The earliest rifle scope or telescopic sight, first showed up somewhere in the mid 1830’s or so. Long, complex and basically little more than a fixed power telescope clamped to a rifle barrel with windage and elevation controls built into the scope rings, these primitive yet effective scopes hinted at great things to come in the future. Fast forward to today, and many muzzleloaders are fitted with scopes. But what is the top muzzleloader scope? Well, we put on our thinking caps and found for of ’em for you.
These are our 4 recommendations for the 4 best muzzleloader scopes (and after our reviews, we go into what you need to think about when selecting such optics for your gun).
Simmons 8 Point
- Simmons Truplex Riflescope (3-9X40, Matte)
- Price as of 11/25/2020 10:41 PST(more info about ad)
This is a tried and true riflescope. Many muzzleloaders are inexpensive yet hard hitting rifles, and there is no reason to break the bank on super-expensive muzzleloader scopes when perfectly suitable ones can be had at surprising low prices. This 3-9 power scope has a 40mm objective lens, is water, fog and shockproof and is extremely durable. These are my go-to scope when I need a general purpose knockabout scope, and it has served me well on many different rifles. Just the ticket for the budget-minded black powder shooter; if you’ve got a scope mount on your rifle, you should stick a Simmons on it.
Nikon Buckmaster II
A hard-hitting, straight-shooting rifle deserves an equally tough scope. From its O-ring-sealed body, to its proprietary multi-coated optics, the Buckmaster II (see full specs) is the best muzzleloader scope for its price. With a pretty standard 3-9 power magnification and a 40mm objective lens, this is a pretty solid scope for most any purpose. I like it on a muzzleloader not only because it’s not so high powered as to be useless for black powder ranges, which translates into cost savings for you. Few muzzleloaders are shot past a couple hundred yards, so a solid 3-9 scope is all you really need.
- Leupold VX-2 4-12x40mm Compact Waterproof Fogproof Riflescope, Duplex Reticle, Matte Finish, Black (114396)
- Price as of 11/25/2020 10:13 PST(more info about ad)
I’ve written about the VX-2 before, and for good reason. It is a superior mid-grade scope, and certainly one of the top muzzleloader scopes available. Another 4-12x40 optic, this scope also is “just right” for muzzleloading rifles. Here, the superior construction and attention to detail that Leupold is known for shines. If I were hunting any sort of conditions other than perfect weather and easy terrain, I’d prefer a Leupold scope on my rifle. American-made and backed with generations of dedication to the needs of hunters everywhere, it is almost literally impossible to go wrong with a Leupold scope.
- NightForce 2.5-10x42mm NXS Illuminated Compact Riflescope w/ ZeroStop and MOAR Reticle C458
- Price as of 11/24/2020 21:08 PST(more info about ad)
There are rifle scopes, and then there are rifle scopes. The NightForce NXS is one of those rare gems that immediately demonstrate the skill and good taste of those who own them. If you have invested large sums of money into building the finest blackpowder rifle, you need to put the absolute best muzzleloader scope on top, and NightForce (see full specs) has just the ticket. The modest 2.5-10 power magnification is perfect for muzzleloader ranges, with the illuminated reticle is a must for hunting low light and in bad weather. Built to rugged, military-grade specs, the NXS is water, fog and shock-proof, while the 42mm objective lens is coated with a proprietary coating that maximizes light transmission and improves optical clarity. Truly the ultimate scope for the ultimate blackpowder hunter.
Muzzleloaders, Scopes, and Tradition
I love a traditional muzzleloader. I’ve owned a Civil War issued musket, and several reasonably authentic entry-level muzzleloaders. In each case, I burdened myself with the usual sort of leather and brass gear one is expected to lug around, and enjoyed myself. However, one day I was bored and noticed my rifle was drilled and tapped for a Weaver base, and I quickly tossed one of my unused scopes on top to see how things went.
Suffice to say, after several years of shooting with mediocre iron sights, I was hooked. Scoping a muzzleloader has its place, especially if you hunt with them. If you want a traditional hunting experience like our ancestors did, then by all means, ignore optics. But if you want to maximize the performance of your rifle, then get a scope on there!
Some modern inline muzzleloaders may not even feature iron sights but are expected to be used with optics. When selecting scopes for a muzzleloader, I’m mindful of the fact, most of these guns shoot big, heavy bullets with steep drops, and reasonably short ranges for most shooters.
With those above considerations in mind, I see little reason to invest in high magnification scopes. To me, the most important things are rugged construction to handle the usual large powder loads, sufficient magnification out to a couple hundred yards, and a reasonable objective lens for light gathering.
An illuminated reticle is always a nice bonus. To that end, my ideal muzzle-loader scope is around 3-9 power and has a 40-something millimeter objective lens. These are widely used scopes for the very good reason that they work well for exactly the reasons I give. You can always go bigger or smaller, but these are near about ideal.
Regardless of your views on scoped muzzleloaders, they are increasingly common, and hold a valid place in the hunting and shooting world. Proper tradition has its place, but it is worth remembering that were scopes as readily available a century and a half ago as they are now, they would have been in common use. Finding the best muzzleloader scope on your rifle is a homage to earlier Americans and the perfect blend of tradition and progress.
Owner of Reloaderaddict.com, Boyd Smith is a major handgun enthusiast, and although he owns Glocks, he prefers the revolving wheel type. His go-to guns are a Smith & Wesson 642 Performance Center for carry and a Ruger GP100 in the nightstand biometric safe (he has kids). He loads both revolvers with old-school 148-grain Federal Gold Medal .38 wadcutters. It’s OK if you think he’s a wimp. Email him.