You have seen other sportsmen with optics on their shotguns. Maybe that is something you’d like to try. The question is, can you use a rifle scope on a shotgun? I mean, a scope is a scope is a scope, right? Wrong!
While some optics are fairly generic and can be fit to a whole slew of firearms, others are built for certain types of rifles, or even certain calibers, and are not made to be used with the kind of recoil generated by a shotgun. That said, let’s take a look at reasons why a regular rifle scope cannot be used on a shotgun, and what types of optics can.
Eye Relief and Recoil
Eye relief is the distance that your eye has to be from the scope in order to see the full view of your target. There are scopes designed specifically for shotgun use that have a much longer field of view than a rifle scope.
This is so important because shotguns, usually, have a much more powerful recoil, and with a rifle scope, you need to have your eye closer to the scope to get a better view. This combination together will lead to facial injuries that are sure to ruin your whole day.
As if the possibility of getting cracked in the face with your scope isn’t enough, some rifle scopes are not made to physically withstand the power and abuse that they are sure to receive with that shotgun recoil. Shotgun scopes have to be pretty durable. A rifle scope on there probably wouldn’t break immediately, but it certainly wouldn’t stand the test of time.
The range requirements are vastly different between most hunting rifles and shotguns, so it makes sense that their scope ranges are different too. Rifles, mostly, are meant for farther distances and their scopes are good for ranges between 100 and 300 yards out to 1000 yards, or sometimes farther. It really depends on the scope.
Distance requirements for shotguns are quite a bit different. Shotguns don’t shoot as far out as hunting rifles, and the max distance you would really want to be shooting with your shotgun is about 100 yards or less.
Magnification power settings differ quite a bit between riflescopes and shotgun scopes. Riflescopes can get pretty high powered as you would want some intense magnification if you’re trying to achieve a nice clean 1000 yard shot or more.
Since shotguns are more of a short distance gun, you wouldn’t need such intense magnification. Generally, you don’t need to be perfectly on target either, and shotguns are so powerful and have a huge load that either scatters or hits your target like a giant brick no matter where the shot lands. If you shoot your target with one of these at 30 or 40 yards, it really won’t matter whether or not you are shooting dead center or one or two inches off.
With the difference in these power settings, your reticle will also differ between the two scopes. Generally, a shotgun scope reticle won’t get too fancy on you. It may be a simple cross-hair with a dot in the center or some other simple style. You won’t find a lot of shotgun specific scopes with something like a BDC reticle. If you’re shooting out to 75 yards, where would you need to measure and calculate bullet drop?
If you’re wanting an optic on your shotgun, there are several options open to you. It’s true, you shouldn’t just slap a rifle scope on the gun, but that doesn’t mean you are limited by any means. There are shotgun-specific scopes, combination scopes that are made to handle the power of a shotgun, as well as a rifle or muzzleloader, red-dot sights or front and rear sight options.
Most of your shotgun scopes are going to be shotgun-specific or rated for shotgun and muzzleloader, which also has a hefty recoil. There are some good combination or dual scopes out there that are very rugged and designed to be used with a hunting rifle or shotgun, such as the Weaver V-3 Dual-X scope.
Red-dot type optics are another great option that many people tend to gravitate to. Why? Because they are so user-friendly. On a red-dot, there is virtually no eye relief to have to worry about. You can hold your gun wherever or however you need to and as long as you can see the illuminated red dot on the target, that’s where your shot is going to hit.
There are also three different styles of red-dots to chose from, each with there different options and features. These are reflex, holographic, or prism sights. Most red-dots are not magnified, but you can even get a magnification scope to mount behind your red-dot if you wanted the magnification.
Another great benefit of a red-dot sight is the advantage over a scope in low-light conditions. The illuminated reticle is super helpful, and there’s no over-shadowing thanks to the whole no eye relief thing, which not only gives you a clear close range target view but also an unobstructed view of your surroundings as well.
Lastly is the front and rear sight option, which doesn’t really count as a mounted scope as it is basically open sights. Still, they are still the most commonly used option for shotgun hunting right now.
Related Read: How to sight in a shotgun scope.
Readdressing the question, can you use a rifle scope on a shotgun? The short and skinny answer is no, you shouldn’t. Like almost anything else, this can be turned into kind of a gray area and stretched into a yes and no, depending on the scope.
Hopefully, this guide has explained some of the reasons why and showed you some of the other various options. There are many nicely built and rugged types of sights and scopes out there that are designed for what you need, so even though you are using a shotgun, you don’t need to be completely left out of the optics world.
If you found this article helpful check out our review of the Bushnell Banner 3-9×40 scope.