The best rifle scope can easily be determined by type of build, accuracy, and features and ease of use. The reigning leader in this category is Nikon due to their ingenious Spot on ballistic technology, that when paired with their products makes them an innovator and king. But a great challenger to Nikon would be the UTG 3-9×32 Compact CQB Bug Buster AO RGB Scope from UTG which not only surpasses most of the scopes on the list, but puts them to shame.
The UTG model is clearly on of the best on the list, if not the best, and proves that even with Nikon’s ballistic technology that there is still competition to be had in the marketplace.
When choosing a riflescope it is important to know if it is compatible with the gun you plan on mounting it on. And speaking of mounts, you need to know whether the package includes them, and if so if co-witnessing is an important feature for you. The lens is still the most important part of the scope, so unlike other situations where cheap can get the user by, a bad lens will most certainly ruin a scope. This is a lot different than choosing an air rifle scope for your air rifle, not only because of the stress put on the scope, but the technology as well.
Here are the 12 of the best rifle scopes available in 2018 reviewed and compared;
- Nikon P-223 BDC 600
- Brand: Nikon
- Length: 3.2 x 4.7 x 15.8 inches
- Scope and Mount: 4-12x40
- Made In: Japan
- Nikon ProStaff
- Brand: Nikon
- Length: 12.4 inches
- Scope and Mount: 3-9 x 40
- Made In: Japan
- Bushnell AR Optics FFP Illuminated
- Brand: Bushnell
- Length: 9.4 / 240
- Scope and Mount: 1-4x 24mm
- Made In: USA
- UTG 30mm SWAT
- Brand: UTG
- Length: 10.4 x 1.6 x 2.1 inches
- Scope and Mount: 3-12X44
- Made In: Not specified
- 1 1. Nikon P-223 BDC 600 Riflescope with Rapid Action Turret
- 2 2. Nikon ProStaff 3-9 x 40 Black Matte Riflescope
- 3 3. Bushnell AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle AR-223 Riflescope
- 4 4. UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact IE Scope
- 5 5. Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate BDC 600
- 6 6. Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone-223 BDC Reticle Riflescope
- 7 7. Nikon P-223 3×32 Matte BDC Carbine
- 8 8. Vortex® StrikeFire Red Dot Rifle Scope
- 9 9. Nikon P-RIMFIRE BDC 150 Rifle
- 10 10. UTG 3-9×32 Compact CQB Bug Buster AO RGB Scope
- 11 11. FSI Sniper 6-24x50mm Scope W front AO adjustment
- 12 12. AIM 2.5-10×40 Tactical illuminated Reticle Rifle Scope + Backup Aiming
- 13 Rifle Scope Buying Guide
1. Nikon P-223 BDC 600 Riflescope with Rapid Action Turret
Optimized for use with Nikon’s spot on Ballistic match technology, the Nikon P-223 BDC 600 Riflescope with Rapid Action Turret is a great example of what can happen when only the highest quality materials are used to make a scope. This Nikon has a BDC 600 reticle with open circle aiming points and hash marks to spot between 100-600 yards. Rapid action turrets allows for quick hand turns at ¼ inch per 100 yards, a good adjustment amount when compared to other models in the range. To fully take advantage of the equipment at hand, Nikon supplied fully multicoated optics for the best brightness and to allow the most light to enter into the scope. The setup allows for the most efficient use of light in all conditions, and is beyond industry standard.
Price is pretty high, but you get a lot for what they are offering. There aren’t a lot of 4-12×40’s on the market with these specs that can even do half of what this rifle scope does. This is one of the most attractive scopes to purchase for long range shooting, and it provides a good host of features. Using one riflescope, users have the option of two different methods for bullet drop compensation, a new feature that sets this scope apart from the others. The ease of being able to negotiate the distance and still hold the BDC reticle on the target speaks to the fluidity and control of this rifle scope. It can take tons of abuse and keep on kicking, so look for this to be a solid part of your artillery.
The price is great for what the user gets, but it may be a little steep for some that are not after the best scopes. The use of Nikon’s spot on ballistic technology may be out of reach for some consumers who are not tech savvy, although in respect to Nikon it is very accessible and easy to navigate. The Nikon P-223 BDC 600 Riflescope with Rapid Action Turret could’ve made a lot of missteps with its design and build, but as it stands this is one of the best rifle scopes available for the money. Anyone who purchases this will not be disappointed at all with what they’re getting.
2. Nikon ProStaff 3-9 x 40 Black Matte Riflescope
In contrast to the powerhouse that was Nikon’s previous offering, the Nikon ProStaff 3-9 x 40 Black Matte Riflescope is more of a focus on perfecting the primary tasks associated with rifle scopes rather than innovation. This is not a knock on this product at all, and features a 40mm objective lens with a multicoated optical system capable of transmitting up to 98 percent of light. A total of 3.6 inches of eye relief is given by the zero-reset turret with spring-loaded adjustment knob, and the overall rifle scope is both fog proof and waterproof. This is due to the o-ring sealed housing that makes this possible, and many reviews have pointed out that this holds well over time. Of course this uses a BDC reticle, with a quick focus eyepiece measuring at 12.4 inches.
Nikon did a good job of only including necessary features, and although the Nikon ProStaff 3-9 x 40 Black Matte Riflescope won’t blow you away, it does what a riflescope is supposed to do better than many that are on this list. The bells and whistles are missing but that doesn’t hurt this rifle scope at all, and it is very competitively priced for what is given. It’s also very compact, and only weights 1 lbs. total. When compared to bigger scopes, that is a very good advantage. There is support for optional sunshade accessory for other weather conditions as well as support for a quick-focus eyepiece. This rifle scope does a good job of giving one of the best balances between field of view and length in the current price range.
There is a very good lifetime warranty offered with this product, much like other Nikon products. Durability will not be a factor with this rifle scope and it is expected to last for a very long time. It is also compatible with Nikon’s ballistic software, which once again, will be useful based solely on a user’s comprehension. The turret reset capability will often be used and is easily accessible, making sighting less of a hassle for all. The biggest rifle scope isn’t always the best, and this Nikon is in the tops on this list with ease.
3. Bushnell AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle AR-223 Riflescope
Going back to the more heavy duty rifle scopes, Bushnell offers this one with incredible low light performance using BDC-1 illuminated first focal plane technology. The low light and accuracy is good up to 500 yards out, guaranteeing flexibility. Power changes are managed quickly by the throw down PCL system, a feature exclusive to Bushnell. Target turret adjustment is an amazing .1 mil per click value, making this one of the best on the list. The first focal plane technology is further enhanced by the multi-coated optics, making brightness as rich as possible. Users won’t be disappointed with the craftsmanship of this rifle scope as it is made of high-durability aluminum alloy with an anodize-finish and sealed. Regular upkeep will make this last a very long time on many different setups.
The Bushnell AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle AR-223 Riflescope is one of the more expensive riflescopes on the list, despite being an incredible buy. The entire setup is optimized for 5.56 rounds, with adjustments varying. Dust, moisture and other elements are kept at bay through the use of a sealed o-ring, nitrogen purged, and further enhanced to prevent unauthorized entry. The downside to this marvel is the original setup of the scopes erector cap assembly may disable the possibility to use low or extra lol scope rings on AR optics riflescopes. There is caution there, but nothing that a little shopping and asking around can’t fix.
This is another winner on this packed list, as Bushnell does its best to prove that it is a big player. It is a little on the hefty side at 17.3 ounces, but is well worth it. Resetting the turrets to zero can be a huge hassle, as three allen screws need to be loosened beforehand. Even with these minor frustrations, this is one of the best riflescopes on the list.
4. UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact IE Scope
As one of the highest reviewed scopes in the industry, the UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact IE Scope is a good mix of weight and power. This is a 30-millimeter SWAT IE tactical range scope with mil-dot and a full 36-color EZ Tap reticle. The enclosed tube is built using the true strength platform, and is sealed and nitrogen filled to provide the best all weather support available. A distinct lenses from UTG has them multi emerald coated with a flip open lens cap. This is a practice by UTG that does good work of setting them apart from the competition. Recoil while firing won’t affect the illumination due to a special circuit in the housing design, and a zero locking and zero resetting target turret system makes the overall package shine.
The lifetime warranty included is a nice touch, but due to the great durability of this riflescope will probably never need to be called in. The price is incredible, and blurs the range between mid and top tier with features. The turret system is one of the best around and allows for the most precise windage and elevation adjustments available without being a chore on the user. Another innovative use of this scope is the parallax free view from 10 yards to infinity, something that won’t be found on other riflescopes on the market.
This is another winner for best rifle scope, and many users can’t go wrong with the myriad of features being offered. Also unique to this scope is the EZ-tap illumination enhancing technology that offers red/green dual color and has a 36 color multi-mode operation. Besides being wonderfully useful to those that are colorblind, it works with bad environments to help get a cleaner view. If looking for one of the best riflescopes, users can’t go wrong with the UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact IE Scope.
- Nikon P-223
- Brand: Nikon
- Length: 4 x 15.5 x 3.5 inches
- Scope and Mount: 3-9x40
- Made In: Japan
- Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone-223
- Brand: Bushnell
- Length: 12.2 / 310
- Scope and Mount: 3-9x 40mm
- Made In: Japan
- Nikon P-223
- Brand: Nikon
- Length: 14.2 x 3.2 x 3.2 inches
- Scope and Mount: 3x32
- Made In: Japan
- Vortex® StrikeFire Red Dot
- Brand: Vortex®
- Length: Not specified
- Scope and Mount: Not specified
- Made In: USA
5. Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate BDC 600
When looking for masterful trajectory of the .223 Rem /5.56 NATO round with a 55-grain polymer tip bullet, this Nikon excels and has a BDC 600 Reticle made personally for that setup. This is a moderately priced rifle scope with exclusive features including open circle aiming points and hash marks from 100-600 yards. The ¼ MOA zero reset turret clicks maintain and stay on target even with heavy shooting, and with a 100 yard Parallax setting shooters can go for hours without changing their position. This model is fogproof and waterproof with the help of a nitrogen filled o-ring seal. The Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate BDC 600 is made for heavy long-term usage without causing stress or fatigue to the shooters eyes.
Even though this Nikon excels in certain settings and with certain equipment, as specific as it is that is only a fraction of what it can do. The real marvel of this scope lies in the comfort it brings during long use, while the extra bells and whistles add more in term of value. With a broad 3-9×40 variable with the exclusive Nikon features, this is one of the best riflescopes for multiple AR platforms across the board. The best use of the equipment will come when paired with Nikons Spot On Ballistic match technology, a software that will require a computer with internet connectivity. As a minor downside, in ambient light conditions the target may appear blurry, but this is usually only indoors with artificial light.
This is a pretty good scope for the money, and even if it was a little higher. It’s important to note that out of the box it takes 1 inch mount rings, and if ever in doubt about the product, it comes with the lifetime warranty. Eye relief is one of the more overlooked features when choosing a riflescope, and the Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate BDC 600 does a good job of not only that but adding it without skimping on important features. The rifle doesn’t come with flip caps, but if that is the worst thing about this scope then chances are it is still doing pretty good. It’s one of the better scopes on this list for users looking for comfort in combination with features.
6. Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone-223 BDC Reticle Riflescope
As one of the most well reviewed and well known scopes on the list, the Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone-223 BDC Reticle Riflescope is a good example of build quality and price. The 223 BDC Ballistic reticle is best used with 55-62 grain 223 REM/5.556 loads up to 500 yards. The fast focus eyepiece works well with the side focus parallax knob, which is perfectly positioned and does not get in the way when using. Target turrets are about ¼ MOA click value, and with the multi-coated optics there is little chance of missing the target. The build quality is incredible with this Bushnell, and the materials themselves of aluminum alloy with an anodize-finish is some of the best on the list. This scope is very well protected from bad conditions and should last the user a long time.
Bushnell is old-school, and as such there is no online technology to benefit from like with the Nikon’s. This will either be a big plus or minus for the user, depending on their preferences. The scope itself is good in multiple setups and was built from the ground up on information gained from previous scopes. The glass is also one of the best, if not the best on the list, and provides wonderful support for mid-long range accuracy. The light transmission is at its best with the Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone-223 BDC Reticle Riflescope, and with proper care will continue to be worth the purchase. At only 1.8 pounds, this is a good balance of features and stability.
The scope at full length is 12 inches long, and on any setup looks professional and well made. This has the quality of a much more expensive scope, and can easily hold its own feature for feature when compared. The turret system could be better, as the feedback isn’t as solid in this model like others, but it is still a minor complaint. Overall this is a solid purchase and one of the best rifle scopes on the list, with a lot to offer in its current price range.
7. Nikon P-223 3×32 Matte BDC Carbine
The Nikon P-223 3×32 Matte BDC Carbine is a very specific scope, and can be considered the little brother of the Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate BDC 600. Its reticle is specialized for the trajectory of the .223 REM /5.56 NATO round with 55 grain polymer bullets, much like the former. The BDC reticle is unique in that it offers a crosshair at 200 yards and hash marks at 400 and 600 yards. Even with the limited variable, the multicoated optical system is still one of the best and provides 98% light transmission and optimal brightness in varying conditions. The ¼ hand turn tactical style MOA clicks gives good feedback, and stays zeroed in even under heavy firing conditions.
Typical Nikon O-ring sealing guarantees a waterproof and fogproof experience for the user under the worst conditions. There is also great care given to the user for eye relief, as the way the scope was manufactured allows for hours of use with comfort. This is a compact optic under the P-223 series, and as such, is very specific in how it is used. It’s not considered to be a do it all scope like many of the others on this list, and users who purchase it may have a different experience if that’s what they were going for. For the range it shoots for, it gets the job done, and is just under 4 pounds.
This is not a bad scope at all, in fact the Nikon P-223 3×32 Matte BDC Carbine is a good scope in the P-223 series. The problem being that it isn’t for everyone, but for those that buy this scope, it fits the bill perfect. As a premium use add on it’s a wonderful addition to any user’s collection, but as the best riflescope, it lags far behind the rest.
8. Vortex® StrikeFire Red Dot Rifle Scope
There are very few non-variable riflescopes that can hold their own on the best rifle scope list, but the Vortex® StrikeFire Red Dot Rifle Scope does a pretty admirable job. Users can switch between the red or green light colors, and it has a dot intensity rating up to 4 MOA for multiple conditions. This is also one of the best scopes on the list for eye relief, although that possibly comes at the loss of extra features found in other riflescopes. Although not variable, it has an optical 2x doubler that helps with clarity in certain situations, which although limited, is good enough to be used often. Harsh weather conditions are not match for the build of this scope, and it is rated as waterproof and fogproof.
This riflescope was built for fast shooting in less than ideal conditions, and delivers even more than expected. It touts unlimited field of view and unlimited eye relief, and its small size is also shockproof and ideal for heavy use. To get an idea of how compact this is, it only weighs 7.2 ounces, making it one of the lightest riflescopes on the list. Compatibility is high with night vision optics, and the battery life is a long 2000 hours with automatic shut off after 2 hours. This will last a long time for even the heaviest of users, and the battery is easy enough to find in most stores.
There are two models of this particular scope, and the one labeled SFRD-AR15 includes a mounting ring that will co-witness with AR15 sights. Depending on which route the user decides to go in, that is an important detail to not miss. Because of the lack of variable it is hard to recommend this as the best scope on the list. It still is a good buy, and will become a workhorse for any who choose to purchase it.
- Nikon P-RIMFIRE BDC 150
- Brand: Nikon
- Length: Not specified
- Scope and Mount: 2-7x32
- Made In: Japan
- UTG Compact CQB Bug Buster
- Brand: UTG
- Length: 9.8 x 3.4 x 3.9 inches
- Scope and Mount: 3-9x32
- Made In: Not specified
- FSI Sniper
- Brand: FSI
- Length: 26.2 Length
- Scope and Mount: 6-24x50mm
- Made In: UK
- AIM Tactical illuminated Reticle Rifle
- Brand: m1surplus
- Length: 8.75"
- Scope and Mount: 2.5-10x40
- Made In: USA
9. Nikon P-RIMFIRE BDC 150 Rifle
The Nikon P-RIMFIRE BDC 150 Rifle is a 2-7×32 riflescope with enough of the essential features at a low price to put it high on any list. Using the BDC 150 reticle, through 50 to 150 yards it offers non-traditional but comfortable circle aiming points. The lens is made of Nikon Eco-Glass, and multicoated with anti-reflective compounds. The unit has a nice feel to it, and made it a strong point not to include lead or arsenic in the making of this scope. MOA adjustments are done at ¼ and are extremely precise, offering 50 yard target-style hand adjustments.
It’s far from hefty, and is about in the middling range at 1.1 pounds total. This is an optimized version of Nikon’s original optic lineup, and was built from the ground up for sighting speed and maximum accuracy. When comparing this scope to others in the same range, it’s safe to say in terms of pick up and use, the Nikon P-RIMFIRE BDC 150 Rifle beats them soundly. This works well with Nikons Spot on technology, and is a perfect marriage of performance and innovation.
There aren’t many riflescopes out there in this range that can promise the accuracy and speed that this Nikon scope has. It holds zero well, and is easy to adjust in any conditions. There are some missing premium features, but for the current price, they won’t be missed at all. The weight and size will please many, and this is easily one of the best on the list.
10. UTG 3-9×32 Compact CQB Bug Buster AO RGB Scope
As one of the lowest price scopes on the market, usually that means there are missing features. The UTG 3-9×32 Compact CQB Bug Buster AO RGB Scope is far from that, and may even be the best on this list. The entire scope is sealed and nitrogen filled, for the perfect trifecta of protection against fog, rain, and shock. The tube houses an emerald coated lens that does a perfect job of grabbing the most light in different situations. The ¼ MOA click are easy to feel out and the target turrets are zero lockable and resettable providing an easy set up and comfort levels. For those that are interested in the feature, there is a Mil-dot reticle for performance and maximum speed.
As many features that come with this wonderfully priced riflescope, there is the downside of the learning curve. Mounting and calibration may be a bit more complex for the individual than others, and comes with an instruction video on the product page. Resistance is also higher in the control knobs than on other scopes, in order to prevent accidental tampering. This is also a branded parallax free view from 3 yards to infinity riflescope, that through repeated tests, holds up to that feature well.
This is clearly a top three scope on the list, not just because of the price, but features as well. There are few riflescopes that demand the type of the respect that the UTG 3-9×32 Compact CQB Bug Buster AO RGB Scope brings to the table, and even with the complex learning curve it is well worth the purchase for any buyer. With the current price two of these can be purchased without breaking the bank, and that alone should drive sales up.
11. FSI Sniper 6-24x50mm Scope W front AO adjustment
This is the second non-variable scope on the list, and it does a good job of hitting the basics without getting too overcomplicated with features of what it lacks. The optics are multi-coated, and the body is a high grade of 6061 T6 aircraft, rugged and highly durable. It also manages to have the best shock resistance on any riflescope on the list, mainly due to its ball bearing windage and elevation adjustments. This is a very well made scope, barebones, but strong from top to bottom. Front AO adjustment has a Mil-dot reticle with red, blue, and green illumination. The whole set includes an extended sunshade and heavy duty ring mount.
It manages 15 to infinity with a 1” parallax setting, which is admirable to say the least. This is a big heavy scope, and comes in at 2 ½ pounds full, so will definitely take some getting used to. The battery is an easy to find and energy efficient CR2032 3V. The warranty is interesting, and limited, but the scope itself comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Going through the fine print gives a better idea of what to expect if problems arise.
This is a barebones, professional grade sniper scope meant for the serious user. There are no frills attached, and it does what it is meant to do very well and without any fuss. It’s a bit blade, but also a good scope to have in the arsenal. The shaky warranty may ward off some, but this is still one of the best scopes to get your hands on.
12. AIM 2.5-10×40 Tactical illuminated Reticle Rifle Scope + Backup Aiming
This is an interesting offering from AIM sports, which mostly tries to unseat Nikon by offering several premium features in a low priced set. With a 2.5x-10x variable zoom, it is admittedly one of the more powerful scopes on the list. It’s made from aluminum, and the quality long term can easily be affected by this. Although the build quality is exceptional, with the materials at hand it lacks the durability of more exceptional rifle scopes on the list. The objective lens diameter is 40mm and includes a reticle illuminator with dual red or green that is activated by the side turret.
Overall length is 8.75 inches, and the entire scope comes in at a whopping 3.8 pounds, making it one of the heavier ones on the list. Reticle aiming is helped with a center cross hair with thick side post, which may irritate some vets depending on their preference. The MOA is ¼ click per 100 yards, and reticle illumination also comes with various brightness settings.
There are other features that can be mentioned about this scope, but the fact remains is that the foundation is so cheaply made that it wouldn’t register as a long term option anyway. Considering the possible best scope on this list is the same price, the AIM 2.5-10×40 Tactical illuminated Reticle Rifle Scope + Backup Aiming comes off as a bit disappointing and lacking in all areas. It’s below average for what can be considered a quality rifle scope, and not recommended.
Rifle Scope Buying Guide
The distance between the ocular-lens bell and the eye, and should always be at least 3 inches. This is due to the kickback and shock of the rifle when shooting, and in heavy sessions, can get so bad it may cause head injury. That’s why shock absorption is mentioned so much in product descriptions, and why a scope with little to no features with great shock absorption can still play with the big boys. There are some defining characteristics in each scope and gun combo that will make every setup different, but the first most part, it’s accurate.
For sake of clarity a fogproof and waterproof construction is preferable, and as most riflescope tubes are nitrogen sealed through o-ring housing, there are very few that don’t offer this feature. This also helps with keeping everything accurate, as adjustments don’t need to be made on the fly due to the conditions at hand. Optimal placement of the knobs are also important, and with the weatherproof construction helps with comfort and adjustments when speed is necessary. The rule is the less adjustments that have to be made after the original, the better.
There are several types, with the more popular being the mil-dot reticle. Now there is no bad or good about reticles, it is user preference. They are simply there to guide the user to make a more accurate shot, without the extra calculations. There are some innovative reticles by newer companies that actually do more harm than good, but once again, it will come down to user preference when choosing a rifle scope that offers exactly what they want from top to bottom.
If every in doubt about what to look for with a rifle scope, lens, lens, and lens again. Features will always come second to the lens, and although it is not normally the case, if a company makes a riflescope with a bad lens, then it is 100% useless for short or long term use. The worst riflescope on this list has a good lens, as that should be the first and primary determining factor when making a decision. Although Nikon is still ruling the industry, UTG is making it a very competitive battle. There are few wrong choices on this list, and it’s quite easy to choose the best rifle scope based on price, accuracy and features.