Best AR 15 Scopes In 2018 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide
AR-15 rifles are well known due to their NATO association and .223/5.56 caliber. In recent years a lot of larger calibers have been created to be used on the AR-15 platform, which can produce a better long range weapon.
The usage of scope, or optic, on your AR-15 will massively differ depending on its intended use. Using optics like a red dot sight or holographic sight will enable quick target acquisition; however, by choosing The Best AR 15 scope, you will grant yourself additional benefits if you’re planning on using your rifle for hunting or long range shooting.
Top 5 AR15 Scope Reviews
There are many Rifle scope on the market and in particular, from many reputable manufacturers and therefore, choosing the best one is an arduous task, at least for the beginner. Our Team of experts have tested and selected the best AR 15 Scopes out of hundreds of Models. Before buying a scope please have a look at the AR 15 scope Reviews
|Nikon P-223 3×32 Matte BDC Carbine||3x||11.2 oz|
|UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact||3x-12x||23.2 oz|
|Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate BDC 600||3x-9x||15 oz|
|Nikon P-223 4-12×40 BDC 600||4x-12x||17.5 oz|
|Bushnell AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC||1x-4x||17 oz|
Best AR 15 Scope under 200
Nikon P-223 3×32 Matte BDC Carbine
The Nikon P-223 3×32 has been designed specifically for AR-15 rifles which use 5.56/.223 rounds and performs great in either a tactical or hunting role. At under $200, this is one of the most sought-after AR-15 scopes to hunter and shooter.
This is a fixed 3x magnification scope, which has an enormous field of view (35’ 6” at 100 yards), compared to scopes which have additional magnification. The benefit of having a wider field of view is that target acquisition is much faster. Therefore, if the majority of your shooting is less than 300 yards, then this scope should be sufficient.
When purchasing the scope new, it’ll come well packaged in a clam shell casing, with a cardboard back. It comes with two lens caps and a lens cloth, to make sure that it’s kept clean. Although these lens caps will do the job just fine, a lot of people usually replace this with flip up caps. Not only are these easier to use, but you won’t make the mistake of accidentally losing or breaking them. The lens cloth is adequate and should be kept.
As this scope is calibrated for 200 yards, and the magnification is fixed, it will limit its effectiveness at longer ranges. As it has been designed for medium range tactical, hunting and competitive use, it fills this role satisfactorily.
This scope is equipped with a bullet drop compensator, or BDC, which is already calibrated for .223/5.56 rounds. This gives the shooter additional guidance on where to aim, at different ranges, without having to alter or touch the scope. The scope reticle has two special markings below the central crosshair point, and these will be used to help your aim the further you are away from your target. You will likely have to adjust your point of aim after seeing the fall of shot a few times, but once you get used to this scope, or have a rangefinder, you’ll be hitting targets first go.
Nikon is well known for their high-quality camera lenses, and luckily for us, this quality has transitioned into their rifle scopes. These lenses are made in Japan, but the whole scope is manufactured in the Philippines. Regardless, the clarity of the scope is unbeatable.
Another excellent feature that this scope has, due to its price, are the tactical style knobs on the side. By simply twisting once till you hear a click, you can change 1/4 MOA with ease.
One of the downsides to using this style of scope is, the inability to use the backup iron sights. This, of course, isn’t a problem for most, but it may hinder a few. However, to get around this, mounting a backup site on the handrail may be worth looking into.
If you are looking for a compact scope with a high level of performance on a rifle which has a barrel length of less than 18″, then this could be the scope for you. Nikon also has a lifetime warranty with all of their scopes, should something fail or break.
- Fantastic quality for the price
- Excellent clarity
- A large field of view
- Quick target acquisition
- Fog and waterproof
- Low magnification doesn’t allow it to be useful for extremely long distances
- Only usable for AR-15 rifles
- No access to iron sights
Best AR 15 Scope For the Money
The UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 is a very popular scope and is used primarily by hunters. At under 200 dollars, it is considered as the best budget AR 15 scope. Although small, this scope is made to the highest of standards and can be used for a variety of shooting activities. This scope is able to switch from 3x magnification, to 12x, making it ideal for short and long range shooting.
Comprising of a wide array of illumination options, this scope is ideal for any type of weather and environment. The IE technology that this scope uses in the reticle initially uses red and green to help line up your shot, but will also allow a choice of 36 colors. This is perfect for those who are color blind, as they will be able to choose colors that stand out for them, rather than having to squint to see if the red and green have aligned. Even with heavy recoil, the illumination inside the scope will be unaffected.
This scope has the ability to produce accurate adjustments with its zero locking function. It has been designed to make sure that it gives consistent elevation and windage adjustments to make sure your aim is as accurate as it can be. The locking and resetting functions that are present allow you to secure your alternations and reset them as needed. The multi-emerald coated lenses provide the shooter with perfectly crisp vision. Whether light is angled into you, or if there’s minimal light, this scope will not obscure your vision.
A lot of scopes perform well during the first few rounds. But after over a hundred they can start to become inaccurate. Amazingly, this scope stays consistent even after several hundred fired from under it. This scope is also parallax free from 10 yards onwards, which help to guarantee your accuracy as you won’t need to keep search from the “sweet spot”.
The UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 is a very lightweight scope, weighing in at 1.4 pounds. It does look a lot heavier than it is, due to the robust design. This scope is very affordable and for the price, has a fantastic feature set. This is one of the best scopes you can buy for the price. It’s shock, rain and fog proof and the best option if you suffer from color blindness.
- Very affordable, and the best value for your money
- Incredibly durable and robust, matching that of even more expensive scopes
- Uninterrupted illumination, even with heavy recoil rifles
- Perfect for short range and long range shooting, due to the 3x and 12x magnification options
- Easy to accurately hit targets, regardless of weather and environment
- The best scope for color blind shooters
- The knobs on the scope can be fairly difficult to adjust, sometimes. Some shooters may like this, but most will probably prefer them looser
- Although it has the capability of 12x magnification, the clarity of it isn’t great. It’s best to use this scope in its 3x magnification mode. If you want a good 12x, look elsewhere.
- Having the caps becoming loose has been a well-documented problem. The caps that come with the scope often come loose in the field, which is somewhat unacceptable.
Best AR 15 Scope For 500 yards
Here we have the P-223 3-9×40, a reasonably priced scope ( under 200) which has professional grade features. This is yet another scope which has the BDC reticle, which all Nikon scopes of this caliber have. This allows easier distance theorycrafting at between 100 and 600 yards. This scope is suitable for hunters, as well as marksmen, looking to snatch the perfect long range shot.
Being able to see and spot your target clearly visible is crucial when looking through your rifle scope, as this is critical for acquiring your target in the shortest amount of time possible. This Nikon scope, like the others in its range, uses multi-coated technology. This allows up to 98% light transmission into the scope, which improves visibility during low light weather. This is an incredible feature for a scope of its price.
As we spoke of previously, this scope uses a BDC reticle. The additional aiming points on the reticle allow you to adjust your shot according to your distance, without having to twist or turn any knobs on the scope. These aiming points are specifically optimized for .223 and 5.56 caliber rounds.
The P-223 3-9×40 has a 3 – 9 times variable zoom. The 3x magnification is suited for AR-15 rifles and will allow you to see the target correctly. However, if using 9 x magnifications, you may find that it doesn’t allow you to see enough detail to be able to hit your target first or second go accurately. A well-trained marksman would not have any issues though.
The issue of parallax at longer ranges can be a nuisance, even to experienced shooters. Thankfully, Nikon has taken care of this problem due to its 100-yard parallax feature. This will ensure that your reticle is actually lined up to what you’re planning on hitting. This scope also has a significant amount of eye relief, which will help to make sure you don’t injure your brow. This is ideal for those who may be using recoil-heavy rifles or those who are shooting at odd angles.
The P-223 has a very useful positive click feedback feature on the MOA hand turn turrets. Each click is 1/4 of a MOA and will also be locked into place, regardless of how many shots you’re firing. Lesser made scopes can often have problems with having to be readjusted after a few magazines worth of rounds are fired from under it.
- 98% light transmission when looking through the scope allows you to see your intended target, even when light is low during dusk and dawn
- BDC reticle allows you to engage different targets at different distances, by simply adjusting your aim higher, rather than touching the scope
- The scope has very precise adjust knobs and turrets, allowing you to lock in your zero with ease and securely.
- 100-yard parallax feature, as is standard for all Nikon scopes from this range.
- Nikon is a trustworthy company, and their scopes come with a lifetime guarantee
- The 9x magnification zoom may not be enough for some
- Higher grade scope mounts are usually recommended when purchasing this scope and will increase the overall cost
- Lens caps aren’t of high quality, and a lot of hunters recommend buying flip up caps
Best Long Range AR 15 Scope
The P-223 4-12×40, is a slightly more expensive scope, compared to the other Nikon products, but it still has all the professional grade features that we know and love about Nikon. This is yet another scope which has the BDC reticle, which all Nikon scopes of this caliber have. This allows faster target acquisition between 100 and 600 yards. This scope is perfectly suitable for hunters, as well as marksmen, who are looking for a good long range option. The additional price of this scope is due to the 12x magnification ability.
It is crucial to be able to visibly see and spot your target clearly when looking through your rifle scope. Being able to acquire your target in the smallest amount of time is critical. The P-223 4-12×40, like many others from the Nikon range, uses their standard multi-coated technology. This improves the visibility massively when looking down the scope, as it allows up to 98% of the light spectrum to enter, which will aid you in seeing correctly in low light conditions. For a scope of this price, this is a fantastic feature.
The BDC reticle, that we briefly spoke of previously, is a very useful tool. This reticle has additional aiming points within the viewfinder, which allows you to adjust your shot by aiming either up or down, without having to turn any knobs on the scope. The reticle markers have been specifically calibrated for a .223 or 5.56 calibre round.
The P-223 4-12×40 has a 4 – 12 times variable zoom. The 4x magnification works really well for AR-15 type rifles and will give you good target visibility at medium ranges. If, however, you plan on using the 12x option, you might need to customize your rifle. Adding things like a longer barrel, and a few other specific modifications, will allow your shots to travel a lot further.
The parallax problem, which a lot of scopes and optics can have, is rectified by its hundred yard inbuilt parallax feature. This will make sure that what your reticle is looking at, is actually the specific target that you want to be engaging. To make sure that you don’t damage your brow and eyes, this scope has plenty of eye relief to nullify any of the recoil that your rifle may have stop in fact, this is actually a good scope option for those that are using recoil heavy rifles and for those who may at some point be shooting at odd angles.
- You will always be able to see the target you wish to engage at low light levels, due to the 98% light transmission
- The BDC reticle options helps you to engage at varying distances with ease
- The scope has very precise adjust knobs and turrets, allowing you to securely lock in your zero with ease
- Although standard for most Nikon scopes at this price, the parallax feature is great
- Lifetime guarantee, just like all Nikon products
- The 12x magnification may not be used to its full capability when used in conjunction with a standard AR-15 rifle.
- If your barrel is smaller than 24″, the BDC will be slightly off.
- Most hunters will recommend that you swap the lens covers
Best 1-4x scope for AR 15
Bushnell is a common and familiar name in the word of scopes and optics. They make everything from rangefinders and binoculars, to spotting scopes and optics. Tactical scopes are becoming more and more popular in the last few years, whether they’re used for their primary purpose, or used for hunting and sport.
The scope stands out due to it being a 1-4x magnification illuminated scope. If you’ve read the previous reviews above, you’ll know that that is a significantly shorter range than most sights. Being able to quickly adjust from a red dot 1x sight to a 4x scope capable of hitting over 500 yards accurately, is why this scope has the popularity that it has.
This Bushnell scope has a 24mm lens and is capable of 1x or 4x magnification. It also has a BDC reticle that is illuminated and is still able to be used in the day. The BTR-1 has been designed for both 55gr and 62gr 5.55 rounds which mean you won’t need to re-zero if you’re changing ammunition types. The throw down PCL also allows you to adjust your scope power without having to take your eye off of the target. The field of view for this scope is initially calibrated at 110/33 at 1x magnification and 36/11 when magnified by 4x.
The sealed O-ring on this scope keeps out all the dust and moisture that could potentially damage it. It’s waterproof and incredibly durable. The 30mm tube should accommodate most of the standard O-rings on the market.
The reticle, amazingly, sits initially on the first focal-plane. This means that it scales with the power that you set on the scope. As you increase the power, the scope will reveal the BDC.
This scope is perfect for someone who is looking for a cheaper 1-4x magnification sight but doesn’t want to skimp on the quality. Cheap doesn’t mean cheaply made as the construction on this scope is very reliable and robust.
It isn’t possible to co-witness this scope, and you’ll need to get at least medium height O-rings. It is possible to install 45-degree iron sights if you feel like you require them, but as it’s a 1x optic as standard, they’re probably not needed.
- The scope doesn’t weigh a lot, so is easy to carry around and won’t make your rifle heavy
- Great eye relief and multi-coated optics allow for maximum light and maximum sight picture
- Completely waterproof, rather than being water resistant
- The throw down PCL lever allows for very quick power adjustments
- Although not a massive con, this scope doesn’t come with a cleaning lens
- This scope doesn’t come with a mount, so extra care and research will be required to install this optic efficiently
- Is not suitable for longer barreled rifles, as well as those wishing to hit targets at extremely long ranges
- After having the illumination on for long periods of time, it’s been reported that the optic coloring can go a little off
Advantages of A Good AR 15 Scope
There are some of the common thoughts which people had a few years back. People used to think that it is not necessary to attach a scope to their rifle. But the idea has changed slowly and you can see now that most of the hunters have started using scopes. It is because they have come to know the benefits of a rifle scope.
Use of good scopes for AR 15 plays a significant role. The advantages of using rifle scopes are mentioned here below.
- The major advantage of using the scope for your rifle is that you can have a clear and accurate view of your target. There will be a significant difference in viewing your target with and without using scopes. Also, you will become an expert in shooting within a short period.
- The scope will help you in increasing the range of your rifle. By increasing it, you will see your target closer than it’s exact position. It will help you to make a clear shot at your target.
- It will assist you from rushing at your target when it approaches you. Focusing on your target will be much easier as you see your target object closer.
- As you use the rifle scope you will be able to score much. Just you have to make sure that you have the regular practice.
- Your shooting skill will be improved day by day if you use a rifle scope consistently.
- It will boost your self-confidence. Because using a good scope you will be able to perfectly shoot the target more often.
- You can save Bullets. Since a scope increases the accuracy, fewer bullets will be spent for more game.
- While hunting big game, it is not necessary to come closer to the targeted object, and thus you will be saved from any dangerous situation
One must be psychologically ready and vigorous enough while involving himself in hunting with rifles. Having positive vibes will help you boost up your strength and stamina. Shooting is just like every other sport. You will have to focus and get trained in a regular interval by doing this you will be able to aim longer and have a clear cut shot.
How to choose the best scope for AR 15 ?
It’s dream for every shooter or hunter to get the best Rifle scope, which offers superior Optics, sturdy construction and reliable Performance.
Before buying the best scope for AR 15, you must judge the following factors that are essential to good shooting -confidence. You should thoroughly examine all their features to ensure that it will respond well to all your needs.
When choosing to purchase a new scope for your AR-15, you first must decide what sort of distances you want to shoot at. If every target you’re likely to engage is within 500 yards, your scope purchase will substantially differ from those who wish to shoot far beyond that. It also has to compliment your rifle’s capabilities too. There’s no use putting on a 12x magnification scope when your rifle’s effective range is only 500 yards at best.
There are two types of eye relief that you’ll encounter when looking at scopes, short, and long. Short eye relief is most commonly found on rifles, and is usually between 1 and 5.5 inches. Short eye relief is best suited for long range rifles due to it enabling the shooter to have a more clear and concise sight picture. The field of view is exceptionally larger than long eye relief scopes and allows the shooter to have more vision at higher magnification. These scopes also come in highest levels of magnification, as well as providing BDC reticles.
Long eye relief is usually considered anything larger than 6 inches. These are often found on short barreled weapons, like handguns, or any other weapon that you’re likely to be holding in front of you. However, some rifles require a long eye relief just to be able to operate the bolt correctly. They’re also required for high caliber weapons that have huge amounts of recoil. It’s unlikely that you’ll need a long eye relief scope for your AR-15.
Remember that the safety distance between the optics and your face or eye must remain between +/- 8 to 10 cm. Unless you plan on shooting at .22 with a small setback, do not hesitate to test the rifle scope in this regard before buying it.
There are many different styles of reticle available, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. However, it’s likely you’ll only encounter 2 or 3 when searching for a scope for your AR-15. It’s important to note that some reticles are relatively invasive, as well as others being very minimalistic. Therefore, if you think you’re going to be shooting something very small, it’s a good idea to make sure your reticle isn’t large and overbearing.
The original reticle
This is simply a vertical and horizontal cross, that is about as basic as you can imagine, but has done the done it’s needed to do for years. These are not common in newer optics.
One of the simplest reticle available. A dot reticle simply has a single dot in the exact center of the scope. Red dot sights are often used in more tactical situations, or when close range shooting is deemed necessary. Some scopes will have a dot reticle, as well as another reticle that’s more suited for long range, like a BDC.
BDC – Bullet Drop Compensation
A BDC reticle is fairly common for tactical and hunting scopes. It allows the shooter to adjust their aim quick and easily, depending on their rough judge of distance, by simply aiming either up or down. These reticles usually go up in 100 yard or meter increments and can come in either dots, lines or circles.
Illuminated and non-illuminated
When thinking about the uses of your scope, it’s important to know whether you’ll be using it during low light hours, or even in the dark. If so, having illumination capabilities is incredibly important. These can be turned off, although using them during the day is still beneficial.
If you 100% think you won’t be shooting in low light, then purchasing a scope that doesn’t have illumination isn’t a problem. These scopes will just have black markings for their reticles.
Objective lens diameter
The role of the objective lens diameter is quite often misunderstood. Having a large objective lens doesn’t actually increase the field of view when looking down your scope. The only thing it’s responsible for is the amount of light that is allowed to enter. This enables your sight picture to be sharper and crisper, towards the center of your field of view.
Field of View (FOV)
Field of view, or FOV, is measured at 100 yards; in feet. This is basically the amount you’re able to observe from your left and right arc when looking down your scope. If you increase your magnification, your field of view will diminish. However, if your magnification decreases, your field of view will increase. As an example, at 9x magnification, your field of view would be approximately 14 feet wide, at 100 yards. For a 3x magnification of the same scope, your field of view would be nearer the 30 feet mark. It’s important to note that a lot of things can affect the field of view, and it isn’t solely from magnification. This means that two different scopes from various companies could have the same magnification, but have the completely different field of view.
The benefit of using a variable scope is that it offers additional light management benefits over a fixed power scope. The easiest way to understand this, is to think of your scope as if it is an eye. If it’s bright, you should make your exit pupil smaller, and if it’s dark, you should increase the size of your exit pupil in order to get as much light into your scope as possible. We won’t go into the complicated math that is involved with working out how much to change your exit pupil depending on your magnification and light levels, but what we will say is that this really is a massive advantage of a fixed power scope.
Fixed and variable lenses
As with everything, there are advantages and disadvantages of choosing either a fixed or a variable lens scope. It’s only recently that variable lens options have become so available and mainstream, but the advancement in technology has been the rise in these clever scopes. In most cases, if you know you’re always going to be shooting at a particular range, a fixed scope is going to serve a better purpose. This is because you’ll be getting more value out of your purchase, as variables are generally more expensive, as they have a lot more moving parts, etc. However, if you’re shooting at anything that isn’t a range target, i.e hunting, then your prey is never going to be at the same distance every time. A variable scope is a must for these sorts of situations. Take into consideration the power of your rifle when purchasing a variable scope, as there is no point in purchasing an 18x magnification optic, for a 20″ barrel length rifle, as your shots will never reach your target.
Which scope should I buy?
We have now covered the essentials of what to look for when buying a scope for your AR-15 but you may feel like you still need more direction. That isn’t a problem, and we’ll give you some guidance. You first must ask yourself what your shooting situation is.? If you’re a hunter, where do you hunt? If you’re primarily in overgrown areas and shooting at targets around 100 yards away, then a scope between 2x and 3x is sufficient. However, if you’re shooting targets 200+ yards away, then a variable higher magnification scope is a must.
- If your target objects distance is around 200 yards, then a 1 – 4x variable scope is good for your job done right.
- If you want to hit at medium range object (500 yards), then you should go for a 3 – 9x variable scope.
- If you want to shot at longer distance object (500 + yards) , then a 4-12x variable Scope is good enough to meet your needs.
You may not be into hunting and are a tactical or competition enthusiast. A variable scope, which has access to a BDC reticle, is a must.