Massive Breakdown of the Effects of Zoom in Destiny

Hey Guardians, I thought now might be a good time to discuss some of the more confusing stats and terms in Destiny, where the definitions are well established but not always well known. I was going to talk about several different ones, but then writing this thing about Optics and Zoom got away from me, so that's all I have time for today. Enjoy!

Massive Breakdown Podcast Discussing These Terms and More

Full Disclosure: I am a host of the Massive Breakdown Podcast. The link contains an audio discussion of these terms and more between myself and /u/Mercules904, which I personally really enjoyed. Click it or don't click it, I don't make a dime either way. Now on to the post!

EDIT: Finally, please realize that this is targeted more at newer and less experienced Guardians, as well as those who have been around but are perhaps less into digging through stats and databases. It's going to be old hat for a lot of more experienced Guardians, and I know this.


Optics is a hidden stat that you can see when you view a weapon through one of the database sites (destinytracker, db.planetdestiny,, etc), but is not shown in the Armory or in-game. It's an integer between 10 and 100 (it could go higher, I suppose), and at first glance might seem a bit opaque to a new player. So let's define it:

Optics converts directly to a weapon's ADS (Aim Down Sights) zoom factor in the game. Simply divide by 10, and you have the zoom factor.

For almost all Exotics as well as other weapons with fixed scopes (many Raid weapons, Fusion Rifles, etc) this stat is fixed and unchanging – their zoom factor when aiming down sights is always the same. However, for many legendary weapons, this stat will vary up and down based on the Sight/Scope selected from the Perk tree. Generally they'll give you an idea if they're higher or lower zoom, and in many cases you may not care too much what the exact value of a particular scope is.

How to Find the Zoom Factor In-Game for Any Sight/Scope

However, there are situations where it is useful to know which scopes have more or less zoom. Snipers are the prime example, where lower zoom scopes are generally favored for their wider fields of view, but preferences abound.

( has this info for most if not all weapons, but maybe browsing the internet is too much work, or maybe you want to double check them in-game. Good news! About a year ago, /u/Mercules904 figured out a really simple way to calculate the zoom factor of any scope. Here it is:

You'll need:

  • A weapon with the desired scope
  • A Patrol Beacon
  • A long sightline to said Patrol Beacon

Head to Patrol, find an area that will work for you, and then find the farthest possible distance from that Patrol Beacon where it will still display a distance number to you in meters while you're aiming down sights. Keep backing up until you can see the beacon, but the numbers disappear, and write down the last distance it gave you. Got that?

Okay, now divide that number by 15 (the default max distance in meters at which Patrol Beacons tell you how far away they are while not aiming down sights), and you have your scope's zoom factor.

Simply put:

  1. Find the farthest distance from which you can see a numerical distance displayed on a Patrol Beacon.
  2. Divide that number by 15 to get your current Zoom Factor.

It's really pretty neat!

ADS Effects on Damage Drop Off and Aim Assist Drop Off

One of the more commonly known effects of Zoom is that it extends the point at which your Damage starts to drop off – that is, the point at which your gun is no longer inflicting max damage. By extension, it also pushes out the distance before your gun starts doing its minimum damage.

Here's a clip showing how significant this difference can be.

But did you know that it also pushes out the distance before your Aim Assist drops off, as well? Aim Assist is the effect in the game that causes your reticle to slow down near and stick to enemy targets in motion. It also angles bullet paths toward enemies when your shooting is just a little off. It's distinct from Accuracy, but I'm not getting into those complexities here – Merc's got that handled. If you don't feel like reading that article now, just know that having more Range and more Zoom (or Optics) will help you land shots at greater distances thanks in part to the drop-off points getting pushed out farther away from you.

ADS Effects on Accuracy

So I mentioned Accuracy, right? Turns out that when Aiming Down Sights, you get greater accuracy based on your zoom factor, too. This is another item confirmed by Bungie in last year's June Update. While I've not tested it thoroughly in-game, it is intuitive knowledge for most of us that aiming down sights in Destiny makes our shots more likely to go where we want them. Especially with Hand Cannons…

Of course, the benefits of this increased accuracy would be less valuable without the final effect of zoom, below.

ADS Effects on Recoil

That's right, your Zoom Factor affects the recoil of your weapon while Aiming Down Sights. This effect is probably less well-known, or at least less-talked about, but is thoroughly established and even confirmed by Bungie. The idea is that Bungie wants our weapons to feel consistent across not only all game modes, but all zoom levels – basically, the guns should feel about the same no matter how we're using them.

So here's how it works: the actual and visual recoil of your weapon are reduced based on your zoom factor. Simply put: higher zoom means less recoil. It doesn't seem to be directly proportional, but it does scale up and down.

So why doesn't it always feel that way when you're shooting your gun? Actually, it does, but it's hard to notice if you're not looking for it. First, here's a quick test you can do to spot a dramatic version of this change (it works as a thought experiment, too):

I recorded myself doing this in the second part of that video.

Go into a Private Match with a high impact Sniper Rifle (lots of recoil, right?). Find a wall somewhere to stand in front of. Hipfire into it a few times consecutively, noting how high you bounce and where the subsequent shots end up. Got it?

Okay, time for step 2. Now Aim Down Sights at the same wall and fire the same number of shots consecutively. See the difference? It's pretty dramatic on Snipers, thanks to high zoom.

Why does it work this way? IRL, a gun is going to kick the same amount whether you're looking through a scope or not, although bracing the gun against your arm/shoulder (I don't really shoot while aiming is the analogue we're comparing to here, and would reduce/control that recoil factor. That said, the amount of recoil reduction isn't going to change based on magnification levels, the way it does in Destiny.

But, in-game, think about it like this: If your reticle was bouncing as high in ADS as it does in hipfire, you'd never be able to fire a follow up with a sniper or other high zoom weapon – you wouldn't even know which part of the room you were looking at anymore.

That would be a negative experience which, salt notwithstanding, Bungie does at least try to minimize. Modifying recoil relative to your zoom factor is actually a pretty elegant solution, if you think about it. Like Greg Peng explained back in June of last year, enemies feel closer when you're zoomed in. It just feels natural that your sight should bounce less after each shot.

Okay, that's all for now, Guardians. Thanks for reading, and if you enjoyed this post let me know what other Destiny terms you'd like explained in written form, and maybe I'll be back with something new next week.


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