15 Best AR-15 Scope Reviews by GunsNFreedom
OUR TOP CHOICE: Primary Arms 1-6x24mm SFP Gen III Illuminated Riflescope
Perfection may not exist, but the highly versatile Primary Arms 1-6x24mm SFP Gen III Illuminated Riflescope comes close. This rifle scope is an excellent option for extending the capabilities of your AR-15 regardless of the application.
Telescopic sights, more commonly called scopes, are an excellent way to increase the effective range of any rifle.
The AR-15 is a naturally accurate platform, and no one else knows that better than the US military. Many AR-15 based rifles with scopes have seen service, from the Vietnam-era Colt Model 655 to more modern platforms like the Navy’s Mark 12 SPR. Even standard service rifles were upgraded with scopes, such as the Trijicon ACOG, greatly extending the infantryman’s effectiveness.
In this list, we look at the best AR-15 scopes available today for hunting, long-range shooting disciplines, competition shooting, and other long-distance applications.
Editor’s Choice: Primary Arms 1-6x24mm SFP Gen III Illuminated Riflescope
There are numerous applications and so many rifle scopes for each: Hunting, competition shooting, long-distance disciplines. You might be wondering, “Is there something good for all purposes?” So, is there a perfect rifle scope? Perfection may not exist, but the highly versatile Primary Arms 1-6x24mm SFP Gen III Illuminated Riflescope comes close. This rifle scope is an excellent option for extending the capabilities of your AR-15 regardless of the application.
Top 15 Best AR-15 Scope Reviews
A perfect scope for all applications may not exist, but the SFP Gen III probably comes as close to it as possible. This product by Primary Arms is, in my opinion, one of the best AR-15 optics available on the market.
The patented Advanced Combined Sighting System (ACSS) has taken the industry by storm with its innovative reticle and range-finding system, allowing for fast target acquisition at 0 to 300 yards and precise shooting at up to 800. This system is so good that Trijicon has even partnered with Primary Arms to make a version of their famous ACOG scope with the ACSS reticle.
The SFP Gen III is a second focal plane scope featuring the ACSS reticle system with a magnification range of 1x to 6x. At minimum magnification, the large horseshoe and central chevron are ideal for acquiring targets quickly in close quarters. At maximum magnification, the ACSS rangefinder and bullet drop compensation markers can help you put rounds on target at any distance your AR-15 can handle.
With its robust, aircraft-grade 6063 aluminum body and weatherproof construction, you won’t have to worry about using this optic in adverse conditions. Even if something happens to your SFP Gen III, it is covered by the Primary Arms Lifetime Warranty, even from normal wear-and-tear, no questions asked.
The LED illumination system allows you to continue your range session even if you lose light. However, only the central chevron lights up; the BDC and rangefinder do not. This scope should be for day use only.
Who Should Get This?
You should get this if you’re looking for an all-purpose, high-quality general use rifle scope for your AR-15.
If you’re new to the world of rifle optics and you’re looking to install your first scope on your AR-15, look no further than the Vortex Crossfire II 1-4x24mm Riflescope.
The build quality on the Crossfire II is comparable to any of Vortex’s more expensive products, resulting in a fantastic value for the price. Constructed of a single-piece, aircraft-grade aluminum body with a hard, anodized finish that resists scratches and dings, this scope is designed to last a lifetime.
The scope is compatible with standard 30mm ring mounts, but you can get the best performance out of your Crossfire II by using a mount adapted for use on AR-15s, such as the Vortex 30mm Cantilever Riflescope Ring Mount. With a weight of only 16 oz, this scope does not weigh your AR-15 down needlessly.
The Vortex V-Plex reticle features a 1.5 MOA center dot in a conventional crosshair configuration. This reticle is simple, easy to use, adapted for plinking, target shooting, and hunting at any range between 0 and 300 yards. The scope is fully weatherproof, nitrogen-purged, and O-ring sealed to ensure glass clarity at all times.
If anything happens to your scope, the company’s VIP lifetime warranty covers any type of defect or damage, pledging to repair or replace your unit, with no need for a receipt and no warranty card to fill out.
Despite its many impressive features for the price, the Crossfire II lacks any kind of illumination, relegating it for use as a day scope only. If you’re looking to shoot at distances beyond 300 yards, there are better options, but these options are not as budget-friendly as the Crossfire II.
Who Should Get This?
You should get this if you are new to rifle scopes or on a budget, and you want the highest-quality scope possible for the money.
We’ve all heard the old hunter’s adage, “Spend at least as much on the glass as you did on the rifle.” While I won’t deny that if you spend the big bucks, you can get some phenomenal scopes, you might be surprised to find that you can find dependable, high-quality optics even on a budget.
The Tacfire 1-4×24 Tri Illuminated CQB Riflescope is quite possibly the best value for the money if you’re on a tight budget. It features everything you expect from a quality scope; a robust, corrosion-resistant, aircraft-grade 6061-T6 aluminum body, an illuminated dot for low-light conditions, as well as clear and bright glass.
Not content with just providing you with a good scope, the CQB Riflescope comes in the box with flip-up lens covers and a cantilever mount that will fit on any of your AR-15’s Picatinny rails. No need to purchase anything extra; this scope is ready to use right out of the box.
The scope features a delicate, glass-etched reticle reminiscent of the German #4, a popular European hunting reticle, with the addition of an illuminated, configurable center dot, adjustable for both brightness (3 levels) and color (red, green, blue). The scope accepts standard, readily-available CR2032 button batteries and comes out of the box with one.
I only regret there aren’t more brightness levels, as even the highest one can feel a little dim, particularly at dawn or comparable low light conditions.
The 1x to 4x magnification range makes it a joy to use at any range from 0 to 300 yards. It is an excellent choice for plinking, target shooting, varmint hunting, and practical competition shooting such as 2-gun or 3-gun.
Who Should Get This?
You should get this if you are on a tight budget and you want the best glass possible for this price point.
Most of us are familiar with scopes featuring customizable illumination settings, and some of them even let you change the color of your reticle or center dot. But very few offer as many ways to personalize color and brightness settings as the Leapers UTG 3-12x44mm SWAT IE AO Mildot EZ-TAP Rain-Proof Compact Riflescope.
This scope’s star feature is its Illumination Enhancing Multi-Color Mode system, which offers 36 different reticle colors and 7 different brightness settings. No matter the light or the colors in the background, there is a setting for you.
This model features a standard mil-dot reticle, with each hash mark being one milliradian apart from each other. Magnification is adjustable from 3x to 12x, and parallax is adjustable from 10 yards to infinity, letting you fine-tune your scope and stay on target no matter the distance.
Besides the scope itself, everything you need to install it on your AR-15 is in the box. This model comes with a pair of Picatinny 30mm scope rings, as well as lens caps to protect your glass in between your shooting sessions.
Don’t worry about taking it through rough terrain or under adverse conditions; this scope is impact-resistant and fully weatherproof. Whether it’s sunny, rainy, or foggy outside, the Leapers UTG 3-12x44mm Compact Riflescope is always ready and will not let you down. The scope tube also features an integral, angled sunshade to reduce sun glare and ensure comfort, no matter which direction you’re aiming.
Primarily intended for hunting, this scope is a great way to turn your AR-15 into the ideal varmint hunting tack-driver. It is also suitable for other applications, such as medium to long-distance target shooting.
Who Should Get This?
You should get this if you’re looking for a resilient, highly configurable rifle scope at a reasonable price, particularly if you intend to hunt with your AR-15.
Leupold is a household name in the world of rifle optics for a good reason. This family-owned company based in Beaverton, Oregon, has been in the business of rifle optics and other optical sights for nearly 110 years. From hunters to Navy SEALs, Leupold optics has topped the rifles of all kinds of customers, and all of its products are 100% made in the United States.
The VX-Freedom series is a no-frills, no-nonsense line of rifle scopes by the Oregonian company. In my opinion, the 3-9x40mm model is the most versatile of the line. With a magnification range of 3x to 9x, it is suitable at any distance between 50 and 500 yards.
The VX-Freedom 3-9×40 Riflescope is available in a wide range of reticle styles to suit various kinds of rifles; classic duplex, Leupold’s TMR, Tri-MOA, and UltimateSlam reticles. Any of these are suitable for use on AR-15s, although I have a preference for the Tri-MOA reticle, with its 1 MOA increment hash marks.
If you have an AR-15 chambered in .450 Bushmaster, a version of the VX-Freedom scope featuring a .450 Bushmaster specific duplex reticle is also available, optimized for the ballistics of this chambering, particularly with 250-grain bullets.
Although the build quality is unmatched, this is a product with no frills. The reticle is non-illuminated, relegating this scope for daytime use only, and the only controls on the scope are for magnification, windage, and elevation adjustment. With that said, there is beauty in the simplicity, and if all you need is a highly-accurate, dependable optic and you don’t care for extra bells and whistles, you will not be disappointed by the VX-Freedom 3-9×40 Riflescope.
Who Should Get This?
You should get this if you want a 100% American-made scope that delivers accuracy and dependability with no unnecessary frills.
Bushnell is another household name among firearms enthusiasts. This Kansas-based corporation, founded in 1948 by David P. Bushnell, sells a wide variety of outdoor products, from binoculars to rangefinders, and of course, rifle scopes.
The AR Optics Riflescope 1-8x24mm is an all-purpose rifle scope specifically designed for AR platform rifles. With a tube diameter of 30mm, this scope is compatible with industry-standard 30mm scope rings.
The 1-8x24mm Riflescope is equipped with the Bushnell BTR-1 reticle, featuring a large illuminated ring and center dot designed for fast target acquisition, as well as bullet drop compensation markings and 6 different brightness levels.
When installed on a 20”-barreled, 5.56mm AR-15 and zeroed for 100 yards, I found that the center dot is always dead on target. If you intend to use it on a carbine, I recommend a 50/200 yard zero instead.
At 1x magnification, the ring and center dot practically function as a red dot sight, ideal for close-quarters targets. When you need to reach out at longer distances, the provided BDC hash marks shine and allow you to hit targets at up to 500 yards with ease. Just remember that at 8x, you may find that your field of view is a little limited; it can be challenging to get a good sight picture if the lighting isn’t perfect.
Bushnell supplies this scope with what they call Throw Down Power Change Levers (PCL). You’ll find 2 PCLs in the box; a long one and a short one. Install the one you find the most comfortable; both are easy to reach and make magnification changes incredibly comfortable, even with your eye focused on the target.
Who Should Get This?
You should get this if you want a well-designed, versatile rifle scope that is particularly well-suited for use on the AR-15.
Although Swampfox Optics is a relative newcomer, this Colorado-based company established on July 4, 2018, sells various high-quality optics for pistols and rifles.
The Arrowhead LPVO 1-10X24 Riflescope caught my attention. It is one of the few rifle scopes on the market that offers a magnification range between 1x and 10x and perhaps the only one offered at a reasonable price.
The glass is bright and clear, and the sight picture remains sharp at all magnification settings. This scope is as close to true 1x as a rifle scope can get at the lowest magnification setting.
Three reticle styles are available for this scope; the Guerilla Dot BDC, which features bullet drop compensation marks at up to 500 yards, and the Guerrilla Dot MOA and Guerilla Dot MIL, respectively featuring 2 MOA hash marks and mil-dot hash marks.
All 3 reticle styles feature a large illuminated ring and center dot for quick target acquisition at low magnification. Regardless of the reticle style you prefer, each can be ordered with either red or green illumination.
The only drawback I found with this scope is the slightly blurry edges, no matter the magnification setting. It’s a little disappointing, but at least it doesn’t impact the sight picture.
Swampfox’s warranty, which they call the 50,000-round guarantee, states that the company will repair or replace your scope for free and without questions if something happens to it (other than loss, theft, cosmetic, or deliberate damage), so long as you’ve shot under 50,000 rounds with it. In other words, it’s a lifetime warranty with different branding.
Who Should Get This?
You want a well-built rifle scope for your AR-15 with a 1x to 10x magnification range and at a fair price point.
When legendary firearms expert Jeff Cooper imagined the scout rifle’s original concept, he envisioned a general-purpose, handy, lightweight gun that could deliver accurate shots at up to 500 yards.
A “true” scout rifle is supposed to be a bolt-action rifle chambered in .308. However, it is possible to build an AR that respects the spirit of a scout rifle (practicality, low weight) while making use of the AR’s greatest strengths: Its semi-automatic action and its modular nature.
One of the most critical scout rifle elements is the scope; it should be a proper scout scope. There is no better candidate for the job than the Leupold FX-II 2.5x28mm Scout Rifle Scope. This scope is the spiritual successor to the legendary Leupold M8 2.5x scope, which came standard on the original Steyr Scout rifle.
The FX-II has all of the traits a good scout scope should possess: Fixed-power 2.5x magnification, simplicity of use, lightweight, yet robust.
With an overall weight of just 7.5 oz., this scope will not weigh your AR-15 down and is ideal for light rifle builds. The reticle is a simple duplex reticle, emphasizing simplicity of use and fast target acquisition. Its extended eye relief makes it suited for mounting far forward on the top side of your AR-15’s quad rail, as intended for a scout scope.
Although it is very light, this scope is very robust. All Leupold optics go through the company’s Punisher testing process, and the FX-II is no exception. This test subjects their products to extreme impacts over 5,000 times to ensure that they can resist even the most severe impacts or the most powerful recoil impulses.
Who Should Get This?
You should get this if you want an ideal optic for scout rifle builds or if you want the lightest possible scope for your AR-15.
In the world of firearm optics, Trijicon is a household name. This Michigan-based company is one of the most well-known contractors for the United States military, supplying them with products such as the RX01 reflex sight, or the TA31 scope, better known as the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG).
The Trijicon ACOG 4×32 Scope Kit is nearly identical to the scope used by the military, engineered specifically for use with the AR-15/M16 platform, and possesses many features enjoyable by warfighters and civilian shooters alike.
With a housing and mount both made of 7075-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum, the Trijicon ACOG was designed to pass the US military’s stringent requirements and will withstand abuse and all types of harsh environments. At just under 6” of length and 10 ounces, the ACOG is very rugged and a compact, lightweight scope.
The included TA51 mount is compatible with any Picatinny rail, and the scope’s reticle and range finding system are calibrated for 5.56mm/.223 ammunition, ensuring accuracy from 0 to 800 yards. This scope is ready for your AR-15 rifle or carbine right out of the box.
Trijicon’s Bindon Aiming Concept (BAC) allows any shooter to use this scope comfortably and efficiently, even with both eyes open, ideal for maintaining situational awareness at all times.
You won’t need to worry about light conditions either; the fiber optic reticle is clear and easy to read during the daytime. At night and in any low-light conditions, the tritium illumination automatically turns on and adapts to the light level.
Best of all, the ACOG requires no batteries! Fiber optics sights require no battery or charging and will always function as long as you have daylight. In contrast, the tritium sights are guaranteed by Trijicon to glow for at least 15 years past the date of original manufacture.
Who Should Get This?
You should get this if you’re looking for the best medium fixed-power scope available on the market or simply if you want the most rugged and battle-proven AR scope possible.
In my experience, if you’re looking for a high-magnification, fixed-power scope, you won’t find a lot of options available.
The Leupold FX3 6x42mm Fixed Power Scope fits the description more than adequately. At 6x, this scope provides more than enough magnification for any application between 100 and 600 yards.
The Leupold Wide Duplex reticle is a variant of the classic duplex reticle, but with longer central thin lines, providing a wider field of view in the center area. It is just as easy and comfortable to use as standard duplex reticles.
Like all Leupold scopes, the FX3 is also designed to survive the company’s Punisher test, which subjects its scopes to thousands of hard impacts, with an intensity equivalent to three times the recoil energy of a .308 cartridge. You can rest assured that the FX3 will not give up on you, even if you installed it on your .50 Beowulf AR-15 and shot it all day.
At just 15 ounces, the Leupold FX3 is very light for a scope of its category. It is a superb choice if you want to extend your rifle’s capabilities without compromising on weight.
As the FX3 is a fixed-power scope with a 6x magnification rate, it may not be the most comfortable optic to use at closer ranges. As long as your target is at least 100 yards away, this scope will help you hit exactly where you intend, shot after shot.
This scope is covered by the Leupold Gold Ring Full Lifetime Guarantee, which promises full repair or replacement at no cost should it not perform as expected. No proof of ownership or warranty card required either; even if you pass your FX3 on to another person, Leupold will take care of them.
Who Should Get This?
You should get this if you use AR-15s for hunting or target shooting at medium ranges, and you need the best scope for the job.
These days, more people choose to hunt with AR-platform rifles. You may be one of these people; you may even possess one chambered in a sufficiently potent cartridge, to ensure your shots are as humane and ethical as possible. However, without a well-designed, dependable scope, your effective range remains limited.
If you want to leave as little as possible to chance, the Primary Arms 4-14x44mm FFP Riflescope may well be the best choice available today.
The wide array of magnifications – 4x to 14x – allows for great versatility on the range and in the field. No matter how far your target is, there is a setting to see it as clearly and comfortably as possible.
The reticle used on this scope is a variant of the patented Primary Arms Advanced Combined Sighting System (ACSS). It has extra hash marks for wind drift adjustment and bullet drop compensation for distances up to 1,000 yards.
On this scope, the reticle is on the first focal plane (FFP) instead of the more common second focal plane (SFP). At high magnifications, your reticle appears larger according to the setting you’re using, allowing your hold-over points to remain the same regardless of the magnification used. No need to mess with your scope’s windage adjustment; use the reticle’s wind holds and never worry again about missing a shot, even on a windy day.
Two different models are available; one calibrated for .223 ammunition and one for .308. Whether you have an AR-15 or an AR-10, there is a model for you.
Although the Primary Arms 4-14x44mm FFP Riflescope possesses an illumination feature, I found that even on the brightest setting, the reticle felt a little dim, appearing black even against an early morning backdrop. It may be better to relegate this scope for daytime use only.
Who Should Get This?
You should get this if you use an AR-platform rifle for hunting, and you want a versatile, first focal plane scope with a proven reticle.
If you’re into long-range shooting, you also probably know that there is more to precision rifles than just bolt-actions. With the right configuration and chambering (.224 Valkyrie, 6.5mm Creedmoor, etc.), even your AR-15 or AR-10 can ring steel at 1000 yards and beyond. Of course, if you want to see (and hit) the target at such distances, you will need good glass.
The Vortex Viper PST Gen II 5-25x50mm is a top-quality scope designed for very long-range shooting. With a magnification range of 5x to 25x, as long as your rifle is accurate enough, if you can see it, you can hit it, whether it’s 100 or 1,000 yards away.
The Viper PST Gen II is available with an MOA reticle on either the first or second focal plane or a mil-rad reticle (second focal plane only). All models are illuminated, with 10 different brightness levels. The illumination system is powered using standard CR2032 button batteries.
Even at the maximum magnification setting (25x), the image and sight picture remain crystal clear. If you need to make frequent adjustments to your scope’s windage and elevation settings, you won’t have to worry about losing zero or being off-target. The Viper PST Gen II has spot-on turret tracking and can help you send your bullet to the point of aim.
Alongside the scope itself, you will find a 2mm hex wrench, a battery, a sunshade, and a lens cloth in the box. Unfortunately, no scope rings are included — a shame, especially in this price range. I would recommend a set of Vortex Precision Matched Riflescope Rings because they are as rugged as the scope itself and ensures your zero remains in place, even after hundreds of rounds.
Who Should Get This?
You should get this if you possess or plan to build an AR-15 or AR-10 set up for very long-range shooting (1,000 yards or more).
In the past, night vision devices (NVDs) were very bulky, heavy, and primarily reserved for military use. Fortunately, night vision technology has progressed a lot since its inception during World War II. Today, it is possible to find a wide range of night vision riflescopes, from classic IR-illuminated passive devices to 100% electronic thermal imaging devices.
As a Generation 1 night vision optic, the Firefield 3×42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope functions the same way as the classic 1960s units: By amplifying existing ambient light using an infrared illuminator. Unlike the Vietnam-era NVDs, however, it is a compact unit, about the same size as a medium fixed-power scope.
The Firefield 3×42 scope is powered using two AA batteries and has an autonomy of no less than 20 hours. Its IR illuminator allows you to see in near-total darkness at up to 100 yards and with enough clarity to distinguish targets at up to 75 yards. I recommend zeroing this optic using the standard battle sight zero method (50/200 yards).
The titanium alloy construction is very rugged and resistant to abuse – but also relatively heavy. Despite its compact size, this night vision device weighs nearly 2 lbs. This is something to keep in mind if you want to keep your rifle as lightweight as possible.
In the box, you will find everything you need to get started with setting up your AR-15 for night vision shooting. Besides the scope itself, the package also contains a mounting bracket compatible with Picatinny rails, lens covers, and 2 batteries. Insert the batteries, attach the unit to your rifle or carbine, zero your scope, and you’re ready to go.
Make sure to do all of your shooting (and zeroing) at night; direct exposure to sunlight will damage the unit.
Who Should Get This?
You should get this if you are new to night vision devices and you want to purchase an excellent first NV optic for your AR-15.
The ATN X-Sight 4K Pro 5-20x Smart HD Day/Night Riflescope exemplifies everything ATN Corp is all about: Bringing rifle scopes to the 21st century through the use of technology.
Instead of a traditional lens, the X-Sight uses a high-definition sensor – like a smartphone’s camera – and an electronic display, complete with a heads-up display. The integrated IR illuminator allows it to be used as a day/night unit.
Much like a smartphone, the X-Sight contains a powerful processor and an on-board operating system with a suite of functions that can be accessed using the scope’s buttons. These functions include an integrated ballistic calculator, a one-shot zeroing function, a dynamic mil-dot reticle that automatically adjusts based on current magnification, and a smart rangefinder with an automatic point of aim adjustment.
Image magnification ranges between 5x and 20x, selected by turning the unit’s zoom dial, just as you would turn a traditional scope’s lateral turret.
The X-Sight also possesses a microSD card slot and a video recording and streaming function, letting you record your hunt or shooting session in 1080p or stream it to your iOS or Android device in 720p.
The box comes with a lot of extra items; I particularly appreciated the set of scope rings. ATN ships the X-Sight with 3 30mm rings, including 2 standard scope rings and 1 scope ring with a short Picatinny rail, in case you want to attach a small red dot sight.
Let’s be clear on one thing: This scope is as much a hunting product as it is a technology product. If you’re the sort of shooter who finds configuring their smartphone to be a challenge, you will probably not enjoy using this item. Make sure to read the manual thoroughly before use.
Who Should Get This?
You should get this if you want an advanced day/night rifle scope with plenty of features, and you won’t balk at a 100% electronic unit.
As another one of the products from ATN Corp’s lineup, the ThOR LT 4-8x Thermal Rifle Scope is an advanced item, making extensive use of technology to deliver on its promises.
As its name implies, this scope is primarily a thermal imaging device; rather than amplify light, it detects the heat generated by any object within range of its sensors. Because they rely on temperature instead of ambient light, you can use a thermal imager at any time of the day or the night.
The high definition thermal display is configurable between 2 modes: White-hot (hottest targets appear white) or black-hot (hottest targets appear black). Image magnification ranges from 4x to 8x and is ideal for use at up to 300 yards.
Due to the sensor’s low resolution, objects may sometimes be hard to identify when set to the highest resolution. I would recommend keeping the magnification to 4x where the image quality is at its sharpest.
As with other ATN scopes, the ThOR LT features a one-shot zero function, saving time (and ammunition) when preparing your rifle before a hunt.
Calibrating the sensor for sighting in is easy; all you need is to point the sensor at a hot object, such as a hand warmer or a cup filled with a hot drink.
If weight is a vital factor for your rifle build, the ThOR LT is the lightest product in ATN’s thermal scopes line, at 22.4 oz, comparable to most traditional telescopic sights.
Although this scope is compatible with industry-standard 30 mm scope rings, I found it regrettable that the box did not include a set of rings. Nevertheless, the ATN ThOR LT 4-8x Thermal Rifle Scope remains an excellent value for the price point.
Who Should Get This?
You should get this if you’re looking to purchase a thermal imaging sight for your AR-15 and get the best value possible for the price point.
Best AR-15 Scope Overall
The best overall AR-15 scope is the Primary Arms 1-6x24mm SFP Gen III Illuminated Riflescope. Its 1-6x magnification range and Primary Arms ACSS reticle are practical. Target acquisition at 0 to 200 yards is almost as easy as with a red dot sight, and the BDC hash marks will, when paired with the right setup, let you reach up to 800 yards. It’s as close as it gets to being an all-purpose AR-15 scope.