AR-15 scopes. What can I say? They look so badass. I love it. Always have. They can make just about any run-of-the-mill low-cost AR look like something out of a movie. That’s the less calculated side of me talking, but I cannot ignore it.

The AR-15 was developed in the late 1950’s and scopes became available almost immediately. Ever since the rifle was introduced, many people – and companies – were interested in increasing its effective range with use of various optics. The older M16 units had a carrying handle, and scopes were mounted there. Accurate, but not too convenient. The M4 flat-top was a welcomed game changer.

In the past, unless you were military, your options were somewhat limited. Nowadays there are so many brands, you get lost just thinking about it. A scope – or some other type of optic – is considered to be a part of any proper AR configuration. Backup sights are always recommended, by the way, but a scope or red dot can really widen your options.

Shooters around the world attach a scope to their rifle since it provides them with the potential for an increased range, and because it makes them that much more accurate. To be clear, an optic won’t magically turn you into a better shooter. You still need to put in the time and effort to maximize its potential. But yes, a scope is often a reliable and faithful companion, whether you are out hunting, competing, or simply honing your skills.

Best AR 15 Scope

The best AR scope is the one which fits you, your rifle, and the task at hand. Cliche, but true. Example: there would be no reason to invest in a heavyweight scope, for instance, if your goal is to create a seriously lightweight carbine. There would be no need to purchase a scope designed for exceedingly long ranges (e.g. 8.5-25X50), if you will only be shooting at targets 200 yards away. You get my point. Money and magnifying power are not the be all and end all of this business.

You need to know what you are sacrificing when you decide to purchase a scope, because chances are you will be sacrificing something. There are times when the scope’s ability to provide you with long-range precision will compromise your visual perception at close range. Again, it is all about what it is exactly that you are shooting at.

Also, let’s not forget that unlike sights, scopes are lenses which require some type of eye relief. If you are not a certain distance from the eyepiece, you will not be able to see (and consequently shoot) properly.

So, what are some of the best scopes out there right now? Brands such as Vortex, Leupold, Nightforce, Nikon, Burris, and Bushnell never go out of style. They manage to consistently provide customers of all sorts with top-notch equipment. They are not without faults, of course, but they have a great reputation, and rightly so.

The best AR scope will be one which is A) durable, B) has magnifying capabilities that match your needs, and C) is within your price range. In other words, you need to do some research, and take your rifle and intended-use fully into account.

AR 15 Tactical Scopes

The word ‘tactical’ is thrown around a lot by writers and shooters alike. Perhaps I myself am also guilty of the occasional over-use. So let me make it clear that when I say “tactical scopes”, I mean ones which are/were based on military models, or ones which were originally made for the civilian market, but which manifest some of those military-use characteristics.

A tactical scope will usually be heavier and larger than ordinary scopes. Some tactical scopes have a different kind of reticle (or a set of reticles), meant to be used under various circumstances. Sometimes the turrets will be exposed – for quick on-the-fly adjustments -, unlike their civilian/hunting counterparts. Another difference will be price – tactical scopes which are actually tactical, tend to be more expensive.

Examples of some of the more popular tactical scopes :

And I will also add one here which is less popular, due to its higher price point, but it is a quality item which deserves some recognition.

Swarovski has some of the best glass in the business, and this model also has night vision capabilities. Which brings us to…

AR 15 Night Vision Scope

Low light conditions can be highly problematic, no matter how good you are. If I have said it once, I’ve said it a million times: you can’t take aim at what you can’t see. You could bet on your odds and take a shot in the dark (pun intended!), but in general, you want to be able to actually see the target when you are shooting at it.

Night vision options certainly raise the bar, budget-wise. There is no getting around this. Unless you know a guy who knows a guy (you know what I mean…), you are going to pay a pretty penny for a scope with good night vision capabilities, especially if it is a longer range scope. However, for night vision-capable scopes with a range of under 100 yards or so, there are many more affordable options.

Companies which make quality night vision scopes include ATN, Armasight, Burris, and Pulsar. Some use thermal imaging, some use more traditional methods. There are many differences between the two, and again – your intended use and specific circumstances will point you at the better and more effective choice.

Best Scope For AR 15 Under $100

You could argue whether or not it is even worth it, buying a scope for under $100. I am of the opinion that it most certainly is worth it, you just need to know what to expect, and more importantly what not to expect from a cheaper scope.

It is important to note that even if the scope you choose is a cheaper price, it should still do its job and be relatively durable. It doesn’t need to be a big brand name, it doesn’t need to be expensive, it doesn’t need to be made of the finest materials – but it does need to perform.

Here are some of the best scopes for under $100, in the short to medium range:

The different specs and details vary, of course, but overall these are four pretty reliable items which you can check out. They may not be a good fit for your specific needs, but on the whole they deliver on their promise.


The one major thing to understand about scopes – whether for the AR-15 or not – is that there is no one-size-fits-all kind of deal. If there is, well, it is probably too good to be true. It is all about finding the right tool for the job. Any given set of conditions or circumstances may call for a different kind of optic, so you’ll have to go with the one which best matches your intended use.

The scope is one of the most important things on your rifle, so make sure to buy a quality one which is within your budget. The prices for the higher-quality optics tend to get pretty high pretty fast. But, even so, that doesn’t mean you should immediately go for the most expensive one on the market. Take your needs into consideration, and see what works for you.

For things like hunting, long-range shooting events, competitions, or defense against targets which are further away – you can’t beat a good scope. Although, to be fair, there are shooters which manage to stretch the capabilities of their red dot sights, thanks to their skill and modern technology.

Scopes will always be a favorite of long-range shooters. Your AR-15 will not only look badass, but it will also perform better at those longer distances. It will become an inseparable part of your rifle’s setup, providing that you get used to the additional weight, and that you train with your scope and (ideally) with your backup sights as well.

Scope Mounting with Precision Rings

Sam M

Sam is an avid firearms enthusiast who loves sharing his knowledge and experience with fellow gunivores.

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