Top 10 Best AR 15 Scopes and Buying Guide

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aim point pro patrolThere are quite a number of rifle scopes to shop for and some vary significantly from the other in terms of magnification, price, and overall cost-effective quality. With that in mind, choose the one that seems to be the perfect fit for your particular gun and shooting style.

If you have a hunting or sharpshooting hobby to attend to, then it’s doubtless that you work hard in order to maintain a high-quality experience.

You do your best to not be saddled with subpar equipment, for example. You desire high-quality AR scopes of the AR 15 variety that will do what you need it to do without you paying a king’s ransom for it.

Best AR 15 Scopes Comparison Table

AR 15 ScopeMagnifications Rating and Reviews
Nikon ProStaff Rimfire 3-9 x 40 Black Matte Riflescope (BDC 150)

Nikon ProStaff Rimfire Black Matte Riflescope
3X to 9X4.9 out of 5 stars
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Nikon ProStaff 3-9 x 40 Black Matte Riflescope (BDC)

Nikon ProStaff Black Matte Riflescope (BDC)
3X to 9X4.8 out of stars
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Nikon P-223 BDC 600 Riflescope with Rapid Action Turret, Black, 4-12x40

Nikon P-223 BDC 600
4X to 12X4.8 out of 5 stars
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Nikon P-223 3-9x40 Mate BDC 600

Nikon P-223 Mate BDC 600
3X or 200-600 yards4.7 out of 5 stars
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NIKON M-223 BDC 600 8489 3-12x42SF Riflescope (Black)

NIKON M-223 BDC 600
3X to 12X4.6 out of 5 stars
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UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact IE Scope with AO Mil-dot, 36 Colors EZ-TAP

UTG 30mm SWAT
3X to 12X4.4 out of 5 stars
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Vortex® StrikeFire Red Dot Rifle Scope(Suitable for AR-15)

Vortex® StrikeFire Red Dot Rifle Scope
2X4.4 out of 5 stars
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Bushnell AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle AR-223 Riflescope with Target Turrets and Throw Down PCL, 1-4x 24mm

Bushnell AR Optics FFP
1X to 4X4.4 out of 5 stars

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UTG 3-9x32 Compact CQB Bug Buster AO RGB Scope with Med. Picatinny Rings, 2" Sunshade

UTG 3-9x32 Compact CQB Bug Buster
3X to 9X4.3 out of 5 stars
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Bushnell AR Optics 1x MP Illuminated Red/Green T-Dot Reticle Riflescope, 1x32mm

Bushnell AR Optics 1x MP
1X3.8 out of 5 stars
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About AR 15 Scopes

There are loads of rifle scopes on the Internet, ranging from Nikon to Bushnell as well as UTG to Vortex. There are well-known brands and not-so-well-known ones. If you want to go about searching for a scope that’s right for you, then it depends on your needs. What kind of shooting are you trying to accomplish?

The AR-15 is a magazine-fed, intermediate cartridge, lightweight, and air-cooled rifle. It has a rotating lock bolt and works well with scopes. However, to pick the right scope for it, know what you need it for. Do you shoot clay pigeons and real birds? How about big game? Do you wish to double as a sniper of sorts? You can even add personal preferences like reticle type and color into the mix.

Here are the basics you should know when it comes to AR 15 scopes (only). Thusly, we won’t be covering pistol scopes, muzzle loader scopes, and shotgun scopes. Once you understand the basics of scope anatomy and what makes for an excellent scope, you’ll be able to choose the best one for you.

In particular, the table below covers info comparing at least the ten best and highest-rated AR 15 scopes around on Amazon.com. The comparison table gives you an idea of what to get, but it only covers half of the conversation. Its main purpose is to get you started in narrowing down the best rifle scope for your AR 15.

What Is an AR 15 Scope?

An AR 15 scope is a scope used for the AR 15 rifle, usually made with a telescopic lens that allows you to target your gun better at objects or games. The power of the impressive rifle is practically useless unless you have a scope that allows you to better target your targets with optimum precision. Even though finding the right scope for you is tricky, there are several factors you can use to better streamline your search.

For example, reticle size, glass quality, and material built will give you a better idea of a given scope’s quality as well as whether or not it’s a cost-effective investment in the most rugged or fragile of situations. Rifles copes, when compared to spotting scopes, are smaller and can easily be attached on your AR 15 to ensure your combat mobility at all times.

You can further improve your accuracy with the use of AR scopes, red dot laser sights and so forth. There are many different types of rifle scopes to choose from as you can easily see from the table above that place them under easy comparison in terms of popularity, price, and magnification. Most of them are either made by Nikon or Bushnell, if you’d notice.

If you don’t know which one to look for, then keep on reading, because this simple-to-follow AR 15 guide will further illuminate to you the many other different factors of consideration not covered by the featured table (which, admittedly, is more of a price and cost-effectiveness comparison chart than anything else).

The Hallmarks of a Good AR 15 Scope

A good scope for AR 15 should be able to magnify the target to your eye on the same optic plane as the image you’re viewing. These scopes magnify images by bending light rays through multiple lenses found within the scope. It’s the laws of physics in action. Lower-powered scopes have smaller lenses than their high-powered counterparts.

If you’ve ever used open sights, then you’re aware that you have to worry about several things simultaneously. Is the rear and front blade properly aligned with each other for both windage and elevation? However, even if they’re lined up, if the target is further away from your eye than the sights are, it can still end up out of focus.

Then, if you focus on the target instead, the sites might go out of focus on you. It’s a delicate balancing act to shoot reliably with open sites, like spinning ceramic plates while riding a unicycle. With a scope, all these problems tend to disappear, especially the best AR 15 scopes around. You get to align the center reference point and focus at your target without going out of focus.

In short, you have more control of where you want your bullet to hit as long as your scope is “sighted in” and whatnot. Acquire target, pull the trigger. That’s all you need to know. A great rifle scope that you can depend on is able to make targeting more precise through the benefit of lens magnification, as explained above.

However, not all scopes are created equal. Some scopes are more precise at making humane kills while shooting the bull’s eye or hunting down game than others in accordance to their price and magnification capabilities.

How to Choose the Best AR 15 Scope

When shopping for the best AR 15 scope, keep in mind that that all of them have reticle like crosshairs, a post, a dot, or similar markings that reference the center of field when looking through them. They also feature the following:

Magnification: Magnification makes it easier to see targets and make precise shots since you’re able to precisely see the target’s image magnified. This is even more the case with a laser point targeting system. There are two types: Fixed and variable. Fixed has constant magnification, variable is more preferable because it has more range and it’s more adjustable.

Reticle: The reticle (also known as crosshairs) allows you to hit a target accurately that’s been magnified by your scope. It’s commonly called as crosshairs because it comes in the form of a cross in the middle of your scope. It has many variants. Some come in duplex form (for camouflage operations), others come in dot form (for distant contact or sniper operations). Every type is good depending on the circumstances.

Parallax: This is a hard-to-explain, technical feature that advanced gun users must know. A scope with more than 10x magnification makes the reticle come off the middle or becomes off-center without even moving your scope. Because of this parallax effect, your more than 10x lens should have adjustable objective lenses to counteract this flaw in long-distance scoping.

Eye Relief: Having a handle that’s ergonomic promotes hand relief that avoids carpal tunnel syndrome. In turn, a scope should have a good distance between it and the scope itself while still giving out a full image (since recoil could give you black eye if your eye is too close to the lens).

MOA or Minute of Angle: For example, a one-fourth MOA scope means that the bullet lands one-fourth inches from the specified bull’s eye of the scope’s crosshairs or reticle. It’s how precise your bullet landings are. This is an essential scope attribute for beginners to know about as well.

Reviews of the Best AR 15 Scope Options Available

On that note, which of the following brands should you purchase as a worthwhile scope for your AR 15 needs?

Nikon P-223 BDC 600 with Rapid Action Turret, 4-12×40


A rifle scope doesn’t require too much magnification power. Specs of 4-12 x 40 or variable magnification power between 4 times to 12 times with a 40 millimeter exit objective is kind of overkill. The exit lens is neither too small nor big, and Nikon’s multi-coating formula enables gun enthusiasts to shoot without worrying about light reflections. This ensures brighter and clearer image quality all throughout your target practice.

What’s more, this is a highly portable, dependable, and versatile gun scope at the lightweight poundage of 2.2 pounds and a total of 19 inches of length. Whether the scope is mounted or not, you won’t feel any changes in your gun’s weight. The rifle’s capability is further enhanced with its BDC 600 opening circle aiming points, which is great because it changes in accordance to the distance of the target at a range of 100 to 600 yards.

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UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact IE Scope


As for the UTG’s offering in scope technology, it has a True Strength Platform that, in a nutshell, delivers durable design that ensures long-lasting scope use for hours on end. Every Leapers scope has strength and durability as the heart of its function. In runner’s terms, it has the stamina to win marathons. It’s 100% nitrogen filled and sealed, which means this ACCUSHOT series of scopes is rainproof, fog-proof, and shock-absorbent.

It’s perfect for camouflage operations with your AR 15 and hunting game in the wilderness for sure. If you want to maximize the reliability of your mounted AR 15 scope (which can also be used in applications on airguns and other types of firearms alike), then going the UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact IE Scope route is the way to go. It also has resettable and premium lockable turrets, which means more precision and consistency for maintaining a “proper zero” when hunting.

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Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate BDC 600


The main claim to fame of the Nikon P-223 is its 15th rank in the Best Sellers list of Sports and Outdoors. No wonder it consistently gets a mostly 4-5 star rank in many an ecommerce site. It’s optimized for use of firearms with 55-grain polymer-tip bullets and .223 REM/5.56 NATO. From dusk till dawn, you’re treated with maximum scope brightness thanks to the Nikon P-223 fully multi-coated optical system that ensures 98% light transmission.

Furthermore, it also comes with a guide that magnifies targets and widens your vision as you follow your game and carefully wait to pull the trigger and get the perfect shot. Target practice and hunting is all about precision and timing, after all. It also has, at the time of writing, and affordable price of $159.98. If you want ¼ MOA and zero-reset turrets as well as a hand-turn, tactical-style scope, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a better deal than this.

Bushnell AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle AR-223 Riflescope


The main features of the Bushnell AR Optics Rilfescope are as follows. It’s made of aluminum alloy with high durability (that ensures the longest working capabilities) and sealed to protect it from the elements. It also has excellent low-light performance thanks to its focal plane reticle gives. Hunters and gun owners love this longshot scope because it’s accurate and holds over out to 500 yards. As of this writing, it comes at an affordable price of $229.99.

As for the Sports and Outdoors Best Sellers rank, it’s at Rank 10, which makes it 5 places better than the Nikon P-233. You can even get a 0.1 millimeter click value for pinpoint precise adjustments of your target turrets. What’s more, the scope is built with highly sought-after features like shockproof, fog-proof, and waterproof lens with black finish for easy concealment, and the aforementioned adjustable tactical turrets. It also has a T-dot reticle or crosshair for better lock-in accuracy in shooting.

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Nikon ProStaff 3-9 x 40 Black Matte


TheProStaff 3-9×40 from Nikon is a tried-and-trusted (as well as tested) scope that boasts of the company’s innovative adjustment technologies and fully multicoated optical system. It’s because of this that this riflescope provides peak hunting and camouflage mission performance at a price that’s the perfect fit in any gun owner’s budget. This is the hunter’s choice in scopes because it transmits up to 98% of available light, which ensures maximum brightness every time.

Whether you hunt from dusk till dawn, you’ll always get to clearly see what you’re shooting at and shoot at deadly precision with the integrated zero-reset turret of the riflescope for simpler field adjustments. First, you sight in, lift the spring-loaded adjustment knob, rotate to “zero”, and then reengage. Every range is available; all you need to do to adjust fields is to dial at the correct range every time and in real-time, as your target shifts out of sight.

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Vortex® StrikeFire Red Dot Rifle Scope


The great thing about Vortex is that even though it’s no huge scope manufacturer like Nikon and Bushnell, the scopes it does feature are quite the topnotch contenders. It’s a low-magnification scope that’s good for close-quarter combat with a little bit added to the specification to further bring out more value to your $152.28 investment. It’s equipped with 1x to 2x magnification with a 30 millimeter objective lens size in terms of diameter.

Although there isn’t much difference between 1x to 2x magnification, it does provide a better look at the finer details of a target, which can be essential when hunting in camouflage missions that are in need of a wider field of view. Furthermore, it features a reticle or crosshair that changes color from red to green while at the same time has a lens changes light intensities depending on the contrast and amount of light in a given area.

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Nikon ProStaff Rimfire 3-9 x 40 Black Matte


As for this ProStaff variant, the Nikon ProStaff Rimfire has a great price of $144.40 at present and a ranking of 4 on the Best Sellers List of Sports and Outdoors. You’ll be glad to know that it has mostly 4-5 star reviews as well thanks to its specs, such as it being a nitrogen-sealed and O-ring sealed scope with quick zero reset turrets and hand-turned ¼ inch at 50 yards reticle adjustments that are precise and repeatable.

The sealing ensures that the lens would work even at the most trying of circumstances, whether it’s rain or rough handling in the wilderness. Aside from having a great price, the Nikon ProStaff also provides an innovative optical system that ensures efficient hunting performance due to its maximum lighting system that can reach to 98% in brightness. Even in low-light conditions, you’ll always have a clear shot and sight of the target on hand.

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NIKON M-223 BDC 600 8489 3-12x42SF Scope


When it comes to the Nikon M-223 BDC AR Scope, its specs tend to speak for itself. A perfect AR 15 riflescope, Nikon’s M-223 is built to deliver shooting confidence, accuracy, and extreme speed when detecting and targeting a given target, whether it’s a moving one or a stationary one that’s attempting to hide in plain sight. The M-223 line is composed of as many as five new riflescope variants engineered to deliver 223 Rem./5.56 NATO round.

It can take muzzle velocities of up to 3,240 frames per second and ammo consisting of polymer-tip grain bullets.This Nikon riflescope is also blessed with the latest adjustment and reticle technologies, such that the M-223 BDC 600 has the same level of quality as the Monarch scopes, which itself is a flagship brand. It specifically targets the new AR 15 gun owners group (mostly beginners) who are just learning how much fun this gun type is.

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Bushnell AR Optics 1x MP Illuminated Red/Green T-Dot Reticle


This scope is worth a try if you’re not into hunting game with an AR 15 or are in need of any magnification form. In other words, this isn’t a scope for beginners like the many Nikon M-223 variants are. Plain and simple, it’s a fixed power kind of scope discussed above that only has 1x magnification (nonexistent) and an objective lens of 32 millimeters. Even so, the scope is still preferable to open sights.

It ups the challenge just short of being open sight by having a 3 MOA (that is, you’re 3 inches off the target every time) T-dot reticle that can be colored red or green depending on what you want. Its crosshairs are easy to see, plus the amber-colored lens allows you to see in dark or low-light settings. You can even adjust the MOA of your reticle from 1-10 MOA through the Zoom dot option.

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


UTG might be a pleasant surprise among gun or AR 15 owners who are mostly used to using the precise offerings of Nikon because of its equal balance in terms of price and performance. For only $88.26 (at the time of this writing), you can get a cost-effective scope capable of providing you clear shots with a center point 4-16x 40 riflescope that, proportionally speaking, gives out more value than cost with your investment.

More to the point, it’s a good scope for your AR 15, particularly when it comes to bringing in a quality hunting experience. Aside from AR 15 usage, this scope is particularly handy in terms of rifles with stout loads (such as frequent range sessions with 50 rounds of .308, 50 rounds of .223, and 400 or so of the .22). Simply put, it’s a rock-solid optic that doesn’t cost much and isn’t limited to 1x magnification.

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Conclusion

The main thing you should be looking for when it comes to AR 15 scopes is perfect synchronization between your needs as a gun owner, game hunter, or target practice shooter and the unique capabilities of each and every scope. It’s even possible to buy two or more of these scopes depending on your requirements.

Check out the Best AR Scopes that are available.

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