Optics is arguably the single most important accessory for a firearm. After all, you can’t expect to hit a target if you can’t see it fully and clearly. With the increased visibility provided by the right optics for your particular firearm, you’ll have a much greater chance of solidly hitting your target.

It’s easy to feel confused when buying a best rifle scope or other shooting optics for the first time. What do all the numbers mean? Is bigger always better? The market is literally flooded with hundreds of different scopes with varying powers, settings and features. However, choosing the right rifle scope starts with identifying your needs.

If you’re looking for a new scope for your hunting rifle, then you’ll likely want one that’s capable of gathering as much light as possible. Deer and other big game can be the most active during the early morning and late afternoon hours, which happens to be when sunlight is limited. A rifle scope will illuminate the view of your target much better than the human eye in the same setting. Although the “normal” rifle scope isn’t technically considered night-vision, it does help to collect more illumination in semi-dark conditions.

In addition to a rifle scope’s light gathering ability, you should also be aware of its magnification power. A higher magnification power allows for viewing targets at longer distances. Remember, though, just because you’re able to see a target at a certain distance doesn’t automatically mean your rifle is capable of hitting it at that distance.

Most rifle scopes will have a label like 3x9x50, which means it operates at 9x magnifications and features an objective leans of 50mm. A bigger objective lens is usually preferred by most hunters, as it gives them a broader (wider) view at the target area. Some rifle scopes will feature an adjustable magnification power, which allows the user to raise or lower magnification based on the target’s distance. For instance, a rifle scope labeled 4.5x14x50 allows the user to adjust the magnification power by 14 times.

It’s important to note that the higher magnification powers a rimfire scope  or rifle scope has the less light it will gather. A common mistake hunters make is to choose a rifle scopes based on its magnification power alone. The truth is, however, that you don’t need a strong magnification power when you’re hunting in dense woods.

A solid 3 or 4 power is all it takes to provide a crystal-clear view of your game, while also giving you a high level of light retention. In fact, when hunting in a more dense setting you might actually want to use binoculars instead of your rifle scope. This helps to minimize movement and allows for quicker response time when spotting your target.

A rangefinder is also another useful tool when hunting game in open areas at long distances. Many people don’t realize just how much gravity affects a bullet’s trajectory at long distances. Unless the “gravity factor” is taken into account, the bullet isn’t going to hit the target; at least not where you aim. A rangefinder will help you compensate for gravity, or bullet drop by giving you an accurate distance to your target. You can then use this distance measurement to adjust where on the target you should put your scope’s reticle.