What Does 4-16×50 mean on a scope? [Understand Magnification Range]

When you buy your first rifle scope it can be confusing. There are tons of different brands & they are all labeled with different numbers like 3-9×40 or 6-24×50.

But what do these numbers really mean? More specifically, what does 4-16×50 mean on a scope? As it turns out, 4-16×50 is used to communicate that the scope has variable magnification between 4x & 16x and it has a 50mm objective lens.

In this post, well teach you more about 4-16×50 scopes, the importance of scope magnification, and help you pick the optimal scope magnification for your own needs.

What Does 4-16×50 Mean for Rifle Scopes?

picture of a 4-16x50 rifle scope

A 4-16×50 scope is a variable power scope that has a specific range of adjustability. The numbers on this scope represent the magnification range & objective lens diameter.

  • Zoom Range – The zoom on this scope ranges from 4x to 16x magnification. 4x is the lowest zoom setting & 16x is the highest zoom setting.
  • Objective Lens – This scope has a 50 mm objective lens. This is considered a large lens size for rifle scopes.

Learn To Read Scope Magnification Numbers

As a new shooter, it is critical to have a complete understanding of your equipment. This means you need to know your ammunition, weapon, and scope specifications. To really understand your optic, you need to know how to read the numbers on your scope. There are a few factors to understand.


If you buy a basic fixed power scope, then it is pretty simple to understand. There will be only two numbers on a fixed power scope: magnification & objective lens size.

Here are some examples of numbers for fixed power scopes.

  • 4×12 Scope – In this example, there is a fixed 4x zoom magnification. With a 4x scope, you can normally see between 300-400 yards. This scope also has a lens that is 12mm in diameter.
  • 25×50 Scope – In this example, there is a fixed 25x zoom magnification. With a 25x scope, you can normally see between 800-1000 yards depending on the quality of your optic. This scope also has a lens that is 50mm in diameter.

Remember, just because a scope has more magnification does not make it better. It depends on your specific use case. For example, a person looking for the best turkey hunting scopes, will not want to see the best scope for deer hunting. These hunts happen at two different ranges.

Here are some examples of numbers for variable power scopes. These scopes provide shooters with some additional adjustability.

  • 4-12×50 – In this example, there is a range of magnification from 4x to 12x. This is a very popular magnification range for target shooting & hunters alike. This scope also has a lens that is 50mm in diameter. The larger the lens the more light that gets into the scope.
  • 6-20×44 – In this example, there is a range of magnification from 6x to 20x. Remember that scopes with more adjustability will normally be more expensive. This scope also has a lens that is 44mm in diameter.

Variable zoom scopes, like our list of the best scope for a 300 win mag, give shooters a wide range of magnification power to choose from.

Why Is Scope Magnification Important?

If you’ve ever gone to a shooting range, you know that scope magnification is important. Higher magnification closes the distance to your target, making it appear larger in the scope. This allows for more accurate shots, particularly at long range. 1x magnification is what you can see with the naked eye. And as any hunter will tell you, accuracy is key when it comes to taking down your prey.

However, there are a few things to consider when picking a scope magnification for your specific needs. A higher magnification scope is better for long-range shots but will be harder to adjust your scope to achieve a perfect zero. The increased zoom will make windage and elevation adjustments more difficult.

What Is The Best Scope Magnification?

The best scope magnification depends on the specific use case and the intended application. The optimal magnification for a scope varies based on factors such as the target distance, type of shooting or observation, and personal preferences. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of the best scope magnification.

The table below has some of the most common scope magnifications correlated to their standard use case.

Use Case Scope Magnification Range
Close Quarters/Tactical 1-4x, 1-6x, 1-8x
Hunting (General) 3-9x, 2-10x, 3-12x
Big Game Hunting 4-16x, 3-15x, 3-18x
Long-Range Precision 6-24x, 5-25x, 4.5-30x
Varmint/Predator Hunting 4-16x, 6-24x, 8-32x
Scouting/Spotting 10-20x, variable
Competitive Shooting 1-8x, 1-10x, 4-16x
Home Defense 1-6x, 1-8x, red dot sight
Law Enforcement/SWAT 1-6x, 1-8x, 3-15x

Different Types of Scopes

There are several different types of scopes that are popular today.

  1. First Focal Plane
  2. Second Focal Plane
  3. Fixed Power Scopes
  4. Variable Power Scopes

1) First Focal Plane

picture of a first focal plane scope with reticle on deer

There are first and second focal plane scopes. Front focal plane scopes are a type of rifle scope in which the reticle is located at the front of the scope, near the eyepiece. The reticle size changes in relation to the zoom of the optic. This makes it better for low-light conditions.

2) Second Focal Plane

Second focal plane rifle scopes are a popular choice for many shooters. The reticle is located at the back of the scope, further away from the eyepiece. This has a number of benefits. Mainly it allows for a more compact design & the reticle does not change size regardless of the magnification. Some of the best Henry big boy scopes have an SFP setup.

3) Fixed Power Scopes

Fixed power rifle scopes are optics that have one set magnification setting. This makes them different from variable power rifle scopes, which have a range of magnification settings. Some marksmen prefer fixed power rifle scopes because they are simpler to use than an adjustable objective lens.

4) Variable Power Scopes

Variable power scopes offer a wide range of magnification, from low power (for close-range shooting) to high power (for long-range shooting). This gives you the flexibility to adjust your scope for different situations. Most people use variable zoom regardless of whether they use a rifle scope, spotting scope, or telescope!

Scopes For Long-Range Viewing

Most shooters will only be interested in a scope for up to 200-300 yards. Many of us might think we are Chris Kyle from American Sniper, but the truth is we just shoot a few shots on the weekend.

However, if you’re one of the people that practice long-range shooting, scope magnification becomes even more important. The best scope for 100o yards will depend on your specific budget and use case!

FAQs – Scope Magnification

What does 4 12x50 mean on a scope?

The numbers on a rifle 4-12x50 mean the scope has a minimum magnification of 4x and a maximum magnification of 12x. This scope also has a 50 mm lens. Remember that a variable zoom optic will have less eye relief than a fixed power scope. And if you're a new shooter, make sure to check out exactly what scope eye relief is as its very important.

What magnification do I need for 500 yards?

The amount of magnification you'll need to see something 500 yards away will probably be between 5x and 10x.

What magnification do I need for 200 yards?

You will likely need a scope magnification between 4x - 12x to clearly see a target form 200 yards.

What range is a 6 24x50 scope Good For?

Depending on the quality of your optic, a 6-24x50 scope can be good for shots up to 1000 yards! This scope is definitely for a more experienced shooter.

The Bottom Line

Now you have a great understanding of what 4-16×50 means on an optic. Whether you need a fixed or variable power scope will depend on your specific use case. Just remember that as the magnification increases, the scopes usually come with a larger tube diameter. Always consider the size of the scope when picking the best optic for you!

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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