Best Rifle Scope Under $500: We Review 2021's Top Mid Range Scopes

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A List of the Best Rifle Scope Under 500

You can still expect the best quality from a scope in the middle ground price range.

Just because they're priced around what we'd realistically spend, it doesn't mean they're cheap or temporary optics. In fact, they're exceptional optics for the money.

If you want to cash in on top-notch brands like Leupold, Nikon, and Vortex Optics, your budget of under $500  is going to go a long way!

Top Rifle Scopes Under $500

Every intermediate and pro hunter can tell you that they've owned a rifle scope in this price range. It might still be their favorite scope to hunt with to this day. That's because they'll last, perform well, and remain accurate even after multiple hunting seasons.

If a beginner gets to pick their first-time buy from this price range, it's definitely going to be a splurge. But, why not start off strong by looking over some of the best rifle scopes under $500 dependable scopes in the market? You've got nothing to lose with A-class brands catering to your scope needs!

IMAGEPRODUCTDETAILS
tt-table__imageVortex Strike Eagle 1-8X24 AR-BDC3
  • Magnification: 1-8X 24mm
  • Reticle: AR-BDC3
  • Eye Relief: 3.5 inches
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageLeupold VX-3i 3.5-10X40
  • Magnification: 3.5-10X 40mm
  • Reticle: Duplex
  • Eye Relief: 4.4-3.6 inches
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageBushnell Match Pro
  • Magnification: 6-24X 50mm
  • Reticle: Deploy MIL Etched Glass
  • Eye Relief: 3.74 inches
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageVortex Diamondback Tactical 6-24X50
  • Magnification: 6-24X 50mm
  • Reticle: EBR-2C MOA (FFP)
  • Eye Relief: 3.9 inches
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageAthlon Helos BTR 6-24X50 MIL
  • Magnification: 6-24X 50mm
  • Reticle: APMR Mil (FFP)
  • Eye Relief: 3.3 inches
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageSwampfox Arrowhead LPVO
  • Magnification: 1-10X 24mm
  • Reticle: Guerrilla Dot BDC
  • Eye Relief: 3.54-3.46 inches
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageKonusPro EL-30
  • Magnification: 4-16X 44mm
  • Reticle: Interchangeable
  • Eye Relief: 3.3-3 inches
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageBushnell Engage
  • Magnification: 4-16X 44mm
  • Reticle: Deploy MOA
  • Eye Relief: 3.6 inches
CHECK PRICE

The Best Rifle Scopes Under $500 in 2021

1. Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8X24 AR-BDC3 - Best AR Scope Under $500

Strike Eagle 1-8x24 AR BDC3 Scope Review
Image Credit: Vortex Optics

Wondering why you’re seeing various price points for the Strike Eagle online? The cheaper one is likely the discontinued model. That’s right, the Strike Eagle saw upgrades and the new models are better than ever.

Pros:

  • New model
  • LPVO
  • Throw lever
  • AR-BDC3 reticle
  • Increased adjustment

Cons:

  • No incremental “off”

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.

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 reticle takes the cake in drawing your eye to the center for fast target acquisition. While 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, the new model will make up for it.

2. Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10X40 - Best Hunting Scope Under $500

Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40 riflescope
Image Credit: Leupold

You must be prepared for when anything and everything happens in the hunt.  To get it done, this VX-3i has one of the most versatile power ranges to take down prey merely 100 yards away to long-range shots that test your grit.

Pros:

  • Price
  • Lightweight
  • Twilight Max
  • Duplex reticle
  • Weatherproof

Cons:

  • Model confusion

Performance and quality wise, there's no issue with the VX-3i scope.  But, there are always complaints to examine, and it seems buyers are easily confused between VX-3i models.  To clarify, this is the #170680 model that indicates it is a non-CDS scope with the Duplex reticle and it only just sneaks into this price range versus the best rifle scope under 600 dollars category.

The design concept behind this scope is simplicity.  What do hunters want?  Clear, bright glass, low-light performance, and a weatherproof and lightweight build.  The VX-3i gets it done.

Built with aircraft grade aluminum, weight is kept to a minimum of 12.6 oz.  It doesn't get too short to mount with a length of 12.6".  The sleek build design includes low-profile, slim, and capped turrets.  The scope is nitrogen-filled, and O-ring sealed for fog and waterproof quality.  Leupold's are known to be tough, rugged, and durable, and this scope meets the standard.

Outfitted with their Duplex reticle with heavy posts drawing your eye to the center, it doesn't get any simpler.  Turrets are finger adjustable and made in 1/4 MOA clicks for a total of 52 MOA in elevation and 52 MOA windage adjustment travel.  Despite misinformation, the turrets can be dialed to set your zero, but it should be noted it lacks a zero stop.

With the Twilight Max Light Management System, you can push the limits of your hunt by another 20 minutes of shooting light come the 11th hour.  With this optical technology, edge-to-edge clarity is consistent and sharp at all magnification levels.  Speaking of magnification levels, good eye relief is expected every step of the way with 4.4-3.6".

When you're in the hunt, you don't have time to muck around with over-exposed dials, excess magnification, and a dark sight picture.  You'll find the sweet spot, have plenty of brightness, and the simplicity needed to take down your trophy before it leaps off.

3. Bushnell Match Pro 6-24X50 - Best Tactical Rifle Scope Under $500

Bushnell Match Pro 6-24x50 scope side on
Image Credit: Bushnell

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.

Pros:

  • Price
  • Purpose-built
  • Deploy MIL reticle
  • FFP/Glass-etched
  • Long-range

Cons:

  • 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 Diamondback Tactical 6-24X50
Image Credit: Vortex Optics

Vortex sells themselves short with their "relatively simple design" and "back-to-basics" description of the Diamondback Tactical rifle scope.  It's anything but a modest 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 would anyone ever spend a penny more?

Pros:

  • Price
  • FFP reticle
  • Glass-etched reticle
  • 30 mm tube
  • High magnification

Cons:

  • 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 in their buy.  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.

To make use of that huge objective lens, the scope has FMC (fully multi-coated) optics and XD (Extra-low dispersion) glass elements to provide that iconic, crisp, and clear image quality Vortex is known for.  The glass-etched reticle is in the first focal plane (FFP) that sits in front of the magnifying assembly.  Zoom in and out and depend on consistent subtension values regardless of the power range you're in.

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, it's lighter in weight than other comparable scopes, weighing in at only 24.6 ounces.   As is usual for a Vortex, we could go on about its many features, and yes, there's more.

For as much as this scope has, no one has a right to complain about a lack of this or that for its low price.  But, a zero stop would be the cherry on top.  Just sayin'.  Would we buy this scope as is?  Day in and day out, all day long.

5. Athlon Helos BTR 6-24X50 MIL - Best Illuminated Mil-Dot Scope Under $500

Athlon Helos BTR 6-24X50 MIL
Image Credit: Athlon Optics

Athlon is known for making high-end scopes for the lowest possible price, and they keep the prices low for the consumer.  With all it has to offer versus the cost, it found its place in this lineup as a best rifle scope under 500 bucks.

Pros:

  • Price
  • FFP Mil reticle
  • Illuminated reticle
  • Locking Turrets
  • Argon gas

Cons:

  • Lacks extra glass treatment

What do we mean by "lacks extra glass treatment?"  The Helos BTR has extreme high power of 6-24x, and rarely can the optics keep up with the demands of high magnification.  This seems to the be the case past 20x power as it only has FMC optics to tout.  With some extra glass treatment, perhaps HD/ED glass elements, the clarity and resolution at 24x would improve.

Still, 20x is extremely high, and you may rarely need to crank it up all the way since the glass-etched reticle is placed in the first focal plane (FFP).  You can use holdover points on the APMR MIL reticle at any magnification setting.

The reticle is illuminated with .5 hashmarks along all the crosshairs and mil dots for windage compensation on the lower half of the reticle.  Turrets are exposed and provide 0.1 mil adjustments for 6 mil revolutions and a total of 18 mils in elevation and windage adjustment travel.

The side focus is adjustable for fine-tuning and parallax removal for 10 yards to infinity.  An upgrade in this scope is seen with the gas-purging of argon over nitrogen, and the external lens features Athlon's Xtra Protective Coating layers.

Need help interpreting all the Athlon jargon?  We got ya.  The BTR stands for "Bright Reticle."  APMR is the style of reticle that is unlike the "T" style of the ATMR.  FFP is for a reticle that is in the first focal plane.  IR stands for Illuminated Reticle, and MIL indicates the reticle is adjusted and measures in milliradians versus MOA for minute of angle.

Athlon likes their acronyms, but it's only fun for you if you can interpret them.  Now knowing what it all means, it's obvious you have one heck of a scope with a ton of features that belies its place in this price range.  Good thing for you, it means you've saved money and scored big.

6. Swampfox Arrowhead 1-10X24 - Best Low-Light Rifle Scope Under $500

Swampfox Arrowhead LPVO 1-10x24 riflescope review
Image Credit: Swampfox

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. Let’s scope out how it measures up.  

Pros:

  • 1-10X LPVO
  • 4-bolt throw lever
  • Dual LED illumination
  • BDC Long reticle
  • Warranty

Cons:

  • 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 throw lever, but it isn’t any ordinary thread-in model. The lever has been bolted in – ultimate toughness right there.

Illumination is excellent as it’s brighter than most illuminated LPVO reticles in bright daylight. NV compatible, 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. It can be calibrated for either 5.56 or .308, it’s fast with its center dot, provides range with holdovers, can be used as a rudimentary rangefinder, and it’s located in the SFP.

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 brand you can get behind, right?

7. KonusPro EL-30 4-16X44

KonusPro EL30 4-16x44 Riflescope side on
Image Credit: Konus

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.

Pros:

  • Price
  • Interchangeable reticles
  • 30mm tube
  • Locking turrets
  • Water/fog-proof

Cons:

  • MIL/MOA

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 does have 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 you will need to be the judge of that.

The highlight feature of the EL-30 scope is its LCD reticles. There are 10 reticles 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.

The scope is appropriately setup for 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.

Priced modestly for its quality, 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

Bushnell Engage 4-16x44 Riflescope side on
Image Credit: Bushnell

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.

Pros:

  • Price
  • 30 mm tube
  • Locking turrets
  • Deploy MOA reticle
  • Water/fog-proof

Cons:

  • Not for long-range

To clarify our thumbs down for long-range work, the Engage scope has only 50 MOA travel for a 16x scope. It’s capable of acquiring the sight you need for long-range precision but you may want more travel room to acquire those types of distances like 1000 yards. However, it’s really best suited for close to mid-range distances for precision 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 references. Its non-illuminated crosshairs are 0.18 MOA thick, so it’s obviously excellent for precision shooting and open field, plain hunting. With tool-less locking turrets, side focus, and fast focus eyepiece, it’s well setup for fast, accurate, and secure employment.

It’s also nice to see that for a scope that is affordably priced that it’s covered under the Bushnell Ironclad Warranty. It is made in China, but Bushnell has made efforts to bring quality to their products which is seen in the Engage scope.

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, optics manufacturers will still pump out quality because they know that's exactly what we're looking for. If you want to know what quality looks like for under 500 bucks, here's your checklist.

Shooting a Gun Mounted With a Rifle Scope Under 500

Checklist of Features to Consider in Rifle Scopes Under $500

Quality Scope Glass:

As the price range of $500 caps the budget and options in the market, glass quality should be significantly better than those in cheaper price ranges.  These scopes should be a step above entry-level and should provide bright and clear sight picture quality.  Although rare for this budget, you may see glass produced in Japan and the Philippines.

While source may be important to note, extra ingredients or grinding/polishing processes can be 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 there are models that sport the technology.  It would be extremely beneficial on scopes with extremely high magnification.

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.  But, 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 ensure 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.

Scope Magnification:

For under 500, you can literally find a scope of any configuration, meaning, variable magnification and aperture platform.  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 to him as long-range.  Conversely, high powered optics can provide extreme long-range potential, but the issue of glass quality is the priority.  It's always better to upgrade glass with less magnification than it is to crank up power on 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.

Ballistic Rifle Scope Reticles:

The choice of reticle is personal preference.  You can opt for simple duplex-style reticles for fast target acquisition and for close-range shots where bullet 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 point of aim shots at various distances.  They can be in MIL or MOA with dots or hashmarks.  They can have holdover points for windage compensation.

Additionally, there are scopes in this price range that move from SFP/RFP (Second Focal Plane/Rear Focal Plane) to 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.

Good Eye Relief 3"+:

Without decent eye relief, your rifle scope is going to let you know what a real black eye is.

Focus/Parallax:

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.

You may prefer 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 may be important.

Good Durability:

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 on a raid.

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.

Quality Warranties:

You dropped money into your scope, 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" looks really unattractive.

Be brand specific if you want your scope protected by the best warranties, and usually, it often comes with the best customer service.

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've still got very high-end quality, but the extra features are just scaled down a notch.

The best rifle scopes under $500 are very popular because hunters feel comfortable with their performance for the money they've spent. They're made to impress, last, and perform. In our books, this is a mile above mediocre.

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2 thoughts on “Best Rifle Scope Under $500: We Review 2021's Top Mid Range Scopes”

  1. Did the Vortex Venom come out too late for your comparison? Just bought one awhile back for $499.99. It has FFP and available in MOA or MIL. put it on a .28 Nosler and it works very well.

    Reply

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