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Unlike ammo, high-quality scopes under 300 bucks are not hard to come by. Build quality and features that might have pushed the cost of a scope over $1,000 just 10 years ago are now available in this smaller price range.
I’m not a full-time hunter. For the last five years, I’ve been farming in the wilds of Romania, where large populations of hogs, deer, the occasional bear, and other critters can be an issue. Still, hunting regulations are much tighter than in most states. My understanding of firearms and scopes is based on my three years of military experience and our annual wild boar cull.
My overall winner for the best rifle scope is the Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9×40 1″ CDS. This fantastic scope’s image clarity and ‘punisher’ tested durability at this price range make it stand out. With a pure focus on reliable performance in all conditions, the VX-Freedom will give you decades of reliable service.
Each of the other scopes also has its niche. I’ve included a mix of tactical, hunting, and target scopes, front and second focal plane (FFP/SFP) reticle types, and different zoom ranges. Most can be used across multiple calibers. There are also some low-cost but solid options for rimfire and air rifle shooting at the cheaper end.
I’ve also included scopes for a range of different applications. Most are waterproof or highly water-resistant, fog proof, and tested for shocks and drops. Some are highly shockproof with deep eye relief that can hold zero through repeated recoils, for shotguns or slug firers. I’ve also reviewed compact scopes, all-rounders, and low-cost but well-made scopes good enough for plinking with .17 and .22 rimfire rounds.
|Rifle Scopes Under $300||USP||Buying Links|
|Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9×40 1″ CDS||Overall Winner||Amazon |
|Bushnell 1-4X24 Optics Ill BTR-2||Best Tactical Scope||Amazon |
|Vortex Optics Crossfire II||Best Low Light Scope||Amazon |
|Bushnell Engage Riflescope||Best for Fast Target Acquisition||Amazon |
Here Are The 10 Best Rifle Scopes Under $300
1. Overall Winner: Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9×40 1″ CDS
Made in the US, this hunting scope wins best overall because of its build quality and the clarity of the optics in variable light conditions. Leupold put their scopes through a heavy-duty battering they call ‘punisher’ tests. Military-grade scratch resistance, along with full waterproofing and shock resistance, make this scope a lifetime-buy.
Leupold’s Twilight Management System provides clarity, contrast, color fidelity, and glare reduction in various lighting conditions. Clarity and contrast are maintained in variable light conditions and low light. You’ll be able to spot antlers among branches or a bedded-down deer even at dusk, giving you 15-30 minutes of additional legal hunting time pre-dawn after sundown. At this price range, overall image clarity doesn’t get any better.
Depending on how you like to mount your scope, eye relief with the VX-Freedom can be varied from a standard 3.6″ up to 4.17″. The custom dial setup eliminates the need for holdover, simplifying elevation adjustments up to the scope’s reasonable 60 MOA adjustment. Windage is also set at 60 MOA.
The scope has a duplex reticle, preferred by many hunters for providing clear impact point crosshairs against any background. Leupold can swap this out for a Wind Plex reticle if you prefer to have windage marks. Mounting options are wide, Leupold makes a number of mounts for this 1″ tube scope, or you can go with your preferred manufacturer. The 40mm objective is a good middle size for mounting low, although a higher mounting will give you more clearance to slide the scope back and keep eye relief at the lower setting of 3.66″ if that gives you the best eye box. The eye focus lock, easily activated with a finger touch, is a useful detail.
CDS stands for Custom Dial Service. With the scope’s serial number and rifle, load, and shooting conditions data, Leupold will do all the math for you and cut you a custom dial for your specific use.
In a word, this Leupold lens screams quality. The lens production and machining most overseas manufacturers use still meets high standards, but Leupold’s all-American design and build mean tighter quality controls.
You might want a higher range of elevation adjustment and more magnification if you’re regularly shooting over 500 yards, but for common hunting distances of 100-300 yards, the VX-Freedom CDS has you covered. Bear in mind that this scope has a second focal plane reticle, which isn’t everyone’s preference.
For most hunting applications, the Leupold is the perfect match of weight, features, range, and with Leupold’s extreme Punisher testing for water and shock proofing, you know it won’t let you down. There’s no reason why a scope of this quality shouldn’t last you a lifetime.
- Magnification: 3–9x
- Objective Lens Diameter: 40mm
- Weight: 12.2 oz.
- Length: 12.39″
- Exit Pupil: 4.7mm
- Tube Diameter: 1″
- Eye Relief: 4.17–3.66″
- Field of View: 33.7–13.6 ft./100 yds.
- Adjustment Click Value: 1/4 MOA
- Windage Adjustment Range: 60 MOA
- Elevation Adjustment Range: 60 MOA
- SFP reticle
2. Best Tactical Scope: Bushnell 1-4X24 Optics Ill BTR-2, Box 6L AR71424I
Tactical shooters will appreciate the BTR1 holdover reticle, with 100-600 yard drop zones. The FFP etched reticle is ideal for fast target acquisition where quick range changes are in play. The center dot provides a clear aiming point with or without illumination that doesn’t obscure the target. When you need them, the 11 levels of illumination are enough for the brightest days, without blooming, and have a useful amount of variation between clicks. Note that level 1 is for use with night vision equipment.
Drop zones are metric, and turret clicks in milliradians (MRADs). The turret setup is excellent for on-the-fly adjustments. Reference points allow a quick view of the number of rotations, allowing you to return to zero quickly. The Dials are snappy and give adequate tactile feedback. Each click means 0.1 MRAD at 100m, the full range translating into a max of 60″ of adjustment at 100 yards.
Related Article: 18 Best Air Rifle Scopes for the Money
The stowable Power Control Lever (PCL) throw lever boosts quick performance. Raise for a fast 1-4x zoom adjustment and stow in one simple movement. Those 11 levels of illumination allow you to adapt to all conditions. The etched reticle has good visibility with the illumination switched off in good light.
A narrow 24mm objective makes low mounting easy, keeping the scope bore axis aligned and reducing parallax distortion. The lens coating provides good clarity at this price range, and a wide FOV makes it a good option for pest control on open ground.
It’s worth noting that the reticle in this scope was optimized for the Savage MSR rifle; however, it will work fine with any other AR.
Tactical-focused design features like the stowable throw lever and adjustment turret reference points are ideal for tactical shooters looking to shave a few seconds off their time.
The lack of caps on the turrets and the lack of a dial lock are a negative point, though taking a moment to add personalized markers is worth doing to save some time if your dials are knocked out of your chosen settings.
- Objective Lens Diameter: 24 mm
- Magnification: 1 – 4 x
- Tube Diameter: 30 mm
- Exit Pupil: 6 – 24 mm
- Color: Black
- Magnification Type: Variable
3. Best Value FFP scope: Athlon Optics, Argos BTR, Riflescope, 6-24 x 50 First Focal Plane (FFP)
This scope is a great option for long-range tactical and target shooters. A 50mm objective, smooth, fast-focus eyepiece, a wide exit pupil, and Athlon’s Wide Band optical coating provide a pretty sharp image at all ranges. However, the glass does suffer from some chromatic aberration (purple fringing on high contrast edges). The parallax, elevation, and windage turrets have a satisfying mix of smooth action and tactile, audible clicks.
The glass is housed in a one-piece, argon purged tube that is proofed against fogging, fully waterproof, and tested for 1,000 x 1,000G recoil. The etched IR reticle is illuminated, with 1 MOA hash mark increments with a 40 MOA vertical and horizontal setup arranged in 5 MOA drop lines (a mil-dot version is also available).
50mm is at the higher end of average, which may cause a clearance issue when mounting the scope, so medium or high rings should be considered. Eye relief is 3.3″.
The Athlon has some great features for this price range. The Precision Zero Stop System makes it easy to dial back to a preset zero mark you can feel click into place. The focus dial is pretty stiff and doesn’t get much looser with use, so a throw lever is recommended.
The crisp, outsize turrets are fantastic to use. Some shooters might find them overlarge, but the solid clicks make them great for tactical use. Tracking is exceptionally good, and the movement of the crosshair is extremely responsive, smooth, and precise.
The parallax can be adjusted down to 10 yards, from infinity, and matches up pretty well with the distance markers. The reticle might seem a bit busy at first but has a lot of utility once you get familiar with the subtensions.
This scope’s field of view is relatively narrow, less than half that of the Leupold at 100 yards. Some shooters might not like the large center crosshair, which can completely cover a small target at higher magnifications.
The zero stop feature is excellent, the best of its kind at this price range.
- Magnification: 6-24x
- Objective Lens Diameter: 50 mm
- Reticle: ATMR FFP IR MOA, Glass Etched
- Lens Coating: Wide Band Fully Multicoated / Xtra Protective Coating
- Tube Diameter: 30 mm
- Exit Pupil: 8.2-2.1 mm
- Eye Relief: 3.3 inches
- Field of View at 100 yards: 16.7-4.5 feet
- Click Value: 0.25 MOA
- Total Elevation Adjustment: 60 MOA
- Total Windage Adjustment: 60 MOA
- Parallax Adjustment: Side Focus – 10 yards to infinity
- Length: 14.1 inches
- Weight: 30.3 ounces
4. Best Low Light Scope: Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-12×56 Adjustable Objective Hog Hunter
Vortex Optics went all out to create the best low light scope at this price range. The wide 56 adjustable objective, coated lenses, and Vortex’s high visibility V-Brite illuminated red-dot reticle match up well to provide a clear impact point sight even in low light. The eye box gives you generous latitude if you don’t have a perfect shooting angle.
Parallax adjustment is built into the objective lens. Not necessary for hog hunting, perhaps, but it does extend the useful range of the scope, adding some versatility.
Turret clicks don’t give much tactile feedback but feel reasonably solid, and the turrets are fingertip adjustable. The scope will stay zeroed with .306 or .308 recoil levels.
The field of view is generous at 36.7′ – 9.2′ at 100 yards. You may need high rings to avoid seating this scope too far forward on your rifle with its outsize objective.
The Crossfire II is all about making the most available evening and early morning light. Nitrogen purged, waterproof, and fog proof with a rugged build, you don’t have to worry about the weather or it getting dinged around a little.
Related Article: 17 Best Long Range Scopes for the Money
Although designed with hog hunting in mind, the 3-12 power range makes this scope versatile enough for tactical shooting.
At over 21oz, it’s not one for long hunting trips if you want to keep weight down.
- Field of view: 36.7 – 9.2 at 100 yards
- Water resistance: Waterproof
- Product weight (oz.): 21.1
- Tube diameter: 1.18”
- Parallax setting (yards): 10
- Eye relief: 3.5”
- Fog proof: Yes
- Product Length: 14.3”
- Reticle: V-Brite illuminated
- Magnification: 3x – 12x
- Objective lens diameter (mm): 56
5. Best for Fast Target Acquisition: Bushnell Engage Riflescope 3-9×40 Illuminated_RE3940BS9
Bushnell built the Deploy Reticle featured in this scope specifically to improve target acquisition via enhanced reticle to target contrast. The SFP Deploy reticle features an illuminated floating center dot with six illumination levels, tapered posts, and a four-dot drop zone. The drop zones aren’t caliber-specific, so some ballistic calculations are needed.
The reticle is just the right thickness. For my money, Bushnell got that exactly right, and the windage and elevation holdovers are clear and unobtrusive. Turrets are sharp and tactile, with audible clicks, and capped to keep dust and dirt out.
FOV and eye relief are generous. The scope has been well thought out, with the whole package aiding you to quickly and accurately acquire a target. There are no particular mounting issues with this scope.
Bushnell’s proprietary water, oil, fog, and dirt repellant EXO barrier is molecularly bonded to the exterior lens surfaces. It does a great job of keeping your line of sight clear in all weather conditions. IPX7 rating is plenty waterproof for most scenarios.
Bushnell’s EXO barrier does a great job of managing any kind of moisture build-up, separating any condensation or rain splash into smaller droplets to minimize distortion.
The low weight makes this scope a great option for longer hunting trips. The Bushnell Engage is one of the lightest scopes with comparable specs, achieved through a simple but strong design.
The Deploy reticle is carefully thought out and one of the best around for tactical use. Given the relatively limited elevation adjustment, it’s not the ideal rifle for long-range shooting, but at medium ranges, the quick acquisition focus works very well.
The lack of a zero-stop mechanism may be an issue for some shooters. Same goes for the lack of parallax adjustment.
- Eye Relief: 3.5”
- FOV ( at100 yds): 38ft @3x 13ft @ 9X
- Illuminated: No
- Length: 14.2”
- Magnification/Objective: 3-9x40mm
- Parallax adjustment: Fixed, 100 yards
- Reticle: Deploy MOA (SFP)
- Tube Diameter: 1”
- Water resistant/fog proof: Yes, IPX7
- Weight: 12oz
- Elevation adjustment: 60 MOA / 17.5 MIL (Capped Turret)
- Windage Adjustment: 60 MOA / 17.5 MIL (Capped Turret)
- Travel per rotation: 15 MOA
6. Best General-Purpose Scope: UTG 3-12X44 30mm Compact Scope
Short and tough, this is the Manny Pacquiao of scopes. The reduced length gives you more latitude in mounting. In fact, the UTG comes with quick-release rings that can be used on Picatinny or Weaver rails.
The scope’s toughness and high recoil resistance otherwise widen options for high recoil rifles and rounds, although eye relief at 3.4-3″ is at the lower end of the standard.
Glass clarity is pretty decent for this price range, and while the crosshair is perhaps a bit thick, there are a lot of aim points to improve accuracy. The multi-colored illumination may seem a bit gimmicky, but it can actually be useful in adapting to different conditions and is a great feature for anyone suffering from colorblindness.
Leapers, the manufacturer, claims best in class for their emerald glass coating, and it does a pretty good job of maximizing light transmission. The field of view is average. However, there’s quite a lot of variation in the exit pupil through the power range, which makes the eye box a bit narrow at some magnifications.
Related Article: 15 Best Scopes for 308 Rifles
Turrets give nice tactile clicks at ¼ MOA. Parallax is adjustable via a Side Wheel Adjustment System (SWAT) from 10 yards to infinity.
Equally comfortable on ARs and hunting rifles. This scope will stand up to a lot of recoil shock, provided the slightly lower eye relief is enough for your setup.
At 22 oz, this is the heaviest scope in this review.
- Magnification: 3.00X – 12X
- Tube Diameter: 30mm
- Objective Diameter: 44mm
- Field of View at 100 yards: 32′ – 10′
- Eye Relief: 3.4″ – 3″
- Exit Pupil: 13.0mm – 3.9mm
- Click Value at100 yards: 1/4″
- Length: 11.10”
- Weight: 22 oz
- Parallax Setting:10 Yards – Infinity
- Batteries: CR2032 3V
7. Best Short-range Scope: Vortex Optics Crossfire II 1-4×24, 30mm Tube, SFP Riflescope – V-Brite Illuminated Reticle
Perfectly set up for short-range shooting, it’s perfect for anything up to around 2-300 yards, or longer if you need it. Generous eye relief and all-around toughness make this scope a good option for shotgun mounting. With its low magnification range, it might not be the most versatile of scopes, but you can rely on the Crossfire to take a beating and continue to be the tool you need in any conditions.
Turrets are capped. Given the short-range focus of this scope, you can probably leave those on most of the time, but if you need to use the turrets, they are tight, as are the zoom and eye focus rings. Waterproofing, fog proofing, and shock proofing are more than adequate for most uses. The scope has a quality feel overall.
The glass offers good clarity for this price range. For keeping the optics clean, note that the Vortex includes a microfiber cloth which is big enough to use as a bath towel for a small pet, if you don’t reserve it for lens cleaning. If you need them, the reticle has 11 levels of illumination.
Vortex makes a 30mm cantilever mount that is bundled with the scope on Amazon, when available. The low diameter of the end tube gives you a lot of latitude in mounting though, so you have plenty of options.
The reticle’s illumination is a little dim in full daylight, but the reticle itself is clear and usable. Maximum adjustment in elevation and windage is above average at 100 MOA.
If you do most of your shooting at closer ranges, this is a great scope that will withstand a lot of punishment.
- Magnification: 1-4x
- Objective Lens Diameter: 24 mm
- Eye Relief: 4.0 inches
- Field of View: 96.1-24.1 ft/100 yds
- Tube Size: 30 mm
- Turret Style: Capped
- Adjustment Graduation: 1/2 MOA
- Travel Per Rotation: 30 MOA
- Max Elevation Adjustment: 100 MOA
- Max Windage Adjustment: 100 MOAParallax Setting 100 yards
- Length: 9.61 inches
- Weight: 14.8 oz
8. Best Shotgun Scope: Mueller 2-7×32 Multi-Shot
Mueller pitches this popular scope as ‘the most unique and versatile scope’ in their range. Its niche is mainly turkey and big game shooting. The Multi-Shot can withstand heavy recoil and will stay zeroed throughout. Fingertip turrets with audible ¼ MOA click stops make adjustments easy.
The relatively small diameter of the objective and below-average length make this an easy scope to mount in various configurations, and eye relief is generous.
As well as its overall toughness, the reticle is designed to be usable with practically any type of firearm or crossbow. At the lowest magnification, the outer circle covers 15″ at 40 yards. With windage and elevation adjusted to place the majority of shots in the center of the circle, this is the ideal tool for turkey shoots.
Related Article: 10 Best Rifle Scope for Deer Hunting
The outer circle portion of the reticle can also be used as a rangefinder and bullet drop compensator (BDC) for heavier slugs in muzzleloaders and slug guns. For elk and other big game, the 11 brightness levels’ illuminated center dot covers a precise 1″ at 100 yards.
The Multi-shot is a very well-thought-out scope for turkey and big game hunters. The reticle is bright and easy to use, designed to make it simple for you to place a slug or shot where you want it to go at short and long ranges.
Recoil resistance and easy-adjust elevation and windage turrets make this a satisfying tool that is simple, tough, and reliable.
- Eye Relief: 3.5″
- Length: 11.30″
- Weight: 13.3 oz
- Tube Size: 1″
- Lenses: Multicoated
- Magnification: 2 – 7 × power
- Objective: 32 mm
- FOV: 47 – 18 feet at 100 yards
- Parallax: 100 yards
- Click Value: 1/4 MOA (40″ at 100 yards overall on both W/E)
9. Best Rimfire Scope: Bushnell 613510A Rimfire Optics Scope 3.5-10×36.
Currently unavailable on Amazon, this scope can be purchased directly from Bushnell at $149
A versatile scope for varmint and rimfire hunters at a great price. Bushnell offers two reticle options, the classic Multi-X reticle and a .22 specific Drop Zone reticle, which zeros at 50 yards and features three holdover points for shooting up to 125 yards.
The average 36mm objective makes mounting fairly simple, although the scope is quite long a low mounting should give you enough eye clearance for low recoil shooting. FOV is a bit limited. Be careful when using the turrets – given the low price, this may be forgivable, but it’s not that hard to strip the threads on the elevation turret.
The scope’s external glass has the EXO hydro, grease, and dirt-phobic coating used on Bushnell’s pricier scopes. It’s tough enough to be long-lasting if used on low-recoil rifles and is waterproofed to IPX7 standard. For this price, range clarity is good enough.
A great starter scope at a great price, used with .22 and smaller rimfire rounds, this Bushnell quality scope should give you years of use. It’s tough enough to be used in all weather conditions.
Dials are a bit slippery and, without much audible or tactile feedback, aren’t great for fingertip adjustments. The turrets aren’t all that solidly built either. If you’re finding rounds are dropping low, be careful of forcing the turrets once they are maxed out, they aren’t very difficult to break with a few hard twists.
While not the heaviest scope here, at 20 oz, it’s still fairly weighty.
- Objective Lens Diameter: 36mm
- Reticle Type: Multi X
- Tube diameter: 1”
- Maximum Magnification: 3.5-10x
- Weight: 1.25 lbs
- Length: 17”
10. Best Low-Cost Scope (for Small Bore and Air Rifles): Simmons 3-9x32mm Matte Black Riflescope
Super cheap and no-frills, available on Amazon for under $60, this scope is a bargain for .22LR or .17 HMR rifles and Airguns. The Simmons gives you everything you need for the effective range of smaller rounds at a low price as your ideal plinking scope. According to Simmons, this is America’s favourite rimfire scope.
Light transmission and clarity are okay, the hydro shield coating works well, and the scope is waterproof and reasonably tough. Some distortion is noticeable around the edges at higher magnifications. The straightforward Truplex reticle is everything you need for plinking and pest control.
It’s a good option for pest control, too, mount it on anything low recoil, and it will give you years of useful service. The scope comes bundled with rimfire rings which should be adequate for most uses but may not be compatible with all rifles.
A decent, no-frills scope for light use at a bargain price. Note that the recoil of a spring-piston air rifle will seriously shorten this scope’s working life.
Windage and elevation adjustments can be difficult by hand, you may need a screwdriver, and the dials are a bit spongy. There is no parallax adjustment. The zoom and focus rings will need a bit of breaking in.
- Description: 3 – 9 x 32 A/O
- Field of View (at100 yds): 31.4/10.5
- Eye Relief (inches): 3.75
- Exit Pupil (Millimeters): 10.7 – 3.6
- Weight (oz): 10.8
- Click Value (MOA): 1/4
- Adjustment (Range): 60/60
- Reticle: Truplex
- Parallax Settings: Set at 50 yards
How To Pick the Best Rifle Scope Under $300
The key question is, what will you be using the scope for? For pest control and some casual target shooting, a low-cost scope like the Simmons 3-9x 32mm may be all you need, whereas, for tactical shooters, the Bushnell 1-4X24 Optics Ill is a clear choice.
For some specific uses, the choice is even simpler. If turkey and big game are your focus, you can’t beat the Mueller Multi-Shot. For long-range shooting, and if FFP is a must, then the Athlon Optics in third place is likely your best option here.
If weight isn’t an issue, and you need a tough all-rounder with few frills, the UTG 3-12X44 30mm Compact Scope can be mounted happily on ARs, bolt-action rifles, and shotguns will provide you with consistent performance in all conditions at a reasonable price.
It’s worth shopping around as prices can vary by 5-10% or more. The Bushnell Engage Riflescope, 3-9×40, varies a lot more, with prices ranging from $166 to $239.
Ultimately, as with anything else, it’s a question of where your budget matches your needs. My top pick Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9×40 1″ CDS scope comes in at the top of this price range, but for just under $300, you can bag a quality hunting scope that may be the only one you ever need.
Although it may not be the best for every application, for an all-around scope with excellent build quality, clear optics, and go-anywhere ruggedness, the Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9×40 1″ CDS is hard to beat at this price range.
The Leupold isn’t just about quality. The custom dial and small details like the one-touch eye focus lock make this scope eminently usable. These thoughtful design features remove any complications between you and your target.
Equally at home on bolt action, AR, and even .308 ARs this is a scope tough and versatile enough for most applications. At around the same cost, the Bushnell 1-4X24 has better features for tactical shooters, and the Vortex Crossfire II is a better option for turkey shoots and big game, but for all-around use, the Leupold deserves its place in the top ranking.