23 Best AR-15 Scopes & Optics (Reviewed by a Marine) 2023

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The Situation: You finally pulled the trigger and bought that AR-15 you’ve been daydreaming about.

You’re super excited to finally get out for some range time, but after sending a few rounds down range something just doesn’t feel right.

It’s not the tactical stock, it’s not the muzzle brake, it’s not the foregrip. What could it be?

You plink a few more demonic paper targets trying to consider what could be missing when you hear the faint metallic pings. They sound like they’re coming from over 500 meters out!

You realize the guy down range is nailing the long distance targets with an AR that is built just like yours! What’s his secret? What does he have that you don’t?

Then you see it. Those beautiful curves. Those shiny lenses. Those sexy flip up covers. That’s it! You need a new scope for your AR-15.

Larue Model LT-15 AR15 with Leupold VX-6 Rifle Scope
Larue Model LT-15 with Leupold VX-6 Scope

So, you speed home and hop on the Google box searching for the best AR-15 scope for the money within your price range. An overwhelming sensation ensues and soon you are hours deep in reading thousands of reviews over hundreds of scopes.

Related Article: 15 Best Long Range Rifles (Ranked by a Marine Sniper)

There are so many options, how could you ever choose just one? These things are expensive, so God forbid you pull the trigger on one and it turns out to be a lemon.

I’ve been there, so let me help you by first explaining what to look for and what to expect and then I’ll list out some of my favorite choices in variable price ranges that should help you to find exactly what you’re looking for!

Quick Navigation: Here are the best AR-15 scopes (listed by price).

Quick Summary: Our Top Picks for AR-15 Scopes and Optics in 2022
Bushnell Banner Dusk and Dawn
  • 3.3” eye relief
  • 3-9x 40MM
  • Low light capable for use during dusk and dawn
Vortex DiamondBack
  • 3-9x40mm
  • Head-hold BDC reticle
  • Steel precision turrets
Primary Arms SFP Riflescope with ACSS Reticle
  • 1-6x24mm
  • Second focal plane
  • 11 brightness configurations
Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20×50
  • 6.5-20x50mm
  • 30mm main tube with hard anodized finish
  • Second focal plane
EOTech HHS ll ExpS2-2 with G33 3x magnifier
  • Holographic hybrid system
  • 65 MOA circle with 2 1 MOA aiming dots
  • Takes up only 2.75” of rail space
Want to learn more about scopes before seeing the list? Keep Reading! If not, use the navigation menu above.

Buying Guide

Scope for AR-15s Buying Guide

First and foremost, if the scope buying process is stressing you out, sit back in your chair and relax. Look through your favorite Field and Stream magazine and ponder the meaning of the life beyond your boom stick.

What do you need a new AR-15 scope for? Are you simply looking to take out those evil paper targets at the range? Are you planning to destroy your enemies in competitive shooting? Are you building a new rifle to gun down those furry little critters your wife or girlfriend loves? Are you planning to bust this sucker out at a meat shoot? Is it your life long goal to see how far a .223 is capable of flying?

You must dial in the scope of the mission before you even think about buying a new AR-15 scope. No scope will handle every job perfectly so really think about how you’re going to use this bad boy.

Home defense? Go ahead and stop reading here and instead pop over to my red dot sights buying guide as you won’t need a scope for good ol’ close quarter combat situations.

Tips to Find the Right Magnifying Tube Thingy

In this part of the guide, we’ll discuss things you should know before you start searching for a suitable scope for AR-15s. If you are already a total pro, you can scroll past this part straight to the list of scopes or use the quick navigation menu above.

This Guide is for Those Going the Distance!

Pricing: If you had to sell the boat to build this bad boy, you better consider selling the van to buy a scope for it. A scope should roughly match the quality of the firearm it will be married to.

After all, you don’t want them fighting one another, do you? This makes for a very expensive mistake, as the two will not be willing to work together and provide you with the performance you deserve.

If you’ve spent $1000 or more on your AR, you shouldn’t be looking for a cheap scope. If your AR-15 is built like a Cadillac, the scope needs to be Cadillac quality as well! That doesn’t necessarily mean they should cost the same, but if you have a quality AR, do yourself a favor and buy a quality scope.

As a general rule of thumb, smaller tubes and objective lenses are usually cheaper. There are, of course, many variables that play into this so that doesn’t always hold true. Fixed focal lengths, or scopes that do not have a range of magnification are also usually on the cheaper side to their variable brethren.

Light: Some people think the larger the lens is (objective lens) facing forward the higher the magnification of the scope. This is usually not true and can be a tad misleading. This front-facing lens determines how much light the scope can handle which will determine the brightness and quality of the sight picture.

With a small objective lens, targets in the woods and dimly light areas may not appear so vividly, causing you to skip over them unknowingly. If you’re always shooting in a well lit area, this probably won’t be much of an issue for you but if you plan to go hunting, chances are good that you may incur targets in shaded areas.

A second variable to light is the tube size. Tube size will also play an important role in light transmission so the same rules above apply here.

Remember, though, if your trekking with your rifle across the tundra, weight may be something you should consider. The larger tube and lens you have, the more glass you’ll be lugging with you. Glass is heavy, so don’t opt for larger if you won’t need it. Your muscles will thank you later for choosing the slimmest scope that gets the job done!

Effective Range: Shooting a mile sounds cool, and it is, if you have ammo that can actually reach that far. This guide is focused on AR-15s which fire either the .223 or 5.56 NATO rounds. This ammunition is not suitable for extremely long flights.

Their max effective range is roughly 500 meters for point targets and 600 meters for area targets. This means that buying scopes optimized for distances further than 600 meters is a terrible idea, both for your sanity and your bank account.

Most people will be using their AR-15s to take down targets within 400 meters or less. Make sure the scope you choose is suitable for this distance, or whatever distance your mission requires, so be it that the ammo can actually reach the mission’s specifications. If it can’t, you may want to look for an AR10 (effective to 1000 meters) or something a bit more powerful than an AR-15.

Magnification: More magnification usually always sounds like a good thing, but if you’re using your rifle to hit moving targets or perhaps hunting, too much magnification may hinder your ability to acquire targets quickly and plan for incoming obstacles.

Higher magnification results in a much smaller window of sight but much further distances. If you’re perched on a shooting range, the high magnification is great as you have all the time in the world to find those targets and you know exactly where they’ll be.

Some high-end scopes will offer variable power, which means you can cycle through magnification levels. These may be especially handy for scouting out targets and then focusing more in-depth once you have identified their location.

Something discussed in my red dot optics guide is the ability to use a 1x sight like an EOTech holographic sight paired with a prism magnifier to achieve the same results of a scope with the added ability of quickly switching and engaging close up targets with ease. Shooting 40 meters away with a 25x scope isn’t going to be enjoyable, but if you can switch between 1x and 30x with the flick of your wrist, you’ll have an unstoppable array of magnification at your fingertips!

Weight: We have already spoken about weight, but I’d like to put more emphasis on this factor. A scope may not seem like a huge contributing factor in weight, especially when holding it unattached to the rifle.

The problem is, all of these little additions add up on the rifle and vastly change the dynamics of the rifle itself. If you’re used to lightweight optics or simply using the attached iron sights, you will be thrown off by the added weight of a scope.

All of that glass will be weighing down on your rifle so make sure to practice with the added weight before deploying your new set up into action! A heavier weapon may also make it more difficult to hold steady or deploy in windy conditions.

These are all major factors at far distances, which are distances you’re aiming to achieve by attaching a scope in the first place, right?

Breaking Down What the Numbers Mean

If you start shopping before you completely understand all the fancy numbers with X’s in the middle of them, you’re going to be incredibly confused and will likely choose the wrong scope. What are all these Xs and MM’s?! I just want meters!

Example: 3-20 x 50mm

The first numbers are the power of magnification. In our example above, this means targets will appear 3 times larger than normal.

But wait, there are 2 numbers married together with a hyphen, what can that be? Those numbers indicate a range of power. This example shows us the scope is capable of a minimum magnification power of 3x all the way up to a maximum power of 20x.

Finally, the last number that is given in millimeters tells us the diameter of the objective lens. Remember, this will determine how much light will be transferred to your picture but will also result in heavier and harder to steady performance.

Reticles: An inexperienced scope shopper may not think much of the reticle coming with their scope, but you most certainly should consider these when spending your child’s college funds or if you want the best shooting experience.

Types of Scope Reticles

Most reticles will vary and largely will depend on the user’s preference. The difference between a dot and a crosshair won’t change the performance of your rifle very much but one or the other may be more suitable for the condition of your eyes.

Some of these reticles even come with helpful tools to aid your journey on the path to professional marksmanship. These are called bullet drop compensator reticles (BDC). They include helpful little lines or dots set at multiple levels of range. Typically, you’ll dial in your centerpiece at the range you will most likely shoot at and then use the lines to adjust once you’ve found targets. These are best used in hunting or variable target situations where you won’t be privy to range information before engaging.

When you see Mil-dot you may think these sights are for military use, but the mil in mil-dot has nothing to do with the military. The Mil stands for milliradian (1/1000 radian) and the mil-dot will have little dots spaced out across your crosshairs that are precisely spaced apart. These offer the shooter advanced information using complex mathematical equations to form estimations of range.

Focus Adjustments: Most scopes will come with a focus adjustment dial or turret which is typically located near the ocular end of the scope, or where your eye is looking into the scope.

Scope Labeled with Basic Terminology
Example Scope with Parts Labeled

If can’t find it, your scope either doesn’t have one or you’re looking into the opposite end and you may need to retake your hunter’s safety course!

The focus adjustment is simply there to help you adjust the sights to be comfortable to you specifically. Everyone has different eyesight and thus you must finagle with the focus adjuster until it just feels silky smooth.

Some scopes, often foreign brands, will name a turret “focus” when it’s actually not the focus. I know, this is confusing and may throw you off, but be careful and don’t assume all “focus” labeled dials and turrets are actually for focusing. If they aren’t for focusing, they’re probably for Parallax.

Parallax: If you buy top-end scopes, you probably won’t need to worry about this, but if you can’t fathom dumping all of your kids’ college funds and only part of them, you may need to consider if the scope suffers from the parallax effect.

In a nutshell, parallax is the change in sights depending on the angle of your eyeball. If you look at the crosshairs from different angles and the crosshair seems to move around and point to different things, this is parallax.

Parallax is very real and very dangerous as it will throw off the accuracy of your shot. If your scope has parallax (technically, all do, but many are so close to having no parallax that they claim they are parallax free) it might have an adjustment for this that you will simply need to play around with and practice until you get it right.

Eye Relief: (No More Making Up Excuses About How Someone Punched You In The Eye for Outshooting Them) Eye relief is how relieving it is after you shot down tomorrow’s dinner. Right? No? Eyes still not relieved? Hmmm.. okay. What about the ability to keep your dome piece further back from the sight while maintaining a clear sight picture? Is that relieving? Eye relief on a scope is measured by the distance your eye can be positioned away from the edge of the ocular lens.

Some scopes require your eye to be as close as half an inch away from the lens, which is funny when the recoil slaps you in the face!

Other, (typically more expensive) scopes allow for several inches of eye relief. If a scope has more than 6 inches of eye relief it is usually marketed as long eye relief scope.

In short, further eye relief equals a more enjoyable shooting process, safer eyeballs, and fewer black eyes. No more making up stories about how someone punched you for outshooting them when you actually just got KO’d by your own rifle.

Fancy Bonus Features: Luckily, most furry critters haven’t implemented cutting edge technology to evade you and the same technology your grandpappy used to gun down these critters will still work perfectly fine today.

However, if you want the deer to tremble at the idea of being hunted by the terminator, check out these new-age functions!

Illuminated Reticles: These are pretty self-explanatory and typically use batteries to light up your reticles. In low light situations, these can really come in clutch, enabling the shooter to see his/her reticles clearly.

Range fingers: Some scopes come with lasers! No, the lasers won’t fry holes through the hearts of your enemies, that’s what your 5.56 is for. However, it will display in-depth range data for advanced shooters to calculate bullet drop or helping you choose which BDC line to use.

Heads Up Display: Some advanced scopes will include ballistics of the ammo you are using, windage, range, holdover points, parallax adjustments, and more to ensure the perfect shot each and every time. We are talking about tactical AR-15 scopes though and most of these scopes are for taking mile-long shots. Some of these even have built-in accelerometers that measure inclination and bullet rotation patterns.

Smartphone Buddies: Your smartphone does everything man, usher in the technology era! If you love using your smartphone for everything, you might find it interesting that there are scopes that can send data straight to your phone via Bluetooth. They can even send pictures and videos so people can watch you mercilessly slay those cute little demonic prairie dogs!

“Bro, I sniped an ant 3 miles away with my custom tactical AR-15”.

Now you can use the pics or it didn’t happen motto on guys like that!

Dialing in: So, you’ve bought yourself some fancy scope whose body is riddled with dials. Don’t be that guy who has no idea what the little clicky clickers do on his optics.

Let’s say you’re all sighted in and ready to go, by your standards. You hit the range and you’re constantly cursing, claiming your sights are RIGHT ON BRO but your grouping is two inches low and two inches to the right.

Instead of blaming the gun, resort to the clickers! (called turrets if you want to be firearm correct). Adjust your scope 2 MOA (minute of angle) to the left and 1 MOA upwards. This will adjust the scope to set the target on the dot (or reticle).

There is MUCH MUCH MUCH more that you can learn about scopes, but this guide should have gotten you up to speed on a basic level thus far.

Without further a due, I’d like to show you the best AR-15 scopes at multiple price points. Keep in mind, these are scopes that I personally like.

Which scope you choose may depend on how tacticool you think one looks over another or your personal preference on features. There are THOUSANDS of options, so consider the ones I’ll show you but also take a look around for other possible options you may enjoy.

This list is mostly for those of you who would rather hit the range now instead of later while shoppers are stuck behind their computer screens reading about every single scope on the market.


Budget Bin: AR-15 Scopes Under $100

Welcome to the Budget Bin. The scopes listed will not provide you with high performance.

We discussed earlier the quality of your scope should match your rifle. There are no AR-15s for sale anywhere near $100 unless you robbed someone. These may be suitable if you just want a place holder or something to plink paper with for fun, but they will not offer a great level of accuracy, adjustability, or durability.

Also, when shopping in the Budget Bin, please make sure the scope can handle the recoil of the firearm you are placing it on. Not all scopes are built to withstand force, which is exactly what they receive when you put on powerful rifles. Just consider recoil, especially if you are looking to use this scope on another rifle build down the road.


23. Bushnell Banner Dusk and Dawn (Best Under $100)

Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Multi-X Reticle Riflescope with 3.3-Inch Eye Relief, 3-9X 40mm , Black

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My Review: You won’t find many Marine Approved AR-15 scopes here in the Budget Bin, but this is a fantastic beginner scope that delivers hints of performance you’d find in upper-tier scopes. This scope is advertised as being a great scope in low light settings, although you can use it in direct sunlight as well. Unfortunately, Bushnell doesn’t include or even manufacture a sunshade compatible with this scope and the scope has a bit of distortion at its highest levels of magnification. Aside from those two minor issues, this is a fantastic scope for an AR-15 or smaller calibers. It’s waterproof and feels surprisingly tough for its price!

Related Article: 16 Best Spotting Scopes (Ranked by a Marine)

If you want to learn more about this scope, I attached a video review below. I recommend skipping to around 4:24. You can see the distortion at higher magnification levels. Overall, this is a great AR-15 scope for the money! If you absolutely must staying within a $100 budget, this is the scope I recommend.

Functions and Features:

  • 3.3” eye relief
  • 3-9x 40MM
  • Low light capable for use during dusk and dawn
  • DDB multicoated lenses
  • Multi-X reticle with ¼ MOA
  • Windage and elevation turrets
  • One-piece tube design filled with nitrogen
  • Waterproof
  • Fog proof
  • Shockproof
  • One of the best budget scopes for low light operation
  • Holds zero surprisingly well for being so cheap

22. UTG BugBuster CQB

UTG 3-9X32 1" BugBuster Scope, AO, RGB Mil-dot, QD Rings , Black

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Magnification: 3-9x 32mm

My Review: This scope isn’t specifically designed for AR-15s, but it will work just fine. Being under $100 gives this scope a pretty big advantage over its direct competitors.

This scope has an intuitive mil-dot reticle with multiple color options. It seems to be very durable considering it’s a cheap scope, although it is certainly not waterproof and I’d be wary of being caught in the rain, even though it does say it’s rainproof. This is a good scope if you just want to have a little enhanced range capability at the shooting range. I wouldn’t take this out on a multi-day hunting trip or expect to land accurate groupings over 300m with it. The bottom line is that the BugBuster CQB is the very popular scope for AR-15s and is pretty good considering its price tag.

I attached a video review of this scope below.

Functions and Features:

  • 1” tube
  • Emerald coated for high light transmission
  • Lockable turrets and zero resettable
  • ¼ MOA per click adjustments
  • Range estimating mil-dot reticle
  • Red or green illumination options
  • Flip open lens caps
  • Totally sealed and nitrogen filled tube
  • Shockproof, fog proof, and rainproof
  • For under $100, this scope offers a pretty good mil-dot reticle
  • This scope seems to offer an okay level of durability being shockproof and rainproof

Rookie Numbers: AR-15 Scopes Under $200

At under 200 dollars, we are still talking rookie numbers. These are scopes that you can most certainly use to hunt and play around with. You won’t find fancy functions or extreme durability but you will find decent optical solutions for cheaper than most AR-15s will cost (which is against the rules of MarineApproved).

If shooting casually for pure enjoyment is your thing, these sights will be enough to suffice. If you are looking to take long pot shots accurately, keep scrolling.


21. Vortex Optics Crossfire 2

Vortex Optics Crossfire II 4-12x40 AO, Second Focal Plane Riflescope - Dead-Hold BDC Reticle (MOA) , black

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Magnification: 4-12x 40mm

My Review: This is one of my favorite optics in the under $200 category, but it’s still not as good of a value as the Vortex Diamondback or Buckermasters 2 scopes listed below. This scope doesn’t have any spectacular functions, but it does have a handy little BDC reticle and the most basic adjustments you’d need to have a little fun at the range. It is completely sealed and probably okay for a little rain during a hunting trip. With this scope, you should have no problem using the medium range of your AR-15 consistently. This is one of the top-rated scopes out there and definitely worth taking a good look at.

Functions and Features:

  • There are several versions of this scope allowing you to find the features and functions right for you
  • Long eye relief and forgiving eye box
  • Multi-coated lenses
  • Fast focus eyepiece
  • Capped reset turret
  • Single-piece tube construction at 1”
  • O-ring sealed and nitrogen filled
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • Popular scope for coyote hunting
  • Dead-hold BDC reticle
  • Very high-quality glass for a cheap price

20. Athlon Optics Talos Rifle Scope

Athlon Optics , Talos , Riflescope , 6-24 x 50 Second Focal Plane (SFP) 1" Tube, Illuminated ATMR1 MIL Reticle, Black

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Magnification: 6-24x 50mm

My Review: This is a pretty great little scope to have for medium ranges. It has no incredibly amazing features but it is relatively durable and will provide good consistency in the 100-200 yard range. This is the lowest scope on the Talos line, which is known for its high-end scopes but this scope performs just as good at a lower price if you are shooting for fun.

Functions and Features:

  • Multi-coated lenses for optimum light transmission
  • True color brightness
  • Etched reticle
  • Heat-treated one-piece tube
  • Nitrogen purged and completely sealed
  • Aircraft-grade aluminum tube
  • 3” eye relief
  • 23oz weight
  • Mil reticle
  • High durability compared to others in this price range
  • Crystal clear image with no shadowing even at highest magnification settings

19. Nikon Buckmasters II BDC Rifle Scope

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Magnification: 4-12x 40mm/
Note: Best Value Under $200 (2nd Overall)

My Review: As far as overall performance and quality, I feel it is second only to the next scope on this list (by a very small margin). That said, this scope is around $15 less than the next scope, so I would actually say this is the best AR-15 scope for the money in the under $200 category. So long as you get one that isn’t broke, isn’t a knockoff, and doesn’t come with factory defects, these scopes are incredible for the price. I would almost say they are equal in usability and precision as scopes in the next price range. It has a decent amount of durability and really does offer a great sight picture at every magnification level. I attached a video so you can learn more about the scope and see what the BDC reticle looks like below.

Functions and Features:

  • Nikon Patented BDC Reticle
  • Multicoated lenses for high-resolution sight picture and maximum brightness
  • Waterproof, fog proof and shockproof
  • Parallax adjustments
  • Nitrogen purged and O-ring sealed design
  • 3.7” eye relief
  • 1” tube diameter
  • Spot on Ballistic Match Technology and mobile device application
  • Crystal clear sight picture on any magnification setting
  • Patented BDC reticle offers easy to view bullet drop compensation

18. Vortex DiamondBack (Best Under $200)

Vortex Optics Diamondback 4-12x40 Second Focal Plane Riflescope - Dead-Hold BDC Reticle (MOA) , Black

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My Review: This is a fantastic budget option for hunting and medium-range target practice. Firstly, you’ll notice very easy to see crosshairs with enough eye relief to be comfortable when using for long durations. The XR crystal multi-coated lenses provide tons of light transfer, even late in the day as the sun is setting.

There are multiple different variations of this scope and the primary difference is the magnification. I chose to review the 3-9x40mm because I feel as though this is the best option of the six for an AR-15 setup. Some of them are a bit overkill for a 5.56 round but you could also use the 1.75-5×32, 3.5-10x50mm, and the 3-9x40mm. This is my choice as the overall best scope for AR-15 rifles in the under $200 category.

Related Article: 15 Best Rangefinders (Ranked by a Marine)

I will attach a YouTube video below so you can learn more about this scope.

Functions and Features:

  • 3-9x40mm
  • Head-hold BDC reticle
  • Steel precision turrets
  • One-piece tube design that is purged by Argon and O-ring sealed
  • Hard anodized finish
  • Crystal multicoated lenses
  • Shockproof
  • Waterproof
  • Fog proof
  • Good light capture even in dawn settings
  • Incredibly durable

Enthusiast: AR-15 Scopes Under $300

If you’re looking for getting the most bang for your buck, there are some pretty good scopes in this price range.


17. Nikon P-223 BDC 600

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My Review: This scope is specifically designed for an AR-15 shooting a .223 Rem/5.56 NATO round and has a BDC reticle inclusive of hash marks that are optimized for the round itself. I was very surprised when I first saw this scope. At first glance, it doesn’t look like anything special, but once you’re glaring down the scope and nailing targets with ease at variable ranges, you’ll see why this is a top-rated scope! They also make these with higher levels of magnification and for other rifles such as a .308 and AAC 300 BLK. Overall, I would say this is the best AR-15 scope under $300, but the Leupold scope below is a very close second.

I attached a good video review I found on this optic below. Keep in mind they are reviewing the 3-9x40mm version, but the overall features are the same.

Functions and Features:

  • Polymer and aluminum construction
  • Proprietary Nikon lens multi-coating
  • Spring-loaded instant zero reset turrets
  • BDC 600 reticle with open circle aiming and hash marks 100 yards to 600 yards
  • Spot On Ballistic Match Technology
  • Quick focus eyepiece
  • 1” tube diameter
  • 3.7” eye relief
  • Waterproof, shockproof, and fog proof
  • Bullet ballistic match technology is great for squeezing out the most effectiveness you possibly can
  • The scope is surprisingly durable

16. Primary Arms SFP Riflescope with ACSS Reticle (Best Under $300)

Primary Arms SLX 1-6x24 SFP Rifle Scope Gen III - Illuminated ACSS-5.56/5.45/.308

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My Review: The first thing people want to know is how well this performs against its more prestigious (and expensive) Trijicon RS24. That scope is also on our list and I will say, the Trijicon scope is most certainly better. If you have the money, go ahead and step up to it. However, if you don’t have a huge budget and you’re looking for something almost as good, the Primary Arms SFP comes up HUGE! At only half the price of the RS24, you get enhanced magnification, worse quality glass (but still great), and similar construction and styling. Realistically, this is one of the best scopes I’ve ever reviewed that I’d still consider cheap. At under $300, this scope offers a lot of what the $500+ scopes offer. If you don’t mind a slightly less than perfect glass quality, this scope should end up near the top of your wish list.

Notable Features:

  • 1-6x24mm
  • Second focal plane
  • Patented ACSS BDC AR-15 etched reticle (5.56, 5.45, .308)
  • 11 brightness configurations
  • IP67 waterproof
  • Nitrogen purged tube
  • Multi-coated anti-reflective lenses
  • 6063 aluminum construction
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Two eye capability on 1x and great eye relief with low magnification
  • Just as versatile as the Trijicon RS24 for roughly half the price

The only cons I see:

  • Awful eye relief at maximum magnification
  • Halo effect on low magnification

15. Leupold VX-Freedom

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My Review: This scope is everything you need and nothing you don’t. As far as value, it’s an absolute steal. It doesn’t have the fanciest design or extra features but at under $250 it’s a fairly high-quality optic. The crosshairs are especially thick, good for those with less than perfect eyesight. This scope also has more than enough magnification for the AR-15 and is very easy to adjust with precise finger clicks on its metal turrets.

Functions and Features:

  • 3-9x40mm
  • 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum construction
  • One inch main tube
  • Waterproof
  • Fog proof
  • Twilight light management system
  • 1/4 MOA precision clickers
  • Roughly 4” of eye relief
  • Feels incredibly sturdy
  • Does well during low light situations such as dawn and dusk

The only bad thing:

  • No lens caps

Tried and True: AR-15 Scopes Under $500

For the most part, AR-15’s are sold around the $500 mark. This means scopes in this price range will be suitable for marriage for many AR-15s.


14. Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20×50

Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20x50 PA SFP Riflescope Mil-Dot MOA

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My Review: One of the craziest adjustable magnification scopes I’ve gotten to review, the Vortex Viper did not disappoint. You could, if you wanted, smash targets at 100m and then seconds later land shots consistently at 1000m (rifle defendant). Of course, for applications regarding AR-15s, that’s probably a bit overkill and you’ll most likely be using its lower levels of magnification.

Vortex always amazes me. The brand comes off as a sort of budget brand to me for some odd reason, however, each and every time I review one of their products I am impressed! The sight picture is bright and clear and the durability of this scope is hardly any less than our top dollar mil-spec scopes.

Here is a pretty good video review on this scope. I recommend skipping to around 1:35 in the video.

Vortex BTC Reticle

A lot of you may argue with me on this, but Vortex time and time again proves that it is one of the best value brands in the optics game. They certainly aren’t the cheapest, but these scopes are worth saving up for.

Functions Features:

  • 6.5-20x50mm
  • 30mm main tube with hard anodized finish
  • Second focal plane
  • Mil-dot MOA or dead-hold BDC reticle options (different scopes)
  • Argon purged tube
  • Capped reset turrets for quick indexing
  • Vortex lifetime warranty
  • Glass quality that rivals high-end scopes

13. Leupold VX-R Patrol

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Magnification: 1.25-4x 20mm

My Review: Leupold is probably one of the most well-known high-quality scope makers out there and each and every one of their sights lives up to it’s name. This optic is incredibly easy to use and fits very well on top of the AR-15. It doesn’t have intense magnification levels, but with an AR-15 you don’t really need further magnification than what this scope offers. The price is a little high compared so scopes of this same magnitude but you’re probably paying a bit for the name. If that doesn’t bother you, pick this one up!

Functions and Features:

  • Constructed of 6061-T6 aircraft quality aluminum
  • 3:1 zoom ratio
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • Twilight light management system
  • Leupold proprietary hashmark FireDot reticle with 10 MIL centralized dot
  • Windage and elevation adjustments
  • Diamond coating on exterior lenses gives abrasion resistance and ultra-light transmission
  • Motion sensors that turn off the reticle when not in use and turn on the reticle when the scope senses movement
  • Legendary Leupold quality with their patented hashmark FireDot reticle
  • Low weight design compared to similar scopes

12. Burris 200437 MTAC

Burris 200437 MTAC 1-4 x 24 Illuminated Scope (Black)

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Magnification: 1-4x 24mm

My Review: This scope is probably one of the highest quality scopes you can purchase for an AR-15 that is suitable for short to medium distances. This scope obviously isn’t made for long distance shots so I wouldn’t expect it to fair well there, but it does offer incredible sight picture and unbeatable eye relief.

This optic also has a very elegant design that I don’t normally mention, but this one is just so impressive that I couldn’t help it. The Burris MTAC is a fantastic low to medium range scope that is well priced and sits beautifully on top of any AR-15 platform. It’s also very lightweight compared to its near competitors and comes with a lifetime warranty.

Functions and Features:

  • Lifetime warranty
  • High-quality aircraft-grade aluminum construction
  • 30mm Tube diameter
  • 17-ounce weight
  • 10 brightness intensity settings
  • Ballistic QC illuminated reticle
  • LPT knobs
  • Flip lens covers
  • Lifetime warranty that you probably won’t ever need to use due to high durability
  • Incredible eye relief for a scope of this design

What Do You Do for a Living?: Scope for AR-15 ($500 and Up)

Welcome to the buy once cry once section. In this section I detail random scopes that I like above $500. Most of these are probably a bit unnecessary to the casual AR-15 enthusiasts but may be a life saver to a competitive shooter or die hard hunter. If you are truly looking for the best scope for AR-15 rifles regardless of price, this is where you should be looking.


11. Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen 2

Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II 1-6x24 SFP Riflescope VMR-2 MOA

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My Review: Firstly, this scope comes in multiple different magnifications. I recommend the 1-6x VMR 2 MOA for the AR-15.

Secondly, this is the budget version of a top of the line scope, the Razor HD. Basically, it has slightly lower-tiered glass and a few corners were cut to reduce the price. With this said, however, don’t count this scope out! It’s amazing and its certainly usable for any mid to long range AR-15 setups. Comparing the Razor HD and the PST physically side by side is the only way you’ll actually notice a quality difference. The PST is just slightly bulkier and has slightly less lens clarity, but for the money you’re saving, I would say it’s most certainly worth it!

Functions and Features:

  • 1-6x24mm VMR
  • 2 MOA
  • 3.8” eye relief
  • Windage and elevation adjustments
  • Second focal plane rifle scope
  • Laser-etched turrets
  • Intuitive hash mark Vortex Reticle with detailed holding points and 10 intensity levels
  • Extra-low dispersion glass
  • Multicoated XR lenses with Armortek coating for added lens protection
  • O-ring sealed Argon purged aircraft aluminum tube
  • Adjustable parallax and RZR zero stop
  • Much cheaper version of the coveted Razor HD but almost just as good
  • No nonsense lifetime warranty

10. Trijicon RS24 AccuPower

Trijicon Credo 1-4x24 Second Focal Plane (SFP) Riflescope with Red BDC Segmented Circle Reticle, 30mm Tube, Matte Black

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My Review: Of course, anything from Trijicon is going to cost big, but do they come up big when you need them? In the case of the RS24, that answer is absolutely yes! This is one of the most complete all-around scopes I’ve ever encountered and to be honest, seeing the price tag of a quality Trijicon under a thousand bucks was a beautiful sight all of its own. For starters, this thing is built tough! You can really tell that Trijicon upholds its ruggedness no matter if its an ACOG, red dot, magnified optic, etc. Always expect battlefield level durability.

Secondly, the glass is incredibly clear but under direct sunlight, I feel like the illumination could be a little brighter. Aside from this one slight drawback, the optic performs great. I love the fact that you can be shooting with two eyes open with the red dot at 1x and with a quick click engage targets accurately at 400m. This is the closest high-quality scope to a multi-tool you’ll find! Also, checkout our review of best red dot for AR-15 here.

Functions and Features:

  • 1-4x24mm
  • 24mm Objective lens
  • 30mm tube diameter
  • Second focal plane
  • Waterproof up to 10 meters
  • Made of 6061-T6 anodized material
  • 31-hour battery life
  • The scope can be purchased in several different reticle types and color configurations
  • Top class versatility
  • Battlefield grade durability

9. Steiner P4Xi

Steiner 5201 P3TR P4Xi Riflescope with 1x-4x24mm

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My Review: Steiner originally modeled this optical system to be used in law enforcement applications where ambient light is low but a crystal clear sight picture is non-negotiable. Sure, it falls short of overall magnification range when compared to other similar premium brands coming in with 1-4x variable zoom but it does encompass a 30mm objective lens that is larger than something you would find, say, on the EOTech Vudu or some of the other 1-6x capable optics.

Steiner chose this configuration as to ensure this scope would operate and perform in low light situations and with that 30mm objective lens coated with some excellent light transmission technology and emphasis on creating a high-contrast sight picture, this is one of the best optics you could fit on your AR-15 for optimum low-light engagements. The illuminated reticle offers one of the fastest target acquisition experiences on scopes in its class and overall, I understand why they had to offer this optic to the general population as it’s downright amazing what quality and performance you can get out of a sub $700 scope.

By the way, when these first became available and targeted to the general consumer there were two different options. The consumer version did not have the quick variable zoom throw lever that the law enforcement version had. After launching two options, the law enforcement option quickly sold out and after seeing how popular that throw lever option was, they’ve just simply made all of the Steiner P4Xi standard with a throw lever.

This particular scope is just as tough as it is beautifully clear. You’ll get a water resistance rating down to 33 feet and an aluminum housing that rivals much more expensive optics. That illuminated reticle I mentioned before is going to come with a whopping 11 different settings and, of course, considering as this was primarily made for special law enforcement applications, you’ll be finding yourself with 2 of those 11 options tailored towards night vision and 4 other options for general low light usage.

Functions and Features:

  • 1-4x variable zoom magnification with law enforcement inspired quick throw lever
  • Extremely durable aluminum housing with a submersion rating of 33 feet
  • 11 brightness settings for the quick target acquiring P3TR reticle consisting of 2 NV compatible settings and 4 low light settings
  • 30mm objective lens with coatings that focus on transmitting optimum light in low light conditions and anti-glare coatings

8. Leupold VX-5HD

Leupold VX-5HD 2-10x42mm Riflescope, Matte (171386)

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My Review: This scope is probably not for the everyday range queen but more so for those of you looking to complete that dream build with an epic scope atop. The Leupold VX-5HD contains the highest quality glass of any variable magnification scope I’ve reviewed and despite it having a rather small objective lens, it delivers incredible brightness, even in low light situations. This scope isn’t going to blow away the competition, instead, it simply one-ups just about everything on this list and the price surely reflects that. In scopes like this, slight increments in glass quality cost huge amounts of money! Oh yeah, it’s also tough as nails with lens coating that you can drag through the dirt and waterproofing that you can submerge up to 10 meters.

Not bad Leupold, not bad at all. Just a tad expensive!

Functions and Features:

  • 1-5×24
  • 30mm tube diameter
  • Duplex reticle
  • 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum construction
  • Proprietary argon and krypton purged tube
  • Guard Ion lens coating
  • Leupold’s custom dial system, the ZeroLock 2
  • Twin Bias Spring Erector system
  • Ultra-bright sight picture
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Ultra-light for a scope this size (13.4oz)
  • Incredible sight picture quality

7. Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen 2

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My Review: I talked earlier about how Vortex always seems like a budget brand but then blows my socks off.

Well, I’ve finally found their flagship model and yes, socks have been blown once again! The first thing you’ll notice is how sleek the casing really is. Holding this thing you’ll know someone (or you) shelled out serious cash because they (or you) enjoy the finer things in life! For lack of a better explanation, this scope is like the caviar version of the Vortex Viper. The HD Gen II glass is breathtaking, its almost as if the glass doesn’t even exist. Even at its highest magnification, sight picture remains crystal clear and bright as ever.

The scope itself is rock solid, durable enough to drag through dirt and mud and still have a brand new looking and functioning scope. The scope also comes in 3 different models, with the reticles being the only difference. Of course, since this is an AR-15 scopes page, I’d like to recommend the Jm-1 BDC MOA version as that model is optimized for the AR-15 specifically.

Functions and Features:

  • 1-6x24mm
  • 30mm tube size
  • O-ring sealed argon purged tube
  • VMR-2 MOA Reticle with illuminated center dot
  • APO optical system via extra-low dispersion glass
  • Multi-coated XR Plus anti-reflective coatings
  • Armortek anti-scratch coatings
  • Illumination dial with 11 brightness settings with off positions between each setting
  • Single piece aircraft aluminum construction
  • Water and fog proofing
  • HD Gen II glass is in a category of elite optical glassware
  • The offsetting between each brightness click is incredibly intuitive

The only con I see:

  • The only con is that this scope will likely cost more than most peoples AR-15 builds. Buy once cry once!

6. Trijicon ACOG TA31 ACSS

Trijicon ACOG TA31 ACSS

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Magnification: 4×32

My Review: It’s a Trijicon ACOG. Do I need to say more? This is one of the most legendary sights on the market today. It’s nearly the exact optic I was issued for my M4 in Corps. It is battle-tested and ready to roll with an innovative buy once cry once price and quality!

Yes, it will likely destroy your bank account, but if you’re shooting well who cares? Your AR-15 has an ACOG!

This thing is meant for rapid deployment and tight groupings at medium range. You won’t be sniping things a mile away, but you will get an incredible tactical AR-15 scope with an almost indestructible design. Buy this and never shop for a mid-range scope again.

The video below does a good job explaining how to use the BDC on the ACOG.

Functions and Features:

  • Fixed 4x magnification
  • Dual illuminated reticles. ACSS 5.556 in green
  • Second focal plane optic
  • Waterproof and shockproof
  • Trijicon proprietary BDC reticle


  • Specifically designed for AR-15 style rifles and calibers
  • Legendary ACOG design offers an incredible sight picture


  • Your wife might divorce you for spending such a ridiculous amount to see stuff.

5. EOTech Vudu VDU1-6FFSR3

EOTECH Vudu 1-6x24mm Precision Rifle Scope

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My Review: EOTech is well-known for its industry breakthrough in holographic technology bringing us some of the best 1x red dot experiences but did you know that EOTech makes short to mid-range magnified scopes? It just so happens that the Vudu series with its 1-6x24mm configuration makes for a perfect match on an AR-15!

It’s important to note that if this sight tickles your fancy and you’re chomping at the bit to grab one, make sure you select the SR3 model as this is the version of the Vudu scope with the 5.56 optimized BDC reticle.

The Vudu really does embody everything EOTech stands for. They have been making optics that are combat-ready from the beginning that is not only rough and tough but utilizes what looks and feels like the latest technological advancements. Each and every product I get from EOTech just exudes a flavor and quality that you don’t typically get with other brands. I always feel like their goodies are top of the line and with the beautiful flat black anodized aluminum shell with its knurled adjustment knob, you get just that with the Vudu. Everything from the extremely smooth turrets to the laser engraved logos just looks and feels the part from a premium brand.

Speaking of quality, when EOTech throws out buzz words to describe the quality of their glass, they actually mean it. The XC high-density lenses you get here covered in EOTechs proprietary lens coatings really does utilize ambient light on another level far beyond what most similar scopes are capable of offering in such a small and light package.

Functions and Features:

  • 1-6x variable magnification with custom EOTech knurled adjustment ring
  • Illuminated reticle with lens coatings that emphasis optimum light transmission
  • A 24mm objective lens coated in proprietary broadband EOTech lens coatings and anti-glare
  • Over 500-hour battery life capability using medium brightness settings
  • Covered by the EOTech Vudu Advantage lifetime warranty

4. EOTech HHS ll ExpS2-2 with G33 3x magnifier

EOTECH HHS II Holographic Hybrid Sight - EXPS2-2 with G33 Magnifier

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Magnification: 1x or 3x

My Review: I’ve actually reviewed this setup already in my red dot optics guide but since I like it so much, why not talk about it here, again? I think it’s fitting if you have the moolah to shell out for it!

With this EOTech system, you’ll be getting the best of both worlds. A legendary 1x holographic sight with a 3x prism magnifier that sits on a hinge. Easily flip between the two and engage with targets in both close and medium range.

This is most suitable for competition shooters or combat deployments but if you so choose, you can certainly use it to hunt and/or impress people at the range. Spend some money and have some fun, this thing is awesome! Just beware of knock offs, they’re everywhere. Ensure you’re really buying it from EOTech.

Functions and Features:

  • Holographic hybrid system
  • 65 MOA circle with 2 1 MOA aiming dots
  • Single transverse 123 battery to reduce sight length
  • Takes up only 2.75” of rail space
  • Locking quick detach lever
  • Quickly cycle between 1x or 3x optics with a holographic and magnifier system
  • Used by the US Special Operations
  • Quick switch to side (STS) mount for magnifier

Capable of handling up to 550lb, either a single or double nest, and both spreader and non-spreader bar hammocks, this stand was specially built for relaxing with family or a loved one outdoors.


3. Sig Sauer SOT61008 Tango6

Sig Sauer SOT61231 Tango6T Riflescope, 1-6X24mm, 30mm, Ffp, Black, One Size

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Magnification: 1-6x 24mm

My Review: If you have the money, this scope is incredible. It’s durable and heavy, built like a bulldozer and just as strong as one. Using this scope will give you the freedom of close up engagements on 1x with both eyes as well as intense 6x magnification for medium to long range targeting. It’s really just another Sig product, need I say more? Yes, they’re pricey, but they are also of the highest quality in any category they release products in, scopes being no different.

Functions and Features:

  • 3 gun reticle 0.5 MOA adjustment
  • 107 feet of view at 100 yards
  • 3.8” eye relief
  • Night vision compatible
  • 11 brightness settings
  • Sig Sauer Hex optical system
  • Hellfire Fiber optic and glass-etched illuminated reticles for first or second focal planes
  • Lockdown zero system turrets with zero stop and reset
  • Shoot with both eyes open on 1x
  • Using 1x is just as good as having an exposed reflex and using 6x is just as good as having a full-blown scope. It’s the best of both worlds!
  • Extremely precise MOA adjustments

2. Nightforce Optics ATACR

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My Review: Ah, Nightforce. If you love spending money on cool stuff for your favorite pew-pew sticks, you’re probably well aware of Nightforce and the number of people who have one or many of their optics on their wishlist. This is the kind of scope that follows the mantra “buy once, cry once” and the type of scope that may also end your marriage due to financial tension. That’s okay, though, because you’ll find a new significant other at the range when you outperform everyone due to your superior glass quality and ultra tack-driving precision.

Alright, that was a little dramatic but there is some truth to that when you see that $2500 price tag. Is it really worth it? For most of you, no, it’s not. There are other options that fit the same role for like a quarter of the cost. For those of you who have scoured every corner of the Earth hunting down only the finest components for your precious AR-15, keep reading, because this is where your hunt for optics ends.

The Nightforce ATACR series encompasses some of the best optical clarity and scope technology today all jam-packed into one of the most solid and durable packages you’ll find. This particular optic, the 4-16×42 version, is massive and probably overkill for most AR-15 platforms, however, if you’ve purpose-built your AR to sling lead accurately at it’s outer most limits, this is the scope to get.

By the way, Nightforce optics are specifically designed for military applications where stretching out the maximum range capabilities of a service rifle is a necessity. Nightforce has contracts across the Navy Seals, Marines, Green Berets, and many other special forces units across the world and is highly known for its tank-like durability and crystal clear sight picture quality.

To my knowledge, all of their scopes come with an instant zeroing function called the ZeroHold and at the time of writing, this particular scope is available with over 6 different reticle choices. For an AR-15 application, I recommend the TReMoR3 model which is the NightForce ATACR C575.

Of course, Nightforce makes scopes of lower magnification but I think for most people, the quality you get from their higher levels of magnification is what makes the optics worth such a high price tag. Grabbing something lower in magnification would likely warrant another brand in terms of the AR-15 and thus I would only recommend Nightforce optics to the general AR-15 enthusiast if you specifically need something with higher magnification than most of the other optics on this list.

If you would like to see a break down of the reticle options you can visit this link here which brings you to the Tacticalstoreusa.com

Functions and Features:

  • Top class quality and performance actively used by Special Forces units all around the world
  • 4-16x variable zoom magnification with an integrated Power Throw Lever (PTL)
  • Diglllum illumination technology with 6 reticle variants to choose from
  • 42mm objective lens with ED multi-coating and anti-glare
  • Comes with Tenebraex flip lens covers

1. Trijicon VCOG .223/5.56 Optimized

Trijicon VCOG 1-6x24 Segmented Circle Crosshair .223/77 Riflescope

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Magnification: 1-6x 24mm

My Review: We’ve hit on Trijicon’s legendary ACOG above, but if you need something with an adjustable magnification range, you may be wondering what else Trijicon has to pony up. Never fear, our AR-15s can genuinely be tickled at any point in their effective ranges with the VCOG. Trijicon actually scored a 64 million dollar contract in 2020 when the VCOG was adopted as the USMC Squad Common Optic.

The Trijicon VCOG hosts a very healthy 1-6x variable magnification packed with a relatively small and low-profile 24mm objective lens. The sight picture certainly doesn’t appear small, though, and that 24mm objective lens works wonders when it comes to utilizing the ambient light thanks to all the fancy Trijicon exclusive lens coatings and glass technology.

Popular Article: 17 Best Long Range Calibers (Ranked by a Marine Sniper)

The ACOG is known as one of the most durable high tier optics but I’d argue the VCOG could give it a run for its money. You get similar submersion resistance at roughly 70 feet and since the objective lens is so compact surrounded by such a well made MIL-SPEC housing, these optics can sustain a regular beating and keep on going!

The VCOG is available in so many options that you could get lost. For us AR-15 exclusives, the VCOG is available in only a few options, so hey, that’s not so bad. Now you just have to choose between the different load options and that’s up to you, I can’t help ya there. After you’ve got that sorted, you’ll need to make one last choice and that’s between that good old fashion segmented circular reticle or the newer and rather sought after horseshoe reticle. Many service members enjoy the horseshoe reticle when paired up with a weapon designed to fling led downrange in a suppressive manner and more precise rifles are generally paired up with the segmented circle, although both could be used in either situation. Oh yeah, you get to choose between red or green reticle colors as well.

Trijicon VCOG .223 and 5.56 Optimized Reticle

This is the best 1-6x variable zoom scope I could muster up for the AR-15. If you disagree, fight me in the comments section.

Here is a pretty good video overview of this scope by Trijicon:

Here is another good video review of the VCOG.

Functions and Features:

  • 1-6x variable magnification with a paddle style adjustment
  • 24mm objective lens with Trijicon exclusive lens coatings and anti-glare
  • Your choice of AR-15 friendly load options and either a segmented circle or horseshoe reticle
  • LED illuminated reticle in either green or red
  • Over 700-hour battery life using the 4th out of 6 brightness settings
  • NV Compatible


What should I look for in an AR scope?

You should ideally look for a larger objective lens to capture more light, a larger tube for better light transmission, and lower magnification for a wider field of view which will help acquire targets easily.

What magnification is needed for AR 15?

The magnification you need for an AR-15 is dependent on your use. In close range, you’ll need 1-4x power, in medium-range – 5-9x power, and for long distances, 9x+ power of magnification works better.

Can you put a regular scope on a AR 15?

Yes. You can put a regular scope on a AR 15 but it is not recommended you do it. Recoil is going to give you a tough time if you do not choose a good AR 15 specific scope.

We have a compiled list that you can go through for the best AR 15 scope.

How far back should a scope be mounted on an AR?

Usually, a scope has an eye box of around 3 or 4 inches and eye relief varies from 2.75” to 5”. Therefore you must adjust the scope accordingly.

If you are using optics along with the scopes, you will have to take that into account as well.

Final Thoughts:

If you enjoyed the article let me know in the comments, and let me know what you think the best scope for AR-15 rifles is or what ones you are trying to decide between. If there any optics you think should be added or removed from the list, or if you noticed any errors in this review please let me know.

Here are some of my references for the information in this review if you care to look.

Wikipedia: Telescopic Sight

Wikipedia: Rifle Scope Reticle

Oh and if you want to contact me or stay up to date on the latest shooting and tactical gear like our Facebook page. I spend most of my day writing and it’s always good to hear from you guys. You can find a link to the Facebook page near the very bottom of the page, thanks!

1 thought on “23 Best AR-15 Scopes & Optics (Reviewed by a Marine) 2023”

  1. Cpl. Wabo, you have written very informative literature for most shooters and I applaud you for that! Understanding there are many options available, I am surprised the Zeiss and Swarovski scopes didn’t make your survey. Keep shooting and writing! You have done well Marine! Enjoyable reading. Former Sgt. Kelchen 2nd Battalion 6th Marines Sniper/STA Plt. Semper Fi

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