Mean on a Scope?

With a 3 9 X 40 scope, the three means three power, or 3 X. This means that the image the shooter sees through the scope will appear three times closer than it does with the naked eye. The nine means nine times, nine power, or 9 X closer than what it appears with the naked eye. The forty is the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters.

What Magnification do I Need to Shoot 500 Yards?

You will need to use 5 X magnification. This is the minimum level of magnification that you’ll need for those challenging five hundred yard shots. However, some shooters will argue that this level of magnification is on the low side for most shots. Some experts recommend using 10 X magnification for the best chance at making the shot.

What Magnification do I Need for 300 Yards?

Generally speaking, the lowest magnification that will provide a clear shot image is the best magnification. Many pros use 4 X scopes for hunting purposes and it’s a good choice for three hundred yard shots. 6 X magnification will work well for four hundred yard shots. For hunting smaller animals, you’ll need more magnification.

What Magnification do Snipers Use?

The standard is 10 X for targets at medium to long range and is the best choice for two hundred and fifty up to one thousand yards.

Should I put a Red Dot on my Shotgun?

Doing so will allow users to engage targets easily. It will give the shooter better aim during waterfowl, turkey, and deer hunts. The shooter will not need to worry that their sight is forested in low light settings.

How Far are Red Dot Scopes Accurate?

Approximately one hundred yards. A red dot optic is best sighted at one hundred yards. After one hundred yards, accuracy will depend on the target’s size and the design of the scope. Since red dots are non-magnifying scopes, they’re often used for mid-range shooting.

Final Thoughts

The best 3-gun scope features the qualities and characteristics that make it a great choice for any 3-gun competition, tactical shooting, or hunting. This guide is designed to help you make the best choice based on your shooting needs, skill level, application, and budget. The models I’ve chosen for my top six list will be invaluable in a competition and can take your shooting precision to a whole new level.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*