Best stalking scopes 2020: Our top 8 picks

As lockdown eases and retail comes back to life, you might be thinking about getting a new scope for stalking. To help, we asked Sporting Rifle contributor Byron Pace to pick his top 8 best stalking scopes.

Of course, with this kind of list, it’s very much subjective choice, and
I have little doubt that many of the scopes here may not appear on
your own list, or indeed any number writers in the field.

It is also reflective of those which I have had personal use of, either through
ownership, or other use in the field, and so should not be viewed as exhaustive. I will add here that it’s also not intended to be a particularly technical article, instead using the space to highlight scopes for further reading.

There will be a myriad of detailed reviews done in the past, possibly even in the pages of Sporting Rifle, so I do not wish to tread old ground. Lastly, before we get into it, I have quite deliberately included scopes which are no longer in production, as is reflective of what I believe to be the best scopes for stalking during my time.

That may mean that some of the latest options don’t feature,
but I think this provides useful benchmarks, and an acknowledgement
that purchasing secondhand scopes is an excellent option for
maximizing the quality of optics for your money. I am going to kick it
off with a stalwart of scope history. The scopes appear in no particular
order.

Schmidt and Bender 8×56 Klassik

Schmidt and Bender 8×56 Klassik

This scope comes in two varieties, the German made, and the
Hungarian assembled, but both are made from the same component
parts.

The Hungarian equivalent is however considerably cheaper. These scopes spawned from the era of fixed power popularity before variable technology advances gave equivalent reliability.

There was something to be said for the simplicity and robustness of these scopes, and that even stands true today. Despite the passage of time they
remain popular, and the German made scopes fetch surprising money when coming up second hand, even though they are still in production.

When it comes to low light performance and a bullet-proof scope, they are extremely hard to beat, even if they are a chunky beast. For most stalking in the UK there really isn’t need for much else; the only exception being the close quarter requirements of calling roe.

Price: Hungarian option – £450 new

Swarovski Z4i 3-12 x 50

Swarovski Z4i 3-12 x 50

I fell in love with this scope more than ten years ago while reviewing
a handful of Swarovski scopes. I ended up holding onto the Z4i on
test for around 18 months, and when they asked for it back, I simply
could not part with it.

I promptly opened my wallet and bought it from them. Even to this day it is possible my favourite scope in the cabinet, currently sat atop my 6.5×55 Schultz and Larsen. It was and still is a very understated scope, because it packed a lot despite appearing fairly mundane from the outside.

It offered an illuminated reticle with an easy lift of the extended elevation turret, and the design quality one expects from and old school Swarovski. My scope sports the simple yet effective 4A-300-I reticle, allowing for 3 elevation compensations below the horizontal.

The scope has been on a number of rifles, and with a little range time the reticle becomes very intuitive. I wouldn’t be without the scope, and it is suitable for every type of hunting I do in the UK. Sadly, this went out of production the year I purchased it, so you will need to be on the look out for one second hand.

Price: £1000 second hand

Zeiss Victory HT 2.5-10 x 50

Zeiss Victory HT 2.5-10 x 50

I remember distinctly when I first got my hands on the Victory HT. I
was at a Zeiss event, jointly run with Sauer and Norma, in Ulfborg,
Denmark. The scope had just been launched and this was a chance to
really stretch its legs and see what it was capable of. We had the top spec, highest magnification version, and over two days each journalist
fired hundreds of rounds on targets of varying sizes out to just over
500m.

That scope really impressed me, and so on my return I asked Zeiss to send me a test scope so I could use it in some real world scenarios, hunting live quarry. From Scotland to Africa, I hunted almost exclusively with it over twelve months, and became incredibly comfortable using the bullet drop compensating elevation turret.

A little range time had my 308Win dialled in exactly where I needed it out to 350m, and it became a tool I didn’t want to live without. So much so, that instead of handing it back at the end of the 12 months, I bought the scope from them, and it sits in the cabinet to this day.

I opted for the 2.5-10×50, which is a nice combination of size and weight, with a simple, effective reticle, and for staking at the ranges I am comfortable shooting, it is all I need. If you have your heart set on a scope with BDC, it’s hard to look past it.

Price: £1000 new

Leica Magnus 1.8-12 x 50i

Leica Magnus 1.8-12 x 50i

I have been in the company of Leica kit, be that binoculars, rifles or
spotting scopes, in some pretty gnarly places around the world. I have
watched it deliver at high altitude in Nepal and under a torrent of
Scottish rainfall, and it has certainly done the job that was asked of it.

I will admit it is not a scope I have used myself as much as some of
the others in the list, but it certainly deserves its place and shouldn’t
be over looked.

The 1.8-12×50 Magnus comes in a BDC version should you wish, with an illuminated dot as standard. Teamed up with the ballistics solutions offered in their binoculars, it is an extremely efficient and intuitive system.

Granted, for most stalking little of this will be needed, but in its basic offering it is tremendously versatile, and should you want the extra capability, that is there too.

Price: £2200 new

Leica Fortis 2-12 x 50i

Leica Fortis 2-12 x 50i

If you like the premise of the Leica, I would encourage you to look at the relatively new Fortis 6 in 2-12x50i, which I saw prior to launch in Texas at the end of last year, and comes in a little cheaper than the Magnus.

A great looking scope, it would complement the lines of a traditional stalking rifle perfectly, offering an understated performance.

Price: £1500 new

Zeiss Conquest V4 4-16×44

Zeiss Conquest V4 4-16×44

It was hard not to include the Zeiss Duralyt in this list, so I will mention it here. At the time it was launched it seemed to be that everyone I knew had it on one rifle or another. I even bought one, and still have it on my 22-250, which granted is now a foxing rifle, but occasionally it sees a stalk or two.

Of course today you can only find the Duralyt second hand, as Zeiss superseded it with the Conquest V4 range. The 4-16×44 offers more magnification than you will need, but the slimmer objective sits it nicely on a basic stalking rifle. For the money it’s a scope which is hard to look by.

Price: £830 new

Leopold VX5 2-10×42

Leopold VX5 2-10×42

I have always thought that Leopold hadn’t received the credit it deserves over in Europe, and I have always felt that their top tier range was an enviably good locking optic. They are a very understated scope with simple tubes and a lack of over sized turrets and flash, but they deliver.

Friends who use them repeatedly for longer range shooting speak highly of the elevation tracking, and the simplicity of the locking system on their BDC turret makes it possibly my favourite on the market. Priced around the £1000 mark really is a top contender when it comes to bang for buck on new scopes.

Price: £1000 new

Kahles Helia 3-12 x 44i

Kahles Helia 3-12 x 44i

Kahles has been around since 1898, but they are another company that never really gained traction here, and few people I know top their rifles with their scopes. However, I certainly have a soft spot for them.

My first pair of binoculars, purchased with hard earned savings at 17 years old, were from Kahles. Back then the company was depicted by a very classic, modest blue banner logo and the Kahles name.

As of a year or two back they went through a rebranding exercise, and now can be found draped in bright orange. The core values however haven’t changed, and there is no doubt that the scopes they produce jostle for position at the top of the market, separated only by personal preference.

Their hunting line is limited and focused on only the Helia model in six options, and I appreciate that. What they do, they do well, and there is something in the confidence of a limited line up. Offered in a one-inch tube, an increasingly rare occurrence these days, keeps weight and bulk down.

The slim lines are a rather nice compliment for a basic talking rifle, but if you wish, a BDC turret is available as an extra. The G4B reticle offers a simple three graduations design, much like the reticle I am so fond of on my
old Z4i. It would be a mistake to pass over Kahles without understanding what it offers first.

Price: £1200 new

More kit-round ups from Sporting Rifle

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