Selecting the Best AR-15 Scope for YourBudget
There are not many things more American than the rifle. Though invented in Europe, the rifle was perfected in North America. In the early 1700s the Kentucky Rifle, then known as the Pennsylvania Rifle, was crafted by the German immigrant gunsmiths in what is now the states of Pennsylvania and Virginia. It was American militia members and Continental soldiers who taught the British Army a number of lessons with that same Kentucky long rifle in the American Revolutionary War.
Today, the rifle remains woven into the DNA of the United States. Nowhere can this be seen more than in the AR-15, the most popular rifle in the US today. The AR-15 has a well-deserved reputation for accuracy, customizability, ease of maintenance, and more available parts than the number of items on a Chinese menu. Unlike its competitor, the AK platform of rifles, the AR15 can easily mount and incorporate a number of available optics. Choosing the best optic for your rifle depends on what your shooting style is, and how much coinage you can afford to pay for a scope.
Before beginning the process of choosing an AR-15 scope, you should take into consideration what your shooting style is. There are so many variables to this decision.
- Do you shoot long range at targets past 300 yards?
- Do you prefer more tactical style shooting at 200 yards or less?
- Do you run a 3 gun competition rifle and are in need of an optic that allows for faster target acquisition?
- Are you a Prepper that simply wants a reliable optic for if the lights go off and never come back on?
- Do you plan on using your AR for hunting?
Some optics can overlap different shooting styles, and most Mil Spec equipment can shoot competition, be used in a tactical environment and is built like a tank. However, if you are setting up a rifle for long distance shooting, you’ll need to top it with dedicated long range scope.
If long distance shooting is your game, you may want to consider an AR-10 vs. the AR-15, chambered in .308 as opposed to the 5.56/.223. I’m not saying you can’t shoot a 5.56 out to 500 yards. You can. That said, the 5.56x45mm was designed to perform optimally at under 500 yards. With a competent shooter behind the rifle, an AR-15 chambered in .5.56/223 can and will consistently put groups in a targets at 5-800 yards. However, if you are seeking an AR for dedicated long range shooting, I strongly advise a AR-10 chambered in .308/7.62x51mm.
The AR-15 and the AR-10 are very similar despite their different chambering, and most optics can be used on either rifle.
Best AR Optic Brands
Just as there are many different manufactures of AR platform rifles, so it is with the optics we mount on them. Here are four great companies who make quality scopes for the AR.
Trijicon: Trijicon has built a solid reputation during the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for quality, well built, and long lasting rifle sights. Their systems are used by the US Military, British Armed Forces, Israeli Defence Force, and many other governments and agencies around the globe.
Leupold: The Leupold Company has been in business for 5 generations and produces a plethora of some of the finest shooting optics known to mankind. Leupold Scopes have also been to war, where their rugged construction, ability to hold zero, and advanced technology has earned them great respect in many militaries across the globe. Leupold optics has a strong and dedicated following on the civilian and police market as well.
Millet: Millet sights have been around since the 1970. Founded by a former engineer who had a strong eye for detail, Millet has been producing optics for hunters, shooters, military, and police for over four decades. In 2005, Millet was purchased by the Bushnell Company, and continues to produce quality scopes and sights for today’s shooters.
Nikon: Nikon produced everything from high end cameras, to movie production equipment. Nikon also makes some of the highest quality outdoor equipment including binoculars and rifle scopes and optics. Many of the products offered by Nikon are very affordable for the average shooter.
NCStar: Founded in southern California in 1997, NCStar produces affordable optics. While not offering the high end quality of Trijicon or other companies such as Leupold or Nikon, NCStars scopes are perfectly serviceable and can punch holes in targets nicely for a diehard AR-15 operator.
BSA: BSA is another producer of affordable, but very serviceable rifle scopes. BSA has built everything from aircraft and STEN submachine guns, to anti-tank artillery for the British Military in World War II. Today, BSA no longer manufactures military equipment, but produces affordable, quality optics and outdoor equipment for shooters around the world.
AR-15 Sight Options:
There are so many choices out there if you are looking for an excellent optic to mount on your AR. I have chosen three, and that was very hard. Almost any product made by the above manufacturers for an AR is a good option, but alas I had to choose three. Here are my choices. I have listed them at 3 price points.
$1300: My first choice is the Trijicon ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight) is my first choice. The reason I have chosen this marvellous optic, is because of its unique and reliable design. The ACOG is self-luminous through the use of both fiber optics and tritium. Tritium is radioactive hydrogen, and has a half-life of 10 years. The sight is fielded by the USMC, and is truly built like a tank and waterproof up to 100 meters. Not that you should be taking your AR-15 swimming. Illumination is 4x. The ACOG is a great sight for shooters seeking to build or buy a high quality AR-15, with a mind towards tactical shooting, prepping or even competition.
$500: At the $500 price range, I have selected the Leupold AR Mark AR Mod 1. The Leupold is easily the most accurate optic I have selected, even with its tactical orientation. It can be dropped down to 1.5 magnification, and can be taken up to 4x for longer shots out to 3-400 yards if need be. Leupold has a high standard of quality, and the Mark AR lives up to all expectations. A great option for the shooter who wants quality, but can’t quite afford an ACOG. The Leupold is a great choice for both tactical and competition shooters.
$70: One optic I have been quite impressed with, is surprisingly the $70 BSA Tactical Weapon 4 x 30mm Rifle Scope. I have found that this optic will put rounds on paper, and do so consistently time and again. I have also found the quality to be much higher than expected. The BSA comes with a Mil Dot reticle, and according to the company is both water and shock proof. I didn’t bang it against a brick wall during testing, but I have seen these sights abused and still function flawlessly.