Best AR-15 Scope Reviews & (Ultimate Guide 2016)

There are literally thousands of options for the best AR-15 optics on the marketplace and the options can be a little overwhelming.


Here we can see some of the differences and similarities of a few options and get a generalized idea of what you will need. The most important thing is the conditions in which the rifle optics will be used. If you are shooting in an environment that offers wet and humid conditions then you may need a scope that offers an anti-fog feature, or so on. It is important that you assess each and every one of these products and take your time weighing the options and deciding on the particular scope that you need. To get a really great scope depends entirely on what purpose it is being implemented in. Following this rule, we can begin to find the best tactical scope for the AR-15.


In case you need an earmuff while shooting, have a look at the top list by Shooting & Safety Editors!


  • 4.4 Customer Rating
  • SIZE or LENGHT -----------
  • PRICE $$
  • MAGNIFICATION : 2.5-10x40
  • 4.4 Customer Rating
  • SIZE or LENGHT 9.4 ''
  • PRICE $$
  • MAGNIFICATION : 1-4 x 24mm
  • 4.4 Customer Rating
  • SIZE or LENGHT 10.4 x 1.6 x 2.1 inches
  • PRICE $$
  • MAGNIFICATION : 3-12 x 44
  • 4.7 Customer Rating
  • NIKON P-223 3-9X40 MATE BDC 600
  • SIZE or LENGHT 4 x 15.5 x 3.5 inches
  • PRICE $$
  • MAGNIFICATION : 3-9x40

Top AR-15 Scopes

The Vortex Strikefire Red Dot Rifle Scope


vortex-strikefire-red-dotThis rifle scope mounts easily and makes a great addition to any AR 15. It comes with several great features that make for a great scope. The Vortex Strikefire easily allows switching the reticle colors between green and red. It’s a great feature when shooting in different lighting environments. And the eye relief is unlimited which means that you can acquire your target faster with more accuracy. The AR 15 is a fast repetition rifle and gets fast acquisition on your target while maintaining the acquisition is key to having an enjoyable shooting experience.  This scope comes standard with the 2X doubler which offers a better field of view for the time that the shooter may need to make a shot of greater distance. The scope is also fog proof and waterproof making this a great product for even the harshest of environments. Read on for full Vortex Strikefire review!


  Check The Latest Price on Amazon!



Bushnell AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC

Bushnell-AR-Optics-FFP-Illuminated-BTR-1-BDC-Reticle-AR-223-Riflescope-with-Target-Turrets-and-Throw-Down-PCL,-1-4x-24mmThis scope offers great viewing at great distances, boasting a 500-yard field of view. It also offers a clear view in low-light environments. One of the greatest features is the Throw Down PCL quick view which allows the shooter to quickly switch from particular fields of view. The Target Turrets allow for quick in the field adjustments to the sighting calibration of the scope. The optical lenses themselves are multi-coated for maximum brightness and clarity in any environment. The scope itself is sealed tightly to minimize moisture and other elements from entering the lens chambers. Though not waterproof, this scope offers plenty of customizations in the field. This particular scope also offers a quick mount to the AR 15 as well making this a great option for shooters who wish to quickly make the switch from open sights to a scoped shooting experience. Read on for Bushnell AR Optics review!

Check The Latest Price on Amazon!


UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact IE Scope


UTG-30mm-SWAT-3-12X44-Compact-IE-Scope-with-AO-Mil-dot,-36-Colors-EZ-TAPThis scope offers a great amount of durability and reliability for shooting in the harshest of environments. The flip open lens covers to protect the scope while in transit mounted to the rifle. Ideal for low light situations, the reticle is customizable through 36 different colors for ease of use regardless of the shooting conditions. Special lens housings make for a great field of view when under recoil from firing the rifle, making your second shot just an accurate as the first. This is a great feature for those who shoot professionally and need to make the fastest and most accurate shots as possible. This scope is also completely customizable in the field, so making the small adjustments in the field are no trouble at all, back all of that with a lifetime warranty and you have a great, versatile scope for all shooting levels. Overall this makes a great scope for the versatile shooter. Check out the full UTGSWAT 3-12X44 with AO Mil-dot Scope review!

Check The Latest Price on Amazon!



Nikon P-223 3-9X40 Mate BDC 600


Nikon-P-223-3-9x40-Mate-BDC-600This scope is made with the .223 AR 15 in mind. Designed with a great consistent eye relief, the Nikon 3-9×40 Mate BDC 600 prevents brow injury for the shooter regardless of calibers being shot and extreme shooting angles. The scope also offers different reticles for different distances. Boasting a visible field of view of 600 yards, this scope is designed for distance shooting as well. The lens housing also offers recoil absorption, even when being fired repeatedly, the scope will give the shooter a clear field of view making for a better shooting experience. Waterproof and fog proof, this scope offers a great amount of durability. The scope itself is also sealed using o-ring technology and nitrogen gas filled lens chamber which allows for an even more durable and weatherproof scope. Though this scope is specifically designed for the .223 and the NATO 5.56 AR 15 rifles, it can be easily mounted to virtually any rifle small or large in caliber. Compare this NIKON scope with others from the same manufacturer.

Check The Latest Price on Amazon!


  • 4.8 Customer Rating
  • SIZE or LENGHT 12.4''
  • PRICE $$
  • MAGNIFICATION : 3 to 9x
  • 4.6 Customer Rating
  • NIKON P-223 BDC 600 3-12X42SF RIFLESCOPE
  • SIZE or LENGHT 13.5 ''
  • PRICE $$$
  • 4.3 Customer Rating
  • SIZE or LENGHT 9.8 x 3.4 x 3.9 inches
  • PRICE $
  • MAGNIFICATION : 3-9x32


Nikon ProStaff 3-9X40 Black Matte Rifle Scope BDC


Nikon-ProStaff-3-9-x-40-Black-Matte-Riflescope-(BDC)This rifle scope offers a small and compact size of only 12.4 inches, which is great for those who want their rifle to maintain a low profile. The scope offers from 3X to 9X zoom capabilities and 40mm objectives lenses which make the scope a great scope for the distance shooter. The lens coating is designed to transfer light by up to 98% to the image allowing a great shooting experience in any light environment. This scope also offers up to 3.6 inches of eye relief and boasts nitrogen filled and o-ring sealed housing making it waterproof and fog proof. Nikon Prostaff makes a great higher quality scope for beginners because it is simple and easy to learn with. This scope also offers a great cross platform mounting option as it can be used on several different rifles of different calibers and different firing functions. See more detailed Nikon ProStaff Rimfire 3-9×40 Matte Black review!

Check The Latest Price on Amazon!



Nikon P-223 BDC 600 3-12X42SF Riflescope


NIKON-M-223-BDC-600-8489-3-12x42SF-Riflescope-(Black)This scope offers a reticle hash ranging from 100 yards to 600 yards making it a great scope for distance shooting. Also, it offers a wider field of view that most scopes do not offer which is great for shooting at a moving target when you have to lead your shot to make them count. The one piece, the aircraft aluminum cylinder design offers a great deal of durability without the weight of heavier scopes. The scope itself houses a well-built seal on the outer lenses making it fogproof and waterproof. Also, the scope is shockproof so even if it is dropped, the durable construction of the scope is going to allow for it to continue to perform regardless. This scope can also be mounted to virtually any rifle of any caliber including magnum length actions making it versatile to any level of shooting and it also boasts a lifetime warranty. See more detailed Nikon P-223 review!

Check The Latest Price on Amazon!



UTG 3-9X32 Compact CQB Bug Buster AO RGB Scope


UTG-3-9x32-Compact-CQB-Bug-Buster-AO-RGB-Scope-with-MedMade of high-quality materials, this scope offers a great amount of durability by being waterproof, fog proof, shockproof and rainproof. Great for any level of shooter, and easily mountable to virtually any rifle of any caliber, the scope offers a great amount of usability. The lens itself is emerald coated offering a great visibility in low light shooting conditions. The emerald lens coating works by duplicating the already little light that there is in the environment and focusing it into the shooter’s field of view. The scope is also completely customizable in the field. It houses on the top of the scope adjustments of one click MOA for quickly sighting in the rifle in the field. The mounting can be a bit detailed, however. Once mounted the scope will need to be sighted to the rifle. Small adjustments can be made in the field but the majority of the scopes adjustments will need to be made at the range.

Check The Latest Price on Amazon!



Getting To Know AR 15 Scopes / Buying Guide

There are several things to remember when purchasing a scope for your AR 15 rifle and the first is that though the rifle is smaller in caliber at only .223 / 5.56 NATO, the AR 15 is generally a semi-automatic rifle. This means that every shot executed will be in repetition. As seen above there are several scopes that allow for “shock absorption” when making fast and repetitive shots from the rifle. The recoil of the shots will impede your field of view to some extent however. The second largest concern that needs to be addressed is the reticle. Each shooter has his/her opinion on this topic and it really comes down to what you are doing with the rifle. Hunters typically enjoy having the hash marks that allow for different distances typically signified by “50 to 600 yards”. Others who use the rifle for professional marksmanship activities prefer a single reticle dot that can be color adjusted for optimal viewing of different targets. The reticles on some scopes are adjustable in color, intensity making them even more customizable for the shooter. The Third largest concern for the shooter should be the field of view, and what this means in short is how far you are wanting to shoot accurately. Hunters typically want to be able to shoot accurately at a greater distance whereas professional marksmen don’t necessarily need the distance but rather the clarity at short distances. By bringing these three topics into question when you decide on the scope that you need, you can accurately decide on what you need from a scope.


Check Out an informative – How to clean an AR 15 video!





There are several different options for magnification and as a general rule of thumb, the greater the zoom the more the image will distort. Now there are thousands of different scopes that help to reduce this distortion and the type you get depends on what needs you have from your rifle. As previously stated, there are different needs for shooters. Anyone hunting may want there to be a greater zoom on their scope so they may choose a 9X32 and so on. One thing that needs to be looked at is the light allowance that a lens has. Some are coated with emerald and allow for magnification of light. This is used to allow visibility in low light environment and also makes the field of view at higher magnification clearer. There are also scopes that offer very little magnification and these scopes are typically used for firing at short distances and firing at high rates. Typically tactical applications call for less magnification and more clarity. The magnification is a very important aspect of the sope and is something to consider before making a purchase.




There are several thousand different styles of reticles and the one that you choose should reflect what application you are using the rifle for. The AR 15 is a fast paced semi-automatic rifle and in a tactical sense, the usual choice is a reticle with adjustable brightness and adjustable color which allows for usability in any lighting situation and can be easily used regardless of the color of the scenery in the background. Users typically prefer a reticle that allows what is called a “gradual distance reticle”. This means that there is a hash mark for several distances and the shooter can pick a mark given the distance to the target. The reticles are typically black, red or green in color and differ in intensity. Some scopes even come with a built-in rangefinder enabling the shooter to immediately knows the distance to the target. Knowing this in the moment can allow the shooter to compensate natural elements that may impede his shot such as the wind.

ar 15 scope visual review

Duplex Reticle


            Duplex reticles are the most basic and widely known reticle types. This style offers a simple cross that can simply be placed over the target allowing for simple target acquisition. There are some other types of duplex reticles as well. One is the long distance reticle that offers the same functionality of the basic duplex but with extra rungs or marks for different distances. This style makes The simplicity of the duplex come alive in the distance shooting realm of shooting allowing the shooter to quickly decide what range he or she needs.


Mildot Reticle


The mildot reticle offers that same functionality as the duplex reticle whereas it features rungs for different distances which covers the vertical distance aspect of the scope. However, the mildot also shows rungs for the horizontal aspect as well. This is handy for when you are leading a shot on a moving target. The shooter can take into account the speed of the target and compensate accordingly.

best ar-15 scope

BDC reticle

The BDC reticle offers nearly the same as the duplex long range with more detail into the distance rungs. In the duplex long distance reticle, it shows typically 25 to 100 yards. But the BDC reticle typically shows 25 to 600 yards making it more versatile in the tactical theater of the AR 15. This reticle is used mostly by law enforcement and tactical shooters.

Minute of Angle and MRAD

Minute of angle and MRAD is a mathematical equation used to determine the true distance of what an inch in your scope means in reality. When you need to move your reticle to the left of the target by an inch in the scope it will likely be much more than an inch in reality. This mathematical equation is a circle divided into 360 degrees and each degree is then divided into 60 minutes. Using this simple formula we can properly account for “leads” in a shot and better understand that an inch in the scope is in reality closer to a foot. There are several reason that this is important. When you sight in your new scope to your rifle you will be using this math to center the middle of the reticle at exactly what it is that you are shooting at. Think of the calibration knobs on your scope as a calculator, you are inputting this data into the scope and with each adjustment into the vertical and horizontal aspect of the scope, you are dialing closer and closer to what is called “sighted on”. Another rule of thumb is that for every elevation increase of 1 on your scope increases the bullets impact point o target by 1 inch at 100 yards.


Focal Plane

The focal plane is what you see when you look through your lens. The image that enters the front of the scope is actually upside down. There is another term for this as well, that is Cardinal Points which depicts the journey that the images takes through the rifle scope. If you were to take the main magnification lens out of the scope, then the image would appear upside down and when you move the reticle left over a target it will actually appear to move right. This is because the focal plane is appearing in its “raw” form. What does this have to do with the scope? Well there are two types of focal planes to choose from. There is front focal plane and rear focal plane. Front focal plane is used primarily for tactical purposes since the image is focused sooner in the scope. This is useful because the reticles are accurate at multiple magnifications. And the rear focal plane is useful in low light environments which limits the usability and when used with a BDC reticle, it may only be accurate on the highest magnification at best. More and more companies are going to the front focal plane models as they are clearly surpassing their predecessors.



This is what it is called when the focal plane is not aligned. The way to test this in a scope is to look at a target through the scope at 100 yards. When you are on target glance to a different part of the target with your eye and see if the image moves. If it does then your parallax is not aligned.  Many scopes come with an adjustment for this and it is relatively simple to correct. If you do not have the parallax adjustment on your scope it is as simple as sighting in your rifle again. It is recommended that you get a scope that offers the parallax adjustment so that if you find that your parallax is off in the field you can get your scope back to accurate in the field without having to visit a range to do it. This will save you time and money so it may be worth it to simply make sure that the scope you choose has this feature standard.

Best Ar-15 Scope Comparison Chart

Vortex® StrikeFire Red Dot Rifle Scope$$2.5-10x40
Bushnell AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle AR-223 Riflescope9.4 ''$$1-4 x 24mm
UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact IE Scope10.4 x 1.6 x 2.1 inches$$3-12 x 44
Nikon P-223 3-9x40 Mate BDC 6004 x 15.5 x 3.5 inches$$3-9x40
Nikon ProStaff 3-9 x 40 Black Matte Riflescope12.4''$$ 3 to 9x
Nikon M-223 Rifle Scopes13.5 ''$$$3-12x
UTG 3-9x32 Compact CQB Bug Buster AO RGB Scope9.8 x 3.4 x 3.9 inches$3-9x32


Final Tips to Find the Best AR 15 Scope 

There are thousands of options and the right choice entirely depends on what it is that you need the scope for. Another tip is to pick out a few that you think you are interested in and check their reviews at any major online retailer. You can generally get a good idea as to what the issues are with that particular model and the site you are on will likely recommend similar scopes. One thing that maybe some do not realize is that most scopes on the AR 15 mount to a bridge mounting system and that typically the mount for this is generic. What this means is exactly this, if you find a scope that has a “bridge” mount, nine time out of ten it will fit. This is useful while shopping for the new scope as it can help to narrow down what it is that you are looking for. Always remember to shop with your use of the rifle in mind. A hunter will most likely want something different than a tactical shooter will. The AR 15 is a great rifle and when paired with great optics makes it an accurate and efficient machine that is fun to shoot.


Bottom Line

Overall, the best scope for ar 15 is the one that tailors to your needs. Whether that is going to be hunting, marksmanship, home protection or tactical there is a scope for you. The best AR 15 scopes are made to be durable and last while offering a great list of features oriented for specific needs and there is a scope out there for you as well and when you find it, you will be happy that you put the work into finding the right one. Not one scope is the same as the other and I highly recommend that you do the homework to find the right one and that you also have fun finding it as well. Happy shooting!

Leave a Reply