Have you heard the term “eye relief” or seen it on rifle optic specs and wondered what it meant? Not sure how important it is when choosing the best rifle optic?
If you’ve done any bit of research into rifle optics, you’ve probably heard of the term “eye relief.” It may seem unimportant compared to glass quality, but it’s just as essential for ensuring that you can make the shots that count.
Aside from being a key factor when discussing safety and ease of use with rifle scopes, having good eye relief on your scope can also make you more accurate in some situations.
In this guide, you’ll learn what eye relief is, why it’s crucial to have good eye relief, how it differs across different types of optics, and how to measure and adjust it on your own optic.
What Is Eye Relief?
Eye relief is the “correct” distance between your eye and the tip of the optical lens on a rifle scope or binoculars. It’s the set distance at which the sight picture is clear, and the target is easily visible.
Imagine you’re out hunting, and you’ve spotted a deer. You pull the rifle up to your face and start aiming. When you line up the optic, you won’t immediately see a clear picture.
You’ll have to adjust your eye position to sit a certain distance away from the scope so that looking through allows you to see the target as clearly as you would with your naked eye.
To learn more about eye relief, read up at Shooting Mystery for more details.
Why Is Eye Relief Important?
Besides getting a clear view of the target, having the proper eye relief for your optic is very important for both safety and comfort/ease of use.
Comfort and Ease of Use
If you have a long-range rifle scope, maintaining the proper eye relief can save you from the discomfort of always needing to readjust your eye and moving your head closer or farther away to get a full sight picture.
Optics with longer eye relief are easier to use because the angles you can see through are wider. At the same time, you can move your face farther from the sight and still see things clearly.
Making adjustments while aiming is also easier with long eye relief since the optic will likely be moving around when you turn the adjustment turrets. This ensures that you don’t miss a thing when aiming.
Another significant benefit of having the correct eye relief is safety. Having eye relief that’s too short can result in an injured eye and vision loss when the recoil smashes the scope into your eye socket.
Imagine this: you’re lining up to take a long-range shot using your powerful, high-caliber rifle. Your scope has extremely short eye relief, but you aim and take the shot anyways.
The strong recoil of your gun causes the rifle optic to kick back and hit you in the eye, giving you a sore or black eye at best and blinding you at worst.
Having the correct eye relief for the weapon you’re using gives an allowance for any recoil that your weapon will generate. It can save your vision and a trip to the hospital.
Eye Relief in Rifle Scopes vs. Red Dots
The way weapon optics work differs depending on how the optical glass and magnification are set up. Here are the main differences between eye relief for rifle and red dot optics.
Rifle Scope Eye Relief
Rifles scopes will have standard eye relief, which is shorter than long eye relief. However, it’s appropriate for most situations due to the accuracy benefits that standard eye relief brings.
Standard eye relief is between 3.5 and 4 inches from the optic and is ideal for medium-caliber rifles. It’s more than enough to prevent your eye from getting hit by the recoil.
The main benefit is that standard eye relief scopes usually have higher-power zoom capabilities. This makes shooting at faraway targets easier since you can see them in their entirety.
However, one disadvantage is that your field of view is narrower than long eye relief optics. This is because of slight tunnel vision due to your eye being closer to the optic.
This may not be ideal when you’re expecting closer-range encounters in addition to long-range shooting.
Red Dot Sight Eye Relief
Reflex and red dot sights have a much longer eye relief than rifle scopes. This is ideal for their intended use, which is close-range engagements.
The long eye relief of 4.5 inches and above allows shooters to look through the optic from different angles while still seeing the sight picture clearly.
It also allows a shooter to aim faster since they don’t have to put their eye closer towards the sight. These two things are crucial for close-quarters situations where things can change rather quickly.
One disadvantage is that they’re limited to only 1x magnification because any more zoom will require the shooter to put their eye closer towards the sight.
How to Measure and Adjust Eye Relief
When you buy a new rifle scope, you’ll want to mount it properly. Getting crucial additions to your rifle adjusted helps give you the most comfortable shooting position and the ideal sight picture.
Not only will it make the rifle easier to use, but it will also make you more accurate faster. Here are a few steps to follow to achieve the proper eye relief.
1. Get Adjustable Scope Rings
Most rifle scopes come with scope rings in the box. However, not all are made equally well. Get a mount rated for the caliber of your rifle, and get rings that are adjustable.
Getting adjustable rings means you can adjust their vertical, horizontal, and depth positions to meet your personal and situational preferences. This isn’t just more convenient – it’s also a lot safer.
2. Mount the Optic
As you mount the optic, make sure to follow the mounting instructions properly, as skipping a step or two could mean it will mount loosely or even damage the scope when it rattles due to recoil.
3. Aim and Adjust as Necessary
Once you’ve put it in its “default” position, aim in until you see through the sight clearly with no black edges in your sight picture. The measured default eye relief is the distance between your eye and the lens.
If it’s too close or too far, use the adjustments on the mounting rings to slide it forward or back along the top rail. Then, measure and aim again to see if it’s within the ideal distance.
Frequently Asked Questions
After learning about eye relief, how to measure it, and why it’s essential, you might have other related questions. Here are the answers to the most common ones.
Is High or Low Eye Relief Better?
High (or long) eye relief is generally better for close-quarters weapons and situations, while low (or short) eye relief is better for optics that require higher magnification levels.
Even if you try moving your eye farther away from a high-zoom scope, you won’t be able to see clearly through it anyways. All you’ll see are black edges and a bit of light, which are symptoms of poor eye relief.
Does Eye Relief Change With Zoom?
Yes, eye relief changes when you zoom in more. You’ll need to adjust your eye and move closer to the lens to see more easily through higher-zoom lenses.
However, this is a very slight and minor adjustment and won’t mean you’ll have to press your eye right up to the scope lens.
Getting a scope with the correct amount of eye relief for your rifle is vital for your convenience, accuracy, and personal safety.
It should have enough relief that the recoil of your weapon won’t hit your eye, but it should be short enough to clearly see through the various zoom levels it offers.
Even if the eye relief seems too short or too long, getting an adjustable scope mount can help bring it to a comfortable spot for your eyes.
Regardless of price, you should pick a rifle scope that balances comfort, safety, and clarity throughout zoom levels.