Scope Bite: What It Is and How to Avoid It

Rifle with a scope

Many things can happen in the excitement of the moment while hunting.

Your senses are on high alert, your adrenaline is pumping, and it is most often during these times that mistakes both large and small appear.

Allow me to illustrate.

Scope Bite Example

The three deer came up the ridge from our right.

I could hear them rustling leaves and cracking branches as they moved up to their bedding zone from where they fed the day before.

Within seconds they stepped into the clearing where we had posted ourselves for just this type of encounter.

At 41 yards, the five does paused and looked around.

“Shoot the one on the left,” I said to my daughter. “Got it.” Two seconds later there was the bang of a 7mm–08 rifle.

I didn’t even need my binoculars to see the solid hit. The deer took two steps and fell down.

“You got it! Nice job.”

The response I heard was both confusing and unexpected.

This exclamation was followed by a sound similar to rain falling on the leaves, only we were in the desert, there was a clear sky, and it certainly was not raining.

When I looked over my left shoulder I saw that my daughter, a very experienced shooter, had been “bitten” by her rifle scope.

She was bleeding rather profusely, and the wound to her eye was already swelling such that the edges were being pulled apart.

For a little girl, that type of scarring would be detrimental to her later on and likely require surgical correction.

Fortunately, I developed the habit long-ago of carrying a small trauma kit with me whenever I am hunting and we were able to stop the bleeding and bandage her up well enough for the 40-mile trip to the nearest emergency room.

woman with scar on forehead

Referred to in various ways, scope bite, scope eye, eye ring, or others, all mean the same thing.

The recoil of the firearm causes the rifle and mounted optic to drive rearward forcefully and make contact with, usually, the inside and eyebrow area towards the nose of a person’s face.

Many times, this is just enough to get your attention a little and you may have a slight bruise.

Almost as often, though, due to the sharp edge on the rear of most scopes, it results in blood and, as in the case above, several stitches necessary to close the wound.

How to Avoid Scope Bite

The farther away a scope is from your eye, the less chance it has of making impact.

Higher-quality optics tend to have a greater eye relief (the distance of focus between the scope and the shooter’s eye) than less expensive ones.

A good standard to look for is a minimum of four to five inches. This doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get “bit,” but it does make it easier to avoid.

Often, even with the highest quality optics and with a long eye relief, scope bite occurs because the gun is mounted improperly.

Shooting uphill or at extreme angles is most often the cause in these cases, but can also be avoided by taking time to properly mount the rifle. 

In addition to using a high-quality optic mounted at the furthest distance from the shooter’s eye possible while still maintaining a full field of view, the other major prevention step is having a gun that fits the shooter properly.

Having to crane your neck forward, having to short length of pull, or having a gun that is cast on or off (where the stock comes rearward from the action and leans either toward or away from the shooter) will make it easy to add a trip to the emergency room to your hunting excursion.

man with scope bite cut on forehead

Even your choice of recoil pad can make a difference.

In addition to changing the length of pull of the firearm, the direction of recoil can change to a less linear direction, adding risk for a bite, especially if it is directed UP.

Thankfully, many of the advanced recoil pad manufacturers have accounted for this and adjusted accordingly.

Finally, ensuring a proper gun mount every time you shoot is something that can be practiced with an empty rifle at home and is one of the easiest ways to make sure you never get “bit.”

Make certain that you mount the gun with a solid cheek weld to the stock and that you are as far back as you can be while seeing a full view inside of the scope from edge to edge.

Have you ever experienced scope bite? How did it happen to you? How did you solve it? Let us know in the comments below.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (11)

  1. Protect your ears as well.Muzzlebrakes amplify noise.Do without them or wear hearing protection.That especially applies to brakes in handguns.

  2. I have 4 sons all shoot right hand but the youngest is a lefty
    We all whet to the range after christmas lunch they picket the rifles 300 blackout 5.56, 30-30 ,308 & 45-70 They all shot no problems but the youngest wanted to shot the 45-70
    the next thing was a bang Ow right between the eyes the scope had hit him .So off the the Doc. to get snatched up
    So a person shooting right handed may not shoulders the rifle the same as a lefty ,so check the distance of your scope

  3. My first elk hunt in Montana resulted in me leaking as much as the cow I shot. The 300 wm, before brake, did it’s job. I had lifted my shooting glasses as I was looking thru my binos and in the excitement forgot to lower them before the shot. The meat is gone but the scar lives!!

  4. Wear a ball cap. As long as the end of the bill is even with the end of the eye piece, you’ll reduce by at least 98% the chance of scope bite.

  5. Attend a Project Appleseed Rifle Marksmanship Clinic and you’ll learn both proper scope mounting as well as “turkey neck, cheek weld” that will eliminate scope bite. Also covered in my review of the Marlin Guide Gun…

  6. I got “bit” in 2009 when plinking on land we had just bought along the river where my house now resides. I had an Ithaca magnum lever action I bought the day before at a gun show. That rifle is dead on with the iron sights. We were passing it around along with a mossberg 715t and my overkill cousin brought an SKS. Mounted on the SKS was a cheap 6-9×40 scope. Not paying enough attention, I sighted the SKS in on a knot in a tree across the river and bangbang! I hit the knot and got a knot on my right eyebrow. It didn’t require much more than pressure with a section of shirt I had cut off. It stung both my forehead and my pride. Ever since that incident, I check the scope distance so I don’t have to cut the tail off my shirt.

  7. Having a re-attached retina,scope bite is of major concern.I once had a scope bash into my glasses from a 338WinMag.I now require 14.5″length of pull to avoid that.I use extended recoil pads and custom stocks.Literally going blind in my left eye[right eye is far poorer] is NOT acceptable.

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