The AR-15 is such a configurable platform that finding the right optic for your rifle can be a bit daunting. Cost and build quality varies greatly between rifles, and can be easily modified with upgrades and accessories, so finding a scope that really fits your rifle can be a journey.
To help you get through this process faster, here are the best scopes under $300, $200, and $100 to help you find an optic that’s perfectly suited to your rifle.
Best AR 15 Scope Under $300
Some good praise for Nikon is that they seem to have an excellent grasp of what their users need and where the ideal price point for specific users is. The Nikon P-223 BDC 600 is good evidence of how well Nikon meets the demands of shooters at relevant price points. The P-223 is capable enough and priced right for any AR-15 build.
The first thing to get out of the way (because it’s been said so many times) is that the glass quality is outstanding. Nikon puts the same full multi-coated, professional photography grade glass in all their optics, so the image will be crisp enough for solid shot placement at all distances.
Onto the next thing: the reticle. The reticle is Nikon’s proprietary P-223 BDC reticle, which is calibrated for the ballistics of .223 and 5.56mm rounds, and features holdover aiming points from 100 to 600 yards.
This means that you can make adjustment-free shots at any distance.
To improve your accuracy at range, the magnification goes from 4x to 12x. 12x is enough for absolute precision at 600 yards and more. 4x is mellow enough for short range tactical applications. The power range of the P-223 is ideal for those who want to improve their performance at all ranges and enhance the versatility of their rifle.
The objective lens is 40mm, which is wider than many tactical rifle scopes and collects enough light for a vivid image at maximum effective range, even in dawn and dusk light or poorly lit tactical environments.
The P-223 comes with Nikon’s Spot On ballistic match software, which calculates the zero of any caliber or round type, so you can get your scope on target fast. The ballistic match software also makes the P-223 ideal for swapping between rifles.
The P-223 takes the cake as the best AR-15 scope under $300, because it’s designed specifically for the AR 15 platform and built to the standard of much higher priced optics.
Best AR 15 Scope Under $200
Barra isn’t a huge name in the optics industry, but they produce some scopes that fill key performance and price niches that are underserved by other manufacturers. The Barra H30 4-12x40 is one example of a great Barra optic with an excellent convergence of performance and price.
Some may be concerned about the glass clarity at this price point and from a less popular manufacturer. However, the H30 is constructed with high density, fully multi-coated lenses.
The H30 boasts over 95 percent light transmission, which means you’ll get a bright, sharp image even in bad light.
To improve low light performance, the H30 features an illuminated reticle, with adjustable brightness so your reticle won’t wash out the image in low contrast environments. The reticle is a simple duplex reticle, with holdover lines for 200, 300, 400, and 500 yards. Additionally, the reticle is calibrated for the ballistics of the .223/5.56mm round.
The H30 goes from 4x to 12x, which is an ideal magnification range for the AR-15 platform. At 4x, your target view will be enhanced in CQB and short range contexts. At 12x you’ll have the target detail you need for precision shots at the far reaches of your rifle’s capabilities.
Something to keep in mind: the H30 is a second focal plane rifle scope. With an AR-15 platform, it’s possible that you’ll need to change magnifications a lot, since the AR-15 is useful at so many different ranges.
The second focal plane reticle doesn’t hold its proportions at different magnifications, so you’ll need to make calculations and adjustments if you use your reticle for a lot of estimations and corrections.
The last point about this scope is that it has a lifetime warranty, which is table stakes for scopes. It’s worth mentioning, though, because some customers have received scopes that needed to be replaced under warranty. The scope is well designed, but evidently a few defects get through quality control. Fortunately, the warranty service is outstanding.
Overall, this is the best AR 15 scope for the money in this price range. If you’re looking to get an excellent optic for under $200, this is your best bet.
Best AR-15 Scope Under $100
The sub-$100 price range can be a bit dicey for rifle optics. At this price, glass quality and durability are sometimes hit and miss. However, UTG has a solid reputation for building solid scopes that run for less than $100. The UTG 3-9x32 BugBuster is one of the most popular and beloved budget AR 15 scopes around.
The glass quality of the BugBuster is definitely a hit. UTG’s glass and proprietary Emerald Coating enhance the image clarity and color fidelity, so you’ll get a clear image at all magnifications and distances, even in bad light and low contrast environments.
Additionally, the BugBuster gathers light through a 32mm objective lens, which is perfect for the ranges and applications that you’ll typically be using and AR-15 for. Between the glass clarity and ample light collection, the BugBuster will perform at dawn and dusk, and will give you a clear sight picture even in dim tactical settings.
UTG equipped the BugBuster with a standard mildot reticle, which provides hash marks for elevation and windage estimations and calculations. Additionally, the reticle features two color options for illumination: red or green. This way you’ll be able to see your reticle in all light conditions and get good reticle contrast in any environment.
To match the versatility of the AR 15 platform, the BugBuster has adjustable parallax that can be set as close as 3 yards, and magnification that starts at 3x and ramps up to 9x. This means perfect CQB and short range performance, and better accuracy at long ranges.
There are very few scopes that bring durability and performance to the $100 price range like the BugBuster, which is why this is the best AR 15 scope under 100 bucks.
Two quick words of caution: some buyers have reported that their BugBuster scopes needed to be sent back for warranty replacement. So, the quality control may not be as high as higher priced scopes. However, the warranty service is reported to be perfect.
Second note: UTG advises customers to avoid buying UTG products that are shipped directly from China, as many of these are counterfeit.
Even though this article covers a few different price ranges, the Nikon P-223 BDC 600 is the best scope for the money, even at the slightly higher price point. It’s the sort of scope that won’t underperform for a high-end AR-15, and won’t be overkill for a budget black rifle.
So, now you can head out and pick up an optic, no matter what your budget is!