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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!
QUICK LIST: 8 Best Rifle Scopes Under 500 In 2020
- Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8X24
- Leupold VX-3i3.5-10X40 Duplex
- Nikon M-Tactical.308 4-16X42
- Vortex Diamondback Tactical 6-24×50 EBR-2C MOA
- Athlon Helos BTR 6-24X50 MIL
- Nikon Prostaff P5 6-24X50
- Athlon Argos BTR6-24×50 ATMR MOA
- Weaver 40/44
Best Rifle Scope 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!
|Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8X24||
|Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10X40||
|Nikon M-Tactical .308 4-16X42||
|Vortex Diamondback Tactical 6-24X50||
|Athlon Helos BTR 6-24X50 MIL||
|Nikon Prostaff P5 6-24X50||
|Athlon Argos BTR 6-24X50||
Best Rifle Scopes Under $500 Reviews
1. Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8X24 – Best AR Scope Under $500
What makes this scope under 500 the best overall? It’s a versatile scope that’s excellent for many types of applications from hunting, law enforcement, 3-gun, and home defense. For true 1x power and long ranging 8x, everything in between is possible.
- Fast target acquisition
- True 1x power
- Glass quality
- 30 mm tube
- Unforgiving eye box at max power
Not everyone experiences this issue, but at max magnification of 7-8x, it seems eye relief and finding the sweet spot is rather sensitive and difficult to manage. However, most shooters either don’t have this issue, or they take the time to find and repeat the sweet spot to see the entire FOV without shadow or distortion.
With true 1x power, you can use the Strike Eagle with both eyes open for rapid target acquisition in close-quarter conditions. Crank up the power and do what you need to do for 3-gun comps. Powered with a CR2032 battery for illumination and its brightness levels, you may want to carry a few spares if you’re likely to accidentally bump it and leave it on.
The reticle is glass-etched and features Vortex’s AR-BDC2 reticle calibrated for 5.56mm cartridges. With a center dot, segmented halo, and bullet drop hashmarks for fast holdovers, you can quickly get on target and expect dead-on aim.
The 1/2 MOA adjustments are a bit courser than the finer 1/4 MOA, but with low magnification and close-range shots, you’ll still be making tight groups and will be well within the kill zone. With a 30 mm tube body, it has plenty of adjustment travel with 100 MOA in both elevation and windage and 44 MOA revolutions.
As a step-up optic from entry-level models, it features XD Lens Elements known for providing extra-low dispersion benefits resulting in reduced chromatic aberration, superior resolution, and true color fidelity.
As a multi-functional scope with an upgrade in glass and reticle construction, the Strike Eagle is the top rifle scope overall.
2. Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10X40 – Best Hunting Scope Under $500
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.
- Twilight Max
- Duplex reticle
- 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. Nikon M-Tactical .308 4-16X42 – Best Tactical Rifle Scope Under $500
- Engineered for the .308 Winchester/7.62 NATO round with 168-grain Hollow Point Boat Tail Match Bullet At 2680 FPS
- 30mm main body tube
The M-Tactical is new and designed for .308 cartridges. Mount it to your .308 bolt action or AR-10 to land precision shots up to 800 yards at the range or in the plains.
- BDC 800 reticle
- Exposed turrets
- 30 mm tube
- Side focus
- Brown reference numbers on turrets
The brown color used for number references on the turrets provide a camouflaged appearance, perhaps as a design feature to maintain ultimate stealth and covertness, especially with such tall, overexposed turrets. However, it can be difficult to see and read in various conditions.
Aside from that, the M-308 scope has been well thought-out to provide a durable, repeatable, and long-ranging scope system for your .308. The BDC 800 reticle has been calibrated for .308 loads to provide holdovers up to 800 yards. It features Nikon’s see-through holes to avoid covering up vital points of aim on your target.
If you want to mount it to something other than a .308, you certainly can by using Nikon’s ballistic platform app to get your holdover distances in line with the reticle.
With 4x zoom up to 16x, you’ll need a focus and parallax removal system, and the M-Tactical has it. The side focus is the third turret found on the left side of the scope. Some tactical scopes feature an illuminated reticle with its control found here, but the Nikon keeps it simple without.
Built from aircraft grade aluminum with Type III hard anodizing, the 30 mm tube is strong, tough, and durable to handle all the repeated recoil and bumps and dings the scope may see throughout its lifetime.
As a Nikon scope, it’s fully fog and waterproof, has a quick-focus eyepiece, and has spring-loaded zero-reset turrets so you can dial back down with confidence. While eye relief is not stated by Nikon, we’re assuming it’s the same as many of their other scopes, a generous and consistent 4″.
Designed with high power, a rugged build, accurate tracking and repeatability, and excellent glass clarity expected of Nikon, you can literally do it all with this tactical scope – hunt, stalk, and snipe. We reckon this is the best 308 scope under 500 dollars.
4. Vortex Diamondback Tactical 6-24×50 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’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?
- 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 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 6-24×50 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 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.
- FFP Mil reticle
- Illuminated reticle
- Locking Turrets
- Argon gas
- 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. Nikon Prostaff P5 6-24X50 – Best Low-Light Rifle Scope Under $500
- Spring-Loaded Instant Zero-Reset Turrets and Aluminum Turret Caps
- one-inch main tube
The Prostaff P5 rifle scopes are new to the game. The high-powered scope and the largest of the series can be yours for under $500.
- 4x zoom
- High magnification
- Interchangeable turrets
- Side focus
- Limited adjustment travel
The P5 is designed to provide the most value for money without compromising on features and quality. Does the P5 have it all?
As the biggest P5 scope in the line, it has extreme magnification of 4x zoom up to 24x. Clarity, brightness, and a useable eye box is difficult to achieve with such high power, but paired with Nikon’s high-quality glass, eye relief of 3.6-4″, FMC optics, and a large 50 mm aperture, it can do it, and do it well it does.
To ensure you always have edge-to-edge clarity, regardless of the power range you’re sitting in, the scope has a smooth-turn, aluminum, quick-focus eyepiece and a third turret for focus and parallax removal. You’ll need it to reach those extended distances with 24x power.
To make use of that magnification, this model has the BDC reticle with Nikon’s see-through ballistic circles. Pair this with their Spot On Technology app, and you’ll have holdover values in an instant to calibrate it with your load.
A feature never seen in this price range the P5’s interchangeable turret system. That’s right – you can gain even more distance, but the catch is, it’s only compatible with Nikon’s Spot On Custom Turrets system.
However, with a max of 30 MOA adjustment travel, you might find you’re unable to dial as far as you wanted to. With adjustments in 1/4 MOA clicks and 12 MOA revolutions, you can zero with precision for sub-MOA groups in target practice.
When you want to see further, you mustn’t sacrifice clarity, brightness, and sharpness in the trade. When you want to take the long shot, you mustn’t sacrifice the features like a side focus, zero-reset turrets, and fine MOA adjustments that help you get there. With the Prostaff P5, you don’t have to sacrifice anything to get it all.
7. Athlon Argos BTR 6-24X50 – Best Rifle Scope Under $400
Has your confidence levels moved you into the PRS arena? Need a scope more than good enough for competition use? Are you stuck with a tight budget? Turn to Athlon since they have the Argos BTR. It will see you through PRS competitions and more.
- FFP reticle
- Illuminated reticle
- Glass-etched reticle
- One piece tube body
- No Zero Stop
The Argos BTR long-range rifle scope is PRS ready for the day you pull the trigger on buying one. The buying part is easy since it’s conveniently right within your budget. It might just be one of the best budget rifle scopes to date. Why would we give it such high praise? Let us enlighten you with our Athlon scope review.
It has everything tactical about it and stays true to its function. Tall and exposed turrets are audible and positive when making adjustments. Another tactical feature is its glass-etched reticle that’s practically indestructible. Being in the FFP, you can use it at any magnification. For rapid target aiming, illuminate your reticle and get on bull’s-eye fast.
The one piece 30 mm tube body provides extra strength, robustness, and weatherproofness over multiple tube body scopes. Extend your long range goals with the 60 MOA/18 MIL of adjustment travel for the windage and elevation turrets but don’t expect a Zero Stop in the mix. A flaw we’ve identified is the lack of a Zero Stop, but it’s not the only scope in this price range not to have one.
Athlon says nothing about glass quality, but we can guess it’s top of the line for a scope in this price range. With Wide Band Fully Multicoated Optics and Xtra Protective Coating layers, we can see why there are multiple reports about crystal clear glass.
After all that, it sounds like it’s a scope right up your alley to get you competition ready for the big day.
8. Weaver 40/44 6.5-20X44 AO – Best Scope Under $500 for Varmint Hunting
- Made of the highest quality materials
- Hunting scopes rifles
Planning on taking down varmints and pests with your flat top rifle? The Weaver 40/44 scope with the Varminter reticle is designed to help you do just that. Keep pest populations down to a minimum with a varmint rifle and a varmint scope to match.
- Adjustable Objective
- High magnification
- 1/8 MOA
- Varmint reticle
- Not much difference between Dual-X and Varmint reticles
The only difference between the Dual-X and the Varmint reticles based on the duplex style, is the center dot in the Varmint. What does it do? Draws your eye faster to the center with a positive point of aim to follow and shoot the elusive critters.
With very fine 1/8 MOA clicks, you can dial in to the T, and when you do, you can depend on the 40/44 to hold your zero no matter what. It does feature a 1″ tube body, 3″ of eye relief, and is a little on the longer (14.09″) and heavier (20.46 oz) side due to its high-power assembly.
To fine-tune the focus for those long-distance shots, you can adjust the objective bell to get a sharp image and remove any possible parallax issues. The 40/44 is fully fog, shock, and waterproof, and it features FMC optics – any less than this and it shouldn’t be in this price range.
The Weaver warranty is like many other mediocre warranties – limited lifetime, requires proof of purchase, and a money order to pay for shipping and handling costs.
It’s a basic model for the price range of under 500, but it’s served its buyers well. A well reputed track record can’t be bought, and so the Weaver scope is worth its salt. Mounted on top of your AR, the coyotes won’t be comin’ around the mountain no more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.