What is “getting scoped” and why is it an unfortunate ritual?

You may have heard the term before, it is often some variation of getting kissed by the scope or some other colorful reference. But they typically all mean the same thing, it is caused by the eye piece of a scope hitting the shooter in the eyebrow or nose area.

The impact of the scope is caused by the recoil of the firearm. It can cause anything from a red spot, to outright bleeding or a black eye.

This Remington 700 does not feature a muzzle device, but it does have a heavier barrel, and chambered in the low recoiling 308 Winchester

What Causes it?

The cause of this phenomenon is a simple result of physics. As a firearm fires a projectile from the muzzle, it produces recoil pushing the whole weapon towards your shoulder. The force at which it comes at you depends entirely on a few things. The biggest factor is usually the size of the cartridge and the energy it produces.

The bigger the force pushed forward by the cartridge, the larger the force will be coming back at you. This can be arbitrated somewhat by other factors, such as the weight of the firearm in question.

Why is it a hunting ritual?

Probably the biggest reason getting scoped occurs is due to a lack of practice. Proper shooting practices include recoil management. Holding a rifle or shotgun properly in order to control the recoil as you pull the trigger. For many gun owners, shooting a scoped and heavy recoiling gun may not be as frequent as plinking with their preferred firearm.

A very typical case is this one; A person can shoot frequently and in high volumes with one rifle. But perhaps when hunting season rolls around each fall, they pull out their preferred hunting rifle. Which may be of a large caliber, and frequently a light-weight firearm.

Since many hunters only shoot a few rounds a year (at least from their hunting weapon). They run the risk of being unfamiliar with its recoil. And when you couple that to a heated hunting moment, where you have worked hard to get into a shooting position.

You often have to make a quick shot, and it’s easy to forget your recoil management or hold the gun in just such a way that it kicks you right in the eyebrow.  We’ve all seen the hunting pics where a grinning hunter smiles behind a set of antlers with blood running down their nose.

How to avoid it

As mentioned above, proper recoil management is the best way to avoid getting scoped. Properly seating the rifle against your shoulder and doing so in the correct position will greatly reduce your chances of redecorating your eyebrows.

Other ways you can protect yourself from the shame of scope eye is to use mechanical aids, such as a muzzle brake. Brakes reduce felt recoil by redirecting the high-pressure gasses from the muzzle. Deflecting at an angle that reduces the recoil that is felt by the shooter. Some folks use gun-vises, something I don’t encourage for good reason.

A gun-vise holds a rifle and takes up much of the felt recoil for the shooter, but in doing so they affect the way the gun recoils and can change your point of impact as compared to shooting without the vise. This could easily cause a miss in the field when you least expect it. So unless you plan on hunting from your gun vise, it is perhaps more harmful than helpful.

Another good option to avoid mockery by your shooting companions is to avoid some monster caliber in the first place. Much of the hunting done in North America takes place inside three-hundred yards. Animals like white-tail deer and comparable animals do not need a 300 Ultra Magnum to effectively and ethically take them.

A Soft Option

There are plenty of softer-shooting cartridges with more than enough power to take game animals without rearranging your face. The way your firearm is configured can greatly affect the way it recoils. A heavier gun will require more energy to push it back. Therefore a heavier gun will recoil less than a comparable gun of lesser weight.

This Savage model 12 is outfitted with a muzzle brake to reduce recoil to a very comfortable impulse

You can apply any or all these methods to avoid getting scoped, but recoil management is the most important. It is part of the foundation of good shooting, so don’t jump immediately to mechanical aids until you master the basics. A good hold tight in your shoulder pocket, and a good cheek weld, will keep the gun from recoiling more than the distance your brow needs to stay safe.
We should also mention length of pull and scope mounting. Your firearm should be setup with a proper length buttstock, and proper eye relief to keep your eye a safe distance from a recoiling scope. If it doesn’t fit you, you’re asking for trouble.


If you’ve made it this far in life without getting scoped, chances are you are doing things right. And if you are one of those in the exclusive “Split-brow” club, you probably learned how to avoid it the hard way.

If you’re somewhere in between these two groups, I encourage you to employ the tactics we’ve discussed here. Continue your shooting endeavors so that perhaps someday your unscarred face might grace this publication.


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