Parallax and Rimfire Scopes

Parallax and Rimfire Scopes

You need a scope that focuses parallax at close distances for precision rimfire shooting

Many shooters do not understand parallax as it relates to riflescopes. It occurs when the focal plane of the image/target inside the scope is not close enough to the focal plane of the reticle. When excessive parallax is present, if you move your head behind a riflescope which is held motionless, you can see the reticle move across the target. This is a bad thing because unless you place your head – eye – along the exact optical center of the riflescope, the reticle will appear in a different position. This means you will not be aiming where you want to be.

Parallax Explained

To easily illustrate how this works, pick an object across the room, and hold your thumb up under it. Move your head back and forth and the object will move in relation to your thumb. Now, extend your arm and place your thumb – almost touching – an object on your computer screen and, again, move your head from side to side. In this instance the object will not move in relation to your thumb. This is an example of no parallax because the optical plane of the image/target and your thumb/reticle are on almost the exact same focal plane.

Fixed Parallax Scopes

Fortunately, riflescope manufactures set the parallax based on how they think those scopes will be used. Because of this, most shooters are never exposed to excessive parallax. For example, Leupold sets the parallax of most of the riflescopes they expect to be used on centerfire rifles at 150 yards. This is a good compromise distance and will show only minimal parallax from about 100 out to around 250 yards.

Scopes With Adjustable Parallax

With high magnification riflescopes like they believe will be used to take shots over a wide range of distances, like from say 50 to out beyond 500 yards, Leupold equips these riflescopes with a parallax adjustment. This allows the shooter to adjust the parallax so the focal plane the target is seen on, is closer to the focal plane that the reticle is viewed on. This can eliminate parallax from around 50 yards out to infinity.

Rimfire Parallax

Rimfire riflescopes are most often used at distances between 25 and 75 yards. So, on their rimfire riflescopes Leupold sets the parallax at 60 yards. The only problem with this is that the closer distance the parallax is set, the greater the parallax will be as distance to the target increases. If you’re shooting at 150 yards with a riflescope that has the parallax set at 60 yards, you’ll see excessive parallax. In some cases, enough to alter the point of aim as much as two inches. To aim correctly at long distance, you will have to position your eye perfectly along the optical center of the riflescope.

Some shooters will mount a centerfire riflescope to their rimfire rifle. Then, they struggle to shoot with precision at close distances because of excessive parallax. (Most riflescopes intended for centerfire rifles have their parallax set at 100 to 150 yards.) If you want to use a high-quality centerfire riflescope on a rimfire rifle, that’s fine. It’s also understandable, many rimfire riflescope’s are of lesser quality. However, if you’re going to use a centerfire riflescope on a rimfire, it’s best to select one that has an adjustable parallax feature.

Rimfire Scope Options

With two new for 2022 riflescopes, this parallax issue becomes very important. Both Bushnell and Tract are now offering rimfire scopes with trajectory compensating reticles. This is a good thing if you want to shoot accurately up close and at distance with a 22 rifle. However, the Bushnell 3-9X40 illuminated reticle Rimfire riflescope ($119.99) is parallax free at about 50 yards, and the Tract 22 Fire 4-12X40 ($244.00) riflescope, is parallax free at about 100 yards.

This means with the Bushnell riflescope you’ll have parallax at distance, and with the Tract riflescope you’ll have parallax up close. Both are nice rimfire riflescopes, but since neither have an adjustable parallax, you’ll have to decide which will best suit your needs. Alternatively, a riflescope like the Meopta Optika5 2-10X42 PA SFP ($399.00) is parallax adjustable from 10 yards to infinity. It would be a much better fit on a rimfire rifle, if you want the most parallax-free precision up close and at distance. Of course, you’ll have to pay more for this added versatility.

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