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Spotting Scope Features

In Blog by Rich5 Comments

Today’s topic of discussion is going to be spotting scope features. Specifically, what are some of the features to look for when you’re researching what spotting scope to buy! This was one of Don’s requests, sorry it’s taken this long buddy! Obviously, there are a lot of spotting scopes out there. There are many spotting scope features to look at and choose when selecting the spotter you plan to purchase. Some are more important than others but many depend on what you plan to use the scope for! So let’s get into some of the spotting scope features that are common and whether or not they’re all that important!

Spotting Scope Features

When we discuss this topic a lot of guys are going to start yelling about glass right away. I’m going to say from the beginning that good class is nice! Buy the best glass you can afford. However, I wouldn’t look at the glass quality first. At least not from a tactical shooting perspective. If you’re into photography and taking photos of bird feathers at 600 yards with no color distortion, yeah you need to drop some coin on glass. However, for the rest of us shooting steel for fun or in a competitive atmosphere it really isn’t necessary. Ditto for the LE/MIL crowd. You just don’t need a $5000 spotter to spot hits or misses and walk a shooter onto a target at distance.

What I will say is necessary for a shooting spotting scope in a tactical environment is a reticle. You should buy a scope with a reticle that uses the same system of angular measurement as the scope on the shooter’s rifle. This way if you see a miss a half MIL left you can relay that information to the shooter and he can adjust and fire a follow up shot immediately. That’s important at longer distances as you want to get the follow up shot off before the conditions change. So a reticle is a must have in my book. There are several brands that offer spotting scopes with a reticle in the list of spotting scope features. Bushnell, Swarovski, Hendsoldt, Leupold, and Vortex to name a few.

While we’re talking about the reticle, does it need to be a FFP (First Focal Plane) reticle? In my opinion, yes. For the same reason you want a FFP reticle on your scope. If you’re spotting at a match or spotting on a two way range it’s still important. You want to be able to adjust the magnification to where you have a clear view of the target at surrounding area. If you have an SFP scope that is variable magnification, the reticle is probably only correct at maximum magnification. That causes issues if you’re only using half the magnification. You can get around this with a fixed power scope with a reticle. The Vortex spotter is pretty popular with the MIL eyepiece that makes it a fixed power spotting scope.

More Spotting Scope Features

Obviously you want a reticle. You want decent glass, as good as you can afford to be honest. What else? A decent warranty helps especially if you’re laying out some serious cash for it in the first place. Look for a magnification range that’s useful. As you can tell from the photos I’ve been using a Leupold MK4 with a 12x-40x magnification range. The lower the magnification, the greater the field of view. So something that has a real high magnification level at the bottom end may make it difficult to use at closer ranges. Consider another thing if you’re part of the tactical shooting market, aftermarket accessories and gadgets!

spotting scope features gadgets

It’s nice when you can buy accessories for your spotting scope like a digiscoping adapter kit, here I have my Nikon D5200 plugged into the MK4 spotter

I’m going to tell you right now the Leupold Mk4 has a lot of aftermarket support. Mainly because of Military contracts that make it a prevalent spotting scope for the MIL/LE crowd. I’m not saying the Leupold is the best on the market, I am saying that it’s perfect for what I do. That’s why I bought it. You should look at available aftermarket accessories when deciding which scope you want to buy. If you don’t plan to shoot any photos or video through your spotting scope then it isn’t important. Maybe you’re a guy that does a lot of hunting at night and you use night vision and thermal accessories. If that’s the case you probably want to look for a way to co-witness those enhanced optics with your spotter. So look for aftermarket rail systems or a spotting scope that lists picatinny rails in it’s list of spotting scope features.

It’s nice when you can find a way to hook up stuff like camera and video equipment if that’s something you want to do. If all you plan to do is spot impacts or misses then all you really need is a spotting scope and a reticle. You have to decide which features are important for you. Obviously with all the photos and video that go along with a website that was pretty high up on the list of spotting scope features when I was evaluating my options. Hopefully in the future we will be able to further expound upon some of what you can do with rails and aftermarket accessories!

spotting scope features3

An interesting looking building out in the distance off the front porch. The Leupold allows for some pretty decent photos, even at distance…

Here is a bit of video through the Leupold of the same building. This is with the magnification at 40x and you can still see some great details even at this distance. The flag blowing in the wind. Right about where the crosshairs are there is a red wheelbarrow. What distance do you think this building is from the observation position? Any guesses? Maybe we will see who can guess correctly in the comments first! Eventually I hope to trick this spotter out even further so I can show you guys what kind of neat stuff you can do with a scope that has the right options for adding goodies from the aftermarket.

Badger SLICK

Next item on the upgrade list to allow for even more options! A Badger SLICK kit

Wrapping Up

It’s not a long list of spotting scope features that needs to be considered. Reticle options, glass quality, magnification range, and aftermarket support. It will be up to each of you to figure out what is most important before making a purchase. I consider a reticle a must, and if you plan to spot any kind of tactical shooting that reticle needs to be a first focal plane reticle! How crazy you want to go with glass and the availability of aftermarket options is up to each of you. If you have any questions or a guess as to the range of the building in the video…drop them in the comments below!

Owner and Proprietor of AccuracyTech, LLC. Rich is a Firearms Enthusiast, Precision Rifle Competitor, and Writer. He is committed to bringing readers quality reviews and articles related to the Precision Shooting Sports. If you have any questions for him, please use the contact form on the site.


  1. First time estimating range with a mil reticle, so please be kind: 2593 yards

    1. Author

      Going the wrong way, it’s funny to see how “modern” designed houses goof up the standards we use for ranging

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