The AR-15 is one of the most popular rifles in America. It’s accurate, reliable, and fun to shoot. The only thing that isn’t fun about it is the price tag. But with so many manufacturers on the market today, there are plenty of options for finding an affordable scope or optic.
Therefore, finding the best AR-15 scope for your needs is important, which can be difficult. It’s not like there is a telescope aisle at Walmart with all the different scopes lined up on shelves. I hope this post helps you make an informed decision about what type of scope you want based on your shooting situation and budget.
- Best AR-15 Optic Buying Guide
- Best Scopes for AR-15 – Products Updated 2022
- The Best Red Dot Sights For AR-15
- Final Thoughts
Best AR-15 Optic Buying Guide
Do you want to get good value for your money? Then, read on.
A lot of people don’t know when it’s time to upgrade their AR-15. They can be happy with the same rifle for years and not need to add anything new, but eventually, they’ll want a scope or optics. The market is full of options, so we’re going to help you make an informed purchase decision regarding the best AR-15 scopes and optics in 2021!
Guide to Choose AR-15 Scope
The AR-15 is similar to the M16. It is lightweight, very customizable, low in recoil, and powerful. The U.S. Army adopted the M16 in its original form. As a result, it excelled in close-quarter jungles like Vietnam.
The AR 15 can hit 150 yards without the need for a sight scope. Combine that with a scope, and you can hit targets as far as 600 yards. This is amazing, though you won’t be shooting very far away. But, if you are, then you will choose an AR-10 scope instead.
These ranges are calculated using .223 ammo (or 5.56 NATO):
- Close Range: Less than 150 yards
- Medium Range: About 150 – 400 yards
- Long Range: More than 400 yards
Choose your desired range, and you are good to go.
This is where amateurs make mistakes. They either purchase too much magnification or too little. Below are some reasons why some make a mistake regarding magnification.
- For Close Range (Within 150 Yards): Magnification of 1 to 4X power is required.
- For Medium Range (Within 150 – 400 Yards): Magnification of 5X – 9X power.
- For LongRange (400+ Yards): Magnification of 9X or more.
Scopes vs. AR-15 Red Dot Sights
The most important difference between a scope and a red dot is the speed of target acquisition. Scopes can achieve short and long range targets without any problems. But it comes with a price which is the acquisition of targets at slower speeds.
A red dot is an excellent choice for the quick acquisition of short-range targets (100 yards). They are faster, easier, have unlimited eye relief, and weigh 1/4 of the weight of a scope. If you can shoot longer distances (>100 meters), I recommend using a magnified scope with your AR-15. All that being said, read on as I review the best AR-15 scope and optics. Speaking red dot sight, I highly recommend you to read my handgun red dot guide.
Let’s get started!
Best Scopes for AR-15 – Products Updated 2022
1. Nikon P-223 3-9×40: Best Choice For Hunting
The Nikon P-223 scope is excellent for hunting deer, hog, and varmint control users. Below are some features that stand it out as the ideal choice for hunting:
The Nikon P-223 has a clear and crisp reticle. Its clarity is similar to other high-end scopes. However, with a multi-coated lens and Nikon glass, it has an incredible 98% light transmission. As a result, this scope will let you see everything, even in low light conditions.
It was specifically designed for the AR 15’s most special ammo, the. 223 Rem. This means it measures the trajectory of the .223 Rem, providing you with precise bullet drop estimates.
It has a thick distance of 3.6 inches for eye relief. This is the ideal amount to use for AR 15. Also, the eye relief remains constant regardless of the magnification.
The Nikon P-223 scope is waterproof, fog-proof, rugged, and built to last. Also, it is lightweight at only 1.1 lbs which allows you to move on the hunting trail freely. Unfortunately, you typically pay the price for these unique features when you have them.
The turrets are A-grade as it comes with tactical turrets which were designed for hunting. This is because you don’t have to cap your turrets each time you adjust.
Adjust the turret to your liking, and you are good to go. No Allen wrench (or nickels) are needed. This is a huge time saver on the trail!
It’s also super easy to reduce the scope. These turrets are of high quality and can be adjusted with precision.
Hunting is possible with the 3-9X magnification. With the 3X magnification, you can reach closer distances. It was easy to hit targets as far away as 100 yards.
For longer distances, you can increase the magnification to 9X and hit targets as far as 600 yards away. Despite high magnification, it gives a clear image and is free of parallax.
The app takes all the guesswork out of shooting and lets you have fun bringing home the meat.
Mounting & Rings
It is sturdy, affordable, and does the job. To protect your scope’s lenses from damage, you might consider purchasing Butler Creek flip-up lens covers. Eyepiece size: 19 x 43.9 mm (Objective: 31).
The Nikon P-223 is an excellent option if you plan to hunt with your AR-15. In the unlikely event of an incident, Nikon offers a lifetime warranty.
2. UTG 3-12×44 30MM: Best Budget AR-15 Scope
The UTG3-12×44 AR-15 scope fits the bill as one of the best budget AR scopes. Below are some features of the UTG 3-12×44 scope.
The scope’s glass has a multi-coated coating, which allows for better light transmission. In addition, it features a Mildot reticle with a second focal plane Mildot. This is how it looks like:
What are Mildots? Mildots are a great tool for beginners, as they are simple to use and help improve your accuracy.
What is the reason for this? Mildots use tiny dots to estimate distance and holdover. With the Mildot feature, you can take accurate long range shots.
Also, you don’t even need a battery for the reticle to work. Because it is etched into the glass,
If you require illumination, they have comprehensive illumination systems that allow you to choose from more colors (an advantage for low-light conditions).
This scope is perfect for personalization lovers. Even better, the scope can remember your previous illumination settings with just a click. This makes it easy to acquire a target quickly. Also, with a single click, you can get customized reticle illumination.
The UTG 3-12×44 has an impressive 3.4-inch eye relief. It’s not ideal, but it’s still acceptable for AR 15 use without feeling too uncomfortable.
The UTG 3-12×44 scope is extremely durable and will hold zero even after dropping. Also, it is shock-proof, rainproof, and fog proof. However, it is not lightweight like some other scopes mentioned above.
It features tactical turrets that eliminate the need to uncap your turret’s step and allow you to get straight into the adjustment step. This could be a game-changer and give you better results while hunting. Also, the UTG 3-12×44 scope has an impressive zeroing ability.
Magnification is clear and almost free of parallax, even at 12X magnification. Although, there was some fuzziness with the highest magnification.
Mounting & Rings
This is a great pocket-saver as UTG includes medium profile rings with thumb-screw Picatinny brackets. In addition, these rings are well made.
This scope is the best-selling scope package.
It comes with everything you need, including:
- Flip Open Lens Cap
- Medium Profile Rings
- A solid scope
This scope is well-priced for the quality you get. You also get a lifetime warranty. The UTG 3-12×44 is the best option if you are looking for AR 15 budget scope.
3. Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6×24
Vortex Strike Eagle 1 – 24 is an AR-15 scope that’s exceptionally versatile. It is an ideal choice for 3Gunning, hunting, and shooting target. Below are some of its features:
The glass has an incredibly clear appearance due to its high-quality glass. Also, it features a multicoated lens to increase light transmission. The result is impressive as it has a clear, sharp glass that offers a large field of vision, making it worth 2 to 4 times the cost.
Also, Vortex understood that a AR 15 reticle is essential for excellent scopes. So, Vortex created the most innovative second focal-plane reticle (BDC3). The reticle doubles as both a red dot (BDC) and a bullet-drop compensator (REDD). The reticle also features 11 brightness settings illumination, which allows you to see it brightly in all lighting conditions (even low light).
You will receive a 3.5″ eye relief with this scope. That’s the perfect amount of relief you can get for AR 15.
The Vortex scope is built as a ‘Fury tank,’ completely waterproof, fog proof, and shock-resistant so that you can use it in almost any climate or terrain.
It features exceptionally reliable Turrets. Nearly all best rifle scopes (like the vortex scope) include tactical turrets. Why? Tactical turrets allow hunters to make quick adjustments while on the move.
The scope’s 1-6X magnification makes it almost perfect and one of the best 1-6X scope available. With the Vortex scope, you can quickly and easily hit short-range targets with the 1X magnification, while the 6X magnifies to reach targets up to 550+ yards. In addition, the scope is clear and free from parallax, regardless of magnification (even maximum).
Mounting & Rings
American Defense AD-RECON 30 STD Riflescope Optic Mount
It is compatible with the American Defense AD RECON STD Mount as it is easy to assemble and zero. In all, the Vortex Strike Eagle 1 – 6×24 is a great product, and it comes highly recommended. Purchase Vortex scope and get excellent value for your money.
4. Vortex Spifire 3x: Best Scope For Short to Medium Range
The Spitfire 3X Prism is a scope that is designed for short to medium range. Below are some features to look out for in the Vortex Spitfire scope.
Clear, bright, and with a large field of view, fully multi-coated glass. It is incredible to see the EBR-556B Reticle. This is a simple BDC reticle designed for the AR 15’s most beloved cartridge. It measures holdover and ranges right in the reticle for up to 500 meters.
It is claimed to work with the .223, 300 blackout cartridge, and many other models. The reticle is carved into the glass and gives you 24/7 visibility regardless of the battery condition. It even works for astigmatism.
It is superior to red dots, which require a battery to function. You can switch between a green and a red reticle. You can easily change the brightness of your display by flipping a switch. You can also control the brightness using the five brightness settings knob.
This scope has an eye relief of 2.8″, which is poor and can make it difficult for AR platforms. However, it can be fixed by either of these two solutions.
- Take out the flip-ups and place the scope a little further back on the rail.
- A collapsible AR 15 stock is available.
Many people have had to take out their rear MBUS sight. It all depends on the rifle you have and how it was built.
The eye box is also relatively flexible. The field of vision is good, but not the best.
The Spitfire 3X has been ruggedly built. It is shock-proof, waterproof, and fog proof without the unpleasant added weight. The Spitfire Prism is only 15.4 ounces in weight. It is also compact at only 5.5 inches long, half the size of a standard scope.
The 1/2 MOA Turrets are easy to set up and are knurled. You can bring a coin or use the integrated platform and then adjust the cap.
What if the caps are lost? The steel tethering feature makes this no problem. When adjusted, the turrets produce a clear tactile click sound. It is easy to zero in with just eight rounds at 100 yards and perfectly accurate after zeroing.
It has a 3X fixed magnification scope. It can work anywhere from 15 yards to 500 feet without any issues (parallax adjustment included). It magnifies well, so it is great for older eyes. The best part is that the red dot can be used alongside the Spitfire.
Mounting & Rings
Mounts are included free of charge. It is a base clamp that can be mounted on a Picatinny-rail. The mount riser is removable and comes with the unit. However, it doesn’t have a quick detachable mount. If this is a feature you need, consider purchasing another scope.
The Spitfire combines the functionality of a fixed power scope and a red dot in one package, without the high price.
It’s an affordable Trijicon ACOG option with a lifetime warranty. It’s also one of the most compact scopes available for AR 15.
5. Steiner T5XI 3-15×50 -Best Scope For Long Range
The Steiner T5Xi3-15×50 long range scope is preferred by military personnel, hunters, competitive shooters, police, and other shooting enthusiasts. Read its amazing features below to make an informed decision.
This Steiner T5Xi has a First Focal plane Special Competition Reticle (SCR), with an MOA that varies with magnification. The SCR reticle is specifically designed to provide long range precision, and it remains sharp even at high magnifications.
The Steiner T5Xi also has an illuminated reticle. Therefore, it is ideal for low-light conditions and dark targets.
The Steiner T5Xi offers 3.5’’-4.3’’ of long-lasting eye relief. The scope has a vast field of view. The scope is so large that it makes it comfortable to use.
The Steiner T5Xi measures 13 inches in length and weighs 29 ounces.
Although the scope is a little heavier than the rest, it’s still a great product.
The Steiner T5Xi’s aircraft-grade aluminum, O-ring sealed construction, and gas-purged construction makes it as tough as any ACOG. The scope can be submerged up to 33 feet and is shock-proof, fog-proof, waterproof.
The Steiner’s windage and tactile elevation turrets and their solid reliability are impressive. The clicks sound crisp and clear.
The 34mm tube allows for greater adjustments. For example, it can adjust from elevation to windage and up to 15 miles for windage. In addition, the elevation turret of the scope has a zero-stop function, which allows you to return to zero quickly.
The good news about the zero stop is that it doesn’t stop at zero. Instead, it stops at.3 miles beyond it. So you can dial it up if you spin fast.
Within five rounds, the scope was zeroed without any problems. Likewise, the Steiner held zero with no problems, despite the heavy recoiling and accidental drops. The accuracy of tracking is also very reliable even after firing 200 rounds.
The Steiner T5Xi3-15×50 has a 3-9x adjustable magnification and a 50mm objective. This makes it ideal for long range shooting.
Also, the adjustable diopter is equipped with a lock. Most diopters can be backed out to improve your vision, while others “float” with you. However, when mounting your rifle, it can be accidentally bumped or dislocated. This is why the second ring protects you.
It was easier to find moving targets with a larger diameter. The Steiner has a low-profile side parallax adjustment that extends from 25 yards up to infinity.
Mounting & Rings
Steiner T5Xi3 rings are ideal for mounting. In addition, the Steiner T5Xi features an Allen wrench, CR2450 batteries, a throw lever, tenebraex lenses covers, and a Sunshade.
The Steiner T5Xi 3-15×50 is the best long range scope for AR-15.
This optic has clear glass, an illuminated reticle in FFP, plenty of eye relief, magnification, and a rugged body. The scope comes with a Lifetime Warranty. If the scope breaks or becomes defective, you can have it repaired or replaced at no cost.
The Best Red Dot Sights For AR-15
You need the best red dots sight if you aim to shoot targets less than 100 yards. This is because they are the best AR-15 short-range optics. They can acquire targets at close range in seconds, which is faster than scopes.
Which red dot is best for AR-15? Below are some of the recommended AR 15 red dots.
6. Vortex Sparc AR
The Vortex SPARC AR has a 2 MOA bright red dot in daylight that can be seen from the outside. Therefore, it is easy to spot and paints your target, regardless of background or lighting conditions.
Its fully multi-coated, high-quality lenses provide a wide field of vision. The scope is easy to use and offers unlimited eye relief. The controls are easily accessible from the shooting position and can be accessed from the rear. Below are features that stand the Vortex SPARC out.
Red Dot Reticle
It does not have the “green glass tint” that other reflex sights have.
This is because of the multi-coated lens setup. This improves light transmission and gives a clear view of the target.
The size of the red dot is fairly standard. It is called ‘2 MOA,’ but it will still be visible when you take a picture.
The Sparc AR is durable and waterproof as it can work flawlessly after being submerged for a whole day in freezing water.
However, in exchange for its durability, it has a weight of 7.5 ounces which makes the Sparc AR heavier and bulkier than other AR red dots.
It can stay up to 5,000 hours of continuous operation at the lowest setting. The highest setting, which is seldom used, will last you about 300 hours or about two weeks.
With the 12-hour auto shut-off, you’ll have worry-free battery power for months.
They are extremely reliable. Just remove the cap and flip it around and adjust:
It can be adjusted in increments of 1 MOA. It is slightly larger than the 1/2 MOA standard in other red dots, but it works well for the AR platform.
What about changing the brightness? It’s easy. To increase brightness, click on the button left and the right button for decreasing brightness.
There is a variety of brightness settings that can be used in low light conditions. Also, it remembers your last brightness setting, which allows for fast operation.
A riser is also included in the package. You can use one of these co-witness iron sights as a riser:
- Absolute co-witness
- Lower 1/3 co-witness
This will save you some money. They even include ‘built-in’ lens caps that are good. You can save quite a bit on accessories by buying them together.
Vortex added a premium feature for Night vision. So, if you hunt varmints at night using night-vision goggles, you can use the Sparc AR without any problems.
In all, the Vortex Sparc AR is a great option if you are looking for a red dot of military-spec quality at a low price.
Sparc AR is a budget red dot sight that costs less than $200. Vortex also backs it with a lifetime VIP warranty. In addition, they’ll repair it for you if the red dot ever fails.
7. Bushnell Trophy TRS-25
You don’t have to spend $100+ for a high-quality red dot when you can get quality at half the price. The Bushnell is the most affordable AR 15 red dot sight. Mounts easily on most Picatinny bars and is compatible with pistols, shotguns, and rifles.
Waterproof construction: O-ring sealed optics keep their insides dry even after being submerged in water—shock-proof construction – built to withstand bumps and bangs as well as drops in the harsh field. It also features an 11-illumination brightness setting (For all lighting conditions).
The rail mount can be used for outside-of-the-box action. Combine it with a UTG 3X Magnifier, a high mount, and you have a solid CQB build.
8. Aimpoint Pro Reflex Sight
Aimpoint Pro is this list’s only combat-proven red dots. Law enforcement agencies and militaries continue to rely on Aimpoint around the world because of its bomb-proof durability. If this is the quality you are looking for, then the Aimpoint Pro is the right choice.
The AR-15 is an incredibly versatile rifle that can be used in a wide variety of settings. It’s important to outfit your rifle with the right optics and scope so that you can take full advantage of this versatility.
We hope our reviews have given you enough information about what to look for when searching for the perfect optic or scope for your AR-15. It was compiled by experts who use these products every day and know what they’re talking about. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!
With more than 50 years experience in the field and the testing lab, author L.P. Brezny is one of today’s most recognized shotgun experts and authors. He is a contributor to dozens of firearms publications, such as Wildfowl, Shotgun Sports, and Varmint Hunters, and he is a regular columnist in the Gun Digest annual as well as AmmoLand News.