Best AR-15 Scope in 2023: AR Optics For Your ArmaLite Rifle Or MSR

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How much should you spend on a scope for your AR-15? 

How do you choose between a scope or a red dot?

What is the best scope for an AR-15?

Sierra6 scope mounted to AR-15
Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers

I went through and compiled a list of the best AR-15 scopes based off performance, quality, and configuration.

I set a criteria mostly of LPVO scopes intended for home defense to professional applications as well as affordable options for the cost-conscious buyer.

BEST OVERALL
Trijicon VCOG 1-6x24

Trijicon VCOG 1-6x24

Excellent glass clarity

FFP reticle

4" eye relief

BEST ILLUMINATED
Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E 1-6×24

Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E 1-6x24

SFP illuminated reticle

Wide adjustment travel

Wide diameter turrets

BEST VALUE
Strike Eagle 1-6x24

Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6x24

Glass-etched SFP reticle

0-600 yards

30 mm tube

Top AR-15 Scopes & Optics

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?

Maven CRS.2 Mounted to AR-15
Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers

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?

AR15 red dot VS scope
Red dots (left) VS scope (right) on AR-15 - Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers

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.

IMAGEPRODUCTDETAILS
tt-table__imageTrijicon VCOG 1-6x24
  • Magnification: 1-6X 24mm
  • Reticle: Horseshoe Dot/Crosshair/Segmented Circle (FFP)
  • Price Range: Under $2500
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageVortex Razor HD Gen II-E 1-6×24
  • Magnification: 1-6X 24mm
  • Reticle: Center Illuminated BDC (SFP)
  • Price Range: Under $1500
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageTrijicon ACOG 4X32 BAC
  • Magnification: 4X 32mm
  • Reticle: Illuminated BDC/Ranging
  • Price Range: Under $1000
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageEOTech Vudu 1-6x24 FFP
  • Magnification: 1-6X 24mm
  • Reticle: SR1/SR2/SR3
  • Price Range: Under $1500
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageTrijicon TR24R AccuPoint 1-24x24
  • Magnification: 1-4X 24mm
  • Reticle: BAC Triangle Post
  • Price Range: Under $1000
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageSteiner P4Xi 1-4x24
  • Magnification: 1-4X 24mm
  • Reticle: Center-dot Illuminated P3TR
  • Price Range: Under $800
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imagePrimary Arms Gen III 1-6X24
  • Magnification: 1-6X 24mm
  • Reticle: Illuminated ACSS (SFP)
  • Price Range: Under $300
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageVortex Strike Eagle 1-6x24
  • Magnification: 1-6X 24mm
  • Reticle: Illuminated AR-BDC (SFP)
  • Price Range: Under $400
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageBurris RT-25 5-25x56
  • Magnification: 5-25x 56mm
  • Reticle: SCR-2 MIL
  • Price Range: Under $800
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageZeiss Conquest V4 3-12x56
  • Magnification: 3-12X 56 mm
  • Reticle: Z-Plex #20
  • Price Range: Under $1000
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageBushnell AR Optics 4.5-18x40
  • Magnification: 4.5x 40mm
  • Reticle: Drop Zone-223
  • Price Range: Under $200
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageBurris XTR II 5-25x50
  • Magnification: 5-25X 50mm
  • Reticle: Illuminated SCR MIL/MOA
  • Price Range: Under $1500
CHECK PRICE

12 Best AR-15 Scopes in 2023

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:

1. Trijicon VCOG 1-6X24 - Best Overall

Trijicon VCOG scope
Image Credit: Optics Planet

Trijicon brought the highly praised reliability of the ACOG to the table and combined it with variable power to give birth to the VCOG – the Variable Combat Optical Gunsight. To demand the absolute best in performance and quality requires the most generous budget you can come up with.

Pros:

  • Trijicon quality
  • Excellent glass clarity
  • FFP reticle
  • Illuminated reticle
  • 4” eye relief

Cons:

  • Price

Trijicon scopes are known for their close to indestructible build quality. Having been made from forged aluminum alloy, it’s tough, strong, and ready to withstand abuse from hunting, patrol/duty, and competition use.

Trijicon VCOG reticle in action
Trijicon VCOG reticle in action - Image Credit: TFB

The VCOG is an LPVO through and through with its 1x power for CQB performance with illuminated reticles in the first focal plane (FFP). I've always liked throw levers, and the integrated fin makes things easy to shift between power ranges for extended seeing and returning to 1x.

There are so many reticle options each with their own product number as they range from caliber specific reticles to different designs. I like the variety but must admit that the options can be overwhelming.

From my experience, most LPVOs don't come with an included mount, so I give credit to Trijicon that the VCOG comes with the TA51 quick release mount. It's easy to install as it's hand tightened to the rail. You can always do another half turn with a flathead.

Trijicon VCOG features
Finger adjustable turrets (top left) Battery compartment underneath the objective bell (top right) Adjustable eyepiece (bottom left) TAF1 mount included (bottom right) - Image Credit: Optics Planet

With a AA battery as the power source, it runs up to 700 hours when on brightness level 4. I like that the illumination knob has intermittent ‘off’ positions between brightness settings. For an unconventional riflescope battery type, it really needs that separate battery compartment for the AA.

As everyone knows, Trijicon is an expensive brand, but quality tends to match cost. I still think it's worth reminding you that to have the best on your AR will require a generous budget.

Available at: Amazon and Optics Planet (use code TTAMERS for 5% off at Optics Planet)

2. Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E 1-6X24 - Best Illuminated Reticle

Vortex Razor HD Gen II E scope
Image Credit: Vortex

The Razor HD Gen II-E rifle scope is ideal for the AR/MSR platform. What does the "E" stand for? Enhanced. It has the favorite LPV power range of 1-6x to replace your red dot and magnifier combo on your AR-15.

Pros:

  • Excellent glass quality
  • 30 mm tube
  • SFP/illuminated reticle
  • Wide adjustment travel
  • Wide diameter turrets

Cons:

  • Price

The new model sheds the weight of its predecessor weighing in at only 21.5 oz - that's actually an average weight for an LPVO though some are lighter by a few ounces.

Vortex Razor HD Gen II E mounted to AR-10
Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E LPVO mounted to short AR-10 - Image Credit: TFB

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. I'd recommend the Razor HD for some professional applications, hunting, and competition.

With an SFP (second focal plane) reticle, the crosshairs don't change size regardless of magnification. Use the reticle to hold over out to 600 yards, though I'd strongly encourage using an app to see what your actual holds are and confirming them.

The BDC reticle has a center illuminated dot that I think is small at 0.5 MOA, but it does help with fast target acquisition to draw the eye to the center and allows for precision POI. Since this is a high-end scope, the illumination knob has a push/pull lock.

Vortex Razor HD Gen II E scope features
Illuminated reticle (top left) Low profile capped turrets (top right) Push/pull locking illumination turret (bottom left) Waterproof & scratch-proof glass (bottom right) - Image Credit: Vortex

Glass quality is superb as the Razor HD has it all from an APO system to Optically Indexed Lenses, HD Lens elements, and more. With glass like that, I expect an exceptionally sharp, bright, and clean sight picture.

Although it's still expensive for most people, I think the Razor 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.

Available at: Amazon and Optics Planet (use code TTAMERS for 5% off at Optics Planet)

3. Trijicon ACOG 4X32 TA31F - Best Red Dot Combo

Trijicon ACOG used by military
Image Credit: Trijicon

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 at the top with best AR-15 red dot sights?

Pros:

  • Combat proven
  • Battery-free illumination
  • BDC/ranging reticles
  • Trijicon quality
  • Use with both eyes open

Cons:

  • Price

I still think that anything over $1000 is an expensive purchase, but Trijicon is one of those brands where you get what you pay for - quality. 

ACOG green reticle in action
ACOG TA31-c model w/green illumination and .223/5.56 BDC reticle - Image Credit: Armed Defender Gear Reviews

There are several illuminated reticles but the TA31F has the .223/5.56mm caliber-specific reticle with the red chevron and BDC crosshair for holdovers out to 800 meters. I think it's different but simple, uncluttered, and easy to use.

Though you don't need batteries to power the illumination, I reckon the concern is if it will be as bright as battery-powered illumination. It's not, though some have taken to taping the collector to dim the brightness - I'd think it must be really sunny?

The fiber optics run daytime illumination and adjusts the intensity based on ambient conditions. But, it typically needs direct sunlight on the collector to maintain the illumination, otherwise you may lose contrast on black targets with the now black reticle.

For lowlight/night use, tritium kicks in with a soft glow that shouldn't ruin your night vision or wash out the sight picture. Though the illumination seems like a drawback compared to red dots, its strengths lie in the dawn/dusk hours when you need some illumination but not too much - and not all red dots can dim enough for these golden hours.

ACOG in use with two eyes open
ACOG in action with two eyes open - Image Credit: Trijicon

You can use the sight with both eyes open that allows for quick CQB use, but with 4x power, I'd recommend practicing because it will take some adjustment. However, you'll have to get around the unforgiving 1.5" especially if you're running and gunning it.

The ACOG 4x scope has been a long-time favorite, and the TA31F model has features made specifically for the AR platform especially considering that it comes with the TA51 mount.

As a tactical gunsight that was designed for military use, it sure lives up to its reputation for the civilian market.

Available at: Amazon and Optics Planet (use code TTAMERS for 5% off at Optics Planet)

4. EOTech Vudu 1-6x24 FFP – Best High-End LPVO

EOTech Vudu LPVO
Image Credit - Optics Planet

In a market where LPVOs are popular for the tactical carbine, the 1-6x reigns king with its CQB 1x magnification. Covered by the NoBS Warranty, you won’t need proof of purchase, and it’s fully transferable. That’s a warranty I can get behind considering the cost of a Vudu riflescope.

Pros:

  • EOTech tough
  • XC high-density optics
  • CR2032 battery
  • Multiple reticle options
  • Made in Japan

Cons:

  • No locking turrets

The Vudu has exposed turrets sitting on a 30mm tube that provides 29 mrad in elevation travel and 23 mrad in windage. Turrets adjust in .2 mrad increments. While extremely tactile and the scope tracks true, I'm a bit disappointed that they're not locking at this price point. This should be noted by those on patrol and hunters too.

EOTech Vudu mounted to AR
Ocular bell with screw-in receiver for throw lever (bottom left) Vudu secured in 30mm ring cantilever mount - Image Credit: Optics Planet

With 1-6x magnification, it has decent eye relief of 3.94-3.23” and can be used effectively with both AR15 and AR10 calibers. The Vudu has FFP reticles that are made for speed and are easy to see. They’re quite simple in design with minimalist markings for drop.

I like that the reticles are glass-etched, visible without illumination, and they feature EOTech’s speed ring, but they differ at the center. The SR1 is a ranging mrad reticle that is non-caliber specific. The SR2 has BDC drop calibrated for the 7.62 round whereas the SR3 is calibrated for the 5.56 round.

Optics Planet range tests the EOTech Vudu
50-yard paper target (bottom left) Range testing the Vudu - Image Credit: Optics Planet

The scopes are O-ring sealed for water resistance, nitrogen-purged for fogproof protection, and are made in Japan. The optics are made with XC high-density, low dispersion glass with coatings to provide stunning clarity and resolution.

Powering illumination with a CR2032 coin-cell battery, it’s a lightweight power source that doesn’t add to the already hefty 20.1oz weight. In context, it’s not any heavier than alternative LPVOs as they are generally inherently heavy weighing in around 17-24 oz.

The Vudu marries magnification, true 1x both-eyes-open performance, red dot tech, and an FFP reticle into a scope and I think it does it skillfully with EOTech style.

Available at: Amazon and Optics Planet (use code TTAMERS for 5% off at Optics Planet)

5. Trijicon AccuPoint 1-4X24 TR24R - Best for Hunting

Trijicon Accupoint LPVO
Image Credit: Optics Planet

The AccuPoint may just be the ideal combo of a red dot and magnified optic in one.  Who will benefit from one?  A dangerous game hunter, someone who appreciates affordability, or a shooter who needs fast acquisition in difficult terrain or environments.  Does this sound like you?

Pros:

  • Price
  • Battery-free illumination
  • Glass-etched reticle
  • Low magnification
  • 90 MOA adjustment travel

Cons:

  • Close-mid range only

I like the simplicity of the Triangle Post reticle. It's 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. 

Accupoint with triangle post reticle and green illumination
Accupoint Triangle Post reticle with green illumination - Image Credit: Optics Planet

If you're looking to stay within your comfort zone of using a daylight illuminated reticle to move away from red dots in favor of 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, I deem it a favorite.  It has Trijicon build quality behind it, a glass-etched reticle, 30 mm tube, and it's completely weatherproof.

Trijicon Accupoint LPVO features
Adjustable eyepiece (top left) Capped turrets (top right) Fiber optic illumination (bottom left) Mounted to AR (bottom right) - Image Credit: Optics Planet

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, I recommend it for 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?  I praise its light weight at only 14.4 oz.  Why tack on weight, extra magnification, and added cost when you can take down dangerous game, bad guys, and ping steel with the AccuPoint?

Available at: Amazon and Optics Planet (use code TTAMERS for 5% off at Optics Planet)

6. Steiner P4Xi 1-4X24 - Best 1-4X

Steiner P4Xi in law enforcement use
Image Credit: Steiner

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.

Pros:

  • Price
  • Illuminated reticle
  • 5.56 reticle
  • Low profile turrets
  • Made in USA

Cons:

  • Slightly mushy turrets
Steiner P4Xi in action
Steiner LPVO in action in various applications - Image Credit: Steiner

For some reason, the P4Xi is one of the best kept secrets in the LPVO market. I think a little more exposure is imminent. It's intended and designed as a law enforcement scope, but it's also used a lot in 3-gun competitions.

I like the center-dot illuminated P3TR reticle that is extremely popular. In my opinion, 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.

Steiner P4Xi P3TR reticle
Steiner P4Xi P3TR illuminated reticle - Image Credit: Steiner

The illumination turret has "off" positions between each brightness setting.  To maintain its effectiveness at all hours, illumination has 11 intensities: 5 daylight, 4 lowlight, and 2 night vision.

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.

Available at: Europtic and Optics Planet (use code TTAMERS for 5% off at Optics Planet)

7. Primary Arms Gen III 1-6X24 SFP ACSS - Best 1-6X for the Money

Primary Arms SLx SFP LPVO
Image Credit: Primary Arms

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!

Pros:

  • Price
  • SFP/illuminated reticle
  • ACSS reticle
  • Capped, low-profile turrets
  • 30 mm tube

Cons:

  • 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.

Primary Arms SLX LPVO Gen 3
Image Credit: Optics Planet

The illuminated SFP ACSS reticle is the major selling point.  Though I love my FFP reticles, the ACSS reticle is in the rear focal plane, so 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, I don't think it's to overwhelming nor obstructive.  It's been improved with a center Chevron aiming point instead of the dot with a segmented circle surrounding it.

PA SLx LPVO features
Side view (top left) Mounted to AR (top right) Illumination turret (bottom left) Objective lens (bottom right) - Image Credit: Primary Arms

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 engagements in tactical, competition, and hunting applications.

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.  I 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, I don't have to.

Available at: Primary Arms and Optics Planet (use code TTAMERS for 5% off at Optics Planet)

8. Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6X24 - Best Value

Vortex SE SFP LPVO
Image Credit: Vortex

The Strike Eagle LPVO scopes from Vortex are incredibly popular scopes for first-time LPVO options for the AR-15. The Strike Eagle 1-8x is highly rated, but if you want to keep the budget as low as possible, the 1-6x model is the cost-conscious model.

Pros:

  • Price
  • Glass-etched reticle
  • SFP reticle
  • 0-600 yards
  • 30 mm tube

Cons:

  • Tight eyebox

The 1-6x LPVO has 3.5” of eye relief – very good specs on paper but the eyebox has been described to be tight at max 6x power. This makes it difficult for fast engagement at max magnification via offhand shooting. However, at the bench you have time to gain a consistent cheekweld and get within optical alignment.

Vortex SE LPVO in action
Strike Eagle in action - Image Credit: Vortex

Speaking of the bench, the redesigned BDC3 reticle now only illuminates at the center dot and segmented horseshoe much like the EBR-8 reticle in daylight on the Strike Eagle FFP model that I personally field tested.

Given that it’s a SFP reticle, it does not change size throughout the power range and the illuminated portion is easily visible in the lowest powers. The EBR-8 in the FFP Strike Eagle does get very small - its performance more like a red dot than anything else.

However, you either love the BDC compensation out to 600 yards or you don’t as some find it too small and busy for offhand work.

Vortex SE SFP VS FFP
Image Credit: Vortex - Strike Eagle SFP (left) VS Strike Eagle FFP (right) - Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers

As an LPVO, it’s made to work with both-eyes-open at 1x magnification, and while definitely doable, there is some level of fish-bowl effect/distortion around the FOV at 1x. From personal experience, I've learned that you need to use the focus ring around the eyepiece to eliminate this effect when first focusing the scope. This will improve 1x performance greatly.

The SFP Strike Eagle runs at a budget price point for a LPVO, and it's covered with the VIP unconditional, lifetime warranty. I think it's obvious by now that there's a lot of value to be had.

Available at: Amazon and Optics Planet (use code TTAMERS for 5% off at Optics Planet)

9. Burris RT-25 5-25x56 - Best for Target Shooting

Image Credit: Burris FaceBook

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.

Pros:

  • Long-range
  • SCR-2 MIL reticle
  • FFP reticle
  • Side focus
  • Locking turrets

Cons:

  • No MOA
Burris RT25 features and mounting
Turrets (top left) Ocular bell & throw lever (top right) Field mounting (bottom left) - Image Credit: Burris Facebook

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. I'd recommend the Burris RT-25 as a scope that can get it done.

I really like the high power range, optics to keep up, and MIL turrets and reticle that 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 hold over to make long range possible.

Wet Burris RT25 and in 1000 yard shooting
Rain-wet Burris RT25 (left) 1000-yard shooting (right) - Image Credit: Burris

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. I will also point out its 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.

Available at: Amazon and Optics Planet (use code TTAMERS for 5% off at Optics Planet)

10. Zeiss Conquest V4 3-12x56 – Best Under $1000

Zeiss Conquest V4 scope
Image Credit - Zeiss

Overall, the Zeiss Conquest V4 is a highly recommended hunting scope and is likely seen on a bolt action rifle. Thinking broader, equip it to an AR-15 or AR-10 for predator and varmint hunting. As one of the top hunting scopes at a reasonable price point from Zeiss, the AR shouldn’t be left out.

Pros:

  • Price
  • Lowlight
  • SFP reticle
  • Lowlight
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Not made in Germany

While Zeiss is famously known for their German glass and manufacturing, in order to bring the Conquest series to market at an affordable price point, they are made in Japan. This may be a drawback for stalwart loyalists. Though, need I remind you, Japan is the manufacturing home to many mid-range to high-end optics brands known for top-shelf optical quality.

Zeiss V4 scope features
Ocular bell (top) Push/pull turrets (bottom) - Image Credit: Zeiss Hunting 3-12x44 model

Beyond where it’s made, I'm finding it difficult to find fault with the solidly built and high-performing Conquest V4 scope. With its 3-12x configuration, it’s excellent for predator, big game, and target shooting applications. With a huge 56mm lens, I deem it a lowlight champ.

This Zeiss scope has illuminated dot (Z-Plex #60) and non-illuminated (Z-Plex #20) reticles. I'd personally opt for the illuminated reticle. I like they're very simple, clean reticles with thin but bold center crosshairs located in the second focal plane. Due to the boldness, it’s easily visible in last legal light but thin enough not to cover vitals. Turrets are in ¼ MOA adjustments with 70 MOA E/W total travel.

Zeiss V4 illuminated reticle
Illuminated plex reticle - Image Credit: Zeiss

Even with the large objective and 30mm tube, the Conquest weighs in at 21.5 oz. It’s been harshly tested for shockproof and corrosion resistance having been exposed to 24 hours of saltwater spray, 1500 G-force recoil tests, and 90-minute continuous vibration tests. It’s submersible in up to 13ft of water for two hours and extreme temperature tested from -13 to 122-degrees F in a period of 15 minutes. In all, it'll last for everything I would ever put it through.

The Conquest V4 is a tough scope. Needless to say, it can handle sitting on an AR with ease. Though expensive as many mid-range scopes get, for a Zeiss, it counts as an affordable one.

Available at: Amazon and Optics Planet (use code TTAMERS for 5% off at Optics Planet)

11. Bushnell AR Optics 4.5-18X40 - Best Budget Option

Bushnell AR Optics riflescope
Image Credit: Bushnell

Unlike many scopes that do excellent on an AR-15, the AR Optics series by Bushnell are specifically designed for them. I think Bushnell makes things even better by making this series affordable. It may be what makes them so popular.

Pros:

  • Price
  • Side focus
  • Exposed turrets
  • Drop Zone 223 reticle
  • Throw levers

Cons:

  • Large BDC dots

The standard 4.5-18x40 scope is one of the best-selling models in the 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 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 - I like the long one thanks, it's easier and faster to throw.

AR Optics Creed model
AR Optics 4.5-18x40 model with 6.5 Creed reticle - Image Credit: NRApubs (Bushnell)

Although it has a BDC reticle to accommodate holding over, the dots (approx. 1 MOA in size) 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. I judge it as a favorite because it's accurate, affordable, and most importantly, right at home on your AR-15.

12. Burris XTR II 5-25x50 – Best for Long Range

Burris XTR II riflescope
Image Credit - Optics Planet

The XTR II 5-25x50 is a tactical and long-range competition riflescope. Various models within this line have come and gone but the SCR-MIL and SCR-MOA illuminated reticles have withstood the market and the test of time.

Pros:

  • Long-range
  • FFP reticles
  • Zero Click Stop
  • 34mm tube
  • XT-100 knobs

Cons:

  • Glass after 20x

The high power XTR II goes on sale often, and snagging it for under $1000 makes for a worthwhile buy. At this price point, there are things that can be forgiven such as its optical struggles at max 25x power. Brightness and clarity are lost, and illumination can be difficult to see in daylight bright conditions.

Burris XTR II eyepiece and objective lens
Eyepiece (left) Objective lens (right) - Image Credit: Optics Planet

However, with 11 brightness settings, it will perform well in lowlight conditions. Unlike some of Burris’ reticles where only the center dot is illuminated, I really like that the SCR-MIL and SCR-MOA reticles have extended illumination encompassing a well-balanced portion of the crosshairs.

SCR stands for Special Competition Reticle. They are in the FFP and are simple, uncluttered and easy to use. Both models have XT-100 click knobs for 100 clicks per rotation and feature a Zero Click Stop for a precise, hard return to zero - I love the zero stop. The mil-based scope has 0.1 mil adjustments and the moa scope has ¼ moa adjustments.

Burris XTR II long range scope on 308 and on bolt action
XTR II mounted to .308 (top) In action (bottom) - Image Credit: Burris

The 34mm tube allows for more adjustment travel to push beyond 1000 yards, and it does make things a little more expensive given that you must use 34mm rings. The XTR II is a heavy scope weighing in at 32.10 oz and is 16.31” long.

It takes a CR2032 battery to power illumination though the reticle can be seen without it which I think is very important for some terrains and light conditions. Its minimum focusing range is 50 yards via the stiff side focus that I've heard will break in after a short time.

There’s a lot to like about the Burris competition and tactical scope and a few things you may need to evaluate. But with the Forever No Questions Asked Warranty to boot, I recommend it as a high-performing scope if you can get it for under $1000.

Available at: Amazon and Optics Planet (use code TTAMERS for 5% off at Optics Planet)

What to Look for in the Best AR-15 Scopes

Man Shooting Riflescope With Good AR-15 Optics Mounted
Up Your Optics Game With a Good AR-15 Scope

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!

Budget

Various rifle scopes sizes and brands compared
Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers

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.

ProductPrice
Trijicon VCOGUnder $2500
Vortex Razor HD Gen II-EUnder $1500
Trijicon ACOGUnder $1500
EOTech Vudu FFPUnder $1500
Trijicon TR24R AccuPointUnder $1000
Steiner P4XiUnder $1000
Primary Arms Gen IIIUnder $300
Vortex Strike Eagle SFPUnder $400
Burris RT-25Under $800
Zeiss Conquest V4Under $1000
Bushnell AR OpticsUnder $200
Burris XTR IIUnder $1000
AR-15 Scope Price Comparisons

AR-15 Scope Magnification

LPVO 1x VS Max power
LPVO 1x (left) VS max power (right) - Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers

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.

ProductTypeMagnificationObjective Lens (Aperture)Common Use
Trijicon VCOGLPVO1-6X24 mmClose-mid range
Vortex Razor HD Gen II-ELPVO1-6X24 mmClose-mid range
Trijicon ACOGFixed scope4X32 mmClose range
EOTech Vudu FFPLPVO1-6X24 mmClose-mid range
Trijicon TR24R AccuPointLPVO1-4X24 mmClose range
Steiner P4XiLPVO1-4X24 mmClose range
Primary Arms Gen IIILPVO1-6X24 mmClose-mid range
Vortex Strike Eagle SFPLPVO1-6X24 mmClose-mid range
Burris RT-25Scope5-25X56 mmMid-long range
Zeiss Conquest V4Scope3-12X56 mmClose-long range
Bushnell AR OpticsScope4.5-18X40 mmClose-long range
Burris XTR IIScope5-25X50 mmClose-long range
AR-15 Scope Type, Magnification, Aperture & Common Range Use Comparisons

Reticle

Scope reticles
Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers

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:

  • Illuminated
  • 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.

ProductReticleOther Reticle Options
Trijicon VCOGHorseshoe dot crosshair .223Yes
Vortex Razor HD Gen II-EJM-1 BDCYes
Trijicon ACOGBAC M-16/AR15 DonutYes
EOTech Vudu FFPSR1Yes
Trijicon TR24R AccuPointBAC Triangle postYes
Steiner P4XiP3TRYes
Primary Arms Gen IIIACSSNo
Vortex Strike Eagle SFPAR-BDC3 (MOA)No
Burris RT-25SCR 2Yes
Zeiss Conquest V4Reticle 20 (Z Plex)Yes
Bushnell AR OpticsDrop Zone 223No
Burris XTR IISCRYes
AR-15 Scope Reticle Comparisons

FFP VS SFP

FFP VS SFP reticles
SFP (left) VS FFP (right) reticles - Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers

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.

ProductReticle TypeIllumination
Trijicon VCOGFFPYes
Vortex Razor HD Gen II-ESFPYes
Trijicon ACOGSFPYes
EOTech Vudu FFPFFPYes
Trijicon TR24R AccuPointSFPYes
Steiner P4XiSFPYes
Primary Arms Gen IIISFPYes
Vortex Strike Eagle SFPSFPYes
Burris RT-25FFPNo
Zeiss Conquest V4SFPNo
Bushnell AR OpticsSFPNo
Burris XTR IIFFPYes
AR-15 Scope FFP VS SFP Reticle & Illumination Comparisons

Eye Relief

Bill using Crimson Trace Hardline Pro 4-16x50 mounted on rifle
Image by Bill @maddmaxxguns (Own Work) for Target Tamers

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.

ProductEye ReliefParallax TypeParallax RangeAdjustment Value
Trijicon VCOG4 inchesFixed100 yards*0.25 MOA
Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E4 inchesFixed100 yards0.5 MOA
Trijicon ACOG1.5 inchesFixed100 yards*0.5 MOA
EOTech Vudu FFP3.94 – 3.23 inchesFixed100 yards*0.2 MIL
Trijicon TR24R AccuPoint3.2 inchesFixed100 yards0.25 MOA
Steiner P4Xi4 – 3.5 inchesFixed100 yards0.5 MOA
Primary Arms Gen III3.5 – 3.3 inchesFixed100 yards0.5 MOA
Vortex Strike Eagle SFP3.5 inchesFixed100 yards0.5 MOA
Burris RT-253.6 – 3.3 inchesSide focus15 yards – infinity0.1 MIL
Zeiss Conquest V43.54 inchesFixed100 yards0.25 MOA
Bushnell AR Optics3.6 inchesSide focus10 yards – infinity0.1 MIL
Burris XTR II4.25 – 3.50 inchesSide focus50 yards - infinity0.25 MOA
AR-15 Scope Eye Relief, Parallax Type, Parallax Setting & Adjustment Value Comparisons

*Parallax setting unverified

Mounts, Extended Mounts, Rings & More

Scope mounts and rings
Cantilever mount (left) VS rings (right) - Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers

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.

ProductTube SizeDimensions (Scope Length)Weight
Trijicon VCOG34 mm10.5 inches23.2 oz
Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E30 mm10.1 inches21.5 oz
Trijicon ACOGN/A mount included6.71 inches15.8 oz
EOTech Vudu FFP30 mm10.63 inches20.1 oz
Trijicon TR24R AccuPoint30 mm10.3 inches14.4 oz
Steiner P4Xi30 mm10.3 inches17.3 oz
Primary Arms Gen III30 mm10 inches16.9 oz
Vortex Strike Eagle SFP30 mm10.5 inches18.5 oz
Burris RT-2530 mm14.3 inches24.8 oz
Zeiss Conquest V430 mm14.5 inches21.5 oz
Bushnell AR Optics1 inch12 inches19.4 oz
Burris XTR II34 mm16.31 inches32.10 oz
AR-15 Scope Tube Size, Dimensions & Weight Comparisons

AR-15 Rifle & Scope: The Versatile Choice

Scopes on AR with mounting gear
Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers

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.

Further Reading

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