Top 10 AR-15 Scopes
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!
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 3-9×42 Ultimate AR-15 Scope. 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 $300. There’s nothing out there that gives you the features and quality found in this little scope for the same price.
Additionally, it has a Lifetime Warranty on it. So if you have less than $250 to spend on a scope for your AR… buy this one!
Buy Now: $139.99 w/Free Shipping (U.S. only)
The Burris AR-332 is one of my all-time favorite AR-15 scopes. It’s been called the “Poor Mans ACOG” and that’s probably a fitting title. It’s a fixed 3x magnification scope with a ballistic reticle for shots out to 600 yards.
The reticle illuminates in red or green, but is visible (black) when not illuminated or you lose battery power – which means you aren’t dependent on batteries.
The Burris AR-332 has a few bad reviews based on the reticle being canted. I’ve sold thousands of these scopes and only had a few that had the canted reticle. Burris immediately replaced them. It also seemed to be more of a problem in 2010-2011 than it is now.
Target acquisition is super fast. It’s rugged, compact, and comes ready to mount directly on your AR-15 without any additional hardware. Gotta love that. If you want something giving you a little bit of magnification, but still keeping fast action CQB capability, the AR-332 should be a serious option. The Burris AR-332 is one of the best options for your AR15!
Buy Now: $349.00 w/Free Shipping (U.S. Only)
First, the extra magnification. The difference between 4x and 6x is significant while the difference between 1x and 1.5x is barely noticeable.
Second, the much larger objective lens makes this a lot brighter scope than the 1-4×24. 40mm objective lens compared to 24mm is quite a bit of additional light gathering.
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.
Buy Now: $399.99 w/Free Shipping (U.S. Only)
Leupold’s Mark AR series feature Bullet Drop Compensation for .223/5.56 rounds and legendary quality and reliability.
It comes with a MilDot or Duplex reticle, but it’s also available Leupold’s FireDot reticle for a little more money.
The Mark AR scopes are proof that you don’t need to spend a $1000 bucks for an AR15 scope. Leupold is known around the world for quality optics and you can put one of these on your gun for under $400 bucks. Lifetime Warranty, Superior Glass and Performance… you just can’t beat it.
Buy Now: $349.99 w/Free Shipping (U.S. Only)
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!
Buy Now: $599.99 w/Free Shipping (U.S. Only)
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.
Buy Now: $729.00 w/Free Shipping (U.S. Only)
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.
Buy Now: $999.99 w/Free Shipping (U.S. Only)
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-2 reticle on this scope and the whole thing is built like a tank. Great choice for your AR – in any caliber!
Buy Now: $1249.00 w/Free Shipping (U.S. Only)
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.
The HAMR has better eye relief than ACOGs and is just as tough and compact. My Patrol Rifle, issued by the Sheriff I work for is a Sig M400 with an EOTech 517 mounted on it. I’m grateful to work for an agency that issues a rifle like that to me, but the EOTech doesn’t give the magnification I need sometimes. If I could choose any optic in the world to go on my patrol rifle, I would choose the Leupold HAMR.
Buy Now: $1429.00 w/Free Shipping (U.S. Only)
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.
Buy Now: $2149.00 w/Free Shipping (U.S. Only)
Sorry… can’t just limit the list to 10! I really have a hard time choosing between the Bushnell Elite 1-8.5x (mentioned above) and this Leupold Mark 6 1-6x. For target or competition use, then I think I’d go with the Bushnell and get the extra 2.5x magnification. But for combat and tactical ops, then I’ll choose the Leupold. Maybe the Bushnell is every bit as tough as the Mark 6, but I just don’t know. If I’m going into harm’s way, then I want something that’s proven to hold up under the worst conditions. Leupold scopes are combat proven and I trust their reputation. Bushnell is a newcomer to the high quality tactical optics and I’m not quite sure if I’m ready to trust my life to them.
Honorable Mention >> Leupold Mark 8 1.1-8×24
ok, I just had to do it. I have to include what I believe is the ULTIMATE AR15 Scope…. the Leupold Mark 8 with H-27D reticle. If money is no object, then this is the scope I’d put on my AR15. 1-8x is going to cover just about anything you’re going to do with an AR and this is probably the most rugged, reliable scope in the world.
At the same time, it costs more than a couple of my cars are worth… combined. But, if you want the very best AR15 scope on the planet, this is it.
Buy Now: from $2999.99 w/Free Shipping (U.S. Only)
Conclusion: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.