How to Fix Scratches on a Rifle Scope: Insider’s Guide

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By Dennis Howard •  10 min read

Riflescopes are funny things. We all know that they are tools that we regularly use to perform certain jobs. Like any tool, riflescopes are subject to wear and tear on a normal basis. This normal wear and tear often result in the visible signs of that use in scratches. We all like to keep our scopes and rifles in tiptop shape. Many shooters wonder about how to fix scratches on a riflescope.

Scratches on riflescopes come in many different forms and severities. Scratches may occur on the body and tube of the scope or the lenses. Surface scratches on the tube and body of the scope are usually minor and easily repaired. Lens scratches are another matter and often render a riflescope unrepairable and unusable.

Some shooters see the minor scrapes and dings on their rifle scopes as reminders of their enjoyed outings. Each scratch or dent is a memory of a great time or a memorable event. Other shooters prefer to keep their rifles and rifle scopes in pristine condition. Dings and scratches require quick attention and repair to keep that perfect look.

The Riflescope Tube and Housing – Attending to the Scratches

 A key step in remedying scratches on the tube of a riflescope is a basic understanding of riflescope construction and finishes. Different materials and different finishes require different approaches to refinishing or repairing scratches.

Aluminum Scope Tubes and Bodies

Most new riflescopes use several aluminum alloys for the riflescope tubes. The finish on these aluminum products is an anodizing process that is nearly impossible to reproduce outside the factory. The best you can hope for is a touchup that is a close match to the original finish. Some solutions used by experienced shooters include the following:

Steel Scope Bodies

In the past, manufacturers used steel in many older scopes and other optical instruments. In most cases, the steel bodies of these riflescopes were blued just like the metal parts of most rifles and shotguns. Repairing surface blemishes on these parts is like repairing a scratch on a blued shotgun or rifle finish.

We don’t suggest hot bluing a riflescope due to the delicate character of the internal parts of a riflescope, such as the seals and O-rings. However, many new cold-bluing products effectively repair and hide surface blemishes on steel tube riflescopes. Follow the cold-bluing product’s instructions carefully to get the best possible results.

Lens Scratch Solutions

Most modern scope manufacturers protect the lenses on their riflescopes and other optics with multi-layer systems. These lens coating systems are usually proprietary to the manufacturer and are closely guarded secrets. A scratch on a riflescope lens is beyond the capability of most shooters to repair. 

Lens Coatings – A Primary Introduction

Almost every manufacturer offers various lens coatings depending on the quality of the riflescope they are offering. In general, riflescope lens coatings fall into four areas:

What you remember is that the coatings serve several purposes. The coatings may:

Because the coatings rest on the surfaces of the lenses, the coatings are more susceptible to scratches and other damage. Protecting the lens surfaces with lens caps and proper cleaning techniques is key to keeping the coatings undamaged.

When a Lens does get Scratched or Damaged

We have all experienced that terrible situation where the unavoidable situation occurs, and a riflescope gets a scratch on the lens. Our first reaction is usually to grab a lens cloth and wipe the scratch away, which, in some cases, only makes the situation worse. What can you do if a lens on your riflescope sustains a scratch that is evident when you look through the lens?

In a word, you can’t do a lot. There is no way for anyone outside the scope manufacturer’s operation to repair or recoat a lens on a riflescope. If the scratch or damage is deeper than the lends coating and damages the optical glass of the lens, there is nothing short of regrinding the lens to affect a repair.

The Suggestions from the Internet

Searching the internet will get you a variety of suggestions for repairing a scratch on a riflescope lens. Some of the more popular include:

The severity of the damage to your riflescope lens will define what happens next. In some cases, the scratch is so minor that it is barely noticeable most of the time. In this case, the riflescope may provide years of service into the future without issue.

Larger and more noticeable scratches may impair the function of the scope to such an extent that the only reasonable alternative is to either have the manufacturer rebuild the scope or replace the scope entirely.

Prevention is the Best Cure

A little prevention can go a long way for the health of your rifle scope. Most scratches on riflescope lenses don’t occur due to an accidental drop or fall. Most lens damage occurs from improperly storing and cleaning the lenses of your riflescope. 

I don’t know how many times I have seen a companion grab a shirttail or a pocket-handkerchief from their jeans and give their riflescope lenses a good swipe. I always cringe when this happens. At some point, I will inevitably hear them complain about scratches on the lens of their riflescope. 

I suggest that anyone serious about keeping their riflescope in the best possible condition follow a few rules about cleaning and caring for their riflescope.

A little extra attention upfront may well prevent the need for repair or remanufacture in the end. Many of us invest as much or more in a riflescope as we do in our rifle. It makes sense to give the riflescope the same level of care and attention as the rifle.

The Inevitable Scratch or Ding

Unfortunately, suffering a scratch on a lens or the tube of your riflescope is often unavoidable. Some dings and scratches on the riflescope tube may be easily repairable or at least made less apparent. 

Unfortunately, a scratch on the lens may warrant a return to the factory. The precision of the lenses and the nature of the coatings make lens repairs impossible without factory intervention. Many shooters in this situation find the better solution is a newer scope for their rifle.

I hope that the information in this article is helpful. If you have comments or suggestions, please use the area below to reply. Your experience, expertise, and knowledge are valuable to all of us in this shooting community. Good luck and good shooting.

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.