It’s a question that comes up in gun groups on a regular basis: what’s the best AR-15 scopes under X dollars? And just as regularly comes the stream of replies, most forgetting a minor detail beyond their own bias one way or another: application.
What’s the intended use of said affordably priced optic? How rigorously will it be used and on what gun?
Because of those variables I’d be doing you a disservice if I tried to claim this was an all-encompassing list of the best AR-15 rifle scopes. It isn’t, it’s just a few suggestions of some very good options in a range of prices with various applications like target shooting or for your favorite hunting rifle. With that in mind, here are five AR-15 optics you need to consider the next time you’re looking to buy.
This isn’t just one model it’s an entire line-up of affordably-priced scopes from one of my preferred manufacturers. It includes options for everything from ARs to Scout rifles to muzzleloaders; whatever your firearms preference might be you’re probably covered. Not only are the all the scopes in the VX-Freedom line under $500 cap, they all start under $400 (customization can affect cost).
My experiences with the VX-Freedom line have been positive. The 1.5-4×20, specifically, is a good example of the line’s versatility and quality. Scope features include a 3:1 zoom ratio, one-inch tube, and waterproofing as well as fog-proofing. Click value is ¼ MOA. In addition, the second focal plane scope is made from 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum and has scratch-resistant lenses.
It’s a well-made, high quality, durable rifle optic. I wouldn’t purposefully beat it on trees or take it on a rugged mountain hunt but for general purpose use it’s a very solid choice. This is a great scope and a fantastic example of a product performing not only within but beyond its price point.
MSRP for the Leupold V-Freedom 1-4×20 is $259.99.
The Bushnell AR Optics 1-4×24 is another affordable close quarters AR-15 scope that gives you a lot for your money. Build quality is above its price point with clean, precise turret click adjustments and smooth zoom operation including a built-in swing-away throw lever for fast adjustment. Its multi-coated glass is crisp and clear for good performance, even in low-light conditions.
The AR Optics 1-4×24 gives you choice of both first and second focal plane models with three different reticle choices, some illuminated. Eye relief is 3.5 inches, and the scope has 120 MOA of elevation adjustment and 140 MOA windage adjustment.
Busnell’s AR Optics scopes range in MSRP from $199 to $399.
This scope from Burris was originally designed for CQB work but it’s also a viable option for hunters. Keep in mind most deer hunters don’t take shots outside 150 yards – if we’re being generous, really it’s more like within 100 yards – which means a short-range model is fine. The Burris MTAC Riflescope 1-4x24mm is available with either a Ballistic CQ or Ballistic AR reticle, various finishes, and as part of different kits.
The matte-black finish MTAC with a Ballistic AR reticle has features such as illumination, 1-4x magnification, and 3.5-to-4.0 inch eye relief. Click value is ½ MOA and its total elevation adjustment capability is 130 MOA; windage adjustment capability is also 130 MOA. It’s parallax free and has a 30mm tube. It’s a nice short-range scope for your close-quarters rifle – hey, if you use an AR for home defense you’d better be doing some CQB training with it. Winging it is not the answer.
MSRP for the Burris MTAC Riflescope 1-4x24mm starts at $479 and it’s worth noting I’ve seen them for $399 online (scope only, matte black).
Riton RTS MOD 7 1-8×28 IR-T (Tactical)
Riton offers a variety of good-quality scopes for many uses but this particular model is meant for close-quarters use. The Riton RTS MOD 7 1-8×28 IR-T was designed by the company in conjunction with retired Navy SEAL Team Sniper Charlie Melton, a guy I’ve spent time shooting and hunting alongside. Charlie knows his stuff so it’s no surprise this is a solid AR optic.
The RTS MOD 7 1-8×28 IR-T is a first focal plane optic with an illuminated reticle. It is made from 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum and is Type III Hardcoat Anodized. Thanks to its being dry Argon purged and sealed the optic can withstand whatever the weather throws at it, a valuable feature in any optic. Yes, it is 100-percent waterproof, fog-proof, and shock-proof. It’s great in low light and made to take a beating which is precisely what you need from a solid tactical scope.
Other features include capped turrets with zero reset and ½-MOA per-click adjustments, a fast-focus eyepiece, and six daylight-bright settings. The optic is 10.9-inches long and weighs 25 ounces. Eye relief is four inches and all their optics have an unlimited lifetime warranty
I’ve run several Riton optics and have been pleased with their performance every time from tactics to hunting to red dots. They’ve got it all covered and are, in my opinion, an unsung star of the optics world. Riton is a name I’d like to see mentioned with greater frequency.
I admit it. When I first found out Crimson Trace was coming out with a riflescope line I was excited. As a long-time user of their products I had high hopes for their new optics and when I finally got my hands on them I was not disappointed. In fact, I was – am – thrilled. This optic is the one specifically designed by the company for tactical work at shorter ranges. Is it good? Uh, yes.
The 5 Series Tactical Riflescope 1-8x28mm is, like most tactical scopes, a first focal plane optic. The reticle is a custom Crimson Trace creation called the SR1-MIL made for rapid target acquisition and accuracy. The reticle is illuminated and, because it is an FFP, is located ahead of the magnification. There are multiple windage holding points and the multi-coated ED glass has exceptional clarity. Turrets offer precise, defined clicks; turret adjustments are .2 milliradian. Elevation and windage range are each 35 MIL. Illumination range is 11x daylight and 3x night.
Overall length of this optic is 10.9-inches and it weighs 22.4 ounces. This is a fantastic optic with a broad field of view of good eye relief. The SR1-MIL reticle really does get you on target quickly and the optic is well on its way to becoming a favorite. Crimson Trace did a wonderful job launching this line and I look forward to seeing what they add to it in the future.