Best 22LR Scope: Top 5 Expert Picks

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By Dennis Howard •  18 min read

The .22 Long Rifle caliber is undeniably the most popular rifle caliber in the United States. Everyone from first-time shooters to experienced old hands enjoys an afternoon of small game hunting or target shooting. My first rifle was a Ted Williams .22LR single shot from Sears and Roebuck. I would wager that most rifle shooters had their first experiences with a .22LR rifle.

Best 22LR Scope: Top 5 Expert Picks

I cut my teeth on iron sights on my first .22 rifle. Over the years I purchased other rifles, but it wasn’t until I got my hands on my first Ruger 10/22 that I decided to put a scope on a .22 caliber rifle. Like many other hunters, I was budget-constrained being and needed to find the best scope for the money. That scope turned out to be a second-hand Bushnell that I purchased from a friend.

Over the years I have had many .22 caliber rifles and many different scopes. New technologies and new companies now lead the way in rimfire rifle scopes and making the choice can be difficult. I have returned to the market for a new scope for my Ruger 10/22 Takedown model. In doing so, I looked at many different options. I hope what I found helps you make your selection of the best 22Lr scope for your needs.

The Difference Between Center Fire Scopes and Rimfire Scopes

To understand the difference between rimfire scopes and centerfire scopes, we must start by looking at the rifles. The differences in the rimfire rifles and center fire rifles is the major foundation for the differences in the rifle scopes.

The Obvious Difference

The obvious difference between rimfire ammunition and centerfire ammunition is the point of ignition. Rimfire cartridges use a primer compound that is fixed into a channel or groove around the inside of the cartridge case bottom. Centerfire cartridges use a primer button that fits into a socket in the center of the base of the cartridge. This difference in primer design doesn’t contribute to the differences in scopes, but it is important because it contributes to other differences that matter.

Size Matters

By and large, rimfire ammunition is smaller in caliber and smaller in overall size than centerfire ammunition. The smaller size of the cartridge case is partly due to the rimfire primer configuration. A rimfire primer system isn’t as reliable, nor can it properly ignite larger and bulkier powder loads.

Because rimfire loads are smaller and less powerful than their centerfire cousins, the recoil generated is less, which directly affects the way rimfire scopes are built. Rimfire scopes don’t need to be as heavily built to withstand the substantially less recoil from rimfire loads.

Power and Distance

Smaller cartridge cases and lighter-weight bullets are the hallmarks of rimfire loads. Smaller cartridge cases reduce the amount of powder that can be loaded, resulting in less power and distance. Consequently, there is no need to mount a scope with a range of 400 yards on a rimfire rifle that usually has a maximum effective range of 150 yards.

Most .22LR ammunition is loaded with a .40 grain bullet that develops in the neighborhood of 1200 to 1400 feet per second of muzzle velocity. At 100 yards, this has dropped to approximately 900 feet per second. Most .40 gr .22LR ammunition only delivers about 90 ft. lbs. of energy at 100 yards.

What Does This All Tell Us?

All this data leads us to the conclusion that Rimfire scopes are much different than centerfire riflescopes. For the most part, rimfire scopes have these characteristics:

With these things in mind, let’s take a look at what I believe to be the best 22lr scopes available.


My Rimfire Scope Choices

There are several things that influence any scope purchase I make. I always consider the clarity of the images produced in the scope, the brightness of those images, and the durability of the scope. The reputation of the manufacturer also plays into my selections.

When considering rimfire scopes, there are a few other factors that I take into consideration. .22 rifles tend to be subject to much more rugged lives than more expensive rifles. In many instances, these .22 caliber rifles are working guns, carried behind the seat in a truck, and subject to hard use. For this reason, the construction of a rimfire riflescope is a big part of my selection.

I also look for a rimfire riflescope that is waterproof, fog-proof, and shockproof for obvious reasons. Many manufacturers advertise their scopes as meeting these requirements, but few do the testing to back them up. Nothing spoils an afternoon of plinking than a scope that isn’t usable.

These are my choices for the best 22lr scopes. I have categorized them to make your choices a bit easier. I hope that this information is useful to you and gives you a better idea of how to find a suitable .22LR rifle scope.

1. Best Overall Rimfire Scope – Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7×32 Rimfire Riflescope

If you have read any of my other scope-related articles, you should know that I am a huge fan of Vortex Optics products. Given a choice, I will almost always choose a Vortex Optics scope. In this case, my choice of the best overall rimfire scope is the Vortex Optics Crossfire II2-7×32 rimfire model.

Vortex Optics Crossfire II scopes offer some of the best scopes for 22lr

This is, in my opinion, the best rimfire scope for the money that you can buy and mount on your rifle. One of the primary uses of my rimfire rifles is teaching my grandsons how to shoot. This necessarily involves more than the usual number of dings, drops, and rough handling. The Vortex Optics No Questions Asked warranty can be the best feature of these Vortex Optics scopes.

Considering the other features that Vortex packs into these budget-minded scopes just makes them that much better of a deal:

Features

Vortex Optics hits the mark by including the same sorts of features on the Crossfire II Rimfire scope that you would find on their most expensive centerfire scopes.

Specifications

The Vortex Crossfire II Rimfire scope features the V-Plex second focal plane reticle which is good for medium range shooting

Pros and Cons

Pros
Cons

All in all, Vortex Optics Crossfire II is a rugged, easy-to-use riflescope that makes a good all-around scope for almost anyone.

Crossfire II windage and elevation turrets make turret adjustments quick and easy

Why I Chose the Crossfire II Rimfire 3-7X32 Riflescope

In my view, Vortex Optics offers the best value and feature package available to shooters. There are other manufacturers around who make a great scope. However, they don’t offer the background, service, and warranty that I have gotten with my Vortex scopes.

Rimfire rifles are, by their nature, working guns that see everyday use in many instances. A scope that can handle the rigors of riding behind the seat in a pickup or stand being tossed in the trunk of a car is a feature that usually isn’t listed, but should be considered.

Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7x32 Rimfire, Second Focal Plane, 1-inch Tube...
  • The 2-7x32 Crossfire II Rim fire riflescope is one of many configurations in the Crossfire II line....
  • With long eye relief and an ultra-forgiving eye box, you'll be able to quickly get a sight picture...

Last update on 2022-07-03 at 22:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2. Runner-up Best Overall .22LR Scope – Burris Droptine Riflescope with Ballistic Plex .22 Reticle

Many hunters and competition shooters swear by Burris scopes. Burris has a reputation among shooters as one of the better mid-range scope manufacturers in the industry. That kind of background and reputation among shooters gets the Burris Droptine Riflescope a place on our list.

The Burris Droptine rimfire scope offers generous eye relief and features usually found on advanced scopes

Burris competes easily in the features area. In fact, the Burris Droptine Riflescope is one of the few .22LR rifle scopes that include a ballistic reticle as a standard issue. This is almost unique among riflescopes intended exclusively for rimfire calibers. The ballistics reticle can be a huge factor for a hunting rifle when choosing a scope.

These are some of the other features you will find on this Burris rimfire scope.

Features

You won’t find anything lacking if you choose to mount a Burris rimfire scope on your rifle. These scopes feature superior light transmission at all magnification ranges.

Specifications

Burris Droptine Ballistic Plex bullet drop compensator reticle

Pros and Cons

Pros
Cons

The Burris Droptine is an entry-level scope, but it offers features not usually found on comparable scopes. For most .22 caliber jobs and rifles, this is an excellent scope at a budget price.

The Burris Droptine rimfire scope brings features such as bullet drop compensation to an entry level scope

Why I Chose the Burris Droptine 3-9X40 Ballistic Plex .22LR Reticle Scope

Burris is an American company that assembles its scopes in the USA. Burris has a long history and enjoys a great reputation among shooters. If you are wanting a rugged and dependable scope with a bullet drop compensation reticle and you are on a budget, the Burris Droptine is a great scope.

Burris Droptine Riflescope with Ballistic Plex .22 Reticle, 3-9x 40mm
  • Model 200019 has the focus set at just 50 yards, making it a great choice for . 22 LR ammo.
  • The 3-9x40mm is compact and lightweight, with a nine times magnification that provides enough...

Last update on 2022-07-03 at 21:53 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

3. Best Illuminated Reticle .22LR Scope -Vantage IR Riflescope 3-9×40, 1″, Rimfire .22 LR HV

This may be the best scope you have never heard of. Vantage is not one of the names that gets bantered around by hunters and competitive shooters. However, if you want a .22LR scope with an illuminated reticle and a host of other features that most mid-level scopes can’t match, Vantage is the place to look.

This particular scope delivers fog proof operation with excellent light transmission for small game hunting

The parent company of the Vantage line of hunting optics is Hawke, a UK company that sells worldwide. The company has a huge following in Europe and is just breaking into the U.S. markets. These scopes are manufactured in China, but Hawke maintains tight quality control standards to ensure customer satisfaction.

For a mid-range scope, the Vantage IR 3-9X40 scope is a winner. Hawke includes many features only found on much more expensive scopes:

Features

These are by no means tier 1 rifle scopes. However, the clarity and brightness provided by the optical glass used in the scopes are above par. The scratch-resistant lenses deliver crisp, clear target images and provide maximum light transmission.

Specifications

Precision target shooters have long chosen  a scope with mild-dot reticle and variable magnification range

Pros and Cons

Pros
Cons

For a mid-priced illuminated reticle scope, the Hawke Vantage 3-9x40mm IR is a good buy for almost anyone. The scope has enough range to go out to the limits of your .22LR, making it useful for hunting. The glass does a good job of gathering light, making this a better-than-average scope in low light conditions.

Hawke Vantage scopes feature low profile capped turrets with knurled knobs for your rimfire rifle

Why I Chose the Hawke Vantage 3-9x40mm IR Etched Reticle Scope

Price versus features is the big reason this scope made my list. In the quest to get the most bang for a buck, the Hawke Vantage scopes perform admirably and won’t set you back budget-wise. There are more expensive scopes that may offer a few more advantages, but for the average .22LR shooter, this scope will deliver the goods.

Vantage IR Riflescope 3-9X40 AO, 1", Mil Dot (Etched)
  • GREAT VALUE, HIGH PERFORMANCE, VERSATILE SCOPE with 11 layer Fully Multi-Coated lenses, for...
  • ADJUSTABLE OBJECTIVE for parallax correction from 9m / 10yds to Infinity - perfect for close...

Last update on 2022-07-03 at 21:53 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4. Runner-up Best Illuminated Reticle .22LR Scope – UTG 3-9X40 1″ BugBuster Scope, AO, 36-color Mil-dot, w/ Rings

Leapers is one of those companies that has been around for years and gets overlooked or sidelined by many shooters. I have been involved with Leapers UTG scopes for many years. I sold them in my retail store, and I gained a good deal of respect for the company and the products.

Great eye relief and emerald lens coatings make the UTG bugbuster one of the best scopes in the budget category

For a budget 3-9×40 rimfire rifle scope, I don’t think you should discount the Leapers UTG scopes. I have found their quality control to be excellent and have had very few problems with the scopes I have sold and installed on rifles.

The features that Leapers includes with their UTG scopes are impressive and get them a spot on my list as a runner-up for an illuminated rimfire scope.

Features

You won’t find more features and options on scopes that are much more expensive. For an entry-level scope, this is one of the best rimfire scopes I have found, and I highly recommend you consider the UTG 3-9X40 IR scope for your rifle.

Specifications

If you need a ifle scope that can go long range or close range the UTG Bugbuster delivers a clear and precise sight picture

Pros and Cons

Pros
Cons

The UTG Bugbuster scope is a medium-range rifle scope that offers a budget alternative. Leapers has moved their manufacturing processes back to the United States to better control quality.

The UTG bugbuster scope offers generous eye relief and a 40 mm objective lens with emerald multicoated lenses to reduce light reflection

Why I Chose the UTG Bugbuster 3-9×40 IR .22LR Rifle Scope

The UTG Bugbuster scope made my list based on my knowledge of the brand and the performance of the UTG scopes I have used. Budget scopes are notorious for quality control issues, light transmission problems, and a poor sight picture. UTG avoids all these problems and delivers a price that almost any shooter can afford to mount for rifle shooting.

UTG 3-9X32 1" BugBuster Scope, AO, 36-color Mil-dot, Rings , Black
  • Built on True Strength Platform, Completely Sealed and Nitrogen Filled, Shockproof, Fogproof and...
  • 1 Inch Tube with Emerald Coated Lens for Crystal Clear View with Maximum Light Transmission

Last update on 2022-07-03 at 21:53 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

5. The Ultimate .22LR Rimfire Scope – Leupold VX- Freedom Rimfire Rifle Scope

Now we move into the true upper tier of rimfire riflescopes. Not very many shooters will argue with choosing a Leupold scope as the ultimate choice for a .22 rifle. Among scope manufacturers, Leupold is the brand by which most other scopes are measured.

the VX Freedom is perhaps the best rimfire scope on the market

Leupold’s reputation alone says a lot. However, their scopes speak for themselves. Leupold uses the highest quality glass, the most careful manufacturing, and the finest of materials to build their scopes. From the multicoated lenses to the precision glide erector system, these scopes are without equal.

Leupold scopes are among the best. Even for 22LRs, there is a place for expensive high-quality scopes in the long-range shooting and competitive shooting arenas. These are among the best rimfire scopes on the market and offer excellent features.

Features

You get everything you would expect from the Leupold VX-Freedom scope that is designed for .22LR shooting. Even the reticle is designed to work with .22LR ballistics. These are scopes that make long-range shooting possible with the .22LR cartridge.

Specifications

the leupold rimfire BDC reticle makes the VX Freedom scope my choice as the best remfire scope you could consider

Pros and Cons

Pros
Cons

Who doesn’t want a Leupold scope on their rifle even if it is just a .22LR? If you want to take your .22LR to its maximum potential for long range shooting, the Leupold VX-Freedom is the scope you should be looking through at your targets.

Leupold, VX-Freedom Riflescope, 3-9x40mm Rimfire, 1" Main Tube, MOA...
  • Model #174181 - VX-Freedom Rimfire 3-9x40mm Riflescope with a Rimfire-MOA reticle and Matte finish
  • 100% Waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof.

Last update on 2022-07-04 at 00:02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Why I Chose the Leupold VX Freedom Rimfire Scope For My List

Every list needs that ultimate dream item. In this case, it is the Leupold VX Freedom rimfire riflescope. Is this the very best scope for .22LR on the market? Probably not. I know there are more expensive scopes, but I am not sure you can do better for the money than the Leupold VX Freedom.

THe VX Freedom mounted is arguabley the best rimfire scope for the money you can buy

Me and Rimfire Scopes for Rimfire Rifles

I have a colorful history with rimfire scopes and rimfire rifles. I have shot everything from cheap single-shot bolt action rifles to exotic special-purpose rifles. The scopes that were mounted on each were a wide variety of optical scopes, red dots, and sophisticated night-vision equipment. By and large, I keep coming back to my Ruger 10/22 takedown with a Vortex Optics Crossfire II scope. It is dependable, has great clarity and brightness, and has withstood all the abuse and neglect I have tossed its way.

Dennis Howard

A life long hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman, after surviving a devastating tornado in his home town, he saw the effects on people's lives as they struggled to cope. He built his first bugout bag a few weeks later and has been a dedicated prepper/survivalist since that time. After a career as a fireman, Dennis opened a retail store (FFL approved) catering to the military, law enforcement, and like-minded individuals. The store built their own AR platforms. Furthermore, Dennis was also an NRA instructor in both long gun and handgun as well as a certified range safety officer. Read his full interview here.