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Handgun Scopes | Optics Trade Debates

  • Polona 

Hello and welcome to another episode of Optics Trade Debates. Today’s topic are handgun scopes, a subcategory of rifle scopes.


Let’s start by defining what makes a handgun scope and how it differs from other rifle scopes. They are smaller in size and much lighter since they are intended to be mounted on pistols and revolvers, especially the latter since the pistol slides make it difficult for any scope attachment. About 90% of handgun scopes are used on revolvers.


With a normal scope, no matter whether it is a hunting, tactical or a target scope, there is always an exit pupil around the eye relief, so a perfect exit pupil set at 7-8 centimeters behind the eyepiece and 70 to 90 millimeters of eye relief. Of course, such a close proximity between the human eye and the eyepiece of the scope is unwanted when using a revolver, due to the powerful recoil that could result in physical harm of the weapon user. That’s where the extended eye relief of handgun scopes comes into play.


This subcategory can provide anywhere from 30, 40 to even 50 millimeters of eye relief. Handgun scopes also have a much bigger eye box. With ordinary rifle scopes, the user’s range of movement is limited to 80 or 90 millimeters or the image visibility will be affected. Handgun scopes are much more forgiving in this regard, their eye box allowing for a wider range of movement and an easier eye to eyepiece alignment, without compromising the image quality. In fact, they are adapted to the shooting stance of revolver users.


Most handgun scopes have a fixed magnification. The model we used in the video is Leupold Handgun VX-3 2.5-8x32, one of the few models that feature a variable magnification. They also have a fixed parallax, usually at 25 meters through the maximum parallax is at 50 meters. Compare that to the ordinary rifle scopes with a parallax setting of 91 or 100 meters, often adjustable whereas this feature is not needed when using a handgun or a revolver.


Their durability is of crucial importance and sets them apart from other scopes. Handgun scopes are made to withstand quite a substantial recoil, typical of revolvers with powerful calibers.


They can be also mounted on rifles, right in front of the action, on the barrel. There are quite a few rifles of this type available, for example, the ones manufactured by the Austrian Steyr for the European market or scout rifles in the US. Note that this use of handgun scopes requires some basic knowledge of parallax settings and their adjustment. Of course, scout scopes remain the preferable option for rifles.


As always in the field of optics, there is little correlation between the scope size and the price. There are plenty of cheap options available on the market but we suggest traditional brands like Leupold, Weaver, Bushnell or Sightmark that have experience in building handgun scopes, especially since they have to be made more reliable and durable than ordinary rifle scopes, due to the aforementioned recoil factor.


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