If you’re willing to buy a new scope for your new rifle for under $300, then you should keep on reading. Getting the best scope around for your firearm shouldn’t cost you $1,000 (especially if you’re not from the military and you’re only using the firearm for hunting, marksmanship training, or sporting applications). You can even buy an excellent, cost-effective riflescope for a tenth or a twentieth of that price. Many scope companies can jack up the prices of their wares by providing you with features you don’t really need all in the name of extra magnification or supposed improvement of accuracy.
However, by doing your research, you should be able to find out which of these scopes truly give you the most value for your investment. Don’t feel wary about buying an under $300 scope with the belief that unless it’s over $300, it’s probably a low-grade scope with minimal features at best. As explained above, scopes that cost beyond your budget tend to contain extra features you don’t need, so the trick to scope shopping for under a $300 budget is to have a clear goal of what you want (night vision, long-range shooting, high BDC or more accurate MOA, parallax adjustment, eye relief, and so forth). Here is a list of our favourite best rifle scopes under 300:
The Top 8 in the Under $300 Club of the Best Rifle Scopes Around
BARSKA 6.5-20×50 AO Varmint Target Dot Riflescope: As its name suggests, Barska’s (or BARSKA’s) riflescope offering is a winner through and through because of its 50-millimeter diameter objective lens. It also has a high range of magnification, from 6.5x to 20x. Of course, because all long-range scopes suffer from parallax (wherein there’s apparent movement of the reticle in relationship to the target when you move your head laterally behind the sight), the Varmint Target Riflescope also has focus adjustment and parallax safeguards included in its impressive specs. With that said, the most amazing thing about the Barska 6.5-20×50 AO is the fact that it costs $75, making it the most affordable scope in this list. It doesn’t only cost less than $300; it also costs less than $100. It is definitely a best rifle scope under 300.
However, this makes it a bargain verging on a steal rather than a downgrade because of its high power magnification and high number of features that justify giving it a higher price. There are certain cons or drawbacks to this scope as well, though, like the virtually useless adjustable settings for 16x and above magnification. You can’t get a stable and clear image for that scope in high magnifications, which makes it a slight ineffective scope above 16x. With that said, aside from that, the BARSKA 6.5-20×50 AO Varmint Target Dot Riflescope delivers the goods and then some because because of its fantastic reticle that allowed for accurate small target dot acquisition against thin cross posts. You also yield a 1.95″ group at 16x and 2.25″ group at 9x.
Bushnell 3-12x 40mm AR Optics Drop Zone-223: This BDC Reticle Riflescope with Target Turrets and Side Parallax, 3-12x 40mm is a huge step up in price compared to the Barska AO Varmint Target. However, it still costs under $200. First off, it’s a worthwhile buy because it comes complete with a lifetime warranty. Other than that, it’s built to last with impressive construction and lightweight compactness, thus lending more credence to its guarantee. The propriety Drop Zone BDC of Bushnell makes use of a one-of-a-kind crosshair system with calibration for the 223 round out to 500 yards in 100 yard increments, which thusly provides you with crystal clear images of your target up until 12x magnification. The Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone-223 BDC Reticle makes a good account for itself in terms of image clarity, actually.
Compared to 20 years ago, Bushnell’s optics clarity for its latest products has improved by leaps and bounds. Not that it had a lot of room of improvement in the first place (it’s about normal; Bushnell has kept up with the industry standard fairly well). In particular, Bushnell has returned to the zero aspect of target turrets standard so that it’s a relatively easy task to sight your rifle every time. Other performance enhancements include the 9x setting getting a 1.95″ group of five rounds on target. Long story short, the Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone-223 BDC Reticle is most definitely one of the best choices for your AR 15 rifle in light of its specs, particularly when it comes to its extra magnification.
Bushnell Banner Illuminated Red/Green Multi-X Reticle Riflescope, 3-9x 50mm: Bushnell continues its tradition of excellence with its Multi-X Reticle Riflescope named the Bushnell Banner. This scope offers the traditional (and preferred) 3x to 9x magnification that covers everything from close-range to long-range as well as mid-range shooting. You also have a wider objective lens diameter at 50 millimeters because when it comes to magnification, the more light transmission you get the better. With that said, the seeming main selling point of the Multi-X is its illuminated red or green reticle, hence its name Bushnell Banner Illuminated Red/Green Multi-X Reticle. The reticle self-illuminates depending on the lighting conditions around you and it comes in green and red. This is more of a traditional hunting riflescope.
Compared to the abovementioned models, Bushnell Banner depends less on “gimmicks” or special propriety specs and more on traditional accepted standard features like the illuminated reticle that’s colored green and could be easily seen against lack black and white targets without a halo or uneven glow, crystal-clear lenses, and turrets that require removal of the caps to set elevation and windage adjustments. At 200 yards, you could manage a 2.25″ group with the Bushnell Banner Illuminated Red/Green Multi-X Reticle Riflescope, plus it’s all available to you at half the price of a Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone-223. This best rifle scope under 300 is only a few more dollars than the BARSKA Varmint Target Dot Riflescope price at that. It’s best used as a general-purpose hunting riflescope with the illuminated reticle and the ability to shoot at dusk or dawn as the centerpiece benefits of the whole product.
Leupold VX-1 3-9×40 Waterproof Riflescope: Leupold—the originator of using nitrogen to purge oxygen inside the tube of a riflescope and sealing it all in with an O-ring to make sure it’s fogproof—is still upholding its innovative ways with the Leupold VX-1 3-9×40 Waterproof Riflescope, Many other scopes are waterproof as well as fogproof and shockproof, but the Leupold VX-1 goes above and beyond to deliver to you waterproofing to the extreme. This Matte Black, Duplex Reticle 113874 scope comes at below $200, which is an impressive deal, knowing that you’re buying a quality Leupold scope. Make no mistake; Leupold is one of the top scope brands out there. Therefore, if you can afford to buy one at $300 and below, take the opportunity to get it. It delivers precise shooting at the 1.55″ group, after all.
It’s one of the company’s lowest price offerings and they do make more expensive tools, but the beautiful thing about the VX-1 is that it’s not lacking in terms of specs. There’s more to it than just being waterproof. It’s also a no-frills Leupold with gold trimming on the objective lens, solid construction, standard 3x to 9x magnification range, and impressive 40 millimeters for the objective diameter, and the Leupold signature post crosshair reticle. However, you lack target turrets and other extras you’d normally avail of from companies that have their own budget line of scopes (like in the case with Nikon, for example). That’s what you can expect from the Leupold VX-1 3-9×40 Waterproof Riflescope in terms of what it brings to the table.
Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Matte BDC 600: As per usual, Nikon delivers the cost-effective, price-advantageous goods, which you can plainly see with the Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Matte BDC 600. It doesn’t differ much in terms of magnification range (except the Barska’s 6.5x to 20x super scope) with the other lenses and it’s 10 millimeters short in terms of objective diameter when compared to Leupold VX-1, Bushnell Banner, and BARSKA Varmint Target (although it matches the Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone-223 in that department). You might think that Nikon only has low prices going for it judging by its “inferior” specs, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Like with any Nikon product, there’s more than meets the eye. This scope has specs and benefits to spare.
The Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate BDC 600 follows up the tough act of the Leupold by concentrating more on more value for every penny. This best rifle scope under 300 is a model that boasts of capabilities you won’t see in other scopes, like a return to zero capability and a BDC that’s specifically calibrated for the 223. What’s more, the real reason why Nikon scopes fly off the shelves even when its competition has bigger magnification ranges and objective lens sizes is the multicoated lens of a Nikon is always crystal clear. Clearer than a Bushnell, about as clear as a Leupold, but a Nikon almost always has more features included than a Leupold when they’re sharing roughly the same price. That’s essentially the secret of success of the Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate BDC 600: It offers more for less, and it has 98% light transmission to boot for a smaller objective.
Nikon Pro Staff 3-9 x 40 Black Matte Riflescope (BDC): The amazing thing about the Nikon Pro Staff (also known as the ProStaff) is that you’re likely to see this product in other lists because of how cost-effective, versatile, and invaluable it is as a bargain riflescope with loads of quality that bely its “cheapness” (or rather, inexpensiveness or affordability, because you never feel gypped nor do you think that the ProStaff is a downgrade to anything). Indeed, the only thing that can outdo a Nikon in terms of cost-effective value is another Nikon. The Nikon Pro Staff 3-9 x 40 Black Matte Riflescope (BDC) is a professional-looking and professional-functioning BDC black matte riflescope with about the same magnification and objective diameter size specs as Nikon P-223.
The thing that separates the Nikon Pro Staff from the Nikon P-223 aside from price is the way it works like a more traditional hunting scope, so it’s a lot like Leupold VX in that regard. Some might feel that the P-223 is the clear Nikon winner because of its multitude of extra specs compared to the ProStaff but for budget-conscious bargain hunters, they have to ask themselves carefully if they really want what the Nikon P-223 has to offer that they won’t already get from the Nikon Prostaff 3-9×40 Riflescope. If you don’t require too many additional perks or you want a more affordable version of the P-223 on hand, then look no further than the gun-versatile ProStaff with its turret caps that protects adjustments and essentially the same light transmission at the P-223.
Burris Scout 2.75 x 20mm Heavy Plex Reticle Matte Black Riflescope: Although Burris isn’t as famous as Nikon, Leupold, Bushnell, or even Barska, it has an appeal that’s all its own that justifies its presence in this list. The Burris Scout 2.75 x 20mm specifically is a riflescope for scouting that’s rather specialized for an optic tool like it. More and more hunters and gun shooters are depending on scout rifle and, in turn, the scout riflescope, for their daily marksmanship and gun-toting needs. It was Colonel Jeff Cooper who proposed the concept of the scout rifle, which was essentially a gun with a specific set of sights, caliber, weight, and length. He wanted scopes with long eye relief, low magnification, and close range engagement of game at a close range.
It’s a rifle a “scout” would use, in short. It’s a melee gun for close-range shooting of game for the bravest of the brave. The Burris Scout 2.75 x 20mm Heavy Plex Reticle Matte Black Riflescope has the right range to be a scout riflescope, shooting at a 2.75x magnification and having a corresponding 20-millimeter in diameter objective lens. It also has eye relief that’s mounted forward of the rifle’s action to allow for engagement of dangerous soldiers or game within iron sight range. Having lenses for your sights at close range does have advantages, like having an easier time lining up your shot from the lens alone instead of putting your rear sights and front sights in perfect tandem with each other. It also helps that this scope is perfect for the Springfield Armory M1A Scout rifle.
Burris 4.5 x-14 x -42mm Fullfield II Ballistic Plex Riflescope: Now for something slightly different. This Burris scope isn’t a close-range, melee-type scout scope and probably has the highest magnification power of all these scopes next to BARSKA and its 6.5-20×50 AO Varmint Target Dot Riflescope. The Burris 4.5 x-14 x -42mm Fullfield II Ballistic Plex Riflescope is a wonderful best rifle scope under $300 variable scope with a 4.5x to 14x range that makes use of the company’s unique, patented, and propriety Ballistic Plex reticle. It doesn’t have the biggest objective lens size at 42 millimeters, but it does have the second biggest one next to the likes of Bushnell Banner and Barska AO Varmint. It’s a very accomplished type of lens with undeniable quality and utility to it.
The Burris 4.5 x-14 x -42mm Fullfield II Ballistic Plex Riflescope has automatic BDC (Bullet Drop Compensation) for 100 to 500 yards for many commonly used cartridges with its lower vertical crosshair. Even as the bullet drops due to gravity from afar, you can still hold the shot up with the right elevation adjustment the same way archers shoot upwards so that their arrows are surer to land at an intended target with the assistance of gravity rather than go against it. It does have drawbacks, like having no separate adjustment ring for magnification shifts. After zeroing in your rifle, you’ll end up with an intuitive scope that’s close enough for government or militaristic work. That’s what’s on the table for you if you buy the Burris 4.5 x-14 x -42mm Fullfield II.
Actually, finding out what is the best rifle scope that is under $300 is a lot simpler than you think as long as you have a clear idea of what you want. As usual, it’s a tug-of-war between price and quality, wherein you win if you can get the most quality for the least amount of price possible. In terms of accuracy, ever last scope in this list performed well at 100 yards. Every choice should be a sub MOA shooter that has group sizes less than an inch. Across the board, you’re assured of fogproof, waterproof, and shockproof riflescopes with multiple coating on the lenses for maximum light transmission. Everything was taken into careful consideration in this review, from potential use to the overall price value of every product.
There are must-have features and there are other features you can do without and yet still have a topnotch scope when everything is said and done. With that said, here’s the final verdict. As for individual performance, they all suffered from one drawback to another, from the Burris 4.5 x-14 x -42mm Fullfield II and its lack of an adjustment ring despite its impressive BDC to BARSKA and its distortions despite its great magnification. It’s for this reason that, pound for pound, Nikon ProStaff is your best bet and most practical under $300 investment with its superior BDC and cost-effectiveness, followed by the Nikon P-223 for rifles specifically chambered for 223 Remington.