Long Range AR-15 Scopes
The AR15 isn’t really a long range rifle, but if you want to push the limits of the 5.56 (.223) round, then you’ll need a great scope. Now you’ve heard me talk about “good scopes at low prices”, but I always state there are exceptions to that concept. One exception is when lives depend on your tools. When lives are on the line, don’t trust them to a $200 scope. Low price scopes are great for plinking and general shooting, but they’re not made for combat. Another exception is long range shooting. Low price scopes just won’t do the job at long range. So what’s “long range” with the AR-15?
Now I know some of you “experts” out there will scoff and this, but I consider long range for the AR15 to be anything from 300 to 600 yards. Before you can shoot a target that far away, you need to be able to see the target. I know that’s stating the obvious, but seeing the target is your first consideration in long range shooting. This brings us back to my first question when talking about rifle scopes – What are you shooting at? It all comes down to what you are shooting at. If you are shooting terrorists at 400 yards, a 4x Trijicon ACOG will do the job. If you’re shooting prairie dogs or 6 inch steel plates, you want something with a lot more magnification.
We’re going to focus more on the latter – precision shooting on small targets. One of the main factors in the price of a scope is the quality of the lenses. For long range shooting, you want quality glass. At 100 yards, under normal shooting conditions, a “good” quality scope will suffice. But the farther you extend the range, the better quality lenses you’ll need to see the target. You need to jump up to the “better” and “best” categories of scopes for long range shooting.
Another consideration is adjustable focus. Most scopes under 10x come with factory set focus. Most scopes above 10x, will come with an Adjustable Objective (AO) or Side Focus knob – both of which allow you to focus the scope to the target. This feature becomes essential in long range shooting. Higher price scopes have much better focusing ability, especially at high magnification, than lower price scopes. I was playing around with a $150 6-24x scope. Above 18x, everything was blurry no matter what I did with the side focus knob.
Contrast that with a Leupold Mark 4 or Mark 6 scope and you’ll see a world of difference. The Leupold is crisp and clear at the highest magnification. But if you want to shoot small targets and need high magnification, you need to save your pennies and buy the scope that will do the job. Trying to use a low-cost, budget scope for long range shooting will be extremely frustrating and discouraging.
So let’s start at the top and work from there!
1. Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44
The Leupold Mark 6 series are some of the top rifle scopes in the world. When you want to reach out there and drive tacks, at maximum range, you can’t get away with using any old scope out there. If you want hits on target at long range, you’ll need to invest in top quality optics and a name you can trust. Leupold has been the standard for Sniper Grade optics for longer than I’ve been alive – and probably you too! There’s a lot to be said about being in a business over 100 years! Sure, a lot of companies can put together a high quality, long range tactical rifle scope – but are they still going to be around in 30 years? You don’t ever have to wonder about that with Leupold. Your great-grand kids will be using your Leupold scope into the next century… and if it needs servicing, Leupold will still be there to take care of it. Now that’s a good investment in my book.
The Leupold Mark 6 3-18x is perfect for AR15 rifles because it’s only 11.9 inches long and weighs in at 23.6 ounces! I prefer this Mark 6 3-18×44 M5C2 version because of the low-profile turrets – makes it easy to mount a mini reflex sight on top for those quick-reaction, close range, shots. Besides, you can drop this thing out of a helicopter, put it back on your rifle and it will hold zero and perform flawlessly!
2. Bushnell Tactical Elite 3.5-21×50 ERS
I like to think of myself as a fairly open minded kind of guy – but I’ve never really associated “Bushnell” with high quality, tactical optics…. until now that is. Since Bushnell released their Elite Tactical line, I’ve really adjust my opinion of the brand.
According to Precision Rifle Blog, more and more professional shooters are switching to the Bushnell Elite Tactical Scopes. In fact, more shooters finishing in the Top 10 Precision Rifle Series (PRS) were using Bushnell than any other brand! That made me sit up and take notice!
If any of this comes a surprise to you, I recommend taking a little time and researching Bushnell Elite Tactical Scopes online and I think you’ll come away impressed. I try to help people take a look at what they really need out of a scope. What does the scope give you… do you really need it… and is it worth the money? I see the Bushnell Elite Tactical Series as one of the best values in Long Range Tactical Scopes today.
Bushnell has found the sweet spot in offering what Long Range Shooters need and still keeping the price within range of most people. Designed alongside military and law enforcement experts, the optical superiority and unfailing reliability of this family has been further honed with a host of application-specific features.
I’m really torn between the Leupold Mark 6 and this Bushnell Tactical Elite. I really like the larger objective lens and extra magnification of this Bushnell – and it runs a few hundred bucks less than the Leupold Mark 6. Plus it’s available in the Dark Earth finish – which I think makes anything even cooler – but you can also get it in black.
3. Burris XTR II 5-25×50
I’m really impressed with the Burris XTR II line of scopes. The optical glass is extremely clear and they are very well built. The XTR II also features adjustments in mils and a Front Focal Plane G2B Illuminated Reticle – which I really like. If you’re in the $1000 price range for an AR15 scopes, I highly recommend the Burris XTR II scopes. They’re also available in 3-15×50, 4-20×50, and 8-40×50
4. Burris Veracity 4-20×50
If you can’t quite reach up to the Burris XTR II line, then I recommend the Burris Veracity scopes. The Veracity series still offers a Front Focal Plane ballistic reticle. Adjustments are Minute of Angle (MOA) and the overall quality is exceptional.
Looking for an affordable, long range, rifle scope – check out the Burris Veracity Lineup and I think you’ll find what you’re looking for. Burris nailed the mid-priced, long range tactical market when they introduced these Veracity Scopes. The Veracity line is designed to help you capture prairie predators, elusive elk, or dangerous game. Proven Burris engineering is combined with state-of-the-art refinements for accuracy and precision.
Its 5-times zoom system provides a wide field of view and powerful ranging. The front focal plane reticle design allows accurate computation of distances at any magnification. It also provides both trajectory and windage reference points. Accurate and repeatable quarter-MOA adjustments allow for fine-tuning. And side-adjustable parallax lets you instantly correct parallax while maintaining your shooting position. Also available in a 3-15×50 version.
5. Leupold Mark AR 6-18×40
The Precision Rifle Blog lists this Leupold Mark AR 6-18×40 as the best long range scope under $1000… and I mostly agree with them. I do think the Burris Veracity line gives the Leupold a run for it’s money, but at only $549.99, the Leupold is a great buy! One of the great features of this Leupold is it has a MilDot reticle and 1/10 Mil adjustments. I prefer having the reticle and adjustments on the same system, either MOA/MOA or MIL/MIL.
So if you’re not ready to drop $1000, or a lot more, on a long range scope, this Leupold Mark AR should be at the top of your list.
So even though I said to save your money and buy the best scope, the reality for most guys is it’s just not going to happen – especially if you want to stay married! I’ve have some close friends who would love to have a $1200 scope, but it’s just not in the cards. “I’ll never be able to spend $1200 on a scope”, said one of my good friends. I get that. I understand where he’s coming from. That’s why I really try to pick through all the hype out there and find other options that will work well and not put you in divorce court, bankruptcy – or both!
So in the end, if you want long range performance you’ll have to pay for it. There are some “good” $100 scopes out there for plinking jack-rabbits at 80 yards on the desert. But when you want to hit that same jack-rabbit at 400 yards, you’ll need a much better scope. Higher end scopes give you the superior lenses to see and focus in on your target. If you can’t see it, you can’t shoot it. Even though lower cost scopes are available with 24x magnification, they really don’t do very well over about 18x. There are a lot of other great scopes out there for long range shooting. I’ve tried to narrow it down to a few just to simply your search. Pick any of these scopes I’ve mentioned above and you won’t go wrong!