Fixed Power Scope vs Variable Power Scopes | Which Is Best?

Any hunter or rifle owner is has come across the debate between fixed vs variable power scopes. Some shooters swear by their variable scope. While others are 100% convinced their fixed power scope is the best way to go.

So who is right?

In this post, we’ll break down the differences between a fixed power scope vs variable power scope so that you can decide for yourself! Read on to learn which power setting is best for you.

What Is A Fixed Power Rifle Scope?

comparison of different rifle scope zooms

Takeaway: A fixed power scope is a type of rifle scope that has a set magnification level & the shooter can’t change it.

With fixed scopes, the magnification level remains constant. They normally have a lower magnification level than variable power scopes. Fixed scopes are loved by shooters for a few different reasons. In fact, many of the Best .338 Win Magnum Scopes I’ve tested were fixed power!

Great for close-range shooting

  • Aids fast target acquisition
  • Wider field of view than variable scopes

Overall, fixed power scopes offer a simpler & more reliable and cost-effective alternative to variable power scopes. They have less parts & cannot be significantly adjusted.

What Is A Variable Power Rifle Scope?

Takeaway: Variable power scopes allow shooters to adjust the rifle scope magnification level to suit the specific shooting situation.

When using variable optics, shooters have far more adjustability. More specifically, the shooter can change the magnification level from a low to high very easily. All of the Best LPVO riflescopes we tested were highly adjustable! The main advantage of variable scopes is that they can be adjusted to fit all different types of situations.

  • Close distance shots
  • Medium distance shots
  • Long distance shots

Overall, if you are looking for more adjustability variable scopes are the way to go. They will let a hunter, range shooter, or sniper to sight in a target from a wide range of distances.

Main Differences Between Fixed vs Variable Scopes

comparison of fixed power scope vs variable scope zoom

Here are some of the biggest differences between fixed & variable power scopes.

1) Size & Weight

Fixed power scopes are generally smaller and lighter than variable power scopes. This is because they have fewer internal components & features.

This makes fixed scopes easier to carry and maneuver through mountainous terrain. Any hunter knows how much of a difference a few extra pounds can make on a steep hike.

Variable power scopes, like our list of the Best AR15 Riflescopes, tend to be larger and heavier. This is because they are more complex design and additional internal components.

2) Cost

Fixed power optics are normally cheaper than variable optics. They are simpler and smaller scopes that are easier for manufacturers to produce. Many of the Best Henry Big Boy 44 Mag Scopes are much cheaper than other variable rifle scopes I’ve tested.

However, the cost of both types of scopes can vary depending on the brand, quality, and features offered.

3) Adjustability

A variable scope is more adjustable than a fixed power scope. Variable scopes give a shooter the ability to adjust their magnification to sight a target outside their current magnification level. In most cases, you can adjust your M&P 15 Sport 2 Scopes to adjust to you specific shooting situation.

4) Speed

Fixed power scopes are much faster than variable rifle scopes. Making complicated adjustments on a variable scope takes time! With fixed scopes a shooter can just pick up their rifle, aim on their target, and fire!


When Is A Fixed Scope Best?

A fixed rifle scope is best for shooters that fit into any of the following situations.

  • Beginner hunter that does not want to change magnification under stressful situations
  • Shooters that have a smaller budget
  • Hunters that want a smaller and more compact scope

You also have to consider what type of reticle you want to use. The Vortex V-Plex Reticle is a very popular option amongst hunters!

When Is A Variable Scope Best?

A variable rifle scope is best for shooters that fit into any of the following situations.

  • Long range shooting! Shooters can make large magnification adjustments to shoot from much longer distances.
  • Hunters that hunt a wide variety of game. Some shooters go out hunting small game one weekend & then elk hunting the next. This means they need to be able to shoot from close and long range.
  • Competition shooters often need to be able to toggle between different magnification levels. Depending on the competition, a shooter may need to adjust the zoom.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are fixed power scopes more durable?

Fixed power scopes tend to be more durable than variable scopes. This is mainly because they have a more simplistic design with less moving parts. A variable magnification scope generally has more parts that could potentially be broken.

Why do snipers use fixed power scopes?

Snipers often choose fixed power scopes because they they have a wider field of view and require less adjustments to hit a target. In a tactical situation, a sniper may not have time to recalculate their zero and mess with their adjustable turrets.

What magnification power scope do most snipers use?

Most snipers use a 4x-6x power scope. This range allows them to shoot accurately from a very wide distances. In some cases, snipers require more magnification to take shots from even longer distances.

What magnification is needed for 1000 yard shooting?

10x scope magnification is recommended for 1000 yard shooting. As a general rule of thumb, each 1x magnification level gives you 100 yards of additional shooting range. High magnification scopes will also tend to be larger and be more expensive.

The Bottom Line

By now you should have a great understanding of the differences between fixed scopes and variable scopes. If you repeatedly shoot from the same distance a fixed power scope may be the way to go. But if you’re shooting from different distances and want to be able to toggle between magnification levels, then variable scopes are the way to go. For most hunters, a variable scope is the way to go if you have the budget. Pick the scope that best fits your specific needs!

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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