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Muzzleloaders work a little differently from other rifles, which means that when choosing a scope for your muzzleloader, you need to think a little differently.
Fortunately for you, we’ve put together this guide to the best muzzleloader scopes to make choosing the right one a little bit easier.
We’ll start by going over our recommendations for the top muzzleloader scopes. Then we’ll go into our buying guide, which is full of the info you need to choose the right scope for you. Finally, we’ll finish up by answering a few of the most commonly asked questions about muzzleloader scopes.
Our overall top pick is the Leupold VX-Freedom UltimateSlam 3-9x40mm muzzleloader scope. It has all the features that you need and want from a muzzleloader scope, plus it’s from renowned scope manufacturer Leupold, so you know it’s good quality.
Also Read: 17 Best Long Range Scopes in 2022
Now let’s dive into a deeper look at the VX-Freedom UltimateSlam.
Here Are the Best Muzzleloader Scopes (Our Picks)
Our overall favorite muzzleloader scope is the Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40mm Muzzleloader UltimateSlam scope. This scope balances quality and budget to provide an overall incredible scope at a great price.
Leupold is well known in the scope world for their excellent scopes. Their lenses are particularly notable because they’re made from high-quality glass with top-of-the-line lens coatings. The lens coatings cut glare, improve clarity and resolution, and enhance light transmission. And thanks to scratch-resistant coatings, the lenses should stay nice and clear.
The 40mm objective lens is pretty typical for scopes in this class, but the optical quality allows even better light transmission relative to the scope’s competitors.
On top of the scratch-resistant lenses, the Leupold VX-Freedom UltimateSlam has plenty of other durability features. The scope is waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof, plus resistant to extreme temperatures and elevation changes.
The scope body is made from 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum, so it’s just as durable as the insides. It’s also got a matte finish so you won’t have to deal with glare giving away your position while hunting.
The Leupold-VX Freedom UltimateSlam scope features Leupold’s second focal plane UltimateSlam reticle, which is something of a crossover between Leupold’s Duplex reticle and a BDC reticle, making it ideal for the short ranges that muzzleloaders excel at.
The 3-9x magnification range is also great for short-range and the magnification level is easy to adjust. The power selector is easy to use and moves smoothly.
The elevation and windage turrets feature zero reset, making them easy to set back to your go-to zero setting after you’ve made adjustments. They rotate well, providing tactile and audible feedback. The turrets are also capped to keep them protected. They have ¼ MOA adjustment intervals and 60 MOA of adjustment range.
Parallax is set to 150, a more standard scope setting, but it still shouldn’t be too bad at shorter ranges.
The scope provides 4.2” to 3.7” eye relief, so there’s room for the scope to move with the recoil without ramming into your face.
Leupold optics are designed and manufactured in the United States, and they come with a lifetime warranty.
The Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40mmMuzzleloader UltimateSlam riflescope is a great entry-level muzzleloader riflescope. It gives you the quality that Leupold is known for in a scope designed specifically for muzzleloaders.
Our next recommendation, the Bushnell Banner 3-9×50 Multi-X Riflescope is a great choice for hunters on a budget. It’s made for use with both centerfire rifles and muzzleloaders.
This scope doesn’t offer the same optical clarity as the Leupold, but it is still very good, especially for the price. The lenses are multi-coated with Bushnell’s Banner Dusk & Dawn Brightness lens coatings to help with clarity and light transmission for a bright, high-definition image.
Surrounding the optical lens is the fast-focus eyepiece, which helps with faster, easier target acquisition. On the other end of the scope, the 50mm objective lens lets in plenty of light, allowing for a brighter picture, and provides a large field of view, great for hunting.
The Bushnell Banner 3-9×50 Riflescope has a Multi-X reticle, which is a duplex-style reticle. The lines are thick along most of their length for better reticle visibility, but they’re thin towards the center so they don’t block your target. The reticle is based on a 100-yard zero and provides dead holds for 200 yards with a muzzleloader.
The 3.8-inch eye relief is comparable to the Leupold’s and provides enough space for recoil without risking your eye and the surrounding area.
Despite the low price, the Bushnell Banner 3-9×50 Multi-X Riflescope is also incredibly durable. It’s dry-nitrogen-filled and has a single-piece tube. It’s waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof.
On a lot of budget scopes, you’ll find that manufacturers have cut corners on the turrets. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Bushnell. The Banner’s turrets are nice and crisp and easy to zero. The scope holds onto that zero well too.
This scope doesn’t come with a mount, so you’ll need to buy one separately.
You may notice a little bit of parallax at higher magnification levels, but you shouldn’t need the higher magnification settings too much anyway.
For shoppers on a budget, the Bushnell Banner 3-9×50 Multi-X Riflescope is a great choice. It costs only around $100 but delivers quality well above what you’d typically expect at that price point.
The Vortex Optics Crossfire II is one of the most widely recommended scope platforms out there. That’s because Crossfire II scopes are high-quality yet reasonably priced.
There are also a lot of different scopes within the product line with different magnification strengths and objective lens sizes, but the main features are more or less the same across the board. There isn’t a muzzleloader-specific version of the Crossfire II, but the platform will work just fine for muzzleloaders.
For muzzleloaders, I recommend either the 2-7x32mm or 3-9x40mm version.
Either way, you get the same basic features.
Both provide just under 4 inches of eye relief with a fast-focus eyepiece for comfortable shooting and fast, easy target acquisition. They also have fully multi-coated optics for excellent light transmission without glare, providing a bright, high-definition view of your target.
They both have capped turrets with ¼ MOA adjustment graduation and 60 MOA of max adjustment range for both elevation and windage. The turrets allow quick, tool-free re-indexing back to zero.
You also get a highly durable scope with each. Each Crossfire II scope features a single-piece tube, which helps with strength and waterproofness. Between that and the o-ring seals, the Crossfire II has no problem keeping out dust, debris, and water. The nitrogen gas purging further helps prevent internal fogging. The tube body itself is made from aircraft-grade aluminum.
In short, the scopes are waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof. Oh, and they come with a very generous lifetime warranty, so you know you’re covered if you have virtually any problem.
Each of these magnification strengths is available with either a Dead-Hold BDC reticle or a V-Plex reticle (Vortex’s version of the duplex reticle). However, the 3-9x40mm version is also available with a V-Brite reticle, which is the V-Plex reticle but with an illuminated center dot.
All three reticle options are great, so just go with the one you think you’ll like best for your needs.
Finally, each scope comes with removable lens covers and a lens cloth, but not with mounting rings, so you’ll need to buy them separately.
The Vortex Optics Crossfire II riflescope platform is one of the most popular and widely recommended scope platforms on the market. And it’s no surprise! These scopes are incredibly high-quality at a surprisingly affordable price point.
We’ve covered a couple of really affordable muzzleloader scopes already, so let’s take a second and go in the other direction. For muzzleloader owners looking for a truly high-end scope, we have to suggest the NightForce NXS 2.5-10X42mm.
With a price tag of about $1,600 to $1,800 depending on where you shop, this scope isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s designed specifically for black powder and is jam-packed full of features that justify that hefty price tag.
First, there’s the excellent glass quality and fully multi-coated lenses. These lenses provide a crisp, bright sight picture. Plus, the 42mm objective lens lets in plenty of light and provides a very generous field of view. It’s even night vision compatible if that’s your thing.
It has an illuminated BDC reticle (available in both MOAR and MIL-R versions) that’s perfect for deer hunting and is clearly visible even in low light. The ZeroStop turrets are nice and tactile, with a knurled texture to make them easier to operate. The side focus adjustment allows you to get the clearest possible picture. Parallax can be adjusted from 25 yards.
You can also replace the flush insert magnification control with the included Power Throw Lever (PTL), which makes it easier to change your magnification setting on the fly, even in gloves. Speaking of which, with a magnification range of 2.5 -10x, it’s hard to beat the versatility of this scope’s magnification.
The NightForce NXS 2.5-10X42mm scope is highly durable but still compact. It’s just 11.9 inches long and weighs only 20.5 ounces. Not bad for an illuminated scope.
It also just looks really, really nice.
Honestly, the only downside is the price tag.
For muzzleloader shooters looking for a high-end scope to top their rifle, the NightForce NXS is the way to go. Sure, it’s not exactly cheap, but if you have the money, it’s worth every dollar.
Alright, now that we’ve gotten a high-end recommendation out of the way, let’s go back to more budget-friendly scopes.
Our next recommendation is the Burris Optics Fullfield E1 3-9×40. This scope actually comes in a few different models, including one specifically for muzzleloaders, which is obviously the one we recommend here.
This scope’s lenses are made from high-grade optical glass and feature index-matched, Hi-Lume multicoating. Together, these features produce optics with excellent clarity and brightness without glare.
The Burris Fullfield E1 has a Ballistic Plex E1 reticle, a BDC-style option that provides holdovers for up to 500 yards, well past what you need for a muzzleloader. To keep your reticle where you put it, this scope features a double internal spring-tension system. The turrets are capped for their protection.
As for durability, the scope is waterproof, fogproof, and very, very shockproof thanks to features like the nitrogen-filled, one-piece tube. It also comes with the Burris Forever Warranty, just in case you have a problem.
The 3-9x magnification range and 40mm objective lens are very standard for this category of scopes.
The Burris Optics Fullfield E1 3-9×40 riflescope is great scope designed specifically for muzzleloaders. Thanks to the Ballistic Plex E1 reticle, 3-9x magnification, and high-quality optics, this scope will help you push your muzzleloader to the limits of its range.
Traditions Performance is actually a manufacturer that specializes in muzzleloading rifles, so they really know what they’re doing with the Traditions Performance Firearms 3-9×40 Muzzleloader Hunter Series Scope.
And to top off that reputation, the scope rings up for less than $100. But let’s talk about the scope’s features.
First of all, it has a one-piece tube to make it waterproof and shockproof, plus it’s gas-filled for fogproofing. At the same time, it’s lightweight and compact, so it won’t weigh down your hunting rifle.
The crystal lenses are multi-coated for improved light transmission and image clarity. The 3-9x magnification and 40mm objective lens are nothing special, but they’re absolutely sufficient for a muzzleloader scope.
It has a circle reticle and a fast focus eyepiece for quick, easy target acquisition.
At 3 inches, the eye relief is a little shorter than I’d like to see, so you’ll want to be careful while you figure out how much your muzzleloader is going to kick.
The Traditions Performance Firearms 3-9×40 Muzzleloader Hunter Series Scope isn’t the best scope on this list, but it’s incredibly affordable and will certainly get the job done and save you some money at the same time.
If you’re looking for a low magnification scope or just a nicer Vortex scope, the Vortex Optics Diamondback is for you.
Like with the Crossfire II, the Diamondback platform, in general, is great and there are a couple of different magnification strengths within the platform that we suggest for muzzleloaders.
First is the 3-9×40 model, a pretty standard magnification strength and objective lens diameter combination for muzzleloader scopes. The second is the 1.75-5×32 version, which is good for those who want a muzzleloader scope with a lower magnification strength.
As with the Crossfire II, regardless of which model you choose, the features beyond the magnification strength and objective lens diameter are pretty much the same. In fact, the Diamondback series has a lot of the same features as the Vortex Crossfire II, like capped turrets, a fast-focus eyepiece, and fully multicoated optics.
However, the Diamondback also has a few improvements on the Crossfire II platform. One of the most notable is the precision-glide erector system, which helps the scope smoothly adjust between magnification settings.
Another notable feature is the capped turrets, which provide 70 MOA of adjustment range for both windage and elevation. They allow for re-indexing without any tools so you can quickly make adjustments and return to zero.
Like the Crossfire II, the Diamondback is very durable. It has a single-piece aircraft-grade aluminum tube with o-ring seals and is argon-purged. That allows the scope to be waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof. It even has a matte, low-glare hard-coat anodized finish.
And like all Vortex Optics scopes, the Diamondback is protected by Vortex’s generous lifetime warranty.
The Diamondback 3-9×40 comes with either a Dead-Hold BDC reticle or a V-Plex reticle, while the Diamondback 1.75-5×32 is only available with a Dead-Hold BDC reticle. The 3-9x model provides 3.3 inches of eye relief, while the 1.75-5x provides 3.5 inches.
One disadvantage of the lower magnification model is the smaller objective lens, which means the light transmission isn’t as good. Fortunately, the optics make the most of the light that does come in. Still, I wouldn’t go with that version if you plan on shooting in low light.
The Vortex Optics Diamondback platform takes the Crossfire II platform and enhances it, giving you some extra features for your money. If you’re on a tighter budget, the Crossfire II will get the job done, but if you can afford to spend a bit more, it’s worth shelling out the extra funds for the Diamondback.
Buying Guide: How to Choose a Muzzleloader Scope
When choosing a muzzleloader scope, there are several things that you have got to consider to ensure that you’re choosing a scope that works well with your muzzleloader and is just generally a high-quality scope.
Optical clarity starts with the quality of the glass used for the scope’s lenses. High-end scopes nail glass quality, so if you go with a brand like NightForce, you have some assurance as to the quality of the glass used. Leupold is also known for the quality of the glass they use in their scopes.
Good mid-range scope manufacturers will also be sure to allocate resources towards glass quality and cut elsewhere because they recognize how important it is.
But optical clarity describes not just the quality of the glass, but also the lens coatings and the overall light transmission of the scope.
Lens coatings help improve light transmission and the definition of the sight picture, plus they help reduce glare. In general, the more lens coatings, the more they help, so you’ll want to look for scopes with fully multi-coated optics. This means that there are many layers of lens coatings that are applied to the entire lens surface.
Most muzzleloader scopes have either a BDC reticle or a duplex reticle.
BDC (bullet drop compensation) reticles are handy because they help you to estimate bullet drop over distance, allowing you to adjust your aim to make up for it.
Duplex reticles, on the other hand, are very simple. Some people prefer that style. Since you probably won’t be shooting particularly far with your muzzleloader anyway, the reticle style you choose won’t make too much of a difference once you’re used to it.
Getting an illuminated reticle can help with reticle visibility. Illuminated reticles certainly aren’t essential, but they can be useful, especially in lower light conditions or for shooters with weaker eyes.
Eye relief is important with any scope, but especially so with a muzzleloader.
Muzzleloaders shoot powerful rounds with a lot of recoil. That recoil can cause a scope to kick back and slam into your brow bone or worse, your eyeball. Best case scenario, you get some bruising or split the skin across your eyebrow, but in some cases, this can cause real and permanent damage to your eyeball.
To avoid all this, choose a muzzleloader scope with a minimum of 4 inches of eye relief. That means that you can position your eye at least 4 inches behind the ocular lens and get a full, unimpeded view through the scope.
Again, muzzleloaders shoot powerful rounds with lots of recoil. A muzzleloader scope needs to be able to stand up to all of that. It needs to be very shockproof (also called recoil proof). This also helps the scope stand up to any bumps or drops that may occur.
Of course, recoil isn’t the only problem that muzzleloaders may face. Moisture from rain and fog can also be an issue. Fortunately, there are plenty of waterproof and fog proof muzzleloader scopes out there.
O-ring seals help keep water out, while nitrogen or argon purging prevents fog with the added side benefit of helping improve light transmission.
You should expect to pay more for a more durable scope but remember: it’s actually cheaper to pay more for a durable scope than cheap out and have to buy inexpensive scopes over and over again because they keep failing.
The knobs on a scope that you use to adjust the windage and elevation settings of your scope are also called turrets and are another important feature of your scope. The elevation knob adjusts the height of your shot by moving the reticle up and down. The windage turret adjusts your shot to the right and left, again by moving the reticle.
Good turrets will produce both an audible click and tactical feedback so you can tell when you can track your adjustments, even when you’re not looking at the turret.
The best turrets are locking to prevent accidental adjustments, but more budget-friendly scopes may offer caps that cover the turrets to accomplish the same thing at a lower price point. The downside of caps is that they have to be removed for quick adjustments.
Muzzleloaders are short-range firearms, so you don’t need very powerful magnification for your muzzleloader scope.
3-9x magnification is probably the most common magnification range, but plenty of muzzleloader scopes have a lower minimum magnification. Some go a bit higher, but at that point, you really won’t use the upper limit of the scope’s magnification range. Honestly, even 9x is higher than will be practical in most situations in which you’d use a muzzleloader.
Also Read: 10 Best Red Dot Magnifiers
Have you ever looked down a scope and noticed that when you move your head a little bit, the reticle moves relative to the background or target as well? This occurs because the image that the scope projects is too far from the reticle and is called parallax.
Scopes are set so that no parallax occurs at a particular range. On most scopes, that’s about 100 yards, though 150 yards is also common. Of course, as we already know, muzzleloaders aren’t used at those kinds of ranges, so they need a lower parallax setting. Good muzzleloader scopes will have parallax set at around 50 or 75 yards.
However, there are also scopes with adjustable parallax so you can change the parallax setting to match the range you’re shooting at. You can change your parallax using either a side knob or, less commonly, a ring around the objective lens.
Since muzzleloaders have so much kick, you need a hefty scope mount and rings that will keep your scope solidly in place. Some scopes come with their own mounting hardware. Some don’t, though, and in some cases, you may want to look for a third-party mount or rings anyway.
When it comes to aftermarket scope mounts, look for one from a reputable brand. Monstrum and Aero Precision are a couple of my favorites for durable, high-quality scope mounts. Many scope manufacturers also make aftermarket mounts to go with their scopes though.
Also Read: 15 Best Scopes for 308 Rifles
While you can use a scope that wasn’t specifically designed for muzzleloaders on a muzzleloader but muzzleloaders do have particular needs from scopes. Non-muzzleloader specific scopes can meet those needs.
However, muzzleloader scopes are, obviously, designed with muzzleloaders in mind. Therefore, as a rule, they tend to perform better for muzzleloaders than other scopes do.
For one, muzzleloaders use a much more powerful round than pretty much any rifle (.50 BMG being a notable exception). Scopes are delicate pieces of equipment, so a muzzleloader scope needs to be beefed up to handle the greater recoil.
Powerful recoil also means that muzzleloader scopes will provide longer eye relief. That avoids painful injuries to your eye and browbone that can happen when the scope rams into your face after your fire off a round. Longer eye relief gives the scopes plenty of room to move before it hits your face.
Despite the powerful rounds, muzzleloaders are generally used only for short-range shooting. That means the scope’s parallax setting will be for a shorter range and that the scope will have lower magnification, usually topping out around 9x, though a little higher isn’t uncommon.
Muzzleloaders also have very different ballistic performance than other rifle rounds, so their reticles, particularly BDC reticles, have to be calibrated for those ballistics. You can learn to use a regular rifle reticle with your muzzleloader, but a reticle designed for muzzleloaders will be much easier to use.
At one point, Vortex produced a limited run of a scope designed specifically for muzzleloaders, the Crossfire II 1×24 Muzzleloader.
As part of the Crossfire II line, this scope had many of the same benefits that we outlined in the Crossfire II recommendation above in a fixed, no-magnification package that conforms to common muzzleloader competition requirements.
This was a great little scope, but it’s unfortunately no longer in production. Fortunately, Vortex does make several other muzzleloader-friendly scopes, including the Vortex Crossfire II and the Vortex Diamondback.
The Burris Optics Fullfield E1 platform is designed for use with a wide variety of firearms, including muzzleloaders.
However, as we discussed above, the 3-9×40 version is not just suited for use on a muzzleloader but is actually available in a model (Model 200347) with a Ballistic Plex reticle calibrated for muzzleloader ballistics.
It’s one of our favorite muzzleloader scopes that is currently on the market.
That brings us to a close on the best muzzleloader scopes.
Our clear winner was the Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40mmMuzzleloader UltimateSlam Riflescope because it provides a stellar quality scope at a budget-friendly price point.
Leupold provides hard-to-match optical clarity in terms of both lens coatings and glass quality, coupled with a functional, duplex-meets-BDC reticle. There’s plenty of eye relief, and the turrets and magnification knob are great.
The scope is incredibly well made, with a durable housing and an overall waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof design. It’s also resistant to extreme temperatures and features scratch resistant lenses.
However, you can’t go wrong with any of the scopes on this list. They’re all of excellent quality and each has a unique combination of features. All you have to do is find the one with the combination of features that best matches your needs.
Corporal Dalton is a former Infantry Rifleman who served with 3rd Battalion 1st Marines. After leaving the Marine Corps, he started an online business where he focuses on teaching self-defense tactics. His two major passions are hiking and shooting guns. He has been a member of the NRA since he was 6 years old and is a strong supporter of the second amendment.