The Best AR-15 Scopes, Optics & Red Dots in 2024

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I’ve used AR-15s for as long as I can remember. I own a DDM4 V7, BCM Recce-16 MCMR and S&W M&P 15, and have used them from hunting to home defense (CQB) to competitions.

Over the years, I’ve shot thousands of rounds through dozens of AR-15 optics, red dots, and holographic sights. And from personal experience, the best scope for AR-15 is the Vortex PST Gen II 1-6×24.

Best AR-15 Scope
Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II 1-6x24 SFP Riflescope VMR-2 MOA
The best AR-15 LPVO scope under $600. Perfect for short to medium range shooting like hunting, plinking and target shooting.
Recommended Accessories
VORTEX VIPER PST scope

The Quick List

Best AR-15 Scope
Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II 1-6x24 SFP Riflescope VMR-2 MOA
The best AR-15 LPVO scope under $600. Perfect for short to medium range shooting like hunting, plinking and target shooting.
Recommended Accessories

The Vortex PST Gen II is the optic I personally use on my competition rifle.

The glass is really good (barely any side distortion), the capped turrets are audible and true, and the 10-setting brightness allows me to shoot in almost any condition. In fact, I’m able to see the reticle clearly in Texas’ scorching sun. 

Although it’s a bit pricey and the magnification ring is a bit stiff (which a throw lever fixes), the PST II is well worth it if you want the best AR-15 LPVO.

Best Budget LPVO
Primary Arms SLX 1-6x24 Second Focal Plane Gen IV Rifle Scope -...
Best budget LPVO for AR-15. Daylight bright reticle, clear glass and affordable.
Recommended Accessories

If you can’t afford the PST Gen II and need something cheaper, I’d go with the Primary Arms SLX 1-6×24 LPVO.

Clear glass, bright illuminated reticle, holds zero and tracks true, and the ACSS reticle is incredible. It has a big chevron reticle for close A-zones shots and a BDC for longer shots.

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If you’re using your AR-15 for home defense (CQB), patrol or shooting <100 yards, then get a red dot. I personally use the Aimpoint PRO.

It’s incredibly durable, accurate, has clear glass, wide field of view, super long battery life, and the reticle is always on ready for action. And if you want to reach farther out, throw on a Vortex VMX-3T 3X magnifier.

Unless you can shell $900 for the Aimpoint T-2, the Aimpoint PRO is a battle-proven optic that is widely used by law enforcement and military personnel.

If you can’t afford the Aimpoint PRO and your budget is less than $150, get the Sig Sauer Romeo 5. Hands down the best budget AR-15 red dot on the market.

Battery life is incredible (40,000 hours), it’s built strong, the dot is overall pretty clear and sharp (minus slight hues of blue), and it comes with a mount. Overall very good for what you’re paying.

Best AR-15 Holographic Sight
EOTECH EXPS2 Holographic Weapon Sight
The EOTech EXPS 2 is my go-to Holographic sight pick for the AR-15. Reliable, clear sight picture, sharp dot.
Recommended Accessories

If you need a holographic sight for your setup, then I’d get the EOTECH EXPS2.

Fast target acquisition, very durable, wide field of view, clear glass just to name a few. Plus it works great if you have astigmatism. If the EXPS2 is too expensive, then get the Holosun HS510C. I’ll cover more details down below.

Best AR-15 Backup Iron Sights
Magpul MBUS PRO Flip Up Steel Front Sight Black MAG275 Bundle with...
The best backup iron sights (BUIS) for your AR-15. Built strong, reliable, and sits low.

Once you’ve equipped your AR-15 with its primary optic, I recommend installing a backup iron sight.

These serve as a fail-safe should your main sight malfunction, deplete its battery, or become detached. My go-to pick is the Magpul MBUS PRO.

Why should you trust me? 

Because it’s all I do.

I’ve reviewed hundreds of scopes so far. In fact, my reviews have been featured on the gun industry’s largest sites like:

  • SOFREP
  • The National Interest
  • The Truth About Guns
  • And more

I also own several AR-15 rifles that I use daily for plinking and target shooting. And over the years, I’ve tried almost every AR-15 optic on the market: red dots, holographic sights, LPVOs and magnified scopes.

Below is my analysis of the top AR-15 optics that have survived my testing. Before I show you, it’s your right to know any potential biases that may have affected this review.

First, no optic company sponsored this guide, sent me free optics, nor gave me a special discount. In fact, I don’t accept any sort of advertising as this usually leads to biased reviews.

I bought these optics usually from Amazon or OpticsPlanet, and paid the same amount as any of you would. But why do all this?

First, to make money. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I do all of this out the kindness of my heart. When you make a purchase through my affiliate link, I receive a small commission (typically between 1-4%). I don’t see what you purchase, nor does it affect the price you pay. With the money I make, I buy more optics to test and put food on my table.

Second, I enjoy doing this. I’ve been shooting guns my entire life, and to have the opportunity to do this full-time is a straight blessing. So thank you.

With all that said, I wrote a quick guide that’ll help you find the right AR-15 optic for you. Here we go…

How I Tested

I put every AR-15 scope through a rigorous testing process to see how they perform in real-world conditions. Here’s what I did:

First, I mounted each scope on my R-15 using a quality one-piece cantilever mount. Proper mounting is critical for consistent performance, so I carefully leveled the scope and torqued the rings to spec.

Next, I level the reticle using a plumb line to avoid any cant issues. This is critical for testing turret tracking — if the reticle isn’t perfectly vertical, the point of impact can shift sideways as you dial up elevation.

With the scope leveled, I head to the range and start the box test at 100 yards to verify the click values and tracking were true. Basically, I fired a group, then dialed 5 MOA up, 5 MOA right, 5 MOA down, and 5 MOA left to see if the scope returned to the original zero. Most scopes passed, but a few budget options showed inconsistent tracking.

Since these scopes may be used in defensive situations, I evaluated their durability with some non-scientific tests. I banged them around, tossed them in the dirt, and even left a couple overnight in the freezer. To my surprise, they all survived the abuse without losing zero, even the cheaper models. Tracking is rechecked after the abuse.

Optical clarity is important for target identification, so I compared the scopes’ image quality in both bright daylight and fading dusk. At 100 yards, I assessed resolution using an eye chart and evaluated color fidelity, contrast, and edge distortion. The higher-end scopes with premium Japanese glass obviously excelled here.

Since most AR-15s wear variable-power low-magnification optics these days, I paid special attention to the 1x performance. I engaged close-range targets from awkward positions to test the eye box and measured the true field of view. Models with a forgiving eye box and generous FOV scored extra points.

Finally, I took each scope to the tall grass and dialed for elevation. I engaged steel targets from 300 to 600 yards, making wind calls and utilizing the BDC or MIL-hash reticles. Some of the radical reticle designs proved too cluttered for precision work, while a few stood out as intuitive and quick to employ.

After all the testing, only a handful of AR-15 scopes earned my stamp of approval. I’m a firm believer in buying quality glass, so expect to spend at least $400 on a reliable scope in this category. Sure, you can find cheaper options for less but I think it’s money well spent. Just remember, a scope is only as good as the shooter behind it.

How to Choose the Best AR-15 Optic for You

There are so many AR-15 optic options: magnified scope, red dot with a magnifier, holographic sight, etc.

Which one should you get for your AR-15?

The short answer: it depends on your usage, range of engagement, and personal preferences.

The long answer? I’ll cover the most common uses along with which type of optic works best for you down below. But first, you need to pick a distance.

AR-15 Shooting Distances

The AR-15 can hit 150 yards without a sight. Pair that with the best scope for AR-15 and you can easily hit targets up to 600 yards and over. 

Vietnam M16A1 vs Modern AR-15 garand thumb
M16A1 vs. AR-15 (Garand Thumb)

That’s awesome. But you probably won’t be shooting that far out. If you are, you’ll probably want to get the best AR-10 scope or best 6.5 Creedmoor scope instead. Otherwise, here are the top 3 ranges (based on the .223 [or 5.56 NATO] ammo): 

  • Close Range: <150 yards
  • Medium Range: Between 150 – 400 yards
  • Long Range: 400+ yards. 

Simply choose a range and move on. But what if you use more than one range? Don’t worry — I’ll cover that in just a bit. 

For now, just choose the right AR-15 shooting range(s) for your use. Once you have, it’s time to decide…

What Magnification Is Needed For AR-15?

Close Range (<150 yards)

  • Most common use: CQB, target shooting, home defense or hunting small game.
  • Magnification range: 1-4x
  • Optic type: an LPVO optic (1-4x), AR-15 red dot or holographic sight.
    • Note: In several tests, holos paired with magnifiers outperformed 1-4X low powered variable optics in speed.

Medium Range (150 – 400 yards)

  • Most common use: hunting (varmints, coyotes, foxes, etc.)
  • Magnification range: 5-9x
  • Optic type: magnified scope

Long Range (400+ yards)

I personally don’t recommend hunting at this range with an AR-15. But if you must, here’s the recommended magnification: 

  • Most common use: long distance target shooting
  • Magnification range: 9x and up
  • Optic type: long range scope

And that sums up magnification. You’re probably wondering:

Should I get a red dot or magnified scope for my AR-15. If you know the answer, skip the next section. Otherwise, read on…

AR-15 Red Dot Sights vs Scopes

The biggest difference between a red dot and scope is target acquisition speed. 

It’s true that scopes can acquire short to long range targets (LPVOs) with no issues. However, it comes at a cost: Slower target acquisition speeds. 

You can see this in a head-to-head target acquisition test between a Primary Arms 4-14×44 scope and a standard red dot: 

ACSS-reticle-vs-red-dot-sight

That’s about a 28% difference in speed. On the field, that’s a pretty big difference that can spell the difference between life and death (or losing a competition). Related: best pistol red dots.

That’s why I highly recommend getting a red dot for short-range (<100 yards) quick target acquisition. It’s faster, easier, has unlimited eye relief, and lighter (they average ¼ the weight of a scope). 

But if you shoot further than that (>100 yards), then I recommend a magnified scope for your AR-15.

Easy enough, right? Enough talking, let’s take a look at the best AR-15 scopes list below.

Best AR-15 Scopes

1. Vortex PST Gen II 1-6×24: Best AR-15 Scope

Best AR-15 Scope
Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II 1-6x24 SFP Riflescope VMR-2 MOA
The best AR-15 LPVO scope under $600. Perfect for short to medium range shooting like hunting, plinking and target shooting.
Recommended Accessories
Vortex PST Gen II 1-6×24 Specs
ReticleVMR-2 (MOA)
Weight22.7 ounces
Magnification1-6x 
Length10.9″
Eye relief3.8″
Tube size30mm
Field of view112.5-18.8’
WarrantyYes — lifetime 

Pros:

  • Comparable to higher-end optics
  • Easy to read reticle
  • Clear glass
  • RZR zero stop

Cons:

  • Heavy weight (22.7 ounces)
  • Magnification ring is tight

Glass Clarity & Reticle

Glass is definitely crystal clear edge-to-edge. Just like all LPVOs, edges get a bit blurry/warped at lowest and highest magnification. But not as much with the PST. It’s definitely a step up from the StrikeEagle line and comparable to the Vortex Razor. 

VORTEX-OPTICS-VIPER-PST-GEN-II-1-6X24-Eye-relief

I love how simple and day bright the VMR-2 reticle. At 1x magnification it kinda feels like a red dot. It’s crisp, uncluttered (standard cross pattern) and very easy to see. The illuminated reticle is also glass etched so in the event your batteries die, you can still use the reticle. 

Eye Relief & Eye Box

Eye relief is generous at 3.5”. Pretty comfortable shooting far out. Eye box is also extremely forgiving. 

Durability

This rifle scope is built like a tank. I dropped it on cement, threw it across a yard, submerged it in a container of water for 12 hours — no issues whatsoever. The only downside is the PST Gen II is on the heavier side (22.7 ounces) although very manageable. Just keep that in mind if you are trying to minimize weight. 

VORTEX VIPER PST GEN 1 LENS (4)

Elevation & Windage Knobs

Turrets track true, crisp and easy to adjust. Pretty robust. No complaints here.

VORTEX OPTICS VIPER PST GEN II 1-6X24 knobs

I’d like to point out the RZR Zero Stop feature. It’s like a bookmark for your rifle scope’s settings. Here’s how it works:

Once you’ve adjusted your scope to hit a target at a certain distance perfectly, the zero stop lets you easily come back to that exact setting, even after you’ve made changes for shooting further away. It stops you from turning the scope adjustment too far when you’re trying to get back to your original setting, making sure you can quickly and accurately return to your “home” position without having to double-check.  

Magnification & Parallax

You get 1-6x magnification. Again, relatively clear throughout all ranges and great field of view (FOV). Just a bit of fish eye at the lowest and highest. Minimal parallax. If you’re experiencing parallax, simply adjust the parallax knob. 

Mounting & Rings

Doesn’t come with mounting so I bought the Aero Ultralight 30MM. It’s lightweight, holds strong, and installation was relatively easily. 

Since the magnification ring is a bit stiff, I highly recommend installing a throw lever to shift more quickly.

And get yourself a pair of flip up caps to protect your lens. I went with the Vortex Defender E-10 & O-24: 

Summary

If you can’t spend more than $600 on your AR scope, then get the PST Gen II. It’s definitely comparable to the higher-end optics with clear glass and clarity. Minimal optical aberrations, it’s durable, tracks reliably, zero stop feature, and the reticle is easy-to-use. My go-to pick for my sub $1,000 AR-15 build. 

Best AR-15 Scope
Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II 1-6x24 SFP Riflescope VMR-2 MOA
The best AR-15 LPVO scope under $600. Perfect for short to medium range shooting like hunting, plinking and target shooting.
Recommended Accessories

2. Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6×24: Best Runner-up Scope

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Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6×24 Specs
Weight18.5 ounces
Magnification1-6x
ReticleBDC3
Field of View116.5-19.2 feet/100 yards
Eye relief3.75 inches
Parallax100 yards
WarrantyYes — Lifetime Warranty

Pros:

  • Clear glass
  • Generous eye relief
  • Reliable, true turrets

Cons:

  • Cheap flip caps
  • Slight clarity aberrations at 6x
  • Bigger, more complex BDC reticle

Glass Clarity & Reticle

The glass is actually really good for the price. Minimal distortion at 1x and decent clarity at 6x. No complaints here. 

VORTEX OPTICS STRIKE EAGLE 1-6X24 lens

The reticle is crisp, bright and sharp. It’s also illuminated which works well on cloudy days and dusk/dawn. However it will wash out on bright sunlight days. Speaking of which, in case the batteries die, the reticle is etched onto the glass so you’ll still be able to use it. 

VORTEX OPTICS STRIKE EAGLE 1-8X24 sight

The only downside with the Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x is the BDC reticle.

Vortex Optics Strike Eagle BDC3

It’s great for longer-distance shots, but I definitely prefer a simpler dot for close range. That’s just my preference — not many complain about it. If you’re unsure, watch Vortex’s demonstration video:

Eye Relief & Eye Box

Eye relief is excellent, coming in between 3-4 inches. Could get a little tight at the highest magnification, but between 1-4x magnification I had no issues. 

VORTEX OPTICS STRIKE EAGLE 1-6×24 Overview

Eye box is also generous. Wide side picture, no straining, nor was I worried about scope bite.  

Durability

Most optics above the $100-200 price range are durable, and the Vortex Strike Eagle is no exception. I mean it’s no Aimpoint durability where you’ll be breaching doors, but the scope feels solid and it’s completely waterproof/fogproof.

Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-8×24 Waterproof

Weighs around 18 ounces.  

Elevation & Windage Knobs

The finger-adjustable turrets are easy to turn, audible, and feel solid.

VORTEX OPTICS STRIKE EAGLE 1-6×24 Knobs

They track true and hold zero well. I’ve easily shot over 500 rounds through this optic to date, used on larger caliber rifles and constantly adjusted the turrets, and I’ve never lost zero. 

Magnification & Parallax

It’s a low powered variable optic (LPVO) so you’ll get 1-6x magnification. That’s ideal for short-to-medium range shooting. Again, clear sight picture throughout most magnifications. 

I’ve had no issues with parallax. Just make sure it’s on the right setting. The knob is also a bit stiff when first out of the box, but it’ll loosen up with usage. 

Mounting & Rings

I went with the Aero Precision Mount. It’s lightweight, sturdy and affordable.

It does come with flip up scope caps, so you don’t need this. But I prefer higher quality ones to protect my glass. I got the Vortex Defender E-10 & O-24: 

And no need to buy a throw lever — the Strike Eagle comes with a thread-in throw lever. 

Summary

All in all, I love the Strike Eagle 1-6x. The glass clarity is really good for the price, turrets track true and holds zero, warranty is top notch, and just overall this LPVO works extremely well for my needs. Highly recommended if you can’t afford the Vortex PST II and your budget can’t exceed $400. 

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3. Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9×40: Best AR-15 Hunting Scope

Best AR-15 Hunting Scope
Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40mm Riflescope, Duplex CDS (174182) (174182)
If you’re a hunter on a budget, then I’d recommend the Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40. Its lowlight performance, glass clarity, and magnification makes it perfect for hunting.
Recommended Accessories
Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x Specs
ReticleDuplex
Weight1.2 lbs
MaterialAluminum
Magnification Range3-9x
NightvisionNo
Eye Relief3-4 inches
WarrantyYes – Lifetime Guarantee

Pros:

  • Clear glass
  • Durable build quality
  • Good lowlight performance
  • Generous eye relief

Cons:

  • Entry-level hunting scope

Glass Clarity & Reticle

The glass clarity is great. Fuzziness and color aberration are kept to a minimum. I don’t think the quality will blow anybody’s mind, but it’s certainly a step above most other budget optics. 

LEUPOLD VX-FREEDOM 3-9X40 RETICLE

The Duplex reticle is super basic. The simplicity of it makes for a less busy image which for me improved performance during my hunts. If you intend to do super long-range hunting, upgrade to the tri-MOA variant. Otherwise, the reticle is crisp and honestly, that’s good enough for me.

Eye Relief & Eye Box

Eye relief is plenty, coming at 3 inches. Target acquisition is easy and the eye-strain is kept to a minimum. It’s also extremely forgiving, even at higher magnification levels. Very high marks from me.

Durability

I’ve mentioned this in many other pieces I’ve written, but most optics these days tend to be pretty durable. The VX-Freedom upholds that standard with a shockproof aluminum housing.

LEUPOLD VX-FREEDOM 3-9X40 MOUNTED

I torture every optic I have with drops on concrete and bumps on wood. It’s also waterproof, confirmed and double-checked by a three-foot submersion test. This riflescope held fast with only minor aesthetic damage and no functional damage. That’s why I marked it as the best 22LR rimfire scope.

Elevation and Windage Dials

The elevation and windage dials on this scope are pretty standard-fare, clicky, ¼ MOA knobs. They work and seem solid even after the drop tests. They have removable caps that are on there pretty snugly, but there isn’t much to note otherwise. Getting on target was very easy and it held zero perfectly fine. 

Magnification & Parallax

The 3-9x magnification is well suited for hunting, especially if you hunt boar (like me). Like many other variable optics, the lower zoom settings will almost always offer higher image fidelity than the higher zoom. The VX-Freedom’s quality drops off a little the further you zoom in but still offers awesome clarity. Although there is no parallax adjustment on this scope, I’ve had no issues with parallax or scope tunneling. 

Mounting and Rings

The Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9×40 doesn’t come with mounting, so I went with the 1-inch Leupold PRW rings. 

I also recommend investing in a pair of lens cover to keep your glass pristine:

Summary

If you’re a hunter on a budget, then I’d recommend the Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9×40. Its lowlight performance, glass clarity, and magnification makes it great for hunting. This optic gets my personal recommendation. 

Best AR-15 Hunting Scope
Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40mm Riflescope, Duplex CDS (174182) (174182)
If you’re a hunter on a budget, then I’d recommend the Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40. Its lowlight performance, glass clarity, and magnification makes it perfect for hunting.
Recommended Accessories

4. Primary Arms SLX 1-6×24: Best Budget Scope

Best Budget LPVO
Primary Arms SLX 1-6x24 Second Focal Plane Gen IV Rifle Scope -...
Best budget LPVO for AR-15. Daylight bright reticle, clear glass and affordable.
Recommended Accessories
Primary Arms SLX 1-6×24 Specs
Magnification1x -6x
Focal PlaneSecond Focal Plane
Objective Lens Diameter24mm
Exit Pupil10.6mm – 3.8mm
Eye Relief4″
Windage/Elevation Adjustment120 MOA
Field of View @100 Yards120ft – 20ft (Low – High)
IlluminationRed, 11 Illumination Settings
Click Value0.1 MIL
Length10.4in
Weight w/ Included Battery17.9oz

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly 
  • Daylight bright reticle
  • ACSS Nova reticle

Cons:

  • Stiff magnification adjustment
  • Loses clarity at inclining magnifications 

Glass Clarity & Reticle

Glass is surprisingly good. It’s clear with minimal distortion. Although it loses clarity on the edges as you zoom in, the middle remained very sharp. I actually went hunting the other week and had no issues with fog, mist, or clarity aberrations. 

PRIMARY ARMS SLX RETICLE

The reticle is truly daylight bright (because of the new high-efficiency fiber optic wire). Unlike the Vortex Strike Eagle, you can see the reticle in sunny conditions. I’m a fan of the new ACSS Nova reticle. It’s uncluttered, easy to use, accurate, and great at lead moving targets on the fly (a plus if you’re hunting). 

Eye Relief & Eye Box

Eye relief is extremely generous at around 4 inches. You’ll have plenty of space behind the box to feel comfortable. That’s why I recommended it as the best LPVO in my Ruger 10/22 optics guide. Just practice good cheek weld, aim and shoot. 

Durability

I got this scope shortly after it came out. Since then, I’ve taken it down the range a few times along with a few plinking and hunting sessions. No durability issues at all. The Primary Arms SLX 1-6×24 is a 30mm tube constructed from 6061 T6 aluminum weighing roughly 17.9 ounces. 

Elevation & Windage Knobs

Turrets are capped, low profile (so they won’t get in the way), and adjust easily. It also features an eyepiece knob which allows you to focus the reticle. Just like the magnification ring, it’s a bit stiff to turn. Zeroing was lightwork, and to date I haven’t lost zero. 

Magnification & Parallax

Magnification ranges from 1x – 6x. The adjustment knob is well-textured and tactile. However, it’s a bit stiff — even with the included 90-degree throw lever. 

Mounting & Rings

Lens cap, battery and cleaning cloth are included. The only thing you need to buy is a mount. I went with the Aero Precision Mount. It’s lightweight, durable and affordable. 

Summary

If you want the best budget AR-15 scope, I’d get the Primary Arms SLX 1-6×24. The reticle is daylight bright, it’s easy to use and lead moving targets on the fly, and tracks true. Despite edge-to-edge clarity dropping at inclining magnifications, it’s well worth the money. For an optic that costs less than $350, I’d give it the greenlight. 

Best Budget LPVO
Primary Arms SLX 1-6x24 Second Focal Plane Gen IV Rifle Scope -...
Best budget LPVO for AR-15. Daylight bright reticle, clear glass and affordable.
Recommended Accessories

Best AR-15 Red Dots

5. Aimpoint PRO: Best AR-15 Red Dot

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Aimpoint PRO Specs
Weight7.8 ounces
Red dot2 MOA
Battery life30,000 hours (~3.5 years)
Battery typeDL 1/3N
NVD compatibleYes
Eye reliefUnlimited 
WarrantyYes

Pros:

  • Durable 
  • Accurate 
  • Fast target acquisition
  • 30,000 hours battery life (3.5 years)

Cons:

  • A bit heavy (7.8 ounces) and bulky

Glass Clarity & Reticle

I have SO many red dots, holographics, LPVOs — the Aimpoint PRO is easily one of my favorites. For the price, I wouldn’t pick any other. The 2 MOA dot is incredible crisp and clear with minimal hue saturation. No field of view issues and it’s very fast to get on target. After all, this optic is designed for law enforcement and military. 

AIMPOINT PRO CLARITY

10 brightness setting — 4 for night vision, 6 for day. Reticle is day-bright for sure. But if you intend to use this for CQB, make sure your brightness is on the lower side because it bleeds more the brighter it becomes. Speaking of which, if you need a NV scope, read my best night vision scope guide here.

Battery Life

When I’m building a CQB/home defense rifle and I’m deciding on a red dot, one of the biggest factors I look at is battery life. It needs to reliably work any time and all the time. The PRO passes with flying colors. 

AIMPOINT PRO BATTERY

I leave mines on all day, every day and it lasts forever (30,000 hours). Whenever they do die, I just replace them with these cheap DL 1/3N batteries: 

Durability

This thing is heavy. But that’s what you get for a bomb-proof, water-proof, shock-proof red dot that can be tossed, banged, drowned in water and still won’t break or lose its accuracy. I even screamed at it — although it didn’t seem to do much, lol. It’s simply reliable, especially for my needs (CQB, home defense, SHTF).  

Aimpoint-Pro-survived-fire

Accuracy

Very accurate. Out of the box, I got zeroed within 4 shots. I shot at multiple magnifications relatively quick and overall I was getting bullseye grouping within 75 yards. Even when I went further out (300ish yards), I was well within the 4 MOA groupings. 

Elevation & Windage Knobs

The one thing I noticed was the huge knob. Although it’s a bit bigger than I expected, it actually doesn’t get in the way of shooting. The ½ MOA adjustment turrets are coin-adjustable.

AIMPOINT PRO WINDAGE TURRET

Turrets are covered and attached to the optic so you won’t lose them. Also, it’s worth mentioning that the Aimpoint PRO comes threaded for a killflash. 

Mounting

I love the included mount. It’s durable, sturdy, and fast to remount. Comes with a torque-limiting knob tool that makes mounting a breeze. Also a spacer that can co-witness iron sights and flip up caps are included. 

If you plan on using your Aimpoint PRO for CQB, then co-witness it with the Magul MBUS Pro:

Best AR-15 Backup Iron Sights
Magpul MBUS PRO Flip Up Steel Front Sight Black MAG275 Bundle with...
The best backup iron sights (BUIS) for your AR-15. Built strong, reliable, and sits low.

But if you intend to shoot farther out or want more magnification, add a Vortex VMX-3T: 

Summary

I’ll get to it: buy the Aimpoint PRO right now. Use my affiliate link or not — I don’t care (kinda). It’s a durable ass optic that gets on target fast, shoots accurately, and is reliable. It’s the one optic I’ll be using when the world goes to shit.  

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6. Sig Sauer Romeo5: Best Budget Red Dot

Sig Sauer Romeo5 Specs
Weight7 ounces
Red Dot2 MOA
Battery life40,000+ hour
Mount includedYes
MaterialAluminum

Pros:

  • Incredibly durable
  • Cheap cost
  • 40,000 hours battery life
  • Precise daylight-bright 2 MOA dot

Cons:

  • Cheap mount

Glass Clarity & Reticle

For a sub $150 red dot, I’m pretty impressed. Besides the slight hues of blue, the glass clarity is pretty clear. Lens coating is also nice without any excessive aberrations. 

SIG ROMEO 5 RED DOT (3)

The 2 MOA dot is crisp, sharp and perfect for getting on targets fast. Comes with an 8 daytime and 2 night vision adjustable brightness knob. The dot is bright enough for any condition. I’ve used it in Texas on days when the sun is up there preaching and have had zero issues with haloing or bleeding effect. 

Battery Life

Battery life is pretty insane at 40,000 hours from one CR2023 battery. Probably because of Sig’s Motac feature (motion activated illumination) — where the sight turns on with motion and off after 2 minutes of idleness.

SIG ROMEO 5 BATTERY

That’s the one feature I love about this red dot — I can leave it constantly on and know that it’ll work after being stashed away. In fact, I’ve been using my Romeo5 on and off for a few years now and I had to replace the battery only once. 

Durability

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’d know I’m the joker when it comes to torture-testing optics. It just puts a fat smile on my face. I took the Romeo 5 and man did I put work on it. We are talking deep throws, swimming in water, held hostage in my freezer, just to name a few. 

SIG ROMEO 5 WATER TEST (1)

After all of that? Besides minor cosmetic damage (duh), the optic showed no signs of functional damage whatsoever. It maintained zero, the red dot was still crisp and clear, and it worked perfectly fine. I could have sworn after removing the optic from the freezer, it shiveringly whispered “is that the best you can do”? 

Elevation & Windage Knobs

Adjustments are incredibly easy to make and tactile enough. It’s protected by two removable caps. Out of the box, I zeroed relatively quickly and after all the years, zero has been maintained. No complaints here. 

SIG ROMEO 5 ELEVATION TURRET-

Mounting

The Romeo 5 comes with perfect height high-rise mount for the AR-15. This works great for beginners.

But if you’re like me and want to keep your AR build as light as possible, opt in for a skeletonized mount or QD lever. I went with the American Defense AD-T1-L quick disconnect. 

Knowing I’m a SHTF type person, I cowitnessed with a pair of Magpul MBUS flip sights:

I also wanted to reach further than 200 yards so I added a 3x Juliet Magnifier. 

Summary

This is hands down the best $150 budget AR-15 red dot on the market. The 2 MOA is perfect for quick target acquisition, 40,000 hours battery life and Motac feature will last you years, and it refuses to break despite harsh treatment. If the Aimpoint Pro were to have a successor that did not prioritize the pursuit of wealth, the Romeo 5 would be the outcome.

7. Aimpoint Micro T-2: Most Premium Red Dot

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Aimpoint Micro T-2 Specs
Reticle2 MOA
Weight3.3 ounces
MaterialHigh Strength Aluminum
Magnification Range1x
Night VisionYes
Eye ReliefUnlimited
Warranty2 years professional use10 years personal use

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Incredibly clear glass
  • Versatile dot settings
  • Long-lasting battery

Cons:

  • Expensive

Glass Clarity & Reticle

The glass on the Aimpoint Micro T-2 is crystal clear — no tint whatsoever. The glass has an anti-reflex multi-coating to reduce glare. I’ve used my Micro T-2 a lot and still haven’t put a scratch on the lens. 

The 2 MOA reticle is sharp and bright. No red glare, halo effect, or tints to the sight picture. It’s clear — just point and shoot. The huge brightness knob has several illumination settings. 4 for night-vision and 8 for daytime.

Battery Life

Battery life is incredible. We are talking 50,000 hours on one battery. You can leave it on 24/7 and it’ll work whenever you need it to. I’ve had mines for about 3ish years now and I still haven’t swapped the batteries out. 

Eye Relief & Eye Box

The Aimpoint Micro T-2 has unlimited eye relief, like most red dots. I love that I can stay back from the optic, even though this one doesn’t give off any bad laser emissions.

Durability

I’ll preface this by saying I’ve put over 1,000 rounds through my AR-15 with the Micro T-2 mounted. This Aimpoint red dot is solid. It’s built with quality aluminum and a hard anodized finish that looks awesome. It’s also shockproof, fogproof and waterproof up to 80 feet. It’s held up to almost any weather condition over time, and it’s waterproof up to 80 feet.

Elevation & Windage Knobs

The elevation and windage knobs both use screws to adjust. If it’s shooting low,  turn it counter-clockwise and vice versa. It’s pretty simple to use. The turrets are protected by flip-up covers that can withstand just as much as the rest of the scope. I haven’t had any issues with the adjustments or knobs.

Magnification & Parallax

The Micro T-2 is parallax-free and has a 1x magnification. While it doesn’t really magnify, the dot’s intensity helps with fast target acquisition. If you do need range, I recommend adding an EOTECH G33 Magnifier:

Mounting & Rings

The Aimpoint Micro T-2 comes with a mount that’s pretty solid. However, if you’re dropping $1k on an optic, you better get a mount that will hold zero better and lock it in place for good. I personally use Unity Tactical’s FAST mount: 

The T-2 also comes with flip caps, so no need to buy a pair. 

Summary

I’ll be straight with you: if you can afford to drop $1,000 on a red dot that will last you through hell and back, then get the Aimpoint Micro T-2.

Used by law enforcement and military personnel, it’s got everything you need: long battery life, clear dot, night vision, and durability. It’s a little more expensive, but you definitely get what you pay for.

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Frequently asked questions

What magnification do I need for my AR-15 scope?

This depends on your intended use. For close to medium-range (0-300 yards), an LPVO (1-4x or 1-6x magnification), red dot, or holographic sight can be sufficient. For longer ranges, you might consider higher magnifications like 8x, 10x, or more.

Which is better for AR-15: Red dot or scope?

That depends on your use. If you’re using your AR-15 for close range (<100 yards), get a red dot. But if you shoot further than that (>100 yards), then I recommend a magnified scope for your AR-15.

How do I choose between a first focal plane (FFP) and second focal plane (SFP) scope?

FFP scopes reticle size changes with magnification while SFP scopes keep the reticle size fixed. If you shoot long-distances or hunt in open country, get a first focal plane scope. Otherwise, get a second focal plane scope. It’s more popular and useable at lower magnifications.

What reticle type is best for an AR-15 scope?

The best reticle type depends on your use. If you’re shooting at varying distances, get a BDC (Bullet Drop Compensator) reticle. Mil-Dot or MOA reticles are preferred for precision shooting since they offer detailed adjustments.

Should I get a scope with illuminated reticle for my AR-15?

If you plan to shoot during dawn, dusk, or in dimly lit environments, then yes get an illuminated reticle for your AR-15. It can be beneficial in low-light conditions, enhancing visibility of the reticle against dark backgrounds.

How do I ensure my scope is properly mounted on my AR-15?

Proper mounting involves ensuring the scope is securely attached with appropriate rings or a mount, aligned correctly for your eye, and leveled to prevent canting. Read my AR-15 scope mount guide, watch YouTube videos or consult a professional.

What’s the difference between MOA and MRAD adjustments?

MOA (Minute of Angle) and MRAD (Milliradian) are two systems for measuring and adjusting for bullet drop and windage. MOA is more common in the U.S., and MRAD is preferred by some precision shooters for its metric calculations. The choice is mostly personal preference.

Disclosure

How I Get My Scopes

I paid for each (and every) scope I’ve reviewed in this guide. I paid the same amount as any other customer on Amazon. No ‘reviewer’ scopes were provided. 

External Financial Contributions

I have no financial ties with any of the scope manufacturers in this article. I don’t receive any contributions — in any form — from any scope manufacturer. In fact, I don’t accept advertising on my site. 

Affiliate Links

I do make money through small affiliate commissions. Here’s how it works:

  1. You read my in-depth guide.
  2. If you like a product, you can choose to buy it using my affiliate link (at no extra cost to you).
  3. I get a small commission (1-4%) that I use to put food on the table and keep the site running, ad-free.

Final thoughts

That’s the complete, updated list of the best performing AR-15 optics on the market today. Just pick one based on your use and budget. If I had to pick one AR-15 scope, it’d be the Vortex PST Gen II 1-6×24:

Best AR-15 Scope
Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II 1-6x24 SFP Riflescope VMR-2 MOA
The best AR-15 LPVO scope under $600. Perfect for short to medium range shooting like hunting, plinking and target shooting.
Recommended Accessories

And if I needed the best AR-15 red dot, I’d get the Aimpoint PRO:

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That said, which optic did you mount on your AR-15 rifle? Or is there one that you recommend and didn’t see on my list above? Let me know by leaving a comment below.


Written By

Richard Douglas

Hello, I’m Richard Douglas, a Firearms Instructor, Tactical Advisor, National Defense Security Consultant, and the voice behind Scopes Field.


63 thoughts on “The Best AR-15 Scopes, Optics & Red Dots in 2024”

  1. What about the AR-15/10 ACOG TA31 with ACSS Reticle. If one of the main reasons for having an AR-15/10 is to “protect” the homeland from “all enemies, foreign and domestic) then speed, accuracy, reliability and durability are critical. The ACOG is battle tested and it just works. Essentially it automatically ranges and calculates bullet drop, wind correction and target lead…all without the shooter really having to think about it once some experience is gained. Yep, it’s expensive but what’s your life, or the lives of your family worth?

    Reply
  2. On my 10.5″ barrel Defense AR I went Eotech3 NV IR Laser with the QD 3x flip over magnifier and Troy Industries front and rear Iron back up’s. On the 20″ barrel AR I went with the Nikon P-223 on a QD Mount, Matech Mil-Spec Rear Sight and a front rail mount A2 sight. The new 16″ barrel AR I recently purchased will be set up for night shift with Thermo imaginging or Flir as I haven’t made up my mind and Troy Indusries front rear Irons.

    Reply
  3. Enjoyed the article. I have the P-223 BDC 600 and as you stated ….it is a DEAD ON scope. I tack drive at 100 to 300 years consistently. I looked at the (Amazon) link for eye piece protectors. Amazon has 2, #19 eyepieces (41.8 and 43.9). So which one is the correct? Also, do you have a recommendation for an objective lens cover with honeycomb or sunshade for the objective lens of the P-223 BDC-600 (I hunt several places where the sun is either rising or setting right in my face) and want to prevent lens glare.

    Thank you! Henry

    Reply
    • Hey Anthe, I’m glad my article helped you guys buy the right scope 🙂

      Once the scope arrives and you take it for a spin, feel free to come back and leave a comment detailing your thoughts on it!

      Reply
  4. Great article on these options for AR in 223 or 556

    Looking specifically for best unit for ruger AR 556 pistol
    In 350 Legend for 100-125 yd hunting. Thank you for any recommendation.

    Reply
  5. Have you checked out the Sig Romeo 5 Red Dot? I’ve seen it pass all the endurance tests you mentioned for the Vortex Sparc AR, including the 12 gauge blast, and it can be had for like $160. I love mine, might be worth a look…..

    Anyway, thanks for the effort you put into this article, nice job!

    Reply
    • Hey Steve, I have indeed. And you’re right: It’s awesome.

      I’m actually working on an AR-15 red dot update, which will include more red dots (including the Sig Romeo 5).

      Thank you for the compliment — I really appreciate it! Thank you for leaving a comment, Steve 🙂 Hope to see you around!

      Reply
  6. Even as updated in May 2020 you are still showing the Nikon P-223 which doesn’t seem available to purchase anywhere anymore. Plus Nikon stopped making scopes because they don’t want to be associated with guns. I have several Nikon pieces of glass and always liked them. Seems like you’d have to find this one in stock on a shelf somewhere.

    Reply
    • Thank you for bringing that up Shane 🙂

      I’m actually currently working on an update to add new scopes/red dots. The Nikon P-223 will be off the list since, as you’ve already mentioned, they’re discontinued.

      Reply
      • I am seeing a Nikon P-Tactical 223 still available and it looks like the same scope. Are you aware of anything to make me not think this is just some new version of the same scope?

        Reply
        • I picked up the TRS/Riser/UTG Magnifier from ur links. However the .83 riser looks low and doesn’t quite line up with the magnifier (Little low). I think you need the 1” riser to line up perfectly….

          Reply
          • Yep, the 1″ riser gives you a 1/3 co-witness. The 0.83″ gives you an absolute.

            The 1″ should align perfectly 🙂

        • They’re pretty much the same optic.

          The Nikon P-223 and Nikon P-Tactical .223 only differ in reticle availability, body build and optical glass.

          Being that the P-tactical .223 is the remodeled version of the P-223, the P-tactical has all the updated modifications made.

          Reply
  7. When will you be through with trying to put fear in people of a virus that is 99.8% survivable if you catch it? Most people realize this is another attempt to take out our president through wrecking the economy. Guess what? It is not working. See you in November

    Reply
    • How’d your November (and December and January) go Daniel?
      Trump wrecked himself and
      your math is way off, perhaps a 6th grade refresher is in order.

      Reply
  8. I did a lot of research and came up with two contenders, the Leupold Freedom RDS and the Aimpoint Pro. I was in the military in the 80’s and the M16 I shot had only iron sights, when I heard that the Aimpoint Pro cowitnessed very well with iron sights and had a long battery life with dust covers and a tooless mount I just went ahead and bought it. Installation was very easy and zeroing was even easier. The glass is so clear it looks amazing. I felt I made a great buy!

    Reply
  9. Great diligence with your research. It helped a “newby” like me understand and decide what was best for my needs. Appreciate you sharing. I will be buying based on your recommendations.

    Reply
  10. Loved your article it really helped me out a lot ,this is all new to me and this was very helpful. Thanks keep up the good work 👍.

    Reply
  11. I just purchased a Diamondback DB15 .223WYLDE DB 15″ mlok rail and 18″ mid barrel.
    I am thinking of getting the UTG-3-12 X 44 SCOPE.
    Will I need the UTG-Hi-Profile Riser Mounts for my rifle?

    Reply
  12. Richard,

    thank you so much for the article and the great information! I’m working with a .350 legend, 18″ barrel AR and was really interested in the Nikon P-223, Leopold Freedom, and Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8x…My budget’s probably right around $400…What are your thoughts and recommendations, even if not one of the ones listed here? We are planning on deer hunting in brush with nothing longer than 200-250 yard shots max…mostly in the 100-200 yd range…I sure appreciate any help you can give us!

    Reply
  13. Thanks for the detailed article. Just for clarification, is your review ranking in order of preference (ie. #1 is BEST, #7 is the bottom of the best)??

    Reply
  14. Greetings Richard,
    All I can say is…..Scopes Field is hands down one stop shopping!!! A plethora of extremely important information, that I didn’t even realize I needed until I came across this site. I’m a brand new shooter and my first firearm purchase was for self/ home defense, my second one is strictly for entertainment and my sister and I are having a blast. between the two of us we’ve spent nearly $3500 on AR-15 pistols…. we are not big game hunters nor any where near pro shooters, so I don’t need to go crazy on sights for these things…..I just need to be able to 1. SEE my targets downrange @ 75yds! and 2. of course OUT SHOOT her!! (LOL) you’ve helped me understand what I’m looking for and most importantly…. why. excellent source of information. Thank you

    Reply
  15. You have blessed the community with this kind sir! I have owned and been upgrading my AR-15s since college in the late 90s. I use a flip-up magnifier with an Eotech. One thing that caught me off-guard after installing the magnifier was the increased size of the reticle. It seemed huge, and threw my long distance shots off considerably more than I would have thought.

    If you feel you have gained great accuracy and familiarity with your scope reticle, be prepared for it to be blown up in size when you flip up your magnifier. Takes a bit of getting used to!

    Reply
  16. Shopping for an ar, dot optics, front vertical grip & bypod at least. Don’t mind paying for reliability. So far that seems to start just under $1K. I think i want things like full m-lock guard, flip up hard sights & maybe see through or fold over optics with all returning to zero. Riser for optics maybe. Dont mind buying off your links if it helps you. Not sure why but i wanna like that Aimpoint Pro Reflex sight, ard & lens covers. Should i add a magnifier? Dont hunt but would if necessary & may always need to dispatch a dangerous coyote. Malicious people could always threaten. Unlikely any of those foreseeable needs would surpass short to medium range but ya never know & would definitely practice at longer ranges. Sold one i had for several yrs. 1 in 16 rh twist hb & a 3×9 Leupold. Now i wish i had not. Would be interested in your opinion on the rifle as well. I don’t know personally but gotta believe the dot optics give quicker target acquisition than a scope. Not interested in any that self comp. It will be zero’d at probably 36 – 50 yrds & anything else will be pure Kentucky windage. Wish i knew a little more about what i should be looking for. Thanks, Dan g.

    Reply
  17. Did you review the Primary Arms SLX 3x as part of this consideration? I’ve seen a lot of reviews for the Vortex and the Primary Arms and was curious what your preference was.

    Reply
  18. Hi Richard. Great article. I do need some help. I have a Smith & Wesson AR15 Sport II that has a A2 fixed front sight. I really like the Primary Arms SLX 1-6x24mm SFP Gen III. I am trying to find a mount to use so the A2 front sight is not in the way of the view through the scope. This is for target shooting between 100 – 400 yards. Do you have an opinion on the Crimson Trace CSA-1309 3-9x 40mm? What mount would you suggest for this scope on the same AR15?

    Reply
  19. Based on your research and recommendations I am going with the UTG 3-12 30mm. I have an Anderson AM 15 5.56/2.23, 16″ wylde stainless steel barrel. If this is not a suitable scope, I may go with a Leupold. I like value and performance.

    Reply
  20. Enjoyed the article but the vortex optics were so bad I returned mine. It was really bad the higher the brightness, looked like a star burst. I’ve gone with the leupold freedom rds. I have a leupold range finder and it works great, golf or hunting.

    Reply
    • Great article and VERY helpful for first time AR buyer struggling between magnification and red dot realizing you can have both. Thank you!

      Reply
  21. Thank you for the great article 8 Best AR-15 Scopes. Because of the information I was able to decided on a scope for my new AR. Being new to the AR world, I found your information very heipful. Thank you.

    Reply
  22. Thank you for the clear and detail review about red dot and scope for AR15.
    I am Reginald and live in Indonesia. I wonder if you can give recomendation for vortex strike eagle 1-6×24, Who can send to Indonesia.

    Best Regards,
    Reginald

    Reply
  23. Hello dear,

    This is Tion from century company, We are amazon seller, our main product is gun sight, and we would like to display our product on your website, please let us know what is your request, thanks so much.

    Tion/ Marketing Manager
    Century company(Newship Brand)

    Reply
  24. Thank you for a very informative article!
    I have grown up with and shot guns almost my entire life, but I am new to AR-15 pistols. What sight, red dot or reflex [I know the difference between these two], would you recommend for a Radical Firearms RPR 10.5 inch barrel in 223/556 that is to be used from 25-100 yards for range shooting, home defense, varmint control and hunting? My budget is no more than $200.00.
    Thank you for your time and effort in answering my question!

    Reply
  25. Really appreciate all your insights. I am nearsighted and so where glasses to see anything 20+ feet away clearly but then things that are close to me are not clear. For an AR 556, I am leaning toward a holographic site for close range up to 50 yards but also want to be able to hit longer range targets and hunt at 100-250 yards. For this I was looking at adding a magnifier as you point out. Given my vision situation, do you have a recommendation of whether to go Holographic + magnifier or LPVO or even a Vortex Spitfire 3X Prism scope. Would appreciate your thoughts.

    Reply
  26. I found it interesting when you said that the scope has excellent glass, an insanely quick target acquisition reticle, balanced magnification, and is quite robust. My father is looking for the best scope of AR-15 Tactical Rifles for Sale Online that he can use in his hunting with his friends this coming Tuesday. I’ll make sure to share this article with him so he can have an idea of which one he should buy.

    Reply
  27. Extremely informative article, so, thank you. I have astigmatism and the red dot is a large fuzzy blob. Do any of your recommendations have a green dot ? They are perfect for me.

    Reply
  28. I have an original colt AR-15, that i bought in 1980. It doesn’t have foward assistance like the M-16 I hadin the service. Mt question is is there a scope mount that will fit this rifle. I haven’t shot it much in the past, but seem to have some coyote’s and they got one of my cats. I had one in my sites, but missed. Need some help.

    Thanks

    Reply

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