But navigating the market can be tricky due to the number of optics currently available, many of which seem to come with identical features. How can you tell which products are worth a second and third look?
In this buying guide, we point you in the exact direction of the best AR15 scopes currently available on the market, including rifle scopes from Nikon, a known brand in the photography industry, and rifle scopes made in the US. More specifically, our list is composed of variable scopes for the AR-15.
And right after the reviews for each product, we talk about the things to consider when buying a rifle scope for your beloved AR-15 and the benefits of using a scope instead of relying on iron sights. Here are the 13 best rifle scope for the AR-15, arranged in ascending order according to price.
If you’re working on a tight budget, the Simmons 8-Point Rifle Scope is one of the best low-cost yet high-quality scopes available on the market. It sits way below 100 bucks, making it a good choice for total newbies who don’t want to spend too much on their first ever scope.
But on the other hand, the Simmons 8-Point Rifle Scope comes with a huge 50-millimeter objective lens, which isn’t really recommended for beginners. Most professionals recommend that beginners stick to standard 40-millimeter scopes when starting out. The large objective lens means this scope is fully capable of providing on-point image clarity, thanks to more light transmission. But obviously, it sits farther from the gun barrel, which can affect its accuracy over long distances.
The Simmons 8-Point Rifle Scope is a variable scope with a 3-9x magnification, making it perfectly suitable for shooting at various distances. It measures 15.3 inches long and weighs 10.1 ounces, with a truplex reticle for easy target acquisition. The optics are fully coated with synthetic materials, improving image brightness and contrast and reducing light reflection.
Waterproof and fogproof, this scope is well-built for different situations. It includes easy-to-tweak windage and elevation turrets that stay completely locked regardless of the situation. Both turrets produce audible clicks when being adjusted. This allows you to easily and accurately adjust the settings while on the field.
The Simmons 8-Point Rifle Scope is exceptionally well-built for a budget scope. It has superb accuracy and easily mounts on AR-15 rifles. However, you need to make sure you have the right mounting rings for this scope in order to get it properly set up on your AR-15. Not having the right mounting rings for a scope with such large objective lens can make shooting incredibly awkward for you.
If you’re looking for an excellent starter scope for your AR-15, the Simmons 8-Point Rifle Scope is one of the best economic options out there. It’s recoilproof, easy to sight-in, and works great for both target shooting and hunting. The size of the scope can take a bit of time getting used to, especially if you’re coming from a scope with a compact profile. But overall, this scope offers excellent value at an affordable price.
UTG is a popular brand when it comes to affordable rifle scopes for AR-15. The company produces top-notch scopes, built from high-quality materials, without going overboard with the prices. If you’re in the market for a budget scope for your AR-15, looking into scopes made by UTG would be a good starting point. You can start by checking out the UTG Bug Buster.
The UTG Bug Buster is a versatile scope capable of adapting to different situations. It’s made of a 1-inch tube and measures 9.8 inches long and weighs 13.9 ounces. It’s coated with emerald for maximum light transmission and comes with a 2-inch sunshade, two flip-open lens caps, and two heavy duty mounting rings. It has a very tactical profile, which can easily lead you to think that it’s a high-end scope.
This variable scope includes a 32-millimeter objective lens, with a 3-9x magnification, making it well suitable for both beginners and experienced shooters. The magnification level means this scope is ideal for both mid-range and long-range shooting. The generous eye relief allows for optimum shooting performance in various situations.
The UTG Bug Buster features a range-estimating mil-dot reticle, which aids in producing on-point shots and helps you acquire targets in an efficient and effective manner. This scope comes with a dual red/green illumination, adding to its already impressive versatility, and boasts an impressive parallax-free view from three yards to infinity. The illumination can be adjusted using the additional control wheel on the side.
Lockable and resettable, the adjustment turrets of the UTG Bug Buster are well-designed, allowing you to adjust the windage and elevation without running into problems commonly encountered in other low-cost scopes. In terms of durability and toughness, this scope passes with flying colors. It’s constructed with high-quality materials and has gone through rigorous tests to ensure it can easily withstand extreme recoil and other forms of shooting-related punishment.
This scope is equipped to handle different weather conditions. It’s completely sealed and nitrogen-filled and is rainproof, shockproof and fogproof. Like the Simmons 8-Point Rifle Scope, the UTG Bug Buster delivers excellent value without causing you to break the bank for it. It’s a compact scope that brings lots of features to the table. It mounts easily on your AR-15 and can be used for both target shooting and hunting.
Founded by David P. Bushnell, Bushnell is a well-established American brand in the optics and imaging industry. Currently headquartered in Kansas, the company is known in the firearms world for producing some of the best rifle scopes for AR-15 and other guns. With Bushnell, rest assured that you get exactly what you pay for.
The Bushnell Optics Drop Zone-223 is an excellent starter scope for newbies. Not only because it comes at a fairly affordable price range, but also because of its ease of use. It’s a scope specifically calibrated for .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO cartridges in the 55-62 grains range. Translation: Yes, this scope is perfectly suitable for your AR-15.
This scope has a standard 40-millimeter objective lens and comes with a 3-9x magnification, great for target shooting over long distances in an open field. But for hunting in dense forests, that magnification isn’t really necessary because you won’t be able to see very far with an unobstructed view. The optics of this scope are fully coated, allowing for increased brightness and reduced light reflection and glare. With this scope, you get incredible image quality even during long-range shooting.
Made of aluminum alloy with an anodized finish, the Bushnell Optics Drop Zone-223 comes with a BDC reticle for outstanding precision and a fast-focus eyepiece for maximum reliability on every shot. It’s filled with nitrogen to prevent it from fogging up due to temperature changes and includes an O-ring seal to protect it from being invaded by dust and moisture. Rustproof and virtually scratchproof, this scope is built to handle demanding situations.
For windage and elevation adjustments, this scope includes a set of easily accessible turrets. Both turrets can be tweaked quickly on-the-go, allowing you to adjust your scope settings without taking up too much time, which can be costly when hunting. And most importantly, the turrets lock to whatever adjustment you make.
Reliable and precise, the Bushnell Optics Drop Zone-223 is a formidable contender when it comes to the best rifle scopes for AR-15. It’s well-built and complements an AR-15 nicely. It has good eye relief and comes with parallax adjustment for better long-range accuracy. If you’re looking for a high-quality scope in the below-$200 range, this scope fits the bill perfectly. If you get lucky, you can even bring it home for less than 100 bucks, which is a total steal considering its quality and features.
If the 3-9x magnification of the UTG Bug Buster isn’t enough for you, check out the UTG AccuShot Compact Scope instead. It’s a 10.4-inch long rifle scope with a 3-12x magnification, allowing you to work from even longer distances.
This scope is made of a 30-millimeter tube and comes with a 44-millimeter objective lens. The lens is coated with emerald, resulting in better light transmission. The objective lens is protected by an integrated sunshade, with a pair of flip-open lens caps included in the package for additional lens protection while mobile.
The 3-12x magnification means this scope is outstanding during long-range shootings in an open field, with the mil-dot reticle allowing for quick and precise target acquisition. This scope includes the patented Illumination Enhancing Technology, integrated into the reticle system for superior versatility in different environments.
With the IE Technology, you get more than just the usual dual red/green illumination found in other similar scopes. The 36-color multi-mode option allows you to quickly adapt to any environment. Not to mention, colorblind shooters can finally achieve the reticle configuration that suits them best. The reticle settings can be easily tweaked using the quick-access controls on the ocular lens.
Speaking of controls, the windage and elevation turrets are well-designed. The turrets allow you to easily and precisely adjust the scope settings on the field. No need to fumble around for several minutes, a common issue found in cheap rifle scopes for AR-15. The turrets are lockable and resettable and don’t protrude in a distracting way.
Like the UTG Bug Buster, the UTG AccuShot Compact Scope underwent intense testing. It has been tested on guns notoriously known for having extreme recoil and for being so-called scope-killers. Meaning, this scope is more than capable of handling AR-15 recoil. Completely sealed and filled with nitrogen to prevent internal moisture from building up, this scope is rainproof, fogproof, and shockproof.
Packaged with a pair of heavy duty mounting rings, the UTG AccuShot Compact Scope is one of the best rifle scopes in the 3-12x category. It’s built with top-quality materials and comes with an accessible price, especially for those just starting out. It’s precise and dependable and achieves a parallax-free view from 10 yards to infinity, courtesy of the integrated Side Wheel Adjustable Turret (SWAT). Few scopes in the same price range can top the UTG AccuShot Compact Scope.
Founded in 1917 in Tokyo, Japan, Nikon is a company that needs no introduction. The brand is one of the most recognizable in the world, especially in the photography industry. In the world of rifle scopes, Nikon is right there near the top, competing against big-name brands which are also well-represented on this list.
Nikon is represented by three scopes on this list. The first of which is the Nikon ProStaff Rifle Scope, a 12.4-inch long scope with a standard 40-millimeter objective lens. The optics are fully coated, allowing for up to 98 percent light transmission. This means the scope produces nothing but on-point and clear images even during low-light situations. With this scope complementing your AR-15, you can do target shooting at dusk if that’s your thing.
This scope comes with a 3-9x magnification, ideal for both mid-range and long-range shooting. Of course, that kind of magnification is hardly necessary if you mainly hunt game in dense forests. But if you’re all about shooting or hunting in open fields, the magnification of this scope is spot-on. And with its BDC reticle and quick-focus eyepiece, target acquisition becomes easier and more accurate over long distances.
Built with premium materials just like Nikon DSLR cameras, this rifle scope for AR-15 includes zero-reset turrets with spring-loaded adjustment knobs, allowing for precise and hassle-free windage and elevation adjustments while on the field. This scope is O-ring sealed and has been filled with nitrogen to prevent internal moisture build-up. And like most other scopes on the market, this scope is waterproof and fogproof, making it a suitable companion for less-than-ideal weather conditions while hunting.
For travel purposes, the Nikon ProStaff Rifle Scope comes with bikini-style lens caps connected by a sturdy string, preventing you from losing one of the caps. But on the flip side, you lose both caps in one go if you’re not careful about where you put them. With a limited lifetime warranty standing by, this rifle scope is definitely one of the best options available right now for both newbies and veterans, whether it’s for target shooting or hunting. It comes with the complete package, and best of all, it comes with a fairly affordable price tag.
Leupold is one of the oldest and most established names in the optics and imaging industry. Founded in 1907, the private company is one of the go-to brands of the US Army and US Navy when it comes to scopes for military use. That reputation alone should be enough to convince you that Leupold scopes are one of the best in the business.
But with that kind of reputation, you’re probably thinking that Leupold scopes are on the expensive side, only accessible to people willing to pop more than $500 for a rifle scope. Well, say hello to the Leupold VX-1, a versatile and dependable scope sitting in the below-$200 range.
The Leupold VX-1 is a 12.6-inch long rifle scope with a 40-millimeter objective lens and a 3-9x magnification range. It’s a durable scope built to last a lifetime, with low profile windage and elevation turrets capable of enduring heavy regular use throughout the years. It has a matte black finish, further adding to its low profile setup.
With multicoated optics, the Leupold VX-1 gives you extreme edge-to-edge image clarity, with incredible contrast and brightness even during low-light situations. Obviously, for total night hunting, this scope alone won’t be able to get the job done. But for, let’s say, hunting during dusk, this scope is more than capable of helping you get off accurate and timely shots. And don’t worry about dramatic changes to the weather condition while out hunting – this rifle is absolutely waterproof and fogproof.
Fully sealed with nitrogen, the Leupold VX-1 will never have any episodes of moisture building up inside the scope. And the tight seal also prevents dust and moisture from penetrating the scope from the outside, giving it an all-around protection for different environments. If you get one that somehow builds up moisture inside, you most likely received a unit with a factory defect. In such a situation, you can simply return the product to Leupold, and the company would be more than happy to assist you.
Featuring a duplex reticle set in the second focal plane, a fast-focus eyepiece, and a tactile power indicator (for quick magnification identification), the Leupold VX-1 packs one hell of a punch in terms of overall quality and value. In fact, considering its features, it’s actually surprising that this scope is in the below-$200 range. If you ever see this scope on sale, don’t think twice about picking it up – it’s worth every penny.
The Nikon P-223 is often considered one of the top five best rifle scopes for the AR-15. And looking at the quality and features it brings to the table, it’s hard to argue with that distinction.
Designed specifically for .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO rounds, the Nikon P-223 is a rifle scope with a 40-millimeter objective lens and a 3-9x magnification range. It’s made of durable polymer and comes with a generous eye relief to keep your brow safe from incoming recoil – even if you’re not positioned properly while firing. The generous eye relief is crucial for newbies, who are prone to awkward shooting positions and often forget about recoil.
Fully coated and equipped with a BDC reticle, this scope offers outstanding light transmission, which translates to excellent image clarity even during low-light situations. Even better, this scope includes a 100-yard parallax setting, allowing for precise long-range shooting. The BDC reticle includes hash marks from 100 to 600 yards.
The Nikon P-223 includes precise and easily adjustable zero-reset windage and elevation turrets. The turrets stay locked in place after being configured. And don’t worry about subjecting them to regular adjustments – they are built to withstand heavy use, just like the rest of the scope. So feel free to experiment with the elevation and windage settings as much as you want in order to get that perfect setup for your AR-15.
In terms of protection against weather conditions, this scope is top-notch, which is pretty much automatic for scopes produced by Nikon. The scope is waterproof and fogproof, giving it the versatility to function properly in less-than-ideal weather conditions. The inside of the scope is filled with nitrogen, preventing moisture from building up inside and potentially ruining your shot. O-ring sealed, this scope is also well-protected against dust.
The Nikon P-223 sits in the middle of the pack when it comes to pricing. The price tag is high enough to prevent it from being considered a true budget scope – but low enough to make it accessible to common folks. Except for folks who are specifically looking for scopes available for less than 100 bucks. Considering the quality of this scope, being able to pick it up for less than 200 bucks is actually pretty neat.
If you will only engage in close-range shooting activities, you don’t really need a scope with a powerful magnification. For a close-range scope, check out the Bushnell AR Optics BTR-1 Rifle Scope, a 9.4-inch long compact rifle scope with a 1-4x magnification range.
This scope is made of a 30-millimeter tube, with a small 24-millimeter objective lens, and has a matte black finish, giving it a very low profile look. It’s designed specifically for 5.56 NATO rounds and comes with a BDC reticle set in the first focal plane. The BDC reticle is illuminated, with 11 settings, and the lens is fully coated, maximizing light transmission and improving brightness and overall image clarity. But the small objective lens means that this scope isn’t the most ideal for extreme low-light situations.
The most notable feature of the Bushnell AR Optics BTR-1 Rifle Scope is the exclusive PCL lever placed near the ocular lens. This lever allows you to quickly change the magnification power on-the-go, perfect for tactical settings or situations where you are constantly moving. Due to its slim profile, the lever never gets in the way of your shooting, so don’t worry about being distracted by it.
Made of durable aluminum alloy with an anodized finish, this scope is perfectly sealed to prevent dust and other elements from penetrating the interior. It’s filled with nitrogen to prevent moisture from building up inside and is rustproof and virtually scratchproof. It has a generous eye relief at 3.6 inches and only weighs 1.08 pounds.
In the turrets department, this scope offers well-built windage and elevation adjustment turrets, allowing for on-point and precise tweaking while on the field. The turrets have good grip and don’t become loose even after regular heavy use.
Ideal for shooting sports and recreational shooting, the Bushnell AR Optics BTR-1 Rifle Scope is a high-quality product for your AR-15. It’s precise, durable, and has accurate holdovers out to 500 yards. It may not be suitable for extreme low-light situations. But for outdoor use with the sun in full swing, it gets the job done in an efficient and effective manner. Every penny you spend on this scope is definitely going to be worth it.
Founded in 2004, Vortex Optics is an American company specializing in scopes meant for both hunting and other outdoor activities, including bird watching. The company is headquartered in Wisconsin and is known for producing a wide range of rifle scopes, ranging from scopes built for close-range to high-powered scopes meant for long-range shooting.
The Vortex Optics Strike Eagle is one of the best scopes offered by the brand. It’s a 14-inch long scope with a 24-millimeter objective lens. It has a 1-6x magnification range, tailored specifically for both point-blank shooting and mid-range shooting, and has a field of view of 100 yards.
It’s designed for both tactical shooting in close quarters and hunting and includes a generous 3.5-inch eye relief. The latter means that you get enough space to protect your precious brow against recoils, which are known to give birth to nasty cuts on the head.
Versatile and fast-focusing, this scope is fully multicoated for increased light transmission, allowing for brighter images, reduced glare, and better image clarity even during low-light settings. It comes with an illuminated BDC reticle set in the second focal plane. The BDC reticle is glass-etched between two layers of glass, giving it maximum protection against outside elements. No need to worry about the BDC reticle being scratched off the glass and leaving you with a faded reticle.
Compact and relatively light (weighs 8 ounces), the Vortex Optics Strike Eagle is built for quick target acquisition and includes a set of capped turrets designed for precise windage and elevation adjustment. It’s made of a 30-millimeter tube and is completely sealed for protection against dust and moisture. Waterproof and filled with nitrogen to prevent moisture from building up inside, this scope is tailored for 5.56 NATO rounds.
The Vortex Optics Strike Eagle sits on the expensive side, with the price easily sailing past $300, depending on the seller. But as with other Vortex Optics products, you do get what you pay for. The package includes removable lens covers and lens cloth. For short-range and mid-range shooting, few can match the Vortex Optics Strike Eagle in regard to overall value. And to top it all off, the company provides excellent customer service.
If you’re looking for the best rifle scopes for AR-15, it would be best to look in-house first. And by “in-house,” we mean rifle scopes produced by American companies. Unsurprisingly, the US is home to some of the best brands specializing in optics for hunting and tactical shooting, with Burris Optics being one of them.
Based in Colorado, Burris Optics has been in the game since 1971. It was founded by Don Burris, a former design engineer at Redfield, another US-based optics company. Burris Optics produces rifle scopes, sights, binoculars, spotting scopes, mounting systems, and other firearm accessories.
In the rifle scopes department, the Burris Optics MTAC is one of the best products offered by the company. It’s made of a 30-millimeter tube and comes with a 24-millimeter objective lens and a 42-millimeter ocular lens. The size of the objective lens means this scope is not ideal for extreme low-light settings, where scopes with larger objective lens work best.
The Burris Optics MTAC has a magnification range of 1-4x. This means it’s best suited for close quarters tactical settings and short-range shooting. For long-range shooting, you can check out the other scopes offered by Burris Optics. This scope is 11.3 inches long and comes with an illuminated reticle with 10 brightness settings. The reticle is sharp in both illuminated mode and default-black mode, though for shooting competitions the latter works better.
This scope has a low profile design. Rest assured that it will not be constantly snagged on bushes and tree branches when you’re out hunting in the woods. Both the windage and elevation adjustment turrets don’t protrude too high from the scope. But despite the low-key profile of the turrets, they are quite easy to tweak on-the-go. No need to stop and fumble for several minutes, which could prove costly when you’re stalking a game.
Fully sealed to protect against dust and moisture, the Burris Optics MTAC is fully coated to reduce glare and increase light transmission. This allows for precise and reliable shooting, whether it’s during shooting competitions, recreational shooting, or big-game hunting. Easy to sight-in and highly durable, the Burris Optics MTAC is a solid option if you’re looking for a rifle scope for your AR-15.
If you’re all about extreme long-distance shooting, you need a rifle scope that’s perfectly suited for your long-range shooting activities. And in that regard, not many products can match the Vortex Optics Viper, another high-quality rifle scope offered by the American company.
Made of a single-piece 30-millimeter tube for optimum shooting performance, the Vortex Optics Viper is a 14.4-inch long rifle scope with a huge 50-millimeter objective lens, with a magnification range of 6.5-20x. This scope is built specifically for long-distance shooting, capable of producing outstanding image clarity even in high-power settings.
The large objective lens means this scope can transmit more light than scopes with a smaller objective lens. And the multicoated optics means that this scope provides a maximum light transmission with zero issues with glare. Even during extreme low-light settings, this scope gets the job done, making it the perfect scope for those who, for whatever reason, never really liked coming out to play when daylight is in full swing.
The Vortex Optics Viper comes with a mil-dot reticle, allowing for precise range, windage, and bullet holdover estimations. The reticle is set in the second focal plane and allows for outstanding precision over long distances. This scope has a generous eye relief of 3.1 inches and can easily withstand recoil from an AR-15, thanks to the premium materials used.
This scope is completely sealed, preventing dust, moisture, and other elements from invading the interior of the scope. Waterproof and fogproof, this scope is built to survive in different situations without being compromised by the weather condition. So feel free to go out hunting or target shooting while the rain is crashing from the sky if you’re into that sort of stuff.
The Vortex Optics Viper includes a set of capped turrets for better external protection. The windage and elevation adjustment turrets allow for quick reconfiguration to zero after sighting-in. Both turrets are easily accessible and have a good grip even when they’re soaked with rain.
The elephant in the room is obviously the price tag. The Vortex Optics Viper is an expensive rifle scope for AR-15, which isn’t really surprising considering the reputation of the manufacturer. But you would be hard-pressed to find any other product in the same price range with the same quality offered by this scope. Heck, this scope is even better than some scopes sitting near $1000. With the Vortex Optics Viper, you are guaranteed to get a product that screams “premium” and delivers outstanding shooting performance across the board.
In case you forgot, the Nikon M-223 is the third product from the Japanese company in our list of the best rifle scopes for AR-15. It’s a 13.1-inch long scope made of a single-piece, 1-inch aircraft grade aluminum tube, designed for maximum durability and performance. It has a 42-millimeter objective lens with fully multi-coated optics, allowing for up to 92 percent light transmission.
All of that means that this scope delivers nothing but clean and crisp images even in low-light settings, regardless whether you’re target shooting or stalking a game. This scope has a 3-12x magnification power, ideal for both mid-range and long-range shooting, and has a wide field of view. It’s designed specifically for .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO rounds with a 55-grain polymer-tipped bullet.
The Nikon M-223 comes with a BDC reticle for precise target acquisition from 100 to 600 yards. It has a quick-focus eyepiece, allowing you to quickly bring the reticle to sharp focus, and comes with a generous eye relief for shooters. With the included parallax adjustment, you can shoot with confidence over long distances with the Nikon M-223, one of the best scopes with a 3-12x magnification range.
Built to withstand rugged use and backed by a full lifetime warranty, this scope is O-ring sealed and nitrogen purged to protect it from the elements. It’s waterproof, fogproof, shockproof, and can easily endure harsh punishment from even the most extreme recoil. Rest assured that if you buy this scope, you’re guaranteed a product that’s built to last for years.
Mountable on virtually any rifle action regardless of caliber, courtesy of the enhanced mount ring spacing, the Nikon M-223 includes a set of well-designed turrets for quick and precise windage and elevation adjustments. And with the magnification setting viewable from the shooter position, tweaking the scope settings while on-the-go becomes a lot easier.
Nikon didn’t hold back when it comes to loading this scope with features. It’s packed with useful features designed to make the shooting experience as smooth as possible for shooters, regardless of their experience in handling an AR-15. Sure, it isn’t really the most accessible due to its expensive price tag. But if you’re flush with money and don’t mind coughing up over $500 for a rifle scope, the Nikon M-223 is one of the best rifle scopes for AR-15 currently available.
Operating from Michigan, US, Trijicon is a renowned brand in the world of firearm optics, producing sights and scopes available to both military and civilians. The company is also known for its expensive products, one reason why a lot of people don’t roll with Trijicon scopes.
If you’re in the market for a bank-breaking rifle scope for your AR-15, you can start your search by checking out the Trijicon Variable Combat Optical Gunsight (VCOG). It’s not only named like it’s meant for military use, it actually looks like it’s created specifically for military and law enforcement.
The Trijicon VCOG is a 10.05-inch long rifle scope with a 24-millimeter objective lens and a 1-6x magnification power, making it perfect for both close quarters and long-distance shooting. It weighs 23.3 ounces without the mount and battery, making it one of the heaviest rifle scopes on this list. Shooters who are used to carrying rifle scopes in the 10-ounce range will definitely need a bit of time to adjust to the weight of the Trijicon VCOG.
This rifle comes with a horseshoe dot reticle. But you can opt for a segmented circle if you prefer that kind of reticle. In terms of performance, both available reticles allow for precise and quick target acquisition, so it’s really just about personal preferences. The reticle is illuminated, powered by a lithium or alkaline AA battery, has six brightness settings, and can run continuously for up to 700 hours when set to red and 1400 hours when set to green. The reticle is set in the first focal plane.
Built like a tank for extreme use, the Trijicon VCOG is waterproof down to 66 feet, fogproof, and completely sealed from dust and moisture. It has a generous eye relief and can withstand recoil from an AR-15 like a boss. Boasting outstanding glass quality and light transmission capabilities, the Trijicon VCOG is a high-end rifle scope that delivers unparalleled performance whether you’re in a shooting competition or hunting a big game.
For those who can easily afford high-end rifle scopes, the Trijicon VCOG is definitely one of the best options available on the market.
Buying Guide: 3 Things to Consider When Buying a Rifle Scope for AR-15
Shopping for the best rifle scope for AR-15 isn’t a straightforward process. There are several things that you need to carefully consider first before making the final decision. Here are the three most important things to take into account when shopping for AR-15 rifle scopes.
Scopes are often listed with numbers that look like this: “3-9×40.” The former refers to the magnification range of the scope. “3-9” means that the scope is capable of producing images at least three times bigger than what you can see with the naked eye. “40” refers to the size of the objective lens, the lens furthest from the shooter, which is typically measured in millimeters. The bigger the objective lens, the more light can be transmitted, leading to clearer images.
Not all scopes are meant for all-around use, so you need to consider first where you’re going to use your AR-15. Is it for big-game hunting trips? Is it for target shooting in an open field? Is it for close quarters tactical settings?
For extreme long-distance hunting in an open field, a rifle scope with a maximum magnification of at least 12x is often recommended. But make sure that the scope has a large objective lens for optimum light transmission, which translates to clearer and brighter images over long distances. For hunting in a dense forest, having a powerful scope is hardly necessary.
For close quarters tactical settings, point-blank shooting, and other short-range shooting activities, the image is clarity is more important than magnification. Scopes with a 1-4x magnification range should be more than enough for such activities. Scopes meant for close range often come with a smaller objective lens, making them more compact and low profile.
Reticles come in different forms. And like with the magnification, picking the right reticle depends on where you are going to use your AR-15. There are three types of reticles commonly featured in the best rifle scopes for AR-15, namely the duplex reticle, the mil-dot reticle, and the Bullet Drop Compensation (BDC) reticle.
Of the three, the duplex reticle is the most common and the most straightforward. Designed for quick target acquisition, this reticle simply features a cross with thick lines on the edges and thin lines near the intersection point. But certain scopes built for long-distance shooting sometimes include a duplex reticle with markers to allow you to estimate distances.
The mil-dot reticle is basically the same as the duplex article in terms of appearance, with a simple cross etched on the scope. The main difference between the two is that the mil-dot reticle always includes a set of markers for distance estimation in both the horizontal and vertical plane. Hunters and marksmen who enjoy long-distance shooting often go for scopes with a mil-dot reticle.
The BDC reticle allows you take into account the effect of gravity on the fired bullet. In long-distance shooting, you need to aim higher, and a BDC reticle gives you the measurements needed to compensate for the bullet drop, hence the name of the reticle. Scopes built for extreme long-range shooting often come with a BDC reticle.
Reticles are sometimes illuminated to allow for precise target acquisition in low-light environments, typically experienced when hunting during dusk or dawn. Illuminated reticles are a lot easier to see in dark environments than plain black reticles. But for shooting competitions, people sometimes find black reticles to be more useful.
A reticle is etched in either the first focal plane or the second focal plane. In layman’s terms, this refers to the location of the reticle inside the scope. The first focal plane is located near the objective lens. The second focal plane is located near the ocular lens and eyepiece.
A reticle set in the first focal plane is magnified along with the image every time you adjust the magnification power of your scope. This means that when you zoom-in a scope with a mil-dot reticle, the small markers become larger, allowing for better accuracy over long distances.
A reticle set in the second focal plane is the opposite. Instead of growing bigger, the reticle remains the same size regardless of the magnification level of the scope. Again, choosing between this configuration and a reticle set in the first focal plane depends on the application and, of course, personal preferences.
Benefits of Using a Rifle Scope
Complementing your AR-15 with a scope improves your experience and shooting performance across the board. Here are some of the benefits of using a scope instead of simply relying on the integrated iron sights.
- More accurate shots. More accurate shots allow you to save up on rounds.
- Dramatically increased shooting range.
- Quick target acquisition and identification.
- Reduces distance guessing.
- Pinpoint accuracy in close-range tactical situations.
- Better visibility in low-light environments.
- Being able to shoot from a safe distance against an aggressive game.
- More convenient to use than iron sights.
- Easier game recognition from afar.
- Instances of accidentally shooting something you’re not supposed to (e.g. humans) are reduced to zero. Don’t laugh. Accidents happen whenever a gun is involved.
It’s all about application and preferences when buying the best rifle scopes for AR-15. People who mainly engage in target shooting in an open field will need a different scope than someone who regularly participates in shooting competitions. Same thing for long-distance hunters and those who love to hunt game in dense forests and in low-light settings.
Before committing to a scope, make sure that particular scope addresses your needs perfectly. The last thing you would want is to end up in a scenario where you coughed up over $500 for a scope, only to find out that the scope is hilariously ill-fitted for whatever shooting activity you’re into.
Hopefully, with this buying guide on hand, you will be able to make an informed decision when buying a rifle scope for your AR-15.