Should Rifles with Heavy Recoil have Light Scopes?

Should Rifles with Heavy Recoil have Light Scopes?

The weight of your rifle is important, but what’s even more important is the weight of your rifle with all accessories attached. If you add a carry strap, you can expect to increase the weight by 6-10 ounces. Scope bases and rings can add as much as another 4-6 ounces. And, the riflescope you choose will add the most weight; some are as heavy as 2 pounds.

When selecting a new riflescope, don’t get caught up in all the cool features and forget to consider weight.

Two things need to be taken into consideration when it comes to riflescope weight. The first is how much weight it will add to your rifle, and the second is if the scope is too heavy for your rifle. Let’s start with the first consideration.

Let’s assume you’re looking to keep rifle weight to a minimum because you’re a mountain hunter, or like to walk a lot. Let’s also assume your rifle has a starting weight of 6.5 pounds before any accessories are attached. If you go with a lightweight sling and scope mounts, you’ve already pushed rifle weight to about 7 pounds. If you want to keep the unloaded rifle weight at 8 pounds or less, you have about 16 ounces left for your scope.

The Sig Sauer Whiskey 3 2-7X riflescope is compact and lightweight. It’s ideal for a rifle when total weight matters.

This is generally easy to do. Most riflescope manufactures offer a 2-7X or 3-9X size riflescope that will weigh less than 14 ounces. Sig Sauer’s Whiskey 3 2-7X is a good example; it weighs 14.8 ounces.

On the other hand, you may be willing to sacrifice some weightlessness for more optical performance. The 3-15X52mm Sig Sauer Whiskey 5 riflescope gives you twice the magnification and comes with a larger objective. This will help with target resolution and performance in low light. However, this riflescope weighs in at 27 ounces, and ups your total rifle weight to almost 9 pounds!

At 27 ounces, this Sig Sauer Whiskey 5 riflescope is on the heavy side. However, its magnification range and large objective can be important features, too.

Heavier scopes make the second consideration important. The more a scope weighs, the harder it will be to keep it firmly attached to the rifle during recoil. Thus, harder kicking rifles generally perform better with lightweight scopes because they handle the forces of recoil better.

The question is where to draw the line. If you use good scope bases and rings, such as those from Talley, riflescope weight with 7-pound rifles that recoil with about 20 foot-pounds of recoil isn’t all that critical. However, 30-plus foot-pounds of recoil like you’ll get from a 338 Win. Mag. or a 375 H&H, or especially the 40 or more foot-pounds generated by a 375 Ultra Mag., and you might eventually jerk a heavy scope right off your rifle.

For hard-kicking rifles, such as dangerous game guns, side with caution and select a lightweight riflescope that will handle heavy recoil better.

Here is a rule of thumb: For moderately kicking rifles like those in the 30-06 class, don’t worry so much about riflescope weight. For the hard kickers, keep the scope weight less than 30 ounces, and the lighter the better.