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What Is the Magnification of a Prism Scope? | Detailed Guide

A prism scope uses glass prisms and lenses for sights compatible with rifles and also airsoft. In contrast, traditional sights or scopes use only lenses. Generally, prismatic or prism scopes have a few distinct features compared to the typical red dot sights and other conventional options.  

A standard prism scope does not have any significant magnification. However, many brands manufacture prism scopes with a fixed magnification in the range of 1x up to 5x. You cannot toggle a prism scope’s magnification, unlike the sights for snipers and DMRs.

Sights comprising only lenses with a magnification feature offer you a range, such as 2x to 10x. A prism scope does not have different minimum & maximum magnification levels due to its unique functional objective. Let’s discuss everything about prism scope magnification. 

Do Prism Scopes Have Magnification?

Prism scopes do not have a magnification range. You may choose a 1x, 2x, 2.5x, 3x, 4x, or 5x prism scope. The selected magnification level is stagnant for a particular model. Thus, you can choose a prism scope based on your specific needs. 

A prism scope’s primary function is enhancing the quality of the image as seen by an observer. Thus, such scopes sport a design and combine prisms with lenses to enhance the focus and quantum of light within the sight for a user to have a much better view of the field or a range.

Prism scopes provide fixed magnification because a flexible zoom feature will distort the image in focus, and the available light will reflect and refract differently through the lenses and prisms. As a result, the scope will fail to serve its primary objective of clarity, accuracy, and ease of use.

How Far Can You Shoot With a Prism Scope?

A standard prism scope enables you to shoot ~100 yds (91 m). Also, its inherent magnification empowers you to shoot a tad beyond the regular range. You can use a prism scope with 5x magnification to shoot ~600 yds (549 m).

Prism scopes are not immune to external influences, be it available light, wind, elevation, the reduced width of the field of view, and possible parallax effect at higher magnifications. Thus, you will need to adjust the turrets to adapt your gameplay tactics and shooting skills.

Furthermore, how far you can practically shoot with a prism scope is largely subject to the gun or rifle, caliber, magazine type, motor power, battery capacity, spring strength, and the integral components of the gearbox, whether piston or compression system.   

Should I Buy a Prism Scope?

You should buy a prism scope if standard red dot sights are unsuitable. Anyone struggling with the image quality, focus, distorted field of view, and other typical issues of traditional sights will find a prism scope significantly better, easier, and more effective. 

People don’t have identical eyesight. Millions of people have nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, among other common vision problems. Many regular scopes are not practical in such cases, even when players wear their prescription eyeglasses or lenses. 

A prism scope’s focused sight and a few models’ diopters can be the most consequential difference, whether during practice or actual combat. Hence, you should compare the different sight or scope technologies to decide on the brand & model that is ideal for your needs. 

What Makes a Good Prism Scope?

Like all products, including airsoft rifle sights, prism scopes are not made equal, and there is an extensive list of features for you to compare. The cost of prism scopes ranges from below $100 to more than $1,000. Naturally, there is a world of difference between these models and brands. 

A good prism scope should have a compact design, an etched eye reticle with varying illumination intensity, adjustable brightness, sufficient eye relief, a sun shield or anti-glare coating, waterproof & fog-proof construction, and a diopter, if necessary. 

A prism scope’s magnification is not the universal criterion to determine if it is worthwhile. You don’t need 3x magnification if you engage in close-quarters combat. On the flip side, 1x or 2x magnification doesn’t suffice if you are a designated marksman, as you need a 4x prism scope. 

A prism scope has more components inside than red dot sights. Hence, it is generally wider or taller. Most prism scopes have standard mounts, so compatibility will not be an issue. However, you may need some time to get acquainted with a prism scope’s form factor, use, and diopter.

Is ACOG a Prism Scope?

ACOG, or Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, is a type of prism scope. The term ACOG is a trademark of Trijicon, Inc., a leading brand of aiming systems like Rifle Combat Optic (RCO), Squad Common Optic (SCO), and Variable Combat Optical Gunsight (VCOG).

Trijicon, Inc. specializes in designing & manufacturing a plethora of scopes or aiming solutions for the US Military, including the Marine Corps, and law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Naturally, Trijicon’s ACOG is among the most expensive prism scopes available. 

Smallest Prism Scopes

Here are four quality prism scopes found on Amazon that are on the smaller side:

Vortex Optics Spitfire Prism Scope is a reasonably small sight with its 8.6” length x 4.7” width x 3.3” height (21.8cm x 11.9cm x 8.4cm ) profile. Made of aluminum, the Vortex model with 3x magnification is also a relatively lighter prism scope at 1 lb (0.45 kg).

Burris Tactical Prism Sight is a tad longer than Vortex but not as wide. The Burris prism scope is 9.4” x 4.3” x 3.3” (23.8cm by 10.9cm by 8.4cm), weighs ~1.1 lb (0.53 kg), and has a fixed 5x magnification & 36mm (1.4”) objective lens.

A lighter and smaller option is the Monstrum S330P 3X Prism Scope, weighing 0.9 lbs (0.5 kg) and only 5” long (12.7cm). This Monstrum prism sight enables target acquisition for up to 500 yds (457 m). However, the model has a somewhat broader profile, given its height and width.

People with astigmatism and presbyopia may consider the Sig Sauer Bravo Prismatic Sight. This tactical prism scope has an adjustable +/- 2 diopter and night vision. The MegaView system provides a 43% larger field of view than similar sights.

Prism Scope vs. Red Dot

A red dot scope uses at least two lenses inside the enclosure. These two or more lenses provide a convenient sight with varying fields of view at different distances. The red dot reticle is usually powered by an integrated battery. Also, basic red dot scopes don’t have magnification. 

A prism scope uses a combination of prisms and lenses, ranging anywhere from a couple to half a dozen. Unlike red dot sights, a prism scope creates a more compact, focused, and slightly magnified image of the field of view. Also, prism scopes have etched reticles and eye relief.

The technical term ‘red dot’ is used for a reticle, not a scope or sight. A prism scope may have a red dot reticle, too. Hence, the primary difference is the use of only lenses vs. both lenses & prisms. Furthermore, other features distinguish prism scopes from the traditional red dot sights.

Here is a comparison of prism scopes and conventional red dot sights:

FeaturesTypical Prism ScopesEntry-Level Red Dot Sights
Objective LensYesYes
Ocular LensYesYes
ReticleMany Types (incl. Red Dot)Red Dot Only
Etched ReticleYesNo
Sight QualityCompact & FocusedStandard
Field of ViewWideLimited
Range100 to 600 yd (up to 550 m)100 yd (~91.5 m)
Magnification RangeNANA
DiopterYes (in a few models)No
Windage AdjustmentYesYes
Elevation AdjustmentYesYes
Integrated BatteryYesYes
SizeSlightly Taller Varies

Prism Scope Pros and Cons

Here are the pros & cons of a prism scope compared to red dot sights:

Sharper and clearer sightPossible parallax effect due to magnification
Etched reticle independent of batteryUsually taller than standard sights
Various reticles are available based on modelSome are wider than some red dot scopes
Suitable for users with astigmatismLimited eye relief in some models

Red Dot Sight Pros and Cons

Here are the pros & cons of red dot sights compared to a prism scope:

Simple red dot reticle for target acquisitionNo etched reticle, thus dependent on battery
No parallax effect sans magnificationNot the best-in-class focus or image quality
Eye relief is not an issue in some modelsNo choice of reticles, such as bullet drop
Sleeker, and at times smallerLimited range and utility

Why Are Prism Scopes Better for Astigmatism?

Prism scopes generate more focused, compact, and sharper images of the range in view, thus enabling observers with astigmatism to overcome the challenge of blurry vision. Also, prism scopes with diopters can be helpful for observers & players with presbyopia. 

Anyone diagnosed with astigmatism needs prescription eyeglasses or lenses. Removing these when using a sight can impair their vision. Ordinary scopes using lenses don’t provide the clarity necessary for such users to observe the range or field of view without any problem. 

Furthermore, presbyopia is a common problem affecting innumerable people around the world. Generally associated with aging that may start as early as the twenties, presbyopia makes it difficult for a person to see objects too close to their eyes. Prism scopes are a solution. 

Prism scopes with diopters enable a shooter to increase the focal length or the distance of the object in view within the sight and the observing eye. An adjustable diopter is critical when using a prism scope with high magnification as the viewed object in sight is a lot closer to the eye.

Bottom Line

No prism scope or other sights suit every person. Personal preferences, your job or role, weapon compatibility, ranges, and skills shall dictate the criteria for choosing a prism scope. However, prism scopes are irrefutably superior to red dot sights and several variants.

For more, check out Are Shooting Gloves Worth It? (Pros and Cons).