You might think mounting a scope on a shotgun is unconventional, but it can really enhance your shooting experience, especially when hunting deer. A well-mounted scope can increase your accuracy and target identification dramatically. But what type of scope do you put on a shotgun? Join us as we discuss the differences between a rifle and shotgun scope, the benefits of using a shotgun scope, and some other considerations of equipping a scope on your shotgun!
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Can You Put Scope On A Shotgun?
The short answer: Yes, you can.
Long answer: Although not as common as mounting a scope on a rifle, people, myself included, do mount scopes on shotguns. I use a scope for turkey hunting and shooting slugs – specifically for deer hunting. However, it is important that you find the appropriate mounting system as well as a compatible proper shotgun scope able to withstand the shotgun’s recoil.
Also, be sure to check your shotgun – some might have pre-drilled holes or grooves on the receiver – allowing for a smooth and easy mounting process. If your shotgun does not have pre-drilled holes, then it might be best to take it to a gunsmith to drill the holes for you. If you are a DIY type of guy, you can follow our detailed guide on how to mount a scope without a rail. Note: This guide is for a rifle, but the concept remains relatively the same.
Differences Between Shotgun Scopes vs Rifle Scopes
1) Scope Magnification
Rifles are able to achieve much longer hunting distances than a shotgun. Therefore, the magnification between a rifle scope and a shotgun scope differs.
Typical magnification for basic rifle scopes varies between 2-7x and 5-12x, and for long-range scopes, a typical magnification range is between 6-24x.
In comparison, shotgun scopes are designed for close-range encounters, and a slug shotgun is for medium-range hunting. Therefore, the typical magnification range for buckshot or birdshot scopes is 1x and 1-4x, and for a slug gun, it can go up to 1-6x. And if you use a shotgun reflex scope it will only be a 1x magnification.
Anybody who has shot with a typical .308, .30-06, even a .300 Win Mag rifle and a shotgun with a rifled slug barrel, or any shotgun for that matter, knows that a shotgun produces more recoil.
Shotguns have high recoil because of the size and weight of their projectiles as well as the design of the weapon. Therefore, buckshot or shotgun slug scopes must be built to withstand the pounding of a shotgun’s recoil. So avoid putting your eye too close to the scope or you may get rifle scope bite injuries.
It is very important that the scope can withstand the recoil without losing its zero or suffering internal damage. Otherwise, it would render the scope obsolete after the first shot.
3) Target Acquisition Speed
Shotguns are used predominantly for hunting fast-moving targets, such as birds, clay pigeons, or deer at close ranges. Therefore, you need shotgun optics that can provide you with quick target acquisition. Most shotgun scopes have an illuminated reticle or a wide field of view (FOV) to help you aim faster.
In comparison, if you use hunting rifles, you don’t need to get as close as with shotguns to the target. Instead of relying on stealth, you rely on accuracy to produce a successful hunt. As a result, a rifle scope manufacturer prioritizes precision over target acquisition speed, such as balancing the scope magnification with the rifle’s functionality or taking extra time with the reticle, especially if it’s a BDC reticle.
4) Eye Relief
Eye relief is the distance between the shooter’s eye and the scope’s eyepiece while maintaining a full FOV.
Shotgun optics have extended eye relief (scopes) or unlimited eye relief (a red dot sight). The extended or unlimited eye relief is due to the high shotgun recoil – the extra recoil helps reduce the risk of injury obtained from the eyepiece hitting the shooter’s eye during recoil.
Most rifle scopes have an average eye relief that is generally lower than shotgun scopes.
5) Field of View
As already mentioned, shotgun scopes typically have a larger field of view than rifle scopes. This is because the wide field of view helps shotgun shooters acquire and track targets more efficiently.
With long-range scopes, precision is more important than a wider field of view.
Do Rifle Scopes Work On Shotguns?
Yes, some rifle scopes work on shotguns. However, the rifle scope should be compatible with the shotgun in terms of mounting system and durability. Also, make sure the magnification range of the rifle scope isn’t too high – there’s no need to hunt deer at a 15x magnification when using a shotgun. Just make sure you know how to use rifle scope or shotgun scopes properly!
When looking at rifle scopes for shotguns, I pay close attention to the type of reticle featured in the scope. A BDC or TMR reticle is useless on a shotgun and will only compromise your target acquisition rate. Rather opt for a simple and elegant design, like a duplex reticle.
Scopes vs Red Dot Sights On A Shotgun
Both these types of optics are useful on a shotgun as it extends the range and increases the accuracy of the shooter. However, there are some differences between these two optics that you should pay attention to before deciding which one to buy:
- Range: A scope has a higher magnification range than red dot sights and is more useful at longer ranges and with a slug shotgun. Red dot sights excel in close-range shooting situations like hunting waterfowl or shooting clay pigeons.
- Target acquisition speed: Red dot sights are plain and simple – all you need to do is place a single illuminated dot on the target. Whereas a scope, you first need to align the crosshairs with the target, which takes more time. Also, red dot sights have a wider field of view and larger eye relief than scopes, making it easier to acquire and track targets than with a scope on a shotgun.
- Complexity: A red dot sight is much easier to use than a scope because of the simple design of a red dot. With a scope, you need to adjust windage and elevation turrets, parallax, and align two sets of crosshairs on the target. All that a red dot requires is to aim the single illuminated dot on the target once it is zeroed.
I always recommend a red dot over a scope to beginners, just so they get the hang of aiming with an optic on a shotgun.
Pros & Cons Of Using A Shotgun Scope
- Accuracy: When you use a scope on a shotgun instead of the typical iron sight, you get a much more reliable and prominent aiming platform – allowing you to achieve higher accuracy.
- Range: A shotgun scope typically has magnification, enabling you to aim at targets you wouldn’t even see with a standard iron sight. Always remember to practice hunting ethics – never shoot at a target beyond the weapon’s effective range.
- Better Target identification: A scope allows you to identify targets much better than with an iron or red dot sight.
- Target acquisition rate: Shotgun scopes have a smaller field of view than red dots and iron sights. With a scope, you also first need to align the crosshairs with the target before taking a shot. These two factors reduce the target acquisition rate and are a major disadvantage, especially if you are hunting fast-moving targets.
- Maneuverability: A shotgun should be lightweight and easy to maneuver. When you place a scope on a shotgun, it adds weight and bulk to the shooting platform.
- Durability: As will all machines or systems; the more features you add, the more likely it is something will break. If a scope breaks from fall or recoil damage, and you are in the middle of the field, hunting deer, then you would have wished you had a simple iron sight or red dot sight.
How To Zero A Shotgun Scope
Zeroing a shotgun scope is basically the same as zeroing a rifle scope.
- Choose your zero distance: First, you need to choose a distance you want your shotgun to be zeroed. Choose the distance you expect to engage with most of your targets. I always zero my shotgun scopes at 50 yards. It’s a great intermediate distance that doesn’t require a lot of calculations when zeroing or when aiming at a target beyond 50 yards.
- Set up a target: The target should have clear grids to make it easier to measure and adjust your turrets.
- Shooting platform: You will need to find a secure shooting platform, such as a bench or shooting bag.
- Fire your first shot group: Remember to use the same ammunition you are going to use when hunting. Aim for the center of the target and fire between 2 and four shots.
- Evaluate the grouping: Measure the distance the shot placement is from your point of aim and adjust the windage and elevation turrets appropriately. Most scopes use a 1/4 MOA per click; you can use our detailed MOA adjustment guide to help you fine-tune your shotgun optic.
- Confirm zero: Fire another shot or two to confirm that the scope is zeroed. The shot group should be centered around your point of aim. If not, then repeat step number 5.
Common Use Cases For Shotguns
Shotguns have a wide range of shooting use cases. The most common ones are:
- Hunting deer (buckshot or slug shot)
- Waterfowl (birdshot)
- Turkey (birdshot)
- Upland game (birdshot)
- Small game (birdshot)
- Pests (birdshot)
- Clay pigeon shooting
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you use a scope on a shotgun?
How far do you have to sight in a shotgun scope?
What is the scope of a gun called?
What type of shotguns work well with scopes?
The Bottom Line
While not as common as on rifles, mounting a scope on a shotgun can improve target identification and shot placement at longer distances. Additionally, it enhances accuracy and versatility when hunting in different scenarios. Remember to choose a shotgun scope that is specifically designed or compatible with your shotgun. Ultimately, using a scope on your shotgun can elevate your shooting experience – it did for me!