When choosing an AR-15 scope it is important to remember you get what you pay for. It is not necessary to buy the most expensive AR-15 scope but going cheap on optics is not recommended. The saying “your rifle is only as good as the optic”, really rings true. Price wise, they come from as low as sixty dollars to a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
Not every AR-15 scope will be right for everyone. Few of us can afford to buy multiple optics looking for the perfect scope. Answering the following questions should help to narrow down which is the best AR-15 scope for you.
Editors note: we preface a bunch of things below that are real questions you must ask yourself before trying to find the best AR 15 scope this year. If you already have the answers to these questions, continue scrolling.
How to choose the best AR-15 Scope for 2019
What will you be using your AR-15 rifle for?
The planned use of the rifle will determine the caliber and desirable optics. It might be hunting, home protection, shooting competition or plinking at targets in the back pasture. Each of these uses can potentially require a different type of AR-15 scope.
At what distance will you be shooting?
You can get a better idea of what will be the best AR-15 scope to purchase if you have a general idea of the distance you will be shooting. You need to understand the specification numbers on the scope to determine which is best for each distance. The scope specification numbers may read 1x6x20. The first two numbers refer to the magnification adjustments. In this case, the scope can go as low as 1x (no magnification) at the low end. The target would be magnified 6 times at the highest setting. The scope can be adjusted to magnifications in between these setting also. The last number is the size of the objective lens. This is the lens pointing toward the target or objective. A larger objective lens lets in more light and allows for a wider field of view. This should be considered if you shoot in low light or long-distance situations.
- Close range from 0 to 100 yards will be better served with a red-dot or a scope with a 1x magnification. Red dots are commonly used for home and self-defense, close-range competitions, and hunting at close ranges. They can be used for passed 100 yards but are not as precise. For an additional cost, a magnifier accessory can be purchased. The shooter has to focus on their target by relying on the strength of their own eyesight.
- A medium range of 0 to 300 yards will require a scope that has adjustable magnification. A scope with a 1×6 magnification will work good for the deer as it walks under your stand or the same deer that enters the field across from your stand. The magnification can also be used to adjust the clarity of the scope for the shooter’s eyesight.
- Long range from 300 to 600 yards and beyond needs a scope that is still magnified at the lowest setting and requires a higher choice of magnification. The objective on these scopes will need to be larger to control the amount of light transmitted thru the scope. This will result in a wider field of view. These scopes are usually slightly heavier that scopes with smaller objectives.
Which parallax adjustments do you prefer?
Another specification is for precise windage and elevation adjustments. It is called the parallax adjustment of the reticle. These are either MOA (Minute of Angle) or Mil-dot. These adjustments are made on the turrets of the scope.
A scope with an MOA adjustment has a 1-inch adjustment at 100 yards. This allows you to adjust the point of impact over, up or down 1 inch for each full MOA adjustment. Each MOA is divided into smaller units for more precise adjustments. If the specification has a larger MOA it affects how much of the target is covered. For example, 3 MOA would cover 3″ at 100 yards, 6″ at 200 yards, and 9″ at 300 yards.
Mil-Dot adjustments are used in situations where the target is measured in meters. They take some learning if you are not super familiar with the metric system. They can be excellent for the target shooter what wants high versatility for precise shooting.
What reticle do you prefer?
The image you see when you look down the scope is the reticle. Most commonly they are called crosshairs. Scope manufactures are always trying to improve their products, due to a very competitive market. There are 4 basic types of reticles to choose from and the type you choose for you AR-15 scope will come down to personal preference and the use of the firearm.
- Red dot sight is good for close range shooting. They have little to no magnification depending on the sight. If you are used to a traditional scope these will take a slight learning curve. You use both eyes to acquire your target. The red dot is illuminated for quick target acquisition. Red dot sights are popular for home and self-defense.
- Duplex reticles are very similar to traditional crosshairs. They look like traditional crosshairs with one difference. The lines of the crosshair are wider at the edges and thinner in the middle. It is best to sight them in at 100 yards and manually adjust for bullet drop and windage. They do NOT have the marking for bullet drop and windage that can be found in different types of reticles.
- BDC reticles have hash tag lines below the center of the crosshairs. Once the scope has been sighted in at 100 yards each line below represents an additional 100 yards. The biggest drawback is that they are typically specific caliber and ammo speed designated. If for some reason you can no longer get that specific ammo, you will need to get a different scope.
- EBR-1, EBR-2, and EBR-7 these types of reticles are similar to BDC reticles. These, however, are adjustable for any caliber and ammo speed. The lines on the reticle adjust according to the adjustments you make on the turrets for elevation and windage. This makes the scope more versatile and useable.
What is scope coating?
Scope coating refers to the coating on the lens. This coating is used to reduce glare. Glass quality and coating applications will play a big factor on the quality of the coating. This is a situation where spending a little more for you AR-15 scope will be worth the extra expense. Here is an explanation of coating specifications.
- Coated – single layer on at least one lens surface on the scope
- Fully Coated – single layer on all glass surfaces exposed to air
- Multicoated – multiple layers on at least one lens surface
- Fully multicoated – multiple layers on all glass surfaces exposed to air.
Knowing the answers to these questions will narrow down the type of AR-15 scope that will work best for you. The following are our picks for the best AR-15 scopes of 2019.
The Single BEST AR-15 Scope for 2019 (if money is no concern)
Our choice for the best AR-15 Scope for 2019 is the Vortex Optics Strike Eagle Second Focal Plane Riflescopes. This scope will run you a few hundred dollars, but not in the thousands.
- Comes in 4 different sizes (1-6×24 BDC MOA, 1-8×24-BDC2 MOA, 3-18×44-Ebr-4 Moa, 4-24×50-Ebr-4 Moa) for a variety of shooting scenarios.
- BDC and Ebr reticle options available
- Fully multi-coated lenses for a clear, crisp sight picture and low light performance
- Second plane reticle for detailed hold points, while providing optimal viewing ability.
- Side parallax knob with built-in illumination, which has 11 levels of brightness.
- Parallax knob runs on a CR2032 battery
- Resettable, tactical style turrets which have clearly marked adjustment rotation indicators.
- 30mm tube is one piece and built to withstand recoil and impact
- Waterproof and fog proof with 0-ring seals and nitrogen purged
- Lifetime warranty
The Strike Eagle rifle scope has multiple sizes and reticle options. This scope has the versatility to execute tactical, short and long-range shooting situations. You can rely on accurate and repeatable performance with this lightweight and durable scope. Multi-coated lenses and a second plane reticle provide optimal viewing ability. You will be able to easily adjust for windage and elevation with the resettable, tactical style turrets. Vortex’s lifetime warranty, on this 30mm tube scope, makes it an excellent choice for your AR 15 scope.
- Comes in 4 different magnifications options
- Fully multi-coated lenses
- Illuminated second plane reticle
- Tactical style turrets
- One-piece construction
- Water and fog proof
- Lifetime warranty
- The reticle can have a learning curve
- The illumination of the reticle isn’t the best on sunny days
The Best Budget AR Scope for the Money
To get the best bang for your buck we like the Pinty 3 in 1 3-9x32EG riflescope combo. This comb includes the rangefinder scope, red/green dot sight, and a green laser sight.
Range Finder Rifle Scope
- 3-9x32EG Illuminated Rangefinder Rifle Scope
- Magnification: 3x-9x
- Obj. diameter: 32mm
- Reticle type: Rangefinder
- Brightness control: Red 5 levels / Green 5 levels
- Lens color: Blue
- Field of view: 13.41′ ~ 40.38′ @ 100yards
- Eye relief: 3″ ~ 3.4″
- Windage & elevation click value: 1/4′ @ 100 yards
- Exit pupil: 3.3mm ~10mm
- Weaver rail: 20mm
- Battery required: 1x CR2032 battery (included)
- Scope length: 12”/305mm
4 Reticle Red & Green Reflex Sight with on/off Button
- Obj. aperture: 22 mm
- Reticle: 4 types (as shown in the picture)
- Brightness control: Red / Green (On/off button)
- Field of view: 15.8m @100yds
- Eye relief: Unlimited
- Weaver rail: 20mm
- Battery required: 3x AG13 batteries (included)
Green Dot Laser Sight
- Color: Green
- Output power: ≤ 5 mw
- Wavelength: 532nm
- Windage and elevation adjustable
- Weaver rail: 20mm
- Battery required: 1x 3V CR2 battery (included)
1″ Compact High Riser 14 Slots
- Material: Aluminum
- Height: 1”
- Rail Type: 20mm Picatinny/ 20mm Weaver
- 1x 3-9x32EG Illuminated Rangefinder Rifle Scope
- 1x 4 Reticle Red & Green Reflex Sight
- 1x Green Dot Laser Sight
- 1x 1” Compact high riser
- 3x Allen Wrenchs
- 1x Lens Cover
- 1x Cleaning Cloth
- 1x CR2032 Battery for Scope
- 3x AG13 Batteries for Reflex Sight
- 1x 3V CR2 Lithium Batteries for Laser
- 3x General Manuals
This is an excellent package for the shooter who wants a lot of features without breaking the bank. It mounts easily to any 22/11 mm rails. The optics are multi-coated, O-ring sealed and nitrogen filled to ensure 100% water and fog-proof. We strongly suggest this package for the shooter who is undecided as to what type of scope they want for their AR 15.
- Awesome Customer service
- Great package for the price
- Water and fog-proof
- Multiple features
- Mounts easily to any 22/11 mm rail
- Tends to slide back on the rail if not mounted correctly
- Can have issues with the laser (but customer service will work with you on it)
Our Favorite AR 15 Tactical Scope
Leapers UTG 3-9X32 1″ BugBuster Scope, AO, RGB Mil-dot, QD Rings is our favorite AR 15 Tactical Scope.
- 1 Inch Tube with Emerald Coating for Maximum Light Transmission, Premium Zero Lockable & Resettable Turrets with 1/4 MOA Per Click Adjustment
- Range Estimating Mil-dot Reticle for Optimal Aiming and Shooting Performance, Adjustable Objective from 3 Yards to Infinity
- Red/Green Dual Illumination for Versatile Applications, Large Field of View and Most Accommodating Eye Relief for Optimum Critical CQB Mission
- Complete with 2″ Sunshade, High Quality Flip-open Lens Caps and Quick-detachable Rings
- Built on True Strength Platform, Completely Sealed and Nitrogen Filled, Shockproof, Fog proof and Rainproof
The BugBuster is built for strength and reliability in any weather situation. UTG has a signature scope construction platform. The Smart Spherical Structure (SSS) controlling the joint-like interaction between a scope’s inner and outer tube provides long lasting reliability and precise windage/elevation. This scope has an unparalleled parallax-free view from as close in as 3 yards out to infinity. Windage and elevation will be easy to adjust with premium zero, lockable, and resettable turrets. The turrets have a 1/4 MOA per click adjustment for fine tuning shot placement. These features are why we like the BugBuster as an entry level tactical scope, for the AR 15 platform.
- Adjustable objective
- Illuminated mil-dot reticle
- Comes with quick disconnect scope rings
- Quick target acquisition
- BEWARE OF COUNTERFEIT PRODUCTS SHIPPED DIRECTLY FROM CHINA
- Good entry level tactical scope for under $100.
What is the best Red Dot Scope for AR 15s?
Vortex shines once again. This time as the producer of the best Red Dot Scope for a AR 15 with the Vortex Sparc AR Red-Dot Sight. For more on the best red dot scopes, check out the article we’ve linked up.
- Anti-reflective coatings on the lenses
- 2-MOA dot
- 10- brightness setting
- Clean wide field of view
- Unlimited eye relief and parallax free
- Rear-facing controls are viewable from the shooting position
- Water and fog proof and shockproof
- AAA battery offers up to 300 hours at max brightness
Vortex produces reliable, versatile and durable scopes. The Sparc AR Red-Dot lives up to this reputation. A clean wide field of view is provided by the anti-reflective coatings on the lenses. It has unlimited eye relief and is parallax-free to assist in fast target acquisition. The ten-brightness setting of the 2-MOA dot makes it perfect for shooting in a variety of lighting conditions including night vision. You will be able to adjust the scope from any shooting position with the rear-facing controls.
- 10 brightness setting (requires a AAA battery)
- Simple to adjust with rear-facing controls
- Good for pistols or rifles
- No auto on feature
The Top AR 15 Night Vision Scope
It is important that you check with your state laws about the legality of owning a night vision scope. (Tyler, I put that because they are illegal in Missouri). Firefield FF16001 NVRS 3×42 Night Vision Riflescope is our choice for the top AR 15 Night Vision Scope.
- High 3x magnification Lens focus(mm):70, Field of view(º): 14, Eye relief(mm): 45, Diopter adjustment(dptr): ±4
- Ergonomic design Diameter, exit pupil – 6mm
- Built-in IR
- Titanium body
- Battery Life:(with IR),20 hours, Battery Life:(w/out IR), 50 hours
- High-quality image and resolution
- Lightweight and durable titanium body
- Quick detach weaver mount
- Built-in, high power IR illuminator
- Incremental reticle brightness adjustment
- The 3X magnification has excellent gathering capabilities with a 42mm lens.
The Firefield FF16001 NVRS 3×42 Night Vision Riflescope is good for medium to long-range targets. Image details and viewing range in total darkness is enhanced with a built-in, high power IR illuminator. If you need to transfer optics you will have no problem with the quick-detach Weaver Mounting system. The scope has a return-to-zero reliability. Durability and protection from impact and harsh weather conditions are provided with a titanium body and flip-up lens covers. The combination of the multi-coated lenses and illuminated Red duplex reticle allow for quick target acquisition and adjustment to lighting.
Choosing A Scope Mount for your AR 15
Some scopes come with mounts, some do not. Choosing the scope mount for your AR 15 will rely on the diameter of the scope. Is your scope a 30mm or a 1-inch tube? Also, it will probably need to mount to a Picatinny rail, depending on how your AR is set up. The scope rings need to be high enough for the objective end of the scope to clear the barrel of the AR 15.
We recommend using a two-ring scope mount system similar to the Nikon P-Series Riflescope Picatinny Mount for 1 Inch Tube. These rings are often sold separately. Be sure you purchase 2 rings. https://www.amazon.com/Nikon-Riflescope-Picatinny-Mount-Inch/dp/B00B5F02ZW/ref=sr_1_7?crid=EWH9SYS091DN&keywords=scope+mount+for+ar15&qid=1556047892&refinements=p_n_condition-type%3A6503254011%2Cp_72%3A1248957011&rnid=1248955011&s=sporting-goods&sprefix=scope+mounts+for+%2Csporting%2C171&sr=1-7 A one-piece scope mount will tend to put more stress on the scope. The Nikon P-Series is designed for any riflescope with a 1-inch diameter tube. They provide a forward position for correct eye relief and changing handle access. Made of alloy construction, they are durable and lightweight.
For a 30mm diameter scope, we recommend the Vortex Optics Tactical 30mm Riflescope Rings. https://www.amazon.com/Vortex-Optics-Tactical-30mm-Riflescope/dp/B003JP0OTU/ref=sr_1_6?hvadid=77653060155458&hvbmt=be&hvdev=c&hvqmt=e&keywords=30mm%2Bscope%2Bring%2Bpicatinny&qid=1556461319&s=gateway&sr=8-6&th=1
Designed to mount to a Picatinny rail, they come in multiple sizes from .83 inch up to 1.46 inch. This will make finding the correct mounts needed for your scope to clear the barrel easier.
Regardless of which scope mounts you decide to use it is strongly suggested that you lap the rings for proper and secure fitting of your optic. Here is a video from MidWay USA that explains just what lapping is and how to do it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWv7SiBheV0
We hope that this article has shed some light on how to pick the best scope for your AR 15. The world of scopes is enormous. If you have any corrections or suggestions please contact us and we will be happy to address them.