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Ammo - expensive.
Budget - limited.
Buying untested riflescope - scary.
It's why I put together a list of the best rifle scopes under $500 looking to squeeze out as much value as possible. I've even field-tested a few personally just to make sure they're worthy of my recommendation.
I set the criteria to glass-etched illuminated reticles, uncompromising build quality, and practical options from LPVOs to long-ranging, high magnification riflescopes.
Let's scope out my top picks.
Our Top Rifle Scope Picks Under $500
Every intermediate and pro hunter can tell you that they've owned a rifle scope in this price range - I have a few of my own that remain my favorite to this day. That's because they last, consistently perform well, and remain accurate even after multiple hunting seasons.
In my opinion, if a first-timer gets to pick their first scope from this price range, it's a splurge and treat. The reality is, you must start off strong if you want strong results. There's little to lose by looking over some of the best rifle scopes under $500 in the market. In this price range, you also have your pick of some of the best manufacturers!
The Best Rifle Scopes Under $500 in 2023
1. Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8X24 AR-BDC3 - Best AR Scope Under $500
The new Strike Eagle LVPO scopes are better than ever. I personally tested the SE scope (in the FFP version) and was impressed with the optical quality at 1x and how vibrant the illumination was. Though not the exact model or reticle, they're very similar in all else.
- New model
- Throw lever
- AR-BDC3 reticle
- Increased adjustment
- No incremental “off”
I think, probably the only drawback to the Strike Eagle is the lack of incremental “off” positions between the illumination intensity levels. It may seem like a small thing to be teed off about, but it makes a huge difference for convenience reasons. It would have been nice to see this on the upgraded models. Beyond that, there’s little to dislike about the LPVO.
In my opinion, the Strike Eagle 1-8x is made for speed. It comes with a thread-in throw lever for instant power changes for point-blank to long-range engagements.
The new AR-BDC3 SFP reticle takes the cake in drawing your eye to the center for fast target acquisition. I found during my hands-on experience that the similar but FFP reticle (EBR-8 reticle) is small at 1x, but it's awesome at higher powers. While both are calibrated for the AR-15 5.56, you can figure out holdover points for other cartridges out to 650 yards.
The newer model also saw 40 MOA more adjustment travel, ArmorTek coatings, and improved watertightness. It’s a tough, versatile, and highly accurate scope.
If you had an older Strike Eagle and you were left wanting, I personally feel that the new model will make up for it.
2. Burris Signature HD 3-15x44 – Best Hunting Scope Under $500
The Signature HD series incorporates modern scope features into a traditional SFP, 1” tube rifle scope to maximize the user experience while in the hunt. Burris covers the hunter with 5x zoom for chasing whitetails or looking to whack-a-mole prairie dogs from a distance.
- 5x zoom
- Locking turrets
- Zero stop
- Side focus
I know it's an advantage to hunters to save on overall weight, but you will want to verify that the Signature HD will mount without much hassle. I love the 13.2” length and 20.8 oz weight, and it's obvious that others do too since some have compromised with different mounting options for long action rifles.
I really like the 5x zoom. You have 3-15x magnification that is both well-suited to many hunting scenarios from timber to the plains. With a SFP reticle, you have the option of either a Plex or Ballistic E3 Illuminated reticle. The Plex is highly visible with smaller than 1 MOA center crosshairs and 2.5 MOA bold posts.
I reckon it's a bold move to put modern features on what can be considered a "traditional" scope to cater to long-range shooters. The side focus can be adjusted from 25 yards to infinity, the exposed ¼ MOA turrets lock (push/pull) into position, and the elevation knob has a Zero Stop. Dialing in to 1000 yards can be done with the 80 MOA of adjustment travel in the 1” tube.
Signature rifle scopes are fog and waterproof, and they’re backed by the Forever No Questions Asked Warranty. These features are what I consider must-haves for this price point and for actual shooters who are not at a concrete bench.
3. Bushnell Match Pro 6-24X50 - Best Tactical Rifle Scope Under $500
Looking for a budget setup for your up-coming match without compromising on performance? The Bushnell Match Pro fits this scenario like peanut butter and jelly. Not a match shooter but interested in long-range precision? It’ll work for you too.
- Deploy MIL reticle
- No ED glass
Bushnell puts themselves back in favor with skeptics who have burned off the brand. The Match Pro embodies everything right about Bushnell. They’ve built a competition scope at an affordable price point without compromising performance. Granted, it doesn’t have ED glass to ensure the best optical quality, but you’ve spent less than 500 bucks, you can’t have it all.
But what the Match Pro does have is worth pounding your fists for. The Deploy MIL Etched Glass Reticle is a Christmas tree reticle – complete without being too busy. It comes with plenty of adjustment travel to hit steel at long-range and beyond distances.
Turrets are finger resettable, lockable, and tactile. The side focus is absurdly accurate with its reference markings. It’s completely weathertight and shockproof. Just because you may be competing with a .22, it doesn’t mean it isn’t ready for the kick from a .338.
If you’re calling for distance, speed, and accuracy from a scope, Bushnell has answered that call with the Match Pro.
4. Vortex Diamondback Tactical 6-24x50 EBR-2C MOA - Best Long Range Scope Under 500
Vortex sells themselves short with their "relatively simple design" and "back-to-basics" description of the Diamondback Tactical rifle scope. It has some of the best features you could ever ask for in this price range. Thanks to Vortex's humble approach, you get a scope with premium features for less than 500 buckaroos. Seriously, why spend a penny more?
- FFP reticle
- Glass-etched reticle
- 30 mm tube
- High magnification
- No Zero Stop feature
The Vortex Optics Diamondback series have long been known to be affordable, high-performing, and everyone's go-to product when they want value. This rifle scope is the longest-ranging scope in the Diamondback Tactical series with it's high magnification of 6-24x and a large 50 mm aperture.
With such a huge objective lens and high power, I really like that it has FMC (fully multi-coated) optics and XD (Extra-low dispersion) glass elements. They're needed to provide that iconic, crisp, and clear image quality Vortex is known for.
I'm a big fan of the glass-etched reticle in the first focal plane (FFP) - and from personal experience, you'll need the FFP benefits with all this high magnification. Zoom in and out and depend on consistent subtension values regardless of the power level you're on.
This model has the EBR-2C MOA reticle with hashmarks all over the place - neatly displayed of course. With a 30 mm tube body allowing a generous 65 MOA in both windage and elevation adjustment travel, and a detailed MOA windage reticle, you can dial out to 1000 yards and beyond.
For a 6-24x50 scope, I am obligated to commend its ultra-light weight that comes in lighter than comparable alternatives at only 24.6 ounces. As is usual for a Vortex, I could go on about its many features, and yes, there's more.
For as much as this scope has, I reckon there's not much to complain about for its low price point. I think maybe a zero stop would be the cherry on top? Just sayin'. Would I buy this scope as is? Day in and day out, all day long.
5. Swampfox Arrowhead 1-10X24 - Best Low-Light Rifle Scope Under $500
Never heard of Swampfox? Well, they’re the newbie on the block, and of course, an LPVO is part of their offerings as is the trend with almost every brand these days. I want to scope out how it measures up.
- 1-10X LPVO
- 4-bolt throw lever
- Dual LED illumination
- BDC Long reticle
- Young company
This Swampfox Arrowhead is on the extreme end for an LPVO with its 1-10x magnification, but it’s 1x performance is impressive. Its magnification is usable right up to max power with clear picture and no POI shift. To help make speedy and smooth power changes, it comes with a bolt-in throw lever – ultimate toughness right there
I like that its illumination is brighter than most LPVO reticles in bright daylight. I especially think that the NV compatibility, incremental “off” positions, and a total of 12 intensity settings will get the job done.
The reticle on this model is the Guerrilla Dot BDC Long reticle. From my experience, rarely are reticles actually "calibrated." But with an app, like the Strelok Pro that I use, it can be configured for either 5.56 or .308 loads. It’s fast with its center dot, provides range with holdovers, and it can be used as a rudimentary rangefinder. Because the reticle is located in the SFP, I know it's highly visible at 1x and that is usually where FFP scopes fall short.
While this is a new company, they’ve shown they have the knowledge and experience to give American shooters what they want. If you’re unsure about giving a new brand your hard-earned money, you may like the fact that it’s covered under a 50,000 Round Guarantee. If it fails for any reason, Swampfox shows up. Now, this is a warranty you can get behind, right?
6. Maven CRS.1 3-12x40 – Best for the Money Under $500
The Maven CRS series are made in Japan, are built for hunters, and are set-it-and-forget-it riflescopes. For the money, there’s a lot of scope to be had starting with its C-series glass and 4x zoom to ending with its excellent build quality and repeatable performance.
- SFP reticle
- Maven unconditional warranty
- Fixed parallax
The parallax is factory set for 100 yards, and I think it’s appropriate given its power range. It’s certainly one less thing to think about when in the field. No noticeable parallax occurred. However, I did see some focus softening (spherical aberration?) at 12x power when looking inside and around 25 yards. At 50 yards and beyond, not a problem.
I really like that the CRS.1 scope is tough. It’s water and fogproof, has a 1” tube, is ultra-lightweight at 14.2 oz, and it’s made in Japan. I’d say the finish is only slightly reflective, but it’s held up real well to multiple mountings, frequent range use, and tumbles amongst other gear in the bed of my truck.
The CRS riflescopes, including the field-tested CRS.2, have the traditional wire reticle in the second focal plane. From my personal experience, I found it simple, easy to use, and highly visible. Due to its boldness, I had no problems with visibility even in lowlight.
I admire the rock-solid build of the CRS scope, the accurate tracking of the ¼ MOA resettable turrets, and the simplicity of use. It’ll mount to anything – but my favorite pairing was with my elk rifle.
Though it could be considered expensive for its no-nonsense approach, its quality is far better than alternatives that boast multiple features where quality is spread thin. Best of all, because it has “Maven” on it, it’s covered with the unconditional, lifetime warranty. Now that has value in and of itself.
7. KonusPro EL-30 4-16X44
The KonusPro EL-30 is sort of weird for a daytime riflescope, but it may just be exactly what you need – you just don’t know it yet. I know that I'd personally like to play with multiple reticles as needed for the application!
- Interchangeable reticles
- 30mm tube
- Locking turrets
To be upfront from the start, it’s obvious that the scope has a ¼ MOA adjustment system even though it’s marked for 1/10 MIL increments. It has mil-dot reticles, so if you’re unable to compute how to use both systems, this isn’t the scope for you. It’s really not a big deal in the long-run, but only you can be the judge of that.
I figure the highlight feature of the EL-30 scope are the LCD reticles. There are 10 built into the system that includes mil-dot halo rings to BDC and Christmas Tree-style reticles. They’re non-illuminated, in the SFP, and are powered by a single CR2 battery. Obviously, the power source isn’t your common gas-station battery, but since when are you around a gas station when you’re hunting elk anyway? Get extras.
I would say that the scope is appropriately setup for some long-range shooting with clear glass and high magnification. It has locking turrets that don’t affect zero, and it’s shock, water, and fog-proof to withstand accidents and the elements. From my experience, the build integrity is of note especially when I have a hunt that usually involves rain, freezing temperatures, and warm trucks.
Priced modestly for its quality, I think the KonusPro EL-30 is a scope that may change the way you look at all-purpose shooting. When you can change the reticle, you can adapt to changes in the field as needed.
8. Bushnell Engage 4-16X44
Sticking to the mid-range class of scopes ensures two things: a reasonable price point and quality performance. This about sums up the Bushnell Engage scope. From my experience with Bushnell products, they're reasonable, pragmatic optics for the money.
- 30 mm tube
- Locking turrets
- Deploy MOA reticle
- Not for long-range
To clarify my thumbs down for long-range work, the Engage scope has only 50 MOA travel for a 4-16x scope. I once needed almost all of that just to zero a Bushnell scope, but it was ridiculously easy and accurate to sight it in though! However, you may want more travel to acquire those types of distances like 1000 yards. I'd think it’s best suited for close to mid-range distances for target work and hunting.
The Deploy MOA reticle is non-caliber specific, is in the SFP, and offers both windage and bullet drop compensation hashmarks for fast and immediate holdovers. Its non-illuminated crosshairs are 0.18 MOA thick, so it’s obviously excellent for precision and plain hunting. With tool-less locking turrets, side focus, and fast focus eyepiece, I think it’s a setup for fast, accurate employment.
I really like that for an affordable scope, Bushnell provides the must-have coverage basics by classifying it under the Ironclad Warranty.
For mid-range price points with excellent quality and performance, the Engage scope is one of the best buys for the money. Hit the range or the field and expect to get results.
What to Look in a Rifle Scope Under $500?
If you've seen what high-end rifle scopes look like, you're probably thinking you're going to lose out on a lot when spending $500 or less - not so. This middle ground price range is usually where hunters will realistically spend their cash. On that note, manufacturers will still pump out quality because they know this is the price range we're browsing. If you want to know what quality looks like for under 500 bucks, here's your checklist.
|Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8X24 AR-BDC3||CHECK PRICE|
|Burris Signature HD 3-15x44||CHECK PRICE|
|Bushnell Match Pro||CHECK PRICE|
|Vortex Diamondback Tactical 6-24X50||CHECK PRICE|
|Swampfox Arrowhead LPVO||CHECK PRICE|
|Maven CRS.1 3-12x40||CHECK PRICE|
|KonusPro EL-30||CHECK PRICE|
|Bushnell Engage||CHECK PRICE|
Checklist of Features to Consider in Rifle Scopes Under $500
Quality Scope Glass:
As $500 caps the budget and options in the market, you must expect significantly better glass quality than cheaper alternatives. These scopes should be a step above entry-level and should provide a bright and clear sight picture. Although rare for this budget, you may see glass produced in Japan and the Philippines.
While glass source may be of note, extra ingredients or grinding/polishing processes are just as important. To achieve HD quality from your scope, it must have specific elements that produce this effect, namely, extra-low dispersion elements. It's not always seen in this price range, but these days there are many that have "ED" glass - it would be extremely beneficial on scopes with extremely high magnification.
|Product||Glass Source||ED/HD Glass|
|Vortex Strike Eagle||China||No|
|Burris Signature HD||China||No|
|Bushnell Match Pro||China||No|
|Vortex Diamondback Tactical||China||Yes|
|Swampfox Arrowhead||China||Not disclosed|
|KonusPro EL-30||China||Not disclosed|
Top Quality Glass Coatings:
At this price point, anything less than FMC (Fully Multi-Coated) optics is a bust. Ditch it and move on - there's better options out there. The star scopes in this price range are the ones that feature exterior protective coatings that provide a scratch-resistant lens and repels dirt, rain, smudges, and the like.
There are additional coating technologies that may be offered by big name manufacturers that provide ultimate light transmission, are anti-reflective and reduce glare, and allow for a high twilight factor to make the most of last legal light. Be on the lookout for these technologies but be brand specific.
Cheaper scopes may tout these types of coatings, but the quality just isn't there.
|Product||Coatings||Exterior Lens Protection|
|Vortex Strike Eagle||FMC||Yes|
|Burris Signature HD||FMC||No|
|Bushnell Match Pro||Yes||Yes|
|Vortex Diamondback Tactical||FMC||No|
|KonusPro EL-30||FMC||Not disclosed|
For under 500, you can literally find a scope of any configuration, i.e., variable magnification and objective aperture. With low powered configurations of 1-8x and 3.5-10x to 4-16x and 6-24x, the market is yours to shop from.
However, magnification benefits are subjective and limited to a scope's optical quality. True 1x may be more important to the law enforcement agent needing two-eye use in close-quarter combat, but 8x provides some distance potential when 200 yards is considered long range.
Conversely, match shooters know that high powered optics provide extreme long-range performance, but the issue of glass quality is the priority. Some will opt for much higher magnification than they'd actually use, like 25x, just so they have the best of optical clarity at the high power they intend to use, like 18x. For most of us not shooting in comps, it's always better to upgrade the glass in compromise for less magnification than it is to crank up power with poor glass.
The pros and cons must be weighed when it comes to deciding what power range you need. Mid-range options provide versatility for multiple shooting and hunting applications.
|Vortex Strike Eagle||1-8x||Hunting, AR-15, Competition|
|Burris Signature HD||3-15x||Hunting, Recreational|
|Bushnell Match Pro||6-24x||Long-range, Competition|
|Vortex Diamondback Tactical||6-24x||Hunting, Long-range, Competition|
|Swampfox Arrowhead||1-10x||Hunting, AR-15, Competition|
|Maven CRS.1||3-12x||Hunting, AR-15, Recreational|
|KonusPro EL-30||4-16x||Hunting, Long-range, Recreational|
|Bushnell Engage||4-16x||Hunting, Long-range|
Ballistic Rifle Scope Reticles:
The choice of reticle is personal preference. Single duplex-style reticles are for fast target acquisition and for close-range shots where drop doesn't put you outside of the kill zone.
If you plan on taking shots at long distances, a bullet drop compensating reticle may be for you. With it, you can zero your scope and check holdover points so that it provides predictable points of aim at various distances. They can be in MIL or MOA with dots or hashmarks. Some may have holdover points for windage compensation.
Additionally, there are scopes in this price range that move from the SFP/RFP (Second Focal Plane/Rear Focal Plane) to the FFP (First Focal Plane). The latter is a considered a high-end feature as it allows you to use holdover points at any magnification setting as it scales up and scales down in size.
You must decide on how complicated or simple you want your reticle to be.
|Vortex Strike Eagle||AR-BDC3||SFP||Yes|
|Burris Signature HD||Plex, Ballistic E3 Illuminated||SFP||Select models|
|Bushnell Match Pro||Deploy MIL||FFP||Select models|
|Vortex Diamondback Tactical||EBR-2C||FFP||No|
|Swampfox Arrowhead||Guerilla Dot BDC||SFP||Yes|
|KonusPro EL-30||Interchangeable reticles||SFP||No|
|Bushnell Engage||Deploy MOA||SFP||No|
Good Eye Relief 3"+:
Without decent eye relief, your rifle scope is going to let you know what a real black eye is. On top of that, having long eye relief can help to address user problems like crawling the stock or having an inconsistent cheek weld.
|Vortex Strike Eagle||3.5 inches||109 – 14.4 ft @ 100 yds|
|Burris Signature HD||3.8 – 3.5 inches||37.5 – 7.5 ft @ 100 yds|
|Bushnell Match Pro||3.74 inches||18 – 4 ft @ 100 yds|
|Vortex Diamondback Tactical||3.9 inches||18 – 4.5 ft @ 100 yds|
|Swampfox Arrowhead||3.54 – 3.46 inches||115.6 – 11.5 ft @ 100 yds|
|Maven CRS.1||3.2 – 2 inches||34 – 8.5 ft @ 100 yds|
|KonusPro EL-30||3.3 – 3 inches||22.6 – 9.5 ft @ 100 yds|
|Bushnell Engage||3.6 inches||28 – 7 ft @ 100 yds|
This price range sets the stage for high powered scopes, and with it, parallax and focusing issues may not be far behind. To combat both optical issues, a side focus or adjustable objective (AO) is installed. Typically, this feature is usually only required on scopes with more than 10-12x magnification.
There is the third turret style of the side focus that sits on the left side of the scope body or the unobtrusive AO. Regardless of which style you prefer, you must look for what the minimum focusing range is. Sometimes, it's as low as 10 yards and other times, it's as high as 50 yards. To ensure you're picking the right scope for your applications, this feature must be considered.
|Product||Parallax Setting||Parallax Correction Type|
|Vortex Strike Eagle||Fixed @ 100 yards||N/A|
|Burris Signature HD||25 yds – infinity||Side focus|
|Bushnell Match Pro||10 yds – infinity||Side focus|
|Vortex Diamondback Tactical||10 yds – infinity||Side focus|
|Swampfox Arrowhead||Fixed @ 100 yards||N/A|
|Maven CRS.1||Fixed @ 100 yards||N/A|
|KonusPro EL-30||Select models||Side focus|
|Bushnell Engage||10 yds – infinity||Side focus|
It must be shock, fog, and waterproof - no exceptions. There is no tolerance for scopes in this price range to lack the ruggedness and durability that you require to depend on your scope while in the field, in the tree stand, or in a tactical engagement.
Not only should it be tough, it must have internal spring systems to ensure your scope can keep its zero. If your scope doesn't hold zero, it's useless. Can it handle recoil, and we mean, heavy and repeated recoil? You may not be a soldier in unforgiving conditions, but you may be throwing this sucker into the bed of a truck on your way to your next hot spot. Think about that.
|Vortex Strike Eagle||Yes||Yes||10 inches||17.6 oz||30 mm|
|Burris Signature HD||Yes||Yes||13.2 inches||20.8 oz||1 inch|
|Bushnell Match Pro||Yes||Yes||14 inches||29.8 oz||30 mm|
|Vortex Diamondback Tactical||Yes||Yes||14.5 inches||25.6 oz||30 mm|
|Swampfox Arrowhead||Yes||Yes||10.9 inches||20.36 oz||30 mm|
|Maven CRS.1||Yes||Yes||12.4 inches||14.2 oz||1 inch|
|KonusPro EL-30||Yes||Yes||13.1 inches||23.39 oz||30 mm|
|Bushnell Engage||Yes||Yes||14 inches||20.1 oz||30 mm|
You dropped money into your scope, so you deserve for it to be backed 110% by the manufacturer. Most scopes will come with a limited lifetime warranty, but when there are warranties like Vortex's VIP and Burris' Forever warranties, that word "limited" is instantly unattractive.
Be brand specific if you want your scope protected by the best coverage, and usually, it often comes with the best customer service.
|Vortex Strike Eagle||VIP Warranty||Unlimited, lifetime, fully transferable, no receipt needed|
|Burris Signature HD||Forever Warranty||No questions asked, no receipt needed, no charge|
|Bushnell Match Pro||Ironclad Warranty||No receipt required, fully transferable, lifetime|
|Vortex Diamondback Tactical||VIP Warranty||Unlimited, lifetime, fully transferable, no receipt needed|
|Swampfox Arrowhead||50,000 Round Guarantee||Embedded microchip tracking – just kidding! Failure before 50,000 rounds based on honor code is covered|
|Maven CRS.1||Unconditional Lifetime Warranty||Lifetime, no fault, no proof of purchase needed, fully transferable|
|KonusPro EL-30||Limited Replacement Warranty||Lifetime, limited to original purchaser, replacement only – no repairs|
|Bushnell Engage||Ironclad Warranty||No receipt required, fully transferable, lifetime|
Mid-Range (Under $300-$500) Isn't Mediocre!
This might be the middle ground when it comes to budgets, but in no way does it mean mediocre quality. You still have quality while the extra features are somewhat scaled down.
These top scopes under $500 are very popular since most feel satisfied with scope performance for the money. They're made to impress, last, and perform. In my book, this is far mediocre.