A variety of scopes for AR-15 will be discussed in this article, but there is one thing to keep in mind – it will focus on best AR optic under 200 bucks.
The AR-15 is one of the most commonly used rifles for different activities, but mostly for hunting. It is very popular because it is a rather light rifle so that you can carry more bullets, and it can be extremely accurate. In order to achieve maximum accuracy and secure perfect shots, you will need the right scope.
There are many different AR-15 variants and many scopes to choose from. Different situations may require different types of scopes and different features to provide maximum efficiency. There are different features that can serve you best depending on the nature of what you are doing and while we can provide a piece of advice how to pick the right one, take the notion that only you can know what your specific needs are.
Not all people can afford expensive equipment. The rifle alone is way too expensive and the additional equipment for proper hunting experience adds up quickly. However, there is a list of decent scopes that you can choose from while being low or mid-budget ones. You can view them on the comparison list available here.
Our Top Picks
|Product Name||Magnification||Reticle||Eye Relief||Price|
|Vortex Strikefire||1x||4 MOA||Unlimited||Check price on Amazon|
|Barska Contour||4x||Mil-dot||3.3 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|Monstrum Tactical||3 - 12x||Mil-dot||Unlimited||Check price on Amazon|
|Bushnell AR Drop Zone||1 - 4x||Drop-zone-223 BDC||3.5 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|Nikon P-223||3 - 9x||BDC-600||3.6 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|Beilshi||4x||ACOG crosshair||2 - 2.5 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|Bushnell AR MP||2x||3 MOA and T-dot||Unlimited||Check price on Amazon|
|UTG Bugbuster||3 - 9x||Mil-dot||4.2 - 3.2 inches||Check price on Amazon|
Features to Consider Prior to Purchase
No matter how good the scope is overall, there are some things you should always keep in mind when buying a new scope. One of the most important features of every scope is its magnification. Depending on what you need, having the proper reticle could also be of high importance.
Lastly, scopes are now electronic devices, and they run on batteries. Battery life can determine how long you can stay out there without recharging or changing batteries.
Magnification determines how magnified the image that you get is. Longer distances require better magnification to show the clear image and provide best possible experience. Based on your needs, you should aim for scopes with magnification that could allow shooting from maximum possible distance.
For example, you might be interested in targets that are closer to you but moving. If that’s the case, you won’t need too high magnification. However, deer hunting is one of the most popular things to do when it comes to scopes and rifles. These are moving targets shot from distance, so having a clear shot can be really important.
The reticle is a red spot in the center of the image. It makes your shots much easier because the width of the scope doesn’t perfectly fit every target, and you need to be able to see a bit of a background behind your target. A tiny spot allows you to easily follow the moving target and make a better and a more accurate shot.
Deer hunting requires a reticle because they can move swiftly, and you will need to quickly adapt to the situation. Basically, whatever you’re shooting at, having a reticle makes it much more easy to do.
Adjusting brightness is a special feature that allows you to view the image more clearly with the optimal amount of brightness for a given lighting. The reticle can also adapt to brightness level and balances the brightness levels between the image and the red dot. It makes you see both of them clearly which is very important for making an accurate shot.
Battery life is a feature that is upgrading with every next generation of electronic devices. Scopes are also electronic devices and they run on, mostly, removable batteries. Removable batteries are a great thing because they are easy to change and they can be easily carried with you when you are on the move so that you don’t have to worry too much about the battery life of your scope.
However, buying new batteries can get expensive, and you’ll want to have control over the battery life. Different scopes differ in time it takes batteries to run out, and a word of advice for people buying scopes for any type of need is to aim for those with longer battery life. It pays off in the long run and it provides you with a stress-free experience while hunting, without being put into a situation where you lost you target because you had to change batteries.
Top Products on the Market
One of the most commonly used rifles for hunting is the AR-15. The rifle is lightweight and accurate and an expensive weapon to own.
That is why you need an affordable scope to mount to this powerful gun. We are here to help you out and can find the best scopes for the AR-15 reviewed here selling for fewer than 200 bucks.
Vortex Optics StrikeFire 2
Price: Approx. $200
Reticle: 4 MOA
Eye relief: Unlimited
Weight: 7.2 ounces
Specific features: Red and green reticle option, moisture-resistant, 6-hour auto-shutdown, vortex lens pen
Best use: Different weather conditions
The Vortex Optics StrikeFire 2 is a scope you easily mount to you AR. Apart from AR, it can also fit other rifles. With a magnification of 3-6 times, which works excellently on this piece of equipment so that it is a scope you will be happy you’re using.
It comes with a special alloy that prevents moisture or dirt to be caught. This can be very useful in bad weather conditions. It is built to endure all types of environments and you can carry it everywhere you go hunting.
You can choose dot color to your liking between red and green and it comes with several modes to adjust the brightness so you can clearly view both the target and the dot on it.
Its battery life is around 300 hours.
- Easy to mount
- Holds zero well
- No glass issues
- Adjustable brightness level
- Lens caps fit perfectly
- The dots look similar to starbursts than a round dot
Related: For keeping the Vortex StrikeFire2 optics protected, you can buy the Vortex Flip Cap Optic Cover extra.
Barska 4×32 IR Contour Riflescope
Price: Approx. $55
Eye relief: 3.3 inches
Weight: 10.4 ounces
Specific features: Green, red and black reticle options, water/fog resistant, limited lifetime warranty
Best use: Close range
The Barska 4×32 IR Contour Riflescope is a scope made to work best for close range targets. Its magnification is not as high as that which comes with many other scopes, but this is because it focuses on the clear image of what is in the close range.
It has an illuminated reticle in three possible colors: green, red and black. It is great that there are different options to choose from, because different people may prefer to use different dot colors that they find to their liking, but it can also fit a special situation and the ability to change to what you need most in that particular situation comes in very handy.
This scope is cheaper, a low-budget scope with its price going between $85 and $125. It is a very decent choice for people with limited budget. However, it can be great to add to your equipment set, because of it being specialized for close range targets.
If you can afford more than one scope, you can carry it and use it whenever you need it. Being able to change the features of your weapon based on the situation will surely prove to improve your efficiency.
- Holds zero well
- Easy to mount
- User friendly
- Need riser rings on different weapons
- Poor eye relief
Related: When using this scope on an AR you may need a riser to mount it to the gun and can buy one here, further you can also buy the P2M In-Chamber Laser Bore Sight to zero in the weapon quick and efficiently.
Monstrum Tactical AO
Price: Approx. $110
Magnification: 3 – 9x
Eye relief: Unlimited
Weight: 22.4 ounces
Specific features: 5 brightness levels, adjustable to different situations and weather conditions
Best use: Hunting
The Monstrum Tactical AO is another low-budget scope. Its price is normally below $100. It’s a piece of equipment that’s really great for the limited budget. It definitely is worth the value.
Its adjustable 3-9 magnification makes it easy for you to adapt to many different situations. For those with a limited budget, it is really nice to have a scope that performs well on both close range targets as it does for does on longer distances. Having to buy a couple of scopes to cover potential situations is sometimes just too expensive.
It performs pretty decently even in low light environment or during the night. It has 5 brightness levels so that you can adjust the scope to provide maximum visibility. Each brightness level will change the visibility of the reticle and you’ll want to be sure you can clearly view it in order to make the perfect shot.
- Long battery life use
- Holds zero well
- Great to use at night with the illuminator
- Good for the price
- Received the optic had a loose adjustment knob and Monstrum backed it up with a great customer service by replacing the scope
Related: For a great accessory to use with your rifle the UTG Tactical OP Bipod is perfect with the dual mounting design. This is great if you are out hunting for hours and waiting for your target to arrive.
Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone
Price: Approx. $150
Magnification: 1 – 4x
Eye relief: 3.5 inches
Weight: 16.9 ounces
Specific features: Extremely durable, illuminated reticle, simplified design
Best use: Close range
The Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone is one of the best scopes you could get for you AR under $200. It simply performs excellently and is one of the most accurate close range scopes around.
Bushnell is widely-known brand making one of the finest optic items. Their specialty is making hunting optics and whether it is rifle scopes or bow rangefinders, you can be confident you are buying the right item.
Maybe you will be more satisfied with one than with another, but you will never regret buying a Bushnell piece of optic hunting equipment.
Its design stands out from all other scopes being a bit simplified in shape. However, it was designed to be super durable, being resistant to fog, rain (water) or shock. It will hardly ever get damaged and it provides best possible experience.
This scope is not the best choice for people with limited budget. This piece of hunting equipment is best for those ambitious enough to have several scopes in their collection.
It will prove one of the best tools to have for close range targets. The reticle is illuminated and adapts its brightness level so you can clearly view the dot on your target.
- Clear glass
- Solid build
- Fit and finish is excellent
- Stays focused when you change the magnification
- Great light transmission
- Only made for close range target shooting and you may be replacing batteries regularly
Related: For mounting this scope to your AR, you will need the CCOP MNT-1516 High Profile AR-ArmorTac mount rings for a Picatinny rail.
Price: Approx. $170
Magnification: 3 – 9x
Eye relief: 3.6 inches
Weight: 15 ounces
Specific features: Highly adjustable to extreme angles, multi-coated, 100-yard parallax setting
Best use: Mid and long distance range
Nikon is along with Bushnell top optics brand. From cameras to scopes they never disappoint. The Nikon P-223 focuses on the lenses and magnification level rather than some special features.
It enables you to get the best possible image even in extreme conditions so that you can make a perfect shot. Additionally, it can be applied to your AR.
Its magnification level is adjustable from 3 to 9, so it provides the best experience when shooting mid-range and long distance targets. Being able to adapt to extreme conditions and angles it is a really great tool for long distance shooting.
This maybe is a mid-budget scope, but it almost breaks into the next category. You will find just around or below $200 and it is possibly the best scope on the market in its category and for its price. It is simply one of the best-buy items.
Nikon also follows its classic design that is easily recognizable from cameras, over laser range finders to scopes, such as this one.
- Clear image
- Nice scope for an AR-15
- Excellent warranty
- Easy to use and zero
- The lens covers is a bit loose
Beileshi Optics Illuminated Rapid Range
Price: Approx, $100
Reticle: ACOG crosshair
Eye relief: 2 – 2.5 inches
Weight: 16.4 ounces
Specific features: Fog/water resistant, illuminated reticle, 5 brightness levels
Best use: Mid range
The Beileshi Optics Illuminated Rapid Range is a scope with three different color modes for the reticle. Each color mode has 5 different brightness settings so that you can adjust the visibility of reticle.
It performs excellently from 100 to 600 yards and it is fully resistant to fog and water.
One of the things that make this scope a very good one is that while illuminated reticle can provide a great adjustment to poor light conditions, you can use the standard reticle without using your battery. So, in case your battery runs off, your scope will still be able to improve your accuracy.
It may not perform at the top level in all conditions because this is what electronic features do, but you will still be able to lay an accurate shot without the illuminated reticle.
- Includes standard windage and elevation knobs that are easy to use
- Includes two rails for mounting the scope
- Zeroes in easily and holds well with rapid fire
- Great to use in poor lighting conditions
- Can use the reticle without illumination
- The iron/fiber sight is not level
Related: For mounting the scope to specific rifles the Beileshi Low-Profile Compact Rise Mount with 3 slots and 0.5-inch high is perfect. Further, when out hunting it takes hours for you to find a target, this is where the Cvlife Tactical Bipod comes in handy. Attach your weapon for support and stability to this device.
Bushnell AR Optics MP
Price: Approx. $200
Reticle: 3 MOA and T-dot
Eye relief: Unlimited
Weight: 15.6 ounces
Specific features: Highly adjustable to extreme angles, amber-coated lenses
Best use: Short range
The Bushnell AR Optics MP is a piece for the closest range. Bushnell delivers a top quality scope but for a higher price than most on the list. However, this one seems to be a very serious scope with excellent performance.
Being a bit more expensive (but still within our set limit) it is best for pros who have their sets of equipment where they have different scopes for different situations. This one works best for the closest range targets.
Targets that are closer require you to make more extreme moves where every small move counts much more than when aiming at higher distances. In such situation having a reticle that is clearly visible is of the highest importance, as well as the clarity of the overall image. This scope seems to have proved to have these features.
Its design is aesthetically very appealing and it has amber-coated lenses which look very stylish while providing top quality experience at the same time.
Although it is overall a great scope, it is not the best scope, to begin with, but more of a piece you’ll want to add to your collection at some later point, unless you possess a collection of your own where this one would fit nicely and upgrade your possibilities to adapt to special conditions, as well as it widens the range of your possible types of targets.
- Makes shooting at distances great
- Available with both red and green dot illumination
- Has a sight included
- The caps to not fit well
Related: There are times when it is difficult to sight in the optics and iron sights on your firearm. Here you can look at buying the Solomone Cavalli 223 bore sight and is a great tool to have to help pre-align the sight and zeroing faster.
Price: Approx. $90
Magnification: 3 – 9x
Eye relief: 4.2 – 3.2 inches
Weight: 13.9 ounces
Specific features: Dual illuminated reticle (red and green), heavier than most scopes, water/fog resistant
Best use: Mid to long range, best on heavier rifles
Having a UTG BugBuster is a serious thing. It weighs more than any other scope on this list, and while it is not being too heavy it provides a certain amount of reliability.
Magnification adjustable from 3 to 9 makes this scope basically a universal scope when it comes to its adjustable range.
It is shock-proof, rain-proof and fog-proof making it easily adaptable to different and extreme weather conditions. Being used in the natural environment it is very important to be able to endure through extreme conditions. The reliability it provides saves money in the long run.
It comes with a special feature of having dual illuminated reticle – red and green.
- No issues found with the QD rings
- Withstands recoil well
- Clear optics
- Adjustable magnification and objective settings
- Has limited eye relief and makes shooting uncomfortable at times
Related: As the scope has, a limited eye relief when holding your weapon you can mount it on a CVLIFE Bipod with adjustable spring return that includes a mount adapter.
Buying a new scope for you AR can determine your hunting experience. It’s best if you can somehow determine where do you want to go and what exactly you want to do in order to more easily pick the right scope. As you can see now, different scopes are specialized for different conditions and different types of range.
If you are buying your first scope, it is probably best to go for 3-9 magnification or 1-4. Although the first is mid to long range and the second is low to mid, they both provide an option of shooting targets at different distances very efficiently.It is always best to have more possibilities than to maximize your chances only in one particular set of conditions. After some time adding more specialized pieces of gear is a great thing, as you are upgrading your hunting gear.
But it is not necessary and it could prove to be a bad thing if you buy a narrowly specialized scope and that’s all you got in your set.Many situations may be wasted due to not thinking about this in advance. Also, all of these scopes are easily attachable to ARs. However, you may want to attach scopes to different weapons. If that’s the case you should best check if it is possible.
Most of the scopes come as universally attachable, or if not, there are always a way to that by adapting the clutch.Battery life is solid and similar on all of the mentioned products. Those having a feature of being usable even when the battery is off is one of the best features a scope could have. It is true that electronic scope helps you shoot more accurately, it is important to never lose all options. Having an option to shoot with a reticle after the battery has run out is exactly that – never running out of options.
Hunting is a type of activity that also get dangerous and safety should always be number one. This is why you should make sure you have some batteries in reserve, that your current battery is full, and that your scope can accurately aim without the battery using the standard non-illuminated reticle.
Now we’d like to hear from you, which did you pick for your scope why? Let us know in the comments section below. And don’t forget to share this article out on social media.