Best AR 15 Scope

When choosing the best AR-15 scope, it is important to focus on the quality of the glass, the build of the material, and what type of reticle and features it includes. There is no one size fits all with this, as even the favorite on the list will have some flaws in it that will turn away most consumers. On the plus side it is rare that a scope has bad glass, so then the race becomes who has the more superior glass. Then from there it is build quality, features, and reticle etc.

R-15-30-AR

Mounting becomes a game depending on several factors such as whether the user wants to co-witness, what type of gun they are using, what mounts they are using and if it is even included in the package. Mounts included in the package aren’t always the best choice, and many users opt for their own separate purchase for mounts rather than using the manufacturer OEM. When it comes to choosing the best AR-15 scope the only guaranteed thing is that one size doesn’t fit all.

1
  • Nikon P-223
  • Brand: Nikon
  • Length: 3.2 x 4.7 x 15.8 inches
  • Scope and Mount: 4-12x40
  • Made In: Japan

2
  • UTG 30mm
  • Brand: UTG
  • Length: 10.4 x 1.6 x 2.1 inches
  • Scope and Mount: 3-12X44
  • Made In: Not Specified

3
  • Nikon P-223
  • Brand: Nikon
  • Length: 4 x 15.5 x 3.5 inches
  • Scope and Mount: 3-9x40
  • Made In: Japan

4
  • Nikon P-223
  • Brand: Nikon
  • Length: 14.2 x 3.2 x 3.2 inches
  • Scope and Mount: 3x32
  • Made In: Japan

1. Nikon P-223 BDC 600 Riflescope

Nikon P-223 BDC 600One of the more respected variable scopes on the list, the Nikon P-223 BDC 600 Riflescope is a very well rounded 4-12×40 riflescope that does a great job of adding bells and whistles to a premium package. It is on the pricier side, but still includes great features such as a BDC reticle with open circle aiming points, with visible hash marks from 100 to 600 yards. The rapid action turret is  ¼ MOA click at 100 yard adjustments, and goes perfectly with the multicoated optics that allow some of the best light transmission and brightness in the industry.  On the fly changes can be made through the use of spring loaded instant zero reset turrets, a no hassle feature that will help shooters of all variations.

If users are looking for maximum compatibility for long range shooting, then this is definitely one of the best AR-15 scopes to get. Bullet drop compensation can be done from 100-600 yards using open circle aiming points and hash marks, with the latter being using the rapid action turret system to manually to center the target. Either way is fine, and the entire package is enhanced by Nikon’s spot on ballistic technology, a system that has proven not only successful but popular among many shooters.

Besides being one of the most expensive scopes on the list, it is also one of the largest. Nikon did a good job of squeezing as much product into the package as possible, and considering what this scope can do, it is definitely as small as it can get. The Nikon P-223 BDC 600 Riflescope does a great job of staying zeroed and will not fail under the harshest of conditions. This is without a doubt one of the best scopes on the list, and well worth the money spent.

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2. UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact

UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44The UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact by contrast to the Nikon is a half priced, smaller scope that does just about everything you could possibly want and adds more. This mil-dot scope is a 30 millimeter variable 3-12×44 with a full 36 color EZ tap reticle. It’s extremely rugged and has an all-weather build through its sealed and nitrogen filled housing, making it shockproof, rainproof, and fogproof. The lenses are emerald coated with an angled front sunshade and flip open lens caps. This small little scope is incredibly featured, as UTG even managed a zero locking and zero reset target turret system with some of the most precise adjustments in the industry.

All of this is included with a very well spelled out lifetime warranty. The electronic components of this scope are built to last, and illumination should not be affected even under heavy use conditions.  While some dials are heavy to use, the MOA ¼ click on the UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact is very light but gives great feedback to the user. Some of the most precise windage and elevation adjustments can be made with this riflescope, all without being a pain to the user. Unlike some other scopes on the list, UTG has an arduous testing process that tests all features of their product, making the lifetime warranty even more palatable.

The extras included in the package are a pair of medium profile max strength heavy duty rings to help with the mounting process. Some users may not even use these, but for those that need it, that’s one less step to get the scope mounted. This is definitely one of the tops on the list, as it manages to get premium features in its small frame without neglecting some of the bigger ones. With a lifetime warranty to back it, this is a great purchase and one of the tops on the list.

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3. Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate

Nikon P-223 3-9x40 MateAnother Nikon 223 series makes the list, as this is a smaller scope of the 3-9×40 variety that manages a similar price tag to the more robust bigger 223 on the list. The Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate is still on the upper tier when it comes to price, but delivers the same solid performance and features that many expect of a Nikon brand. From 100 to 600 yards shooters are gifted with one of the more unique open circle aiming points and hash marks in a riflescope. Zero reset ¼ hand turned tactical style turrets are one of the best feeling systems offered by Nikon, and maintains settings even with heavy recoil. Parallax is eliminated with a 100 yard parallax setting, enabling shooters the best conditions for hitting a precise target. Eye relief was a prime feature of this scope, as this Nikon guarantees consistent and roomy eye relief.

As part of the 223 line of riflescopes the Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate’s optical system is fully multicoated for the best light transmission and brightness, while the all weatherproof housing through the nitrogen filled o-ring seal does a good job of protecting the scope from the elements. There is a disclaimer that images may appear blurry in ambient light conditions, although this is mostly indoors with artificial light. As this isn’t the first scope to have this warning, it is not that big of a deal to most users.

As with all Nikon products scope reaches its full potential only when used with the spot on ballistic technology, but it still maintains its strength without. Choosing this scope is not a bad choice, especially those opting for the smaller scope between the couple of 223’s. Eye relief is a big feature on this 223, and should not be ignored for those trying to make a final decision. This is a great riflescope to have and should fill the needs for most users.

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4. Nikon P-223 3×32 Matte BDC Carbine

Nikon P-223 3x32Continuing with the 223 series is the Nikon P-223 3×32 Matte BDC Carbine, one of the lower tiered and lower priced Nikon’s on the list. A 200 yard crosshair with hash marks at 400 and 600 yards gives it a unique feel that should attract certain buyers. The fully multicoated optic system works well even from dusk until dawn, providing maximum brightness with a 98% light transmission rate. Hard use won’t upset the settings of the scope, as it maintains zero fast and stays put. Multiuse, it has the same great eye relief as its predecessors, and will come in handy in a pinch.

The 223 series is not only popular, but well received in the industry for its ease of use and variation. At 3×32, this is a very specific variable that may not meets the needs of some shooters when comparing to similar products. If used with the spot on ballistic technology from Nikon, then the most possible use can be had out of this riflescope. If not, then there is a limiting factor that the user should be aware of at purchase.

The turret system is the usual ¼ MOA click, with a great feel to it. Glass on this scope is top notch, and even with its limited variables there is still a lot of scope features for the price. This is still one of the better options for an AR platform, but the problem is there are better scopes from the same line that are only a couple of bucks more. This isn’t a bad egg in the series, but it’s also not one of the best. It’s a good, but not great buy for any interested consumers.

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5
  • Bushnell AR Optics
  • Brand: Bushnell
  • Length: 9.5 x 3.8 x 3.1 inches
  • Scope and Mount: 1-4x24mm
  • Made In: United States

6
  • Nikon ProStaff
  • Brand: Nikon
  • Length: 15.5 x 4 x 3.5 inches
  • Scope and Mount: 3-9x40
  • Made In: Japan

7
  • Vortex® StrikeFire
  • Brand: Vortex Optics
  • Length: Not Specified
  • Scope and Mount: Not Specified
  • Made In: USA

8
  • Nikon ProStaff
  • Brand: Nikon
  • Length: 15.2 x 4 x 3.5 inches
  • Scope and Mount: 3-9x40
  • Made In: Japan

5. Bushnell AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1

Bushnell AR OpticsThe first riflescope from Bushnell is the Bushnell AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1, a premium 1-4x 24mm scope that gives an excellent set of features. Up to 500 yards, the BTR-1 illuminated reticle gives perfect low light performance and accuracy, some of the best on the list. Exclusive to this scope is the Power Change Lever for quick power changes, and an incredible .1 mil click value for target turrets. This gives maximum accuracy, all at the fingertips of the user. The multicoated optics system enhances and makes sure that the shooter is getting maximum brightness. And as it stands, this is one of the most rugged scopes on the list, sporting an anodize-finished and sealed aluminum alloy housing.

When considering that this is an illuminated riflescope, this easily becomes one of the best deals on the list. One of the hallmarks of this scope is that it is scratchproof and rustproof, a claim that not many can make on the list outside of Bushnell. One the downside the erector cap assembly limits extra low or low scope rings on AR optic riflescopes. Now in certain instances this isn’t the case, but depending on the user and their setup, it may make a big difference in whether this is worth the purchase or not.

Besides being the iron man of riflescopes it also has one of the prettiest matte finishes on the list. As rugged and durable as it is, it’s also one of the heavier scopes on the list. A good amount of muscle and training is required to master all of the features of this riflescope. Resetting the turrets to zero is also a bit of a process compared to quick solutions by rivaling brands, and can definitely be a turn off for the power user. The Bushnell AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 is still an excellent riflescope for the money, and highly recommended as one of the best on the list.

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6. Nikon ProStaff 3-9 x 40

Nikon ProStaff 3-9This is the first Nikon not in the 223 series on the list, and it does not disappoint. The Nikon ProStaff 3-9 x 40 is a nice compact riflescope with a solid price that should please multiple users. Even with its small stature, it still can transmit up to 98% of available light while giving the shooter 3.6 inches of eye relief. Granted that is generous eye relief, but also expected, as this is a small, less feature rich riflescope. The oft undervalued zero reset turrent system is loaded, with the spring loaded adjustment knob for maximum performance. A quick focus eyepiece on the 12.4 inch scope gives users great performance gains and works well with the BDC reticle.

Support for optional accessories is included, such as sunshade for bright, rainy or dusty conditions. The size doesn’t limit its overall power and accuracy levels, and Nikon did a good job of making sure that this scope did the basics well. Despite the lack of premium features, it is just as capable of using the spot on ballistic technology as the other Nikon’s on the list, and isn’t limited in any way when doing so. The optics are very solid, and possibly solid than some of the premium scopes on this list.

Although not one of the heavier scopes on the list, it is quite bulky and may be limited in some of the positions and rifles it can be attached to. There are also incorrect size charts for the scope covers listed online, and the correct ones are sizes 19 and 31 for the Nikon ProStaff 3-9 x 40. There really are few reasons not to like this scope, and it is a very good purchase for those looking for a long term lifetime warranty riflescope. Even with a limited feature set, this is surprisingly one of the better scopes on the list and should not be overlooked.

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7. Vortex® StrikeFire Red Dot

Vortex StrikeFireNot considered one of the big power players in the industry, the Vortex® StrikeFire Red Dot is a good option for users looking for a different brand. Multiple options are available within one set, like the Red/Green light switching with the ability to adjust the dot intensity based on what is needed in the area. With unlimited eye relief, it is one of the better scopes on the list for those who will be using it for long periods of time. Past 50 yards it is parallax free, and with an optical 2x doubler there is good range if needed for more serious uses. Nitrogen purging makes the unit waterproof and fogproof in even the worst of conditions. Price is around the midrange area, and seems to be targeted at a specific point in the market.

For what it offers it is compact, and the unlimited eye relief is a welcome addition to many offerings on the market. This scope was made more for speed than accuracy, and as such, accuracy is definitely not its strong suit. Battery life is about 2000 hours, and the unit is set to shut off after two hours. Compatibility with night vision optics is a big plus, and for that niche users will be fairly satisfied with how well the Vortex® StrikeFire Red Dot integrates. For users worried about whether this scope will co-witness, the model SFRD-AR15 is the model to go for in that category.

Even with its ability to hold zero at a premium level, this is a pretty limited scope when compared to the others on the list. That said, if what a user wants in a scope can be met with the specs the Vortex® StrikeFire Red Dot offers, it is a solid purchase. This is very much meant for speed, and if a shooter is looking for speed, then this is definitely the way to go. It’s a good purchase, for a very specific sector of the market.

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8. Nikon ProStaff Rimfire 3-9 x 40

Nikon ProStaff Rimfire 3-9The Nikon ProStaff Rimfire 3-9 x 40 is a nice sized variable riflescope that manages 98% light transmission through its multicoated optics. MOA adjustments are good at 50 yards, ¼ per click, with excellent feedback. With the quick focus eyepiece Nikon also guarantees that the nitrogen filled and o-ring sealed housing is both waterproof and fog proof for lasting performance for years to come. For shooters that roughhouse their equipment a bit, Nikon offers a full lifetime warranty on the product. Surprisingly, the price point of this particular Nikon is on the high end, despite it not being considered a premium piece.

Even with the quick zero reset turrets, it’s hard to look at this scope while comparing it to other scopes and not see the missing features. This is a very basic but well-built Nikon scope that will not disappoint those who choose to purchase it, but with a premium price tag there are better offerings from the same company. Glass is crystal clear and co-witness is possible with the correct setup. It also has some of the best light gathering features of the scopes on the list, but nothing spectacular.

Those looking for a basic setup will not be disappointed with the actual offerings of the Nikon ProStaff Rimfire 3-9 x 40, even when comparing it to other scopes. From top to bottom the length and weight of this scope is great and will appease even the most finicky of users. Whether anyone wants to pay the price for a barebones scope from Nikon when they can get a better one for the same amount is another story. On its own, this is a good purchase that should go a long way in satisfying the masses.

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9
  • NIKON M-223
  • Brand: Nikon
  • Length: 15 x 3 x 3 inches
  • Scope and Mount: 3-12x42
  • Made In: Japan

10
  • Bushnell AR Optics
  • Brand: Bushnell
  • Length: 8 x 6.4 x 2.9 inches
  • Scope and Mount: 1x32
  • Made In: United States

11
  • UTG Compact
  • Brand: UTG
  • Length: 9.8 x 3.4 x 3.9 inches
  • Scope and Mount: 3-9x32
  • Made In: Not Specified

9. NIKON M-223 BDC 600 8489

NIKON M-223 BDC 600 8489The most expensive scope on the list is without a doubt the NIKON M-223 BDC 600 8489, that not only comes well reviewed but highly recommended by multiple sources. From 100 to 600 yards the BDC 600 reticle has open circle aiming points and hash marks for improved accuracy. Although not unlimited eye relief, it still offers some of the best eye relief on the list by a long shot. The wide magnification range works hand in hand with the multicoated optics that give up to 92% light transmission. Through its one piece aircraft grade aluminum make it can mount on any rifle action, ignoring caliber including magnum length actions. The entire unit is guaranteed for a lifetime and is shockproof, fog proof, and waterproof.

This has the best optics on the list by a mile, and with 4 inches of eye relief, is well used for long periods of time. Zero reset turrets are a simple 1-2-3 mechanism, while smooth zoom control allows the user to view magnification numbers from the shooters position. Because of the one piece main body tube, there are less moving parts and less chance for things to break. This is the most durable scope on the list, and it still comes with an ironclad warranty. An ARD removable anti-reflective device prevents objective lens glare, and was a nice addition to the package.

It’s a heavy tank at 19.93 ounces, and long at 13.1 inches.  It’s also the best riflescope on this list by a mile, and should not be overlooked. When the parallax setting is 50 yards to infinity and that is considered a minor feature, then users know they are dealing with a premium scope. As it is two times higher than the most expensive scope, it is also a serious purchase and may be out of the range for some users. But if within range, the NIKON M-223 BDC 600 8489 is the best riflescope on the list.

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10. Bushnell AR Optics 1x MP Illuminated

Bushnell AR OpticsThis is a low priced, powerful illuminated scope from Bushnell that targets specific users, but does it well. The red/green T-dot reticle is very efficient, and helps users lock on and improve accuracy. The unique zoom dot technology lets users go from 1 MOA to 10 MOA in seconds. This scope is completely waterproof, shockproof, and fog proof all due to its premium housing. The amber-bright lens coating gives an already great scope some serious clarity in many different lighting situations. And as a throw in, a weaver style rail is built into the entire unit, which is why the unit weighs 15.6 ounces.

One of the features that makes this a decent purchase is how it auto shuts off based on the position of the users gun. Where the Bushnell AR Optics 1x MP Illuminated differs from the Vortex Strikefire is quality of glass, and the included built in mount. They are small, but prominent features for the serious user, and although this scope is meant for only certain users, it is a very well made piece of equipment.

Shooters will be happy to know that this is a parallax free scope, and that it will mount on a picatinny rail with ease. The T used in the optical equipment is extremely clear without being too much for the shooter to handle, and iron sights are on top for those that need them. Bushnell thought a lot about the little things with this scope, and it shows. This is not the best scope on the list, but it is a very good buy, and should make many people happy.

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11. UTG 3-9×32 Compact CQB Bug Buster AO RGB Scope

UTG 3-9x32 Compact CQBThis scope from UTG comes packaged with picatinny rings, and is very much within the price range of the average user. The sealed and nitrogen filled housing is promised to be shockproof, fog proof, and rainproof. Light transmission is at its highest due to the 1 inch tube with emerald coated lens. Target turrets are both zero resettable and lockable with ¼ MOA click adjustments, with decent feedback. The mil-dot reticle is a welcome addition for those that prefer that particular setup, and might take some adjusting for those coming from BDC reticles.

There are specialized instructions on the product page with videos of how to mount and calibrate the equipment. This is a big plus for those not wanting to scour the internet for instructions or search YouTube listings. Although the MOA click has decent feedback, there is a lot of resistance in it when compared to other knobs on the market. This prevents the sights from being accidentally adjusted, but also makes it a bit tough for someone trying to make minor adjustments. Accessories include a sunshade and flip open lens caps, with everything ready to go right out of the box.

This is a pretty decent choice for anyone looking for add a scope to their AR-15, but may also be the cheap choice. The killer for some may be the MOA adjustments, for those that are true micromanagers may end up with cramps in their hand. The build quality is excellent and it isn’t an absolute bad buy, but not close to being the best on the list. The UTG 3-9×32 Compact CQB Bug Buster AO RGB Scope is a budget scope for cost conscious consumers that don’t want anything too fancy.

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History

AR-15 and its variants were first built in 1959 by ArmaLite, which the design was later bought out by industry giant Colt. After being modified it was known as the M16 rifle, and in 1963 the semi-automatic version was sold publicly as the Colt AR-15. There are several variations of the AR-15 in existence from Colt, and a good portion of them are user modified. The AR-15 is a very popular firearm that is modified and sold by various manufacturers under different names, making it very popular in many circles.

Mounts

Some of the AR-15 scopes come with mounts included, with one in particular having a mount prebuilt into the unit itself. If a user wants to co-witness, they either have to make sure that the space is there without interference, or in the case of one of the Bushnell offerings, make sure that the scope itself comes with iron sights. When going through what to buy, 1 inch makes a big difference, so it is better to be safe rather than sorry when choosing the correct scope. There are mounts of all types and sizes, so even if there is a problem with one particular scope, that can easily be remedied with the correct accessories. And although some scopes come with include mounts, many users still choose to get their own for added customization and to maximize effectiveness.

Summary

When choosing the best AR-15 scope there are some that may not fit with what a particular shooter wants, as the weight of one scope may outweigh the effectiveness of the illuminated dot of another scope. Nikon’s spot on ballistic technology is a great reason to consider their products, while Bushnell’s excellent illuminated offering may be more the taste for other shooters looking for a more accurate close range experience.

You might also be interested in learning about the best air rifle scopes or the best rifle scopes.

The glass is still king, and there aren’t any scopes on the list with bad glass, and the same goes for the industry as a whole. A great AR-15 scope can be as little as under a hundred or easily over five-hundred dollars, depending on who the user decides to go with. Whether the difference from that sub five-hundred dollar glass will make a difference in the buying purchase is a complete mystery, and can only be answered by the consumer. Just choose what fits your, and with the great warranties available by any company on this list, a great buy is always guaranteed.