+64 2900 333 - [email protected]

How much magnification do I need in a rifle scope?

While many people assume that you need more zoom the further you get out, more zoom comes with its own downsides.



Zoom is the range of magnification that a scope might have. The figure is how many time’s ‘closer’ the image will appear in the scope than it actually is.

For example – a 3-9 scope (a common range) starts at the low end having a three times magnification, and at the ‘long’ end – nine times.

How much magnification do you need? Depends on your intended use and target size. However, distance is not always the determining factor here.

While many people assume that you need more zoom the further you get out, more zoom comes with its own downsides.

Look at it this way – a rabbit and a deer are very different in size, but sometimes engaged at similar distances. While shooters have often put a smaller scope (2-7) on a 22LR (the bunny buster) than the deer hunting rifle (3-9) – wouldn’t the extra magnification actually make more sense on the bunny gun – where you are going to have a smaller target?


Conversely, too much zoom comes with more weight, with a narrower field of view, and with the temptation to zoom in too far – resulting in losing the target in the scope or having to deal with the amount of movement, mirage and general finickiness that a high mag zoom can induce. I have watched1 many field shooting competitors loose a piece of steel at 800 meters, then spend way too much time trying to scope the countryside in the scope – before finally realising they should power down, find the target again, and power back up. In fact, for a lot of 600-1k shooting – 15x power seems to be a sweet spot – on steel targets that is. Start shooting tiny little groups on paper, and a massive 40x or more can become useful.

Some suggestions

While everyone develops their own preferences, and there are some caveats, some common ranges would include –

  • 1-4 – short-range engagement – often found on AR platforms for a run-n-gun style shoot
  • 2-7 – the traditional bush gun mag range
  • 3-9 – common for bush – but also suited to many 22LR rifles
  • 3-15 – the crossover – a rifle that is hunted and competed with
  • 5-25 – the ‘standard’ long-range rifle scope
  • 5-40, 5-50, 4-80 and more – the realm of benchrest, F-Class and tiny holes in targets

  1. and done it myself 

Rifle Setup Service

Setup and zeroed with confirmed drop charts, ready to go for your next hunt or day at the range!

Popular articles

Matching twist rate and bullet weight in rifles.

The are many benefits to understanding and matching the twist rate of your barrel with the projectile weight you are using. Primarily, accuracy.

T-Bone Steaks

I have fallen for T-Bones recently. What isn't to like about them? They are great value for money, full of taste, and have a bonus feature - the Missus will generally not be able to finish all of hers so I get to eat one and a half T-bone steaks.

Three ways you are probably zeroing your hunting rifle wrong.

Clickbait title aside - there are a couple of reoccurring problems I see when people discuss zeroing a rifle. Are you doing any of them?

A Single Stage Trigger Vs Two Stage Trigger

Oh, if only it was that easy - the question of Single Stage Trigger Vs Two Stage Trigger comes up quite often - here are my thoughts on it...

Getting your New Zealand Firearms Licence – the definitive guide (2019)

The process of applying for your New Zealand Firearms Licence is easy. Learn the steps, get started here and get shooting!

How much magnification do I need in a rifle scope?

While many people assume that you need more zoom the further you get out, more zoom comes with its own downsides.
Kerry Adamshttps://thebloke.co.nz
A constant learner with an inquisitive mind, Kerry created The Bloke as a way to share what he was learning from the community of experts he found himself surrounded by. Somewhere along the line, he picked up one or two things himself. But don't call him an expert.

Get your rifle sorted.

Send us your rifle, or come out and do it with us. For a session, for a day. Come get the most out of your firearm. We can take your through the whole process.

I know. We all hate popups.
But, the fact remains that eMails are the best way for us to keep you up to date with what is going on at The Bloke. Join over 19650 others who are part of The Bloke community - every week you will get a short update from me. Be the first to know about new resources, upcoming events, courses and more.
We respect your privacy. No SPAM. Ever. Hit escape to make this go away. Apologises if you see this more than once. That's what cookies are for... ;)
It's easy: complete this form and click the button to get the targets.
Get our range of sighting in, testing and fun targets - calibrated for both meters and yards, MIL and MOA.
As well as sending out the targets, we will add you to the shooter's newsletter - updates on articles, events and news relevant to the NZ shooter.