Scope Magnification Distance Chart: Relationship of Magnification & Distance, Explained

Selecting the power range of a rifle scope most of the time boils down to personal preferences. But if you’re a new shooter, being unaware of a scope magnification distance chart may not give you the most pleasant experience with your sighting device. The basic rule of thumb for every shooter: 1x per 100 yard.

This has been the general advice for some time. So in that case, you might be able to shoot a game at 800 yards away with an 8x magnification. But then, it’ll better help to be aware of the relationship between magnification and shooting distance. Let’s discuss that in more detail.

So, is more magnification better? What power do I need based on shooting distance? What magnification is for what application? Let’s answer these questions and more in today’s article.

Scope Magnification Distance Chart

Distance Magnification Explanation
100 yards 3x to 9x If you were to choose a scope for this distance, you need to weigh in certain factors like the type of caliber you’re using and the type of target you’re shooting – moving or static target. A lot of shooters use a 3x scope for different kinds of rifles. For users with some eyesight issues, they go for scopes which range from 3 to 9 times.
200 yards 4x to 9x This variable scope range is quite versatile and it can be used for many applications, like hunting. Most people will also find using this power for shooting at 200 yards ideal.
300 yards 4x to 12x A 300-yard distance is quite beyond most people’s shooting distance, but professional shooters and people at the law enforcement have this distance for their short range to medium range shooting. Here comes the need to determine the kind of shooting activity you do because magnification for this distance is crucial. As the shooting distance increases and so the more you should be careful in the selection of power to use.
400 yards 4x to 12x The effective range also increases as the power of magnification increases. At this distance, however, you need to consider certain factors that will highly contribute to the results you’ll get. Your rifle scope should have high quality construction and clear glass for superior light gathering capabilities.
500 yards 6x to 18x This shooting distance is not for the average shooter. It is not also what most hunters would shoot. While the target’s magnification is crucial, things like scope’s precision at a long distance and your field of view should also matter.
1000 yards 12x to 14x The scope’s magnification is one of the most crucial factors to consider when long range hunting. Using a high-powered scope with high magnification will let you see a target at this great distance than using a lower magnification. But still, the 1000-yard territory is uncommon for  the general hunting or shooting public. This doesn’t only require higher powered scopes but also ultra precise and high caliber rifles designed for long distance shooting.

The Basics Explained: Scope Magnification & Types

Magnification is an optical device’s ability to enlarge an object at a distance; the higher the magnification, the larger the image of an object will become.  There is a wide range of magnifications for rifle scopes. Some of them offer a higher magnification that can make you feel closer to the target as you can see it closer, too.

But remember, as you increase the magnification, the more distorted the image you’ll also get.  So at a long range, you might struggle to shoot your target if it appears blurry for your eyes to see. That’s why rifle scope manufacturers include a scope magnification distance chart to help you determine the distance you can see without major image distortion.

Is Higher Better? The Issues with High Magnification

The more magnification power you use, the more issues  you’ll encounter when in the field, range, or place where you use your rifle scope – especially in  terms of the image quality. The more power you use with the rifle scope’s magnification, the more weaknesses in your scope you’ll discover.

Less light

As you increase the magnification, the more light bending ability your scope should have. To improve the scope’s light gathering ability, manufacturers make thicker lenses for the scope. However, some of the light will still be absorbed as it passes through a lens – which doesn’t really transmit all the light. Scopes with higher power typically will be problematic in terms of transmitting light. In this case, the image will appear dimmer with a higher magnification.

Bulk in the scope

Adding more weight to your rifle is another caveat of a higher powered rifle scope. As I’ve said, scopes with a higher range of magnification will typically have a thicker lens. They’re also commonly longer and with more lenses. You’ll get a heavier scope, then.


The light becomes spherical in appearance rather than flat as it is bent and refracted in your scope. It is near the scope’s center at the crosshairs where the sharpest focus is.  The blurriness of the image will be more obvious at its edge with a higher magnification.

Prism effect

High power scopes can be problematic in terms of prism effect, which can lead to image distortions as well as color changes and glinting. There can also be blurriness at the image’s edges.

Field of view (FOV)

Note that the FOV decreases as the magnification increases; thus, there will be less of the target you’ll see with higher magnification. FOV is integral if you want to track a moving target or shoot it using a higher power. This is the problem – your field of view will significantly decrease as you choose a higher magnification setting on your sighting device. Thus, you’ll struggle to track or hold on to your moving target.

How to choose a rifle scope’s magnification?

So how should you select the magnification in your rifle scope? The simplest way to do this is to choose the highest magnification in the scope that will let you shoot your target – that one that allows you to see the clearest version of the image in the scope.

Let go of the thinking that the higher magnification in your scope will give you the most of your hunting or shooting experience. Think about your shooting style and consider the distance you’re shooting at.

Always get the magnification that best matches the application you intend to use your scope for. If you’re hunting in the Midwest where you might not be able to see a deer that is farther than 200 yards but perhaps you’re planning to hunt out west where you can see deer at longer distances, select a magnification that will suit this hunt.

The same principle is to use in long range or competition shooting.  Use a scope magnification that will best fit the application you’re using your sighting device for.

Then, you also need to factor in the kind of shooting you’re doing. It is as important as choosing a rifle scope for the rifle you’re shooting. Are you hunting at short, medium, or long distances? Are you into long-range shooting?

And still at the end of the day, choosing a scope’s magnification is a matter of personal preference. You must go for magnification that you’re most comfortable with and that gives you the clearest quality of the image/target.

Now, what’s the longest shot you’re anticipating? If you routinely have to take shots that range out to at least 500 yards to take a game, this will also add up to the question on what scope magnification you’ll need.

Magnification also becomes an issue for competitive shooters who need long-range shooting accuracy.  They need to factor in a distance at least 1,000 yards, which makes it really challenging to see a target clearly.

Final Thoughts,

Select the magnification power after considering some factors like shooting distance, style, and application. This will be able to help you choose a rifle scope that can offer you with the right power to take on a game or improve shooting accuracy at competitions. And at the end of the day, use the magnification that will provide you with the clearest sight picture of your target. After all, clarity of the image is what matters – it should appear as clear to your eye to increase your shooting accuracy. And of course, always remember “more magnification isn’t always better.”

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