▷3 ABSOLUTE Best Scopes For AR-15 in 2019 [TESTED!]

by Richard Douglas

Today you’re going to find the best scope for AR-15

In fact: 

I’ve found the 3 best scopes for AR-15 on the planet. Whether you’re looking for a great hunting scope or you’re on a budget, you’ll find your answer here. 

Let’s dive in!

The 3 best scopes for AR-15

IMAGEPRODUCTBEST FOR 
Primary Arms 1-6X24 SFPAll Around ApplicationsCheck Price
Nikon P-223 3-9x40HuntingCheck Price
UTG 3-12x44BudgetCheck Price

Primary Arms 1-6X24 SFP

Best Overall Scope

Clear Glass

Insane Reticle (ACSS)

Perfect Magnification

Check Price on Amazon

Nikon P-223 3-9×40

Best Hunting Scope

Crystal Clear Glass

Lightweight

Tactical, Zero-Reset Turrets

Check Price on Amazon

UTG 3-12×44

Best Budget Scope

Decent Glass

Tactical Turrets

Rings Included

Check Price on Amazon

Why should you trust me? 

I’m going to be honest:

This post happened more on accident.

You see, when I tried to find the best AR-15 scope (or AR-10 scope), I couldn’t get a straight answer. Everyone recommended something different. Pissed me off.

So, I read every AR-15 scope guide online from ‘best AR-15’ guides to 40-minute Youtube breakdowns. Then, I decided to do the ultimate test: buy and test each scope…by hand.

That’s exactly what I did.

After a lot of hard work and thousands of wasted dollars (my pocket’s still hurting)…it paid off. What you see down below are the best AR-15 scopes from my personally expensive ‘education.’

I hope it helps you find the perfect AR-15 scope for you!


1. Primary Arms Silver Series 1-6×24 SFP

Best Overall Scope

Primary Arms 1-6×24 is the most well-rounded AR-15 scope I’ve ever seen.

Primary Arms Silver Series 1-6x24 SFP Rifle Scope

In fact:

You can use this scope for 3-gunning, target shooting and even hunting. 

Interested? Read on…

Glass Clarity & Reticle

Primary Arms Silver Series glass is incredibly clear.

Black Primary Arms ACSS Reticle

Here’s why:

They first started off with high-quality glass. Then, they multicoated the lens to maximize light transmission. 

The results? Incredibly clear glass worth 2-4X the price of the scope. 

And that’s not all you’re getting.

Primary Arms knew that a good AR-15 reticle was key to an unstoppable scope. So, they made the most innovative reticle to date:

The ACSS reticle.

Primary Arms Gen 3 1-6x24 ACSS Reticle

Here’s what’s special about it: 

The reticle functions as both a red dot and a bullet drop compensator (BDC) reticle at the SAME time.

Primary Arms ACSS reticle

How did they do it? 

The secret lies within the outer ring:

ACSS Reticle Explained

That ring is made for fast target acquisition (similar to a red dot) while the center dot is for longer-range shots. 

ACSS Reticle Illuminated

So together, you can use the scope for short and long-range uses! 

If you’d like to learn more on how the ACSS reticle works, feel free to watch this video:

Speaking of the reticle, I’ve got good news: 

The reticle doesn’t need battery to operate. 

The reason? They etched the reticle right into the glass. Here’s how it looks without illumination:

ACSS Reticle No Illumination

And that’s not all. 

They even included a 11-brightness setting illumination with the reticle, so you can see the reticle bright and clear in ANY lighting condition (including low light conditions).

Primary Arms Gen 3 1-6x24 Brightness Knob

Nice!


Eye Relief & Eye Box

3.5”. 

That’s the amount of eye relief you get with this scope. When I first saw that, I was excited because that’s almost the perfect amount of eye relief for an AR-15. 

Primary Arms Gen 3 1-6x24 Eye Relief

However, there’s a catch:

The eye box isn’t that forgiving (as other scopes I’ve tested). 

The solution? Proper cheek weld and practice. 

With that, I was able to get the hang of the limited eye box in very little time. 


Durability

This scope’s built like a ‘Fury’ tank. 

Fury Tank

It’s completely shock, water and fogproof, allowing you to use this scope in nearly ANY climate or terrain. 

Primary Arms Gen 3 1-6x24 Rifle Scope

Elevation & Windage Knobs

More good news:

The turrets are incredibly reliable.

Whenever I adjusted the ½ MOA turrets, all I felt was a buttery smooth turn followed by a clear, tactile ‘click’ sound.

Primary Arms Gen 3 1-6x24 Turrets

Better yet was the scope’s ability to zero and hold zero (out of the box). 

In fact: 

It took me around 6 rounds to zero in the bullseye and I didn’t even need to boresight the scope (although I recommend you do). 

That said, I did find one little preference missing on this scope:

Tactical turrets. 

Most higher-end scopes (like the hunting scope below) include tactical turrets.

The reason? 

Tactical turrets help hunters make faster adjustments on the go. 

This is an absolute LIFE-SAVER on the hunting ground when every second is crucial. However, tactical turrets aren’t needed. They’re just a nice ‘bell’ to include with a scope. 

With turrets covered, let’s move onto…


Parallax & Magnification

This scope’s 1-6X magnification is nearly perfect.

Primary Arms Gen 3 1-6x24 Magnification Ring

As I’ve mentioned in my Riflescopes 101 guide, the AR-15 is a short-to-medium range rifle. Which means you shouldn’t get too much magnification.

The good news? 

That’s exactly what you’re getting with this scope. The 1X magnification allows you to nail short-range targets quickly with ease while the 6X helps you reach up to 550+ yard targets. 

Here’s a video of HighJak shooting 300-600 yards with the scope: 

The best part of it all? The scope remains clear and parallax-free REGARDLESS of the magnification (even at maximum).

Primary Arms Gen 3 1-6x24 Adjustable Eye Piece

So you can see why Primary Arms 1-6X scope is the best overall scope — it’s literally built for the AR-15 from the bottom up. 

And that’s exactly why you need to get some proper…


Mounting & Rings

I went with an American Defense AD-RECON STD Mount. It was super easy to install and held zero perfectly fine. 

However, if you can’t afford it, then I’d recommend going with an Aero Precision Single Piece Mount. It’s lightweight, sturdy and affordable. 

With mounting covered, it’s now time for my final verdict on the…


Primary Arms Silver Series 1-6×24 SFP: Is it Worth it?

If you’re looking for the overall best scope for AR-15, then get a Primary Arms 1-6×24

Here’s why:

The scope’s glass is great, the reticle’s insane, the magnification is perfect and is super durable. It even comes with a lifetime warranty.

In other words:

You can’t go wrong with the Primary Arms 1-6×24 SFP. So what are you waiting for? Just pick one up and try it for yourself 🙂


2. Nikon P-223 3-9×40 BDC 600

Best Hunting Scope

The Nikon P-223 is the best hunting scope for the AR-15.

Nikon P-223 3-9x40 Best Medium-to-Long Range Scope

It’s literally a deer hunting, hog killing, and varmint killing BEAST. 

You know why? Read on to find out, starting with…

Glass Clarity & Reticle

Crisp and clear.

Nikon P-223 BDC Reticle

Those are the first 2 words I thought whenever I looked into a P-223 scope. The clarity was similar to higher-end $600+ scopes. 

Nikon’s secret?

They use high-quality Nikon glass alongside the MOST expensive lens coating — fully multi-coated — giving the scope an unprecedented 98% light transmission.

Nikon P-223 Ocular Lens

As a result, you’ll see EVERYTHING with this scope. But what do you see inside the scope when you look through?

The BDC 600 reticle. 

And it’s specially engineered for the AR-15’s most popular ammo (the .223 Rem). 

Nikon P-223 BDC 600 Reticle

What that means is it specifically measures the .223 Rem’s trajectory, giving you completely accurate bullet drop estimates.

BDC 600 Reticle Ballistic Information

However, there’s one thing I’m not cool with:

The BDC’s reticle bubbles are a bit thin. Here’s a reticle comparison with the Buckmaster 4-12×40:

Buckmaster 4-12x40 Reticle vs Nikon P-223 3-9x40 Reticle

If the bubbles were a bit thicker, it would be an all-star hunting reticle for the books. 

But that’s just me nitpicking. A lot of folks have zero issues with the bubble size.

That said, let’s move onto…


Eye Relief & Eye Box

It’s got a thick 3.6” of eye relief. 

That’s the perfect amount of eye relief for the AR-15. 

The best part? 

The eye relief stays constant REGARDLESS of the magnification you use. Very cool! 


Durability

The Nikon P-223 is INSANELY durable. 

In fact, the scope’s rugged, water, and fog proof.

Nikon P-223 Solid Build

Typically when you have that combination, you pay the price in the weight of the score. Not in this case. 

The scope actually weighs only a mere 1.1 lbs — allowing you to move freely on the hunting trail. 

With that, we’re onto the next scope feature…


Elevation & Windage Knobs

The turrets are A-grade in my book. 

Why? 

Because Nikon included my absolute favorite kind of turrets:

Tactical Turrets.

nikon p-223 3-9x40 Windage and Elevation Turrets

Here’s why they’re great:

Tactical turrets are DESIGNED for the hunting field. That’s because you no longer have to uncap your turrets every time you adjust, leaving me with headaches the size of Mordor. 

Mordor

Instead, simply adjust the turret and go. No allen wrench (or nickels) needed. A huge time-saver on the trail!

Also, the scope’s super easy to zero. 

nikon p-223 3-9x40 Turret

Matter of fact, I was able to reliably zero within a record 7 rounds…and it held zero. 

So far so good, but how about the scope’s turrets themselves? They’re super high quality, being both repeatable and produce clear, crisp ‘click’ sounds when you adjust. Nice!

With that, it’s now time to move onto…


Parallax & Magnification

The 3-9X magnification is LEGIT for hunting (and close-to-long range shooting). That’s why I recommended it in my mini 14 scope guide.

For closer ranges, I used the 3X magnification and was able to hit targets up to 100 yards away with ease. 

While for longer ranges, I cranked the magnification up to 9X and hit targets up to 600 yards away. 

And here’s what surprised me: 

Despite going to such a high magnification, the scope remained completely clear and parallax-free. 

And my favorite part of it all?

Nikon’s Spot On Ballistic Match Technology.

Nikon P-223 Spot ON App

The app literally removes ALL the guesswork out of shooting and leaves the fun part…bringing home the meat. 

Speaking of fun, let’s discuss the most fun part of scopes…


Mounting & Rings

This scope needs a 1” mount to work with an AR-15.

So I used a Nikon P-Series One-Piece Mount

Nikon P-223 P-series Mount

It’s sturdy, inexpensive and most importantly…it gets the job done!

Also, the included string covers doesn’t do anything. So you should probably invest in some Butler Creek flip up lens covers (Eyepiece size: 19) (Objective size: 31) to protect your scope’s lens from damage. 

And that’s it. Now for my verdict on the…


Nikon P-223 3-9×40 BDC 600: Is it Worth it?

The Nikon P-223 is worth EVERY penny. 

In fact: 

I actually believe the Nikon P-223 is underpriced for the high-end scope features it has like…

  • Crystal Clear Glass
  • Fully Multicoated Lens
  • The ‘Perfect AR-15 BDC’ reticle
  • Light Weight
  • Tactical, zero reset turrets

…making it the best valued AR-15 hunting scope I’ve seen to date. 

And in case anything goes wrong, you’re 100% backed by Nikon’s lifetime warranty. With that kind of warranty, there’s no reason NOT to get a Nikon P-223 3-9×40.

That said, it’s now time for our final scope…


3. UTG 3-12×44 30mm Compact Scope

Best Budget Scope

The UTG 3-12×44 is hands down the best budget AR-15 scope I’ve ever seen. 

UTG 3-12x44

The reason? Keep on reading starting with the…

Glass Clarity & Reticle

For a budget scope, I wasn’t expecting much in the glass department.

However, the UTG’s glass was actually not bad (considering the price). It turns out the scope’s glass is multicoated, allowing for increased light transmission.

UTG 3-12x44 Fast Focus Eyepiece

But…how about the reticle? 

It’s a Mildot reticle. Here’s how it looks:

UTG 3-12x44 Etched Reticle

Mildots are great for beginners because they’re easy-to-use yet useful enough to help improve your accuracy. 

Why is that? Mildots estimate distance and holdover with their tiny dots like this:

Mil-Dot Reticle

So you can make accurate long-range shots. 

You know what else is cool? The reticle doesn’t need a battery to work. That’s because its etched into the glass. 

And if you need illumination, they’ve got one of the most overkill illumination coloring systems I’ve ever seen — allowing you to choose from over 36 different colors.

UTG 3-12x44 EZ Tab Knob

So if you’re into personalization, this is great for you. And what’s even better is the scope ‘remembers’ your previous illumination setting with a click of a button. 

UTG 3-12x44 Red Reticle

Put another way: 

You get personalized reticle illumination at a click of a button. 

And with that, we’re onto our next feature…


Eye Relief & Eye Box

Most cheap scopes skimp on eye relief.

The result? 

You’ll end up looking like Mad Eye Moody within the first hunt:

Mad Eye Moody

However, that’s not the case with the UTG 3-12×44. It turns out they put on a solid 3.4” eye relief. 

Although that’s not perfect, it’s not bad either for using an AR-15 without being too uncomfortable. 

Enough said. Let’s move onto…


Durability

While I was testing the UTG 3-12×44, I accidentally dropped my gun (and scope). 

Despite the rough hits it endured, the scope still held up beautifully without sacrificing the zero. 

I thought it was a fluke until I read up about the scope’s completely shock, rain, and fog proof ‘True Strength Platform’ build. 

UTG 3-12x44 scope durability

This makes the scope insanely durable. 

But as a result of this hefty build, you do get some added weight — a hefty 24 ounces of weight.

Although that indicates a higher-quality build, the weight may be a problem for people that move their rifle a lot (like in hunting). 

If you do, I’d definitely recommend not going with this scope as it’s going to weigh you down on the trail…HARD. 

(Believe me, I would know)

Instead, go with a Nikon P-223 3-9×40. That said, it’s time to move onto…


Elevation & Windage Knobs

These tactical turrets are awesome!

UTG 3-12x44 Turrets

They remove the unnecessary uncapping and get you straight to making the adjustment step. 

The result of this change? You bring home more meat. 

And if you want to bring even more meat home, look at a scope’s zeroing ability. For the UTG 3-12×44, the zeroing is LEGIT. 

UTG 3-12x44 Dials

Let me explain:

It took me quite a few rounds to zero in, but when I did…the scope locked it in. That’s mostly thanks to the lockable and resettable turrets — which are usually found in high-end scopes. 

It also produces loud ‘click’ sounds when you adjust. So it passes the turrets test, but how will it fare on the…


Parallax & Magnification

“Will the magnification work?” I thought.

UTG 3-12x44 Magnification

That was the only burning question on my mind when I put the scope out for the stress test. 

To find out, I throttled the scope from the lowest magnification all the way to the max. 

And the results surprised me:

The magnification is fairly clear (and mostly parallax free) — even at the highest 12X magnification. However, there was a bit of fuzziness at the highest magnification. 


Mounting & Rings

This is a huge pocket reliever:

UTG has included medium profile rings with thumb-screw picatinny brackets…completely free!

UTG Rings

And get this:

These rings are REALLY well built. 

UTG 3-12x44 Rings

Matter of fact, you won’t need any other rings unless you have one of two things: 

A flip up back up iron sight (BUIS) or a DPMS AR-15. 

In either case, you’ll need to buy some higher rings like the UTG pro 1” high rings. These rings fix the incompatibility problem. 

With all that said, it’s time for the ‘secret’…


Other Features

As a whole…this scope is by far the best valued scope package on the market

Out of the box, it has everything you need like…

  • Flip Open Lens Cap 
  • Medium Profile Rings
  • A solid scope

…and for all you’re getting, this scope is almost a STEAL. And believe me, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a scope overdeliver this much. 

And if that wasn’t enough for you, UTG decided to sweeten the deal by including a lifetime warranty.

UTG Lifetime Warranty

So if your scope ever breaks on you — they’ll fix it for free. This helps stretch your dollar to the fullest over the long-run.

And now it’s time for my final verdict on the…


UTG 3-12×44 30mm Compact Scope: Is it Worth it?

If you’re looking for the best budget AR-15 scope (or 308 scope), then get the UTG 3-12×44. It’s hands down the best sub $350 scope on the market.

Here’s why:

You get a well built scope with decent glass, no parallax, tactical turrets, and everything you need to mount (and protect) the scope…out of the box.

Simply put: you couldn’t ask for a better budget AR-15 scope. 

And let’s face it: 

When using expensive scopes, you’re always subconsciously stressing about your ‘babies’ health. With the UTG 3-12×44 30mm, you save yourself that stress because it’s cheap.

So if you’re looking for a budget scope, then grab yourself a UTG 3-12×44 before they raise the price! 


What’s the Best Scope for AR-15?

If you’re just looking for an overall solid scope to go with, then go for the Primary Arms 1-6X24 SFP

Primary Arms Silver Series 1-6x24 SFP Rifle Scope

If you’re looking for the best AR-15 hunting scope, go for the Nikon P-223 3-9×40 Mate BDC 600

Nikon P-223 3-9x40 Best Medium-to-Long Range Scope

Or: 

If you’re looking for the best budget AR-15 scope (or a good starting scope), then go for the UTG 3-12X44 30mm Compact Scope.

UTG 3-12x44

That said, you really can’t go wrong with ANY of these options. After all, I’ve hand and torture tested a lot of AR-15 scopes on the market. 

The result? These 3 scopes came out on top.

That’s not a surprise considering each of these scopes have HUNDREDS of rave reviews on Amazon. 

So there’s no way you can go wrong. 

But let’s say you do go wrong with the scope and you want to return it. Could you still return it? 

Yes you can thanks to Amazon’s 30-day Money Back Guarantee. 

In other words: 

You can use this scope for 30 days risk-free. And if you don’t like it, simply return it back to Amazon for a refund.

So…what’s the wait for? Just choose a scope and give it a try. That’s the only way you can find your best AR-15 scope. 


Now It’s Your Turn

I hope you enjoyed my best scopes for AR-15. 

Although it took me a few weeks to draft up this guide, it was worth it because I finally found the best AR-15 scopes on the planet. 

Now I want to turn it over to you: 

Which riflescope will you pick for your AR-15?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment below. And if you have any other scope recommendations, feel free to let me know down below. 

Quick Note: I’m currently testing out a couple of red dot sights and will update this guide ASAP with my findings.
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You left out an obvious choice for the AR-15/10: An 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?