Finding the best AR 15 scope in 2018 can be a challenge.
With so many AR 1`5 optics on the market, how do you choose …
With rigorous testing and actual field study of hundreds of scopes, we have narrowed down the list for those of you looking to get the best AR 15 scope for the money!
Narrowing the list wasn’t easy, as there is a big range of the best ar scopes to choose from, but we were able to come up with a great Top 10 list.
Top 10 Best AR-15 Scopes
- Nikon P-223 3×32 BDC Carbine
- Aimpoint Pro 30mm
- Burris Fastfire III 3 MOA
- Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 2 1-6×24
- Trijicon 1×25 MRO 2.0
- EOTech 512-A65 Tactical
- Barska 1-4×28 IR
- Bushnell Optics Drop Zone-223
- Bushnell Trophy TRS25 1×25
- Vortex Viper PST 1 4×24
Technology has brought the cost of AR 15 optics down substantially so you no longer have to buy an extreme tactical military AR 15 scope which would set you back thousands of dollars.
In fact, you can now find the best AR 15 scopes under $400 or $200 now. Sometimes less. The idea though is that you find the best AR 15 scope for the money. Where can you find the best bang for your buck?
For a few hundred dollars you can get a solid AR 15 optic that not only looks great on your AR but it will help your shooting performance.
We have put this post together so that you can find the best AR 15 optic without having to break the bank.
Best AR-15 Optics in 2018 – Top 10
These scopes won’t be for everyone and there are others that didn’t make the list, but very well could have. With so many different types of AR optics, from reflex / red dot sights to holographic sights, to heads up and tube styles, it was difficult to narrow it down to the Top 10 best when reaching into each category.
The AR optics below we feel are the best that you can get today. In the future, we will narrow down the Top AR optics in each category, but for now, enjoy our Top 10 best AR-15 Optics in 2017!
AR 15 Scopes
Why didn’t I include the Trijicon ACOG 4×32, or the Leupold Mark 5 HAMR in my Top 10 list of best AR 15 rifle scopes?
I’ve had some people ask me why these two AR optics didn’t get on the list for best AR15 optics. After reviewing them, here’s why.
- These AR15 optics are very expensive.
- Honestly, they don’t really deliver any better experience compared to the less expensive AR15 scopes on the market.
- There are some extra features added on that aren’t necessary unless you’re in the military or heavy tactical usage (ie. military-grade materials).
So, in simple words, you are paying for unnecessary features that drive up the price. Some of you may not mind the extra features and don’t mind the higher price tag, but for most, we want to find the best AR15 scope for the money.
For now, these rifle optics are a little expensive, especially if you are just looking for something to get the job done or are on a budget.
However, we believe that these rifle scopes are ok if you are the type of person who is not on a budget and wants the extra features as these scopes and other high-tier AR scopes are definitely high quality.
Quick Overview About the AR-15
The AR 15 has become one of America’s favorite rifles – and for good reason!
The AR 15 was first designed for military and tactical applications however now there are models built for sport shooting, hunting, and plinking.
This is the reason that the best AR 15 optics need to be matched to its intended use.
For example, you wouldn’t use the BSA Sweet 17 for competition sport shooting. The AR 15 scope has become mainstream with a ton of different quality optics offering different features depending on what you are looking for. Some of our favorite brands of AR 15 scopes are Vortex, Nikon, Bushnell, Aimpoint and EOTech.
Many people don’t know that AR-15 was originally developed by Armalite, so it stands for Armalite Rifle. However Armalite ran into financial issues and sold its design to Colt and after making its own modifications, Colt started selling the rifle as the M-16, then later the Colt AR-15.
The AR-15 is sold under many different names and under various manufactures. The AR-15 is used by the military, law enforcement, and civilians because of the accuracy, affordability, and modular design of the rifle.
There are some differences between what you as a civilian can get compared to what the military or law enforcement use. Most notably, the semi-automatic AR-15 that you can buy compared to the fully automatic M-16, will have different trigger mechanisms, slightly different designs, and some internal modifications so that the civilian model cannot be converted into a fully automatic weapon.
Considerations to Choosing the Best AR-15 Scope
Choosing the best AR 15 scope requires you to be honest with yourself. You need to decide what the purpose of the AR optic is?
Will you be shooting varmint at 50 yards?
Will you be sport shooting and need to reach out to 200 yards? 500 yards?
Are you taking your AR-15 out hiking for 5 days in the bush?
Are you trying to find the best AR-15 scope for coyote hunting?
AR15 optics specs may say that it is good for all of the above but that is rarely the case.
AR 15 scopes are built for different purposes so make sure do check out the best AR 15 tactical scopes reviews and do some research!
A general rule of thumb for purchasing AR 15 optics is that the more expensive it is, typically the better the optic you will get. This is not unlike basically everything else in life.
With that being said, there are definitely solid brands and models of AR 15 scopes that provide better value. As with other rifle scopes, the larger the objective lens the more light the scope will allow in and provide you with a clearer image especially in low light conditions.
Keep in mind that the physical size and weight of the AR rifle scope also goes up so it is a constant trade-off. If you are looking for a variable magnification AR 15 scope, the lower the bottom end of the magnification range means the bigger field of view you will get and the easier it will be to acquire your target.
Buying the best AR-15 optic also requires you to decide if you want a standard variable or fixed magnification scope or whether you want a budget AR red dot sight.
Both have their pros and cons and in fact, many people will choose to own at least one of each. A red dot sight (sometimes called green dot) is built for short and medium-range shooting as they are generally not magnified or are only magnified slightly.
These AR riflescopes are easy to set up and allow for fast target acquisition as the dot appears on the intended target.
Generally speaking, if you are looking for the best AR 15 scope for the money and want variable magnification, we would recommend something on the lower end of the magnification scale.
In fact, you can get a good AR15 scope that features a 1-4x or 1-6x magnification range. This provides versatility as you will get good target acquisition at close range while still being able to shoot out to 500+ yards.
Check out our guide for choosing the best scope as it provides some good general information about purchasing a rifle scope.
Must-Have Features for AR 15 Optics
When you are looking for the best AR 15 optics, there are certain features you need to look for:
- Choose an AR15 optic produced by a well-known brand
- Choose an AR15 optic that is durable, compact, and lightweight
- Choose an AR red dot optic or a holographic sight for your AR15 scope
Best Brands for AR 15 optics
When it comes to rifle scope manufacturers and brands, there are a lot to sift through. For your AR-15 optic, regardless of whether you choose a reflex sight, a red dot scope, or a holographic sight, it should be made from high-quality materials and feature quality construction.
Not all of the best AR scopes brands are created equal. It is best to choose an optic produced by a well-known brand with a good and established reputation for producing high-quality ar 15 optics.
Stick with proven brands such as:
These brands are proven brands that make great AR 15 optics. I’m sure there are some others that I failed to mention, but the brands above you cannot go wrong when choosing your next AR-15 scope.
Have you heard the saying, “you get what you pay for?” This applies to AR15 scopes as well and only the best brands will be able to provide this kind of high quality.
However, this does not mean that you have to spend $500 or even $1,000 in order to obtain a high-quality AR 15 rifle scope, especially if you are looking for the best AR 15 optics for the money!
It simply means that you need to determine what level of performance you will require out of your scope depending on the use that you intend to put it. Then you choose the appropriate price range depending on those requirements.
Choose AR 15 Optics That Are Durable, Compact, and Lightweight
AR-15 rifles are specifically designed to be compact and lightweight. Because of this, it only makes sense to choose an optic that is also compact and lightweight as well.
But durability is also something that you need to make sure that your AR15 rifle scope has. AR 15 optics are designed for defensive/tactical use and must be both rugged and durable so that they can withstand not only minor impacts but the major impacts of use as well.
The recoil is also something to consider that is generated by rapid and/or repeated firing of the AR-15 and still and still maintains its zero. This is the main reason why the scope needs to be made of high-quality materials and feature high-quality construction.
The Right Type of AR 15 Scope or Sight
When choosing a AR 15 rifle scope for defensive/tactical or for close-range hunting, the ability to acquire the target quickly is extremely important.
Because of this, both red dot sights and holographic sights are often the optic of choice for the AR-15.
However, when shooting at longer ranges, finding your target quickly isn’t as important so AR 15 optics with minimal to moderate magnification are often the best choice here.
In either case, you want to be able to see your target clearly at various distances and in varying light and atmospheric conditions so looking at optic specifications such as the magnification power, the size of the objective lens, the size of the exit pupil, the size of the tube diameter, the amount of eye relief the type and number of coatings on the lenses, and the type of reticle all affect the quality of the sight picture.
In the end, whichever AR 15 scope sight you decide to choose if you intend to use it in bad weather, be sure that it is also both waterproof and fog proof.
The only negative thing with getting an electronic sight is that is will always require some sort of power source, so the life of the power source (usually a battery) is a concern here.
Various Types of AR 15 Optics
I want to break down the various different types of sights you can get for an AR-15. As mentioned above some of the various types of AR-15 optics we recommend are:
- Reflex Sights (Red Dot Sights)
- Holographic Sights
Reflex / Red-Dot Sights Breakdown
So what is a reflex sight or red dot sight? First of all, it should be noted that red dot sights do not employ a laser. What this means is that there is no significant amount of light that is emitted forward of the shooter.
Most red dot sights fall into this category due to the fact that they consist of an objective lens with a partial mirror coating which is used to project the reticle from a point behind the objective lens which is then reflected off the back of the objective lends toward the shooter’s eye.
Also, some AR red dot sights make use of the ambient light which is gathered by a fiber-optic system, while others are supplemented by a tritium beta lamp unit for use in low light conditions.
So what it comes down to is the red dot sight requires a wider bandwidth of light in order to project the reticle onto the objective lens. This alters the color of light passing through the lens coating but more than those that employ an LED to generate the reticle (known as illuminated scopes).
Red dot sights are generally available in a couple of different styles:
- Heads Up style – incorporates only one lens mounted in a bezel with the source of the reticle contained in a small box positioned behind and below the lens resulting in different appearances from the tube-type reflex sights. The heads-up style sight can usually be mounted lower on the firearm than tube-type reflex sights.
- Tube-Body style – This style of red dot sight incorporates a tube with a lens positioned at each end so it looks like a normal rifle scope.
Many shooters prefer the heads-up style red dot sights for AR because they are more compact and lightweight than the tube-body style. Heads up red dot sights also usually have a wider field of view than tube-body red dot scopes.
Another benefit to red dot sights for your AR is that they offer extremely fast target acquisition and are very practical for hunting and target shooting. The reason why is because they allow the shooter to maintain a field of view (FOV).
Note: You won’t be able to shoot as accurately as you would be able to with a high-power magnification AR rifle scope, but you will be able to shoot much faster, so it’s a give and take.
Best Red Dot Sights for AR 15
1 x 25 mm
1 x 25 mm
1 x 30 mm
Holographic Sights Breakdown
The only manufacturer with a holographic weapon sight (HWS) is a company called Electric-Optic Technologies or EOTech. They sometimes are marketed under the Bushnell brand as well.
Holographic sights have a reticle that is superimposed on the target using a laser that illuminates a hologram that is contained within the objective lens (not projected onto it).
Due to this, there is no need for a reflective coating on the objective lens. Instead, a photograph of the reticle is taken which is then sandwiched between two layers of optical glass and illuminated by a laser mounted behind the objective lens.
Then the picture is projected forward away from the shooter which creates a reticle image that is meant to appear at a virtual 50 yards in front of the shooter.
All holographic sights use the heads-up style which many shooters prefer anyways due to is compact size and lightweight.
In addition, because the reticle is a virtual hologram, it can be any size or shape. EOTech has incorporated a 1 MOA dot (smallest in the industry) combined with a 68 MOA circle which not only provides extremely quick target acquisition, but it also provides greater precision at longer ranges than the 2 MOA or 4 MOA dotes used on reflex sights.
What this means is at 200 yards the 1 MOA dot only occludes 2 inches of the target whereas, the 2 MOA and 4 MOA dots occlude 4 to 8 inches of the target respectively.
When holographic sights are combined with a special 3x magnifier, only the target is enlarged while the dot remains the same size. But when a magnifier is added to a reflex sight, both the target and the dot are enlarged.
Best Holographic Sights For AR 15
Best AR 15 Scopes Reviews 2018
1. Nikon P-223 3×32 Matte BDC Carbine AR 15 Scope – Best AR 15 Scope in 2018
Nikon, another top manufacturer of quality optics including high quality AR-15 scopes, has out done themselves with the P-223 3×32 BDC Carbine.
Now some of you may be wondering why you would want to purchase a fixed magnification scope.
It is actually one of the rare times that I would suggest the average user may actually benefit from a fixed magnification AR 15 scope.
If you compare 2 scopes side by side; fixed magnification and a variable magnification at the same price. The fixed magnification scope will almost always be higher quality that its variable counterpart. The reason is that it takes more moving parts, more technology, and more effort to build a variable mag scope.
Now if you are looking for a long-range hunting scope then of course you should get one with high-powered magnification. However, if you are just looking to shoot a few hundred yards (up to 500 yards) then a fixed 3x scope will be just fine.
The Nikon P-223 BDC Carbine AR 15 scope has a generous eye relief and tactical style zero-reset targets that get you zeroed in quickly. Make sure to get some high-quality scope rings, especially if you are using high-powered and heavy recoil cartridges.
The P-223 is built specifically for the AR platform and the .223 cartridge which means that you are getting a custom-made rifle scope for your AR15. All things considered, one of the best AR15 optics on the market.
Testing this optic out on my AR 15 was awesome! I went to a small local range and sighted it in at 25 yards within a couple of rounds. And once I did that I was able to hit targets pretty accurately up to 300 yards!
I would recommend sighting the scope in at 100 yards as this is what it’s designed for. It really shines between 50 to 100 yards, but can still do the job at 20 yards or 250 yards.
I actually found it easier than I thought it would be for quick target acquisition (usually slower when using a rifle scope versus AR red dot sights). I was able to shoot with both eyes open and spot the next target pretty quickly.
I put a couple of hundred rounds through it over a weekend and was really happy as it held zero as it should!
One of the first things I noticed was its clarity. You will see a difference when shooting with the P-223 compared to cheaper AR 15 scopes.
The P-223 Ar-15 scope is slightly on the large side. It’s about 2/3s of a hunting scope, so keep that in mind when mounting to your Ar-15.
Overall, one of the best ar scopes on the market. So great that it made #1 on this list in my opinion for the fact that you can shoot very accurately at close range or long-range! The versatility of the scope is great and it is extremely easy to sight in and holds zero as it should.
It is also a very durable and strong scope which is a must for tactical use on your AR-15.
In short, the price just can’t be beaten. The P-223 AR scope is truly the best Ar-15 optic for the money. I highly recommend purchasing this scope for your AR-15.
- Nikon Lifetime Warranty
- Great light transmission.
- Very clear glass with great clarity. No distortion near the edges.
- Great field of view.
- A little large for tactical use.
Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone-223 Reticle AR 15 Scope Review
Alright we’ve all heard about Bushnell, right? If not, you probably have not done enough research about finding the best AR 15 scope because they are an industry leader across the entire scope industry.
If you aren’t familiar with the brand don’t worry. We have a complete guide to choosing the best scope and in the article, you will find a fairly comprehensive list of the top rifle scope brands.
Bushnell is a great brand and an even better manufacturer of high-quality hunting and shooting gear. They produce top riflescopes that will fit your budget and your shooting requirements.
What the optic allows is very accurate shooting within 50 yards with the ability to step out to 500+ yards.
Quite outstanding for an AR 15 optic at this price. This Bushnell AR 15 scope has fully multi-coated optics for brightness and durability.
The scope features a 1-4x magnification range and a 24mm objective lens which is perfect for an ar 15 as it allows you the flexibility with being able to magnify your target but isn’t bulky and heavy.
The Bushnell AR Drop Zone-223 features target turrets for precise adjustments combined with a fast-focus eyepiece for maximum accuracy and reliability. The ar 15 scope is durable as it is built out of aluminum alloy, anodize-finished, and sealed to protect the inside from abuse and the elements. This model has great eye relief so you won’t be concerned with scoping yourself!
I know what you are thinking. Why purchase a Barska when you can get the Nikon P-223 or the Bushnell AR Drop Zone-223 for a few dollars more?
In some cases, I agree, but this little illuminated reticle (green, red, black) is actually a great option for your AR platform. Featuring a 1-4x zoom and a 28mm objective lens, the Barska 1-4×28 IR rifle optic is one of the best tactical AR 15 scopes.
What the illuminated reticle is great for is when you are shooting in low light, or even dark, conditions looking to maintain accuracy. All you need is a little 3v battery and you are good to go!
The Barska Illuminated Reticle AR 15 scope mounts easily on a picatanny rail and you should have no trouble zeroing it in. This is by no means a high-end AR 15 scope and at just over $100, it is a bargain. A solid AR 15 optic for the money.
Bushnell AR 93940 AR Optics 3 – 9 x 40mm AR-15 Optic Review
Bushnell makes some of the best AR 15 optics and within their AR 15 scope category there are 6 different configurations to equip any AR platform, from a .22 rimfire to long-range 223/5.56 firearms.
They each have fully, multi-coated optics for excellent brightness and their Drop Zone-223 ballistic reticle has aiming points out to 500 yards. Bushnell AR 15 scopes are built for max accuracy and reliability for every tactical scenario.
The particular AR 15 scope that we are talking about here is the Bushnell AR Scope 3-9x40mm which is slightly larger than the Bushnell 1-4x24mm AR reviewed above but it gives you the added flexibility for longer range shooting and ultimate accuracy.
Remember however, the larger the scope the heavier and bulkier it will be. We are not saying that the AR 3-9x40mm is “bulky” however relatively speaking it is larger than its counterpart. If you are looking for extreme accuracy and long-range capabilities and don’t mind the added weight, this Bushnell AR scope is for you.
I would recommend this scope to anyone that is shooting off benches or anyone that isn’t planning on packing this thing through the bush.
Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6×24 Rifle Scope AR-BDC Reticle – AR 15 Scope Review
In fact, Vortex makes the BEST AR-15 optics for the money. I’m not saying it’s cheap, but it’s worth every damn penny they charge for it!
The Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x24mm rifle optic is built for those of you that are experienced and wanting to purchase a top of the line scope for your AR platform. The magnification range is precise.
The 1x is built for speed and versatility and is perfect for those of you that need to focus on targets at point-blank all the way to those extended ranges that 6x magnification can offer. Whether you are using Strike Eagle 1-6x24mm for target shooting at the range or perhaps varmint hunting, this scope will not let you down.
The Vortex optics are fully multi-coated which increases light transmission, excellent for those of you planning on shooting at dusk or dawn.
Another great aspect of the Strike Eagle is that it is illuminated, providing precise accuracy and aiming under those low-light conditions.
Don’t worry though, the Strike Eagle Rifle Scope AR-BDC Reticle will perform just fine without illumination. Tube size in this guy is a 30mm diameter and it is built out of aircraft-grade aluminum for a rugged and durable AR scope.
This Vortex optic is shockproof, fog proof, waterproof, and basically any other ‘proof that you want to throw at it. It has a fast-focus eyepiece which allows for quick and easy reticle focusing.
Yes, I know UTG isn’t a brand that you would consider making the “Best AR 15 Scope” and…..it’s not.
With that being said, for the price, the UTG 3-9x32mm BugBuster is actually a pretty good scope for the money.
At under $100, it is almost hard to go wrong with this scope for your AR 15 if you are under a tight budget. If you have the money or the time to save, I would recommend getting (or saving up for) something better like the other scopes above or some of the Red Dot optics or Holographic scopes.
Final Thoughts – The Best AR 15 Optics
Finding the best AR 15 scope is a bit of a process. You have to understand and research different AR 15 optics to understand their construction and what their intended use is.
The AR platform is one of the most popular in the United States and isn’t just available to the military and the police anymore.
In our opinion, the Best AR 15 optic is either the Nikon P-223 or the Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x24mm AR rifle scope. Its durability and construction lead it to be one of the most rugged AR-15 scopes in 2017 and it does not sacrifice precision and versatility.
Thanks for looking at the best ar scopes with us! You really can’t go wrong with any of the ar scopes listed in this post.
Stay safe and happy shooting!