Last Updated on
Is timing or tight budget the driving push for a budget scope?
Buying in the sub-$100 market can be a roll-of-the-dice experience, but neither should you gamble your hard-earned cash away on some random scope buy. Believe it or not, you can have buyer’s remorse even when you spend only a few bucks. No dollar should go wasted.
This is where we come in to help steer you towards the best AR-15 (ArmaLite 15) and MSR (Modern Sporting Rifle) style scopes that are affordable, high-performing, and dependable.
Here’s our scope lineup with some time-honored favorites and what we consider priority features on a low-priced scope!
QUICK LIST: Best Scope for AR-15 Under $100 in 2019
- UTG BugBuster 3-9X32
- CVLIFE 2.5-10X40e
- Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot
- Tacticon Armament Predator V1 Red Dot
- XOPin Scope & Laser Combo
- Monstrum Tactical 2-7×32 AO
- CenterPoint 1-4×20 AR
Our 7 Top Cheap Scopes for AR-15
|UTG BugBuster 3-9X32||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|CVLIFE 2.5-10X40e||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red dot||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Tacticon Armament Predator V1 red dot||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|XOPin Scope & Laser Combo||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Monstrum Tactical 2-7x32 AO||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|CenterPoint 1-4x20||VIEW ON AMAZON|
Money doesn’t grow on trees, so buying a budget scope for under 100 bucks is the reality a lot of the time for most buyers. Just look at the ever-rising number of reviews and verified purchases on cheap scopes. The market for them will forever be in high demand.
So, how do you filter out the junk from the good ones? Know what you’re after. Trying to stretch too much out of your scope by compromising quality for all the seemingly ‘tacticool’ features may be your undoing. Instead, put your hard-earned bucks in the features that’ll do you right – build quality, accurate reticle, and clear glass.
We’d be lying if we said a hundred-dollar scope could do it all – it simply won’t. But, it may just provide enough for what you need to get it done. The saying “you get what you pay for” is often proven very true in the optics industry. However, we’d say staying well-informed about the best scopes can often lead you towards the ones with the best value.
Some appropriate applications for your new, well-priced scope may include some types of hunting, target shooting, security, home defense, and plinking. With these shooting applications, with reasonable expectations in mind, a cheapo rifle scope is bound to please both the eager beginner and wise marksman.
Let’s get onto what scopes are highly praised in the current market to fit your AR-style platform.
UTG 3-9X32 BugBuster AO
- BEWARE OF COUNTERFEIT PRODUCTS SHIPPED DIRECTLY FROM CHINA
- 1 Inch Tube with Emerald Coating for Maximum Light Transmission, Premium Zero Lockable & Resettable Turrets with 1/4 MOA Per Click Adjustment
- Range Estimating Mil-dot Reticle for Optimal Aiming and Shooting Performance, Adjustable Objective from 3 Yards to Infinity
The Leapers UTG BugBuster didn’t happen to be one of the best AR scopes for 100 by chance, it was made to be. At least that’s what the several hundred of buyers say. What else do they have to say about one of the highest selling scopes rated in the Top 5 Rifle Scopes List? Here’s what…
- Range mil-dot reticle
- Reticle illumination
- Adjustable objective
- Lockable/resettable turrets
- Quality control issues
You read that right! The UTG BugBuster has lockable and resettable turrets. In this price range, this is unheard of. Being able to lock down your turrets gives you confidence when sighting in. Don’t accidentally nudge and knock your adjustments out of place ever again
The range mil-dot reticle tracks accurately with adjustments, and there are hashmarks along the entire elevation and windage crosshairs for multiple aiming points and ranging your target. As many scopes in this lineup do, it has dual illumination in red and green, but it’s highly visible without it as well. Control brightness with the side dial which is a much cleaner look and more convenient location than on the eyepiece.
Whether or not you think you need a parallax correction feature, UTG takes the thinking away for you. They’ve installed an AO on the objective bell to focus for an extremely close distance of 3 yards to infinity. Parallax issues? Not anymore.
When you get your BugBuster, you’ll be well pleased to know you’re set to get mounted and out to the range today. It comes with a 2″ sunshade, flip open caps, and medium height, heavy-duty, QD rings.
While there’s a lot to rave about, it doesn’t come without some quality control issues. Is the scope covered under warranty? You bet it is. The UTG series of scopes is covered by the Leapers Lifetime Warranty.
- Magnification: 2.5-10X with 40mm objective; Field of View:100 yards of 32.5' @ 2.5x - 8.9' @10x; Laser: 2mW, Class IIIA, reaching 100 yards
- Clearer Image: multi-coated green lens boast much higher light transmittance compared with blue lens
- Illumination Modes: red & green (5 intensity)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a scope cheaper than this for as popular as it is with real optics. There’s good reason why this scope is well-known across the board, and why it’s still a number 1 selling optic among those looking for a bargain.
- Dual illumination
- Built-in laser
- BDC mil-dot reticle
- Accessories included
- Build quality issues
For a scope under 50 bucks, it’s worth the investment to buy some Loctite to keep things in place. You’ll see this recommendation a lot with budget optics under $100 as build quality can be dicey, and the CVLIFE 2.5-10X40E scope is not immune to the rule.
But, for the price, you get a heck of a lot more than what you bargained for. Dual illumination with 5 brightness levels allows you to see your reticle in green or red – whatever suits your fancy for the time of day and application, right?
The reticle itself is a mil-dot reticle with BDC holdover points calibrated for .223 55 gr cartridges out to 500 yards. You can also use it to range a target of known size if you’re that skilled.
Tactical gearheads will love the built-in, side-mounted laser. Those wanting to get out to the range the instant they get the scope will love that it comes with lens caps, all the necessary batteries to power the illumination and laser, and 20 mm scope mounts.
There’s nothing to it, and there’s nothing to hide. If you want a scope system that doesn’t cost a lot, is fun to play with, and is accurate to boot, follow suit with the rest of the crowd and be one to say, “it’s a real bargain!”
Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Review
- Matte black featuring a 3 MOA Dot reticle with 11 brightness settings. Mounts easily on most picatinny rails and is compatible with pistols, shotguns, rifles and...
- Waterproof Construction : O ring sealed optics stay dry inside, even when totally immersed in water
- Shockproof construction : Built to withstand bumps, bangs, drops and the rough and tumble environment of the field
It’s a welcome sight to see a big-game competitor offering optics in this price range. Bushnell is an established optics company with a long history of expertise in the business. Seeing just one of their products, the TRS-25, being sold in the thousands is proof they know what they’re doing, and customers want what they have. Here’s why it’s one of our favorite red dots to date.
- Adjustable illumination
- 3 MOA red dot
- Great for AR 15 pistols
- Low profile for AR 15 rifles
- Quality control issues
Complaints are rampant about poor red dot illumination, the front lens falling out, and inability to hold zero. It seems these red dots were defective and can be replaced quickly by the manufacturer or refunded by the seller. Even though the sight is one of Bushnell’s cheaper line of optics, it’s still covered with a 1-year warranty.
It’s a #1 Best Seller in Rifle Scopes and Gun Sights. It’s not hard to see why. It’s exactly what it says it is: a red dot enclosed reflex sight. The red dot is 3 MOA in size, has 11 brightness settings, true 1x magnification, and a 25 mm aperture.
It can mount to any Picatinny/1913 and weaver rail, and this model is ideally suited for handguns. Those who need fast target acquisition and unlimited eye relief will find their needs satisfied with the Trophy TRS-25.
If you’re running an AR 15 rifle with a flat top receiver that you want to try this red dot with, you’ll need the Hi-Riser Block to raise the sight. Get that mounted and you can also co-witness your red dot with your iron sights.
It’s waterproof, shockproof, and fogproof. Elevation and windage are in 1 MOA clicks. Optics are multi-coated. It’s a cheap red dot sight that sits on thousands of firearms around the globe. Is it going to sit on yours?
Tacticon Armament Predator V1 Red Dot Review
- TACTICON IS A COMBAT VETERAN OWNED COMPANY STURDIEST AND MOST ACCURATE TACTICAL OPTIC ON AMAZON - Incredibly fast target acquisition with the parallax free design....
- RED OR GREEN DOT ADJUSTABLE BRIGHTNESS - Whether you are shooting at dawn, dusk, night, or the middle of the day we engineered this to allow for 5 different brightness...
The Predator V1 isn’t a LPVO (low power variable optic), which we’re huge fans of by the way, but it’s a true-blue red dot sight, or in this case, red and green dot sight. Due to the huge fan base this AR-15 red dot has and its unbelievably low price, we were obligated to feature it. Here’s why…
- Red/green dot interchangeable
- Adjustable brightness
- Co-witness with iron sights
- Quality control issues
It’s no secret. This scope is made in China, and there are quality control issues from poor build quality to dot issues. However, due to the extensive amount of mass input, a couple tips and tricks can make all the difference. A little Loctite is all you need to keep mounting screws together.
Additionally, as an economical gun sight, the red/green dot may flare or halo at high brightness, and it seems the V1 is guilty of this. But, when it comes to various other red dot issues such as clusters or warped dots, it seems a lot of users are unaware of how astigmatism affects vision when looking through the gun sight. Have you had your eyes checked recently? Check out this guide for more information about red dots sights and astigmatism. Issues aside, the V1 is backed by a lifetime warranty with a 100% money back guarantee.
The Predator V1 has an interchangeable red and green dot with 5 brightness intensity settings. It also comes preinstalled with a mount for quick mounting to your rail, although, it can be removed from the included mount.
For such a cheap scope, it’s impressive to see it’s waterproof, O-ring sealed, and nitrogen-purged for weather protection out in the field. To get ideal use from this scope, its usable range is within 300 yards.
Extra mounting care, having good vision, and testing out your red dot as soon as you get it (so you can take advantage of a return window, if you must) is how you maximize your Tacticon buy. For an AR 15 sight under $50, it’s worth the bucks and the extra effort.
XOPin C4-12X50EG Scope Combo Review
- Rifle scope advantage：High grade fully coated optical lens, Dry nitrogen filled with waterproof,shock proof,fog proof. Magnification：4x-16x suit for any W/ 22mm Rail...
- The scope is Red and green Multi-X reticles with 5 levels；Exit Pupil：3.3mm-10mm；Field of View：10' ~ 27' @ 100yards；Eye Relief：3" ~ 3.4"；Windage & Elevation...
It’s a generic scope from an obscure brand, but it doesn’t mean it’s no good. XOPin is one of those brands that’s trying their hand at optics, and they started with this AR15 rifle scope combo. It’s a scope that’s brand new to the market, and it’s already attracted a decent number of buyers.
- Rangefinding reticle
- Red/green reticle illumination
- Fast focus eyepiece
- Includes extra devices
- Quality control issues
Like many economical scopes built for the MSR, there may be some quality control issues to be aware of. Using Loctite can help to support secure assembly and mounting. Sure, this means an extra step for you, but it also means you have a stable optics system mounted to your rifle.
XOPin customer service is extremely responsive and they offer a 12-month guarantee on their products. If you’re expecting to use this scope for duty, combat, or heavy use, you may be disappointed. As a complete scope system, you can use it for recreational shooting, target shooting, and in some hunting applications. Beware, this system weighs over 2 lbs when all devices are mounted. Bench shooting with a bipod may become your favorite weekend hobby.
This combo package comes with a 4-12×50 rifle scope. It packs a ton of magnification for the AR-platform. The red or green illuminated rangefinding reticle has 5 brightness levels and is still visible even if you don’t use the illumination. It has a fast focus eyepiece with 1/4 MOA clicks on both the elevation and windage turrets.
It also comes with a push-button red laser sight and a red and green dot holographic sight. It’s a complete tactical optics system if you’re after a beginner’s introduction to using the different optics included.
Monstrum Tactical 2-7X32 AO Review
- Adjustable 2-7 times magnification, for targeting out to 400 yards and beyond
- Adjustable reticle illumination with 5 brightness levels in both red and green, allowing for better reticle visibility at night or in low light environments
- An adjustable objective lens or AO - that allows for sharper focus of the target image, elimination of parallax, and range estimation
New to tactical scopes? Scratch that. New to shooting? You don’t need to break the bank on your first-time scope buy for your MSR rifle. If you’re popping off .223/5.56 cartridges, then a great brand to start with is Monstrum. They keep things affordable, their scopes are easy to use, and some accessories are thrown into the buy.
- Dual illumination
- Adjustable objective
- Close-mid range
- Accessories included
- Strict return policy
It’s been said that this scope ended up being better in quality than the manufacturer may have intended. We don’t think that’s true. We think Monstrum knew exactly what they were doing when they made the 2-7×32 tactical AO scope.
It has a low price tag, 1″ medium rings and lens caps are included, and the overall size of the scope is compact and weighs less than a pound. The simple and yet effective design has been well thought-out with its 6061 aircraft grade aluminum construction, a detachable throw lever (definitely a tacticool feature), and its nitrogen-purged and water-resistant housing.
The reticle has dual illumination (red and green) with 5 brightness levels. Being in the second/rear focal plane, the ranging and bullet drop holdover points are only applicable at max 7x magnification. It seems it’s a non-caliber-specific reticle that has holdover hashmarks out to 500 yards with some 50-yard increment dots.
But, you better decide if you really want it before you mount it since Monstrum’s 30-day no questions asked return policy requires the scope be returned in “unused condition with all original parts and packaging.” That can be hard to qualify for after you mount it and find it doesn’t fit your needs or it’s defective. Luckily, it is backed by 1-year warranty.
It’s a great, lightweight option for a beginner shooter looking for a scope on the better end of the entry-level market.
CenterPoint 1-4X20 AR Review
- 1-inch diameter tube
- Quick-aim reticle with 3 MOA center dot
- 65 MOA ring for ultimate versatility
Don’t have the savings to drop a heavy wad of dough on an expensive scope? Need something right now that’s good enough to get the job done? Velocity Outdoors is the parent company that owns the CenterPoint Optics brand, and we can thank them for affordable, quality scopes. Although it’s in the beginner’s market and budget, it’s a scope that will introduce you to what’s available beyond a red dot.
- 3 MOA center dot
- Glass-etched reticle
- Dual illumination
- Accessories included
- Build quality issues
- Short eye relief at 1x
For a cheapo scope, it’s holding well with buyers looking for a low power scope for close to mid-range shooting, and by mid-range, we mean sub-250 yards. The 1-4x magnification is indeed intended for point-blank and close-range work with some flexibility to reach extended distances.
But, there is a catch. Although it has 1x power, users have said it’s more around 1.25x. While long eye relief is claimed to be a very generous 4.1″, it’s said to be extremely short or difficult to align with the eye box at 1x.
The dual illumination has 5 brightness levels in both red and green. The 3 MOA center dot is laser-etched into the glass, and it’s been designed this way for quick target acquisition and reticle integrity.
There are complaints about build quality from unusable turrets to rattling mounting screws. The turrets are tight to use, and a little Loctite will do wonders for your zero.
What accessories are included with the buy? You can expect lens covers and a mount compatible with Picatinny rails. You may want to upgrade the hardware included, but like everyone else says, “the scope is good.”
What to Look for in an AR 15 Scope Under $100
You can’t let your expectations get too high when the budget belt is fitting tight, but it doesn’t mean you need to abandon all standards. Look for quality in the basic features that actually goes towards the integrity of the scope.
It needs to be strong, durable, and dependable – build quality. It needs to be clear, bright, and free of distortion – glass/image quality. It needs to be functional, accurate, and in alignment – reticle and turret quality.
These may be basic features to consider, but at these low price points, it’s the only features that really matter. Everything else is a bonus.
The pickings are far from slim when you have a hundo ready to drop on a low-priced scope for your AR-15. There is an overabundance of options, quality, features, and obscure brands in this budget range. If you can spend more, wise advice is to spend more and get the best AR-15 scope you can, even just stretching the budget to an AR-15 scope under $200 will see a big improvement in quality. If you’re set on a hundred bucks, you’ll be glad to know most of these scopes will come with mounts, caps, and tools – everything you need to save extra money and get shooting today.
Low power variable optics (LPVO) are quickly becoming all the rage, and we have to admit, we’re a fan of them on AR/MSR platforms. To move from a red dot to an LPVO without too much shock, the 1-4x, 1-6x, and 1-8x offers the smoothest transition.
However, depending on your AR setup, you could very well handle more magnification and more distance. Being activity-specific will help you narrow down what power range will best suit your shooting style.
Just because you’re trying to spend as little as possible, it doesn’t mean you’re striking a deal with the plastic devil. Real glass and real optics require coatings and protection to ensure you have the clearest, brightest sight picture at all times. Fully multi-coated is the best quality of anti-reflective coatings on air-to-glass surfaces, but in this price range, multi-coated is typically the highest standard.
No plastic parts, please. Metal housing and hardware will go a long way towards durability, ruggedness, and life span. A lot of the time, mounting hardware that’s included with the scope isn’t the best. You may want to consider putting a few bucks aside for Loctite to support mounting screws, or you may want to use your own or upgrade the rings and mount.
You’ll also want to make sure your scope is O-ring sealed, gas-purged, and at least water-resistant. It’s more than just making sure it lasts when it rains on your hunt, it’s also about ensuring scope internal integrity is at its best when you’ve stored it away. It’s no fun picking it up again months later to find it has fogged-up on the inside, has spreading fungi, or parts are rattling from the inside.
Is the reticle appropriate for your shooting style? You’ll need to consider if you prefer dots, duplex crosshairs, or BDC reticles. Fast acquisition requires simple and draw-to-the-eye aiming points. If you’re going to be shooting at mid to long range distances, holdover points on BDC and ranging reticles can be an asset.
Illumination is great for rapid target acquisition, low-light shooting, or shooting in dark, shaded areas. But it’s not the end of the world if the scope you want doesn’t have it. Again, be activity specific as illumination adds an extra mechanism, battery problems, and possible reticle issues such as flaring, bleeding, and washout.
Are the adjustments as accurate as you need them to be? Do you need capped turrets, or do you prefer exposed? Are they finger adjustable or do you need a tool?
Unfortunately, turret quality in this price range isn’t the best if you’re wanting exacting accuracy to dial it in. Many scopes in this price class are in 1 MOA or 1/2 MOA adjustments. Be sure to look at turret and adjustment quality if you want functionality beyond achieving your zero.
The Choice is Yours!
While our lineup offers well-known options and some fresh takes, it’s not the be-all, end-all. As manufacturers appeal to the demands of modern sporting rifle owners, we fully expect to see new products hit the shelves better than what is available today.
Keeping low and affordable prices in check, what’s your favorite AR scope and why? If you’re holding onto the best kept secret, it’s time to share it with the rest of us!