As I’ve said before, the question we get the very most is, “What scope should I buy for my AR-15″. I decided to do a “Top 10″ list of AR15 scopes. I’m doing the list in terms of price, starting from lowest to highest. I’m also trying to show the best scopes at various price ranges. Like I say a lot, “Not everyone has $1200 to spend on a scope.” So this is a list of what I consider the 10 Best AR-15 scopes spread across price points from $120 to $2000! Also, this list is only for “scopes”, not holographic or red dot sights. Comparing holographics like EOTech to magnifying scopes is apples and oranges… two different applications. Ok… so here we go!
Obviously a lot of things have changed since we originally published this post… And we realized it’s time for a serious update! Make sure you check out our Top 10 AR-15 Scope category on our website for the latest updates to this list!
Too many people automatically assume that if you’re putting a scope on an AR15 that it must be a Trijicon or Leupold… or some combat grade scope. But the reality is that 97% of the AR15′s sold in America are for recreational use. ….. and most people don’t have, or don’t want to spend, a thousand dollars or more on an AR15 scope. So at the low price end of our list, we include the NcSTAR 3-9×42 Ultimate Sighting System. We’ve sold thousands of these scopes over the last 5-6 years they’ve been on the market and they are a great choice for target shooting, plinking and hunting. This is the newer, Second Generation version and they improved some of the problems that they had with the earlier version.
It comes with everything you see here: 3-9×42 scope with mini red dot sight mounted on top. The integrated quick release mount makes it easy to attach to your rifle. You can pick up this scope for less than $200!
Now here’s the deal… you can’t get a totally awesome scope for less than $200 bucks… I don’t care who makes it. But we’ll say that this is the best scope you can buy for an AR15 under $200. There’s nothing out there that gives you the features and quality found in this little scope for the same price.
Additionally, NcSTAR offers a Lifetime Warranty on it. If it ever breaks or quits working, just send it back to them and they’ll send you a brand new scope! No hassles! So if you have less than $250 to spend on a scope for your AR… buy this one!
Coming in next on our list is this scope from Bushnell. I’ll admit – maybe even choke on my words – that I’ve never really thought much of Bushnell. They made plain, unexciting scopes that never really did much for me. This new AR scope started changing my attitude toward Bushnell… and then their Elite Tactical Scopes have completely changed how I look at Bushnell!
Now, there are about a million 1-4x scopes being marketed for the AR15… why buy this one? Price, Reticle, Quality & the “Throw Down” Lever
You can get this scope for around $250. You won’t get a better scope at this price. There are some really good 1-4x scopes out there, but for $250 this is the one to buy.
The reticle is awesome! We love it! It’s super fast for close range targeting, but offers small precision aiming dots for longer range shots. It illuminates, but is still visible when not illuminated so you don’t have to worry if your batteries die.
It’s a solidly built scope and backed by Bushnell’s Bullet Proof Guarantee.
Now I know this is a little silly, but the “Throw Down” quick magnification adjustment lever is a really cool feature. In the heat of making a quick shot and needing to adjust your magnification, most of those rotating rings can be hard to get a hold of. The Throw Down lever makes magnification adjustment so fast and easy.
The Burris MTAC is what we believe is the next step up in 1-4x AR15 scopes over the Bushnell. There are so many to choose from that it’s mind numbing, but at this price point, Burris MTAC is the best choice.
The CQ reticle can illuminate in Red or Green – but is still visible without illumination. The cool thing about this reticle is that it’s calibrated to 5.56mm and 7.62mm – so it’s a great scope on your .308 or .223 – doesn’t matter. It gives you aiming points out to 600 yards so you can easily take the math or guess work out of longer range shots.
The MTAC series is built tough. We’ve sold a ton of them and never had one returned for any reason.
This is a combination we developed here at Valhalla. People wanted a good, long range scope, but they want the close range speed you get from a red dot…. so, we combined them together. We started with the Burris Timberline 4.5-14×32 scope. It features the Ballistic Plex reticle and adjustable objective for precision, long range shooting.
Then we added the Burris Fastfire III mini red dot sight. And hooked it all together with the Burris PEPR Quick Release mounting system. This is one of our best selling items year after year. The Longbow gives you maximum flexibility to get the most out of your rifle. Now you don’t have to choose from long range precision or close range speed…. get them both in one sighting system.
Our Longbow Scope Package is a game changer for AR15 optics.
Now we take the next step up in the short 1-4x type scopes for the AR15. We love the Leupold VX-R line of scopes. We think they are some of the best scopes – if not THE best scopes – in the $500 to $800 price range. Leupold’s VX-R Patrol series includes a 1.25-4×20 and a 3-9×40 model.
We’re showing the 1-4x model here, but if you want more magnification, the 3-9×40 is an awesome choice. You can do the same thing with it as we did with the Longbow package and mount a mini red dot on top. The 3-9x model features Leupold’s TMR reticle – which we’re big fans of.
Of all the scopes on our list so far, this is the first one we feel comfortable recommending for professional use, i.e. Law Enforcement, Military or anything else where you’re trusting your life with your equipment.
We love the reticle and the motion sensing illumination is a cool feature… basically the reticle illuminates when you pick up the gun and turns off when you put it down. Pretty cool!
We really liked Burris’ XTR line, but we’re even bigger fans of the XTR II series…. Even Better Quality and More Magnification. It seems like scope magnification has been pretty well set for the last decade. And it’s radically changing ever year now. We’re seeing wider and wider magnification ranges – and getting away from the need of putting a red dot on top. We’re at the point now where one scope will just about do anything you need.
This XTR II ups the magnification to 5x and features a really cool reticle. Probably one of our favorites. It’s very fast, very usable, but very clean at the same time. The XTR’s have exceptional glass and you almost forget you’re even looking through a scope. This XTR II is about $100 more than the Leupold VX-R Patrol, but we feel like it’s well worth it.
Now this is one of the scopes I’m most excited about. 1.5-8x magnification! That’s awesome! Talk about one scope that does it all. This is also a great choice for your .308 AR or FN SCAR 17s, or similar rifles.
This 1.5-8x model features a Dual Focal Plane reticle which allows the center aiming point to change size with magnification adjustment, but the mil measurements and trajectory lines stay the same so they are accurate at any power! Now if that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is!
The XTR II series feature a 25% thicker main tube, high performance optical glass, and zero stop technology. These things are built tough and perform under any conditions. 1.5-8x, for less than a thousand bucks, this is the scope to buy.
Now that we’re into ACOG price territory, I’ll explain a bit of our thinking when putting this list together. For the last 30 years, the Trijicon ACOG has been the epitome of AR15 scopes. It’s the one all others are judged by. The ACOG is a sweet scope. We love them, but here’s the deal – they were made for combat. They are a fixed 4x or 3.5x scope that’s built like a tank – and the tritium illumination is a really cool feature. But that fixed power is the real limiting factor to the ACOG.
Now you can get variable power 1-6x or even 1-8x scopes, that you can drop out of a helicopter and they still work, for the price of an ACOG. For me, that adjustable magnification is the ticket. 6x is a lot when compared to 4x or 3.5x. And, in close range combat, you can turn it down to 1x and it’s like having a red dot.
The Bushnell Elite Tactical scopes are really catching on and changing minds around the world. Nobody ever really considered Bushnell for high end optics – but that has changed. And if you’re in the market for a high quality tactical scope, you better take a look at the Bushnell Elite Tactical Scope Series before you spend your money on something else.
We love the BTR reticle on this scope and the whole thing is built like a tank. Great choice for your AR – in any caliber!
As for typical AR combat scopes go, we’ll take the Leupold HAMR. Priced the same as an ACOG, but we think it has better quality optical glass – and it’s built just as tough as the ACOGs. So with all things about equal between them, we think the Leupold HAMR is the best combat sight on the market.
It’s a fixed 4x scope, so the conversation above applies here as well, but we can’t have an AR15 scope list and not have some type of fixed 4x scope on it! And if we have to limit ourselves to just one, we’ll take the Leupold HAMR.
Not much else to say about this one I guess. It’s like the Lamborghini of tactical rifle scopes.
OK, I’m swallowing my pride – choking on it actually – when I put this Bushnell as our top pick for AR scopes. Like I said before, I just never had good feelings about Bushnell, but my mind is quickly coming to see the new world of optics we’re entering.
1-8.5x is incredible! For AR distances, even .308 ARs, this scope will take care of anything you need to do. The mil/mil setup also makes those long distance shots a lot easier than they used to be. Bushnell is using superior optical glass in the Elite Tactical Series. In fact, more and more professional shooters and competitors are switching to the Bushnell Elite Scopes. (We’ll be adding a new post about this with the facts to go along with this claim)
If you’ve read business books, or been to training, you’ve probably heard people talk about the paradigm in watches. You know, they all used to be made in Switzerland and everybody laughed at the Japanese digital watches when the came on the market… well that’s the same thing that’s happening in high end optics.
The paradigm is shifting. The names you are familiar with in high end AR optics are losing ground to names you never considered in the past. Take some time and do your research. We think you’ll be surprised when you keep finding Bushnell at the top, or near the top, of high end scope lists.
ok, I just had to do it. I have to include one of my other favorite scopes…. the Leupold Mark 6 1-6x. I love Leupold and like I said above, up until just recently this scope was at the top of my list… now it’s not even on the list. At nearly $2000, I don’t know if it’s a better scope than the Bushnell 1-8.5x (which actually costs a bit less and has 2.5x more magnification). Does it have better glass than Bushnell? Doesn’t seem to. Pro shooters are using a lot more Bushnells than they are Leupolds so am I still stuck in that old paradigm?
Don’t know… anyway, I love this scope. For $2000 1-6x scopes, I’ll take this one over the Trijicon VCOG – because I believe Leupold has better glass than Trijicon – the Bushnell 1-6x is quite a bit less and seems to offer all the Mark 6 does.
I hope this gives you more insight into the murky topic of AR-15 scopes. It’s really hard, if not impossible, to define what is the BEST scope for the AR-15. There’s some great scopes out there for less than $300. As I always say, you don’t have to spend $1200 to get a great scope. If your life depends on a scope, $1200 is cheap! But most people’s lives don’t depend on their tactical scope so I’ve tried to include other options as well. Please comment and give your opinions of my list. I’d like to get your feedback.