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  • Writer's pictureNoah O. Thompson

What Is The Best Rifle Scope For Hunting Under $500?

I tested and ranked the most popular rifle scopes for hunting to help you find the perfect optic for your rifle. Let’s break down the best options under $500.

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

1. Vortex Optics - Strike Eagle Second Focal Plane Riflescopes

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: "Hello Everyone, I just wanted to give a review on this scope to try and help others. First off, this scope seems very well-built from the knurled focus knob to the little low profile bump on the zoom knob to assist you in changing your zoom. Windage and Elevation adjustments have nice clean clicks. The body is thick and solid, seems like it could take a couple bangs and some light drops. The glass is very nice for the price, not as good as the XD Glass (Extra-Low Dispersion) Vortex offers in other scopes such as the Viper PST. If I had to be picky, yes, the XD Glass is nicer, but only by 15-20% give or take, this is just my opinion though. With that being said, I am more than satisfied with the glass on this scope. It is very close to true 1x, if your inside a small room you will notice a bit of fish eye, but you can still use it with two eyes opened, once you get a little further away about 20ft or so, it is true 1x from there on out. Illumination, isn't as bright as most people would want it. On a nice sunny day, your probably gonna be running it at the max setting which will definitely do the job, you can still see your reticle in red, but it's not very eye catching, more like "hey, my reticle is red". I would say the max setting on the Strike Eagle is probably the 8-9 setting on an Aimpoint Micro H-1. I never found myself using the illumination much anyways. Especially outdoors, the etched reticle was more then visible.
There's two things I didn't like about this scope. First, the Eyebox on this scope is tight, practicing with this scope and making sure your cheekweld is consistent is going to be important to get a correctly centered, full field of view sight picture, when looking through the scope. The higher in magnification you go, the tighter the eyebox gets. It does have very good eye relief at about 4 inches, I shoot nose to charging handle so I mounted my scope slightly more forward and it worked great to help me get a very consistent cheekweld giving me the same correct sight picture everytime. If the eyebox was wider, I think you would be able to run this scope a lot faster but most of the times you only see good eyeboxes in more expensive scopes so I can't complain much. Practice and consistent cheekweld will definitely help you with this problem. The other thing is the reticle. I couldn't get use to it. Using it in close quarters just didn't feel right, I would much rather have a dot in the middle instead of placing a busy crosshair on target. Especially when you are in a place with barricades and obstacles I think a dot in the middle would've been better suited vs the crosshairs. The horseshoe is great for close quarters but it covers a lot of your target and will never be as precise vs. having a dot in the middle, but some people just want combat effective hits as quickly as possible and the horseshoe will do that. The crosshairs were more suited for long range precision shots which is where I think this reticle excels. I used this scope on and off the bench successfully, but when I was on the bench or using something for support for long range shots, I found this crosshair to help me be more accurate vs. a dot. But when your shooting offhand which is what I mostly do, I think this reticle is harder to use vs a dot because it is more busy and you will see more moving around rather than just focusing on putting a dot on target.
I think this reticle offers what you need, horseshoe for quick target acquisition, and crosshairs for more precise shots out at further distances, but I feel a dot in the middle of this reticle would have suited me better because it would produce a simple clean sight picture allowing me to be faster and letting me see more of my target. I'm pretty picky when it comes to buying the right gear for my firearms and I always look for the best I can get out of my money, this scope is definitely an exception to that if you can't afford the 900+ 1-6x scopes. This is a very quality 1-6x scope for the price sold by a company that has a lifetime no questions asked warranty, I think the biggest question is, Do you like the reticle? I don't think you will know until you use it in person. If you do like this reticle, do yourself a favor and like the other reviewer said, Just get it." — CB

Get it from Amazon now: $499.00 & FREE Returns


2. Vortex Optics - Diamondback Tactical (6-24x50) First Focal Plane Riflescope

Top-rated: 2,544 ratings | 227 answered questions

Vortex Optics - Diamondback Tactical (6-24x50) First Focal Plane Riflescope

Highlight: Extra-low dispersion glass and fully multi-coated lenses transmit a crisp, bright sight picture.

Helpful review: "We bought this scope for our young son to teach him to shoot as the rifle (savage axis) didn't come with iron sights. It's definitely more than we expected. Crystal clear image and powerful enough to see heat risers. Easy to zero and it held it like a champ. By the end of the first day at the range he was grouping at 2in and putting bullet within bullet hole at 200yds. We were using a marking target paper and the scope was able to pickup the holes easily in it... no walking down the range to see what's going on. The adjusting knobs felt good without exaggerated 'wiggle'. They had a nice click that can be felt on your fingers so you can count off the moa. Important when reaching out and/or hunting. We went with the Vortex rings for the mounting. Too many people cheap out with the rings then complain that the glass isn't performing as advertised. This scope "does not" have a locking zero. Bummer, but you can't have it all. If you want a locking zero then you have to step up. We did. We now own two scopes and a hoodie. The warranty is real. I had a problem with one of the scopes. Called them up, no hassle, sent it back and got it returned really quick. The scope was fine though.... I screwed up in the mounting... oops. Great scope for the price, twice the price." — RBS
Reassuring review: "I love Vortex scopes. I have two vipers and two diamondback tactical scopes. I have owned 2 of these for several years and recently purchased this one for my 22 precision. One of our games is splitting match sticks at 50 and this dials right in, super clear. It's an adjust for dialing at much longer ranges as well. I can't say enough good things about Vortex. I recommend this to anyone looking for a high quality scope for a great value!" — Mark
Most-discussed review: "Buying a rifle scope can be a bit overwhelming because there are so many things to consider. How much magnification? How big of a lens? FFP or SFP? Parallax adjustment? And then you learn seemingly every expert in the industry recommends you spend at least as much on your scope as you did on your rifle. "Buy once, cry once" is a phrase I have seen repeatedly in my search for a scope. You can sell a used rifle, but there apparently isn't much of a market for a used scope. Then you see scopes which cost well over a thousand dollars, leaving you to wonder how much you need to spend and how much do I need to cry. I decided to start out with this scope, at a very moderate and reasonable cost, and see how it goes. I am happy to report that thus far I have been pleased. Of course, I haven't experienced a $2k scope, so I don't know what I'm missing, and I'm ok with that. This meets my needs. I am a brand new at shooting rifles so I am as much of a novice as you can get. And, I am darn near blind, so I need the magnification. I mounted this scope, zeroed it, and was instantly plinking steel targets at 325 yards. I haven't been able to stretch the rifle and scope past that yet, but I am eager to try it out." — TKW

Get it from Amazon now: $399.99 & FREE Returns


3. Sightmark Wraith - HD (4-32x50) 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've been using this scope for a week or so, and I am very impressed with the performance. The listing claims that the unit is good out to 200 yards, but I find that I can see significant details out well beyond 300 yards, even at the lowest IR output setting. That tells me that the included IR illuminator is very powerful and I probably don't need to consider replacing it. I don't expect to be attempting any night shots beyond 200 yards, if that far. I would prefer to use rechargeable batteries for the light, but I guess that it would be difficult to match the power of two CR123A 3-Volt batteries in a package as small as this light. I HAVE tried a single Sanyo 16650 Li-ion rechargeable battery in the light, and it fits and works pretty well. The 3.7-volt Sanyo battery does not produce as much illumination as a pair CR123A batteries (6-volts total), but it does work and it provides enough illumination to identify and shoot a target (feral hog) out to about 200 yards. The scope was easy to mount and easy to zero, and the menu interface is simple and comprehensive. I don't know that I will be using the recording features, and I have not done any testing for that. I mainly wanted a scope that will allow me to shoot hogs at night, without breaking the bank, and this one fits the bill nicely. Based on research that I've done, there is probably nothing better that doesn't cost a lot more. A really good thermal vision scope would be nice, but would cost many times what I paid for this system.
The base 4-power magnification is good for most situations, and the digital zoom can be helpful at the first 1 or 2 stages. I haven't tried the zoom in daylight, but I don't think it works very well at night because of the reduced picture clarity. Fortunately, I shouldn't need the zoom for shooting at targets closer than 200 yards. I don't have any real complaints about this system, considering the relatively low cost, but there some things that could possibly be done differently. This system is rather bulky and heavy. The weight of the scope is 36.3 ounces (with batteries), and it would really be nice if that weight could be reduced. The control interface includes the ability to reduce the brightness of the display screen, but I find that at night it is still a bit too bright even at the lowest setting. If I could reduce the screen brightness even more, I could recover my night vision more quickly after using the scope. This may be something that could be changed in a firmware update? Mounted on a bolt-action rifle, the scope sits a few inches too far forward for optimum eye relief. An extended mounting base is available, but the cost is $40 or more. As the scope sits now, however, it is still quite usable for shooting. I may save my $40 and apply it to the purchase of a semi-auto AR style rifle that (presumably) would not need the extended mount.
I don't like the idea of buying and discarding CR123A batteries for the illuminator, but I may just switch to using rechargeable 16650 batteries. If I can find an affordable night vision binocular (or monocular) for locating targets at 300 yards and more, I can easily move close enough to shoot with a 16650 battery in the Wraith IR illuminator. It would be nice if the illuminator included a small LED indicator at the rear, to remind the user to turn it off when not needed. As it is, it is too easy to accidentally leave the invisible IR light on and run down the batteries. Having said all that, I honestly don't think that there is a better night vision scope available that doesn't cost a LOT more than this system, and it has performed better than expected so far." — Forest K. Duncan

Get it from Amazon now: $499.97 & FREE Returns


4. Bushnell - Engage Riflescope

Top-rated: 373 ratings | 114 answered questions

Bushnell - Engage Riflescope

Highlight: The 0.18-MOA-thick crosshairs are easy to see without obstructing the target picture, and there are hash marks at every 1 MOA for accurate elevation holdover. The hash marks below zero are 2-MOA wide to aid in accurate windage holds.

Helpful review: "Growing up in central Wisconsin almost required you to become a hunter. It didn't matter whether your passion was rabbits and squirrels, pheasants or ducks, deer or bear. Sometimes it was all of them and when everything was out of season, it was time to go ice fishing. My father gave me my first firearm. I don't remember the model of the single shot .22 but the Leupold scope probably cost more than the rifle. "One shot, one kill" was the order of the day with headshots on small game required. During the winter we shot NRA targets indoors and in warmer weather we shot rats at the local garbage dump. You active shooters know how important technique and practice is. Good optics are just as critical as the other components of successful shooting, especially when you have 20/400 vision. So the Leupold scope proved itself up to the task and resulted in a lot of game on the table. My father and I used to compete when we hunted and the tie breaker was often a partridge or quail shot out of the air when startled on your stalk.
This Bushnell Engage scope is perfect for my Ruger Precision .22. We live on 2.75 acres outside of town that is bordered by woods and wetlands. For some reason the snakes, bobcats and hawks can't keep the rat and rabbit populations under control -- which occasionally results in river rats in the attic and families of rabbits destroying my lawn and landscaping. Being prey all of their lives has made these animals very difficult to surprise, so taking longer shots is critical to engagement. Having a good suppressor is important so that the neighbor's don't notice -- and it can also give you the opportunity for a second shot if necessary. (Fortunately that doesn't happen too often). For the money, this is a very well built and engineered scope. The good field of view helps the shooter to discern the varmints through the thick plants, the glass is clear, the reticle does not overpower the target. and this scope balances well on my Ruger Precision Rimfire. My surging varmint population is now on a serious decline." — Scott E. High

Get it from Amazon now: $449.99 & FREE Returns


5. Burris - Scout Scope

Top-rated: 340 ratings | 100 answered questions

Burris - Scout Scope

Highlight: Ultra-fast target acquisition with both eyes open.

Helpful review: "After a lot of research and hands-on inspection of multiple models (Leupold, Burris, Nikon, Leatherwood) at outdoor retail stores, I think this Burris Scout 2-7 x 32 Ballistic Plex Scope is the best variable-power scout scope on the market. The optics are bright and crisp, the reticle is sharp and thin for precise aiming, and there are ballistic drop marks for those who may want to shoot at varying and extended distances without having to adjust the windage and elevation knobs. The variable magnification adjustment knob is also low-profile and stiff enough that it will not move under recoil or minor bumps and jostles inside of a range bag; it stays on whatever setting you put it, which is great.