A Buyer’s Guide to the Best Crossbow Scopes in 2020
If you’re in a hurry and want to find out what the best crossbow scope is, then I recommend the Hawke 3X32 IR Crossbow Scope.
It does everything right, nothing wrong, and comes in at a more than fair price.
To start with, I made a shortlist. All the scopes have excellent feedback from a significant number of online reviewers. Once investigated, I removed some due to negative feedback on other sites. I was left with the following six options:
- NIKW9 Prostaff P3 Crossbow 3×32 Matte BDC 60
- UTG 4X32 1″ Crossbow Scope, Pro 5-Step RGB Reticle, QD Rings
- Hawke 3X32 IR Crossbow Scope
- Hawke Crossbow 1.5-5X32 IR SR Scope with Illuminated Circles, Matte
- Excalibur Tact-Zone Illuminated Scope, 2.5-6x32mm
- TRUGLO Crossbow Scope 4X32 with Rings APG
When you buy a new crossbow, unfortunately, a lot of the built-in scopes often lack quality. It’s good to do some research and budget a little extra for a top crossbow scope.
Maybe you have the best crossbow in the world, but it defeats the point if your scope fails at a particular distance or particular light level.
I’ve done a considerable amount of research into the latest crossbow scopes. Before we dig into the reviews, I’m going to share all the essential information you need to make the best decision when buying a scope.
Understanding the best crossbow scopes
How do they work?
Not all scopes will have all of these features, but most will. I’ve summarised the main parts briefly, starting from the back of your scope:
The ocular lens focuses the light which comes in through the front end of the scope (the objective lens) so that you can focus on it with your eye. Good scopes apply finishes to the ocular lens, which repel water and improve light intake.
This part holds the ocular lens in place.
At the rear of your scope right above the eye-piece is the diopter adjustment. This might be the only real adjustment on a lot of crossbow scopes. It allows you to sharpen your scoped image by getting your reticles clear.
In essence, it compensates for differences between your own two eyes. Lots of beginners don’t even realize they can adjust this!
The power ring is the gear that you twist to change the magnification of the target through your sight.
You only find this on variable scopes. If you have a fixed-power scope, you won’t have this. (More on the differences later)
The bridge between the ocular lens and the objective lens, which is one long piece of metal.
The scope tube is where you’ll fix the scope rings or base, to attach the scope to your crossbow.
They come in 1-inch and 30mm tube diameters. 30mm tubes can only be used with 30-mm scope rings and 1-inch with 1-inch.
The objective bell is the part of the scope which increases in size from the scope tube to the objective lens diameter.
In the objective bell there’s a focus lens which helps focus objects in the scope.
The erector tube sits in the objective bell in front of the objective lens. It houses both the magnification lenses and the reticle.
The reticle is the part of the sight with markings like crosshairs, a target dot, or chevrons to shoot several distances.
If the reticle sits in front of the magnification lenses, it will also change in size as the magnification is altered on variable scopes. This is generally better as you don’t have to make a manual adjustment.
The objective lens gathers light from around the target you are sighting.
A larger lens means more light comes in, and a more full viewing area through your scope. The objective lens can be quite heavy though, so if it gets too big it can compromise weight and balance. This shouldn’t be an issue for scopes in the top crossbow scopes review below, though.
Cool tip: when you see a scope description, you can tell the objective lens size. For example “a 3×32 scope” means three times magnification with an objective lens of 32mm.
Scope base and scope rings
You attach your scope to the crossbow using a scope base or scope rings.
Types of Scope
Fixed-power scopes are the opposite of variable scopes, that’s to say you can’t change the level of magnification of your targets.
A good crossbow magnification level is anywhere from 3x to 6x magnification; dependent on the game size and hunting distance.
For example, 3x magnification is great for small game over short to medium distances, like turkey hunting. If you go for any more, you’re going to struggle to find the turkey amongst the foliage!
People will boast about stronger magnification, but it’s likely you won’t need any more than 3x.
A variable scope allows you to change the magnification as needed. This isn’t without its difficulties though, as you will need to regularly zero in. This means resetting the scope at that magnification every time you change zoom.
Even worse is if you have what’s called a ‘second-focal-plane scope’. In that case, if you change magnification, the reticle won’t change with it. You’d have to sight-in the crossbow again so that your distance markers are correct.
If you use a first-focal-plane scope (typically more expensive), the reticle and the image move together, so the crosshairs will adjust with the magnification, avoiding this problem.
If you can, it’s better to set the scope magnification for your whole hunting session and not change it again. Instead, you can use your crosshairs or dots to shoot varying distances. It’s not comfortable to keep changing on the go.
What to do with a new crossbow?
When you get your new scope, first you’ll want to attach it to the rail assembly on the bow, securing it with scope rings. Be sure that there’s no movement in the scope from recoil when shooting.
You can read about how to mount your scope here. I recommend getting it fixed by a professional if you’re not sure what you’re doing. It’s an important job because you want it to be perfectly aligned, which involves a trial-and-error process to get it perfect.
Sight it in
‘Sighting-in’ is matching the POA (point of aim) with the crossbows point of impact (POI) for a given range.
It can be really tedious the first few times you do it, but it gets easier with practice. It’s an exercise of trial and error aiming and firing at a fixed point until you get it right.
Again, if you’re unsure we recommend you take it to a pro shop, to ensure it matches up over all distances.
This is only for adjustable scopes, where you reset the scope to place the middle of the crosshairs at your new “sighted-in” point of aim. You’ll do this every time you change the magnification.
Minutes of Angle (MOA): learning to adjust while shooting
MOA refers to the number of clicks necessary to adjust the scope to account for windage and elevation.
If you have a 1/4-inch MOA, you’ll need four clicks to move the scope an inch over 100 yards.
Ensure you factor in distance though! If you’re only 50 yards away, you’d need double the clicks (8) to adjust the scope correctly.
1/8, 1/4 or 1/2-inch MOAs are appropriate for a crossbow. A lower MOA gives you more precise adjustments but means you’ll have to spin the adjustment gear more to make it.
Cool tip: Scopes have writing on them to let you know the MOA, i.e., “1/2 MOA per click.”
What features make a crossbow scope good?
Spending money on a quality scope will buy you a sturdier more durable scope which lasts longer. It will cost you less in the long term. Consider the following features when purchasing your scope:
Magnification is how many times bigger you want the target to be through the scope.
Length is measured from the front of the objective lens to the back of the eye-piece. A more extended scope means higher magnification.
It isn’t necessarily the best because of trade-off in weight and profile. It’s more important to have a scope relative to what you’re hunting and the distance at which you’re shooting.
Some scopes have an illumination feature: a dial with rear-stat settings for a little dot in green or red.
An illuminated reticle brightens the reticle so that you can better see your crosshairs or other markers. It’s excellent in tricky lighting and helps to improve accuracy.
Is it necessary? No. Is it sometimes helpful? Yes, depending on the situation.
No stray light
Sometimes as light reflects off the metal of a scope, the glare can enter the lens and distract the shooter.
Get a scope with an interior coating to prevent reflection on the metal from external light. Otherwise, it makes it harder to make out the target.
A measure of the amount of light which reaches your eye through the scope when shooting.
Field of view
Field of view refers to the width of your view when looking down your scope. If you sight-in at 150 yards, you might have a 20-yard wide field of view.
Field of view depends on magnification and focal length of the lenses. More magnification means less field of view.
Center-tube (or scope tube) diameter
The 1-inch tube size is popular in America, and the 30-mm is more prevalent in Europe. There’s a commonly misheld belief that 30-mm tubes let in a little more light, but it does have a thicker wall for better strength and durability.
Intuitive and straightforward adjustment options for no faff when scoping in. IMPORTANT!
Is your scope good in all climates? Make sure your scope’s fog proof and waterproof. The distinct advantage is that your lens is clearer for shooting. But you’ll also avoid future repair costs or just giving up and buying another.
Does it have a lifetime warranty? Lots do these days, so find out.
Typically measured in inches, eye relief refers to the distance between the lens and the eye that you sight with. You need sufficient eye relief so that you don’t hit your eye against the scope when you fire.
Realistically, this is more appropriate for firearms due to their higher recoil.
It does make sense to account for it though. If there’s too much or too little eye relief, you might not be able to focus on the target (and have to re-fix your scope!)
Many of the following come standard with bows. Check yours before you buy:
An additional but worthwhile accessory to protect the lenses on your scopes.
Several types exist, like flip-up caps and elastic caps. They live on the scope and are only taken off to hunt/shoot.
Take care of lenses with a good scope cloth or lens pen to gently remove smudges.
Most scopes include rings so that you can mount the scope immediately.
The Best Crossbow Scope Reviews for 2020
NIKW9 Prostaff P3 Crossbow 3×32 Review (Matte BDC 60)
The Prostaff P3 is a 3x fixed-magnification scope with a proprietary ‘BDC’ reticle. It’s designed to maximize the range and efficiency of hunting crossbows.
Despite no illumination, there are no reports of difficulty in low light levels. It has anti-reflective compounds on every glass surface, which help to provide bright and vivid images and excellent light transmission. Many reviews point out the quality of its crisp image.
Nikon has tested the BDC 60 reticle extensively, with a variety of bolts, point weights and crossbow speeds. It has aiming points which reach out to as much as 80+ yards.
Reticle changes are made in 1-inch adjustments which make an excellent click. There’s a neat little button to reset the windage and elevation adjustments to 0, so it’s considerably easier to make adjustments on the go.
The all-metal scope has been made of high-quality materials. The main tube is made of one-inch aircraft-grade aluminium as has the quick-focus eye-piece.
One thing of note: according to one review, if you shoot a fast crossbow there’s a chance the yardage markers (point of aim) on the reticle won’t line up precisely with your point of impact.
- Instantly reset turrets to zero
- Great for the price
- Great light
- Good build quality
- No illumination
- May fail to sight-in at high FPS
UTG 4X32 1-Inch Crossbow Scope Review
The UTG 4×32 has a 4x magnification fixed-power scope with a respectable 27.2-foot field of view and high-quality image thanks to its broadband lens coating.
The UTG has an MOA of a 1/4 inch. There are several reviews of people taking a long time to sight it in, although others had no problems.
The scope is built on a True Strength Platform which uses smart spherical structures to achieve windage/elevation adjustments and strong recoil resistance.
Like the Prostaff P3, this scope also has a reset to 0 button on the windage/elevation adjustments to help sight-in.
The reticle includes five horizontal lines calibrated at 300FPS so that you can quick-aim out to fifty yards. You can also control a red/green dual illumination from a side wheel on the side of the scope. It’s great for hunting in different lighting conditions.
Two things that were liked and commented heavily are how forgiving the eye relief is, and the flip-open lens caps that come with it.
- Generous field of view
- High-quality image
- Instantly reset turrets to zero
- Forgiving eye relief
- Comes with flip-open lens caps and low profile quick detach ring mounts
- Some issues sighting-in
Hawke 3X32 IR Crossbow Scope Review
The Hawke 3×32 seems to be a remarkably good scope choice for hunters of all abilities.
Unless you hunt at long distances, its 3x fixed-power scope is plenty magnification. The 3x magnification and design gives it an excellent field of view at 33.3 feet.
So many reviews commented on just how crisp and clear the image is with a sharp edge-to-edge focus.
The ballistic reticle has laser-sharp illumination, which can be switched on and off. The fantastic 5-setting rheostat illumination comes in red or green and doesn’t produce that ghosting effect you find with cheaper reticles.
The reticle features illuminated hollow circles instead of crosshairs which I quite like because they don’t cover the intended POI. The circle is supposed to be a 2″ kill zone at the corresponding distance. It also has left-right hairlines representing 12 inches and 24 inches.
The scopes 315 FPS calibration point worried me that high-performance crossbows might struggle to sight-in correctly. Hawke, however, has taken this into account. The new model is calibrated at 340 FPS, and Hawke says this will work with crossbows reaching speeds of as much as 475 FPS.
The optics are multi-coated to protect against fogging and liquids, and there are no reports of this being the case.
The scope even features resettable turrets like the first two, and really can’t do much wrong.
- Great customer support
- Excellent field of view
- Bright and crisp wide-angle image for edge to edge clarity and sharp focus
- Best crossbow scope for low light
- Doesn’t come with scope rings
Best Crossbow Scope for the money
Hawke Crossbow 1.5-5X32 IR SR Scope Review
Hawke’s variable scope is also proving to be a massive hit, which speaks volumes for the brand.
The Hawke 1.5-5X32’s precision reticle offers aim points at 10-yard intervals from 20 to 100 yards. It has five crosses – not illuminated circles as they advertise in the name – corresponding to yards 20-60, and postmarks for yards 70-100. Only the IR model has crosses which light-up.
This scope, like the fixed-power version, has excellent feedback for sighting-in. Once you configure the speed selector ring – on which you can input speeds anywhere from 250 to 425 FPS – you will hit all your yard markers accurately.
The speed selector ring, however, is a frustration for several buyers. After all, it’s advertised as a 5x scope, but in reality, you can’t set the zoom level you desire. Instead, you have to input your crossbow FPS, which will automatically adjust to the zoom level necessary.
So technically it is a 5x scope as if you set 425 FPS you will zoom in to 5x. It can be incredibly annoying if you want to set the FPS correctly to your crossbow because you can’t achieve the maximum advertised zoom.
The reticle offers red and green illumination in five levels of brightness (SR model). The one-inch optics are fully multi-coated for high levels of light transmission.
The 1/2-inch MOA is crisp thanks to the no-snag fingertip turrets.
- Great customer support
- Bright and crisp wide-angle image for edge to edge clarity
- Great accuracy after easy setup
- Solid illumination and sharp focus
- Not really a 5x scope (see above)
- Doesn’t come with scope rings
Excalibur Tact-Zone Illuminated Scope Review (2.5-6x32mm)
The ultra-compact Tact-Zone from Excalibur has a 2.5-6x magnification variable zoom. It comes as standard on the whole Excalibur Matrix series of crossbows.
The scope is adjustable to speeds from 275 DPS to 410 FPS, and unlike the Hawke 1.5-5×32 above, the speed adjustment is independent to the zoom adjustment.
It features a new updated reticle design for tact-zone. The new reticle does an excellent job of lining up bolt POI with POA up to 60 yards out, for any given arrow speed.
The scope features 1/2-click MOA adjustments for sighting-in and a 30mm tube for added strength. It holds up well against the elements, be it rain, fog or knocks from dropping it.
The reticle has red/green rheostat illumination and a multi-coated lens for exceptional clarity. The lenses are also protected by flip-up caps, although numerous buyers decide to replace them citing that they’re a little bit tacky.
- Crossbow speed adjustment ring for easy configuration
- Weatherproof and shockproof
- May struggle on high-performance crossbows over 410 FPS
- Cheap lens covers
TRUGLO Crossbow Scope 4X32 Review with Rings APG
The TruGlo 4×32 is a fixed-power 4x magnification scope. The old-school reticle – although not illuminated as some people report – is designed for range finding and trajectory compensation.
The fully coated lenses provide brightness, clarity and contrast, and despite not being illuminated, plenty of buyers state just how well it works in low-light levels.
What people like about the scope are the rubber eye-guard and generous 4-inch eye relief. It has a durable leaf spring for windage and elevation adjustments located under screw down caps.
The manufacturer claims that the scope is weatherproof, but I’ve read 5+ reports of the scope fogging up. If you do have issues with it, the customer service at TruGlo doesn’t seem to be great, so it may be better to purchase through Amazon.
All in all, there are more impressive scopes out there, but this one is great for those with reduced budgets. Nonetheless, the scope has garnered a whole heap of really positive reviews from Amazon.
- Good crossbow scope for the money
- Old-school reticle if that’s what you like
- Great for dawn/dusk hunters
- May fog up
- Poor customer service
My opinion is that the best scope for 2020 is the Hawke 3×32 IR crossbow scope. It’s thanks to its excellent field of view, crisp edge to edge image, reliability in all conditions and solid illumination.
If you’re keen on a variable scope, then you have a toss-up between the Hawke 1.5-5×32 (my choice), and the Excalibur Tact-Zone. Unless your conditions favour it, I don’t believe a variable scope is necessary for crossbow shooting.
Of the two, the Hawke seems a better option for overall quality. That said, some people are put off by the magnification dial issue which controls zoom based on the crossbow FPS. If that’s the case for you, then you should choose the Excalibur Tact-Zone.
Who makes the best crossbow scope?
Based on my research, it looks like Hawke is the best at making consistently good variable and fixed-power crossbow scopes.