I Need A New Scope For My Bolt Action 30-06

Choosing a scope for a 30-06 rifle.

A recent commenter on the blog said,

“I need a new scope”

I’m needing a new scope for my bolt action 30-06. I’ve always used 3x9x40 so I’m used to that, and don’t really want to change. Suggestions for brand, model, etc. Please know, I can’t afford huge $$, here.

I’ve had the 3x9x40 scope on my deer rifle for 30 years or so. It started screwing up last year. Site it in perfect, then check next day and it’s off, way off. It’s going in the trash. Oh, yea I checked rings and mounts, it’s the scope.

I could do 250-300 for a decent quality scope, but I just haven’t bought a scope in many years. I know I don’t want all the fancy yardage lines in the scope, which I can estimate that myself. Just want one more decent scope for my deer gun.

~ Plainsmedic

As is typical on our blog, a constructive helpful reply from one of our readers, ‘CaliRefugee’, offered some good advice – so I decided to post it here:

Response to ‘Plainsmedic’ and anybody else out there shopping for a good reliable rifle scope:

Shopping for a Good Reliable Rifle Scope

You generally get what you pay for so I would like to share some gun shop observations from the American Southwest if possible:

Is your rifle of light weight? ( less than 7 lbs with no optics ). If it is, your rifle will kick hard and fast placing a lot of stress on scope mounting hardware and scopes that are big and heavy.

I shoot 3×9 scopes on both my deer/pig rifles and varmint hunting rigs. I save my money and buy the Leupold Compact scopes ( Vari-X2 scopes ) for the big game rifles for the following reasons:

Insert: Example of the VX-2 scope

The quality of the optics is independent of the size of the objective lens.
That quality of the optics will reveal itself in the last 30 minutes of twilight and the first 30 minutes of pre-dawn light.

The bigger the objective lens means the scope will be heavier because it is a bigger piece of glass. Brightness is determined by the quality of the grinding and the coatings used. ( Brightness is NOT determined by the bigger size of the objective lens.).

Vocabulary: The lens close to your eyeball is the Ocular lens. The lens close to the muzzle of the rifle is the Objective lens.

My last year working at a gunsmith’s shop was repairing and selling rifle scopes for hard kicking deer rifles that were light weight and chambered in 7mm magnum. Topped off with a large, heavy inexpensive optic meant that the scope mounting screws were getting sheared off due to the sharp, fast recoil impulse combined with a heavy piece of glass and metal composite sight sitting high on top of the rifle. ( the scope )

I hope that anybody who reads this will take this as a lesson prior to buying a good rifle scope. They are expensive but they should be viewed as an investment which will last for more than a lifetime.

I inherited a Leupold riflescope and sent it back to Leupold for testing and checking of the seals telling the factory that I was the 3rd owner of the scope. They checked the seals and sent it back with a report – for free. I am enough of a fan of Leupold scopes that I relocated to the state where they are made.

There are other scope makers out there that make a good product within American shores like Burris as well. I have also shot using Japanese made glass like Nikon, Bushnell and Simmons.

But, while working within a gunsmith’s shop and building rifles for people who travelled to Alaska, Africa and other expensive hunts around the globe, I built rifles and topped them with the Leupold compact scopes. When thy left the shop with these rifles, they never came back for repairs.

I never paid more than $600.00 for a rifle scope. I have been buying Leupold vari X-2 scopes or the rifleman series for years now. It hurts to buy the first one but it holds its zero through tough conditions. ( that last part makes it priceless.)

Ken adds: I’ve had cheap scopes, mid-range scopes, and expensive rifle scopes. I have never been happy with the cheap ones. It has stung to fork out the bucks for a quality scope, but I have never regretted it.

I couldn’t resist including a photo of my Browning X-Bolt Medallion with Maple stock, chambered for 30-06, with a Leupold VX-R 3-9×40 scope:

Limited Edition Browning X-Bolt Medallion Rifle with a Maple stock

Okay, lets hear from you. There are so many rifle scopes out there to choose from, many of them quite excellent. Their prices range widely! Perhaps it’s a challenge to choose one that’s not real expensive but yet of good quality?

‘CaliRefuge’ who posted his comments above, is a big fan of Leupold. So am I.

** Browse Leupold Scopes **

Continue reading: Only 1 Gun in a Survival Situation?


  1. I have been using the Vortec scopes on the weapons I have been building for some serious people. and they have held up very well .

  2. How I became an impromptu quality optics salesman in California: During sight-in of a customer’s rifle, I often made an appt to meet them at the range I was at.

    I purposely chose the last hour of daylight and sighted the rifle in short order. I also brought along one of my rifles topped with a good quality optic on top and I had the customer look at several items I had placed downrange: Item #1 was a handprinted sign with inch tall letters black on a white background. Item #2 was a rack of a fork horn partially hidden by some dry grass along with a big shiny marble. Item #3 was the sighting target.

    Good quality optics will allow a person to see the objects and read that sign in the last 15 minutes of sunset or the first 15 minutes of sunrise when most game is taken in the desert regions.

    If a customer compares scopes during that critical time of day, they usually made the decision to upgrade their optics realizing that a good scope of whatever manufacture will give them 15 minutes of additional hunting time at dawn or dusk.

    I sold a lot of scopes that way.

  3. You cannot go wrong with a Leupold
    A 3-9 x 40 is all you need for most hunting
    Leupold is American made with the best warranty in the business

    1. Tango
      Ohh man, I tell ya.
      Most of my scopes are cheap…. I’m a cheap skate.
      FWTB bought me a .243 once for Christmas. I spent more on the scope than she on the rifle, but I tell ya that Leupold….wow what a difference…..sight, clarity, light gathering.
      Just had to get another…. scope

  4. I readily admit, I’m not an expert on scopes. Most all my rifles have scopes that came with them when I acquired them. I’ve never had but one scope “go bad”. It fogged up internally after a full day hunting in a steady rain, after a 40 degree plus drop in temperature. I’ve never had a scope “lose zero”. I have had scope mounts loosen.

    I have a couple of old Weaver fixed power scopes that have served me well, but I don’t know if the current Weavers are the same quality or a product of name acquisition by a Chinese company.

    Probably the best scope I have is a Bushnell Elite 4 power fixed mounted on a .270 . The combination gave me my longest one shot kill on a whitetail buck at a measured 405 yards. (I know, that’s not any kind of record, but opportunities for distances like that are few and far between in my area).

    The last rifle I bought was a Savage .223 from Wally World. Grabbed a blister pack 4×16 power scope off the rack and some cheap rings and mounts. Put it all together, sighted it in for 200 yards zero. Took three coyotes with it one evening at a woman’s hog farm in response to her request. Longest shot, a hair over 300 yards. Haven’t used it since, so not much of a test.

    Have an acquaintance, friend of my brother, who has a Remington Sendero .300 mag with a Swarovski 5x25x52 scope. Brags constantly of the abilities of that rifle and scope combination. Have heard him shoot numerous times when we went hunting. If he’s harvested a deer yet, I’m unaware of it.

    Had a friend and neighbor who passed away two years ago at age of 94. Only owned one rifle I know of, an old bolt action Savage 30/30. He had lost the three shot magazine for it years ago, and the front sight was missing, no scope. He filled his tags, and then some I suspect, every year. I asked him about the missing front sight. He told me, “Son, you don’t need sights if you know where your gun shoots.”……..I couldn’t argue with him, his proof was in the puddin’.

    1. Dennis;
      Brings up the adage of “Be wary of the man that owns only one gun, for he probably knows how to use it”.

  5. The decision is actually easy. I’d just get a Leupold and not dwell on it any further. I hear there are better scopes out there, and I am sure there are. However there is no equaling the Leupold warranty: LIFETIME, whether or not you buy the scope new. It could be thirdhand. Makes no difference which Leupold you buy, either.

    I just sent a well used 4x from the sixties (one of those so old the bluing turned purple) back to Leupold for a check up, and they took it completely apart, rebuilt it and sent it back free of charge. How do I know what they did? They sent me the technician’s notes in the box along with the scope.

    For the New Englanders out there, its going on a “Benoit-style” pump.

    Besides, its at least “assembled” in the USA, so American jobs….

      1. Have to agree as well. Have used one on my .270 for 20+yrs no issues. Last year my buddy really screwed up his 15+ yr old leupold. It was his fault and according to him he bent it. I wasnt there. He called them, shipped the bad one back and they replaced it no questions asked.

    1. Kinda like Leatherman… 25 year warranty damn near no questions asked.

      1. Robi1:
        Ditto on the leatherman, broke a blade doing a “Stupid NRP” thing, no questions no nada, sent me a brand new one within a week.
        I now use it to tighten the screws on my Scope, see how I brought that back around to the Rifle Scope?????

  6. Dennis
    I’m no expert either. But I do know that the equipment is secondary to skill. A neighbor spent around $2000 on a 338 Lapua Magnum, $3000 on a scope, and around $10 per round to feed the gun. He was hard to watch as he pulled the trigger and flinched so bad we had to stay well away from his station. He had trouble hitting the paper at 300 yards. Kind of reminds me of a guy saying he is going camping (in his million dollar motor home). :)

  7. At a Safari Club dinner/fundraiser, I had the pleasure of meeting some folks from Eastern Europe that hunted boars in the thick forests. Their hunting is very different than hunting feral pigs in the hills of California.

    The constant low light conditions and the fact they were shooting at driven game while being posted at a shooting station explained a lot when I examined their equipment:

    Big heavy bright optics made by Schmidt&Bender or Swarovski with heavy plex reticles and medium weight rifles that were well balanced. ( better to lead a running target.).

    They did not care for all the walking involved here in America ( spot and stalk hunting style.) After a 2 day hunt, most of them spent time going shopping or hanging out at Hooters.

    The ones from foreign lands that could out walk most of us Americans came from: Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. If they are a farmer, watch out, they will leave their guides in the dust in pursuit of game.

  8. Thanks Calirefugee and others,
    It’s a done deal. Ordered the Leupold for $319. Probably could have shopped more, but if it’s as good as stated, it’s good enough for me.

    The old scope is a Tasco. It served well for many years, until it DIDN’T. I’m sure, it was all I could afford at the time. Ya know how it is, when ya throw the rifle up to shoot? I have used this rifle/scope combination for so long, the sight picture just automatically appeared. I’m sure it will be slightly different, eye relief, cross-hairs, possibly the weight. I know I dislike change, but hopefully this will be an improvement, well worth the adjustment on my part.

    Besides, who am I kidding, I am no where near the shooter I once was. Years back, I would leave the ole jeep well before sun-up and hunt till after sundown. Loved every minute of it. Maybe my new scope will knock off 20 years of age. or not……

    1. Hey if that scope knocks off that 20 years let me know LOL. The older I get the less I see. Not sure if they make a scope for old blind fat guys but if so THAT’S the one I need.

  9. Buy top quality stuff, it pays for itself in the long run.

    Also buy top quality mounts & rings made of steel.

    As to what is “top quality, that’s easy. Buy a well known brand name that has earned it’s place.

    PS: A good scope, rings and mounts can be as costly as the gun.

  10. Thank you Chuck Findlay for bringing up the subject of Scope Mounts, rings and screws:

    Many do not pay attention to this critical item and this is where I buy another locally made, high quality product:

    Living in Oregon and having used this product in California, I use mounts and rings from Warne. They are made in Tualatin, OR.

    Another brand that may be local to others are rings and mounts made by Talley. ( manufactured in Texas.).

    Scope rings and mounts are not that expensive but if you screw up the job installing them, bite the bullet and go out and use a new mount and try again. This is one aspect of the job where I was careful because if I messed up, the cost for mount #2 came out of my pocket when working at the shop.

    I use Warne “QD” mounts on my high powered deer rifles and the ones I built and sold had “repeatable accuracy”. ( scope could be removed from the rifle and placed back on with no shift in the point-of-aim/point-of- impact.).

    The “safari package” for overseas travel included the primary scope with QD rings and mounts. A secondary scope of fixed 4 power with QD rings and sighted in for 100 yards was also included as a back-up to the primary scope.

    The L shaped star wrench that was used to install the mounts and rings were given to the owner of the rifle and I recommend that the star wrench be carried with the rifle in the field. ( either on the rifle or on the sling.).

    My inexpensive rifle case has a section of foam cut out for a Gunsmithing Screwdriver set that has made me many friends in hunting camps through the years.

    Nice thing about a gunsmith that hunts is we know things will go bad in the field or in the middle of a match.

    1. Rings and Mounts,
      Though I checked them every year, the rings and mounts were never loose. I never had to adjust the old scope from year to year, until very recently. I’m not sure what happens to the “guts” of a scope, for it to become unstable. Anyway, here’s hoping the new one will be great.

      Do you guys think I should re-use the old rings/mounts? I only want to do this once. I believe the mounts and rings are old weaver brand.

      1. Plainsmedic if they are steel I would say they will outlast you, your children and grand kids.

        But if they are pot-metal or aluminum I would scrap them.

      2. Plainsmedic,
        Heres something to consider,
        Is something going on with the rifle? How many rounds through it?
        Different ammo?
        I had a hell if a time with a rifle i was fooling with, thought it was the scope, ended up being a slight erosion of the chamber right at the end of the case, never did figure out a cause, other than age, not mecessarily a ton of shots through it, but previous owner was notorious for loading hot, i was shooting Remington factory ammo at the time, another thing that can cause variability in POI is headspace, if it is longer or shorter, shorter no big deal, longer causes excess pressure and consequently heat, in a bull barrel, no biggie, in an older sporter, big deal, may seem like you are dialing it in but in reality just chasing barrel moving, if barrel has become hardened in a spot it can move in odd ways after a few shots.
        Was just mentioning this as it just about made me mental

        1. Tommyboy, Chuck Findlay,
          The rifle is a ruger. I purchased it new, years ago. A huge expense for me, especially back then. The rifle has been well cared for. It has only been fed commercial ammo. Mostly winchester, outside of a few remmington back before I knew better. I know I’ve mentioned my thoughts on remmington. REMMINGTON SUCKS.

          The bedding within the stock seems firm and stable. No movement at all. I have always cleaned and maintained the rifle. The stock has a few scratches, here and there. It’s gonna happen if you’re hunting. Beware the hunter with an old gun in pristine condition. It likely hasn’t ventured far from the heated pick-up. Not my idea of hunting. Not what I consider a “hunter.”

          Planning to re-use old mounts and rings (Weaver). I’ll soon know if those are an issue. Thanks to all for your thoughts.

        2. Plainsmedic.
          Have had quite a few Ruger rifles, they are not the most accurate, not anything built from about mid 80s anyway. Frustrating at best.

          The last batch i was working with i thought it was scopes, then i thought maybe ammo, then i got my custom built Rem700 and sold the Rugers.

          The ruger couldnt get anything smaller than 4” or so groups at 100 yds, i thought i was just a boob… nothing i did tightened it up, at 200 even worse and wild even clamped in a stand.

          The Rem will punch through the same hole at 200 on a calm cool day. So it wasnt me.

          It was a real bummer because those Ruger rifles were nice and not cheap but they were not consistent nor accurate.

          Yes they would do the job out to about 250yds but anything beyond no and forget head shots

  11. I worked in a sporting goods store for 6 years, selling guns, scopes, etc. I have at least one of all the scopes mentioned in the article. On my 30-06 I have a Nikon 3×9, with the bullet-drop-compensator dots, and I love it. I believe Nikon bought out the optics company that made their optics, and now make their own. Very good, and good priced too. Also have a 2×7 Nikon, like that to. Have Leupold on one gun, straight 4x. Like it too. On several rifles I have Bushnell, and can’t complain about them either, but Simmons, well, I guess they are O.K. for a 22, but lets say I would NOT stake my life on them. On my favorite rifle, which is a Winchester ’94, 30-30 XTR, I have a 4x Bushnell. It has Weaver side mounts, and I have rotated the scope 90 degrees to the left. Why? Because if my scope is fogged up or full of snow or some other obstruction, all I have to do is tilt my head a tiny bit and I can see down the open sights. Other wise, the adjustment button on the scope is in the way. 200 yard shots are easy with this set-up. I just have to remember when I go to the range to sight in, that up is now left, and left is down. Confusing huh? But it works great and is accurate. Been shooting one like this over 40 years. I would stake my life on this gun.

  12. I know this thread is on scopes, but I think some could consider peep sights. Many folks, myself included used iron sights for years until age induced weakening of the eyes made optics almost mandatory. Peep sights eliminate some of problems of trying to focus on three objects at once to obtain a good sight picture. My Garand and M-1 Carbine have peep sights and I do quite well with them, even with my old eyes. While I don’t have, or particularly like AR’s, the originals have peep’s and flat tops have picatinny mountable after market sight available. I’m preaching to the choir, just reminding folks of their usefulness.

    1. Dennis you are right, I have peep sights on a Marlin 357 Mag Lever Action rifle and I love them.

  13. Vortex Crossfire 2

    I would suggest at least looking closely at one. Not expensive (as far as glass goes) and performs well on my .308

  14. I just duct taped an old coke bottle to my muzzle loader and painted a cross on it with a shapie,

    1. Tommyboy
      You gave acdh a good laugh. Now I want to know–Is that coke bottle full? As it can be rather hard seeing through it for a black X on the bottom of the bottle. lol

      1. Naw,
        It was empty, found it while trying to collect enough bottles and cans to pay my taxes

    2. Tommyboy
      You, too!!!
      I had an old Weaver….
      Duct taped a couple of my own hairs for cross hairs.
      Just kidding on the Coke bottle thang.

  15. Good to hear from you Dennis:

    I got my start working at a gunsmith shop by building my Palma Match Rifle. I shot 6 matches with minor success placing 3rd one time at my best.

    I ended up using Lyman peep sights as were all the other competitors. I installed Lyman peep rear sight on my 44 mag saddle carbine as well. ( please remember that Skinner sights were not yet available at the time these builds took place.)

    The peep sights cast almost as much as the new barrel. Precision equipment costs a lot of money. I learned a lot from the owner of the shop before he retired at age 85.

    Having rifles fixed and reconditioned by a smith that has plaques and trophies on the wall helped to sell many guns.

    I got tired of climbing into the confines of a tight shooting jacket knowing the weather will turn into a 100 degree day later in the afternoon. It is a great weight loss plan though because you sweat off about 3 lbs of water per day ( and drink it back on at night.)

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