Home » Blog » Best AR15 Scopes, Red Dots, Holographic Sights [2024]

Best AR15 Scopes, Red Dots, Holographic Sights [2024]

The AR platform is one of the most beloved of the citizenry. The AR-15 in particular is based on the military personnel darling, the M16, and is essentially a consumer-level version of the gun. One of the other reasons they are so popular is their nearly endless ability to be customized and built to the specifications and needs of the shooter. They can be had in just about any caliber, and used for just about any conceivable need.

This customization does have the drawback, however, of not having a “one size fits all” rifle scope solution. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of potential scopes to be used, so where do you even start? Right here, that’s where. We’ve reviewed all the best AR-15 scopes in 2024 right here on the market, and if you aren’t sure just which one is the ideal choice for your build, we’ll also give you a handful of things to consider that should help guide you to an effective choice.





Aimpoint PRO Red Dot Reflex Sight

Best Red Dot

EOTech EXPS 3-0

Best Holographic

Vortex Viper PST Gen II

Best Variable Magnification

Sig Sauer Bravo 5

Best Fixed Power


Best Thermal

Leupold 3-9x VX Freedom

Best for Hunting

Leupold VX-5HD

Best Long Range

Best AR15 Red Dot Sights

Red dot sights are one of the go-to options when a shooter needs a short-range scope that offers decent eye relief as well as precise shots. They work by projecting a laser red dot onto a clear glass overlay, to give you a nice reticle, without any level of magnification.

Aimpoint PRO Red Dot Reflex Sight

Aimpoint PRO Red Dot Reflex Sight

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Aimpoint is one of the leaders in red dot sights for the AR-15 and sees routine use in both law enforcement and military applications. To start with, it has absolute co-witness with your iron sights when you use the included spacer.

Out of all the red dots, the Aimpoint PRO has the clearest glass, and one of the brightest dots. Not only that, but at a “Desert Bright” illumination level, the battery life gives the 2 MOA dot an unbelievable 3 years of continuous operation.

The Aimpoint PRO also has Mil-Spec durability aligned with Type-3 equipment and detaches quickly without the need for tools. The flip-up lens covers are just about useless since this sight is nearly indestructible, but they sure do keep the lenses nice and clean.

  • Battery Life: 30000 hours
  • Brightness Settings: 10 settings (4 for night vision use)
  • Eye Relief: Unlimited
  • Magnification: 1x
  • Night Vision Compatible: Yes
  • Reticle: 2 MOA Dot
  • Weight: 11.6 oz
Bushnell TRS-25 AR Red Dot Sight

Bushnell TRS-25 Red Dot Riflescope

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While it’s not listed in our budget red dot category, it could be, but it’s so astoundingly good that we had to put it in here. Bushnell has been a staple name in leading outdoor optics for decades, and this sight is a prime example of why.

The waterproof housing is o-ring sealed and can suffer total immersion without failure. It has a gorgeous matte black finish, and a shockproof design that can handle any caliber you throw it on.

The 3 MOA dot is incredibly easy to acquire, and the 11 individual brightness settings let you increase or decrease the brightness to a level that’s perfect for you. It only weighs 3.7 ounces and can be mounted on most Picatinny rails.

  • Battery Life: 3000 hours
  • Brightness Settings: 11 settings
  • Eye Relief: Unlimited
  • Magnification: 1x
  • Night Vision Compatible: No
  • Reticle: 3 MOA Dot
  • Weight: 3.7 oz
Aimpoint Micro H-2 red dot sight

Aimpoint Micro H-2

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Another scope from the superstar of red dots, Aimpoint, shouldn’t be a surprise. The Micro H-2 features a 2MOA dot, battery life that tops 50,000 hours on a single battery.

It keeps the same bomb-proof construction the Aimpoint family is known for and can be operated in temperatures ranging from -20 to 140 F. This temperature capability and overall durability can be the key to success if you plan on mounting the optic near your gas block, where it will see significant abuse.

  • Magnification: 1 x
  • Reticle: 2 MOA Dot
  • Brightness Settings: 12
  • Eye Relief: Unlimited
  • Battery Life: 50000 Hours
Trijicon MRO Red Dot Reticle

Trijicon MRO Red Dot

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Trijicon has recently entered the arena of high-end red dots with their MRO, and while it may cost a few more bucks, the benefits it offers may make it a worthwhile piece of kit.

First of all, you get a bigger field of view in a smaller package than many other RDSs, including the Aimpoint PRO. You also get construction and design durability that is second to none, being able to withstand incredible levels of abuse and physical damage before giving up the ghost.

For shooters looking for a duty optic, this may be the best investment you can make for your build and is undoubtedly one of the best red dot AR-15 scopes available. It can be submerged, dropped, survive intense heat and cold exposure, and even shot.

You’ll have the option of 1/3 co-witness or full co-witness depending on the riser you choose to install if any. The dot is even visible in the high-noon desert sun with the highest level of the 6 illumination settings, and there are even 2 settings for night-vision.

  • Magnification: 1 x
  • Battery Life: 5 years of continuous use at Day-Setting 3
  • Reticle: 2 MOA Dot
  • Weight: 4.1 oz

Best AR 15 Holographic Sight

A holographic sight projects a reticle through a series of reflectors and onto a piece of glass, overlaying the reticle onto your target. They generally have infinite eye relief and are a solid option for a short-range tactical scope.

One advantage of holographic sights over red dot is that they will still work even if the glass is broken or obscured. While a red dot just turns into an empty tube, a holographic sight still gives you a reticle to aim with.

Eotech EXPS3-0 Holographic Scope

EOTech EXPS 3-0 Holographic Sight

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EOTech is one of the foremost names in holographic sights, and for good reason. They have had significant military use in the past, as well as civilian enthusiasm. The EXPS 3-0 has a nice big circle reticle, and the mounting allows 1/3 co-witness with your existing iron sights.

EOTech EXPS 3-0 holographic sight mounted on ar15 rifle at range

The clear glass makes target acquisition a breeze, and even with the destruction of the front lens, the sight continues to give you a clear reticle to continue shooting. The illuminated reticle has a battery life of up to 1,000 hours, which is more than adequate when not left on in storage.

The “0” refers to a single dot in the center of the circle reticle. They also have a 3-2 version with 2 dots (one lower for longer ranges) and a 3-4 with 4 dots. The EXPS line features side button adjustments vs. the front buttons on the XPS line.

EOTech EXPS 3-0 Sight mounted on a st victor 556 ar 15

The EXPS 3 is night vision compatible so you can use it even with night vision goggles for shooting in the dark!

  • Magnification: 1 x
  • Brightness Settings: 30
  • Eye Relief: Unlimited
  • Battery Life: 1000 hours
  • Weight: 11.2 oz
  • Lens Finish: Fog resistant internal optic
  • Brightness: 20 daylight settings
Vortex AMG UH-1 Holographic Scope

Vortex AMG UH-1 Holographic

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The AMG UH-1 from Vortex is one of the most robust holographic sights you can get. It’s constructed like a brick, and while it looks bigger than others, it’s of comparable size. The full, rectangular shape makes somewhat of an optical illusion o an increased size.

It features a multifunction reticle that has a circle for close-quarters engagements but also sports a pyramid chevron at the 6 o’clock position for even closer ranges. It keeps its zero incredibly well, and while it lacks the clear glass of EOTech, the green is very light and barely noticeable after a while.

One thing that is really interesting about the AMG UH-1 is that it has an internal battery that can be recharged with a USB connection. While it’s not likely that you’re going to plug it into your computer while at the range, portable power banks can charge you up quickly in the field without having to detach and swap batteries.

  • Magnification: 1 x
  • Reticle: 1 MOA EBR-CQB
  • Brightness Settings: 15
  • Eye Relief: Unlimited
  • Weight: 11.8 oz
Eotech Model 512 Holographic Sight

EOTech Model 512

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The EOTech 512 is very similar to the EXPS 3-0 but is a less prosumer version. It is a little larger, and gives a little different battery life, but overall it’s a great alternative to the EXPS 3-0

The AA batteries will give you a maximum of 1,000 hours if you use lithium, and just over half that, about 600 hours, if you use conventional alkaline. This may be a bonus to those looking for a more affordable version of the EXPS 3-0, since AA batteries can be found just about anywhere, and the CR123 in higher-end EOTechs can be scarce and expensive.

  • Reticle: 65 MOA Ring and 1 MOA Dot
  • Eye Relief: Unlimited
  • Battery Type: AA
  • Battery Life: 1,000 continuous hours
  • Weight: 10.9 oz
Holosun 510C Sight

Holosun 510C Sight

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While the Holosun 510C isn’t technically a conventional holo sight, it does blend the technology of LED and holo reticle styles. This gives it incredible battery life as well as a nice, crisp reticle that provides top-tier precision.

Holosun 510 red dot site picatinny mount side view

The center red dot is 2 MOA, and the surrounding circle reticle is 65 MOA. The Holosun also lets you customize your reticle from just the micro red dot, the ring reticle only, or the dot & ring combo. One noticeable difference between the Holosun 510C and the nearest EOTech competitor is that the Holosun glass does have a slight greenish tint.

With 50,000 hours from a single 2032 wafer battery, as well as 10 daytime illumination settings and 2 for NVG use, this is an incredible scope for your AR-15. It weighs 8.3 ounces, so it’s relatively light in comparison to other similar sights.

Holosun 510c front view

Be sure to read our in-depth review of the Holosun 510c here!

  • Magnification: 1 x
  • Reticle: 2 MOA dot 65 MOA Circle
  • Brightness Settings: 12
  • Eye Relief: Unlimited
  • Battery Life: 20,000 – 50,000 hours
  • Weight: 4.94 oz

Best Variable Magnification AR-15 Scopes

These 3 bad boys are going to give you an AR scope that provides mid-range functionality, with close-range speed. Each one has its way of getting you to the same goal, a perfect shot.

Primary Arms 1-6X24 ACSS

Primary Arms 1-6X24 ACSS

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The Primary Arms 1-6×24 is one of the best variable magnification AR-15 scopes on the market. It features some of the clearest glass you’ll find, as well as a custom reticle that is given the designation ACSS. This custom has a precision reticle, hash marks, and a larger circle reticle for short-range engagements.

The 1x view is perfect, and while there is a little bit of distortion at max magnification, it’s less obvious than with other scopes, like the Vortex Strike Eagle, which is still incredibly good. For those operating at 200 yards or more, the Primary Arms 1-6 are hard to beat.

While this version is a Second focal plane (SFP), there is also a First Focal Plan option as well (FFP).

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 24 mm
  • Magnification: 1 – 6 x
  • Reticle Focal Plane: Second Focal Plane (SFP)
  • Eye Relief: 3.3 – 3.5 in
  • Illumination Type: LED
Vortex 1-6x Strike Eagle Rifle Scope

Vortex 1-6x Strike Eagle

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The Vortex Strike Eagle is another great option for lower magnification on a variable platform. It offers crystal clear glass from 1x through 4x, and above 4x there is only minimal distortion, which can be dealt with easily.

Just like Primary Arms, the Strike Eagle is an awesome choice for 3-gun match shooting. It has an easy-to-use reticle that is functional without being overly complicated and gives you what you need for both close and mid-range needs.

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 24 mm
  • Magnification: 1 – 6 x
  • Reticle Focal Plane: Second Focal Plane (SFP)
  • Eye Relief: 3.5 in
  • Weight: 18.5 oz
  • Brightness Settings: 11
  • Parallax: 100 yds
Vortex Viper PST Gen II 1-6x24

Vortex Viper PST Gen II 1-6×24

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Another option from one of the leaders in medium-range optics is the Vortex Viper PST, and it fits right in with the Strike Eagle and the Primary Arms options. This is a cheaper, second focal plane alternative to the Primary Arms and Vortex Strike Eagle scopes and offers similar performance.

At 1x it features a 1 MOA red dot, with a 20 MOA sectional ring surrounding that. The reticle is clear at all levels of magnification and doesn’t exhibit the fuzziness that some other SFP scopes suffer from at max mag.

Read our full review of the Vortex Viper Gen II!

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 24 mm
  • Magnification: 1 – 6 x
  • Reticle Focal Plane: Second Focal Plane (SFP)
  • Eye Relief: 3.8 in
  • Weight: 22.7 oz
  • Parallax: 100 yds
  • Battery Life: 150 hours

Best Fixed Power Magnification AR-15 Scopes

For shooters that will be sending rounds purely in the medium range and won’t need the versatility or added hassle of variable magnification, these fixed power scopes are ideal. When combined with secondary iron sights, these can give you a superb medium-range AR scope solution.

Sig Sauer Bravo 5 Scope

Sig Sauer Bravo 5

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The Sig Sauer Bravo 5 is hands down one of the best fixed magnification optics that you can get right now. It features a technology called Megaview that does just what you think and gives you a larger, clearer picture.

It comes with three attached Picatinny rails for additional kit attachments, like micro red dot or laser sights. These extra rails are crucial to those looking to shave some weight off this 23-ounce beast, mostly because they’re removable.

Magnification: 5 x
Objective Lens Diameter: 32 mm
Weight: 23 oz

Trijicon ACOG TA31F 4x32 Rifle Scope

Trijicon ACOG TA31F 4×32

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The advanced combat optical gunsight, or ACOG, is one of the most reliable and combat-proven sights available to civilians. It has a compact form factor and can be abused in ways that would cause other sights to literally crumble.

The TA31F model features a 4 fixed power magnification and comes precalibrated for AR-15 rifles running 5.56 out to 800 yards. The reticle is a combination of inverted V chevron, plus bullet-drop compensator hash marks in 100-yard graduations.

During the day, the illuminated reticle is powered by fiber optic transmission, and at night there are tritium lamps that have a 15-year illumination warranty. Its a little on the more premium price side, but you can’t miss the Trijicon ACOG TA31F.

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 32 mm
  • Magnification: 4 x
  • Eye Relief: 1.5 in
  • Weight: 15.1 oz
  • Illumination Type: Fiber Optics/Tritium
  • Water Resistance Level: Waterproof
  • Shockproof: Yes
  • Fogproof: Yes
Primary Arms ACSS 3x32 Gen III

Primary Arms ACSS 3×32 Gen III

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The SLx 3 Prism from Primary Arms is one of the leading fixed power prism sights you can find. It has what seems to be a simply perfect magnification level of 3x, and is only a tiny fraction of a second faster at close quarters acquisition than a 1x counterpart.

It features the signature Primary Arms ACSS reticle, which gives you the precision that you need in close-range engagements but also allows you to reach out and touch targets at moderate distances with little effort.

  • Magnification: 3 x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 32 mm
  • Brightness Settings: 11
  • Eye Relief: 2.72 – 2.92 in
  • Weight: 18.4 oz

Best Thermal & Night Vision AR-15 Scopes

Some of the best hunting is done when the prey is on the move, which is usually in the very early morning, late evening, or even at night. For those looking for night vision or thermal imaging AR-15 scopes, these are some of the best on the market. They also offer high magnification levels that can’t be found on many other conventional scopes.

There’s a mix of different night vision generational technology, as well as thermal. While the price point may be more significant than other scopes, few options let you hunt or defend in the dark hours like these.

ATN Thor 4 Thermal Rifle Scope for AR15


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Arguably the best thermal rifle scope on the market is the ThOR 4, and while you’ll certainly pay for that status, once you’re mounted and zeroed, you’ll never give that price another thought.

The ThOR-4 from ATN is a top of the line thermal scope, and it can be used in any level of light, from noon sun to midnight.

The thermal sensors pipe the data to an onboard video feed, which can either be viewed on the scope itself or any digital device like a phone or tablet.

It features recoil-activated recording and built-in wifi for zero effort streaming. This means you can focus on the hunt, and your audience can share in the excitement every time you pull the trigger. Footage can also be stored directly on a microSD card, for later video review.

It also features one-shot zero ability, as well as a built-in laser rangefinder and ballistics calculator.

While this is one of the most high-tech scopes available, it also comes with the same risks as other gadgets. It is not waterproof, or shockproof, and is rated as shock and weather resistant. It will hold up to your recoil, but it probably won’t survive a drop from your tree stand.

Check out our full hands-on review of the ATN Thor 4 here!

  • Magnification: 4.5 – 18 x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50 mm
  • Sensor Resolution: 384×288 pixels
  • Display Resolution: 1280×720 pixels
  • Brightness Settings: 5
  • Eye Relief: 90 mm
  • Range of Detection: 1800 m
  • Battery Life: 18 hours
Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32x50 Rifle Scope Thermal

Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32×50

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For a night vision scope that is relatively affordable, while still offering incredible performance, the Sightmark Wraith is a win.

The display is an ultra-clear 1280p HD display that gives you full-color daytime imaging, and a two-color night display that can be set to either green or black. The illumination on the display is robust, and even on the lowest setting, say goodbye to your natural dark vision.

One of the best things about the Wraith is that it has a built-in IR light that can punch through the dark for 200 yards to give you a better picture. You can also upgrade the flashlight since it’s removable, to tailor your sight to your needs.

There are 10 reticle options in 9 different colors, and the scope records everything just as if you were looking through the eyepiece. It can house a microSD card that saves the converted 1080p footage.

  • Magnification: 4 – 32 x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50 mm
  • Display Resolution: 1280×720 pixels
  • Video Record Resolution: 1080×720 pixels
  • Eye Relief: 60 mm, 2.4 in
  • Parallax: 200 yds
  • Range of Detection: 200 yds
  • Battery Life: 3.5 – 4.5 hours
  • Sensor Resolution: 1920×1080 pixels

Interested in putting a thermal scope on your AR-15? We’ve made an entire article dedicated to the best option on the market today! Check it out:

Best AR-15 Scopes For Hunting

For medium-range hunting applications where you’ll be dropping prey that’s closer than about 500-600 yards, you can’t go wrong with one of these 3. Each one features variable magnification in a modest range, as well as an objective lens that’s a manageable size, so you aren’t adding more weight than necessary.

Leupold 3-9x VX Freedom Scope

Leupold 3-9x VX Freedom Scope

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For optics that are renowned around the globe, Leupold is one of the best names out there. The 3-9x VX Freedom is one of the most high-performing hunting scopes you can buy, and the 3-9x magnification works wonderfully when you need to reach out to mid-range targets, and don’t need to worry about engaging in the sub-100 yard space.

You could not ask for clearer magnification, and the image is crystal clear from 3x through 9x. You can also put it on just about any caliber AR-15, and it will hold its zero fiercely. The best part of all is that with the VX Freedom, even though you’re getting one of the premier names in optics, you aren’t going to pay a ridiculous price.

Steiner T5Xi Rifle Scope for ar15

Steiner Optics T5Xi

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The Steiner Optics T5Xi is a solid option for when you need a hunting scope that can reach out much further than others. The Steiner Optics T5Xi can give you a max of 15x but can come all the way down to 3x, making it incredibly versatile for all types of game.

The oversized 34mm tube makes the T5Xi nearly indestructible, and the features packed into it make it a hard sc0pe to beat. The magnification has a quick-throw lever to get you where you need to be, quickly, and the 1/10-mil ranging hashes make getting your ranging right little to no effort. It even has second rotation mil markers so you don’t get lost in your dials.

Steiner sells several variations of other magnifications if that is preferable for your needs.

  • Magnification: 3x – 15x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Focal Plane: 1st
  • Waterproof: Submersable to 33ft.
  • Battery: CR2450
Nikon P-Tactical .223 3-9x40 Scope

Nikon P-Tactical .223 3-9×40 Scope

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For hunters seeking to drop deer, and even large boars at distance, the Nikon P-Tactical scope is a solid option. The 40mm objective lens lets in plenty of light without adding an obscene amount of weight, which makes it perfect for use in the early morning or late evening hunts.

It can handle clear sighting of prey well beyond 300 yards, but will not be suitable for any dangerous game that may close that distance. If you are hunting anything that may hunt you back, and you’re engaging at less than 150 yards you will want a backup sight.

The reticle is easy to see, simple to use, and highly precise, which are all expected from a top-of-the-line hunting scope.

  • Magnification: 3- 9x
  • Objective Diameter: 40mm
  • Weight: 16.9 oz
  • Weather Proofing: Fog & Water

Best Long Range AR-15 Scopes

If you’re going to be operating at distances of 500 yards or more, in the daylight, these are the scopes for you. They offer high magnification for long-range hunting and other longer-range engagements. These 3 scopes offer longer ranges and are the best currently available, with each hunting scope having its own unique benefits and potential drawbacks.

Vortex Crossfire II Rifle Scope

Vortex Crossfire II 4-16×50 AO

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The Crossfire II is one of the best AR-15 scopes for any shooters that need to touch ranges of 500+ yards regularly. It has an impressive feature set, without the less-impressive massive price tag that can often be found on similar optics. It’s an SFP scope.

The lenses are coated to transmit a greater amount of light, while also reducing glare by significant amounts. The 30mm tube is strong without being overbuilt, and it features 0-ring seals and nitrogen purging. This gives the aircraft aluminum tube its fog proof, waterproof, and shockproof abilities.

The weight is just over 23 ounces, but with a 50mm objective lens, that is more than reasonable. The fast-focus eyepiece gives an exceptional amount of eye relief as well.

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50 mm
  • Magnification: 4 – 16 x
  • Reticle Focal Plane: Second Focal Plane (SFP)
  • Eye Relief: 3.7 in
  • Parallax: 25 yds to infinity
  • Battery Life: 150 hours

Check out our full review of the Vortex Crossfire II rifle scope!

Primary Arms SLX 4-14x44mm Scope

Primary Arms SLx 4-14X44

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By now you know Primary Arms is one of the leading producers of AR-15 scopes, already having made our list a few times. The SLx 4-14 continues this trend by being one of the leading long-range scopes for the AR-15.

The SLx 4-14 is the first focal plane scope that is made for continual long-range shooting. It has an illuminated reticle with 6 different brightness settings. The 30mm waterproof and shockproof aluminum tube has side-mounted parallax adjustment, tactile and audible windage, and elevation adjustments with 1/10 mil graduations.

The 25-ounce weight adds a little more mass for those that may need it for rifle competitions where multiple shots are needed. It is powered by a 2032 wafer battery that is simple to change.

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 44 mm
  • Magnification: 4 – 14 x
  • Reticle Focal Plane: First Focal Plane (FFP)
  • Eye Relief: 3.14 – 3.22 in
  • Weight: 25.2 oz
Leupold VX-5HD scope

Leupold VX-5HD 3-15×44

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Leupold is back with one of the best optics choices for your AR-15, and while it may dent your budget considerably, it will be worth it in the end. Leupold is the benchmark for rifle scope performance, worldwide.

The images on the VX-5HD are some of the most clear, crisp images you can find on long-range scopes. The professional-grade optical coating provides the best light transmission levels in the industry, which means you can shoot in less light, and longer.

You can adjust your dials to perform how you want with the Custom Dial System, and the zero-lock system prevents any accidental turret movement. The proprietary Guard-Ion technology helps the lenses to keep themselves clean, even in the absence of lens covers. Like any other scope in its class, the VX-5HD is fog proof, waterproof, and shockproof.

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 44 mm
  • Magnification: 3 – 15 x
  • Tube Diameter: 30 mm
  • Reticle Focal Plane: Second Focal Plane (SFP)
  • Exit Pupil: 2.9 mm
  • Field of View, Linear: 38.2 – 7.9 ft at 100 yds
  • Eye Relief: 3.7 – 3.82 in

Best AR15 Iron Sights

One of the great optics choices for shooters running mid-range or long-range rifle scopes is to make sure you have a backup option for close quarters. Even on the lowest magnification, your 3-9x isn’t going to give you the flexibility you may suddenly need at 50 yards or less.

To that end, having backup iron sights or BUIS can be crucial to those contingency plans. Many will offer a flip-up functionality that keeps them out of the way until they’re needed, and we even have a 45-degree option for instant adaptability.

Magpul MBUS Pro Iron Sights

Magpul MBUS Pro Iron Sights

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With an upgrade from the standard MBUS from Magpul, which is polymer, the Pro upgrades to steel. The case hardened steel stands up to anything and can be mounted on Picatinny or STANAG rails. You will always have perfect irons as a backup with the MBUS Pro.

KAC 45 Degree Offset BUIS Iron sights

KAC 45 Degree Offset BUIS

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For Those that don’t want to have to worry about co-witness or dipping up their BUIS, the offset BUIS from Knights Armament puts an iron sight at a 45-degree angle to the side of your other attachments. This means you don’t need to do anything other than tilting your weapon slightly to be sighting down the iron.

Best Cheap AR-15 Scopes

Money isn’t everything, but for many shooters these days, it’s definitely high on the list. That’s why we’ve included these 5 scopes that can get the job done for a fraction of the price of many others. For less than $100 you can get some decent optics on your AR-15, and you won’t have to make too many compromises in the process.

UTG Bug Buster Scope

UTG 3-9X32 1″ BugBuster Scope

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For hunters that need a budget scope for their AR-15, the UTG BugBuster is a great option. It’s a high-quality variable magnification scope that works well for spotting prey and game of all sizes, small to large, and the price point makes it perfect for a budget build or first hunting scope.

The mil-dot reticle has Tactical Range Estimation, which gives you a series of markings helpful for ensuring your prey catches that shot right where it needs to. There are a total of 21 dots, so you can ballpark your shot from here to the moon.

Additionally, the BugBuster can be mounted on both Picatinny rails and Weaver rails, so you don’t need to worry about getting a conversion. It features SWAT illumination for maximum light absorption, as well as being able to fend off water and fog. You might compromise a little on the eye relief, but overall this is a great budget pick.

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 32 mm
  • Magnification: 3 – 9 x
  • Tube Diameter: 1 in
  • Reticle Focal Plane: Second Focal Plane (SFP)
  • Exit Pupil: 10.6 – 3.6 mm
  • Eye Relief: 3.2 – 4.2 in
Tacticon Falcon V1 red dot sight

Tacticon Falcon V1 3X Red Dot

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The Falcon V1 3X red dot is produced by Tacticon and is one of the better budget magnified scopes. It defaults to a 1x magnification and features a maximum magnification factor of 3x with just a simple slide of the magnification lever.

The glass has a robust anti-glare coating on it that gives you a crystal clear view at both 1x and 3x, with responsiveness suited to hunting, pest control, and even close quarters combat scenarios.

With many things being either left-handed or right-handed in the shooting space, the magnification lever on the Falcon is ambidextrous and can be operated with either hand.

  • Weight: ‎10.69 Ounces
  • Magnification: 1 – ‎3x
  • Eye Relief: ‎2.5 Inches
MidTen Riflescope Combo

MidTen Riflescope Combo 4-12x50EG

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MidTen may not be a big name, but they pack in big features without attaching a big price. This can be somewhat of a rare bird if you’re looking for cheap long-range AR-15 scopes, but for less than a c-note, you can have 12x maximum magnification in the MidTen.

The illuminated reticle features 4 different reticle patterns, with each available as a red reticle and a green reticle, giving you a total of 8 options to sight your target. To complement the reticle selection you’ll have 5 brightness settings for each of the 8 options.

This long-range scope also offers incredible durability for the price and is fog proof, waterproof, and shockproof, so you should have no worries packing it along for the next hunting trip. The only downside to this one is the somewhat disappointing battery life.

  • Scope Magnification:4x-12x
  • Scope Objective Diameter:50mm
  • Dot Sight Magnification:1X
  • Dot Eye Relief: Unlimited
Monstrum 2-7x32 AO Rifle Scope

Monstrum 2-7×32 AO Rifle Scope

Check Price at (~$89):

Another great scope for those learning how to handle and shoot their new AR-15 is the Monstrum 2-7×32 AO. Monstrum is a name well-known for making very high-quality scopes without high-quality price tags, and if you’re looking for an LPVO scope this could fill that role nicely.

The objective lens has an adjustable focus so that you can keep your target crystal clear with minimal effort. The 7x upper limit lets you reach out and touch targets that are well beyond 300 yards, with clear target pictures out to over 500 yards.

The illuminated reticle has 5 distinct brightness settings that let you use the scope in any conditions and ambient light levels. All this is housed in an aircraft-grade 6061 aluminum tube that’s been purged and nitrogen charged.

The only complaint we had for this beast is that the scope rings felt a little subpar, though not inadequate. While you may want to grab a set of more robust rings, for the price, it’s still well worth it and one of the best AR-15 scopes for those on a budget.

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 32 mm
  • Magnification: 2 – 7 x
  • Reticle: Illuminated Rangefinder
  • Tube Diameter: 1 in
  • Eye Relief: 3.5 – 3.9 in
  • Color: Black
  • Weight: 12 oz
Pinty Rifle Combo Scope 4-16X50

Pinty Rifle 4-16X50 Combo Scope

Check Price at (~$95):

If you’re looking for a cheap long-range AR-15 scopes, the Pinty 4-16×50 is one of the best. It needs very little attention and is usable directly out of the box upon arrival, and can be slapped onto just about any build.

With a maximum magnification of 16x, you’ll be able to see targets both living and stationary at incredibly long ranges. This means that whether you hunt the game by stalking it at distances of 800 yards or more, you’ll be able to reach out and touch them with little effort.

Additionally, the Pinty rifle scope comes with easily detachable green laser sights that can put a bright green dot on your target up to 110 yards away with ease. It’s able to be mounted on both Picatinny and Weaver rails and functions great as a first scope.

The one downside is that you may need to compromise on the number of shots between zeroing. We noticed that with larger caliber AR-15 builds that are subjected to intense recoil, it may shake the zero a bit after a day at the range.

  • Scope Magnification: 4x-16x
  • Scope Obj. Diameter: 50mm
  • Scope Eye Relief: 3″ ~ 3.4″
  • Red Dot Obj. aperture: 33mm

How to Pick the Right AR-15 Optics

While you probably want to jump right into scope shopping, and we’re right there with you, there are some things you should consider first. The most important things to consider are:

  1. Use case – What are you going to be doing with the scope?
  2. Eye relief – Eye what?!
  3. Range & ammo use – What you’re sending, and how far you want to send it.
  4. Weight – Important for shooting & for carrying.
  5. Price – That bottom line that everyone’s always talking about.
  6. Focal Plane – A seemingly minor consideration that can give you a big surprise when magnified.

Veteran optics nuts can probably skip this part, though there may be a nugget or two for you too, those who are just getting into shooting or perhaps just putting the final touches on their first AR-15 build should pay close attention.


One of the biggest overarching factors in your eventual scope choice will be what you’re planning on using it for. Your specific use, or blend of uses, will determine what ammo you’ll need, what range you’ll most likely be operating at, what level of magnification you may need (if any), and more.

AR15 with tan paint job sitting on logs

Close-quarters hunters and defenders will need a far different optics setup than someone looking to drop coyotes or hogs at several hundred yards, which will be much different than a shooter who will be shooting long-range targets or prey. Don’t just think about what you’re planning on using your scope for, but also try to consider extenuating circumstances that may pop up.

Even if you only plan to use it for property and livestock defense, what happens if you have a situation that suddenly demands engagement at 25 yards or less against a larger threat? Can your scope adapt, or will it leave you looking too far afield? These are the considerations that go into choosing the perfect scope for your needs, no matter what those needs may eventually be.

Eye Relief

Eye relief also called the eye box, is how far away your eye must be from the scope to see an ideal image. Too far and you won’t see the image well, too close and you’ll get kissed by the scope when you fire.

A larger and more forgiving eye box is generally much more comfortable to use. In most cases, the lower the magnification, the larger the eye relief, while rifle scopes with high magnification will often have less eye relief.

Man shooting rifle with a scope mounted on it looking into optic

The eye box can also have a significant impact on rapid target acquisition, with red dots and holographic sights often having “infinite” eye relief and being the fastest sights to acquire and reacquire your targets with. Scopes with high magnification will usually not have very quick target acquisition and will require more time to reacquire a target for follow-up shots.

Range & Ammo

Both the range you intend to operate at, as well as the ammo you’re sending will have an incredibly significant effect on the type of scope you should ultimately consider. Your intended range and caliber choice are going to be closely intertwined and combined, which may be the biggest deciding factor on scope choice.

Close Range Targets

Close range applications are going to see use from 0 to 100 yards. This is generally going to be most useful for home defense, pest & varmint control, and “SHTF” scenarios.

The ideal sights for close-range work are going to be red dot sights and holographic sights. These sights will be nearly useless at any range over 75-100 yards since your dot or reticle image will likely obscure a large part of the intended target.

Assault rifle with red dot sight mounted on the rail

Medium Range

Medium range shooting will be out as far as 500 yards, in some cases, but can also see engagement in the sub-100 yard space as well. This is a range that sees most of the hunting applications and livestock defense, as well as plinking & other recreational shooting, 3-gun competitive shooters, and more.

Most rifle scopes fitting this mold will be variable levels of lower magnification. The reticles on medium-range rifle scopes will often have a mix of styles that may include modest bullet drop compensator measurements, they may also have options for different reticles on the same scope.

Long Range

Long-range use is going to be anything at 500 yards and more. This is often the range that many stalking hunters operate in, as well as long-distance competition shooting.

In many cases, long-range rifle scopes are used in conjunction with a bench rest. Long-range rifle scopes will often have ballistic reticles that can help calculate bullet drop.

Why Your Ammo Matters

Tons of shooters only think about their ranges in a very general sense, and frequently forget that their ammo is going to play a huge role in actually reaching certain range markers. This is why it’s so incredibly important to make sure your scope fits with your ammo.

If you’re shooting a 5.56 or .223 build, your shots are going to be running low on steam once they cross the 600-yard mark. While you can certainly still hit targets that far away, and farther, there isn’t going to be much energy left to transfer to that target.

For recreational shooting, this isn’t a big deal, since you either hit the target or you don’t, but if you’re hunting this can make or break your experience.

Assault rifle and machine gun sitting on a dirt hill

Similarly, your .300 Blackout rounds will still have plenty of energy left crossing 900 yards, and your .308 can still make a humane kill at 1000 yards.

The main thing to remember is that when you’re picking a scope, be sure you get something that can extend your vision to the end of your round’s effective range, but also be sure you don’t get more scope than your ammo needs.

That extra housing and glass are going to add considerable weight to your kit, and you’re going to have to carry that weight around and still be able to wield that weapon.


Lots of close-range shooters think that since they want to run a red dot, holographic sight, or smaller ACOG, they won’t have to worry about weight like the guys living in their 4-9x32s. While it’s true that smaller sights are going to have comparatively less weight than big tubes with a heavy glass objective lens, that weight may arguably be more of a factor.

Think about it, if you’re building a lightweight AR-15 for close quarters or home defense, your entire build is going to be lighter. Now you add some optics, but the weight of those optics is potentially going to be a larger percentage of your overall weapon weight.

Assault rifle with scope and flashlight mounted on it

Even worse, if you pay no attention to the weight of your perfect scope, you may throw the balance and handling of your gun way off. Nothing’s worse than having to learn how to handle your own weapon again and build new muscle memory.

Weight will always be important, whether you’re running a 5-ounce RDS, a 12-ounce hunting scope, or a thermal sight that weighs more than a pound. Before you choose your scope, be sure you are ready for that additional weight, whatever it may be.


We listed it last because while the price of a potential rifle scope will definitely have an impact on whether or not you can afford it, shopping by price alone can lead you to some shoddy equipment. We feel that you should look at scopes that are right for your needs and specific AR build, then narrow down your choice based on budget.

That being said, times are getting pretty tough for a lot of folks, and not everyone can afford to drop a thousand bucks on some glass, some not even half of that.

To help you out if pricing is really high on your list of scope criteria, we’ve included a section for the best budget scopes for your AR-15 that can get your AR-15 outfitted with decent optics for less than $100 in most cases. We’ve also made sure that there’s a mix of high-quality rifle scopes as well, from budget red dot fixed power scopes to some incredibly affordable LPVOs.

First Focal Plane vs Second Focal Plane

Often overlooked by newer shooters who fail to research focal plane placement, knowing if your scope’s reticle image is going to be projected in the first or second can make a huge difference.

Scopes that put the reticle in the first focal plane have the reticle placed between the shooter and the magnification apparatus. This means that no matter what magnification level you are using, the scope’s reticle will remain a constant size. First focal plane scopes are generally more expensive and are easier to use for longer range shots where you’re using heavy magnification.

Second focal plane scopes will place the reticle after the magnification process, meaning it will be affected by the same magnification as the rest of the image. A second focal plane rifle scope will be more affordable than its first plane cousin but is generally only usable with moderate levels of magnification. If you hunt at close to medium ranges, an SFP scope may be a more economical choice.

Wrapping Up

There you have it, more top-quality AR-15 scopes than you can shake an empty mag at. No matter what you need it for, there should be at least two or three options in this list to help you get it done.

Make sure you think about your potential uses, both planned and unplanned, as well as the rest of the things in our buyer’s guide, and you’ll be ready to make a very well-informed decision. Hit the range and get zeroed in.

Let us know which optics you’ve found are the most useful for you!

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