Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard a lot of controversy surrounding the AR-15.
Despite how you feel about it, the AR-15 is America’s most popular rifle. It is not automatic, but semi-automatic. Also, “AR” is an acronym representing the manufacturer, meaning “Armalite Rifle” (not “assault rifle”).
Although it looks like a dangerous military weapon, special adaptations prevent civilians from converting it to an automatic weapon. In reality, there are far less “scary” looking rifles that can do more damage than an AR-15. Depending on your barrel, you can only use .223 Remington, 5.56 NATO, or both.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at why the AR-15 is America’s favorite rifle:
- Versatility in grips, stocks, magazines, etc.
- Negligible Recoil
- Simple to Disassemble and Clean
- Beginner Friendly
And we could go on. While it is the perfect rifle for some beginners, it’s also a new challenge for experienced shooters. Using an AR-15 platform is different from using any other rifle, which can make it fun to master.
Whether you use yours for hunting or target practice, it likely holds a high priority in your weapons stash. If you’re new to the AR-15, let’s check out what it can do.
Out-of-the-box, an AR-15 can shoot accurately up to 250 yards.
If you are familiar with your gun, hitting the bullseye from this distance is no problem. Attach the best scope for AR-15 rifles, you can go a lot further.
However, you might not be looking for that 1,000 yard bullseye. Maybe you just want to stay far enough from the game you’re hunting, as to not be found. It all depends on what you want.
So what exactly are you looking for?
How Far Will An AR-15 Bullet Go?
For an out-of-the-box AR-15 with a 16-in barrel length, keep these rough measurements in mind:
Depending on which of these sounds more like you, you’ll want a particular type of scope. Even if more than one covers your field days on the range, there are scopes for that too.
AR-15 Scope Magnification
Fixed or variable, does it really matter? Yes, just as much as the magnification power you choose!
Generally, more distance means more magnification. What is that and what does it mean? Check out our quick scopes guide to learn about lens measurements and magnifications.
So which one is for you?
Fortunately, many AR-15 scopes cover at least two of these categories. No matter where you want to shoot, there’s one waiting just for you!
Which Scope Works Best For Your AR-15?
Are the forum boards and reviews making your head spin? Don’t worry, we’ve made it simple for you to pick the best AR15 scope and get on with your day.
- The Up Close and Personal: Monstrum Tactical 1-4x24 First Focal Plane (FFP) Rifle Scope with Illuminated BDC Reticle
- The Speed Shot: Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6x24mm BDC
- The Economic Lifesaver: Leupold VX-1 3-9x40mm Compact Riflescope
- Getting Fixed: Nikon 8496 P-223 3×32 BDC
Doesn’t America’s favorite rifle deserve the very best scope? You can already see names that you trust, so let’s look a little bit deeper at these fantastic AR15 optics.
1. The Up Close and Personal: Monstrum Tactical 1-4x24 First Focal Plane (FFP) Rifle Scope with Illuminated BDC Reticle
- Throw Down Power Change Lever (PCL)
- Illuminated Reticle
- Turrets are tall and do not lock
- Cannot co-witness
- Not for long-range
Fall in love with an anodize-finished aluminum alloy, strong seals, and nitrogen filling that make this scope rugged and durable. Even for the roughest users, this scope is rustproof and nearly scratch proof. After the most vicious encounters, drops, slips, and falls, it will always look its best.
Our only complaint is that the turrets are tall and do not lock in place. However, the reassuring click tells that they will withstand almost any experience.
Accommodating for both 55 and 62 grain 5.56mm rounds, this caliber-specific reticle will never let you down. While there’s never any doubt in the accuracy, you can’t co-witness on this scope. Although you won’t have your analog backup, the illuminated reticle will always light the way.
Even if you’re quick to the draw, your swiftness is no match for the Throw Down Power Change Lever (PCL). It allows you to adjust your sights quickly without losing the target. Best of all, the illuminated reticle and PCL function at their maximum capacity on an appropriate focal plane.
First Focal Plane (FFP)
What is FFP and why does it matter to you? When it comes to closer range shots, it can make or break your success. In FFP, the reticle moves to adjust to your chosen magnification. However, this does not affect its accuracy. While the reticle gets larger the more you zoom, the MOA lines remain in their respective location. It wouldn’t make sense to pair the handy PCL with any other view.
The Bottom Line
If you like to be right in the action, you couldn’t ask for a better scope. Not only will it withstand use and abuse, but continues to deliver top-notch performance through it all. There are only two exceptions – first, this is not a long-range scope; second, the FFP has a small learning curve. However, once you adjust to the speed that the PCL, FFP, and illumination offer, you won’t want anything else.
- Ergonomic controls
- 11 Illumination settings
- 4-inch eye relief
- Eye box is tight
The first thing you’ll notice after you attach this slick scope on your AR-15 is the ergonomic feel. Its controls are so easy to manipulate, you won’t have to think twice about your adjustments. Along with the textured bump on the zoom knob, the excellent optics will bolster your confidence.
Believe us, you’ll know when you have them keyed in just right. With 11 illumination settings, you can aim precisely through sun, shade, rain, and dark. Even if the battery runs out, there is storage for an extra battery in the windage cap.
In addition to the illumination is the crisp, clear image thanks to the multi-coat lens and water/fogproof protection. Most people would charge extra for the quality glass in this scope, but for Vortex, it’s a quality standard.
No matter how quickly you adjust your view, the target in your sights will never blur. Even in last minute, hectic moments, you can shoot at 1x with both eyes open. However, in small quarters you will get a slight fish-eye effect at 1x. Despite the circumstances, the fast focus reticle will always hold strong, true, and vivid.
Otherwise, the only other minor complaint is that the eye box is a little tight which the roomy 4-inch eye relief compensates.
Second Focal Plane (SFP)
Unlike our Bushnell scope, which uses first focal plane (FFP), this Vortex scope uses second focal plane (SFP). However, one is not innately better than the other. If you prefer long range shooting, many people will tell you to go with FFP.
With the SFP, the reticle stays the same size as you zoom. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to see your target at full power. Basically, if you like to keep your targets close, this scope is for you.
The Bottom Line
If you like to move quickly and efficiently, you won’t want anything else. Whether your target is up close or out at medium range, they won’t be getting away from this efficient scope. Between its fast action lenses and several illumination settings, there isn’t anything Mother Nature can do to throw you off your game.
- Leupold’s Multicoat-4 Lens
- Several Reticle Options
- Lightweight and Compact
- Lowest option of its model series
We can’t get over our adoration for Leupold. Four generations of family-owned lens technology continues to evolve without outrageous prices. They have something for just about everybody, and this particular scope is best for medium to long-range shots.
Although there’s no illumination, the unique Multicoat-4 Lens delivers the clarity you need for sun, rain, clouds, and dim light. You’ll see this clearly through their LR Duplex reticle, meaning it uses a 200 or 300-yard zero depending on your ammo. Additionally, it offers accurate aiming points up to 600 yards.
If that doesn’t sound appealing, you can install custom reticles yourself. Believe us when we say that Leupold has PLENTY you can pick. You get the quality that comes with the trademark gold ring without sacrificing the details that make it YOUR scope.
No matter where you go, you can depend on it to provide the utmost aiming assistance. Rain, sleet or high humidity will fail to ruin your day thanks to the nitrogen sealing process the scope undergoes. Did you know that Leupold is who made this an industry standard?
Best of all, this is our only compact AR-15 scope, meaning it’s easy to travel with and won’t weigh you down. What else could you ask for?
Leupold Ballistics Aiming System (BAS)
Even if you’re a first-time rifle-owner or scope user, don’t let the technical stuff overwhelm you. Leupold has you covered with an entire Aiming Guide that helps you use all of their reticles. Regardless of which one you choose, this scope gives you a hefty 4-inch eye relief to prevent embarrassing black eyes.
The Bottom Line
Don’t let the low price fool you. In this case, “cheap” does not mean “cheaply made”. Just as we expect from Leupold, you’re getting the best quality you can find for your AR-15. While it doesn’t have the buzzy features more expensive ones do, it performs just as well. Why fight with bells and whistles that compensate for low performance when you can get a simple scope made right?
- Excellent light transmission and view
- Works perfect at awkward angles
- Great Eye Relief
- Not for long-range shooting
Do you mostly use your rifle for home defense and security? Are you new to using a scope? Either way, this fixed scope is the best place to start. Working at 1x or 3 x, you won’t have to fumble with knobs to get the perfect shot.
It takes away greater risk of human error so you don’t have to overthink your aim. Since protecting your animals from coyotes and foxes requires fast action, you don’t have time for adjustments.
Getting your target in sight is even easier with the fantastic view that Nikon never fails to provide. With their high optical quality, you get more light transmission and an adequate field of vision. Despite the light coverage or weather, you’ll see the BDC reticle clearly and immediately notice its accuracy.
Even in the most hectic situations and awkward angles, the eye relief protects your brow from recoil. Really, the only complaint we have is that the turrets are a little bit large and don’t lock in place. This might be annoying to first-time users, but many find it easy to adapt.
Nikon’s Spot On App
Here’s another bonus for the newbies and those that have lost their touch. It sounds crazy, but you can zero in the perfect shot right from your smartphone! Using this app is as simple as a few swipes and taps. Choose your data and let Nikon spell it out simply for you.
The Bottom Line
Although it’s the cheapest of our scopes, it does not have variable magnification. If you’re more of a long-range shooter, you’ll require more than its 3x power. On the other hand, it’s perfect for security and close-range target practice. If you want the best scope for AR-15 varmint rifle, look no further than this Nikon classic.
What’s The Best Scope For AR-15?
Although it was a tough decision, these top picks made the cut as the best scope for AR-15 in their respective purposes. Since we all appreciate different styles of shooting, we found one for every crowd.
Nikon makes it simple for beginners with their fixed magnification and tech-savvy aiming guide. Even if it’s not your first time on the range, you can appreciate the simplicity it brings to home defense.
Bushnell and Vortex brings us swiftness and perfect illumination with two different focal planes.
Then last, but definitely not least, Leupold offers consistent quality with endless reticle options for reasonable prices.
As if the AR-15 wasn’t your favorite rifle already, the best scope for AR-15 will make you love it even more.