Airsoft Basics: What is a Scope?

Airsoft Basics: What is a Scope?

What is a Scope?

The term "scope" is the commonly used term for an Optical Sight, which is an aiming device which uses lenses to either magnify the objective (i.e the thing you are aiming at) or project a reticle (crosshair) on the objective for faster and more precise aiming. 

In broad terms, there are two types of scope; Magnified Optics and Reflex Optics. The scope you choose depends on your playstyle and role on the Airsoft battlefield.

Magnified optics provide a "zoom" function which is either fixed in power or variable, and a reflex optic generally does not have magnification, instead being designed for close range engagements and ultra-fast aiming. 

The reticle of a magnified optic is generally the typical crosshair we see in movies and video games and often includes what are known as "stadia lines" which allow for quick compensation for windage, range and target movement on the fly. 

Most reflex optics use a much more basic reticle, often a simple red or green dot. The well known "red dot sight" and "holographic sight" are both types of reflex optics, and these terms are generally used interchangeably in Airsoft as they usually rely on the same technology inside, and are different shapes to match the looks of real-world optical sights. 

Magnified optics are generally named for their magnification level and their objective lens diameter. For example, a scope with a range of magnification from 3x to 9x and a 40mm objective lens would be known as a "3-9x40mm Scope".

Reflex sights follow the same naming format, but are almost always 1x magnification. An optical sight named "1x30 Red Dot Sight" is a red dot reflex sight with 1x magnification (i.e no magnification) and a 30mm objective lens diameter. 

Types of Scope

Let's go into a little more depth and take a look at the differences between Reflex Optics and Magnified Optics.

Reflex Optics

Magnified Optics

Mounting a Scope

How do I mount my Scope?

Mounting a scope to your Airsoft rifle has thankfully never been easier thanks to the prevalence of the 20mm Picatinny rail.

Picatinny rails can be found on the vast majority of Airsoft rifles, but some older designs don't have one out of the box, so if you are buying a rifle with the intention to mount a scope make sure you get one with a 20mm Picatinny rail on the receiver. 

The Picatinny rail attachment method consists of a rail with a hexagonal profile and "teeth" to allow for the mounting bolt present on scope mounts to attach firmly. 

Most Reflex Optics and Fixed power rifle scopes come with a built-in 20mm Picatinny mount, or come with a 20mm Picatinny mount included in the box. These sights are easy to mount and usually come with everything you will need to get shooting. 

Variable rifle scopes tend to include a pair of 20mm Picatinny scope rings in the box, but rarely have an integral mount as these scopes are often intended to also be used with Air Rifles which generally use the older 11mm Dovetail style rail. 

If your variable rifle scope doesn't include scope rings you will need to get the correct scope rings for the "monotube" diameter of your scope. Scope monotube diameters usually range from 20mm to 1-inch/25mm up to 30mm at the top end for larger optics.

The monotube diameter is usually different to the objective lens diameter, so make sure you do your research. Here on PB, we will always quote the monotube diameter of our scopes in the "Specification" section of the product description. 

When installing your scope rings it is important that you do not overtighten their screws as this can cause issues with the delicate optics inside the scope. The best method we have found is to first attach the rings without the upper segment to your rail, position your scope so you can see through it clearly, and then install the upper segment of the rings and the screws, tightening each of the screws in turn in increments of 90 degrees until all of the screws are hand tight. 

Why use a Scope?

On the whole, scopes are much easier to use than the standard iron sights that come with most Airsoft guns, and many Airsofters see a scope of some kind as the first thing they want to buy to kit out their new gun. 

Reflex scopes make aiming far faster by using only a single index point which needs to be aligned with the target instead of the usual procedure of aligning the front and rear sight together with the target, as you would when using iron sights. 

You can make good use of a Reflex Optic in practically any environment, but they play to their greatest strengths at close range. That said, Reflex Optics are usually more than adequate to engage targets up to the maximum range of most Airsoft rifles. 

Magnified scopes are generally favoured by Airsoft snipers, DMR users and those with a long range leaning, and are a great way to give a long rifle the potent look of a real world marksman's rifle. Users who struggle to see targets at longer ranges can also benefit from a magnified scope, and some even choose to use a red dot sight with a magnifier mounted behind it. 

Magnified scopes are a strong choice for outdoors skirmishing, particularly on larger sites, but their weight, size and high magnification will probably hinder the user if they keep the same scope mounted for some up close and personal work at a CQB skirmish!

And of course, there are plenty of Airsofters who mount a scope they think looks cool, simply for that reason. Building a replica rifle that matches a real rifle used by professionals is a big draw for some skirmishers, and often the choice of optic comes down to what looks cool, and what is issued to a certain Military or Police unit. 

Now you know a bit more about scopes, and hopefully, we have helped you decide the type of scope that suits you and your needs best. 

If you want to do a bit more reading on scopes and learn some more specific details, check out our Optical Sights Buying Guide

If you are ready to zoom in and take the shot, click the button below to see our range of scopes!

Set your sights on a Scope!