Top AR Scopes For Every Budget


Your aluminum and polymer Eugene Stoner amalgamation chambered in .223/5.56 aka the beloved AR-15, is an extremely capable platform. You name the application and you can bet there’s an AR sitting in someones safe built to excel at that specific function. It goes without saying, the key ingredient to accomplishing what you’re trying to do with your rifle is the optic you select to sit on that precisely spaced upper picatinny rail.


Lately variable power rifle scopes in the 1-4/6/8X range have been all the rage and it’s easy to see why, they allow you to shoot targets up close quickly and push it out to 3,4,500 yards with the twist of the power ring. Because of their popularity, almost every manufacturer has their own dog in this 1-4/6/8X fight. While that’s all fine and dandy, the real question is, the question that plagues every gear purchase-which one is the best for the money?




US Optics SR-8C



-Awesome magnification range

-FFP (First Focal Plane) allows for ranging and consistent reticle drop compensations based on any magnification level

-Compact 12″ length

-Extremely high build quality

-Tough as nails

-Impeccable clarity



-Weight. At almost 26 ounce before you clamp it on a mount, it’s a heifer.

-The reticle. While I’m a fan of all of the various holdovers, the lower portion of the reticle is way too busy for my tastes.



Kahles K16i 1-6X24



-Very wide FOV (Field Of View)

-Superior glass clarity

-six power magnification

-Illumination that can actually be seen in direct sunlight

-G4B reticle results in quick target acquisition with a “no nonsense” approach


-Integrated throw lever for fast magnification changes



-No auto off feature for illumination

-No easy way to dial in an exact illumination level every time



$1,000 – $1,500


Leupold VX6 1-6X24 w/ CM-R2 Reticle



-Good clarity

-Six power magnification

-CM-R2 Reticle is very fast for engaging close up targets

-Lightweight at only 14.6 ounces

-Stupidly rugged



-The push button illumination isn’t ideal



Vortex Razor HD Gen II 1-6×24 w/ JM-1 Reticle



-One of the largest FOV’s on the market

-In my opinion one of the quickest reticles for varied distance shooting

-4″ of eye relief means you can move the scope farther up on the rifle

-Generous eyebox allows you to get a good sight picture when your cheek weld is less than perfect

-11 illumination settings with off positions in between each setting



-Weight. At 25ish ounces you can definitely feel the difference in balance with this scope mounted to your rifle.

-Not offered in black anodizing





Burris XTR II 1-5×24 w/ Ballistic 5.56 Reticle

FastFire 1


-Exposed turrets for quick and easy adjustments

-11 illumination settings with off positions in between each setting

-Illumination can be used in direct sunlight and still viewable

-Reticle lends itself to quick close range target engagement

-4″ of eye relief means you can move the scope farther up on the rifle




-Exposed turrets have the potential to be knocked and result in your zero being lost

-21 ounces without a mount


Trijicon Accupoint TR24 1-4×24



-Like an ACOG, it doesn’t require batteries to give you the illuminated reticle

-Weight. At 14 ounces, its a featherweight.

-Nice rubberized power ring

-Good glass

-Nearly as quick as a red dot sight



-Long in the tooth. While it’s an excellent scope it’s dying for an update. (Spoiler alert, Trijicon’s coming out with a TR25 soon at the same price point but with a 1-6x magnification range.)

-No ballistic reticle so holdovers can be challenging





Bushnell AR Optics 1-4×24



-Excellent value. For just a tick over $300, you get the scope and a mount.

-Reticle is designed for quick close range engagement and has BDC holdovers

-Integrated throw lever for power ring

-17 ounce weight

-Illuminated with 11 brightness settings



-Distortion around edges


Vortex Crossfire II 1-4×24



-4″ of eye relief means you can move the scope farther up on the rifle

-High value glass

-Capped turrets



-Illuminated dot very hard to see in bright daylight conditions

-Brightness knob is kind of big and gets in the way of you quickly turning the power ring



Variable scopes are all the rage and for good reason, you can hit targets up close quickly like you’re using a red dot and then push it out to roughly 600 yards. Now that I’ve covered the entire gamut of what’s available based on your budget, I should mention that you get what you pay for with everything in life. With that being said, I’ve never heard of or personally had a poor thing to say about the scopes on the lower end of this list. So which one should you choose? My best advice would be to buy once, and cry once. Meaning if you know you’re going to get a lot use out of the scope, buy the nicest scope you can possibly afford and think of it as an investment into your future happiness.


Still don’t know which one of these optics to throw on your AR? Post your question in the comments below! As always guys, shoot-em straight and be safe.




If it goes bang or has to deal with the outdoors then I am most likely passionate about it. If I'm not at the gun range then I'm either hiking, mountain biking or kayaking. Follow along as I dive into outdoor gear related products and topics.

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9 Responses to Top AR Scopes For Every Budget

  1. Ken says:

    I think you nailed it with these choices. Looking forward to the Vortex Strike Eagle to get on this list real soon.

  2. Paul says:

    I picked up one of Bushnell’s AR Optics 1-4x 24mm Throw Down PCL last year for just under $200. It performs great up close and out to a few hundred yards. The drop comp holdover is close enuf for my shooting, glass is better than good, illuminated retical can be seen well in all but the brightest daylight, and I am thinking about getting another for a 450 BM build that I have just started (holdover is correct for 100 – 300 vs 100 – 500).

  3. Marc says:

    All of these optics look great and you definitely get what you pay for. That being said I have an Elcan 1×4 variable power optic on my work patrol rifle and I love it. I think the one thing I value about it above all the optics listed here is the ease of use. There are just two settings,1x and 4x, just the flip of the lever rather than having to adjust a dial. I don’t have to adjust my position to change the magnification, I can maintain my sight on target while moving from 1x to 4x. I am sure someone could practice the manipulation of some of these other optics in the same way, but that was my deciding factor when I initially chose this optic and its in tough, at least as far as LE patrol duty. I also like the mount, it uses two throw levers and is dead on even after removing and replacing it in the same spot on the rail.

  4. COLBullSigh says:

    Great article! Now I know where to find other quality scopes that don’t cost more than my mortgage!

  5. Mike Milosevich says:

    Any suggestions for a .308 M1A1? Including a rail system and BDC fast acquisition scope. Thanks

  6. Johnny says:

    I am new in the shooting sports. I bought my S&W AR15 Sport model when Obama & the Democrats wanted to ban the AR. My AR15 hasa flip up metallic sight, & is flat top. What scope can I instal?
    Do I have to remove the flip up metal sight?Can I put a carry handle & attach scope on top of the handle & don’t have to remove the metal sight? A friend said buy Barska IR Swat 1-4x scope that can go on top of the carry handle. Another said NcStar Gen 3 scopewith thered dot.
    Any suggestions & assistance will be highly appreciated.
    Thank you.

  7. Alfred Ferrara says:

    Just finished my 1st AR build; a.300 Blackout with premium components: a Knights Armament S/S barreled upper, PRIMARY ARMS FSC-30 Brake/Hider, YHM Free-Float forearm, Fail Zero NIB BCG, custom trigger, VLTOR Stock, Accu-grip hand grip, WML Weaponlight, etc. I want to buy ONE Scope for this rifle AND my 5.56 Upper, AND my .308 Upper. I’m thinking a 1-8 x 30MM, illuminated job. But which one and what reticle? I’m in Disability, and it too over a year and a half to finish this one, so money is DEAR! Any suggestions (don’t forget the reticle problem!)

  8. Gunny Fitz says:

    Curious on this one.
    Not one EoTech made the grade for best scopes under $1000 or is that considered a Holographic and falls under a different category altogether? Iv’e been using one of these for YEARS and even in Iraq they always proved to be worthy of a great rating, even at long distances (300 yds was long in that AO) These are all great scopes you listed and Id love to have a few myself, but just wonder where the EoTech’s fit in? Another article perhaps? Please advise when that will (or was) be?
    Semper Fi !!

    • Jeremy L says:

      This article was top “scopes” for your AR. EOTechs are red dots and while I’m a big fan of their products its Apples and Oranges if you know what I mean. I will be doing a writeup soon of the best red dot sights too. Thanks for the feedback!

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