Crossbow hunting and target shooting are becoming popular activities among hobbyists and professionals in this modern age. If you’re practicing archery, crossbow scopes are an essential tool to have whether you’re on a range or hunting game.
We’ve compiled a list of the very best crossbow scopes available. We’ll also discuss the fundamentals of crossbow scopes, including types, designs, and mounts. First, though, let’s dive right into the scopes.
Why Use a Scope?
Scopes are typically used to magnify one’s target to get a more precise shot and makes it easier to visualize the goal. Scopes can additionally lend aid to one’s accuracy and can make for clean and quick kills so game from hunting won’t suffer. There are various kinds of scopes — or sights as some refer to them as — all with different features and functions. It’s very important that the archer chooses a scope that best suits their specific needs and fits their crossbow nicely.
Recommended Crossbow Scopes
While there is a vast variety of scope brands to choose from, only a few make it to the top and are worth mentioning.
The Nikon Bolt XR Crossbow Scope (BDC 60) (pictured above) is designed to outdo what other scopes are capable of. It’s equipped with 3x Nikon optics that transmit up to 92% of available light for brightness and contrast, and Nikon also included a multi-coated lens with multiple layers of anti-reflective compounds. What’s even greater about this scope is that its advanced BDC 60 reticle provides precise aiming points up to 60 yards based on a velocity of around 305 fps. Some additional features include a large ocular that utilizes its full field of view, 3.4 inches of eye relief, and a quick-focus eyepiece.
The Bolt XR furthermore has zero-reset turrets allowing you to sight in at 20 yards, lift the spring-loaded adjustment knob, then rotate to your “zero” allowing you to re-engage. You can simply dial in your subsequent ranges to make your field adjustments, and with the Bolt XR being waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof, this scope virtually matches with any crossbow velocity and bolt weight.
Many archers have deemed the Bolt XR as an excellent scope. It was mentioned that it works very well in low light with crystal clear glass. The multiple aim points were said to make it easier to accurately shoot from 20-60 yards with little to no effort. It’s highly recommended for archers looking for quality optics for their crossbow, for it has received a high rating amongst many that have bought and used this scope.
The Nikon Prostaff P3 is a newer version of the brand’s crossbow scope, and it is very similar in specs to the Bolt XR, including the BDC 60 reticle and reticle adjustments via 1-MOA click-stop moves. With this one, you’ll find a smoother experience and heartier build, so it’s definitely worth investigating the Prostaff P3.
The Excalibur Twilight Dlx Scope Multirange Reticle is one of a few worthy scopes from Excalibur. This one is particularly good in low light situations, and it’s at its best on crossbows at 300-400 fps. This is especially true when it comes to sighting in the scope. This 1962 Scope 6X44mm 30mm tube boasts excellent durability, so it’s a good option for hunters who encounter harsh conditions. Though the magnification is 6x, it offers 50-foot range at 100 yards.
Excalibur offers two other excellent options that come highly recommended.
- Excalibur Tact-Zone Illuminated Scope, 2.5-6x32mm: 30mm tube, works for 275 to 415 fps, and offers excellent light transmission and red/green rheostat illumination. FOV estimated to be 45 feet at 2.5x power.
- Excalibur Shadow Zone 2-4X32mm Scope: Dual color illuminated multiplex reticle 2-4X32mm, adjustable crosshair spacing at 10-yard increments for crossbow at velocities between 250 and 350 FPS.
Each of the Excalibur scopes we reviewed are shockproof, waterproof, and fogproof. It’s one of the most versatile crossbow scope brands on the market.
Other Crossbow Scopes
Another worthy crossbow scope is UTG’s 4×32 1″ Crossbow Scope with Pro 5-Step RGB Reticle and QD Rings. It’s built on a TS platform with a 1″ tube, wide angle lens, and parallax at 50 yards. It also includes broadband lens coating, RGB side-wheel illumination, zero-reset/locking W/E knobs, and comes with complete flip-open lens caps and UTG RQ2W1104 QD rings. The side wheel with green/red illumination has flexible adjustment for most versatile weather and lighting conditions and the scope has ergonomic and precise windage and elevation adjustment turrets for a more precise shot.
Plenty favor this scope for its crystal clear glass view and effective green/red colored sight reticle, great for day or night shooting. It’s pretty solid and well-built with a comfortable
eye relief and houses overall wonderful optics, fantastic for archers looking for an effective yet affordable scope.
One last scope in the list of top scopes is Hawke’s 1.5-5×32 Matte IR SR Scope with Illuminated Circles. This scope matches up to the Bolt XR’s high performance and is specifically designed for crossbows. It features a crossbow speed selector which allows the scope to be compatible with any crossbow, and the precision reticle is engineered to provide aim points at exact 10-yard intervals from 20 to 100 yards. Its 1″ optics are fully coated for high levels of light transmission, and the red/green illumination (only on the SR model) allows for excellent reticle clarity.
It’s around the same value as the Nikon Bolt XR, and its users like its simple set up and quick sighting in. It seems to be highly recommended for those that do target shooting or hunting for archers can truly reach out to 100 yards, which is a best for many that couldn’t reach that before with other scopes.
Scope Design Basics
The scope is to be placed on the body of the crossbow above the trigger. An obvious component to a scope’s design is the long black tube with an ocular lens eyepiece on one end and the sight on the opposite end past the eyepiece. If the archer decided to add zooming features, there should be a power ring to be able to adjust the magnification of the sight. The elevation adjustment and windage adjustment tool can be found in the middle of the scope tube, and at the end of the scope is the objective bell where the scope’s body seems to get wider and almost bell-shaped. The objective bell is where the objective lens is contained. There are three main types of scopes an archer can choose from; a laser sight scope, red dot sight, and reticle scope.
Types of Scopes
A laser sight scope is an alternative, mostly practical for when you’re aiming at a moving target. The laser is meant to help the archer anticipate when the arrow will strike the objective. Laser sights can either be mounted underneath an archer’s crossbow or to the upper portion of the scope. If the laser sight is used with a quality scope, it can be utilized to accurately determine midrange targets. An iron sight is another alternative and is the most basic yet durable. There can be two sights on the crossbow, with one as a post, bead, or ring in the crossbow’s front and on the back of the bow perpendicular to the crossbow’s line of sight.
A red dot sight scope makes a red (or sometimes green) dot that the archer can see and use to pinpoint his aim at the target. You can either get red dot sights with single style distance settings or more advanced multi-dot scopes with several distance settings, it depends on what your preferences are. A lot of times, the red dot sight can be adjusted so it will be brighter or darker according to your liking too.
A reticle scope has crosshairs that section the lens view into four parts. This type of lens scope is the most common and more traditional. The crosshairs might be etched, wired in, or lit up in the scope depending on the model.
Scope Mount Types
When selecting a type of mount for your scope, there are the Picatinny, Dovetail and Weaver rails to choose from. Picatinny mounts can elevate the scope by about ½ an inch above the crossbow body and is most practical if you are using a red dot sight scope. “Picatinny” comes from the place of origin where the system was designed at the New Jersey-based Picatinny arsenal.
The Dovetail mount looks similar to the Picatinny mount in that it has a set of grooves running parallel that grasp onto a tiny set of ribs raised in the middle part of the scope’s base. Dovetail mounts are actually the oldest used mounts, and because of a 1931 patent on the mount’s design, Dovetail mounts are also known as Redfield style or Leupold style.
The Weaver rail grips onto scopes’ beveled outer edge and is considered to be sturdier than other alternate mounts such as the Picatinny and Dovetail rails.
Crossbow scope rings are usually made out of steel or aluminum. Be sure to pay attention to the scope’s accuracy, size, and range when picking the best scope for your target shooting or hunting needs for these will be important in how your scope performs.
Most of the time, archers look for scopes that can increase their range so that they can hit targets easier. If you’re using your crossbow for hunting small game, then your scope should feature a short to mid-range distance and it needs to fight nicely onto the scope mount while being lightweight and sturdy. If you have something like a variable scope, which can be a bit on the heavy side, it can affect your ability to hunt and be anything but an improvement.
Terms You Should Know Before Buying a Scope
There’s nothing like knowing exactly what you need to improve your crossbow’s accuracy. So before deciding on the perfect scope, here are some terms you need to know and keep in mind as you’re exploring the scope market.
Magnification is a basic function of a scope’s features which allows the archer to zoom in on objects from afar since the naked eye doesn’t have the ability to do so. There is a wide range of magnifications on scopes, with most of them having up to 32x maximum.
A scope’s field of view is essentially the sight picture with a particular width. For example, if your target’s distance is at 150 yards, the scope will give you a sight that is 15 feet wide. Thus, it’s not only magnified, but it also provides the focal lengths of the lenses. Usually, if the magnification is high, then the field of view will be narrow. While this feature isn’t necessarily for new crossbow users who still need practice, it’s very important for hunters that need to hone in on their prey, especially smaller game.
Stray light is an internal coating which disperses light that enters in the scope and prevents it from reflecting off the scope’s metal. Overall, this helps you achieve the clearest sight of the goal.
The eye relief is simply the space between your eye and the eyepiece lens. It prevents any accidents that may happen your eye while shooting, such as the lens bumping into your eye if your crossbow has a bit of kickback.
Length refers to the distance from the edge of the objective lens up to the back edge of the eyepiece. As a rule of thumb to remember, the longer that the scopes measure to be, the greater the magnification will be, but it will also be heavier. Depending on your preference, the magnification will vary if you like lightweight scopes versus heavier scopes.
The center tube diameter lets you know the size of the scope’s rings as well as the base of the scope.
Questions to Ask Before You Buy
When browsing for the perfect scope, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself in order to make sure the scope fits your needs.
Does the scope fit your budget? Typically, the pricier a scope, the more features it has and the better it performs. Cheaper scopes come with more standard and basic features and don’t have as many advanced settings such as higher magnification or illuminated sights.
What is your purpose for buying a scope? Believe it or not, this matters very much for it can affect how you perform whether you’re just a hobbyist archer or a serious hunter. If you spend most of your time at a shooting range, then perhaps a red dot sight scope or reticle scope would be most ideal. If you like to hunt game, then a red dot or a laser scope could serve you well. Laser scopes are especially great for moving targets as mentioned before.
Is it easy to sight in with the scope? If you’re familiar with sighting in, you’d know how irritating it is if you have a scope that takes dozens of tries to adequately sight in on your target. You won’t have this issue if you get a quality scope.
Is the scope waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof? These qualities are important if you’re shooting in different weather situations, as they will aid you in getting a more accurate shot and prevent any inconveniences.
Is the scope made of durable material? Depending on what the scope you choose is made of, it could last from a couple months to up to 10 years. Most scopes are made of aluminum alloy while others are made of a less durable material.
Those who own crossbows all have different priorities as to how they use it and what they use it for. Some like red dot sight scopes, others may prefer the traditional cross sight or laser sight, and some like more lightweight scopes compared to heavier scopes. If the scope you ultimately pick can provide you with easy visualization of your target, magnify for a better view of your prey, give you quick and humane kills when hunting, and offer features that serve all of your specific needs.
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