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  • Writer's pictureRay Campbell

The Best AR-15 Scopes Are Actually Affordable (And Very Durable)

I tested and ranked the 10 best scopes for AR-15 under $500. Here are hand-on reviews of the best options you can get on Amazon right now.

The Best AR-15 Scopes Are Actually Affordable And Very Durable

FYI, Prices and ratings are accurate as of time of writing.

1. Vortex Optics Strike Eagle Second Focal Plane Riflescope

Top-rated: 2,916 ratings | 334 answered questions

Vortex Optics - Strike Eagle Second Focal Plane Riflescopes

Highlight: The new illuminated BDC3 reticle focuses the shooter's eye to the target faster. Holdovers allow for immediate use out to 650 yards for targets of known distance.

Helpful review: "Finally. I can see my target. Just what my tired, old eyes needed. I am no longer able to focus on my Mag Pul flip up front sight. At 1x the Strike Eagle has NO parallax, and AR-BDC reticle acquisition is fast with semi-precise face/ stock placement. Impressive-- from 6 feet to 50 yards-- haven't practiced at 1x out to 100y yet. Love the arc in the AR-BDC. Reticle focus was set at 1x (now I don't need glasses) and did not change when scope dialed to 6x. Magnification wheel easy to turn-- has a large cog to enhance grip-- and stays set. At 6x I was able to clearly see a 1" bullseye, and was able to shoot 3/4 MOA groups with my AR-15's 16" (match grade) barrel and match grade ammo (and occasionally I'd put two rounds on top of each other at 100y-- not bad for a hack). Took 6 rounds to zero scope. Like the extra battery in the windage cap. Detents for windage and elevation are very fine---user has to pay attention. Appreciated 1/2 MOA/ click adjustments on a 1-6x scope (some competitors are 1 MOA per click). My only criticism: Scope caps that flip "up" obstruct vision when raising one's weapon from low-ready to pointed in. I turned mine 90 degrees so they flip to the right (I am right eye dominant, and I don't like looking over the open scope caps). I am able to keep both eyes open when acquiring the reticle at 1x. Caps are a bit flimsy, but do an OK job of protecting the scope's lenses. Otherwise, this is a very well-built scope and unbeatable for the money. Excellent product (old guys rule!)." — Rex L.
Trending review: "This is the second Vortex optic I've purchased and the result is always the same. Can you find better? Sure you can, but not without triple the cost and you WILL NOT match their warranty anywhere. For under $300 you will not find a better scope for your AR. Pros- for $300 it has very clear glass. The reticle is great. Illumination is daylight bright. The 1-6x at the cost is fantastic as it is a true 1x and works just as well as a red dot. At 6x it maintains its clarity and really is pleasing to eyes in a way that you will not find with another scope at this price range. Cons- at 1x there is a very slight amount of fish eye effect (very slight and goes away after 3x and up). The weight is a little on the heavy side. It added enough weight to take my 16"carbine Bushmaster XM-15E2S to about 10.5 lbs. Not a deal breaker but noticeable. The magnification ring is a little stiff and a throw lever will be desired. Final thoughts - this scope shocked me at how good it is for the low cost. You'll spend near 1k to match it with another brand. With the warranty your $300 investment is protected for life. It's built tough, it's very clear and very functional as well as intuitive. Even pro shooter friends of mine are buying it because they can't justify the extra spend on the higher dollar models when this does so well at $300. Buy it and don't look back." — Neil Inabnitt

Get it from Amazon now: $399.00 & FREE Returns


2. Sightmark Wraith Digital Night Vision Riflescope

Top-rated: 1,269 ratings | 240 answered questions

Sightmark Wraith - HD (4-32x50) Digital Night Vision Riflescope

Highlight: 5 weapon profiles to save zeroes for different firearms and calibers.

Helpful review: "I mounted this scope on an AR. The mount still seems a bit far foreword for me, but I got it sighted in easily. And once I got the IR in the right place, I was able to easily see my bait piles at 100 yards - day or night - and if needed even further with the stock IR. It's a bit heavy, but it's a digital night vision scope for under $500 so you simply can't beat that. Excellent product. Affordable price. Arrived early." — Don
Trending review: "A small learning curve to use, but a great alternative to the super expensive night vision sights. I initially had difficulties zeroing in the scope. It was not the scope's fault as it worked fine on our AR-15. But when we went to install it on our Remington 243, being relatively novice we did not realize we would need additional mounts. So obviously, the Sightmark bolt action mount was in order. We installed it and still couldn't zero in the scope. We called Sightmark and they suggested getting a 20 MOA mount. That did the trick, installed the 20 MOA along with the bolt action mount and the scope zeroed in perfectly." — R. Raboin
Reassuring review: "Bought this to use to kill rats in my back yard. Mounted on a pellet gun and have been picking them off. Back fence is probably 15 yards from the back porch. I mounted this on my AR-15 as well and created a different weapon profile. When I transferred it back to the pellet gun and switched back to the first weapon profile, it was perfectly zeroed in still. Can't wait till the Wraith 4k!" — Stephen

Get it from Amazon now: $499.97 & FREE Returns


3. Burris Fullfield II Hunting Scope

Top-rated: 1,116 ratings | 158 answered questions

Burris - Fullfield II Hunting Scope

Highlight: The simple, integrated eyepiece and power ring has no-slip grip for quick adjustment.

Helpful review: "I was in the market for a scope for my AR-15, since I decided to start doing some varmint hunting. I did my research for about a good solid two weeks before I decided to purchase a Burris scope. I originally had a Vortex red dot, which don't get me wrong they are cool and all, but only good for up to 50-75 yards if that. Since I was getting into varmint hunting, I wanted something good but not cheap. I looked at them all, Vortex, Leupold, Bushnell, UTG, etc... and finally decided on Burris. Just reading the reviews on Amazon along with other sites, they are highly recommended scopes. Also you can't beat the "forever lifetime warranty" even though a lot of brands offer this kind of warranty, however they all seem to have stricter regulations for the warranty. I ended up going with the 4.5-14x42mm Price range was a big concern, since I'm new to the sport and I knew I had to buy a good scope mount, also I had to be in under the $200 dollar range. I'm consider myself a hardcore bargin shopper online, so I searched and searched, until I found this deal on Amazon. You can't best 190 bucks with no tax and free shipping, I even got in less than 3 days with no prime account. Like I mention above, for any 4.5x14x42mm or higher scope will cost you at least 300.00 + and being able to get it for what I did was a steal. The scope is very great quality, everything feels snug, and turns with smooth. The optics I'm blown away by, very clean and I'm impress by the amount of light I'm getting out of this scope. Also 18oz scope, some companies make them big and bulky. Can't wait for my Burris AR scope mount I ordered, so I can mount my scope and do some hunting!" — Dustin
Trending review: "Very BOLD reticle on outside edges; medium wire thickness in middle section with MOA hash marks placed for 100-, 200-, 300-, 400-, 500-, & 600-yard distances. Reticle has exceptional contrast with foliage, much easier to see when compared with thin etched reticles. Similar to "Heavy" Duplex reticle from Leupold back in the day. Dark gray dull anodizing on outside of scope; similar to finish on most AR's. Parallax and magnification adjustments feel smooth and take moderate torque to change position. Cons: Entire eyepiece turns when increasing/decreasing magnification. This will affect the scope cap position release tab when zoomed up or down. Pros: Fewer leak paths for nitrogen to escape. Turrets are low profile with sealed threaded caps. Low profile translates to smaller protrusions to catch on clothing, brush, etc... Glass is normal for medium quality scope. Clarity remains through entire magnification range. Scope is holding zero well with AR10. Evidence is very small groups at 100 yds (1/4”). Burris "Forever" warranty. Scope states "Made in the Philippines". Not paid by Burris or anyone to provide highly positive review." — Paco O.
Reassuring review: "I was expecting a decent scope, but this is really nice glass. Made in the Philippines as many of the good name brand scopes are now, better than China. I have a decent Nikon scope and the Burris is every bit as good and was $100 less expensive. Sure, there are better scopes out there, but for the money, I doubt you could find another as good as this Burris. This one went on an AR with a heavy target barrel and performs nicely on this setup. I plan on getting another for my Swiss K31 as soon as I chase down a decent scope mount for it. I'm not about to drill holes in my classic for a scope mount." — Ryan S.

Get it from Amazon now with FREE Returns:

$199.99 - 3x-9x-40mm

$166.00 - 4.5-14x42mm

$204.29 - 6.5X-20X-50mm


4. Vortex Optics Diamondback Second Focal Plane Riflescope

Top-rated: 2,508 ratings | 392 answered questions

Vortex Optics - Diamondback Second Focal Plane Riflescopes

Highlight: A solid one-piece tube with a hard anodized finish creates a shockproof and durable scope while helping camouflage the shooter's position.

Helpful review: "I did a lot of research before going with someone I had never heard of. What I found on various gun and hunting forums I'm on is that not a single person had one bad word to say about Vortex. I used a lot of Google-fu too and the thing that sticks out the most about my research was that I came across one forum post where a guy said he was a lifetime Leupold owner but after using the Diamondback he couldn't see EVER spending Leupold type money on a scope ever again. That was pretty much what sold me. My personal experience is limited to one range trip of about 3 hours but let me tell you. This thing is slick! It's THE NICEST scope I've ever owned in this price range. The glass is extremely clear, the variable power ring is easy to twist and the windage and elevation knobs are knurled and can easily be rotated without a coin or a flat head. The BDC reticle is fantastic and any picture you find online won't do it justice in real life. This is once company I'm glad I took a chance on. I got my hands on their Strike Fire recently too and it was a fantastic optic too. This is one company that I will definitely be revisiting when I need something else to put on top of another rifle." — P.G.
Trending review: "This is my 4th product from Vortex (3 scopes and a monocular) and I really am impressed with this company. This scope is a amazing scope for the money and its actually smaller for a 4-12x40. Compared to a Nikon prostaff its a little more than 2 inches shorter. I was hesitant to put this on my AR-15 with a 16 inch barrel, but it really does look good on my gun. And with an American Defense mount, I can take it off in about 5 seconds and put on my Vortex Spitfire 3x red dot scope that I use for close range shooting under 100 yds. This Diamondback scope is perfect for longer range shooting but isn't as bulky as a lot of hunting scopes are. The dead hold BDC is hard to beat. I was looking at getting either a Nikon or Vortex but for the money and for the warranty I had to go with the Vortex, plus I like Votex's BDC reticle compared to Nikons. For the money this scope has just as good of glass and crystal clear viewing as a scope for $300 or more and I paid $147 for this one. So I definitely recommend this scope." — Joseph R.
Reassuring review: "My family has been buying leupolds For as long as I can remember and a few NightForce recently, that being said I still think this scope is awesome. I won a .270 Tikka T3 lite in a skeet shoot recently and needed a scope for it. I went to academy and had never heard of vortex, I looked through a $500 Leupold, $800 Zeiss and this ($200 at academy) vortex, after looking through all three and comparing them I couldn't discredit what my eyes were telling me. This Vortex was simply the best of the three best scopes academy offered on the shelf. This scope rocks, I sighted it in and before you know it I was at the prairie dog field making 100-150 yard shots on softball size targets all afternoon. I can't recommend this scope enough. I came across a booth at the safari club convention in Dallas later on with a guy selling vortex scopes and the man had top of the line optics-Swarovski, US Optics, NightForce scopes and a Vortex razor HD on the table. He said to take each scope and look at a dark spot in the corner of the roof across the convention center with each scope and compare it to the Vortex, the vortex had a brighter, crisper image at max Magnification than the Swarovski and US optics and was on par with the NightForce. These scopes are the real deal and unbeatable in price, I am a BIG fan now. I'm about to order one of these for my LaRue OBR, it's earned its place on my custom AR." — Nicholas M.

Get it from Amazon now with FREE Returns:

$249.00 - 3-9x40

$229.00 - 1.75-5x32

$299.00 - 3.5-10x50

$249.70 - 4-12x40


5. Crimson Trace Hardline Riflescope

Top-rated: 61 ratings | 11 answered questions

Crimson Trace - Hardline Riflescope