Best AR Scope For The Money Guide – 2017

Need help picking the best AR scope?

How many times have you got the right answer to your questions “What is the best AR scope?” or “How to select the best AR Scope?” Well I can tell you, not even once’. Or you would have got a vague answer like, it depends’. Actually the answer, it depends’, is the correct one because the AR platform is a very versatile one, easily adapted to many applications right from home protection, to pinking, and from deer hunting to close quarter combat.

All the above mentioned application have their own optic requirements and just as there are many options available in AR rifles, similarly AR scopes also have many different options and configurations, like magnified / non-magnified, field of view, brightness of the sight, added features like compatibility with night vision / IR equipments, co-witnessing with the iron sights of the weapon, etc.

So given all these features and options how does one choose the best AR scope suitable for their use? Well, there’s no definitive scope that fits the bill and requirements of all the AR rifle uses. Therefore we have compiled this short list of best AR scopes that are available for you select from. We have reviewed a few scopes here that will help you in making a calculated decision based upon the weapon and other accessories that you already have, or to assist you if you are a first time buyer.

What’s on your mind before you buy?

Even before you log into online shopping portal or hit your local gun shop to buy an AR scope, let us take into consideration some features or requirements that will help you narrow down your search. To start with let us consider the added weight to your weapon. Not all scopes are similar in weight, they vary and this what you must keep in mind while considering an AR scope.

Secondly, when viewing through the scope, at higher magnification, there should not be the mirage’ effect. Mirage is the heat wave that you see on the range, it must not get magnified when you boost the magnification of your AR scope.

Another effect of higher magnification is that the field of view – the visible area in your scope – decreases as you increase the magnification. This also makes the view dimmer and target acquisition becomes more difficult.

The dot size is also to be considered while making a decision – The MOA – is a critical factor because each MOA equals to about 1.04 inches per 100 yards. And last but not least, consider the build quality and the ruggedness of the scope. This comes in handy when you consider the handling on your weapon – open wilderness, or in the range, or at any place where roughing up is bound to happen.

It is therefore advisable to a make a decision based upon the usage of your weapon. An AR scope that serves your requirements, that is also feature rich should be your ideal choice.

What Are Red and Green Dot Rifle Scopes?

The red dot rifle scopes are intended for sighting at short or medium range. These are simple scopes with zero to  very low magnification. These allow the shooter to acquire the target with both eyes open. Green dot scopes are similar to the red dot scopes with the difference being in the color of the Light emitting diode (LED). The green dot scopes are used in certain shooting conditions depending on your environment. Some of the best AR scopes feature both options, which can be switched at the press of a button. 

What are Variable Optic Rifle scopes?

Variable optic rifle scopes come in 1-4x or 1-6x magnification. The purpose for this adjustable magnification range is to provide the shooter with superb speed at close range and precise target acquisition at longer range. But all this comes at the cost of the scope being heavy.

What Are Long Range Fixed Tactical Scopes?

Long range tactical scopes are primarily used by game hunters and military / law enforcement training. These scopes are ideal for such training as the magnification is set fixed at certain level, say 2x or 3x. This gives the shooter a fixed, constant magnification for acquiring longer distance targets.

What to look for in the best AR scope?

When looking to buy the best AR scope for you, there are few things that you should keep in mind before making the final decision. The look and finish of all modern scopes is very attractive and futuristic, making them a treat for the eyes. However, you must not just rely on the looks of the product alone, instead you should take into consideration the specifications and features that are suitable your needs and requirements.

Below are some of the features and factors that you must consider before investing in an AR scope:

  • Build Quality – It should be rugged and capable of holding zero after hundreds of rounds. The housing of the system should be watertight and preferably filled with nitrogen to avoiding getting foggy or wet during cold seasons.
  • Optics – The optics should be of best quality, multi-coated and parallax free. The object glass and the viewing glass should be of a sufficient size to provide a comfortable and clear field of view. It should also have multicoated glass to cut unnecessary lights and light flares.
  • Red/Green Dot – If you choose a scope with an illuminated dot, then it should appear clear, crisp and sharp even at higher / maximum magnifications. It should not blur out or diffuse when the brightness is increased to maximum.
  • Field of View – The best AR scope should posses a field of view that is sufficient enough for accurate target acquisition even at higher magnifications. It should also allow the shooter to acquire the target accurately while keeping both the eyes open at shorter range.
  • Dot size – It is important that the dot on your scope is of a standard size, 1 MOA at 100 yards. Oversized dots affect the accuracy of the and they tend to blur out at higher magnification. Non-standard dots definitely give wrong information about the target thus affecting your accuracy.
  • Nature of your target – For shooters picking their targets from a shady location, it is a good idea to go for a wide FoV scopes. If you are in a situation where you have to aim at a moving target, then it makes sense in investing in a scope with a wide field of view and a red dot making target acquisition very fast and accurate.

What are common problems with having a short distance scope vs. a long distance scope?

The common problems that are generally associated with Long and short distance AR scopes are listed below:

  • Scope Shift – Commonly referred to as POI shift. This implies that the bullet impact is not where the shooter was aiming through the scope. This problem is not due to the scope, instead it is because of the lack of sighting by the shooter.
  • Parallax – This problem occurs when the scopes AO wheel is wrongly set and the shooter incorrectly sights the target. Parallax is the misalignment of the line of sight. There is a three point correction technique to overcome this problem, reticle, the line of sight between the shooter and the target and the target itself.
  • Different Shooting Distances – When you are shooting at shorter distances, the scope is sighted at that distance, but when you use the same scope for sighting the longer distance target then the shots will fall a bit shorter to the target. Adjust the elevation and scope centering to rectify this problem.
  • Elevation – This is the simplest and most commonly found problem with the shooters. They incorrectly set elevation of the scope which tends to make the shot miss by either going high or falling short of the target.
  • Spring Gun Problem – The Spring guns are now very old school and not seen very commonly. But if you have mounted your scope on such spring gun then it is advisable to use a gripping position that will be most favorable for such guns.
  • Attachment Issues – Another common and often overlooked problem is the improper attachment of the scope to the gun. To rectify this problem, simply unmounts your scope from the gun and reattach it by following instructions properly.

The Best AR Scope Review

To help you select the best AR scope suitable for your needs, the following 10 weapon sights have been selected and discussed in detail below. 

The following 10 products are selected based upon their functionality, usage, pricing, build quality, etc.

ACO - Aimpoint Carbine Optic - Sight

ACO - Aimpoint Carbine Optic - Sight - Best AR Scope

This is the no nonsense, no frills product from the Aimpoint stable. Though a bit toned down compared to the Pro version, this sight comes with a simpler mounting system and satisfactory battery life. Designed specifically keeping in mind modern firearms this sight is 'mount & shoot' - right out of the box. The build quality of the ACO is excellent with the aluminium tube attached to the fixed height mount which gives perfect co-witness with he guns iron sights.

The optics of the ACO are crisp and sharp and the red dot gives the MOA of 2 allowing fast and accurate target acquisition and perfect accuracy . The housing of this Aimpoint are totally waterproof making it ideal accessory for your weapon to be used under any environmental condition. In the constant-on mode the battery lasts just over a year - a big drawback compared to other entry level sights that boasts a far better battery life of 3 years or more.

The red dot of the ACO is sufficiently bright to be see in bright sunlit environment. In a shooting range where shooting area is in shade and the targets are in open, the red dot stays brightly illuminated and after heavy usage the zero remains unchanged.

Pros:

  • Great optics
  • Good value for money

Cons:

  • Low battery life
  • Does not come with front and rear flip covers

The P-223 from Nikon

The P-223 from Nikon - Best AR Scope

The Nikon P-223 features a BDC 600 reticle that was specifically developed for NATO round that uses a 55-grain polymer tip bullet. The Rapid Action Turret of this sight compensates for the bullet drop by allowing the shooter to dial in the distance and holding the BDC reticle onto the target. Thus a range of 100 yards to 600 yards can be achieved. The BDC reticle comes with open circle as aiming points and hash marks indicating distance from 100 yards to 600 yards. The other way to use this sight for compensating bullet drop is to use it with "Spot-on Ballistic Match Technology". Thus it becomes an ideal reticle to be used for compensating of bullet drop at these long ranges. 

The build quality of the sight is Nikon class and comes in a matt finish with the fully multicoated lens system. The mounting is rugged and the zero, once set is never lost even after downing 2000 rounds on the range. I can attest to it's ruggedness from the fact that it was exposed to bumps, it was manhandled, it experienced several tumbles and even couple of drops in the mud while mounted on my rifle, still the mount stayed rock solid and the zero remained as if nothing has had ever happened.

The accuracy of P-223 is such that you can pick up a target, a 16" silhouette, out at 400 yards (sighting it at 200 yards) without any issue. One important thing to note here is not about the P-223 itself but the superb customer service provided by Nikon. It took them three weeks to repair my faulty unit, but it was returned repaired, calibrated and the windage turret was entirely replaced. This is a really great scope all around and its a scope to consider if the best AR scope for you needs to be medium to long range.

Pros:

  • Superior build quality
  • Advanced bullet drop compensation options
  • BDC 600 reticle to go for long range shooting target, up to 600 yards

Cons:

  • No adjustable parallax

VMX-3T from Vortex

VMX-3T from Vortex - Best AR Scope

Vortex is known for making some of the best quality gun sights that are capable of being used on multiple weapons and with co-witnessing makes them some of the sought after sights. Many sights from Vortex are popular amongst gun enthusiasts and serious gun users.

The VMX-3T from Vortex is an exceptional and a very good quality weapons sight. It comes with a nicely designed mount that can be customized according to your preference. The build quality is rugged and sturdy and the nitrogen purged internally makes it a waterproof sight. The mount can be flipped right or left depending upon you preference.

The multicoated optics provide a 3x magnification with a red dot sight allowing for an exceptional light transmission. The red dot can be adjusted using the windage and elevation control and that too without affecting the point of impact. This feature gives this the VMX-3T a very big plus. One more feature that stands out amongst the rest of the sights is its ability to flip to one side (left side by default) so that your viewing eye gets a clear view of the target area.

This is a perfectly balanced sight that mounts on your weapon with the help of a shim plate that comes with the product. While mounting take care to use the blue glue (Loctite), this will help the screws stay in position instead of backing out. After emptying 500 rounds at the range, the mount remained in the place and so did the zero. Later when I shot a 5 round pattern in the bull’s eye and the spread was of an inch. All this was achieved while standing up. 

This VMX-3T is exceptional in its build quality and features for price value. The glass is very clear which allows for good light transmission. The ability to adjust the red dot to center via the windage and elevation controls is a big plus. These adjustments will not affect point of aim/point of impact at all.

Pros:

  • Exceptional build quality
  • Superb optics
  • Sturdy and stable sight
  • Ability to flip to one side (left – by default or right – by reverse mounting)

Cons:

  • No lens cap included with the product.

TA02-C-100431 ACOG from Trijicon

TA02-C-100431 ACOG from Trijicon - Best AR Scope

Just like its predecessor, the TA02 from Trijicon delivers a product that is rugged in design, precise in functionality, and an excellent piece of engineering this is a beautiful scope and no best AR scope guide is complete without featuring a Trijicon scope. The crisp and clear reticle is illuminated by a single AA battery that provides brightness control with a click of the dial. Even in transitional lighting the illuminated reticle appears bright and sharp providing outstanding reliability.

The build quality of the TA02 is superb and the engineering is exceptional. The design has been optimized by moving the RMR mount ahead, thus allowing the sight to optimally perform with the ACOG. It also compatible with infrared night vision devices and other 4x32 ACOG accessories at your disposable. The blackout reticle is merged with the aiming point making it a simple yet efficient sight in the hands of a shooter. This allows the shooter to quickly switch between subsonic and supersonic rounds without re-zeroing. The merger of the BDC (Supersonic - out to 600 yds. and Subsonic - out to 200 yds.) allows the shooter to use only one set of aiming point for both types of ammunition. The majority of common ammunition available, will fall within the 2 MOA diamond point giving the BDC reticle a wide gamut of ammos to be used with. Based upon the unique performance of the Blackout caliber, the 2 MOA diamonds offer the perfect balance between speed and versatility.

Though the build quality of the TA02 is that of a tank, it is extremely lightweight yet highly functional. I have used it as a red dot sight, a simple scope sight, and I have even used it as a hammer to drive my tent pegs!!! This is the engineering at its best

The optics of the TA02 provide crisp, sharp, bright yet wide view. The brightness of the reticle can be adjusted smoothly with the tip of your fingers. The icing on the cake is that the reticle is etched, meaning that the sight can be easily used even if the battery runs out of juice. Overall this is a very strong contender for the best AR scope!

The BugBuster Scope by UTG

The BugBuster Scope by UTG - Best AR Scope

The BugBuster Scope is ruggedly built with crystal clear, distortion free optics at all the magnification range. The scope mounting rings are of 'quick-release' type and of medium height meaning that you will need at least 1/2 inch riser to mount this sight on a flat top AR. Quality wise as compared to other scopes the BugBuster scores high points.

The reticle of the BugBuster offers EZ-TAP illumination enhanced reticle with 36 color options. You can select the color combination of the reticle depending upon the light condition and suitability of the shooter. Such multi-colored reticle is highly useful while hunting in dusky or early dawn lighting when target sighting and acquisition requires highest accuracy.

The eye relief is also long and provides a comfortable sighting while acquiring the target. The dual flip covers on the front and back provides protection to the optics. The 36 color illumination of the reticle is useful in operating in different lighting conditions.

The build is rugged, but lightweight, and fits snugly on my 18" bolt action FN PBR. After over hundred rounds it is still perfectly dead on and ruggedly sitting on its mount.

Drop Zone-223 from Bushnell

Drop Zone-223 from Bushnell - Best AR Scope

The first impression of the Drop Zone-223 is that of a solidly built, perfect fit and superior finish. This 9 inch scope is easy to use and provides exceptional close-quarter accuracy. The fully multicoated optics provides bright illumination for easier target picking and accuracy. The BDC reticle of the Drop Zone-223 is clear and better light transmission makes the sight appears sharp and focused while changing the magnification.

Both - rear focus and magnification rings, are smooth in operation. The windage and elevation are precise and responsive. The eye relief of the Drop Zone-223 is almost 4 inches and  without any parallax allowing the shooter to keep both the eyes open while shooting.

The Drop Zone-223 is calibrated for 55-62 grain, with aiming points marked up to 500 yards. The target turrets are valued at 0.1 mil clicks for precise, pin-point accuracy and adjustment.

The BDC reticle is useful only up to 200 yards after which it runs out of magnification and the reticle also not illuminated. One big drawback of the Drop Zone-223 is that it is very heavy compared to a lot of the scopes reviewed here, a big drawback if you are out hunting all day.

TRS-25 HiRise Red Dot Riflescope from Bushnell Optics

TRS-25 HiRise Red Dot Riflescope from Bushnell Optics - Best AR Scope

What first caught my eye on the TRS-25 are the amber red colored optics. These colored optics enable you to quickly distinguish between a tree and a target. Multicoated optics makes target sighting and acquisition easy. The construction of this sight is exceptional and looks and feels rugged too considering its price range. The shockproof and waterproof housing means that even if the scope is manhandled the optics and its construction will not be getting affected. The housing is filled with dry nitrogen making this scope functional in all weather conditions with the fear of fogging or catching internal moisture, another must have feature for the best AR scope.

Because the TRS-25 has longer eye relief, the shooter is able to shoot with both the eyes open enhancing the awareness about the surroundings and faster and easier target acquisition. The reticle design is parallax free, meaning that the redo follows the user’s eye movement while staying fixed on the target.

The mounting of the TRS-25 is such that it can easily be mounted on Picatinny or Weaver rails and is secured in place by an Allen screw. One thing you will easily notice about the TRS-25 is that the objective lens is not mounted in conventional manner - erect. But it is positioned off-axis and thus appears tilted when looking at the scope. The reason for this tilted design is that it allows the light coming from inside the unit to be reflected back to the shooter appearing as red dot. Another very good scope and a strong contender for the best AR scope.

IR Hunting Scope 1-4x28 from Barska

IR Hunting Scope 1-4x28 from Barska - Best AR Scope

Unboxing the Barska scope gives you the feeling of holding a rugged piece of engineering. This long rifle scope is Barska's top of the line scope with varied features incorporated to aid the shooter in maximum usability. The excellent construction and the high-end optics ensures that the IR Hunting Scope deliver consistent results repeatedly. Even after thousand (1000) rounds the IR Hunting Scope sits firmly on its mounting and not lost its zero even by a mil.

The design of the IR Hunting Scope is such that it mounts forward of the charging handle sitting low on its cantilever mount. The 1x to 4x magnification ensures a wide range of use from close quarter target acquisition (at 1x) to long distance targets (at 4x). The high quality optical glass reticle is etched with mil-dots that can be illuminated either red, green or black. The IR Hunting Scope's housing is purged with CO-2 Nitrogen and the O-ring ensures that the scope is perfectly sealed from the elements making it water proof and free from fogging.

One major plus that the scope carries is the Lifetime Warranty offered by Barska, another must have feature for the best AR scope. So if you are planning on using this scope in rough conditions, where the scope is prone to manhandling and roughing up, worry not you are covered.

30mm Compact Scope from UTG

30mm Compact Scope from UTG - Best AR Scope

This sleek looking, 'business first' scope is a wonderful piece of engineering. This is the Accushot series of scopes from UTG that literally stands true to its name. While unboxing and mounting on the rifle took just 10 minutes, testing was more fun and I ended up spending hours target practicing at various distances. And once the zero is fixed, no matter how much you change the range of the target, it perfectly holds itself. The mounting of this scope is very sturdy and even after firing 600+test shots the scope has snugly held onto it’s mounting on the rifle.

The reticle of the Compact Scope is made up of high precision multicoated glass, giving a crisp, clear and sharp sight even at higher magnifications. The 36 color mil-dot gives you the option to select the appropriate color depending your shooting conditions (light conditions). The SWAT - Side Wheel Adjustment Turret - provides the excellent parallax free view through the reticle. The target turrets are well designed and provides easy grip and functionality with finger tips.

This Compact Scope implements the Illumination enhancement technology that not only provides crisp sharp red and green dots but also provides 36 multicolor dots for using in various lighting environments. Compared to other sights this sight comes with not 4 but 11 aiming points that are spread along the crosshair of the sight, a very nice touch and one that  could make this the best AR scope for you if you ever find that you are prone to shooting in strong winds.

StrikeFire 2 Red/Green Dot Sight from Vortex Optics

StrikeFire 2 Red/Green Dot Sight from Vortex Optics - Best AR Scope

When your situation demands quick target acquisition and a clear wide field of view the StrikeFire 2 from Vortex takes the spotlight without a doubt. This is a feature rich, reliable and very versatile scope that you will be happy to mount up your rifle. The overall build quality shouts of Vortex stable. The optics are typical Vortex craftsmanship - highest quality. Vortex StrikeFire 2 comes with its own cantilever mount that’s easy to mount on your weapon of choice. Moreover just like any other Vortex scope it easily and perfectly co-witnesses with the iron sight.

It holds zero perfectly even after rough handling, harsh transportation and even casing in and out and putting on the table (many other sights of similar feature tend to lose zero with these movements). Even after putting 200 to 400 rounds at the range the StrikeFire 2 held the zero precisely and the mount never moved its place as if it had been crafted out of the weapon itself.

Like all Vortex scopes this one also comes with a lifetime no questions asked warranty which transfers from owner to owner. This is one of the best warranties available and another reason this scope made it to the shortlist of being the best AR scope in 2017.

Conclusion - This is the Best AR Scope!

After extensively reviewing the ten best AR scopes it is time to give the verdict. The best AR scope from the above list is the TRS-25 HiRise Red Dot Riflescope from Bushnell Optics. The HiRise from Bushnell takes the crown with ease. This feature rich yet sturdy looking scope packs the punch every shooter is looking for.

Multicoated optics makes target sighting and acquisition easy. The construction of this sight is exceptional and looks and feels rugged too. The shockproof and waterproof housing means that even if the scope is manhandled the optics and its construction will not be getting affected, something that the best AR scope must have. 

All of the scopes featured in this guide are great and some of the best AR scopes in their price range, however only one could be crowned the best AR scope. Please note that just because I recommended the TRS-25 as the best AR scope, it does not mean that it is also the best AR scope for your needs. You might be looking for a longer ranged scope so something like the Nikon P-223 would be a perfect scope for you. Also if your budget can stretch all the way up to the Trijicon TA02 then get that, its a wonderful scope however it is very expensive for what it offers. 

At the end of the day the decision is yours and you cant go wrong purchasing any of the scopes featuerd in this guide. 

If you're interested in learning more about scopes and sights, or want to find the Best Holographic Sight have a look at the following guide:

https://tangotactics.com/best-holographic-sight