- 1 How to Choose the Best AR 15 Scope?
- 2 12 AR15 Scope Reviews
- 2.1 #1 – BARSKA 6.5-20*50 AO Varmint Target Dot Riflescope
- 2.2 #2 – Monstrum Tactical 1-4*24 First Focal Plane
- 2.3 #3 – Burris 200119 Eliminator III Laserscope
- 2.4 #4 – Burris 300208 AR-332 3*32 Prism Sight
- 2.5 #5 – Bushnell Optics Drop Zone-223 BDC Reticle
- 2.6 #6 – Primary Arms 5x Prism Scope
- 2.7 #7 – ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night 5-20x Rifle Scope
- 2.8 #8 – Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-8*24 Second Focal Plane Riflescope
- 2.9 #9 – Primary Arms 3X Compact Prism Riflescope
- 2.10 #10 – Trijicon ACOG 3.5×35 Scope Dual Illuminated Chevron .223 Ballistic Reticle
- 2.11 #11 – Steiner T5Xi 1-5x24mm Riflescope
- 2.12 #12 – Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate BDC 600
- 3 Components of a Scope
- 4 Bottom Line
This is due to two reasons. First, the AR is a highly versatile weapon that can be easily fitted with multiple scopes. Second, the market is well developed with hundreds of manufacturers competing to produce specific products of AR. The result is 10 million different options.
The AR-15 is a modular firearm platform and lends itself well to customization. Optics, including all types of scopes, can really make a big difference to your accuracy and long-range capability, while at the same time making it easier to shoot things up close.
The vast array of scope options and mounts, accessories and other add-ons in a single section gives you the opportunity to further customize the AR15 to your personal preferences and use case.
This article will cover the basics of scope options, and all the necessary information for you to make an informed decision as to which option to buy and how to use it most effectively.
How to Choose the Best AR 15 Scope?
Optics are a fun thing. You can find very cheap optics that work really well and are never a problem, but the stability across the board may not be very good for that optic. Glass used in an optic can offer the consumer the same “rating” for a wide range of costs. With a scope, it is less about the strength or size of the glass and more about the quality of the coatings, the quality of materials and build, and the proprietary and engineering of the optic system that makes the price.
This is why you see very different price segments in the market for the same power and glass size scope. Are ridiculously cheap; Scary, not-understand-how-they-can-price-it-that-way, cheap scope. There are midrange scopes and very high-level scopes. There are very few manufacturers that bridge any of those various segments.
The quality of them is VASTLY different. But the base functionality is not very different (for smaller categories).
When choosing the AR15 scope, there are some differences from the above model. With the modularity and customization capabilities of the modern AR 15, gone are the days when you needed a “specialty scope” for the AR 15 that only fits that weapon. The real “AR 15 scope” of this era is an area that accommodates bullet drop and performance of 5.56x45mm cartridges. You can also find scopes that either are or seek to copy variants that are used in military settings. This is what is nowadays considered an AR specific scope.
With the right scope mount, any scope can be fitted with any type of AR.
12 AR15 Scope Reviews
Let’s take a look at the best AR15 scope reviews for the year 2020-21.
The BARSKA 6.5-20 × 50 AO Varmint Target Dot Riflescope is good to build quality, with a good entry price. It is lower end scope but competes with scope 2 times its price.
6.5-20x50mm AO, Varmint, Black matte, Fine crosshair reticle, 1/8 “MOA, waterproof, fog proof and shockproof, multi-coated optics for clear images, 1” tube construction, parallax correction and an adjustable objective for easy Engineer with. In the face of high upheaval, the Varmint scope gives you precision designed for varmint hunting or long-range tactical shooting, quick access magnification zoom rings, long-range and shooting.
The simple Target dot reticle and good adjustability of the scope mean that you can hit the target anywhere on the 5.56/.223 cartridge can reasonably perform.
- Parallax Adjustable Objective Lens
- Fine Crosshair Reticle
- Low cost
We Don’t Like
- The reticle is simple, which makes adjustments more difficult.
- Glass quality is lower end
Larger magnification and decently large objective lenses deliver good quality images despite lower-tier glass, which allows good performance for a lower cost.
The BARSKA 6.5-20 × 50 AO Varmint Target Dot Riflescope is hard to beat for the money, but it is definitely not an AR specific scope/reticle. This said, this is a good scope for hunters using the AR platform for game hunting.
Varmint large objective lenses enhance light transmission with fully multi-coated optics and provide better clarity. Ideal for all types of shooting including varmint hunting, target shooting, long-range and precision shooting. Waterproof, fog proof and shockproof.
The latest from Monstrum Tactical, the FFP Scope’s G2 line is designed to deliver premium high-performance optics at the cheapest prices on the market. It includes the first focal plane rangefinder reticle and 1-4x magnification. Accurate capability close to mid-range target up to 400 yards.
Rangefinder Retail is the first functionally designed focal aircraft for rapid range estimation and holdover correction in this range.
- Close to Mid-Range, 400+Yards
- Nice compact size
- Lighted BDC reticle
We Don’t Like
- Not the quality of glass offered in higher-end products
While it is not as good as the best 3-4 offerings on this list, it is firmly planted in the middle ground and offers better quality than lower-end competitors.
This is a solid choice for those who know the power of low magnification and a mild BDC reticle in combination.
Quality construction does not feature top-tier glass, but it is very difficult to defeat the Monstrum Tactical 1-4 × 24 First Focal Plane (FFP) offering for use conditions.
The G2-BFFPS1424-R is a precise tactical scope with the first focal plane reticle. This scope has 1/2 MOA / click windage and elevation adjustment and zero reset.
Very high quality comes at a price and this price is both reasonable and elevated for the Burris 200119 Eliminator III Laserscope.
The electronic assistant will virtually make you a better shooter and the quick, easy work that comes from the range-finding method allows you to make the shots you make without heavy calculations.
The Eliminator III Laserscope is the most innovative and effective hunting riflescope in the world. Eliminator III finds the target distance, calculates the trajectory and shows the exact Aimpoint. The Eliminator III increases the range and accuracy of your favorite rifle.
- Make hunting more efficient
- Premium glass
- Laserscope to increase accuracy
- Electronic assists
- Incredible customer support
We Don’t Like
- Steep learning curve
- Very expensive
This is a gorgeous, powerful feature aid scope that will help you cast magic on long-range shots and those where you need help set limits.
Electronic support provides serious systemic benefits that you cannot down. This is a clear winner for the technical side of things on this list.
Increase the range and accuracy of your favorite rifle on your next hunting trip. This range finder greatly increases the distance at which you can make a moral shot. Furthermore, rely on these features that make the Eliminator the most innovative and effective hunting riflescope in the world. Rangefinder manufactured with a capacity of over 1200 yards. Built-in inclinometer, up and down steep hills up to 45 degrees while ensuring accuracy.
The Burris 300208 AR-332 3 × 32 Prism Sight is a high-quality construction in a good mix of vision technology and optics.
Accuracy, precision, durability and dependability are the correct words to describe this Burris AR-332 scope. A member of the Tactical series, the model offers you 3 magnifications that give you a clear idea of the actual size of the target object. This Burris device is the perfect choice for serious shooters and hunters who can appreciate its optical quality and performance. The scope weighs 14.2 ounces and is 5.3 inches long.
The lighted rods are CQ/Ballistic style and the item is specially designed for AR
- Build specifically for the AR-15
- Precision Riflescope
- Made using the highest quality materials
We Don’t Like
- Fixed only magnification may be somewhat limiting
A great AR specific option, this fixed-only magnification provides a very good harmony between the necessary and desired benefits for the AR15 platform.
The quick, straightforward design mounts easily in any AR configuration and is reticle-appropriate for a use case.
The Burris 300208 AR-332 3×32 Prism Sight is very good for value gain.
A very harmonious alternative to the AR15 platform Bushnell Optics is a very low-priced scope for use in the field with any AR rifle or carbine.
The BDC reticle and good adjustability give extra versatility to this already quite a good scope.
Maximum accuracy and reliability to master every tactical scenario. We took the foundational concepts behind every riflescope we made – optical precision, rugged reliability, and uncorrelated performance – and pushed them even further.
- Fully multi-coated optics for incredible brightness
- Great price for the feature set
- AR specific
We Don’t Like
- Not the highest quality from the brand
A bargain for what you’re getting, it’s a scope that really benefits from legacy production experience and economies of scale that allow the best technologies to be maintained throughout all the lines of the Bushnell Company.
Bushnell Optics is a solid field that is superb on the AR platform and does not cost an arm and a leg. The reticle is an excellent ballistic BDC build.
The Primary Arms 5X Prism Scope features the patented ACSS reticle, providing quick ranging, wind holds and moving target leads for .223 Remington, .308 Winchester, and 5.45*39 in an easy to use sighting system at 5X magnification.
The Primary Arms 5X Prism Scope is a great offer from a brand that has been the mainstay of the AR industry for years now.
A great multiscale reticle and warranty (3 years) tops this scope for a serious AR15 shooter.
- Removable Picatinny Base
- Illumination Knob/Battery Compartment
- High tech, the easy learning curve
We Don’t Like
- Somewhat pricey
A fixed 5x and a great prism type of electronic projection coupled with a very good reticle and a high-quality build from all aspects means that this is a true contender for the vast majority of what AR shooters are wanting in an optic.
The scope is extremely durable, designed to handle heavy recoil and extreme weather conditions. Constructed of 6061 aluminum with a rigid coat flat dark earth finish, this tough scope is nitrogen purged, waterproof and fog-resistant.
Primary Arms is a great company in the AR industry and they provide a good warranty in 3 years.
A connected device that works in IoT (Internet of Things) to deliver enhanced functionality, unlike most shooters they have ever experienced in their lives.
The OPMOD ATN X-Sight 4K Pro 5-20x Smart HD Day/Night Riflescope is a giant step forward for night vision riflescopes. Responding to customer requests, these night vision riflescopes were designed with longer battery life, better image quality, and increased eye relief so that you can see the entire image without distortion or loss of resolution.
But why it is so popular is this: it forces you to keep more informed, achieve your successes and failures and improve through recombination and better, better, integrated technologies.
- Dual-stream video recording
- Ultra HD sensor
- Awesome set of features that is fairly unique
We Don’t Like
- Somewhat expensive
- On the heavier side
- Consumes battery faster with Night Vision
- Maybe a bit too high tech for the average shooter
It is a new breed of the optic that connects you to all other available technology already deployed.
It makes you a better shooter by feeding integrated information through IoT (Internet of Things).
Overall, with the ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope it allows you to use the power of connected infrastructure as a training tool and historical archive for real-time and later exams.
ATN covered by a 2-year product warranty.
For those who can do something without costing more than $500, the Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-8×24 Second Focal Plane Riflescope is a compelling option.
Optimize the versatility, functionality and quick-handling attributes of your AR-15 with Strike Eagle 1-8×24. A true 1X at the bottom end of the 8X zoom range, the Strike Eagle 1-8×24 swaps internally for a wide range of scenarios, allowing shooters to engage targets from point-blank out to extended ranges.
- Magnification adjustment ring
- A good all-in-one option for the AR
- Quality build
We Don’t Like
- Getting somewhat expensive in regards to this list.
Compact and rugged, it is a premium option for those who want more but cannot justify the high price tag.
Between home defense, competition, recreational shooting, feral hog “removal” and any task, this is the scope for whatever you want to throw at it. And it does so at a cost that you will feel as if you have ripped us off.
Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-8×24 Second Focal Plane Riflescope for 1x to 8x for tactical needs is a great all-in-one option.
The primary weapon is built for the 3X Compact Prism Riflescope AR15 and the quality is exceptionally hard to beat for the money.
Primary Arms 3X Compact Prism Scope Gen II with ACSS CQB reticle is the light job you’re looking for. The low 3X magnification and bright illuminated reticle allow for intense, both-eye-open shooting at close range, while the ACSS CQB reticle allows easy hits on targets at 600 yards. For even more flexibility, the GEN II features a removable spacer to tailor the perfect height for both AR-15 and AK-47 platform rifles.
- Passed NTOA testing!
- The removable spacer allows the scope to be used on a variety of rifle platforms.
- Great warranty
- Optimized for the AR15
We Don’t Like
- Fixed 3x only may make this slightly less versatile comparative to other offerings on the list.
Primary Arms has created a stunning set of AR specific optics and is no exception.
It is built directly for the AR15 and the feature set fully covers what most shooters in the platform wants.
Overall the Primary Arms 3X Compact Prism Riflescope has a quality fit and finish and a 3-year superb warranty.
Few optics will ever reach the rarefied air that resides in the Trijicon ACOG at the top level of rifle optics.
The Trijicon ACOG 3.5×35 scope, dual illuminated crosshairs .223 ballistic reticle w/TA51 mount features a crosshair reticle – ranging retail calibrated for 1000 meters from a 5.56 (.223 inch) flat-top rifle. This Trijicon ACOG includes a flat top adapter. Fiber optics provides daytime illumination and tritium illuminates the scope at night.
Expensive? Yes. Proven? Without question.
- Excellent quick reaction reticle and glass
- Just the name says it all
We Don’t Like
- Very expensive
Proved to be in combat. It is a legacy product that has a history that can never match another scope.
Trijicon has led the industry in the development of superior light-targeting systems since the company’s inception in 1981. World-renowned for its innovative applications of tritium and advanced fiber-optics, Trijicon manufactures the most advanced riflescopes and sights for tactical and sports applications.
The Trijicon ACOG is the original CQB (Close Quarter Combat) optic and the feature set is still beating most scopes with 15+ years of the new design.
The Steiner T5Xi 1-5×24 mm riflescope, 3TR 5.56 mm reticle is capable as it is expensive and can be adapted as a scope for the AR 15 platform.
The T5Xi 1-5×24 is designed as a close-comb scope. It calibrates to a 30 mm tube, 3-gun Tactical Reticle (3TR) 5.56 or 7.62, with true 1x eye-open capability for surface awareness and 5x power to include distant targets.
Alternatively, for better quality, a list of everything on this list and a reputation for high-quality glass and exceptional customer service is an area that is as rugged as it is grand.
- Tube diameter 30mm
- Top-quality materials
- Fit and finish second to none
We Don’t Like
- Very Expensive
When you take it in many good quality components and assemble something with the engineering skills that it does and you do it in a factory known for its extreme attention to detail and impeccable service, you get an optic that is superior to most other scopes in all respects AR platforms.
The Steiner T5Xi 1-5 x 24 mm riflescope, the 3 TR 5.56 mm reticle, has the same German engineering that was made famous by Steiner and has a modern, AR optimized design and implementation that will make it a legend.
Nikon is one of the best-known brands in the optics industry, and the clarity and build quality of their lenses is second to none. One of the top models for the money, the Nikon P-223 3-9 × 40, is that it was developed specifically for the .223 / 5.56mm round, so the display is dialled in for the AR 15 platform.
Nikon is no slacker and they offer very good quality products from year to year. This is a great addition to their line.
- Lifetime warranty from Nikon
- High visibility BDC
- Excellent amount of eye relief
- Great price point for the feature set
We Don’t Like
- Might be heavy for some
- Lens washout is more visible on higher illumination levels
- Not the highest quality in the Nikon line
A very good scope built specifically for the AR platform and optimized for delivery of .223.
This is a great option because it is inexpensive and has all the “big boy” features you see on a scope going up to 2-3 times the cost of this one.
In terms of durability, Nikon’s reputation speaks for itself. The P-223 is waterproof, shockproof, and full of nitrogen for solid performance in all conditions, making it ideal for hunters who keep their rifle in a pack and hunt in inclement weather.
Components of a Scope
There are some basic components to scope from an overall level of understanding. The first is power. Power means the magnification of the glass attached to the user’s eye. If it is a 3x scope, it means that it is increased by a factor of three to the eye through the scope as opposed to the real-world viewpoint.
Another component is the shape of the objective lens. Given the same magnification, the larger the lens diameter, the larger the scope of light-collecting capabilities will be, and therefore, the more definition you will be able to have in the lens picture.
The size of the tube is also important, at least the first time you buy the scope, as this will determine the ring and mount you need. There are 30mm and 1-inch tube sizes; each uses a different ring. Note: It is important to have a high enough mount from the mount’s point of view to compensate for the diameter of the objective lens you are using.
There are many different options for magnification and as a general rule of thumb, the higher the zoom, the more distorted the image is. There are now thousands of different scopes that help reduce this distortion and the type you get depends on what you need from your rifle. As previously stated, shooters have different needs. Any victim may want to have as many zooms as possible so that they can choose 9X32 and so on. One thing that needs attention is the light allowance that a lens has. Some are coated with emeralds and allow light magnification.
It is used to allow visibility in low-light environments and high magnification also makes the field of view clearer. There are also scopes that offer very low magnification and these scopes are typically used for firing at short distances and at high rates. Strategic applications generally call for less magnification and greater clarity. Magnification is a very important aspect of the scope and is something to consider before making a purchase.
#2 Types of reticles
There have been a bunch of new types of reticles in recent years, after years of using a simple reticle of “crosshairs”.
A plex reticle gives thicker outside lines and towards the center offers a thinner crosshair.
A target dot provides a simple crosshair with a dot in the very center.
A BDC or Bullet Drop Compensator reticle provides easy quick shots because the bullet drop is built into the overlay of the scope’s FOV (Field of View). Low magnification and BDC retail offer near-instantaneous shots for experienced users arriving at targets.
The mill dot allows precise changes to the mills with the corresponding dot to allow easy adjustment on the fly.
There are hundreds of reticle types, and each has an advantage. Typically, some type of adjustment compensation rod that allows easy calculations makes the most sense for the AR platform, as the rifle aims to make quick, accurate shots in a short to medium range and it lets you complete it. Optic will help It is also that low magnification makes sense for AR’s, however, not all scopes on this list are low magnification scopes.
#3 MRAD and MOA
The word MRAD is a shortened version of Milliradian, or Mils. This is different from other common measurements for changing or “doping” your scope that is known as MOA – minute of angle.
Angular units of measurement are important for shooting and ballistics, especially when talking about accurate shooting over large distances. The angle remains constant over the entire distance, but the measurement that corresponds to that angle will grow, the further out you get.
MRAD is conceptually equivalent to 6283 Milliradians in a circle (360 degrees), this means that you will need 6283 cycles of MRAD adjustment to cover the entire width of the circle. NATO brings this number to 6400. MRAD is a one-way metric system of measurement for the world of scope.
The MOA is ideologically equivalent to 21600 minutes (360 degrees) of angle in the circle, or 60 minutes per degree angle in the circle. The MOA is a kind of imperial system of measurement, for the scope world.
MRAD and MOA have different methods of adjustment, similar to the way each method measures the individual component of a complete 360-degree image.
An example for further clarification:
At 100 yards, 1 MOA (minute of angle) is 1”. So a gun that shoots a 1-inch group at 100 yards is called an MOA gun. If the gun is an MOA rifle, the same measurement goes into a 10-inch group at 1000 yards. This is a very straightforward measuring scale.
At 100 meters, 1Mil is 10 cm. The same measurement is 10 times larger at 1000 meters. So 1Mil rifle will shoot 10cm group at 1000 meters.
Notice the change from yards to meters. Also note that in the world of scopes, these measures are maintained on purpose and provide the same adjustment in the turret for windage and elevation. Point of being: A static measurement that can be referred to when “doping” lives, scope in real-time scenarios, or when dialing in prematurely.
For the purposes of discussing MRAD/MOA:
At 100 yards when adjusting the scope of a single MOA/4 click you increase the point of impact 1 inch. Single click is equal to ¼” So a single click adjusts your scope point of aim to point of impact by ¼”.
By adjusting the scope of a single MRAD / 10 click, at 100 meters you move that point of impact by 10cm. A single click is equal to 1 mill. So, a single click adjusts the point of purpose to affect your scope by 1 cm.
This is important for on the fly scope adjustment in the real-time scenarios like precision match shooting and hunting.
#4 Focal Plane
For the purposes of this article, the focal plane is essentially the same for the following: how well you will see the FOV (field of view) relative to the retro shape. This is not a complete or accurate explanation of the idea of the focal plane.
For the purposes of this article, the first and second are focal planes.
The second focal plane means that the size that you increase in a scope never changes its size. This is great for long-range shooters, who want an easy shot with a familiar reticle size. With the second focal plane, if you understand the ballistics of the round/rifle and scope internals, it will allow for very precise shots, and quick accurate shots will be easier.
The first focal plane means that the reticle changes shape depending on the magnification you have adjusted. This allows a shooter to see the target and reticle with the same type of measurement regardless of the power of magnification.
The first focal plane will allow for very quick mental adjustments for shots. It also means that when the lowest magnification is used, you may have a reticle that is so small that it cannot be read well. At higher magnification, you are making it harder to take some shots and will lose some of the reticles.
Each type of focal plane will have advantages and disadvantages. If you are ranging targets, first focal plane scopes make sense.
If you are well educated on the ballistics of the round, the easy quick shot can be taken accurately with the second focal plane scope, without losing your reticle overlay.
A scope, like any other high-end accessory or modification, gives you the unique ability of your AR15 to adapt to its exact parameters and meet certain specifications that will allow you to improve your performance.
Knowing how to select the best optics for AR15, scope or otherwise, will give you peace of mind when you make that decision and want to put it to actual use. The increased capacity you will have to shoot long-range targets or utilize the rifle for hunting will be immediately apparent as you hit your first target and will give you a long-lasting sense of accomplishment as you land your shot time after time.
This article covered the most important basics for the selection process, but it will be a culmination of the experience you gain as you shoot over the years and the knowledge you will receive as you dial in your scope in real-time will ultimately make you a better shot.