The 12 Best Rifle Scopes for AR-15 in 2019
The 12 Best Rifle Scopes for AR-15 in 2019
Considering the fact that the AR-15 is currently the bestselling centerfire rifle in the United States today, there are also a seemingly unlimited number of different AR-15 optics for you to choose from as well. Needless to say, attempting to choose the best AR-15 scope can be a very daunting task.
Not only are there a seemingly unlimited number of different manufacturers, but each of those manufacturers makes a very large number of different models as well.
The obvious question that you may have here is: ‘well, which scope is the best?’ But the truth is that there is no such thing as the best AR-15 scope because it depends on what your environment or circumstances are. For example, if you will be shooting your AR in a very wet and humid environment, an anti-fog feature would be very critical to have.
You see, no two scopes are created equally, which is why the answer to this question is actually rather complicated. Some manufacturers are well known for high quality, and others have a more mixed reputation to say the least. In addition, some manufacturers typically known for their quality may once in a while build a scope or product that is not built to the same level of expectations that the company had set.
Additional factors that you will want to take into consideration as well include whether you want a variable scope that can zoom out to farther distances, or whether you want a scope that is designed to be virtually indestructible and can take sustained abuse.
In this article we’re going to dive into what the best AR-15 Scopes are, what the primary components of an AR-15 scope are, followed by a discussion of what the primary features to look for in an AR-15 scope are, followed again by an outline.
Without any further ado, here are the 12 best rifle scopes for AR-15 in 2019.
ATN X-Sight II Rifle Scope
First and foremost, the ATN X-SIght II Rifle Scope is not just a rifle scope. That’s because ATN designed this scope specifically to have multiple features and components into it to the point that it would essentially have multiple pieces of equipment into one.
Also, just so you know, ATN intended this scope for use with hunters and long distance shooters, so it’s not the best choice for tactical situations or pest control uses at a mid to close range shooting situation.
The magnification of the ATN X-Sight II is designed to go from 5x to 20x, which is more than suitable for the vast majority of hunting applications. Keep in mind, the AR-15 fires the 5.56x45mm NATO round, which is best used for mid sized game such as deer and pronghorn and below, and furthermore, it is best suited to taking down that size of game at a distance of around five hundred yards or so. If you’re going to be shooting big game at incredibly long distances of a thousand yards or so, then you’re going to need a bigger caliber than 5.56 or the .223 Remington (give strong consideration to the .308 Winchester or a similar caliber for those sorts of applications).
This is why a magnification range of 5x to 20x will be more than suitable for virtually any and all hunting applications that you plan on using the AR-15 or any other 5.56 or .223 rifle for. In addition, ATN also ensured that the image of the X-Sight II scope would be generated electronically in HD in order to create the most crystal clear image possible when you look through the scope. This enhances long range performance and really limits distortions as well.
Another major benefit to the X-Sight II is the fact that it is night vision capable, and as such the reticle has been overlaid on the HD image. In other words, you can use the X-Sight II in both low and no light conditions.
One thing worth noting about the X-Sight II is the fact that because of the high number of different electronic components, this may not be the best scope to use when it is pouring rain outside. Examples of electronic options included in this scope are the ballistic calculator, video recorder, camera, and the automatic rangefinder. There are very few other makes and models of scopes that include all of these different items all rolled into one as well, but again, it’s going to be more vulnerable to the rain.
Burris Fullfield II
The Burris Fullfield II is a 3-9x40mm scope, which means that it is more than suitable for the vast majority of hunting applications. What’s more, is that Burris built this rifle at an affordable price of only a couple hundred dollars. This stands in stark contrast to the vast majority of Burris’ other optic and scope products, which usually cost many times that. However, Burris wanted to built a high quality scope that would be affordably priced for those on a budget, and the Fullfield II is the result.
You may think that you will sacrifice a lot of quality for a lower price point, but fortunately Burris ensured that you’re still getting a lot of scope and quality for the money with the Fullfield II. The result is that this cope features a high grade optical glass designed to enhance both clarity and brightness even in low light conditions. The multicoated lenses over the glass also helps to boost the low light performance of this scope as well.
The outside of the scope is coated in a matte black material, while the durable eyepiece design has a no slip grip to ensure that the scope can be easily adjusted while used out in the field. Matte black may not have a very smooth or glossy finish on the higher end scopes, but this is also a major area where Burris saved money in order to price this scope at an overall lower cost.
One more fact worth noting is the fact that the Fullfield II is one of the most awarded scopes in the industry today because of the fact that it is widely regarded as being one of the highest quality and best budget scopes on the market. It’s also shockproof, fogproof, and waterproof, and on top of that, Burris offers their lifetime warranty.
Bushnell AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Scope
Another big name in the scopes and optics industry is Bushnell, and the model of scope from them that we will be looking at today is the AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Scope. The main feature to this scope is the fact that it offers a five hundred yard field of view, which means that this scope (as you can probably guess) is designed primarily for long distance shooting.
On top of that, this scope is also designed to be used in low light environments. This is because the lenses have been multi-coated to ensure maximum clarity and brightness when used in low light conditions, and on top of that, the scope is sealed very tightly to minimize the amount of moisture and elements that enter the lens chambers.
It also offers what Bushnell calls a Throw Down PCL Quick View, which essentially permits the shooter to quickly switch from different fields of view. The Target Turrets located on the outside of the scope allow for the scope to be quickly calibrated and adjusted when used out in the field as well.
Leupold 110797 VX-2 Compact Scope
Leupold is without question one of the most well known players in the scope and optics shooting industry today, and they very commonly produce scopes that are priced at or over one thousand dollars (and sometimes even over two thousand dollars).
But as with Burris, Leupold understands that there are those on a budget who highly desire quality scopes for a lower price point, and that’s exactly why Leupold also offers scopes such as the VX-2 Compact Scope. The level of quality that goes into Leupold scopes is simply second to none, and the VX-2 scope is absolutely no exception to this rule.
To get into the details, the VX-2 3-9x40mm Compact scope is zeroed in on a 3-9x magnification range, which is more than adequate for the average shooter. This is also more than acceptable for either the 5.56x45mm NATO or the .223 Remington round.
Another big benefit to the VX-2 is the fact that it comes with a wide variety of different duplex reticle options. In fact, the standard reticle on the VX-2 is excellent and designed to help the shooter make precise and accurate shots at both medium to long distances. However, it is admittedly less adept for fast shooting at multiple ranges. Leupold intended for this scope ti be shot by both hunters and competition shooters from a fixed position.
The objective lens boasts a 94% light transmission, which means that this scope should be excellent for use out in darker conditions. The scope also offers just over four inches of eye relief, which is plenty for an AR-15 or any other 5.56 caliber rifle, which again offers very minimal recoil.
Overall, if you are a hunter or competition shooter who will be primarily firing your AR-15 from a fixed position at longer distances and who is also on a budget, then the Leupold VX-2 will be an excellent option for you.
Nightforce Optics NXS Rifle Scope
To be blunt right up front, the Nightforce Optics NXS Rifle Scope is maybe ‘too much scope’ for an AR-15. What we mean by this is the fact that this scope is designed for ranges and calibers that outrange the 5.56x45mm NATO or .223 Remington rounds and their capabilities. The reason for this is because the NXS by Nightforce Optics has a magnification range of 5.5-22×56, which is simply far more than what most AR-15s will need.
To put this into perspective, the NXS can be used very well for ranges out to two thousand yards, which is far more than what the vast majority of shooters will attempt to shoot their AR-15s at.
That being said, this also means that the NXS will give you absolutely superb capabilities at long ranges, and the wide range from 5.5x22x is very versatile and means that this scope can also be used well at moderate to closer ranges as well.
In other words, this is a very practical scope for a wide range of uses, which is exactly why we chose to include it on this list. Nightforce intended for this scope to primarily be used by competition shooters and hunters, just like the Leupold VX-2 that we just took a look at.
The MOAR reticle on this scope is the standard reticle and features extremely precise windage and range hash marks. The reticle is also illuminated for shooting at night or in dark conditions, and the objective lens is a very large 56mm. This means that the Nightforce NXS Rifle Scope will collect a lot of light in dark conditions, to provide you with the highest quality image as you possibly can
Eye relief on the Nightforce is just under four inches, which is more than enough for an AR-15. It’s also fogproof, waterproof, and features high quality construction.
Nikon Monarch 5
Most people know Nikon for their cameras, but they also manufacture very high quality scopes and optics as well.
The Nikon Monarch 5 is a 3-15x42mm rifle scope that was based off of the Leupold VX5-HD, but lacks a lot of the fancy ‘bells and whistles’ of the Leupold in order to ensure a lower price point.
That being said, the Monarch 5 does feature a number of neat and cool features in its own right ,including a bullet drop compensated reticle, a low dispersion glass for better image contrast, and a multicoated lens to ensure maximum light transmission in lowlight conditions. It is shockproof, waterproof, and fogproof. It also ships with the lifetime repair and replacement warranty from Nikon as well.
The performance of the Monarch 5 in lowlight conditions is further enhanced thanks to the very large ocular lenses, which are designed to provide you with a high resolution and bright sight picture and image when you view through the scope.
Finally, this scope has also been designed to optimized for use with the Spot On Ballistic Match Technology. The inside of the scope is also nitrogen purged and O-ring sealed to ensure that it is completely shockproof, waterproof, and fogproof.
Nikon P-223 BDC Scope
Another high quality AR-15 scope option from Nikon is the Nikon P-223 BDC scope. This is a budget minded scope that is priced at under $200.
The primary reason why this scope is included in this list is because it was designed specifically for use with both the .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO rounds, and is therefore a perfect choice for the AR-15 platform.
This is a 3-9x40mm scope, which is more than appropriate for most types of shooting with the AR-15. Furthermore, Nikon claims that based on their extensive research, the 3-9x40mm is the perfect magnification range for 5.56 and .223 round. This is also why the scope model is designated as P-223 by Nikon. It also should be noted that Nikon intended for this scope to be used with competition shooters and hunters.
As the name of this scope suggests, the P-223 utilizes a BDC reticle, and it features precise hash marks that measure from one hundred up to six hundred yards. Again, the reticle was designed and calibrated specifically by Nikon for the trajectory of .223 rounds, and they used the 55 grain ammunition loads for their testing. This scope also features open circle aiming points for fast target acquisition.
Something that should be noted about this scope, however, is the fact that the reticle lacks internal illumination. Granted, this scope is less than two hundred dollars, so sacrifices should be expected. Nikon made up for this by installing a 40mm objective lens, which Nikon claims will transmit over 90% of available light into the shooter’s eye to provide decent clarity in low light conditions.
The eye relief on the P-223 is three and a half inches, which is good for fixed position shooting with eye fatigue kept to a minimum. Finally, the P-223 is also designed by Nikon to be shockproof, waterproof, and nitrogen purged to ensure that it offers absolutely solid performance in abysmal conditions and inclement weather.
The next scope that we will take a look it is perhaps the least well known scope on this list: the Swarovski Z3 3-9x36mm scope. This is a traditional hunting scope that offers truly excellent lens clarity.
This scope is also designed to be as simple and yet rugged as possible. It’s also machined to incredibly tight tolerances, and provides the shooter with razor sharp images and maximum color clarity when they view the image through the lens.
Furthermore, this scope is designed by the manufacturer to function flawlessly at temperatures ranging from -4 up to 131 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also very compact and lightweight, with elevation and windage turrets that can be adjusted to 1/4 MOA increments.
In summary, the Swarovsli Z3 is an excellent hunting rifle scope that is compact and lightweight and yet also very durable and rugged. The slim design will help to reduce the weight on your AR-15, unlike many other larger and clunkier scopes that could slow you down.
Trijicon ACOG Scope
First thing is first, this is technically not a scope. In case you didn’t know, ACOG stands for Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, which is why it is technically a sight that can be included on this list. And furthermore, Trijicon is very well known for making some of the most advanced and highest quality optics in general on the market.
The ACOG in particular is particularly well renowned by Trijicon as being one of the very best magnified tactical optics in existence. There’s a reason why ACOG scopes are used by United States military units such as the Marine Corps.
The magnification of the ACOG is set at 4x for both consistency and simplicity. What’s more, is that Trijicon made the ACOG to not just be used for military or tactical operations, but for hunting and competition shooting as well. That’s because the ACOG scope can be used to place shots accurately out to five hundred yards, while also being used for close range CQB as well.
The reticle is self-illuminated, with has marsh for a variety of different ranges. A tritium insert also ensure that the reticle will be highly visible and illuminated in the nighttime and low light conditions. The long eye distance on the ACOG sight as well is long, which makes it easy for you to quickly get a sight picture and view targets, even when you are shooting while on the move. The tritium insert is also guaranteed by Trijicon to last for a minimum of seven years.
Finally, it should be noted that while the ACOG can easily place accurate shots out to five hundred yards, that this is not designed for long range precision shooting, and therefore the weapon should not be used as such. Rather, this sight is designed for shooting man sized targets out to five hundred yards. While it is designed primarily for tactical use, the ACOG can also easily be used for hunting if necessary.
Overall, the Trijicon ACOG is probably the premier tactical sight for an AR-15 on the market toady.
UTG Accushot SCP3-U416AOIEW Scope
UTG is a company known for making lower priced but still valuable and quality products for those on a budget. The UTG Accushot SCP3-U416AOIEW is sold for under a hundred and fifty dollars, but is often seen for less than that commonly as well.
This is a 4-16×44 scope, and thanks to its wide magnification range it is a very versatile scope that can fulfill a wide variety of different shooting needs from mid range shooting to long distance shooting.
But even at the high magnification setting, the UTG Accushot can still create very solid image clarity for shooting smaller sized targets at longer ranges. The wide range of magnification means that this can be used for both competition shooting and for hunting purposes effectively, as well as for more tactical-related uses if you had to.
Even though this is a budget minded scope, there are still a number of features that are normally found on higher end optics. For example, this scope utilizes a mil-dot reticle with nine range and windage markers for precise range estimation. The range markers can be used for anything from wind calls to target engagement and so on. The reticle is also predominantly available in either green or red illumination, but UTG also offers a whopping thirty six different reticle colors that you can easily choose from as well.
UTG also claims that the emerald coating on this scope is the top in its class for both light transmission and image clarity. The multi coated glass, combined with the large 44mm objective lens, gives the Accushot superb low light performance even if it is on the lower end of scopes in the terms of price.
Another feature of this scope, which is pretty neat, is the proprietary illumination enhancement system UTG installed called the EZ-TAP IE. This technology is designed to help boost the image clarity at night time or in very low light conditions.
For the middle of the day when it could be very bright and sunny out, there is also a shroud option for the Accushot that will reduce the glare. In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, this is a scope that you can easily use for virtually any time of day (or night).
The eye relief on the Accushot is just over three inches, which is god for fixed position shooting and is also good for enabling quick target acquisition. That being said, it should still be noted that this kind of eye relief is considered on the shorter end for tactical applications. You can use this scope for tactical purposes if you have to, but it may just not be the best option for that.
Last but not least, this scope also features nitrogen purging on the inside of the scope to prevent internal fogging, and lens coating that are water repellant.
UTG SCP-M392AOLWQ BugBuster Scope
Another scope for the AR-15 that we will take a look at from UTG is the SCP-M392AOLWQ BugBuster Scope. As with the Accushot scope, the BugBuster is also designed to be a high quality scope offered for a lower end price.
The BugBust specifically has a magnification range of 3-9x, which makes it a decent optic. It’s not the most flexible or versatile magnification range, by any means, but it is standard.
This scope also features a mildot reticle, with both the windage markings and the range markings. This reticle will be a good choice for quick range estimation, and the dual color illumination of either green or red for the reticle ensures that the low light performance of this scope will be improved as well.
As with the Accushot scope that we just took a look at, the UTG utilizes an emerald coating on the lenses. This increases the amount of light that is needed to reach the eye of the shooter, and also produces a very clear image for those who need to engage targets.
Take note that this is not the best scope to use for tactical purposes, as UTG didd not design it for this purpose. However, for rapid short range shots in relatively tight circumstances, the BugBuster should absolutely excel. As a whole, this is a quality lightweight and compact scope that also manages to be very durable with good features and a basic magnification range.
Vortex Optics Viper HS LR Rifle Scope
The last scope that we will take a look at is from an optics company that have really built a significant name for themselves in the last few years: Vortex.
Vortex was founded in 2004 and now are regarded as some of the very best optics on the market today. One reason for Vortex’s rise in reputation is because they have a strict adherence to excellent quality control, in addition to having a mission for building high end products.
This is a 6-24x50mm scope, which is obviously a very wide magnification range. For this reason alone, this would be a good scope to turn to for competition shooters. In addition, this magnification range is also practical and versatile enough that hunters should see a lot of value out of it as well. The standard dead hold BDC reticle is also suitable for the AR-15. There are precise hash marks on this weapon that will give you accurate estimation for bullet drop.
As a first focal plane scope, the reticle scales on this scope will change as the magnification changes. The reticle illumination means that this scope will be good to use in low light. The wider sized lens also means that the lens will collect a lot of light to provide you with the clearest image it possibly can – including when you are going to be shooting at a high magnification in a lower contrast environment.
The eye relief on this scope is also set at four inches, which should be more than enough for both hunters and competition shooters a like who are going to be spending plenty of time viewing through their optic. The long eye relief should also make it easy for you to get a sight picture and to acquire a target.
Last but not least, you should know that the Viper was constructed out of one piece of machined aluminum for better durability. It also makes the Viper significantly more waterproof as well. All in all, if you are looking for a decent all-around scope for less than one thousand dollars, the Viper is a good way to go.
How To Choose The Best AR-15 Scope
As was discussed previously, there is no such thing as the single ‘best’ AR-15 scope, but rather it all comes down to what exactly you are going to use the scope for. There is simply no such thing as a universal optic, meaning that there is no such thing as a scope or optic that can be used for literally any and all purposes. With that in mind, let’s begin by discussing the general considerations that you should keep in mind when choosing an AR-15 scope.
There are many so called ‘general considerations’ that you should keep in mind when selecting an AR-15 scope. These considerations are basically givens, meaning that you should keep them in mind and follow them no matter what.
The general considerations for an AR-15 scope include, but are not limited to:
- First and foremost, the scope that you choose for your AR-15 absolutely needs to be high quality. The best way to ensure that it will be high quality will be to purchase it from a reputable manufacturer, as well as to read or watch plenty of reviews online to get a feel of what the overall consensus toward the product it. Rest assured, you’ll know that you’re buying quality when you purchase from major brands such as Leupold, Bushnell, Nikon, Vortex, and other similar companies that have a strong reputation for producing high quality products
- Next, you’ll want the scope that you choose for your AR-15 to be smaller and lighter. The reason for this is because the AR-15 is already a relatively shorter and lightweight rifle, and therefore you don’t want a big and heavy scope to be weighing everything down.
- Next, you’ll also preferably want to get a scope that is designed specifically for tactical or defensive use. The reason for this is because this is because such scopes will be able to withstand major impacts as well as handle the recoil and constant rate of fire that is generated by the AR-15, while also maintaining zero point on your target. The exception to this rule is if you’re going to be going hunting primarily with your AR-15, in which case a scope designed specifically for hunting (and for which there are many) would probably be the superior option.
- Remember that acquiring a target is of absolutely paramount importance with your AR-15, and therefore you may want to consider either a red dot sight or a holographic sight if you’re going to be doing primarily close range shooting with your AR-15. For longer ranges, quick target acquisition is not nearly as important, and you can go with a scope that has more moderate magnification.
In a nutshell, the scope that you choose for your AR-15 needs to consist of each of the above qualities at the bare minimum. These considerations and factors alone should help you to drastically lower your overall selection.
After that, you’ll want to pay attention to some more factors as well, which we will dive into next.
Magnification obviously refers to how far the scope can zoom in and out. Generally speaking, you can expect the image that you view through the scope to be a little bit more distorted the more that you zoom out.
Fortunately, this distortion can be minimized in a number of different ways. The first is through the amount of light allowance that the lens allows. Some scopes are coated in order to allow for a certain allowance of visibility.
It’s also important to understand what scope magnification power means as well. For example, scope magnification ratings are usually written as follows: “#-#x#.” An example of this would be “3-9×40.” What this means is that what you view through the scope lens will appear between three to nine times closer than what it actually is (this also means that the scope is a variable scope, as it can be adjusted in that range). Meanwhile, the ’40’ in this case refers to the object lens diameter, measures in millimeters.
The reticle refers to the crosshairs that you view through the scope. There are many different types of reticles out there and the ones that you choose need to be dependent on what application that you will be using the rifle for. That being said, almost all reticles are black or red or green in color, because these are the colors that will show up the easiest when you peer through the scope.
Since the AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle, and thus a rifle that you may send multiple rounds rapidly downrange without pausing to reload or chamber a new round, you’ll want a reticle that you can see clearly in order to stay on target.
Furthermore, the best choice for a reticle will also be one with adjustable color and brightness settings. This way, you can adapt the rifle to be highly visible in virtually any brightness or lightning situation.
You may also want to go with a reticle that has different marks to designate different distances. You may also consider a scope with a rangefinder built into the scope that will immediately let you know the distance to a target, and thus you will not need to be a rangefinder separately.
Here are some of the different types of reticles for AR-15 rifle scopes that you could consider:
- Duplex Reticles: this is by far the most common reticle type. When most people think of ‘reticle’ or ‘crosshairs,’ this is the type of reticle that comes to mind. Basically, it’s a cross that is placed over a target for fast and easy target acquisition. Sometimes, duplex reticles will also have additional rings or marks to designated different distances.
- BDC Reticles: BDC stands for bullet drop compensator, so as you can imagine, BDC reticles are basically designed to help predict how much your bullet will drop at any given range. They typically will feature a line underneath the center dot of the reticle with different marks representing fifty yards, a hundred yards, two hundred yards, three hundred yards, and so on.
- Mildot Reticles: Mildot reticles are very similar to duplex reticles. But they place more detail into the individual distance rings, such a showing twenty five or fifty or seventy five or one hundred yards. Most mildot reticles today can show anywhere from twenty five up to six hundred yards. Mildot reticles are often used by competition shooters, law enforcement units, and the military.
Minute of Angle
Minute of angle is simply an angular measurement used to determine the distance of what one inch in your scope will equal to the real world outside of the scope.
For reference, 1 MOA will be equal to five inches at five hundred yards, which means that shooting 1 MOA means you could land all of your shots within a five inch radius at a five hundred yard distance.
Eye relief refers to the space in between your face and the scope. A lot of people believe that they don’t need a lot of eye relief with a scope for an AR-15, which is known for having very minimal recoil. That being said, recoil with an AR-15 does still exist, so it’s important that you have enough room in between your eye and the scope so you don’t receive a blow.
Ability To See (Fogproof and Waterproof)
The ability to see through your scope is of absolute paramount importance regardless of which type of rifle you’re going to get.
Keep in mind that you will end up using your scope in a variety of different lighting and atmospheric conditions, which is why that factors such as the degree of magnification, the size of the exit pupil, the eye relief, and the size of the objective lens of the scope are all very important.
Also of paramount importance will be to get a scope that is both fogproof and waterproof. This is important for virtually any kind of scope, but it becomes even more important for scopes that are going to use electronics within them.
For example, electronics optics or scopes will require a power source, such as a battery, in order to operate. This can be vulnerable to water or moisture, which is why having a scope that is both waterproof and fogproof is so vitally important.
The next thing that you need to take into close consideration is what your intended use for your scope is. As we discussed previously, there is no such thing as a universal ‘best AR-15 scope.’ There is only a such thing as the best AR-15 scope for different purposes.
To put this into perspective, the scope that the everyday civilian would need for casual range shooting is far different than what a law enforcement or tactical military operator would use. And for some kinds of uses, a scope will not even be necessary, as iron sights or red dot sights are far superior for short range shooting.
This is why you really only need a scope for your AR-15 if you plan to be using it for shooting over moderate to long ranges. For longer ranges, you’re going to need the ability to be as precise and as accurate with your shooting as possible, and that’s why you’ll need a scope for such distances and not a red dot or iron sights.
As far as what the best general types of scopes are for general uses, there are two very basic kinds of scopes: compact optics similar to what the military uses, and then larger traditional scopes that are most commonly used by civilians for hunting.
In general, you can expect military grade scopes to be much more durable, but traditional hunting scopes to offer far superior light gathering as well as having overall better aiming systems.
Take note that this does not at all mean that compact military or tactical scopes cannot be used for hunting, because they certainly can. For example, a compact tactical scope would be a better choice for pest control or hunting in the dense woods, where ranges can often be expected to be much shorter.
Again, optics and scopes are not universal. You need to plan far ahead for how you plan to use your weapon. Honestly, if you have the available funds, owning multiple scopes would be a good idea. Utilizing a red dot system for closer ranges and then a longer traditional hunting scope for longer distance shooting could be very wise. In fact, a red dot or holographic sight could even be suitable for pest control or close range varmint shooting.
For longer ranges though, definitely go with a scope that offers variable magnification settings and that furthermore can be adjusted according to elevation and windage.
You knew this topic was going to come up, right?
You may believe that the higher the price of an AR-15 scope, the higher the quality it is going to be. However, this is not always true, because there are a lot of budget priced scopes that still offer you a lot of value and quality for the money.
That being said, there is no denying that the incredibly high end scopes that can cost a thousand dollars or two thousand dollars or more (think the Leupold Mark VI or something even higher) are indeed very high quality, and can easily be one of the most crucial purchases that you make for your AR-15.
In many ways, the scope is the most valuable addition to your AR-15, so spending a lot of money on it may seem wise. But if you are on a budget, you don’t need to spend a fortune or go into any debt to get a quality scope for your AR.
In fact, if you are on a budget, then there’s no reason at all to spend more than five hundred dollars on a high quality scope for your AR-15, and you should easily be able to get a quality scope that is available for far less than that.
A good rule of thumb that many experienced shooters like to throw out there is that if you have fired less than a thousand rounds through your rifle already, then there is absolutely no justification to spend above five hundred dollars either on a scope or any other optic.
Sure, companies such as Trijicon or Leupold are definitely some of the very best optics that you can buy, but they also cost a lot of money. Set your budget early on and then strive to find the best quality scope that you can for that budget. You’ll be much better off spending any additional money you have left on ammunition and magazines for practice rather than a couple hundred dollars extra on a scope that may not even be much better.
The next thing to look for in your AR-15 scope will be good features. This is one of the biggest reasons why not all scopes and optics are created equally: because the different features between them vary substantially.
Getting a cope that is designed to allow a lot more light in will be absolutely critical if you are going to be using your scope in mostly low light areas. You will have more leeway if you opt for a scope that is going to be used mostly in the daytime. Again, this is why thinking ahead and getting a scope that fits your needs well like we talked about previously is so important.
With that said, here are some of the top features that you will want to look for:
- Larger Tube Diameter: the vast majority of scopes on the market these days have a main tube with a one inch diameter. There is a big misconception that larger scopes with a larger tube diameter will allow more light to enter the scope and reach your eye, but this is not exactly the case. What a larger tube diameter does offer is better durability and strength, in addition to allowing for a wider field of adjustment. The trade off is you don’t want a scope that is incredibly large and heavy for your AR-15, so you have to find the right balance to compromise.
- ED Glass: ED glass is designed to provide an image through the scope with superior color and an overall sharper image. This is especially critical for low light conditions. ED glass makes the image sharper and more colorful through the lens by directing the wavelengths of the visible light into one focal point, which gets rid of any outside aberrations and produces colors that are both vivid and true to life.
- Optical Coating: The biggest limitation in regards to light transmission in AR-15 rifle scopes is the reflected light. Whenever light strikes the glass surface, over five percent of the light can be reflected. But if a thin film coats the surface of the glass, than a lot of the reflection is taken away. In other words, having an optical coating on the lenses of your scope for your AR-15 will dramatically reduce light loss and increase light transmission as well. When used in conjunction with ED glass, it creates an image that is even more sharp and clear.
- Gas Purging: another key feature to have with riflescopes will be gas purging, which helps with the overall waterproofness qualities of the scope by preventing the fogging from occurring in the inside of the scope. Argon and nitrogen gases are by far the most common here, because they work. Some AR-15 scopes use either argon or nitrogen gasses, but some models will also use a combination of the two.
- Parallax Adjustment: the standard focusing knob on most scopes is designed to adjust the reticle to your eyes. Parallax means that when you are viewing targets are farther distances, the reticle will appear to move. A parallax adjustment feature on your scope means that you can ensure that the reticle is always placed on the exact same focal plane as your target. This way, when you move your head, the crosshairs will stay where the projectile is going. The vast majority of scopes that lack adjustable objectives are instead set by the factory to compensate for the parallax at a distance of one hundred yards or more. Parallax is really only a problem for scopes that have an overall magnification power of more than 10x.
In general, when buying a scope for your AR-15 the following is what you will want to look for:
- A reputable manufacturer
- High build quality and durability
- Preferably designed for military or tactical use (unless if you will be going hunting only)
- Relatively compact and lightweight
- Designed for your planned use
- Has optical coating and ED glass to create a sharper image through the lens
- Has a parallax adjustment option if you’re going to be doing long distance shooting
- Has gas purging
- Is waterproof and fogproof
- Has a larger tube diameter of at least one inch
That all may sound like a lot, but in reality, it’s really not, That’s because most of the scopes designed for the AR-15 today have most if not all of the above specs and features. At the very least, each of the twelve scopes that we are about to go over next have most of these features as well.
At this point, we have gone through virtually everything that you need to know in order to find the best AR-15 scope for you. Take note that while none of these scopes are designed for the exact same purpose, and are therefore better suited for different applications, they each meet most if not all of the above criteria that we have set, so you know that you will be buying a quality product.
As we discussed previously, there is no such thing as the universal best AR-15 scope, and it all comes down to the use and application that the scope will be used for. These scopes vary significantly from one another in more than one ways, because they are intended for specific purposes, whether it be hunting, long distance shooting, tactical training, and so on.
Thank you for reading this article and hopefully it was a very valuable resource for you on not only outlining and discussing some of the best AR-15 scopes on the market today but also by explaining to you the top features and qualities that you will need to look for in an AR-15 scope as well.
Keep in mind, the best AR-15 scope for you depends on what exactly you will be using your rifle for, so you may need to get more than one scope depending on the overall task at hand. Yes, this will obviously cost you more money, but if you want to get the absolute optimum performance out of your AR-15, then it may be necessary.