There’s a lot of considerations that come into play whenever you’re looking for a scope, such as the scope specs itself, the type of firearm it’ll be mounted on, and your skill and proficiency with that firearm and scope shooting in general.
When that firearm is a handgun or a revolver, you need to consider even more factors about how the scope will work.
Fortunately, it’s a smaller market than rifle scopes and so we’ve managed to bring you a wide selection of them to look at in this article, all with their pros and cons listed out for ease of reading.
There’s also a buyers’ guide so you can see which features we considered when ranking these scopes, and how handgun scopes differ from the usual rifle scopes.
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Best Handgun Scope - Comparison Table
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The first scope on our list is one from a brand you’ll recognize if you’ve spent time looking at scopes before, the Leupold FX-II Handgun Scope.
As one of the best optics manufacturers in the world, it’s no surprise that it’s the product that hit the top of our list.
These scopes are 4x magnified, and they’re compact too, being only one inch in diameter so they’re not too unwieldy when attached to the top of your gun.
The lenses of these scopes benefit from Leupold’s own DiamondCoat tech, a lens multi-coating that improves light transmission for clearer, brighter visuals through the scope. It lives up to its DiamondCoat name by also hardening the lens so that they resist scratches and other abrasive damage that the scopes can suffer.
The body of the scope is made with the usual 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum that can withstand most of the punishment you’ll put it through in the wild.
That scope body is also nitrogen sealed so that the tube of the scope can’t get penetrated by water and won’t develop condensation on the inside when exposed to fog.
Behind the body of the scope is also a very generous eye relief that allows you to hold the handgun like you’d usually do, for a more natural shooting stance that you’re used to.
This particular model, the FX-II, also qualifies for Leupold’s own lifetime warranty, so you can get reimbursed or otherwise compensated if your scope happens to have poor workmanship.
At number two on our favorite handgun scope picks is the Burris Handgun 2-7x32mm Ballistic Plex Reticle Scope, a versatile scope that can cover any range you can capably fire at with a handgun.
This particular model of this scope has a trifecta of Burris features. They also offer a large field of view, so you have more space to work with when looking through these scopes.
The first of these is the Ballistic Plex Reticle that includes notches built into the lenses, making it easier to calculate by eye the adjustments you need to make in order to compensate for elevation and bullet drop.
When adjusting these scopes, you can rest assured that the turrets won’t lose their zeroing position with shot recoil thanks to the PosiLock system built into these scopes.
The third feature is simply the matte black finish on these scopes that reduce glare when the sun catches your scope, great for keeping you hidden when hunting animals with this long-range handgun scope.
As is commonplace with scopes, and especially at this price point, their bodies are nitrogen sealed so they can perform in rainy and foggy weathers.
At the third spot on the list is another Burris scope, the LER Fixed 2x20 Finish Handgun Scope, so this is your best bet if you’re after a short range but high-end fixed scope.
It comes packed with both Burris’ and third-party tech that makes it a contender for the best fixed scope.
The lenses are made with high-grade optical glass that provides a great and clear visual anyway, but they’re also treated with branded Hi-Lume multi-coating which increases light transmission. This has the effect of better low-light performance on these scopes’ part, perfect for hunting long into the evening.
When zeroing in on these scopes, the turrets will hold their zero since the turrets are kept tightly wound by a double internal spring-tension system.
This means that during recoil, shock, and other natural vibrations that these scopes are expected to face in their lifetime, won’t disrupt your zeroing efforts.
The body of these scopes is also nitrogen-filled so that fog or other wet weather like rain or snow won’t cause a moisture buildup inside them, keeping your sight unobstructed, unfogged and clear.
As a Burris product, these scopes benefit from the Burris Forever Warranty, which means that your damaged or defective scopes will get repaired or replaced if damaged in circumstances not related to loss, theft, deliberate damage, or cosmetic damage that doesn’t affect the functionality of these scopes.
At number four is the Hammers Elite Compact Lightweight Handgun Scope, an ultra-precise 2x20 scope that has features you don’t normally see on handgun scopes, and for a very affordable price.
The foremost of these is their finger adjustable windage and elevation turrets that adjust by a ¼ MOA with every click, providing an audible way by which you can calculate how many adjustments you require.
As with many of the other scopes here, the lenses are multi-coated so that the view you get through them is sharper and more crisp, giving you with added sight brightness so you won’t lose a target.
At the end of the scope is a quick focus ring that minimizes blur whilst moving and helps you acquire targets faster.
The “lightweight” in this product listing’s title is best used to describe the weight distribution of this scope, since it’s not the most lightweight on this list, but the weight distribution has the effect of feeling lighter and easier to maneuver than it actually is.
The fifth scope on our list is the NcSTAR 2.5x30 Pistol Scope, a modest scope that lies comfortably between 2x and 3x magnification power.
The 30mm diameter objective lens is generous for a handgun scope and allows more light to reach the lens so that the visual you receive through this model is brighter.
There’s an adjustable parallax that’s preset to 100 yards when it comes to you fresh off the factory floor, but it can be set to shorter distances like 25 yards to better mesh with the range of this scope.
When adjusting this scope, you hear clicks at every ½ MOA which allows you to zero in with a high degree of accuracy.
When using this model out in the field, you won’t have to worry about waterproofing and fog-proofing since the scope tubing is nitrogen sealed, so no water gets in and no water will form inside the scope through fog condensation.
This means you can use this scope during inclement weather without suffering a degradation in scope quality.
Next, we have the Sightmark Core SX 4x32 Pistol Scope, a modest power scope that’s designed to withstand the recoil of most pistols. It’s largely made from durable type II MIL-SPEC aircraft-grade aluminum tubing, and all in one piece for maximum structural integrity.
It's not only physically strong, however, also being coated in a hard-anodized finish that helps protect the metal of this scope from rusting and other forms of corrosion. It’s also waterproof and shockproof to withstand harsher environments.
The lenses of this scope are also multi-coated with anti-reflective layers which reduce light scattering and glare, which improves the brightness of the sight you receive.
This has the effect of increasing color fidelity, making target acquisition much easier if it’s a distinctive color. Speaking of glare, the fact it has a matte black finish means that the sunlight won’t reflect off this scope and warn animals of your presence.
You adjust this scope through turrets that are resettable and capped, so you don’t lose your zero with every recoil or any other knocks that can occur. The aforementioned anodized finish also ensures that the markings on these turrets won’t fade or scrape off, ensuring longevity and a continued ease of use.
During use, however, some have found the reticle to be obtrusive and fatter than it needs to be.
The penultimate scope on this list is the BSA 2x20 Edge Series Pistol Scope, a smaller, close ranged scope that’s suitable for short distance shooting and won’t get in your way at just nine inches in length and twelve ounces in weight. It’s also a very affordable option, too.
We say it’s a smaller scope because of its 2x magnification power and its 20mm objective, and it’s even designed to keep as close to the handgun’s barrel as possible so that it isn’t bulky and intrusive.
Behind the scope you have a minimum eye relief of eight inches and a maximum of fourteen inches, giving you room for both huddled and laxed shooting stances.
BrightView lens coating increases light transmission for more clarity and brightness and has the added effect of being a protective layer to avoid scratches on the glass.
That said, the scope struggles with shock-proofing, so we’d recommend using this scope on less powerful firearms and being careful with it when you have it out.
At the last spot on this list is the UTG 2-7x32 Handgun Scope PDC Reticle, a scope capable of a variable range that will have both your short range and long range covered, making this a great option if you plan to use your handgun for hunting purposes.
The standout feature of this scope is that it has UTG’s own branded Projectile Drop Compensation Illuminated Reticle.
The illuminated reticle is great for having a clear sight in a lot of environments, and even comes with a side adjustment that can cycle between different reticle colors. It also comes pre-adjusted to 35 yards, about mid-range for this scope model.
The scope body is made from a single piece, which not only helps durability but allows for the model to be properly O-ring sealed, making the scope waterproof and resistant to condensation from fog.
With the scope also comes AccuShot rings that allows for a durable yet detachable scope mounting system.
The eye relief is extra-long, even for a handgun scope, giving you about 25 inches to have most people’s shooting stances covered and then some.
Whilst the eye relief is generous, at its highest magnifications the scope is sensitive enough that it struggles with powerful recoil and can get difficult to line up follow-up shots.
Best Handgun Scope - Buyers Guide
How to choose the best handgun scopes
Finding the right scope can be a headache anyway, but when you’re looking for a scope for your handgun, or a similar one-handed firearm, you’ll want to make sure you get exactly the right scope for the best performance.
This buyers’ guide will go through some general scope considerations, like magnification, lens coating, weatherproofing, and turrets, as well as some handgun scope specific ones like recoil and eye relief.
With magnification you have two main factors to consider, the first being whether you want fixed or variable magnification and the second being the effective range of the firearm and ammunition you’re using, since you want a magnification that’s compatible with your handgun.
For the fixed versus variable magnification debate, we think it’s almost always a good thing to have as much functionality as you can feasibly and affordably get when having a scope.
This means that if there’s two relatively identical scopes, but one is variable, then we’d suggest that you go for that one since it simply allows for more performance with your scope.
Variable scopes do tend to cost more, however, though that isn’t a set rule. There are enough variable scopes on the market that you can get your hands on one for cheap, but there is something to be said for fixed scopes and how solidly constructed they tend to be. Fixed scopes for handguns will usually be shorter range at 2x to 4x magnification and every power level in between.
Fixed scopes are more viable than they are with rifles, however, since you’ll be at a shorter range and won’t have to worry about long distance shooting.
As for the effective range, it’s difficult to discern on our end since we’re unsure which gun and ammunition you’ll be using it with, and we’d advise you to brush up on your ammo logistics so you know where you stand. That said, we can have most bases covered by discussing some generalities that’ll apply to many of you.
We can do this by covering the spectrum of calibers with two very popular handgun ammo types, the classic .22LR rounds and the even more classic .44 Remington magnum rounds.
.22LR rounds have a maximum effective range of 150 yards, though this depends mainly on the firearm as well as some environmental factors like windage. This means there’s some room for range variations in either direction, but the bullets will start dropping fast after 150 yards.
Since they’re heavier, .44 rounds actually have less of an effective range at 100 yards, depending on the same factors again. In both cases, you’ll have your full range covered by a 2x to 7x scope, or a 9x at absolute maximum, if you’re going for a variable. With fixed scopes you’ll want somewhere in the middle range of that, from 2x to 4x or 5x.
Any scope worth buying will have some form of lens coating. It’s a popular feature that adds a lot of longevity to your scopes since they protect against scratching and other abrasive damage that your lenses can suffer out in the wild. They also enhance the visuals you get through your scope, increasing light transmission so that your sight is brighter and the colors in that sight are more vivid.
This means you can not only hunt further into the evening, but as you do you can see more and recognize distinct colors and features more easily. They also reduce lens glare so that an abundance of light is also not a problem.
The main form of scope weatherproofing comes in the construction of the tubing itself. This often means O-rings and nitrogen purged interiors, both of which work to keep the interior of the scope dry and undisturbed. The nitrogen purging in particular is to ward against condensation during wet weather, mainly fog, where droplets can form inside the scope body.
As for the surface of the scope body itself, scopes are often finished with a matte black anodized coating that, whilst eliminating metallic glare, also lets water drip right off, reducing rust development.
Scope Turrets and Recoil
You probably won’t find yourself adjusting for certain shooting parameters with a handgun since you’ll usually be operating at shorter distances. That said, windage, elevation, and sometimes bullet drop can be an issue. That’s why it may be important to get turrets that are compatible with your gun.
The best turrets for a handgun setup, particularly a revolver or other high-recoil guns, are those with zero-stop functionality. This is when turrets can maintain a zero through recoil and other knocks that might, in a lesser scope, make the turrets jump off your zero. This is good for follow-up shots, which are more likely at shorter distances.
Handguns recoil in ways that are different from your usual rifles, mainly since you don’t have nearly as secure a grip on the pistol as you would a rifle.
This means that your chosen scope should handle this recurring, un-stabilized shock from repeated firing. When operating with higher caliber ammunition, like .44 magnum, you’ll require a more durable scope since there will be more energy hitting it with every shot.
Usually not too important a feature with rifles, since your distance to them is usually managed by the stock of your rifle and your stance relative to it, eye relief is not something to be taken lightly when choosing a pistol scope. This is because you’ll generally hold the pistol further away when shooting, and so you require a more generous eye relief to get a visual through the scope.
Since this is dependent on arm length, the usual pistol shooter’s eye relief can vary from 15 to 25 inches, so you’ll need to be wary of your usual relief distance to buy a compatible scope model. If you’re unsure, assume your usual, comfortable shooting stance with your firearm and have a friend measure the distance from the back of the firearm to your eyeball.
The inch measurement you get is your ideal eye relief, so get a scope that has your preferred distance covered.
There’s more compatibility between rifle models and their scopes than there is with handguns. This can make mounting difficult and having the best scope on the market means nothing when you can’t properly mount it on your firearm.
This has knock on effects for other properties you’d want in a scope, for example, a scope not properly mounted is going to fly off whenever recoil hits it, which can also cause unnecessary damage.
This means that you’ll often be relying on rings, preferably heavy-duty ones made of hardy, high quality metals such as the aircraft-grade aluminum that many scopes bodies get made from.
They should have a secure bite onto your firearm’s scope rail, and not loosen by you pulling it lightly. It’ll also need to line up properly, of course, so make sure that there aren’t any obstructions that might cant the sights of your scope for as straight a visual as you can get.
Gunsmiths recommend using locking compounds on the screws that hold scope rings together. This is because even they will vibrate and loosen with time and use, so it’s best to expend a little extra effort now to save yourself a lot of hassle and re-screwing in the future.