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Mounting your AR 15 with a scope is as personal and customizable as building the rifle itself.
But, once you're ready to add an optic to your AR, you'll find the market awash with scopes with drastically different prices, build quality, and features.
How much should you spend? Is there a one-size-fits-all scope? How do you choose between a scope or a sight for an AR 15/MSR rifle?
What is the best scope for an AR-10?
We'll discuss these considerations and offer up our scope recommendations. Let us help you complete your AR platform armed with as much information as possible.
While the wide-ranging lineup of scopes below is by no means a comprehensive list, we've provided some of the best scopes that have been rated and tested by AR owners just like yourself.
However, if you are looking for something that fits a specific budget or hunting activity, be sure to also check out some of the other lists (below) we have compiled to find the AR-15 scope perfect for your needs:
- Best Scope for AR 15 Under $100
- The Best Scope for Your AR-15 Under $200
- Best AR-15 Scopes For Coyote Hunting
- Best Night Vision AR-15 Scopes
Top AR 15 Scopes & AR Optics
|Trijicon VCOG 1-6x24||CHECK PRICE|
|Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E 1-6×24||CHECK PRICE|
|Trijicon ACOG 4X32 BAC||CHECK PRICE|
|Leupold Mark 8 CQBSS 1.1-8x24||CHECK PRICE|
|Trijicon TR24R AccuPoint 1-24x24||CHECK PRICE|
|Steiner P4Xi 1-4x24||CHECK PRICE|
|Primary Arms Gen III 1-6X24||CHECK PRICE|
|Aimpoint Pro Patrol Optic||CHECK PRICE|
|Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x24||CHECK PRICE|
|Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24||CHECK PRICE|
|Burris RT-25 5-25x56||CHECK PRICE|
|Trijicon RS24 AccuPower 1-4x24||CHECK PRICE|
|Bushnell AR Optics 4.5-18x40||CHECK PRICE|
|Burris MTAC 1-4x24||CHECK PRICE|
To start with, we're letting you know from the get-go that we will use the terms AR 15 (ArmaLite AR-15) and MSR (Modern Sporting Rifle) interchangeably throughout this post.
If you've been building your AR 15 from scratch, you'll appreciate the diversity of the optics market when it comes time to mount your newly-built rifle with a scope. The thing about MSRs? They're extremely modular and customizable to perform for your needed application. So, what is it you're looking to do?
Uses for An AR-15 Optic:
- Plinking/Recreational shooting
- Target shooting
- Small-game, Varmint, Predator, and Big-game hunting
- 3-Gun, Competition shooting
- Tactical, Military, Law Enforcement use
- CBQ to mid-range shooting
- Home defense, Surveillance, Security use
- Night vision, night hunting, night surveillance use
The intended use for your MSR will guide your scope requirements from scope dimensions, build quality, and budget to reticle style, magnification, and added features. As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all scope for your rifle.
But, what about the red dot versus scope debate?
Red dots are fast and are excellent for CQB (close quarter battle) needs. At the same time, a low powered 1-4x, 1-6x, or 1-8x scope on an AR 15, especially one with an illuminated reticle or center dot, can certainly offer the same advantages, plus some, to provide versatility to your MSR system.
We may tend to be biased towards low power variable (LPV) scopes, but they also come with tradeoffs to red dots. Apples and oranges? Leaving this discussion for another day, remember to be application-specific for your needs.
Since we can't read your mind or presume to know what you're up to, we'll just lay out the lineup and you can choose what scope or sight speaks to you.
Best AR-15 Scope Reviews
1. Trijicon VCOG 1-6X24 - Best Overall
It was bound to be a Trijicon to head the lineup. Trijicon brings the highly-praised reliability of the ACOG and variable power together to give birth to the VCOG - the Variable Combat Optical Gunsight. There's no sight that can compare to the VCOG. It's the best of the best when it comes to features, quality, and performance.
- Trijicon quality
- Excellent glass clarity
- Extremely durable build quality
- FFP/illuminated reticle
- Wide adjustment travel
Those familiar with the brand should already know this magnified optic is close to indestructible with its forged aluminum alloy construction. It's going to withstand the worst type of abuse you dare to put it through for duty use.
With its low power of 1-6x, it's an ideal scope for MSRs. It can easily cater to CQB situations and perform as expected for long-ranging marksmanship. With an FFP (first focal plane) reticle, you can rely on your segmented circle .223/55 grain crosshairs for accurate bullet drop at any point in the magnification range. By the way, the integrated dial fin is a convenient feature for fast use in the field.
Dial out further with the wide 90 MOA in elevation and windage travel. Turrets are tactile and clicks are audible. The reticle is illuminated with a red LED to aid in rapid target acquisition.
With an AA battery as the power source, you can expect up to 700 hours of use on brightness setting 4 out of 6. Conveniently, in between each brightness setting is an "off" position.
This model also has the quick release mount with a lever to make mounting and detaching a painless and effortless process, but it does add a bit of heft to an already 23.2 oz optic.
Seriously though, other than a bit of weight and a hefty price tag, your scope choice can't get any better than this. You asked for the best - here it is.
2. Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E 1-6X24 - Best Illuminated Reticle
It's only fitting that a high-end Vortex make the list. The Razor HD Gen II-E rifle scope is perfect for the AR/MSR platform.
What does the "E" stand for? "Enhanced."
This scope represents the new and improved Razor HD Gen II series, and you're about to see why it has become a fast favorite.
- Excellent glass quality
- 30 mm tube
- SFP/illuminated reticle
- Wide adjustment travel
- Wide diameter turrets
This scope has the favorite LPV magnification range of 1-6x to replace your red dot and magnifier on your MSR or carbine. It sheds the weight of its predecessor weighing in at only 21.5 oz.
With a 30 mm, single-piece tube body, it's robust and allows for a colossal 150 MOA adjustment travel for both windage and elevation. 50 MOA revolutions and zero-resettable, wide diameter turrets allow for streamlined performance in any situation.
With an SFP (second focal plane) reticle, the crosshairs won't change size on you regardless of magnification. Use the reticle to hold over out to 600 yards.
The BDC reticle has a center illuminated dot to help acquire fast target acquisition and draw the eye to the center. Lock in that brightness setting with the locking illumination feature.
Stay low and close for CQB with 1x power and crank it up to extend your observation range when out in the field or hunt. Glass quality is superb as the Gen II-E scope has it all from an APO system to Optically Indexed Lenses, HD Lens elements, and more.
Although it's still expensive for most shoppers hunting for an affordable scope, the Gen II-E 1-6x is unparalleled in its price range.
If there's a scope you won't have buyer's remorse with, it's this one.
3. Trijicon ACOG 4X32 TA31F - Best Red Dot Combo
There's no way we could pass up the chance to feature a tried and true AR 15 sight, the ACOG. The Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight has been a U.S. military staple for more than a decade.
What does this fixed magnification sight offer the shooter that puts it up at the top with best AR-15 red dot sights?
- Combat proven
- Battery-free illumination
- BDC/ranging reticle
- Trijicon quality
- Use with both eyes open
Anything over $1000 is going to be seen as an expensive buy, but Trijicon is one of those brands where you get what you pay for - quality. Durability has never been an issue for the well-known brand or its loyal buyers.
While the reticle doesn’t have the traditional red dot, the chevron pattern is still illuminated and is specifically designed for .223 (5.56) caliber rifles. Crosshair hash marks allow for bullet drop holdovers out to 800 meters, and you can also estimate range with silhouette targets.
With fixed 4x power, it now has magnification and an illuminated reticle that makes it one of the best red dot sight combos around.
You don't have to worry about batteries or LEDs failing you when you need it most. Reticle illumination in the ACOG is powered by fiber optics for daylight use and tritium for low light/nighttime use.
You can also use the sight with both eyes open thanks to the Bindon Aiming Concept that allows for quick CQB use. However, you'll have to get around the unforgiving 1.5" of eye relief which will greatly limit your field of view.
The ACOG 4x scope has been a long-time favorite, and the TA31F model has features made specifically for the AR 15 gun owner.
As a tactical gunsight that was designed for military use, it sure lives up to its reputation for the civilian market.
4. Leupold Mark 8 CQBSS 1.1-8X24 - Best for Long Range
This is the priciest scope in our lineup. It's extreme in every way possible, but when you need extreme results, you must put your money on the militant end of the spectrum.
How serious are you about owning a Close Quarter Battle Sniper Scope (CQBSS)?
- Tactical/duty use
- FFP/illuminated reticle
- Extremely durable
- M5B1 adjustments
- Wide adjustment range
The CQBSS scope was designed for military and law enforcement use. With that in mind, ruggedness and durability is of utmost importance.
It's why it's been Punisher Tested by Leupold, has military standard scratch-resistant lenses, and is built like a tank. Even then, it's still in a competitive weight class for scopes of this caliber weighing in at 23.5 oz.
Although it was a scope made for duty use, civilians can take advantage of owning and using the CQBSS on their AR 15 platforms. The FFP M-TMR reticle is designed for the civilian crowd.
It expands on Leupold's TMR reticle with illuminated crosshairs and hashmarks applicable at any point in the power range.
The turrets on the CQBSS are interesting in and of themselves. They truly are tactical turrets in the sense that they're not capped. While this is excellent for close quarter shooting, every feature about it from glass quality to the BDC holdover points allows it to perform as a precision long-range scope.
Sometimes long range is not just about extreme magnification (military snipers engage targets with 10x magnification), but about quality features and tons of travel. Revolutions come in 10 MIL increments, and with a 34 mm tube, the Mark 8 scope offers 150 MOA elevation and windage adjustment travel.
Adjusting may take some getting used to. They have an auto-locking, pinch-and-turn mechanism that Leupold says allows for precision and speed when out in the field.
You don't have to worry about knocking adjustments out of place as the turrets will essentially "lock" themselves in place when you release pressure on the turrets after turning them.
There's a lot going on inside the Mark 8, and we've barely scratched the surface.
As the most expensive scope in this lineup, we suggest you get militant about finding out more!
5. Trijicon AccuPoint 1-4X24 TR24R - Best for Hunting
The AccuPoint may just be the ideal combo of a red dot and magnified optic in one. Who will benefit from one? A big game hunter, someone who appreciates affordability, or a shooter who needs fast acquisition in difficult terrain or environments. Does this sound like you?
- Battery-free illumination
- Glass-etched reticle
- Low magnification
- 90 MOA adjustment travel
- Close-mid range only
The Triangle Post reticle is simple, fast, and easy to use. If you're looking for sniper accuracy at extended ranges or for bullet drop compensating crosshairs, this isn't the reticle model for you. But, what will the triangle post reticle do for you? It gets you on target fast.
If you're looking to stay within your comfort zone of using a daylight illuminated reticle while moving away from red sights into LPV scopes, this AccuPoint does it.
You don't have to muck around with batteries or worry about illumination features failing you. The red triangle aiming point is powered by fiber optics and tritium for battery-free, illuminated benefits - no more worrying about battery life!
As you can guess, for a Trijicon scope under $1000, it's a star favorite. It has Trijicon build quality behind it, a glass-etched reticle, 30 mm tube, and it's completely weatherproof.
With 90 MOA of adjustment travel, you can dial out to extended ranges if you're in the mood to test your skill. But, as a 1-4x scope with a simple reticle, your best usage is going to be within close to mid-range distances that's great for many types of hunting, target shooting, and CQB scenarios.
What else makes it an excellent scope for these applications? It's super lightweight at only 14.4 oz. Why tack on weight, extra magnification, and added cost when you can take down deer, bad guys, and ping steel with the AccuPoint?
6. Steiner P4Xi 1-4X24 - Best 1-4X
If you're looking for your first, high-quality LPV optic for duty-intended purposes and patrol use, the Steiner P4Xi is the best AR scope for you. It has everything going for it including a reasonable price, illuminated reticle, and true 1x magnification.
It was named Optic of the Year by a well-respected publication and received a Golden Bullseye Award by the NRA.
- Illuminated reticle
- 5.56 reticle
- Low profile turrets
- Made in USA
- Slightly mushy turrets
For some reason, the P4Xi is one of the best kept secrets in the LPVO market. We think the doors need to be blown wide open so AR-15 owners can mount their rifles with the best scopes available. It's intended and designed as a law enforcement scope, but it's also used a lot in 3-gun competitions.
The center-dot illuminated P3TR reticle is extremely popular. It doesn't overwhelm or distract the sight picture. With a 200 yard zero, the BDC hashmarks will reach out to 600 yards. It's designed for 5.56 mm 62 gr or 7.62 mm 175 gr loads - ideal for the AR-wielding shooter.
The illumination turret has "off" positions between each brightness setting. To maintain its effectiveness at all hours, the illumination turret has 11 intensities: 5 daylight, 4 low light, and 2 night vision levels.
Elevation and windage adjustments are in MOA with .5 MOA clicks. While turret quality has said to be slightly mushy (not as crisp as some would compare to Vortex), just zero your scope and forget the rest out when holding over to 600 yards.
The Steiner AR-15 5202 scope is made in the USA, is affordable, and has all the right features to see you through patrol or your competition shoot.
7. Primary Arms Gen III 1-6X24 SFP ACSS
What would you give to own an LPV that has incomparable quality and features in its price class? Most would give months of research, work several overtime shifts, and hem and haw in frustrating indecision before pulling the trigger.
With the Primary Arms 1-6x24 scope, you don't need to do any of that!
- SFP/illuminated reticle
- ACSS reticle
- Capped, low-profile turrets
- 30 mm tube
- Quality control issues
It's all too easy to assume the best scopes come with the highest price tags and most of the time, it's true. However, this PA 1-6x scope is the best rifle scope in its price range for under $300. Without illusion, it's an entry-level LPV, but it has all the right features in all the right places.
The illuminated SFP ACSS reticle is the major selling point. Being in the rear focal plane, it won't become too small or thin at 1x.
The Advanced Combined Sighting System Reticle (ACSS) is just that - a complete system. With it, you have BDC holdover hash marks that reach out to 800 yards compatible with 5.56, 5.45, and .308 cals, windage holdover points, moving target leads, and a vertical range estimation chart built-in.
Although the glass-etched reticle system is full-on, it's neither overwhelming nor obstructive. It's been improved with a center Chevron aiming point instead of the dot with a segmented circle surrounding it.
With clicks in 0.5 MOA, a 30 mm tube body, and capped, low profile turrets, it's obvious it's a scope that's intended for fast shooting applications without compromising accuracy.
However, quality control issues range from poor illumination to reticle issues that may require warranty coverage. Good thing it comes with a Lifetime Warranty PA will stand behind. You may be willing to give an arm and a leg to own one of the best and most affordable LPVOs around, but with this scope, you don't have to.
8. Aimpoint PRO - Best Fixed Front Sight
This Aimpoint optic isn't just a "pro" sight, it's a Patrol Rifle Optic (PRO) that's ready for duty use when duty calls. No, it's not an LPV scope, but it's earned its place in the list with its long history of success on the line.
If you have a CQB, carbine, short barreled AR type rifle, the Aimpoint PRO is perfect for your needs.
- Red dot sight
- Compatible with front sights
- Transparent rear flip cover
- Compatible with NV devices
- Quality control issues
The PRO has been a fan favorite for a long time. Since it's had a long run of being tried and tested, there are various quality control issues that users report, such as poor illumination, battery life issues, and inability to move/adjust the red dot.
Moving on to the good, the Aimpoint sight comes complete and ready to mount with a QRP2 mount and AR 15 spacer.
Lens caps also get thrown into the buy with the rear cap sporting a transparent, clear cover.
Even with both caps on the sight, you can still use and see your 2 MOA red dot in emergency situations when you need rapid and instant target acquisition. When you don't have time to flip off the covers, simply keep both eyes open (as you should) and the see-through cap will allow you to see the dot.
It's compatible with fixed front sights for AR 15 platforms as has been reported by several users. The objective bell is threaded if you want to screw in an anti-reflection device for the objective lens.
The Patrol optic is a tactical sight that was born for fast and instantaneous use for duty or home defense scenarios. It's ready when you are!
9. Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6X24 - Best Value
New, hot, and exactly what AR shooters need. Speed and versatility are the name of the game when you have a Strike Eagle 1x LPVO on your AR platform. What's smokin' about the new Vortex Optics scope? Let's hawk in on the deets.
- Glass-etched reticle
- CQB to extended ranges
- AR-BDC reticle
- 30 mm Cantilever mount included
- Mount not always included
The Strike Eagle 1-6x scope is made like every other LPV - for point-blank shooting out to extended ranges when you need it. But, since this is a Vortex scope, it's unlike every other LPV in the market. It has 140 MOA elevation and windage adjustment travel. It has excellent build quality, and it comes with Vortex's VIP warranty.
The illuminated, SFP reticle is laser-etched onto the glass. This is a high-end, premium feature usually only seen on scopes on the extreme end of the price range. The AR-BDC reticle is made for 5.56 mm cartridges with illuminated hashmarks to push the distance without having to dial in.
This particular model is being sold with the Vortex Optics 30 mm cantilever mount with the 2" offset (CM-202). Nearly all the time, the mount is included in the buy, but there have been rare instances where buyers didn't receive what was promised. Being vendor-specific may help buyer confidence.
The Strike Eagle has a great price tag that should suit almost all types of shooters. It's a great start for a beginner newb, but it's also a great buy for a 3-gun, hunting, and ranging-shooting veteran. Building and completing your AR has been made easier with this Choice scope and mount deal!
10. Bushnell AR Optics 1-4X24
Bushnell caters to the AR market with their AR-dedicated scopes for 3-gun, home defense, and hunting applications. With a super-low price tag under $200, this model should be just as popular as its predecessor that was in the Top 100 Rifle Scopes list. New and improved, the latest AR Optics 1-4x has a few, new things to offer.
- 30 mm tube
- Wide adjustment range
- SFP reticle
- Online user error/buyer confusion
For an entry-level price, the AR 1-4x scope keeps things at entry-level quality. It's exactly what you need when you don't want to spend a fortune, but you still want something reliable.
Made in Korea, the scope has a 30 mm tube with a wide 120 MOA/34.9 MIL in elevation travel and 140 MOA/40.7 MIL in windage. Exposed target turrets are in 6 MIL revolutions with .1 MIL per click.
You can dial it in when you have time out in the field, or you can holdover with the Drop Zone 223 reticle that allows for a 600-yard reach. It's an SFP reticle so using it accurately for holdovers should be done at max magnification.
It's not illuminated, so low light conditions may leave you wanting if you're out in the hunt.
Included with the new scope is a pre-installed, short Throw Down PCL (Power Change Lever). For your convenience to gain rapid magnification operation, install the included long PCL you'll find in the box.
While it hasn’t been the case for the newer 1-4x scope (AR71424), the old one had a few quality control issues regarding broken windage turrets, reticle issues, and the scope unable to hold zero. While there was a small number of these complaints, it was not the trend for the once popular optic.
Unfortunately, the case with the new scope is model confusion with the discontinued, old scope (AR91424) and buyer confusion online. It's important to be aware of product numbers to ensure you know exactly what you're buying.
This is an excellent scope for the money. Be an informed buyer and reap the benefits of mounting your AR with a dedicated AR-15 LPV scope!
11. Burris RT-25 5-25x56
If you’re already accustomed to the MRAD-based system, there is essentially no learning curve involved. The RT-25 is made for MIL shooters, precision shooters, and long-range shooters. If you shoot, the Burris RT-25 is made for you.
- SCR-2 MIL reticle
- FFP reticle
- Side focus
- Locking turrets
- No MOA
There are plenty of LPVO scopes well-suited to the AR platform, but some like to take their .223 loads out to max distances just because. This is a scope that can get it done.
The wide power range, optics to keep up, and MIL turrets and reticle will get your AR-15 hitting steel at distances you couldn’t reach before. The RT-25 has a MIL tree style reticle that was designed by professional shooters and 65 MOA in travel to get you on target. It has plenty of room to dial in and holdover to make long-range possible.
While setup for long-range use, the scope is extremely comfortable sitting in for competition use, hunting big game, and it also has the makings of being a great long-range varmint scope. It also has hallmark tactical features such as a 30mm tube, locking turrets, zero stop, and a throw lever that can be repositioned as needed.
When you want distance from your AR, you need a long-range scope. When you need budget on your side, you need an RT-25 long-range scope. End of story.
12. Trijicon RS24 AccuPower 1-4X24 - Best Under $1000
Whether you're gunning in 3-gun competitions or stalking down your 8-pointer in a tree stand, AR/MSR rifle owners like their low powered scopes. This is why the Trijicon AccuPower is such a solid favorite in the ever-changing market of AR rifle scopes. With a price tag under $1000, here's why you need to consider it.
- Trijicon build quality
- BDC/illuminated reticle
- Specifically for .223 55 gr
- Bindon Aiming Concept
- Not daylight bright reticle
The RS24-C AccuPower rifle scope is a crowd-pleaser. It has 1-4x power that is ideal for point-blank to extended range shooting. Using it for low magnification applications in tight quarters is how you should be using the Bindon Aiming Concept that allows both eyes open operation. Many a shooter has replaced their red dot with this very LPV.
This model has the 223/55gr BDC reticle with the segmented crosshair to draw the eye to the illuminated center dot. The dot has said to be too small of a reference point for a handful of users, but the main complaint is that it's not daylight bright if you're looking for that much illumination. However, the reticle is still clearly visible even without illumination.
Although you may not be shooting out this far, the reticle provides holdover points out to 800 yards at max power of 4x, but it's nice to know if you want to practice your target shooting skills at the range.
Trijicon sets the golden standard when it comes to image clarity. Crystal clear, bright, and high quality - a trade mark feature of Japanese glass. While the AccuPower is assembled in the USA, we know most of its parts are imported from either Japan or the Czech Republic. Covered under the Limited Lifetime Warranty, your scope is protected.
The AccuPower is a lightweight and compact scope at only 16 ounces and 10.2 inches long considering it has a 30 mm tube, 100 MOA total travel, and illumination to boot. Like many other Trijicon optics, it's an unobtrusive and highly efficient optic for your AR.
13. Bushnell AR Optics 4.5-18X40
Unlike many scopes that do excellent on an AR-15, the AR Optics series by Bushnell are affordable. It may be what makes them so popular.
- Side focus
- Exposed turrets
- Drop Zone 223 reticle
- Throw levers
- Large BDC dots
The standard 4.5-18x40 scope is one of the best-selling models in its series and can easily be one of the top AR-15 scopes under $200. It has high power up to 18x, exposed MIL turrets, and the reticle is specifically calibrated for the .223 Rem.
You have 18 MIL of adjustment travel to get you zeroed at 100 yards and push those bullets out to around 500-600 yards. Since the reticle is in the SFP, you’ll need to change power fast once you’ve found your target. Bushnell includes both a short and long PCL (Power Change Lever) in the box for rapid power changes when it comes time to holdover.
Although it has a BDC reticle to accommodate holding over, the 1 MOA (approx.) dots will obscure small targets at max ranges. It might not be your long-range varmint hunter, but it will do nicely for predators and big game, not to mention, AR500 steel targets.
With good glass, decent low-light performance, and a side focus with a minimum distance of 10-yards, the AR Optics scope offers a lot of versatility. It’s accurate, affordable, and most importantly, right at home on your AR-15.
14. Burris MTAC 1-4X24
If you're on patrol in law enforcement or the military, you'll need a close-range, tactical-style scope for your MSR rifle or carbine. If you're into competition shooting, the MTAC scope can also do you right. For an AR scope under $500, Burris has you covered.
- Ballistic CQ reticle
- Illuminated reticle
- 130 MOA travel
- 30 mm tube
- Heavy reticle
First things first, if you intend to use this scope as it's designed, you'll love it. There has been complaint about the reticle being too thick or heavy for kill-zone accuracy at extended ranges. Although the reticle provides an extreme 600-yard trajectory aiming dots for 5.56 cartridges, it's intended for CQB and close to mid-range shots. At these distances, the reticle is ideal for its applications.
The Ballistic CQ reticle is in the second focal plane (SFP), so the circle crosshairs and dots will remain the same size regardless of magnification changes. The entire reticle itself is lit up and the illumination dial has 10 brightness settings. For user convenience, there are intermediate "battery saver" stop positions along the dial to extend battery life. There have been reports about illumination failure, so be sure to keep an eye out for this during use.
The 30 mm tube body offers a generous 130 MOA elevation/windage adjustment travel with 1/2 MOA clicks. The MTAC scope is compatible with night vision tech. It also has forgiving eye relief of 4" to maximize field of view, and turrets are resettable to zero once you've sighted it in.
Burris backs their scope with their Forever No Questions Asked Warranty. You don't have to pay anything extra for repairs or replacements, keep your receipt, or be the original owner. In fact, no questions are asked. Protecting your scope with a quality warranty is just as important as choosing a quality scope in the first place.
What to Look for in the Best AR-15 Scopes
How do you narrow down what's most important in a scope when there are multiple budgets and shooting contexts to consider? The answer: we don't, but you must.
Choose the scope that has the right combination of features for your shooting needs. Is coyote hunting your primary shooting activity? You will be best to consider scopes ideal for AR-15 coyote hunting. Are you going to be out after dark? You will need to check out AR-15 scopes with night vision.
Too many times we see someone return or rap on a quality scope because they expected or wanted more of something the scope didn't claim to have in the first place. What you need will very likely look different to someone else's needs, but you're not buying a scope for them, you're buying it for yourself.
The best scope you can mount to your AR/MSR platform is the one you recognize as best-suited for your needs. What features do we recommend you consider? We're glad you asked!
Not debatable is the fact that your budget is "the" ultimate deciding factor in what scope you buy for your AR-15. Many drool and secretly envy those who can spend more than $500 on a scope. Most of the time, shooters are looking for the affordable option while still having a chance to buy something high quality, name brand if possible, and with a bunch of honest reviews behind it.
It's easy to over-spend or think you need this or that in an AR scope.
Stick to your guns and choose the scope with the combination of features that has what you need so you don't pay for features you don't. That's how you save money and up value in your buy. The gems are out there, just filter through our lineup or AR-15 scopes to see what fits your budget best.
AR-15 Scope Magnification
If there's a feature that can be as versatile as its variable nature, it's magnification. Many looking to replace their AR-15 red dot sight with an LPVO still want to retain point-blank range, close range, and rapid target acquisition benefits. Scopes with true 1x should be able to co-witness with iron sights and provide the same POV (Point of View) as a red dot. LPVOs that fit the bill come in 1-4x, 1-6x, 1-8x configurations.
However, not everyone shooting an AR is looking for CQB, duty, tactical, or close-range hunting benefits from an LPVO that low power provides. Various MSR platforms have cartridges capable of stretching the distance 400, 600, 800 yards plus some.
Higher power optics can help to identify where you want to hit the target. Additionally, the further the distance and the smaller the target is a situation requiring high magnification. It's not uncommon to find long-range scopes on AR platforms with various power range configurations of 3-9x, 4-16x, 6-24x, and more.
This may be one of the most important features to muse over when considering AR optics.
You may want to look for a riflescope reticle that is:
- Has BDC/trajectory compensating dots/hashmarks
- Various crosshair styles including duplex, Christmas-tree style, etc.
- Simple with a dot, chevron, or circle pattern
- Calibrated for a specific cartridge or caliber
Again, being activity-specific will help to narrow down what type of reticle will be best for you. Simple, uncluttered, illuminated reticles are excellent options for rapid target acquisition in close quarters for fast response situations. Complicated reticles with windage and BDC holdover points may better suit a hunter or long-range shooter.
FFP VS SFP
First or front focal plane reticles are typically a high-end feature that usually means more cost. Shooters appreciate being able to holdover regardless of magnification whereas second or rear focal plane reticles can only be used for holdovers at max magnification.
The downside to FFP reticles is they are often too small and thin to see at low power whereas SFP reticles retain their size their regardless of magnification.
This is a subjective feature that you need to know about as it can enhance the way you shoot and directly affects your scope budget.
We all know enough eye relief is extremely important to avoid scope eye. But, avoiding the tell-tale sign that your scope is mounted in the wrong position or it doesn't offer enough eye relief is just one factor to consider.
Having enough eye relief ensures you can take advantage of the full field of view (FOV) and minimize eye fatigue. Following moving targets and long observation through a scope requires generous eye relief. Adjustable eye relief may also be very beneficial to those with adjustable stocks.
Mounts, Extended Mounts, Rings & More
Do you want your scope to clear your iron sights? Do you need an extended mount? Do you have the right size rings? Is a quick release/detach mount a realistic feature worth paying more for?
Because the AR platform is extremely modular, you will want to consider what accessories will best suit your rifle and scope system. Some scopes come with included mounts and rings. Most of the time, you're going to have to save room in your optics budget for the necessary accessories.
AR-15 Rifle & Scope: The Versatile Choice
As you build and upgrade your AR-15/MSR over time, you might find you'll need to do the same with your scope as your needs change. Not every scope is a one-size-fits-all option, and neither should your approach be the same.
Size, weight, weatherproofness, and glass quality are just as important to keep in mind as the suggested recommendations listed above. It can get daunting trying to think of every facet to research, so if you can get out there and test drive some different scopes, more power to you and your buy.