Upgrade your rimfire with a quality optic
While bigger calibers get all the coverage, using a smaller caliber for plinking, practice, and target shooting can make your experience cheaper and easier while still keeping it fun. Even after more than a century since its invention, the rimfire cartridge is as popular as ever – and there’s a lot of innovation in these little plinkers.
After testing more than 17 rimfire scopes we think the Nikon ProStaff Rimfire with BDC Reticle offers the best combination of accuracy, price, and performance.
Our Top Pick (Best Overall):
The Nikon ProStaff Rimfire with BDC Reticle scope combines rimfire-specific BDC 150 lens with 4-12x magnification to make quick work of getting your rimfire rifle dialled into zero and keeping it there. This is one of the best rimfire scopes we’ve tested—equally adept at making it easy to hit steel plates at different distances and satisfying a hobbyist plinker.
Its many thoughtful design details, including optimum light transmission, spring-loaded instant zero-reset turrets, nitrogen-purged o-ring sealed housing, and consistent 3.7 inches of eye relief, set it apart from its competitors.
The size and magnification are average — 13.6 oz and 14.1 inches long with a standard 4-12x — but no other contender offers such a complete rimfire-friendly package with so few weaknesses. The sight picture from the 40mm objective lens competes with sights at much higher price points.
Plus, it’s built on proven Nikon technology: after three seasons, our original test model is still working like new.
- Rimfire-specific technology
- Easy to set and stay at zero
- Clear at all distances
- Proven Nikon technology
- Slightly sensitive
- Not designed to larger calibers
The Simmons.22 Mag(R) Riflescope not is not only clear and crisp right out of the box, the QTA (quick target acquisition) eyepiece makes acquiring targets at 25, 50, 100 yards or more, absurdly fast. It locks onto targets almost instantly – with none of the wander or blurriness of other scope options.
Even with lower light levels, its accuracy remains reliable, giving you the confidence you’re on target with every shot.
The Simmons truezero adjustment target turret system lets you get to zero and keep it there. Our test scope was right on zero even after 100 rounds over 3 sessions. Despite a non-adjustable parallax (it’s set to 50 yards), our groupings were consistent at any distance.
While you don’t get some of the features of much more expensive scopes, you do get a very lightweight, well-made, capable rimfire scope with a really nice field of view that’s very budget-friendly.
- Very small and light
- Easy to install
- Holds zero consistently
- Included rings may not be compatible with all rails
- Dials are softer than higher end models
- No audible elevation or windage adjustment click
If parallax adjustment is a must-have:
The Bushnell Optics Drop Zone Rimfire Scope is a slightly heavier option than our main pick at just over 19 ounces – but if you can hang with the extra weight you get some features that are very rare in scopes under $200, in particular, the side parallax adjustment down to 10 meters – so you can get up-close and personal with your targets, and the name Bushnell – which is synonymous with high-quality hunting optics.
Its Bullet Drop Compensating (BDC) reticle system is not only accurate but gets you on-target over distances up to 500 meters via anticipating bullet drop.
You can also completely immerse the scope in water without damaging any internals, so it’s more than adequate for general use in the rain and humidity of hunting season. We tested it in a 5 gallon Home Depot bucket and it lived up to our expectations.
The Drop Zone’s clearly identifiable reticule marks are calibrated for 38-40 grain, 22 Long Rifle high-velocity loads, and once you zero at 50 yards you’ve got clear aiming points up to 125 yards.
These easy to see demarcations invite you to stretch your range a little – and start shooting from longer and longer distances.
- High quality build
- Holds zero well
- Fully water resistant & submersible
- BDC marks are easy to see and fun to use
- Heaviest of the top performing 22LR scopes
The second Bushnell product to make the cut on our 22LR-friendly scope roundup, the Bushnell Dusk & Dawn model is hunting-focused and has a specific lens coating designed to optimize visibility in low-light situations (which is when most tags are filled.)
It’s considerably lighter than the above Drop Zone scope, offers a fantastic field of view, and the depth of field is consistent across almost all zoom levels (although we did notice slight fall off at the higher end of magnification).
We also really like how the directional arrows are nice and deeply etched and have contrasting visual indications. The turret clicks are nicely positive and give good feedback without being difficult to turn.
Overall a great option for any rimfire rifle – and we liked it enough to recommend it on our list of budget AR-15 scopes as well.
- Great field of view
- Holds zero durably
- Consistent depth of field
- Hunting focus may not fit every need
- Can have QA issues
Longest eye relief:
The Vortex Optics Crossfire II Rimfire Scope has a lot of what you want in a rimfire scope: excellent field of view, clear visuals throughout the magnification range, high-quality glass, & impressive light transmission wrapped up in thoughtful design (if a little heavier than some other options at 14 ounces).
It combines a number of the features we like on other rimfire scopes but has longer eye relief (at about 4”) so you don’t have to hug the back end of your rifle to get on target.
- Clear, high-quality glass
- Stays focused throughout magnification range
- Very bright
- Back is larger than the front, which may require risers on some configurations
- Heavier than other options
If price point is more important to you than features or brand name, we recommend the BARSKA 3-9×32 Plinker-22 Riflescope.
The Plinker-22 is engineered for rimfire rifles and packages 3-9x magnification in a relatively lightweight 11oz package but at a much more budget-friendly price point.
Its 32-millimeter lens captures a lot of light. Despite Barska scopes not exactly being known as high-end units, the Plinker-22 exceeded our expectations – we found it quick to get to zero and easy to adjust. It felt at home on our test rifle, but given that it’s intended as a rimfire scope we didn’t think this would be a good option for much beyond a .22 or .25 rimfire rifle.
At 100 per cent magnification we did get some blurring around the edges of the reticule, and since this comes with Weaver mounts you may need to replace the rings to get it up and running.
That said, once you get it dialled in it’ll give you solid groupings at 50-100 yards, and it’ll make your 22LR feel more capable than iron sights alone. Plus you won’t have to stretch your budget, as the Plinker-22 costs one third the price of our top picks.
- Quality glass
- Bright visuals
- Can lack durability
- More difficult to sight in
Why add a scope to your rimfire rifle?
Magnification improves accuracy at range. Pretty basic idea – the bigger things are the easier they are to hit – but what’s the right amount of magnification? And how do you select a scope if you’re looking for long-distance performance – even beyond 150 yards?
Selecting the right magnification for your rimfire scope
One of the key criteria for a rimfire scope is to determine your magnification requirements. The right amount of magnification will be informed by the range at which you plan to shoot. If you want to shoot at differing ranges you’ll want a scope with variable magnification.
If you generally shoot under 50 yards – what most would consider close range – a scope offering up to 4x magnification will suit your needs.
If you shoot beyond 50 yards but up to or less than 100 yards – generally considered medium-range – 4x to 7x magnification will give you the right amount of magnification without overdoing it. This is a good general range for gophers, rodents, and other small targets.
For long-distance shooting – beyond 100 yards – look for a scope with 9x magnification and maximum clarity.
Considerations for selecting a rimfire rifle scope
When selecting a scope for your smaller caliber rimfire rifle you’ll want to keep things in mind.
Even though your 22LR isn’t the king of kick, if you’re trekking through the brush hunting or tossing your rifle in the back of your truck, the last thing you want is to get to the range and have to re-zero your scope.
You want a scope that’s easy to get to zero and will stay there.
Clarity & Glass Quality
You can’t hit what you can’t see, and scope clarity comes in a couple of different forms. You want a scope that allows you to see both the target at hand and the crosshairs or aiming elements within the scope itself. If one or the other is unclear you’ll be second-guessing your shots.
The most important ingredient to clarity is glass quality – so if the scope you’re considering has consistent complaints about the glass quality or the coatings on the lens – steer clear.
Eyepiece Circumference & Light Transmission
If glass quality & clarity let you see what you’re aiming at, light transmission lets you see it more of it at higher magnifications – critical for long-range shooting.
The higher the scope’s magnification the less light you get at the eyepiece, which means better light transmission makes it easier to see further – and the bigger the eyepiece the more light it can transmit.
Shooting at range requires magnification – and the ability to use magnification effectively depends on lens clarity & light transmission.
Make sure the degree of magnification aligns with your goals – and if you’re looking to shoot over longer distances you’ll want a scope that has more magnification, higher light transmission, and a larger eyepiece to transmit that light more efficiently to your eye.
Weather & Fog-Proof
Shooting is a year-round sport – which means you’ll often get wet, occasionally soggy, and from time-to-time totally soaked.
Make sure your scope isn’t going to fog up on you when you need it – so anti-fog coatings on lenses and sealed housings will keep moisture from building up on the inside of your scope – and prevent condensation from ruining your day at the range or in the field.
Don't forget the targets!
Each of these rimfire scopes offers advantages for different users, but our top pick is the Nikon ProStaff Rimfire with BDC Reticle. It was easy to install, get to zero, and the BDC markings were surprisingly effective. It’s a scope that was designed from the ground up to make rimfire rifles more fun at range. It also has all the features that we look for in a rimfire scope:
- Nice amounts of eye relief
- Quality glass that’s nice and clear
- Fog-proof coatings and a sealed housing (bonus: it’s nitrogen-filled)
- Fantastic light transmission
There are quite a few options out in this category, but we hope this article steers you in the right direction. If you have any questions or feedback please drop us a line. If you’re in the market for a rimfire rifle check out our guide to the best 22 rifles – or for optics check out our scope reviews, guide to the best rifle scopes, tips for selecting the best pistol red dot sight, selection of recommended long-range rifle scopes, and best budget AR-15 scopes.