Best AR-15 Scopes of 2020 – Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

The AR-15 is one of the most customizable rifles out there. It has the capability of filling complex hunting roles and excelling in tactical competitions. However, your experience with the AR-15 will remain ordinary unless you get the required optics and attachments to indulge in the perfect shooting.

The article deals with everything related to the AR-15 and its related scopes. You will find the best scopes to choose from. An overview of their in-depth features, pros, and cons are also mentioned for your convenience.

Lastly, for people who are unsure of which scope to buy, this article will clear all their confusion.

Comparison of the Best AR-15 Scopes

PRODUCTDETAILS
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Nikon P-223 3-9x40

  • Compact rifle scope that offers quick and loose quarter shootings
  • Optical system is multicoated and allows light transmission up to 98%
  • Polymer waterproof material also makes it the best overall
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Vortex Optics Viper PA

  • Changing the size of the Mil MOA reticle does not change the magnification
  • Fully multi-coated optics and force spring systems make it the runner-up
  • SFP reticle maintains the exact appearance at all times
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Bushnell Red Dot Sight

  • Built with nitrogen purged construction material, making it fog-proof
  • Easy adjustment dial adjusts your red dot brightness very easily
  • Bushnell is best for the money because of its relatively low price
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UTG 3-9X32 1" BugBuster Scope

  • An inch-long tube comes with emerald coating for max light transmission
  • Mil-dot reticle ensures optimal shooting and aiming performance
  • Best scope for AR-15 under $100
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Barska 1-4x28 IR Hunting Scope

  • Comes with versatile range for zoom and is perfect for mid-range shootings
  • Mil-dot reticle increases the brightness level of the view
  • Multi optics are fully coated thus making it the best hunting scope for AR-15
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Leupold VX-1 3-9x40mm

  • Has a 3:1 ratio erector system that is built for higher versatility in any situation
  • Extreme clarity is achieved by the multi-coat 4 lens systems
  • Best Leupold Scope for AR-15
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Vortex Optics Crossfire II 1-4x24

  • The V Plex format of the electronics help to illuminate the center dot for efficient shooting
  • Great sight picture is ensured by the smooth eye relief and an eye forgiving box
  • Best scope for AR-15 with fixed front sight
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Are All AR-15 Scopes the Same?

As with most products, AR-15 scopes also come with a plethora of variations. Each category of optics comes with specific qualities that make them unique. There are two main variations with these scopes, magnified and red dot optics. Here is a brief overview of each:

Magnified Optic

As the name suggests, a magnified optic allows you to have a magnified version or perspective of your target.

Red Dot Optics

This encompasses the non-magnified options. Red dot optics use a red dot reticle. There are also several optics in these categories that are not necessarily red in color; however, we put them under the same category because they possess similar qualities.

Characteristics of Our Favorite Scopes

There are so many scopes to choose from, it is only natural there will be certain features that either break or make the product. Here are our favorite characteristics a good scope definitely must have.

Higher Magnification

Magnification, in simple words, is the degree the scope can magnify an image within its field of view. Higher magnification is a desired feature; however, exceeding magnification above a certain limit often reduces the amount of light that can enter. Hunters and professional shooters often require more magnification because it allows them to indulge in long-range shooting.

Reticle

Getting the appropriate reticle for your shooting is very important. You might think that a more complex reticle will have higher functionality, but that is not always true. Complex reticles often end up affecting the field of view. As a rule of thumb, you should get the simplest reticle that still meets your needs.

Focal Length

The focal length is the distance between the lens and its point of focus when viewed through your scope. There are two main types of focal planes. In the first, the image remains the same size regardless of magnification. In the second focal plane, the image changes size, bringing it closer to the eye as you increase magnification. For shooters, first focal plane scopes are better as they provide variable magnifications. Second focal planes are better for people who spend most of their time shooting at higher magnifications or who don’t need much variable power in their scopes.

More Eye Relief

Eye relief is very important when it comes to deciding which scope to get. The eye relief basically refers to the distance of your ocular lens from the scope. Longer eye relief would mean less fatigue and less eye strain. Preferably, rifles should come with more eye relief. Make sure to buy a scope with adjustable eye distances, as they are extremely useful for shooters who use adjustable stocks.

Quick Take | Best AR-15 Scopes

Here is a quick look at our top three picks for best AR-15 Scopes:

Review of the Best AR-15 Scopes

AR-15 scopes are not cheap, but they are very essential to enjoy shooting. With so many different models available in the market, it can be hard to decide which one to buy. The best way to find the right product is to compare your criteria with the main features of each product mentioned below.

Best Overall:
Nikon P-223 3-9x40

Nikon P-223 3-9x40 Mate BDC 600

Pros

  • Ensures precise and superior accuracy for long-range shooting
  • Allows simplified field adjustments through its zero-reset feature
  • Highly compatible with Nikon Spot-on Ballistic Match technology
  • Comes with BDC 600 reticle that offers hash marks up to 600 yards
  • Allows generous and consistent eye relief, even with the heaviest shooting

Cons

  • Out of focus view indoors or in artificial lights.
  • View may appear slightly blurry in low or ambient light conditions

What Recent Buyers Report

There is a reason recent buyers have rated this product highly. Consumers have particularly liked their build. They are constructed with a polymer material that is imported and comes with waterproof properties. Not just that, but the cost-effectiveness, ease of use, and the higher efficiency, all make these scopes the best overall for buyers.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Nikon P-223 has many qualities, but the one feature that stands out to us is its zero-reset features. The special feature works by adjusting the field view and offering you more simplified viewing. This not only adds to your convenience but also makes long-range shooting much easier. Additionally, the product comes with very consistent eye relief quality that further adds to its appeal.

Who Will Use This Most  

The Nikon P-223 is built specifically for AR-style rifles. It offers precise long-range shooting, as well. This means it can be easily used by professional shooters. However, it is also used for hunting extravaganzas. Its amazing accuracy is supported by the eye relief feature that is perfect for standing up to heavy recoil.

Bottom Line  

You don’t want to buy an expensive scope only to regret your decision later. This unit is extremely efficient in its purpose and comes with some amazing features. Its unique zero-reset feature, along with high water resistance, is sure to make it the best overall in the market right now. Buy this if you want to indulge in the best shooting experience.

Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20x50 PA SFP Riflescope Mil-Dot MOA

Pros

  • Produces sharp images that are clear and crisp
  • Effective in estimating range, bullet holdover, and windage
  • MAG-Bar allows easy and rapid changes in magnification
  • Very good for hunters who plan on long-distance shooting
  • Glass resolution and the color fidelity are enhanced by the extra-low dispersion

Cons

  • Reticle sub-tensions are only accurate at one particular magnification
  • Estimating range, the holdover is sometimes affected by inaccurate magnification

What Recent Buyers Report  

Recent buyers are all praise for the internal features of this Vortex Viper. The product contains a precision-force spring system that uses premium components in the special erector system. This ensures ease of adjustment and maximum repeatability. Not just that, but recent buyers also like the smooth magnification, even in the harshest conditions.

Why It Stands Out To Us

So many scopes are disliked because of their poor construction, but that is not an issue with the Vortex. The single-piece tube of the Vortex maximizes alignment and ensures improved accuracy. This provides better visual performance and also ensures higher resistance to water and increases strength. Moreover, aircraft-grade aluminum gives higher rigidity and strength to the material.

Who Will Use This Most  

The Vortex Viper is not very complex in its design. Its advanced construction and brilliant reticle make it an excellent option for people fond of shooting. This means both professionals and nonprofessionals can use it. But that does not mean its usage does not require some level of training and practice. As with most products, you will get the hang of the Vortex Viper with ample practice.

Bottom Line  

The Vortex Viper is an excellent choice for people who want to high precision in their long-range shooting extravaganzas. It is not only extremely well-built, but it also gives higher color fidelity and increased magnification. Moreover, if you want a product that can withstand high impact and recoil, this is definitely the right choice for you.

Best for the Money:
Bushnell Red Dot Sight

Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Sight Riflescope, 1x25mm, Black

Pros

  • Has higher battery life for extended use
  • Provides consistent eye relief for easy use of both eyes
  • Comes with 11 brightness settings for higher variability
  • Allows tuning of your lighting according to your preference
  • Rubber scope cover and nitrogen-purged construction make it fog-proof and waterproof

Cons

  • Optics are not as good as some other products
  • You can experience parallax issues while shooting with this

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers have a lot of good things to say about the Bushnell scope. The best feature, according to buyers, is the cost-effectiveness of the product. Unlike most other options on the market, the Bushnell is not very expensive. Moreover, consumers also like that it is easy to mount and works with most rails, shotguns, pistols, and muzzleloaders.

Why it Stands Out to Us  

When it comes to these scopes, better durability and an advanced build are two features that stand out to us. The TRS-25 is a compact red dot sight that comes with a metal housing which provides higher durability. This allows the sight to take all kinds of beatings and still perform very efficiently in all kinds of conditions.

Who Will Use This Most

Unlike most scopes, this one surely promises versatility and most people say it delivers on that promise, as well. The red dot can be easily used for all kinds of activities. It has an advanced build that makes it efficient for professionals. However, its easy mounting and dismounting feature makes it a great option for people who simply want to shoot for fun.

Bottom Line  

The TRX-25 has all the great features of the best AR scope. It has a strong construction, an amazing reticle, and is highly waterproof. The cherry on top is its relatively lower price. So whether you decide to spend time doing vocational shooting or want to compete in shooting competitions, rest assured, the TRS 25 will get the work done by providing you with optimum performance.

Best Scope for AR-15 Under $100: 
UTG 3-9X32 1" BugBuster Scope

UTG 3-9X32 1' BugBuster Scope, AO, RGB Mil-dot, QD Rings

Pros

  • Both fog-proof and rainproof
  • Rings are easy and quick to detach and dismount
  • Adjustable objective ensures a three-yard distance till infinity
  • Made with the best materials that ensure high shock resistance
  • Comes with consistent and very accommodating eye relief feature

Cons

  • Windage adjustments are not very efficient
  • Reticle is slightly larger than other products

What Recent Buyers Report

According to most recent buyers, this is one of the best scopes for under $100. Its quality is amazing and its build is strong. Moreover, customers also like that it is completely sealed and comes nitrogen-filled. All these properties not only make the scope waterproof but also increase its resistance to shock.

Why it Stands Out to Us  

The best thing about this premium scope is its advanced technology. It comes with the TS platform that includes a spherical structure. This not only controls the interactions between the outer tubes and the scope, it also adds to your convenience. Moreover, we felt the product was extremely reliable and guaranteed precision. The technology has been fully tested and ensures the best results.

Who Will Use This Most

This scope is specially designed to allow higher precision and accuracy to all who use it. It also comes with an unparalleled and an impressive view free from parallax error. This ensures a wide-angle objective that allows a distance from three yards to infinity. All these qualities suggest it is made for people who want to indulge in long-range shooting, particularly hunters.

Bottom Line  

Most scopes are very expensive, and hence, people feel slightly reluctant to buy them, but that certainly is not the case with the amazing BugBuster Scope. It is extremely affordable and comes with some great features like strong construction and a precise reticle. All in all, if you want to indulge in long-distance shooting, the BugBuster Scope is definitely for you.

Best Scope for AR-15 Under $200: 
Nikon 6729 ProStaff 4-12 x 40

Nikon 6729 ProStaff 4-12 x 40 Black Matte Riflescope (BDC)

Pros

  • Allows normal sight images for all short-range shots
  • Nitrogen-filled and sealed to increase water resistance
  • Advanced reticle allows most hunters to hold "dead-on" at various ranges
  • Lenses are fully multi-coated which allows for a boost in light transmission
  • Has a quick, focused eyepiece that enhances the view and provides eye relief

Cons

  • Does not work well with 0.22 category
  • Need additional 1-inch ring diameters

What Recent Buyers Report

It is often very hard to convince buyers of the supreme quality of a product, but that hasn’t been a problem with this Nikon scope. Consumers love its optical system that is fully multi-coated. It not only boosts light transmission for a brighter view, but also presents a highly contrasting view, which is best for long-range shooting.

Why It Stands Out To Us

One of the reasons this particular model stands out is the quality you get at an affordable price tag. The overall construction is very durable. It offers improved water resistance. So, you won't have to worry about rainy weather. You get better visibility through the fully multi-coated lenses. And, of course, it's easy to get the hang of.

Who Would Use This Most?

The Nikon scope can be used by hunters and military men alike. It comes with a strong build, which ensures higher water resistance. Not just that, but the precise hand click adjustments also allow you to maintain the settings even when there is heavy recoil. So whether you are a professional or someone who wants to start their shooting extravaganza right now, be assured this Nikon Scope will not disappoint you.

Bottom Line

Cost often plays a big part in choosing a scope. The Nikon scope comes with some amazing features like nitrogen filling and a complete seal that make it stand out. Not just that, they are also affordable and are considered the best scope under $200.

Best Hunting Scope for AR-15: 
Barska 1-4x28 IR Hunting Scope

Barska 1-4x28 IR Hunting Scope

Pros

  • Comes with a solid shockproof and waterproof design
  • Adapts the various crosshairs to fit the light environment
  • Prevents all unintentional movement by maintaining the accuracy
  • Comes with enhanced reliability and a consistent eye relief feature
  • Comes with enhanced clarity, contrast, and color, thus ensuring uncompromising clarity

Cons

  • Reticle is not exactly 1x, as mentioned in the description
  • Vision might become blurry after 10-20 seconds of focused viewing

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers have praised the Barska scope for more than one reason, but what they like the most is the glare reduction feature of these optics. The product comes with an in-built angled sunshade that helps minimize glare on the lens and hence, presents a clearer view of the image. Not just that, it also reduces the glint and functions well in an enhanced sunny atmosphere.

Why it Stands Out to Us
 
This scope is considered to be the best hunting scope, a title that is truly justified. It comes with elevation turrets and external windage adjustment. It allows the user to adjust the impact point quickly and without having to remove the turret caps. You can also tighten the small collar around the turret to prevent any unwanted adjustments.

Who Will Use This Most

The Barska scope has a compact and low-profile design. It has a strong build and comes with an amazing reticle. It is specially designed for hunters. This is because the technology is best for precise and accurate long-range shooting. As hunters usually need amazing precision, this scope will work well for them.

Bottom Line

The bottom line on the Barska is simple; get it if you want to experience a truly unparalleled hunting experience. The design is smooth and comes with high water and shock resistance. Not just that, but it is highly efficient and offers amazing precision and accuracy. So for all hunters out there, make sure you buy the Barska Scope for your AR-15 as soon as possible.

Best Leupold Scope for AR-15:
​ Leupold VX-1 3-9x40mm

Leupold VX-1 3-9x40mm Compact Waterproof Fogproof Riflescope, Matte Black

Pros

  • Has higher repeatability and dependability
  • Presents extreme clarity from edge to edge in all situations
  • A bright sight is ensured even in the lowest light conditions
  • Has a lightweight and compact design that is easier to mount
  • Completely waterproof and fog-proof due to ultimate nitrogen sealing 

Cons

  • No rubber on the eyepiece
  • No inscription on the adjusting caps

What Recent Buyers Report

If there is one thing that has convinced recent buyers to buy this Leupold scope, it is its amazing and strong build and design. It comes with high water resistance and is fog-proof. Moreover, the materials have higher durability and strength. This means they can be relied upon for longer use, even in the most extreme conditions.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Amazing optical performance is the biggest reason why these optics stand out to us. VX Scopes are specially-designed to ensure higher clarity throughout the field of view. They also come with a multi-coated design that ensures high color transmission. They also reduce the glare and thus, provide greater eye relief for users.

Who Will Use This Most

The Leupold scope is made with a simple, yet efficient design. It is considered to be one of the best scopes for AR-15 rifles. Due to the lightweight and compact design, it can be used by virtually anyone. So whether you are an amateur shooter or an experienced hunter, rest assured it will work well for you.

Bottom Line

Like most scopes on this list, these are also amazing in their design and build. The feature that separates Leupold scopes from the rest is their advanced eye view reticle. These not only reduce the glare from direct sunlight but also reduce the eye strain caused by it. So, for a truly comfortable experience, opt for these scopes.

Best Scope for AR-15 with Fixed Front Sight:
Vortex Optics Crossfire II 1-4x24

Vortex Optics Crossfire II 1-4x24 Second Focal Plane Riflescope - V-Brite Illuminated Reticle (MOA)

Pros

  • Aluminum construction ensures higher durability and strength
  • Provides illumination during medium or low lighting conditions
  • You can acquire your target easily by getting a good sight picture
  • Lenses are fully multi-coated and hence, present a clear view to hunters
  • V-Brite reticle is run by electronics that are powered by an efficient battery

Cons

  • Cost is slightly higher than some other products
  • Adjustments are slightly different from what is proposed

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers are very happy with the performance of these ultra-smooth scopes. They come with battery-operated electronic systems that add to their appeal. Not just that, customers are also fond of their strong aluminum build that provides higher strength and durability. In addition, the product is extremely reliable when it comes to precision shooting, a feature consumers are really fond of.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The best thing about these Vortex Scopes is their simple, yet effective design. The construction is mostly from ultra-grade aluminum, which gives sustenance to the whole product. Not just that, the tube inside is nitrogen-purged, and the O-ring seal comes with waterproof and fog-proof qualities.

Who Will Use This Most

The product has been carefully designed to aid shooters and hunters. This scope comes with a strong and smooth design that provides all the features needed for long-range shooting. Moreover, it provides consistent eye relief vision, which not only reduces eye strain but also increases your performance. So, for professional shooters, Vortex Scopes are the ultimate answer to their blurred vision problem.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a product that has generally received positive response consumers, then go no further because you have the product right here. Vortex Scopes come with battery-operated electronics and a perfect eye relief quality. This, coupled with their strong and durable exterior, makes them one of the best options for professional shooters or hunters.

Types of Scopes Perfect for Your AR-15 

No product is perfect for everyone. This is mainly because each of these scopes will be used for different purposes. So before buying the perfect one for your AR-15, always first understand the exact purpose you want to use it for. This will allow you to get the best optic to fit your needs.

Home-Defense

The home-defense scope is primarily used for close-quarter shooting. Hence, a red dot sight scope would be perfect for this purpose.

Special Purpose

As the name suggests, the special purpose scope is designed especially for precise and accurate shooting. The best optic for the special purpose rifle would be the 2.5-10x.

Hunting

The sport often requires very precise, and long-range shooting, and hence, a scope used for hunting should have these two qualities. A low-powered 1-6x or 3-9x scope would be the perfect choice for you.

For Duty Use

The AR-15 can be used for different environments. Hence, a duty rifle will have the best results with either a low-powered fixed or a dot optic.

For Recreational Shooting

This is the most flexible category as it doesn’t specify the needs of each individual. Many people indulge in shooting extravaganzas simply for recreational purposes. A long-range or short-range can be ideal for them.

Benefits of Investing in a Quality Scope

We have already established how investing in a scope is essential for a variety of uses. Now let us look at some of the benefits you will get if you decide to buy any of the best AR-15 scopes mentioned in this list. All products in our list have thoroughly been reviewed, and after looking at their features, we have concluded the following benefits associated with these products.

Professional Long-Range Shooting

This one is pretty simple, yet very crucial. Investing in a rifle is useless if you don’t also invest in a compatible scope. This is because, without it, your rifle will not be able to enhance your shooting experience. Scopes not only come with enhanced magnifications, but they also allow you to carry out long-range shooting. Similarly, for hunters and people who do vocational shooting, they too will enjoy the new and better experience with better quality scopes.

Complex, Yet Advanced Build

It is a myth that complicated scopes have better features and hence, will work better. The best kind is those that come with a plain, yet advanced design. There are various products on our list with a smooth exterior and high waterproof quality, and are durable. On the other hand, more complex scopes are not only difficult to mount and dismount, but they also cause fatigue to the users. So, by investing in a quality scope, you ensure that you don’t face that issue.

Higher Affordability

Similar to the design, the idea that expensive scopes are better is slightly outdated. Most scopes that come with the advanced build are not that expensive. You can get Buckbuster and Nikon Scopes at a relatively lesser price. They come with some of the most advanced features, higher durability, amazing magnification, and perfect reticles. And higher affordability further adds to all these features and increases their appeal.

Conclusion 

Scopes are integral for enhancing your shooting experience. There are many options in the market and it will be completely wrong for us to recommend one product for everyone. Each scope comes with unique features. Compare them with each other and see which one best fits your needs. Once you have decided the right AR-15 scope, get ready to enjoy shooting like never before.

People Also Ask

Since scopes haven’t been very present in the market for a long time, people still have a lot of questions to ask. Here are answers to the most common questions asked with regards to AR-15 scopes.

What Kind of Optic Does an AR-15 Use?

Optics are the most important upgrade to your AR-15. They range from a very low cost to thousands of dollars. There are a lot of options available that go well with AR-15 rifles. Most companies produce either a red dot or a variable scope. Most of these optics are for long-range shooting, hunting, and sniping. Red dots, however, are used for close-quarter fighting, competition shootings, and even for home defense.

What Magnification is Needed for AR-15?

AR-15s can work with a lot of magnifications. Hence, scopes either come with fixed magnifications or variable magnifications. For hunters who shoot at various ranges, variable magnified optics are suggested, and for people who only shoot at maximum ranges, fixed magnified optics are a better option. However, for a highly precise rifle, the most popular and common magnification that is suggested is around 4-16x or 5-25x. Moreover, for a 300-yard range, you simply need a 4x magnification. Similarly, for 1,000 yards, 10x is a good choice.

What Scope Does the Military Use on AR-15s?

When it comes to technology and weaponry, the military has always been one step ahead of the game. Since their work is so crucial to not just their institution but also their country, it is obvious they use only the best military equipment. The weaponry is thoroughly tested by the best experts in the country. Most military personnel use variable magnified scopes for shooting purposes. However, a lot of factors come into play like government funding and contracts when it comes to military usage.