The Best Long-Range Scope Kit for Under $400

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For lightning-fast elevation and windage adjustment plus quick “field doping,” this is the long-range combo you’ve been looking for…

by the ShootingDaily staff; promoted by Vortex Optics

We’re like most of you when it comes to firearm performance. No matter the platform, the call for tighter groups at longer distances cannot be ignored. The problem is that family budgets don’t allow for $1,000+ optics on every rifle in the vault.

We’ve had great results with Vortex Optics rifle scopes in the past and found their mid-level scopes to be on par with many “halo” brand scopes we’ve tested from other manufacturers but at two-thirds to one-half the price. Plus, the Vortex VIP Warranty always instills us with confidence that if anything goes wrong, for whatever reason, a cost-free repair or replacement will be on its way.


So, when we recently decided to knock the dust off one of our .300-caliber rifles—a bolt gun that’s been begging for some long-range coyote action—we looked for something with 300-yard-plus credentials at a price that wouldn’t get the spouse riled up. Our solution? The Vortex Diamondback Tactical in 4-12×40 trim. And since we were able to pick this up for a frog’s hair under $300, we opted for a couple accessories to give us the ultimate low-budget, high-performance optic kit. More on those in a moment.


What first intrigued us with the Diamondback Tactical was its windage and elevation turrets. In two words—big and “sticky.” These are tall, exposed turrets with bold and crisp demarcations that are easy to see when the sun is in your eyes or the light is quickly fading.

For our ultimate use of this rifle as a combo deer and coyote buster, the Diamondback Tactical’s turret setup is ideal. In addition to the highly visible adjustment marks, the turrets feature robust, aggressive knurling that makes fast, positive adjustments in the field a cinch. This is particularly useful when wearing gloves. Another “field use” advantage is the fiber optic radius bar found on top of both turrets. In low-light conditions, these allow you to easily return your settings back to zero after making windage or elevation adjustments.


Of course, this reset capability means the turrets boast a zero-reset that lets you return the “0”/radius bar to the fixed zero reference marks once the rifle is sighted in. These reference marks also keep you from “getting lost” if you make windage or elevation adjustments greater than one revolution, as each horizontal mark corresponds to one complete revolution of the adjustment knob.

As with the turret knobs, the magnification ring is sized and textured for a solid grip (whether using gloves or bare hands). The magnification mechanism uses the Vortex Precision-Glide Erector System, so there is a smooth transition between magnification levels. Similarly, the fast-focus eyepiece simplifies reticle focusing.


The Diamondback Tactical’s base construction is familiar territory if you know Vortex rifle scopes. O-ring seals and nitrogen gas purging keep out the nasties and ensure there is no internal fogging during temperature swings. We repeatedly transitioned ours from sub-freezing temperatures to a 73-degree inside temp with no discernible moisture issues. Lenses are the extra-low dispersion (XD) variety to ensure sharp imaging and minimize chromatic aberrations across the field of view. Low-light visibility is enhanced courtesy of fully multi-coated glass.


Affixed on the second focal plane is the VMR-1 MOA reticle, which is standard on both the 4-12×40 and the 3-9×40 models. It’s a simple reticle with each subtension representing 2 MOA along both the elevation and the windage axis. Nothing cluttered or difficult to decipher for those just getting comfortable with holdover and drift compensation. With a little math and known target sizes, you can even use the VMR-1 to range distance.

And that brings us to a couple of cool accessories we picked up to go along with our new scope.


Long-range shooting requires knowing more than the distance between you and your target. Many factors come into play when you start pushing past the 200- to 300-yard range. There is a lot of physics to account for, such as bullet weight, profile, velocity, distance, elevation, wind, temperature, and so on. This is where the things can get a bit confusing, but Vortex recently developed a new product that will help you out. It’s called the Dope Disk, and it is simply a disk that shows a customized range, drop, and wind speed chart that you secure inside the cap of a Vortex Defender Flip Cap. This data is based off your existing cartridge ballistics, or you can use the free Vortex online Long Range Ballistic Calculator app to come up with your own “dope.”

Once your custom Dope Disk arrives, simply insert it in the Defender eyepiece cap and your dope is always right in front of you. No more taping ballistic charts to your stock or losing your mounted position to read data.


One of the cool things about this system is that you can create multiple Dope Disks and use the one that best fits your shooting scenario. For example, if you zero your rifle in the eastern lowlands but want to hunt western big game at high elevation later in the year, you can create Dope Disks for both conditions. Simply swap your “home” Disk for your “elk hunting” Disk and you’re good to go.


And even if you aren’t interested in having dope data for those way-out-there shots, the Defender Flip Caps are the ideal accessories for your scope. These are some of the most robust scope caps we’ve ever used. The rubber skirt is downright tough and will not slip or turn once installed. The hinged, spring-actuated cap snaps solidly shut and isn’t flimsy like most caps. The eyepiece cap even has three open positions—straight up for viewing the Dope Disk, 45 degrees back, and 90 degrees back. For hunting applications, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more durable scope protection.


So, if you’ve got a long-range contender in the vault but don’t want to spend a fortune to get it range-worthy, the Vortex Diamondback Tactical outfitted with a set of Defender Flip Caps and a custom Dope Disk may be the way to go. We put together our kit for under $400 and called it a bargain day!



Vortex Optics


copyright © 2018; promoted by Vortex Optics

Although Vortex Optics is one of our sponsors, the views expressed in this article are those of the author. receives compensation from Vortex Optics in various forms to help promote their products.