The best low-light hunting rifle scopes will gather lots of light and use it efficiently. There are some criteria that make some scopes better than others in low-light situations, you’ll learn about these criteria and why the scopes in this post are the best low-light hunting scopes on the market. The scopes below are sorted by price for your convenience.
Factors That Influence Scope Low-Light Capabilities:
- Objective Lens Size
- Exit Pupil Size
- Lens Coatings
- Max Human Eye Dilation
We will be diving more into each of these below…
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Table of Contents
What Makes A Low-Light Hunting Scope Good?
The biggest factors that determine if a scope is going to be good in low-light situations are listed below:
Objective Lens Size
The objective lens size is how big the lens is (in mm) opposite the eyepiece. The bigger the objective lens is, the more light a scope is able to gather. So for low-light situations, you’ll want to get a big objective lens. You’ll find most of the scopes in this review have an objective lens between 44-56mm. Large objective lenses like these will easily allow you to see in twilight and even in the dark fairly well with good moonlight.
Magnification also determines how much light will enter your scope. At 2.5x a scope will be able to let more light in than at 10x because as you zoom in less light is able to enter the scope. Exit pupil size uses both objective lens size and magnification to give you a good idea of how much light can enter the scope (more on exit pupil size below).
Exit Pupil Size
Both the magnification and objective lens size play a role in how much light a rifle scope is able to gather. As magnification increases, light gathering decreases. Also, as objective lens size increase so does the scope’s light-gathering capabilities. It is easier to just use exit pupil size, which is the ratio of objective lens size to magnification.
For example, if you have a 2.5-10×56 rifle scope you would divide the objective lens size (56mm) by the magnification (2.5-10). For example, at 2.5 magnification you would do 56÷2.5=22.4mm which is a lot of light.
When you zoom in 10x you would do 56÷10=5.6. As you can see the more you zoom in the less light the scope is able to gather.
For example, if you compared a 2.5-10×56 to a more common 3-9×40 you would see a clear difference:
|Rifle Scope Specifications||3-9x40||2.5-10x56|
|Lowest Magnification||40÷3= 13.33mm||56÷2.5= 22.4mm|
|Max Magnification||40÷9=4.44mm||56÷10= 5.6mm|
You can have a big objective lens and tube size but without good glass quality, the light transmission through the glass will suffer. For this reason, it is important to buy scopes from reputable rifle scope brands that offer quality light transmission. Sometimes brands will state the % light transmission of a rifle scope.
Lens coatings increase light transmission by reducing the amount of light reflection. Reducing light reflection allows light that would otherwise bounce off the glass to enter the scope, increasing light transmission. So lens coatings help greatly in both low-light and intense-light situations.
Considerations For Low-Light Scopes
The Human Eye’s Ability To Dilate
However, the human eye can only dilate to about 8mm at best so there is no point in an exit pupil size larger than this. So a larger objective lens is primarily to help bring maximum light at the mid-to-higher magnification ranges, not so much at the lower zoom ranges.
Scope Tube Size
Scope tube size does not make a difference in the light-gathering capabilities of rifle scopes. It is easier to make this mistake because you would think that a bigger tube size allows more light into the scope, however, this is not the case. The reason for a larger tube size is simply to have more room in the internals of a rifle scope for windage and elevation adjustments.
The Best Scopes For Low-Light
Vortex Crossfire II 3-12X56 AO
This is the most affordable low-light scope on this list. This scope has a 56mm objective lens that will give you max brightness (8mm exit pupil size) until 7x magnification. It also still has a 4.7mm exit pupil at full 12x magnification, making it one of the best budget hunting rifle scopes for low-light situations. The biggest consideration of this scope is that it is very heavy (27.9oz) compared to the other scopes below.
Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9X50 Illum. FireDot Twilight Hunter
The VX-Freedom 3-9×50 is one of the best value scopes for low-light hunting. It’s very lightweight (17oz) even though it has a large 50mm objective lens. For most hunters, a 50mm lens is plenty and will give you maximum brightness (8mm exit pupil size) until 6.25x magnification while being significantly less bulky and heavy. It also has a whopping 5.6mm exit pupil at full magnification, making it one of the best low-light hunting rifle scopes for the money. You might like my review of the Best Leupold Scopes For Hunting.
Burris Fullfield IV 3-12x56mm
The 56mm objective lens will give you max brightness (8mm exit pupil size) until 7x magnification. It also still has a 4.7mm exit pupil at full 12x magnification which is top-class, especially for the price. This is an excellent scope, although one thing to consider is the weight (24oz).
Vortex Viper HS 2.5-10X44
The Vortex Viper is another excellent low-light hunting scope. It is the lightest weight scope in this review (16.5oz) in largely because it has the smallest objective lens in this review. The large variable magnification range (2.5-10x) makes it a versatile scope, and for most hunters, a 44mm lens is plenty and will give you maximum brightness (8mm exit pupil size) until 5.5x magnification while being significantly less bulky and heavy. It also has an excellent 4.4mm exit pupil at full magnification. Its versatility gives it a spot as one of the best low-light hunting rifle scopes. You might like my review on the Best Vortex Scopes For Deer Hunting.
Trijicon AccuPoint 2.5-10X56
Trijicon has an excellent reputation for high-quality hunting rifle scopes. This scope is awesome because it has an illuminated reticle but does not require batteries. Instead, it uses AccuPoint which is fiber optics, and tritium for reticle illumination. The 56mm objective lens will give you max brightness (8mm exit pupil size) until 7x magnification. It also still has a whopping 5.6mm exit pupil at full magnification, making it one of the best scopes you can buy for low-light hunting situations.
Trijicon Credo HX 2.5-10X56
The Trijicon Credo is very similar to the Trijicon Accupoint, and they cost just about the same amount of money. The difference is that the Credo uses an LED to illuminate the reticle, so a battery is needed. The 56mm objective lens will give you max brightness (8mm exit pupil size) until 7x magnification. It also still has a whopping 5.6mm exit pupil at full magnification, making it one of the best scopes made for low-light situations.
Leupold VX-5HD 3-15X56 FireDot
The Leupold VX-5HD is for hunters that need extra magnification to shoot longer distances while being able to bring in as much light as possible with a big objective lens. The 56mm objective lens will give you max brightness (8mm exit pupil size) until 7x magnification. It also still has an impressive 3.7mm exit pupil at full magnification (15x), making it one of the best long-range scopes for low-light hunting on the market.
Low Light Hunting Rifle Scope Comparison Chart
More Hunting Optic Resources:
Find the best hunting optics faster by navigating to one of my more specific articles:
Best Hunting Optics
- 10 Best Rangefinders For Hunting 
- 14 Best Hunting Binoculars For The Money
- 3 Best Sights & Scopes For Tracking Big Woods Bucks on Snow
- 18 Best Hunting Rifle Scopes For The Money 
Best Brands To Look For When Buying Hunting Rifle Scopes
Brands To Avoid When Buying Hunting Rifle Scopes
- Nikon (they stopped producing rifle scopes)
- Cheap off-brand Amazon scopes (not worth the money)
Best Places To Shop For Hunting Gear
Some great places to find hunting gear include:
- Amazon – Free Two-Day Shipping For Prime Members
- Cabela’s – Free Shipping on Orders Over 50$
- L.L. Bean – Free Shipping on Orders Over 50$
- Walmart – Free Shipping on Orders Over 35$
- Dick’s Sporting Goods