A good scope will let you engage targets at further distances, with tighter shot groupings, and throw more lead downrange, where it counts.
With all the variety between scopes on the market it can be a daunting task trying to figure out which one to mount on your AR.
The interactive chart of scopes below and the analysis that follows will help you decide what the best AR 15 scope is for you. We’ve gone and compiled all the information you need to make the most informed decision.
There are plenty of opinions online referencing scopes that are good for different situations; either for hunting, target practice, or even for self defense. But what matters most is finding the best AR 15 scope that fits your particular needs, so we’re here to help.
The Ultimate AR 15 Scope Guide
Our Guide Features
We’ve done our best to include all the information we could to help you find the right scope. Here’s what you’ll find:
- AR 15 Scope – Click to view more details or purchase
- Video Review – We scoured Youtube to find the best review of the scope. See what others think.
- Magnification – The power factor of the scope
- Objective Lens Diameter – In millimeters
- Length – Total scope length in inches
- Price – Approximate prices on Amazon.com, which can change based on availability, special promotions, and more
- Rating – The average user rating on Amazon. Another great way to see what those who have used it are saying.
The scopes included in this guide are just a small portion of the options available on the marketplace. So many manufacturers and models exist that there is no way we could have listed them all. However, many great quality scopes are included at every price range and from a wide range of makers.
What Is An AR 15 Scope
A telescopic sight, or scope, is the essential tool that can upgrade the accuracy of your shots in everything from hunting, to target shooting, to self defense, using an AR-15. In all these cases the scope works to make getting your shots on target much easier than lining up your standard iron sights.
Instead of having to line up the rear sight, front sight, and your target before firing, with a scope you simply have to line up the crosshairs and the target. It immediately takes out a third of the complexity of the aiming process. Add to that the fact that most scopes have magnification, causing the target to appear closer, meaning your shot placement becomes even more precise.
So how does this all work? A series of lenses refract incoming light from the target which magnifies the image. Within this system is a reticle, or image pattern, that overlays on the image and provides an aiming point. When all this is mounted onto the rail of your AR, you should be good to go. There is a little bit of pre work that needs to be done with zeroing in the scope to a given distance, but after that it should be accurate.
How to Find a Scope That Meets Your Needs
Above you will find an interactive comparison chart of many of the top AR 15 scopes on the market today. As you can see there are a number of metrics that make each scope unique in its own way. Below we have defined those metrics that we find to be the most important when comparing scopes. This includes magnification, objective diameter, eye relief, field of view, reticle, and weight.
Each variable has its trade offs, but if you can find a good combination of these for the right price then you should feel confident in your choice.
The magnification power of the scope denotes the factor by how much it enlarges the image. So a 4x power scope makes the image appear 4 times larger, or as if you were standing 4 times closer to the object. An 8x scope makes it 8 times larger.
There are fixed magnification scopes, which have only one magnification setting, and also variable magnification scopes which can be adjusted to provide a range of magnifications.
Tradeoffs exist between deciding on a low or high powered scope. The low powered won’t provide as good of image enlargement but is less susceptible to shaking. A higher magnification is affected more by shaking, has a smaller field of view, and can lead to a dimmer image, but it does allow for greater image enlargement.
The diameter of the objective lens, the one opposite to the lens you look through, is an important metric because it determines how much light can be gathered to form an image.
As scope magnification power is increased and decreases the field of view, the image becomes dimmer. To compensate for this a large diameter objective lens is used to gather as much light as possible.
Although bigger may sound better with larger diameter objective lens, they start introducing the issue of higher costs, more weight, and higher mount height. Typical lens diameters run between 30-40mm, with 50mm being on the large side of the scale.
Eye relief is defined as the distance the shooter must position their eye from the ocular lens in order to make the full field of view visible. The full field is when the image is vignetted, or un-obscured by the scope itself. Typical eye reliefs can range from 1 to 4 inches.
This distance is important for two reasons. First, it protects the shooter from the recoil of the gun. If the eye is positioned too close to the scope it may be hit when the gun recoils backwards after firing.
Field of View
Field of View is measured as how many feet are visible through the scope from the left to right side of the image at a distance of 100 yards. A larger FOV is ideal because it allows the shooter to see as much of his target and surroundings as possible.
As magnification is increased the FOV goes down, and as it is decreased, FOV goes up. A typical FOV for a 3x scope might have be around 30ft at 100 yards, comparable to a typical 9x which may be around 14 ft. It should be noted that a larger objective lens does not translate to a larger field of view.
A reticle is the crosshair pattern or aiming point placed in the scope that is overlaid on the image and shows the guns position on the target. The most basic crosshair is a simple vertical and horizontal line that intersect at the center of the FOV, but there are many varieties of reticles.
Reticles can be designed to have thicker line widths to make it easier to see in busy background images. They can have added mil-dots, or even be illuminated.
When you’re carrying around your AR for a long period of time, the additional weight of a scope can definitely start to wear on you. The use of a sling can help with this but you’ll feel the difference after a long walk to your hunting stand.
The weight of a scope typically ranges between 12oz to 20oz. The heavier ones are those with the larger lenses which are made from thick glass.
Review of the Top 3 AR 15 Scopes
As you can see there are tons of different scopes that have all sorts of feature combinations that make them operate in their unique ways; but there are a few that we just need to point out as our favorites to shoot with. Below you will find our top 3 picks for overall best AR 15 scope along with a more detailed review of each. So, get your range bag ready, let’s dig into these options.
Made by Nikon, the P-233 was built with the AR platform specifically in mind, and all the positive feedback from users online backs up that claim. This scope has a fixed 3x magnification with a 32mm objective lens. Nikon has built its brand with quality lenses and this one provides 98% light transmission for a bright image.
A weight of 12.2oz and an 8.1″ overall length makes it suitable for most short barrel Assault Rifles. And the 3.4″ eye relief gives the shooter plenty of recoil protection. Users report being able to consistently hit 2″ plates at 200+ yards.
It sports Nikon’s Bullet Drop Compensator (BDC) reticle and is both waterproof and fog proof, making it durable in all weather conditions.
In fact this is one of the sturdiest scopes we’ve used, giving good tactile clicks with each adjustment of the turrets. And its matte black finish will keep it concealed from scouting eyes while you are taking it out in the dark or woods.
Although the price is on the higher side at $130.00, you are definitely paying for the quality in this case.
Barska IR SWAT
This rifle is manufactured by Barska who have been in the scope business for a long time and built a reputation on quality scopes. Running at around $145.00 this is the most expensive scope we have reviewed.
The IR SWAT is a variable magnification scope that adjusts between 1x to 4x power with fields of view at 90′ and 22.5′ respectively. This makes it a good all-around scope from everything from long range target practice to mid-range hunting.
It is on the larger size at 16oz and a 10″ length but that comes with the territory for variable scopes. The reticle is glass etched and can be illuminated in green or red. Much praised are its locking turrets which hold their settings tight.
BSA have been in the British gunsmith business for nearly 100 years. So, with that experience, it should come as no surprise that one of their creations made our list of top AR 15 scopes.
As part of BSA’s Tactical Weapon series, this scope is designed for tactical style rifles with durability and performance in mind. The 4x power along with a 30mm objective lens makes for a solid combination of power and light gathering. A weight of 16.9oz makes it light enough that it will not become a burden.
Users report great results on mounting this to their AR’s and SKS’s and note its ability to hold its zero after hundreds of rounds through the gun.
With a price tag of around $55.00 this is one of the best valued scopes we’ve looked at. Its performance matches scopes with twice the price. What you get for this price is an exceptional scope built for multiple shooting situations that has been well tested and positively reviewed by the online community.
Now that you have seen the options and reviewed our top picks for the best AR 15 scope on the market, it’s up to you to pick what meets your needs, is in your price range, and overall help you gear up for your shooting.
As you know, new scopes are being created all the time by new and old manufacturers. For that reason, the comparison chart above will be updated as new scopes need to be added to the list. Or if you feel like we missed a superior scope that needs to be included on the list, let us know in the comments below!