The Best Scope for 6.5 Creedmoor in 2023

When I was a kid, I loved going to the local gunshops.  They had all those fancy rifles and shotguns lined up on the wall, shiny pistols and revolvers under glass, and rows of boxed factory ammo from 17 Bee to .458 Winchester.  The vast majority of those boxes had similar cartridges printed on the side:  30-06 Springfield, .270 Winchester, .300 Winchester Magnum, 7MM Remington magnum, .308 Winchester, .243 Winchester, etc.

The conventional wisdom at the time was to get a rifle chambered in a common caliber.  That way you can pick up some loaded ammo just about anywhere you went.  I followed that advice.  My first deer was a chunky mule deer doe that fell to a single shot from my Dad’s .243 Winchester using a 100 grain soft point bullet.  My first bull elk?  180 grain Remington Core-Lokt from a Model 700 in 30-06 Springfield.  Those traditional bullets at those velocities did a good job at the modest ranges I was shooting.  My shots were always under 300 yards.

As I moved into adulthood, my style of hunting had changed.  I was spending much more time hunting the canyons exposed by the many large burns that showed up each fire season in Western Montana.  Those newly wide-open canyons really made finding the game in my binocular easier, but didn’t provide much cover for stalking, and I needed to reach out further.  Naturally, I moved on to the magnums.  First a 7MM Remington, and then to a string of 30 calibers:  300 WSM, 300 Weatherby, 300 RUM, finally back to the classics with 300 Winchester. 

While my hunting was changing, so were the chambered cartridges that were getting stamped on new rifles.  Sure, there were still plenty of rifles marked with the old standby’s, but new names were showing up, too. 

With the increased popularity of long range shooting competitions like the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) and National Rifle League (NRL), wildcatters and rifle makers alike started taking advantage of new technology.  These shooters needed to buck the winds to give them more leeway in changing conditions.  Bullet makers came out with longer, slipperier bullets.  The long bullets needed faster twists to stabilize, so the barrel makers followed suit.  Competition shooters wanted light recoil, a fast bolt throw, reliable feeding, and long barrel life.  A modest charge in an optimized case stretched competitive shooter’s powder budget compared to overbore magnums.

Enter the 6.5 Creedmoor

6.5 Creedmoor
6.5 Creedmoor – Photo by Matt Cashell

The 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge sprung from this genesis.  Developed by Hornady in 2007, the cartridge provided a trajectory similar to a .300 Winchester Magnum, but without all the burned powder and recoil.  It was, and is to this day, a huge hit.  Shooters got the predictable trajectory out to distant ranges, but also were spotting their own hits and reducing their time between shots with the mild recoil.  They didn’t have to change barrels as often.  Win. Win. Win.

It didn’t take long for hunters out West to decide they needed to get in on the Creedmoor train.  What’s not to like?  Bullets with great sectional density and high ballistic coefficients?  Yes, please.  Mild recoil?  Check.  Less powder per trigger pull and more barrel life?  Check and check.

This caliber is also popular for kids for many of the same reasons.  It is available in light, short-action rifles, but still doesn’t intimidate new shooters with recoil.  The best thing for a new shooter to do, is to get a bunch of trigger time.  A new shooter can stretch the powder supply and get a lot of reloads out of 6.5 Creedmoor brass with the mild loads.

I was in this predicament with my youngest coming along as a hunter.  The 6.5 Creedmoor felt like a perfect fit for him.  We could get some practice in, and extend his range past the usual point blank distances.  I had an unused Tikka T3X action in the safe.  I sent it off to the gunsmith with a fast twisted  (1 in 7.5) Proof Research Carbon-Wrapped barrel and a Mesa Precision composite stock.  What returned was an extremely light rifle that shot ragged holes with a number of loads using long, sleek 6.5mm bullets.

A high performance cartridge like the 6.5 Creedmoor deserves, or even demands, an aiming device that can keep up with it.  This is not an open sight cartridge.  For general use, a standard 3-9X40 scope with a plex reticle can do the trick.  A standard scope can do the trick for a lot of boring cartridges.  The 6.5 Creedmoor is not boring, however.  It is a cartridge that wants to stretch its legs out past Maximum Point Blank Range (MPBR).  To do that effectively we are going to have to compensate for the trajectory drop and wind deflection of the bullet at extended ranges.  So, what kind of scope matches well with the 6.5 Creedmoor? 

What Attributes Does a Riflescope for a 6.5 Creedmoor Need?

  1. Hold zero –  The shooter can’t make confident hits if the scope gets thrown off zero at every bump and vibration in the woods.
  2. Sufficient Magnification –  Sure, extreme magnification isn’t necessary to make hits at longer ranges.  I have shot steel out to 1000 yards with good success using scopes with maximum magnifications of 9X.  Still, higher magnifications on scopes can be helpful in getting precise aim points at long ranges and/or small targets.  The extra magnification also helps when sighting in the rifle, and doing load development.  When long ranges are routinely on the menu I like scopes with maximum magnifications in that 16X-25X range.
  3. Good Optical Performance –  Riflescopes aren’t observation optics, and shouldn’t be used as such.  The primary function of the scope is to show the target, and provide a reliable aiming point.  If the scope’s optics resolve the target well enough to provide a sight picture, it is a success.  However, riflescopes with high levels of optical performance do it better, and especially in the challenging low light conditions that are common for hunters.  When choosing the best scopes for a 6.5 Creedmoor, good to great optics are a must.
  4. Reliable Tracking –  The 6.5 Creedmoor with its high Ballistic Coefficient projectiles shoots pretty flat for its muzzle velocities, but the mild recoil does come at the expense of modest velocities.  The result is a trajectory that is predictable, but needs accurate adjustments to accommodate the substantial drop of the 6.5 Creedmoor at long ranges.  I have personally tested samples of each of the scopes in this article, and they all tracked true to their marked adjustment values.
  5. Sufficient Internal Elevation Adjustment Range –  With that reliable tracking, the drop at long range requires a lot of adjustment within the scope.  For instance, even with the super slick Berger 140 grain Target Hybrid bullet with a G7 Ballistic Coefficient of 0.306 traveling at 2800 fps; the bullet impact will be 592.5 inches (that’s over 49 feet!) below the 100 yard zero point of aim at 1300 yards.  A scope would need 43.5 Minutes of Angle (MOA) of adjustment to compensate for that drop.  The scopes in this test have ample internal adjustment to provide a good aiming point for their uses.

Rings, Bases, and Level

Rings and bases for a 6.5 Creedmoor can vary by use.  This is an often overlooked area when shooters and hunters are setting up their rifles.  Often, zero retention and scope malfunction issues can be traced to substandard mounts and/or improper mounting and torque settings during mounting.  For both hunting and target shooting, I generally like to use a picatinny rail and compatible rings for my scopes.  A picatinny rail provides plenty of adjustment when mounting the riflescope, so the user can comfortably, and naturally, have their eye well within the “eye box” of the riflescope.  This way they can see the entire field of view.

For a long range cartridge like the 6.5 Creedmoor I like my picatinny base to have a 20 MOA cant.  This way, the scope will be zeroed at a point where more of the scopes total internal travel is available for “up” adjustments.  If a scope has a total internal travel of 80 MOA on a flat base, it will be zeroed somewhere around the center of the range, leaving around 40 MOA for “up” adjustment.  However, if that same scope is mounted to a 20 MOA base, the scope will be zeroed with around 60 MOA of travel available for up adjustment.

Picatinny Rail

There are a number of good picatinny rails available.  Each are designed for specific rifle/receiver compatibility.  This is the Rail I used on my 6.5 Creedmoor for this article.

Bubble Level

When shooting any long distance, it is absolutely critical that the scope reticle is level to the Earth.  A bubble level leveled to the reticle exactly will help the shooter ensure they are shooting square.

Make sure to order a level that is compatible with your scope’s tube size.  Here is a good option.

Bubble Level
Bubble Level – Photo by Matt Cashell

First Focal Plane (FFP) vs. Second Focal Plane (SFP) for 6.5 Creedmoor?

Riflescopes can have the reticle situated in two different areas of the optical system: 

  1. First Focal Plane (FFP). These reticles appear to get smaller and larger when the shooter changes the magnification.  The benefit is the reticle remains subtended correctly relative to the target.  So the reticle covers the same amount of the target at all magnifications.  Turn the power up, and the target and reticle both get larger.  Turn it down, and they both get smaller.  The advantage is the reticle is correctly subtended at all magnifications and can be used for holdover and windage at any power.  The disadvantage is the reticle becomes difficult to see at lower powers, and can become a problem in low light and close distances in hunting scenarios.
  2. Second Focal Plane (SFP). These reticles appear to stay the same size when the shooter changes the magnification. Only the target appears larger and smaller when zooming. The advantage of SFP reticles is the reticle is just as easy to see at low powers as it is at high powers. Hunters hunting in tight cover and low light can pick it up quickly at the low magnifications they would be using in those scenarios. The disadvantage is the reticle is only correctly subtended at the highest magnification, so the shooter would have to have the magnification turned all the way up to use the reticle hashmarks for holdover or windage.

Please check out our post for comprehensive information on FFP and SFP scopes.

I have grown to appreciate both styles of reticles, especially for hunting.  I like having a bold SFP reticle at low powers in situations where I know I may have close or quick shot opportunities, but I know I can still turn the scope all the way up for long shots where I would use the reticle for windage.

I also appreciate an FFP reticle where I need to use the reticle on long shot opportunities, but mirage is obstructing the target at highest magnifications, and I need to use something less magnified to minimize that mirage.

Most of my 6.5 Creedmoor picks are FFP, while one is SFP.

Keeping all that in mind…

Read my article if you want to know the process I used for choosing my personal rifle scope.

The 5 Best Riflescopes for 6.5 Creedmoor Rifle

1. Zeiss LRP S3 4-25X50 – Best for Extreme Ranges

Zeiss LRP S3 4-25X50

View on OpticsPlanet

View on Amazon


  • Magnification: 4x-25x
  • Reticle Focal Plane: FFP
  • Field of View: 28.5ft.-4.8ft / 100 yds.
  • Eye Relief: 3-3.5 in.
  • Elevation Adj: 46.54 MILRAD/ 160 MOA
  • Maintube Dia. 34mm
  • Length: 3.4 in.
  • Weight: 36.7 oz.

Zeiss is famous for their German-made, high-end optics.  The fit and finish of the LRP S3 exudes German precision.  This scope is for the 6.5 Creedmoor shooter with a healthy budget looking to maximize their range.  Sure this riflescope was designed with competition shooters in mind, but hunters will find the feature set compliments their use as well.

The optics are nearly spotting-scope-good, with great aberration correction, wide fields of view, and a comfortable eye box.  Even in a light rifle, the 6.5 Creedmoor doesn’t exactly need long eye relief, and the 3.0 to 3.5 inches in the LRP S3 is plenty.  From 4X on the bottom end to 25x at the top, shooters are covered from close up to way, way … way out there.

Getting way out there is exactly what the LRP S3 is born to do.  The headline feature is an absolutely astounding 160 minutes (46.5 MRAD) of internal adjustment travel that gets shooters of the little 6.5 Creed out well past a mile.  Assuming about 100 MOA of useable elevation travel, it would get a shooter with a 100 yard zero out near 2000 yards!  The turrets are large, well marked, and tactile with revolution markers keeping the shooter on track in the immense adjustment range.  Returning to zero is easy with Zeiss’ Ballistic Stop that provides a hard stop at the shooter’s chosen zero.

The reticles on the LRP S3 are going to be a love/hate with some shooters.  Competition shooters that like to make quick corrections with the reticle will like the two available “Christmas tree” style reticles.  The ZF-MOAi reticle is a little cleaner, while the ZF-MRi has more aiming point options.  Both have three-tiered crosshairs that draw the eye to the floating hash and dot center reticle.  Both the MOA and MRAD versions are first focal plane reticles.  The three-tiered crosshairs get progressively thinner towards the center and make the reticles useable at low powers.  The reticles are pretty thin at low powers however, and I appreciated the daylight-visible illumination to help the center stand out in these situations. 

The Zeiss LRP S3 does a lot of things well, but that shouldn’t be surprising at a street price of $2200.  The question is, what does it do not-so-well?  For one, it is pretty chunky at 36.7 ounces.  Backpack hunters are going to likely look at other options.  The LRP S3 is also  only available with one reticle in the MOA version, and one in the MRAD version.  While I get along with the reticles for target shooting and hunting, I would prefer a cleaner hash-style reticle in a rifle meant primarily for hunting.

Zeiss backs up the LRP S3 in North America with a fully transferrable limited lifetime warranty with the optics and a 5 year warranty for the electronics should anything go wrong with the shooter’s LRP S3 riflescope.

A good tactical ring for the Zeiss LRP S3 would be the American Rifle Company ARC M-BRACE.  These rings allow for easy reticle leveling with Their vertical hinge design and mount right up to a picatinny rail.

2. Nightforce ATACR 4-16X50 – Best for Hard Use and Abuse

Nightforce ATACR 4-16X50

View on OpticsPlanet

View on Amazon


  • Magnification: 4x-16x
  • Reticle Focal Plane: SFP
  • Field of View: 26.9ft.-6.9ft / 100 yds.
  • Eye Relief: 3.5 in.
  • Elevation Adj: 32 MILRAD/ 110 MOA
  • Maintube Dia. 34mm
  • Length: 13.1 in.
  • Weight: 33.3 oz.

This is one of my personal primary optics for hunting and long range shooting.  Nightforce is well known for ultra-durable optics designed for military and law enforcement use.  Nightforce scopes set the standard for durability in a riflescope.  Any quick google search will turn up a plethora of torture testing done by the military, law enforcement, hunters, and product testers showing the extreme levels of abuse a Nightforce scope can take without failing.

NightForce ATACR Controls
NightForce ATACR Controls – Photo by Matt Cashell

The ATACR series is Nightforce’s high-end riflescope that still maintains that unquestioned durability.  My personal ATACR has been through a lot over the last several years, on rifles from light recoiling ARs to heavy duty magnums.  I call it my boring scope.  It just works all the time.  I never have to worry about it losing zero or tracking incorrectly.

NightForce ATACR Objective - Photo by Matt Cashell
NightForce ATACR Objective – Photo by Matt Cashell

Nightforce uses ED (extra low dispersion) glass in the optical design to minimize color fringing.  The result is a clean, sharp image of the target at any range.  It might not be quite as pristine as the Zeiss LRP, but it isn’t far off.  The ATACR features Nightforce’s excellent ZeroStop feature that gives the shooter a hard stop when dialing back to zero.  The turrets are excellent in every way.  By far my favorite turret in the industry, every click is solid and promotes confidence.

NightForce ATACR elevation - Photo by Matt Cashell
NightForce ATACR elevation – Photo by Matt Cashell

I have tested the scope tracking many times on many rifles.  It always tracks precisely and returns to zero, no matter what.  How much travel does the ATACR have?  Not quite as much as the Zeiss LRP S3, but still plenty at 110 MOA (over 30 MRAD).  The 6.5 Creedmoor shooter still has more than enough adjustment to get out over a mile.  The capped windage turret is of similar quality and can be left exposed if wanted.

NightForce ATACR capped wind - Photo by Matt Cashell
NightForce ATACR capped wind – Photo by Matt Cashell
NightForce ATACR exposed wind - Photo by Matt Cashell
NightForce ATACR exposed wind – Photo by Matt Cashell

The ATACR also has excellent reticles for target shooting and hunting available.  Nightforce’s venerable MOAR reticle is my choice in the MOA version of the scope.  This is a marked hash reticle with floating center crosshair.  It is practical and versatile for a variety of aiming needs, but doesn’t clutter the or obstruct the view like more complicated competition-inspired designs.  The reticles in the 4-16X50 ATACR are in the second focal plane.  I find this a good match for a hunting rifle.  At low powers, the reticle is still bold and visible, even in low light and the illumination off.

NightForce ATACR MOAR Reticle at low powers - Photo by Matt Cashell
NightForce ATACR MOAR Reticle at low powers – Photo by Matt Cashell

The reticle is only properly subtended at the maximum 16x magnification.   This is fine with me, as I will turn the scope to maximum magnification anyway if I am shooting at any range distant enough to be using the reticle.

NightForce ATACR MOAR Reticle at high powers (16x) - Photo by Matt Cashell
NightForce ATACR MOAR Reticle at high powers (16x) – Photo by Matt Cashell
NightForce ATACR MOAR Reticle at high powers (16x) with the Illumination on - Photo by Matt Cashell
NightForce ATACR MOAR Reticle at high powers (16x) with the Illumination on – Photo by Matt Cashell

For shooters that like this scope, but want a first focal version, there is the similar 4-16X42 F1 ATACR available.

One unique feature of the ATACR is the entire eyepiece rotates when changing magnification.  Some shooters don’t care for this feature, as open flip-up covers will rotate as well.

NightForce ATACR eyepiece - Photo by Matt Cashell
NightForce ATACR eyepiece – Photo by Matt Cashell

Nightforce riflescopes are warrantied against defects in materials and worksmanship in the optical and mechanical components for the lifetime of the product.  This warranty is transferrable.

What better match for a Nightforce Scope than Nightforce’s own premium rings?  Nightforce’s ultralight 34mm rings are light, strong, and mount on any picatinny rail.

3. Vortex Razor LHT 4.5-22X50 FFP – Best Lightweight

Vortex Razor LHT 4.5-22X50 FFP

View on OpticsPlanet

View on Amazon


  • Magnification: 4.5x-22x
  • Reticle Focal Plane: FFP
  • Field of View: 26.9ft.-6.9ft / 100 yds.
  • Eye Relief: 3.5 in.
  • Elevation Adj: 22.4 MILRAD/ 75 MOA
  • Maintube Dia. 30mm
  • Length: 13.3 in.
  • Weight: 21.7 oz.

Not everyone wants a riflescope that cost $2500 and weighs over 2 pounds.  For 6.5 Creedmoor shooters looking for a lighter option, the Razor LHT fits the bill.

Vortex Razor LHT controls - Photo by Matt Cashell
Vortex Razor LHT controls – Photo by Matt Cashell

The list of features on this scope rival any:  Pop-up locking elevation turret with zero stop, useful FFP reticle, very good optics from center to edge, illumination, and 4 inches of eye relief … all at just 21.7 ounces.  That is nearly 3/4 of a pound in weight savings versus the Nightforce ATACR.

Vortex Razor LHT Objective - Photo by Matt Cashell
Vortex Razor LHT Objective – Photo by Matt Cashell

I used this scope on a number of rifles, but it spent most of its time on the 6.5 Creedmoor.  Why shouldn’t an ultralight rifle have an ultralight scope?  My youngest son has tagged mule deer bucks and bull elk with the rifle in ranges from 212 yards to 446 yards.  The hunter looking for a light scope that still has the magnification and features they’re looking for need look no further.

Vortex Razor LHT magnification - Photo by Matt Cashell
Vortex Razor LHT magnification – Photo by Matt Cashell

The Razor LHT XLR-2 reticle is available in two variants, one in MOA and the other in MRAD.  These are detailed, hash style reticles with Christmas Tree hashes down the lower crosshair.  At lowest power the illuminated center crosshair provide a good aiming point, while max power reveals a floating center dot for precise aiming.

Vortex Razor LHT XLR-2 Reticle at lowest power - Photo by Matt Cashell
Vortex Razor LHT XLR-2 Reticle at lowest power – Photo by Matt Cashell

Hashes are number-labelled to help the shooter keep from getting lost ion the heat of competition.

Vortex Razor LHT XLR-2 highest magnification - Photo by Matt Cashell
Vortex Razor LHT XLR-2 highest magnification – Photo by Matt Cashell

The illumination is daylight visible.

Vortex Razor LHT XLR-2 at high magnification with illumination - Photo by Matt Cashell
Vortex Razor LHT XLR-2 at high magnification with illumination – Photo by Matt Cashell

The amount of elevation travel is solid at 75 MOA/22.3 MRAD.  This gets us to around 1480 yards with our test load.  The turrets are of the locking/pop-variety with softer clicks and less resistance than I prefer.

Vortex Razor LHT elevation - Photo by Matt Cashell
Vortex Razor LHT elevation – Photo by Matt Cashell

The scope has a capped windage turret that I found lacking.  I preferred compensating windage in the reticle.

Vortex Razor LHT windage - Photo by Matt Cashell
Vortex Razor LHT windage – Photo by Matt Cashell

The optics are very good as I mentioned, especially given the wide range of magnification, but doesn’t have the Zeiss LRP’s contrast and “punch” at the highest magnifications.

Weight and durability are a give-and-take.  While I haven’t had any durability issues with my sample through normal use in the field, it would be foolish to think a scope of this weight could stand up to the abuse the Nightforce ATACR is known to take.  Some Razor LHT users I know have had post of impact shifts after hard falls, and shooters that choose this scope should take care after hard knocks to make sure they are still punching holes where they intend to.

The pluses and minuses of this full featured riflescope come with a street price of under $1500, which is significant savings over the first two scopes we talked about.

Vortex has the best warranty in the business with their VIP warranty.  All components, including electrical components, are warrantied forever.  The user doesn’t need to register, have proof of purchase, or any other documentation.  The warranty is no-fault and covers even accidental damage.

An ultralight full featured scope needs light and strong rings.  Vortex offers their precision matched rings for just this use, and they are picatinny compatible.

4. Leupold Mark 5HD 3.6-18X44 – Best “Goldilocks”

Leupold Mark 5HD 3.6-18X44

View on OpticsPlanet

View on Amazon


  • Magnification:             3.6x-18x
  • Reticle Focal Plane:    FFP
  • Field of View:              26.9ft.-6.9ft / 100 yds.
  • Eye Relief:                   3.5-3.8 in.
  • Elevation Adj:              29 MILRAD/ 100 MOA
  • Maintube Dia.             35mm
  • Length:                        12.06 in.
  • Weight:                        25.5 oz.

Leupold is a familiar name to most shooters.  Some of the first quality riflescopes available sported the Leupold & Stevens name, and the company hasn’t looked back.  That forward thinking led to the development of a new tactical/competition riflescope:  the Mark 5HD.  These scopes were designed with competition and tactical shooters in mind, but transfer well to hunting.

Leupold Mark 5HD controls - Photo by Matt Cashell
Leupold Mark 5HD controls – Photo by Matt Cashell

When it comes to weight, the 3.6-18×44 Mark 5 HD sits between the ultralight Razor LHT and Nightforce ATACR at a measured 25.5 ounces.  It is also quite compact with an overall length of just 12.06 inches.  The Mark 5 HD has an innovative zero stop with a push-button lock in the “M1C3” turret to disengage prior to adjusting the elevation.  I found this intuitive and comfortable to use.

Leupold Mark 5HD Elevation - Photo by Matt Cashell
Leupold Mark 5HD Elevation – Photo by Matt Cashell

The Mark 5HD has a capped windage turret that is sturdy and tactile.

Leupold Mark 5HD Wind - Photo by Matt Cashell
Leupold Mark 5HD Wind – Photo by Matt Cashell

Available elevation travel is a respectable 100 MOA, which sits between the Vortex Razor LHT and the Nightforce ATACR.

The optics are one of the standout features of the Mark 5 HD.  While it isn’t quite as perfectly corrected as the Zeiss LRP S3, it is sharp, contrasty, and especially … bright.  This scope performs its best in low light.  The coatings are tuned to those conditions, and can be a great asset to the hunter taking aim at game at first and last light.  Like many Leupold riflescopes, the eye box is quite forgiving.

Leupold Mark 5HD Objective - Photo by Matt Cashell
Leupold Mark 5HD Objective – Photo by Matt Cashell

The available reticles are all FFP.  Leupold offers their classic Tactical Milling Reticle (TMR), but I really like the dedicated PR1-MOA and PR1-MIL (MRAD) reticles.  These are similar floating center dot reticles to the Vortex XLR-2, but without the clutter of the Christmas tree hashes.  This is one of my all-time favorite reticles.  It is precise at max power, but still useable at lowest power with the steadily increasing thickness of the crosshairs.

Leupold Mark 5HD PR1-MOA at lowest magnification - Photo by Matt Cashell
Leupold Mark 5HD PR1-MOA at lowest magnification – Photo by Matt Cashell
Leupold Mark 5HD PR1-MOA at highest magnification - Photo by Matt Cashell
Leupold Mark 5HD PR1-MOA at highest magnification – Photo by Matt Cashell

My copy of this riflescope spent much of its time on a lightweight .300 Winchester Magnum where it was subjected to stiff recoil.  I never had a loss of zero, and it always tracked perfectly for me.  I tested the scope tracking both on a machine rest and shooting at a tall target.

The non-illuminated  Leupold Mark 5 HD 3.6-18X44 is a premium riflescope and has a street price of around $2000.  The scope is kind of a goldilocks scope for those that don’t need the bombproof construction of the Nightforce ATACR, or optical brilliance of the Zeiss LRP S3, but want a scope that does everything well.

Leupold Mark 5HD Magnification - Photo by Matt Cashell
Leupold Mark 5HD Magnification – Photo by Matt Cashell

Leupold’s warranty is almost as good as the Vortex warranty.  You don’t need a receipt, and Leupold backs up the performance of the optic for the life of the scope, but doesn’t expressly warranty accidental damage.

Buyers should note that the 35mm tube size of the Mark5 HD is a little unusual, and there aren’t as many mounting options as riflescopes with 30mm and 34mm tubes.

Leupold has shooters covered though, as they offer their own quality rings to match their quality scopes.  In this case the Mark 4 rings will hook up tight to a picatinny rail.

5. SWFA SS Scopes – Best Budget

My fifth scope in this five scope round-up is actually … two scopes!

South West Fire Arms, better known as SWFA, has been selling firearm accessories for 40 years in Texas.  Somewhere along the line they acquired the rights to a US Government Contract 10X42 rifle optic, and started selling the optic to the public under their SWFA Super Sniper brand name.  That brand morphed into the modern SWFA SS line of quality affordable rifle optics.  SWFA does a lot of things right with its scopes.  They prioritize the durability and mechanical reliability of their designs, while offering them at significantly lower prices than competitors.

I have used a number of their scopes including the 6×42, 10×42, 3-9X42 HD, and 5-20X50 HD riflescopes.  As such, the entire line could easily be my choice as best budget scope for the 6.5 Creedmoor, but the 3-9×42 and 5-20X50 are the best of the bunch.

Both of these scopes just work.  They track perfectly and return to zero.  They have developed a reputation for durability and reliability that rivals Nightforce.  The “HD” moniker indicates these scopes have better optical performance than their non-HD SWFA sibilings.  The optical performance isn’t going to be quite on par with the rest of the pricier field in this article, but they aren’t far off, either.  The prices are shockingly low for the quality provided.

5.1 SWFA 3-9X42 HD

SWFA 3-9X42 HD

View on SWFA

View on Amazon


  • Magnification:             3x-9x
  • Reticle Focal Plane:    FFP
  • Field of View:              33.2ft.-14.5ft / 100 yds.
  • Eye Relief:                   4-3 in.
  • Elevation Adj:              21.5 MILRAD/ 75 MOA
  • Maintube Dia.             30mm
  • Length:                        13.1 in.
  • Weight:                        19 oz.

Earlier I mentioned a standard 3-9X40 riflescope doesn’t do the 6.5 Creedmoor justice.  That remains true but the SWFA SS 3-9X42HD is not a standard scope!  It is an excellent lightweight option often found on sale for under $450.  The optics are better than most scopes at that price point and the tracking and durability are elite.  The scope weighs in at only 19 ounces.  You read that right, the inexpensive SWFA scope is actually lighter than my earlier choice for best lightweight scope, the Vortex Razor LHT.  It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles but it is tough and light, which are two things that rarely come together for a riflescope at any price point.

Internal elevation travel adjustment is good at around 21.5 MILRAD/75 MOA.  With the 20 MOA base, this gets us to the same distances as the Vortex LHT.

So why isn’t this little scope my choice for best lightweight scope?  Those missing bells and whistles I mentioned.  There is no Zero Stop feature, so the shooter will need to keep track of what revolution they are on when making long distance corrections, and returning to the proper zero.   Illumination is not available.  This is the only scope on this list that doesn’t have parallax adjustment.  This isn’t a deal breaker for me, as parallax error isn’t as noticeable at those lower magnifications. The final drawback is that lower magnification.  Sure, I have shot targets at really long distances with 9x scopes.  When pursuing big game, most shooters can get a good sight picture with 9x at long ranges.  But there is no denying higher magnification does make load development and zeroing a little easier.  That extra bit of magnification really helps getting a precise point of aim on the target.

5.2 SWFA SS 5-20X50 HD

SWFA SS 5-20X50 HD

View on SWFA

View on Amazon


  • Magnification:             5x-20x
  • Reticle Focal Plane:    FFP
  • Field of View:              20.1ft.-5.1ft / 100 yds.
  • Eye Relief:                   4 in.
  • Elevation Adj:              30MILRAD
  • Maintube Dia.             30mm
  • Length:                        14.65 in.
  • Weight:                        30.4 oz.

The 3-9X42’s big brother, the 5-20X50 isn’t nearly as lightweight at 31.5 ounces.  It does, however, save a couple ounces over the comparably durable Nightforce ATACR.  The optics on this scope aren’t quite as refined as the high dollar scopes in this comparison, but they are more than serviceable.  I found the image to be sharp with good contrast, but not quite as bright in low light as other scopes like the Leupold Mark 5HD.  The SS 5-20X50 does have a good side focus turret for parallax correction and is available in both illuminated and non-illuminated versions.  The turrets on the scope I used tracked perfectly throughout the range, and I had no issues with scope holding zero.  This is in line with the reputation of this model, and SWFA scopes in general.  How much adjustment range?  Well, my scope had just over 30 MILRAD of internal adjustment.  This puts it ahead of the Leupold Mark 5HD and just behind the Nighforce ATACR.

The best feature of this workhorse riflescope is the price.  While the MSRP is $1299 for the non-illuminated and $1499 for the illuminated version, SWFA often discounts the scopes to under $800 and under $900, respectively.  At the sale prices, this scope is a true bargain.  Even at the MSRP the SWFA SS 5-20X50 offers a lot of value.

Regarding downsides, the 5-20X50 is like the little 3-9X42 in that it doesn’t have a return-to-zero hard stop feature. Other niggles I have is that the controls on the 5-20X50 are pretty stiff, which makes adjustments to magnification and parallax in the field tougher, especially in the cold.  While the turrets tracked perfectly, they were a little “mushier” than I prefer, and was a pretty different experience than the crisp clicks of a scope like the Nightforce ATACR.

Both of these budget SWFA scopes share SWFA’s own FFP Mil-Quad reticle.  This reticle is an improved version of the classic US Military Mil-Dot reticle.  The dots are replaced with diamonds that provide more precise aiming points while obstructing less of the target than a traditional mil-dot.  The bold secondary crosshairs provide a useable aiming reference at the lowest powers, but the center crosshairs are tough to see at those powers.  This reticle is definitely unique, but I found it pretty easy to use.

SWFA warranties their riflescopes for life.  The warranty is “No Questions Asked” and fully transferrable.

SWFA scopes are great scopes at lower cost, and there are rings available that fit that bill as well.  I really like Warne Maxima rings as a good match at a great price.


6.5 Creedmoor shooters have a sea of riflescope options to navigate when it comes to scoping their high performance rifle.  The riflescope options above give the 6.5 Creedmoor shooter and hunter the reliability and function they need to get the most out of that performance.  A long range cartridge like the 6.5 Creedmoor needs to be paired with a long range scope.  These five scopes will get the shooter on the road to that long range competency, depending on their needs and budget.

Photo of author

Matt Cashell

Matt Cashell is a full-time writer, photographer, and retired law enforcement officer living in Western Montana. He spends his time with his family and friends hunting, shooting, hiking, camping, backpacking, fishing, skiing, mountain biking, and generally enjoying the outdoor life Montana offers.

Leave a Comment