Best Hunting Scopes Review: Economy, Mid-Priced & High-End Options


You have probably noticed that there are hundreds of scopes from many trusted companies available for purchase. The sheer number of available options can make choosing which one is best for you overwhelming and difficult. This hunting scope review will outline the basic things you need to know about scopes to help you assess your needs, and then offer recommendations in economy, mid-priced, and high-end options for the best hunting scope.

There are so many good hunting scopes to choose from with slightly different features.  And even if you do know a lot about them, there are so many options to choose from that making a choice is often difficult. 

Here is a link to popular hunting scopes on Amazon with 4 star or more reviews.

Bottom line: the right scope for you is a combination of your budget and your individual hunting needs. What magnification you need largely depends on how far you intend to shoot. And shooting farther distances require additional features like parallax adjustments.

Below is an index of this article. Click on it to skip ahead to the information that means most to you or continue reading the whole article.

What Features Do The Top Rated Hunting Scopes Have?

The best hunting scopes will have the following features:

  • At least a 1” diameter body. 25 and 30 mm tubes are also common sizes.
  • Their tubes will be purged with inert gas to prevent fogging up.
  • They will be waterproof.
  • They will hold their zero even under heavy recoil of high powered rifles.
  • They have resolving power, ie, sharpness. You want to be able to pick out the deer against the natural background.
  • They will have a coated lens to reduce glare and loss of light due to reflection. Many are scratch resistant.
  • If you are a long range hunter, you want a scope that can adjust for parallax. More about that in a section below.

Not necessary, but an added perk – look for matt finish if possible. This way the sunlight won’t reflect off your scope and spook your game.

Why Would I Want To Hunt With A Scope?

Sometimes when hunting you can get very lucky and game will come in very close. More often than not, hunting is an act of patience that requires a lot of sitting and waiting. And as wild animals are inherently cautious, they often do not come close.

Hunting with a scope versus traditional iron sights can mean a big difference to the hunter. Unlike with iron sites, a scope gathers light to help you see your target more clearly and its magnification can help you better identify your game.

Gathering light is often crucial to success, particularly when some of the best hunting times are during the first and last hour of light each day. It can mean the difference between a filled tag and going home empty.

A scope can also help you identify your game in thick foliage and also sight in a deer or other game at father ranges that are too difficult to make with traditional iron sites.

And another very important factor is that a scope will give you a better chance at a humane and fast kill as it helps you better zero in at your target.

What Are The Parts Of A Good Hunting Scope?

Given that scopes are so expensive it’s a good idea to be familiar with all the parts and understand how they work. You will want to be familiar with it before you set out on the hunt as to avoid fumbling around with it in the field.


Parts of a scope.

Photo Credit


The most important part to consider is the lens. And higher quality lens does cost more.

The larger one is the objective lens and is located at the end of the scope farthest away from the rifle’s stock. This transmits light back to the ocular lens which is the one that you look through with your eye.

For hunting, it is a good idea to make sure that lens is waterproof and fog-proof. There’s nothing worse than getting excited and not be able to shoot because your lens is fogged up.

When looking through the ocular lens you will see a reticle, otherwise known as a crosshair. This is the marker that tells you exactly where the shot will go once you pull the trigger.

Some scopes also have a specially coated lens to help reduce glare. This might be helpful when you are hunting in the snow. A top hunting scope will also have a scratch resistant lens.


Some scopes will allow you to view targets at different magnification settings. For example, some scopes allow you to look at targets from 3x to 9x your normal vision.

One example of this is the Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm Rifle Scope. This means that if you set your scope to 3x magnification the deer you are looking at will appear to be 3x times larger that if you tried to look at it without your scope. Click here if you want to check out pricing on the Leupold VX-2 3-9x 40mm from Amazon.

There are also scopes that are built with a fixed magnification.

Here is a rough guide to power ranges that work the best:

  • for dangerous game or big game under 200 yards: 1x-4x
  • 3-9x or 2-10x for most big game hunting
  • for varmint hunting: 6-24x

Generally speaking for anything over 10x will add to the weight and price of the scope and unless you are shooting over 1,000 yards you don’t need it.


The main body of a rifle scope is called the tube. Three of the most common are 1”, 25-millimeter, and 30-millimeter tubes.

25-millimeter is one of the most popular sizes and they are a bit lighter in weight. Some people will say that 30-millimeter tubes will give you an advantage if you are shooting long range as there is a better allowance for windage adjustment and internal elevation.  They are slightly stronger than the 25-millimeter ones, and you can mount the scope tube closer to the rifle.

Make sure you note the size so you can purchase the correct mounting rings to attach the scope to your rifle. Not all scopes come with mounting rings and you should expect this additional purchase.


There are two types: capped turrets preferred by hunters and tactical turrets preferred by target shooters.

Capped turrets protect the hunter against unintentional adjustments in the field, but are also a bit more difficult to adjust as the adjustments are located below the screw on cap.

Tactical turrets are more convenient for long range target shooters as adjustments are more easily made.

There are valid arguments for and against either one that suits your usage. The best option is to practice and get comfortable with you gear so you know it like the back of your hand.

Reticle Type

In a nutshell, a reticle is a crosshair or aiming point.

There are so many different kinds and each manufacturer has their own versions with particular benefits. Once you decide the brand scope you want, then it is time to check out their reticle options. Below are a few different types:

Basic Reticle

The most basic simply offer an aiming point and might be called duplex, fine crosshairs, heavy duty, etc. The naming really differs from manufacturer to manufacturer but they have the same basic purpose. Thicker ones help you see better in low light or areas with lots of foliage.



Photo Credit
Bullet Drop Compensating (BDC) Reticles

These help you account for bullet drop.

MilDot Reticles

These reticles use milliradians as the measuring unit to calculate distance.

MOA Reticles

These reticles use MOA (minutes of angles) as the measuring unit.

Illuminated Reticles

These light up so your crosshairs are visible in low light

Here is one example from the manufacturer Vortex. It is called the EBR-2B Reticle (MOA). It has lines for ranging, holdover, and windage corrections.


Vortex Reticle

Photo Credit 

What Do All The Numbers On A Rifle Scope Mean?

Scopes use a standardized format with two pieces of information separated with an “x”: the magnification number and the diameter of the forwardmost lens (the objective lens) measured in millimeters.

Let’s say that you are looking at the NightForce ATACR 5-25x56mm. This means that you will be able to see 5x to 25x larger than you could see with your naked eye. It also means that you can adjust the magnification settings.  Click here to check out the NightForce ATACR 5-25x56mm on Amazon. This is one of the best long range rifle scopes on the market.

The 56 number is the size of the objective lens. In this case, it is 56 millimeters. In general, a larger objective lens can transmit more light.

For deer hunting, keep in mind that the allowable time of hunting during daylight hours means that you should not be hunting in the dark. So if you are limited in budget you might want to skip out on a larger objective lens.

For most shooters, 40 mm is sufficient. Larger ones are also heavier and bulkier.

Some scopes do not allow you to adjust the magnification because they are fixed at one setting.

How Much Magnification Do I Need For Hunting?

If you are planning on hunting around 100 yards or less you do not need a super high powered scope. A versatile deer hunting scope is 3-9x or 4-12x. Three is good enough for closer shots and nine will cover most longer shots.

The Trijicon TR20 AccuPoint 3-9×40 is a great all around deer hunting rifle scope. Check out this link to Amazon where you will find several great offers.

If you chose something starting at 5 or 6, many times you will find that your scope will magnify too much for those deer that are only a few yards away.

If you want something with more versatility, a variable power scope will give you a wide range of magnifications. The drawback is that they often cost more and are less rugged.

If you are planning on shooting for more than 200 yards you will need a more powerful scope, one that reaches 12x or greater. You will also want to look for a scope that adjusts for parallax, more on that below.

Other factors include hunting in open plains versus a dense woods. Denser conditions require a more powerful scope.

You should expect to spend a minimum of $200 to $400. For most hunting conditions under 200 yards, this will provide you with a good hunting scope.

Yes, you can spend less than $100 on a scope but it will probably not serve you very well in the long run. It also just doesn’t make sense buying a $1000 rifle and spending only a $100 on a scope. If $1,100 was your budget it would be better to spend a little less on the rifle to get a better scope. After all, if you can’t see your target well it doesn’t matter how fancy your gun is.

What Does Parallax Mean?

Generally speaking, parallax is the apparent movement of objects within the field of view in relation to the reticle. Some people have described it as an optical illusion.

Most agree that it is not required for hunters shooting less than 200 yards and is most often a feature used by long-range hunters and shooters. For example, when using a 4x scope at 100 yards the maximum error is less than 2/10ths of an inch.

However, if you plan on doing long range hunting of 200 yards or more, it is a feature that you want for your scope.

If you are looking to shoot long range and need parallax adjustment you will find two options available.

Adjustable objective (AO) adjustment can be found on the objective lens and side parallax adjustment (PA) is found through a dial to the left of the scope next to the elevation turret.

Both of these are usually easier to adjust while bench shooting and a little bit more difficult out in the field.

What Does Eye Relief Mean?

Eye Relief is the distance that your eye can be away from the ocular lens of the scope and still provide you with a clear picture of your target. Currently, four inches is the largest eye relief that you can get for any standard rifle scope.

If you are shooting a firearm with a lot of recoil you want to make sure you have enough eye relief. This is the amount of space between the end of the scope and your eye and face. In other words, if your rifle has a lot of kick you could end up with a bruised eye if you don’t have sufficient eye relief.

Ideally, the eye relief should allow a full field of view and also be far away from your forehead to keep the scope from hitting you during recoil.

What Is Field of View?

Field of view is the amount of view that you see through your scope from left to right at a distance. It goes down as magnification is increased and is measured at 100 yards in feet.

What Are Some Of The Top Hunting Scope Companies?


Barska has been making quality scopes since 1994 for those who are budget conscious and want to spend less than $100. They offer scopes for the hunter, target shooting, military, law enforcement, and home defense.


For over 40 years and counting Burris has offered scopes for hunting, long-range shooting and tactical purposes.


Bushnell has been a leader in high-performance sports optics for more than 65 years. It is owned by Vista Outdoor Inc. They offer a wide variety of scopes for hunting and tactical purposes.


If you want “made in America” Leupold is the right company for you. All of their scopes are designed, machined, and assembled in America and each comes with a Gold Ring Lifetime Guarantee. It is also a family-owned and founded in 1907.

They also have a very cool feature on their website that helps you compare the specs of their scopes and you can also pick the reticle of your choice.


Nightforce is known for “torturing” their scopes to ensure their durability. This is something nice to note when you are purchasing such an expensive product.

There is a product review for a Nightforce scope later in this article with a link to a video of their “torture” test.


Nikon wants to give rugged and reliable scopes to hunters and sportsman alike. They have been in the optics business for over 90 years.


Compared to the others on this list Trijicon has not been in business as long – only since 1981. However, they are known for their quality and their limited lifetime warranty. They also have the United States Marine Corps, United States Special Operations Forces, United States Army, United States Government, and state and local law enforcement as their customers.


William R. Weaver introduced his Model 3-30 scope in 1930 and the company has produced a high-quality product ever since. Since then there have been several owners. In 1988 Omark Industries of Lewiston Idaho took over. In 2001 and 2002 it was Meade Instruments. In 2008 ATK took over and now it’s owned by Vista Outdoor Inc. While the owners and location have changed many times over the years, the quality at Weaver has remained high with fair prices.

Vortex Optics

Vortex Optics is an American company based in Middleton, Wisconsin. They produce and sell rifles scopes, binoculars, spotting scopes, and other related accessories.

This biggest benefit that stands out with Vortex Scopes compared to the rest, is their VIP warranty. It’s an unlimited, unconditional lifetime warranty, fully transferable, no warranty card to fill out, and no receipt to hang on to.

You really can’t get any better with that!


Zeiss has been synonymous with quality since 1846 and has been on the leading edge for optics. Time and time again they have created the best and first. For example, they created the world’s first roof prism binoculars and the first riflescope with a prism erector system.

Should I Buy A Scope With MOA or MRAD?

Minute of Angle (MOA) and Milliradian (MRAD) are two different measurement units that are used to calculate bullet trajectory. They are needed to estimate range and correction for bullet trajectory drop.

Here is a bit more information about each unit.


“Minute of Angle” is commonly associated with linear inches as one MOA very closely corresponds to one inch at a distance of 100 yards. Technically speaking it means 1/60th of an angular degree and many like it as it allows for more precise zeroing than MRAD as the increments are smaller.

If you would like to have a formula: divide the distance in yards you are shooting and will know how big 1 MOA is in inches. For example, if you are shooting 150 yards divide 150/100 and you will find that 1 MOA at 150 yards is 1.5”.


  • (Distance to target in yards)/(100) = inches per MOA at that distance
  • (Number of inches of adjustment needed)/(inches per MOA at that distance) = MOA adjustment
  • (Number of clicks per 1 MOA on scope) x (MOA adjustment) = adjustment in clicks on the scope.

Note that some scopes adjust in 1/4 MOA per click adjustments while other adjust in 1/8, 1/2 or 1 MOA per click. So if your scope adjusts in 1/8 MOA per click, and you want to adjust up to 2 MOA, you need to adjust 8 clicks per 1 MOA so you need 16 clicks total.

Many feel that MOA is more suitable for hunting.


Milliradian (or mil or mils) is 1/1000th of a radian and works out to be approximately, 3.6 inches at 100 yards. It is actually a bit simpler than MOA as the adjustment of 1/4 MOA is a 1/4 inch shift at 100 yards and a 1/2 inch shift at 200 yards.

Hunters might find the exposed adjustment knobs on a milliradian scope to be a liability in the field.

Bottom line you should get the system that matches to your reticle to the turrets. Chose the internal adjustments (MOA or MRAD) that are related to the reticle itself. Don’t confuse yourself by purchasing an MRAD reticle if your scope has MOA adjustments.

Other than making sure that you choose the same measurement unit for both your reticle and your turret, it really comes down to personal preference and what you feel works best for you.

How Much Should I Spend?

Many shooters will tell you that they would rather have a nicer scope than gun. If you buy a cheap scope that doesn’t work and you can’t rely on bullet placement then you have wasted your money. It is a bit senseless to spend $1000 on a gun and even more on a hunt and then buy yourself a $100 scope. You don’t want to be in the middle of your hunt just to find that your equipment doesn’t work. You should spend as much as you can afford on your new scope and less on the gun if you have to.

What Are Some Other Factors To Consider?

If you buy a scope with an LED light make sure you can still see the reticle if the light goes out. And make sure to bring extra batteries with you on the hunt.

NightForce ATACR 5-25x56mm Riflescope: High-End In Price and Superior Quality

Click here to learn more about it on Amazon.

Do you need this one for average hunting situations? Definitely not, but there is no doubt that this is like the Aston Martin of scopes. I couldn’t resist writing about one that is one of the best of the best scopes in the industry.

Many long range shooters consider it to be one of the best long range rifle scopes on the market.

It has all of the features that you would expect from a top scope:

  • A 20% increase over most other NXS models with an adjustment to 120 MOA/34.0 mils.
  • A magnification of 5-25x gives you a greater field of view, 17.96 feet at 5x.
  • The multicoated ED glass gives you excellent light transmission of over 90% with crystal clear images helping you see your target easily against a wooded, grassy, mountainous, or even snowy background.
  • Prevent accidental adjustments in the field with the capped wind adjustment.
  • Approximately marked distances make adjusting for parallax easier.
  • DigIllum digital reticle illumination helps you see your game or target more easily.
  • More accurate range reading and calculating hold-offs are possible at long ranges with 1 MOA elevation and windage markings.
  • The floating center crosshair makes it easy and fast to use in the field.
  • It’s fully multi-coated ED glass makes it waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof for all weather conditions.
  • It is extremely durable as it is made from aircraft-grade aluminum alloy.
  • It is easy to make hi-speed adjustments at 12 mils or 30 MOA per revolution.
  • Other features include a second focal place reticle design, integrated power throw lever, second focal place reticle design, enhanced engraving, and ExtremeSpeed Diopter adjustments.
  • It does not come with mounting rings. You can purchase those here from Amazon.
  • It is covered by their Limited Lifetime Warranty which covers mechanical defects and workmanship. This means that they will repair it or replace it with the exact product or a comparable product of their choice. Exclusions include intentional or accidental damage, improper mounting, abuse, misuse, and unauthorized repairs or modification. Removing the serial number also nullifies the warranty.

One very important feature that sets this scope apart is the ability to easily return to zero stop in stressful situations or with poor lighting. Nightforce solved this issue with their patented ZeroStop™ elevation adjustments. Once you sight your rifle you can set the ZeroStop™ feature which creates a mechanical stopping point at your specifications. Then when you need to you can easily turn the knob to return to the ZeroStop™ without counting clicks, fumbling, or making too much noise. It is available in .25 MOA or .1 MIL adjustments.

If you think it is the right scope for you, click here to find it on Amazon!

The one thing I love the most about this scope is how rugged and reliable it is. And that is, in fact, the motto of Nightforce. Watch this video they produced where they took one of their scopes and banged it, dropped it and threw it across a field, and it still performed. They call it their Nightforce Torture Test.

Specifications for the NightForce ATACR 5-25x-56 mm

Focal Plane:2nd
Objective Outer Diameter56 mm
Exit Pupil Diameer5x-10.52 mm; 25x-2.2 mm
Field of View @ 100 yards/100m5x - 17.96ft; 25x - 4.92ft; 5x - 5.47m; 25x - 1.5m
Eye Relief90mm/3.54in
Internal Adjustment Rangee - 120 MOA; w - 60 MOA; e - 34.9 MIL; w - 17.45 MIL
Click Value.250 MOA; .1 MIL-RAD
Parallax Adjustment45yd - Inf.
Tube Diameter34mm/1.34in
Eyepiece Outer Diameter:44mm
Overall Length:14.3 in
Mounting Length6.13in/156mm
Power Throw Lever:Standard
Elevation FeatureZeroStop

The Trijicon AccuPoint 3-9×40 Rifle Scope Is a Great Mid-Priced Rifle Scope Option

Click here for a great deal on Amazon!

This scope is probably one of the greatest values for the cost. And if you only have one rifle the magnification range is suitable for all around hunting. Reviewers will tell you that it is a mid-ranged priced scope with many features of a more high-end scope. Optics Plant has given it the title of “Best Rated Product”.

The biggest feature that sets it apart is its self-illuminating amber dot that works without a battery. How is this even possible you might ask? It uses fiber optic technology that automatically adjusts the brightness level and contrast to work in all lighting conditions from dawn to dusk. It also has a tritium phosphor lamp that illuminates the reticle in very low to no lighting conditions.

Not having a battery has another great benefit of making the scope significantly lighter. The amber dot is automatically there without pushing any buttons.

As an added bonus you can usually find it for about a hundred dollars less than the suggested retail price on Trijicon’s website.

And if you don’t like the 3-9×40 option, Trijicon AccuPoint scopes also comes in: 1-4×24, 1-6×24, 2.5-10×56, 2.5-12.5×42, and 5-20×50. All found on Amazon as well, just follow the Amazon link on this page and search for other Trijicon AccuPoint options.

There are great reviews for this scope on Amazon. Check them out!

Some of its other noted features include:

  • It has a second focal plane reticle that gives you a more exact aiming point as you zoom in on your target with higher magnification.
  • The multi-coated lenses provide very clear optics and easily gathers light in low light conditions. There is zero distortion. This is important when most deer are active in the beginning and the end of the day.
  • The manual brightness override is very useful during bright sunlight that causes glare. You can easily adjust it to your personal preference.
  • It has rugged construction with aircraft-grade aluminum housing that holds up in the toughest hunting conditions.
  • It is filled with dry nitrogen which prevents it from fogging up. It is also waterproof up to 10 feet.
  • While it is tiny, the green dot in the reticle lets you easily locate you target in the crosshairs. It is also small enough so it doesn’t block your shot. The green dot also allows you to hunt at night. (If that is legal in your state. Check to see your individual state laws.)
  • Hunters report that it is easy to sight and like that knobs can be pulled up and easily rotated to “zero mark”.
  • There is a choice of several reticles including a triangle reticle, the standard Duplex Crosshair, and the Mil-Dot Crosshair.
  • This product has a lifetime limited warranty for the original owner. It applies to the optical system and the metal structure itself, but not to the illumination system.  On the electronics, it is five years.
  • This hunting scope contains tritium which is regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This means that you will nullify the warranty if you attempt to take the scope apart by yourself.
  • It is manufactured partly in Japan and partly in their Michigan plant.
  • It comes with a Trijicon logo sticker, 1 Accupoint manual, 1 set of lens caps, lens pen, and 1 warranty card.
  • The warranty if a limited lifetime on the metal structure and the optical systems and 15 years on the tritium lamp.
  • It does NOT come with a bullet drop compensator.
  • It does not come with rings. Click here to purchase those.

Specs for the Trijicon TR20 AccuPoint 3-9x40

Magnification:3X to 9X
Objective Size:40 millimeters
Bullet Drop Compensator:No
Length: 12.2 inches
Weight:13.4 ounces
Illumination source:Fiber Optics and Tritium
Reticle Pattern:Mil-Dot Crosshair
Day Reticle Color:Green
Night Reticle Color:Green
Eye Relief:3.6 to 3.2 inches
Exit Pupil:13.3 to 4.4 millimeters
Field of View: 6.45 to 2.15 degrees
Field of View @ 100 yards:33.8 to 11.3 feet
Adjustment @ 100 yards:4 clicks per inch
Tube Size:1 inch
Housing Material6061-T6 aluminum, hard coat anodized per MIL-A-8265, Type III, Class 2, dull and non reflective
Water-resistant to ten feet
Assembled in the USA

The Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm Rifle Scope Is One Of the Best For The Low Price

Your staple scope that is ideal for hunting whitetail. Click here to read all the positive reviews on this scope from Amazon! 

There is no doubt that Leupold makes great scopes that are very reliable for hunting and shooting for the entry level price. It is a super light (only 11.2 ounces), very bright, gives a crisp image. Overall it is a nice clear scope without breaking the bank.

This is the scope for you if you are looking for “made in America”. Leopold makes all of them in America and they come with a Golden Ring Lifetime warranty. Several reviews reported that when their’s broke Leupold fixed it or replaced it without hassle.

The crisp image you see through the lens is made possible by Leupold’s “Indexed Matched Lens System” which they designed specifically to eliminate glare and reflections and to maximize light gathering.

Leupold believes that they pioneered waterproofing with their unique argon/krypton waterproofing system. Why should you care? It eliminates the problem of the lens fogging up when you need it most.

Eye relief ranges from 3.7 inches to 4.2 inches depending on how you set the magnification. You can expect a field of view of 34.6 feet when you set the scope to 3x magnification and when you set it to 9x magnification the field of view is 14.6 feet.

The eye relief is generous to give you a clear picture of your target without worrying about the recoil of your rifle smacking you in the face.

Click here if you want to find out more on Amazon!

Specifications on the Leopold VX-2 3-9x40mm

Tube Length:5.6"
Magnification:3x to 9x
Objective Aperture Diameter:40mm
Tube Diameter:1"
Field of View (at 100 yards):3x - 32.3'; 9x - 14'
Eye Relief:3x - 4.7"; 9x - 3.7"
Weight:12 oz
Adjustment Range:56 MOA
Adjustment Click Value:1/4 MOA

Here are some more great features:

  • The blackened lens edge reduces glare.
  • Their durable lens cover will also protect your lens when you are in less than ideal conditions on the hunt.
  • There are finger-adjustable click windage and elevation dials that keep you from the frustration of messing up your adjustments. Personal reviews say that adjusting it is a breeze!
  • The lens is made with a scratch resistant lead-free glass that is sealed with a DiamondCoat treatment.
  • The turrets are adjustable to zero with 1/4 MOA adjustments.
  • The matte finish will prevent any glare that might spook game. It also comes in silver and gloss finish.

If you want to order directly from them you can go to their website and personalize the scope to your particular needs in their custom shop. This is definitely not the most economical way to purchase it, but you will get exactly what you want and sometimes that is worth the money.

A Summary Of Key Factors To Help You Decide What To Buy

There are so many options to choose from so here is a quick checklist for you to outline your particular needs.

Needed for > 200 Yards
Needed for < 200 Yards
My budget
I prefer MOA
I prefer MRAD
I need parallax adjustment
Preferred tube size
Rough magnification guidelines: 1-4x for under 200 yards: 3-9x, 4-12x, or 2-10x for big game; 6-24x for varmint hunting. Long range in the 5-24x range.
Capped turrets?
Tactical turrets?
Preferred reticle?

Good luck with your search for the perfect rifle scope. I hope I provided you with some good information.


Photo Credit for Feature Image

About the Author Elizabeth

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