In the world of tactical carbines and rifles, you cannot underestimate the value of a high quality optic. With all of the choices available today, it may be difficult to decide exactly what your optic needs are.
Maybe you need a variable zoom compact optic that will perform in any situation, an extremely high quality fixed power combat sight, or something that can reach out and hit a target at over 1000 yards. Let us help guide your decision on what tactical rifle scope is right for you.
If you want the highest quality tactical sight for the AR-15 available today, look no further than the Trijicon ACOG 4x32 battle sight.
Our Top Tactical Scope Reviews by Model
Top 8 Best Tactical Scope Reviews (Updated 2021)
1. Trijicon ACOG 4x32: Best Tactical Scope for AR-15
If you want the highest quality tactical sight for the AR-15 available today, look no further than the Trijicon ACOG 4x32 battle sight. The ACOG, or Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, is the top of the line choice for the US Military, and it can be your choice as well.
The ACOG utilizes a combination of tritium and fiber optics for 100% battery free illumination. Not only is it battery free, but it automatically adjusts to the lighting condition, giving you the most perfect reticle brightness all the time.
The body is made from 7075-T6 aircraft grade aluminum for unparalleled durability. The ACOG is extremely rugged and virtually indestructible.
The fixed 4 power magnification gives you enough power to reach out and touch medium to long range targets.
The ACOG can also be used as a close quarters sight utilizing the Biden Aiming Concept. By keeping both eyes open you can focus the reticle on close targets without the zoom interfering.
The glass quality on the ACOG is among the clearest you will ever find. The sight picture is extremely crisp and clear with no worry of distortion or questioning what you are aiming at.
The Trijicon ACOG 4x32 is simply the ultimate tactical sight for the AR-15 on the market today.
2. Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35: Best for .308
Like the 4x32 model for the 5.56 AR-15 platform, there is also a Trijicon ACOG that is ideal for use with tactical .308 rifles. The ACOG 3.5x35 is the highest quality tactical fixed power scope available for 7.62 battle rifles on the market.
Like many of the ACOG sights, the 3.5x35 model utilizes a combination of tritium and fiber optics for battery free illumination. The reticle will automatically adjust depending on current lighting condition and is always visible, from complete darkness to bright sunlight.
The .308 specific reticle is available in different shapes and colors, and it utilizes an easy to read bullet drop compensator for long range shots up to 800 meters.
The sight can also be utilized for close quarter targets by firing with both eyes open. Glass clarity is extremely clear.
Construction of the ACOG is among the toughest you will ever see, and thanks to its 7075-T6 body it can take a lifetime of abuse without failing.
You may be surprised to see the SWFA SS Rifle Optic on this list, but the consensus from the public is overwhelmingly positive. This model performs like a very expensive optic for a mid range price.
The SWFA is a 3-15x42mm variable zoom high precision optic. The tube body is a standard 30mm size, compatible with many popular mounting options for your precision rifle. The matte finish will protect the shooter from unwanted glare.
A Mil-Quad reticle allows for precise targeting at any distance. The zoom control is located just forward of the eyepiece, and has a stand-up lever for precise turning and movement with one hand. A side focus knob, and the fully multi coated lenses, ensures your target is always clear.
The entire unit is sealed to protect against weather, and it is shockproof to protect against recoil.
It isn't a small optic - 13.66" long and weighing 24 ounces - but it will get the job done.
Check out the SWFA today for an extremely high quality scope that can meet all your needs.
4. Vortex Strike Eagle: Best 1-6x Scope
The Vortex Strike Eagle is a very capable 1-6x with tons of performance. The Strike Eagle offers the quick targeting of a close quarters optic and the versatility of a variable zoom tactical optic in a one package.
The high quality lenses used in the Strike Eagle provide and sharp sight picture while providing excellent lighting in all sorts of conditions.
The reticle is glass etched and features a bullet drop compensator design for 5.56 rifles, and has 11 brightness settings for use any time of day.
For extra clarity there is a fast focus dial built into the eyepiece to keep the sight picture sharp at all times.
Standard windage and elevation controls are found in their traditional locations.
If you need a variable powered tactical scope for your AR platform rifle, the Strike Eagle is the way to go.
5. Bushnell Trophy TRS-25: Best for Shotgun
Many of us are using shotguns for home defense or in law enforcement, when speed and quick targeting are absolutely critical. Thanks to its low mounting height and ease of use, the Bushnell Trophy Red Dot makes a fantastic red dot to attach to any shotgun.
The Bushnell Trophy is a 25mm 1x fixed power mini red dot sight. The 3 MOA red dot is LED powered and has 11 brightness settings, useful in virtually any situation. The dot is clear and simple and makes for quick aiming. No extra mounts or rings are required to attach it to any standard rail.
The Bushnell Trophy is powered by a CR 2032 battery which provides a decent amount of life at the low and mid settings.A nitrogen filled waterproof body protects the unit against the elements to be sure it will work any time you need it.
The Trophy is extremely lightweight, weighing less than 4 ounces, so you don't need to be concerned about extra bulk. An easy to use sight that may make the difference in a stressful situation, it's a great addition to any tactical shotgun.
6. Leupold VXR Patrol: Best Compact
The Leupold VXR Patrol 1.25-4x20mm compact optic is an excellent choice for use in law enforcement or other tactical situations. While Leupold is known for making excellent long range combat optics, that is not all that they do. The VXR patrol has the versatility to handle any number of situations that may be thrown its way.
Constructed from durable 6061-T6 aluminum, the VXR only weighs 12 ounces and measures less than 10" in total length. The compact design does not hinder performance, as you can easily engage targets at close range and switch to long range shooting with a simple turn of the controls.
Exceptionally clear glass is obtained utilizing an ion-assisted lens coated for the sharpest possible sight picture. The VXR also uses FireDot Illumination and a special purpose reticle designed for tactical applications.
Integrated Motion Sensor Technology automatically disables illumination after 5 minutes of inactivity, and turns it back on automatically at the first sign of movement.
The entire unit is shockproof, to protect against recoil, and weatherproof to protect the unit from the elements.
For the highest quality compact tactical scope, the VXR is a fantastic choice.
7. Nightforce Optics: Best for Long Range
When you really need to reach out and hit a target, the Nightforce Optics 12-42x56mm BR is hard to beat. Nightforce Optics is one of the top brand options available today for exceptional long range rifle scopes.
The 12-42x56mm BR has been specifically manufactured to shoot at ultra-long distances. The ultra high powered zoom can zero in on any target with ease. Shooting past 1000 yards is no problem with this optic.
In order to ensure extreme accuracy when zeroing the unit the turret adjustments are set at an astonishing .125 MOA per click. This small of an adjustment allows for extremely minute changes, even at extreme distances.
Two different reticle choices are available depending on preference. One is quite simple and the other has hold offs for shooting at longer distances or in the wind. Tube diameter is 30mm and Nightforce offers several high quality ring options to go along with this one.
It is a very large optic, measuring 17 long and weighing 36 ounces. This particular model has been designed to be used from a stationary prone or bench rest position.
There is no question that the Nightforce 12-42x56mm is the perfect rifle optic option for extremely long targets.
8. Trijicon 1-6x24 VCOG: Best .223 Optic
For absolutely matchless performance in a .223 specific model, Trijicon does it again with their new 1-6x24 VCOG model. The VCOG, or Variable Combat Optical Gunsight, is available with several reticles designed specifically for .223 ammunition in several different bullet weights, with the 55 grain model being the most popular.
Yes, the VCOG is expensive. Yes, you get what you pay for. Unmatched quality goes into every Trijicon VCOG optic when it is built. You will not find a more durable .223 scope with a clearer sight picture than the Trijicon.
The variable 1-6x power zoom allows for a wide variety of applications, from close quarter engagements to accurate long range shot placement.
The unique segmented circle crosshair is available in either green or red models and is powered by a single AA battery. The reticle provides the shooter with an easy to see red dot at the lowest setting, and elevation hold offs for extreme distance shooting at the highest zoom setting.
Each VCOG is made using 7075-T6 aircraft aluminum and is almost indestructible. Not only are they weatherproof, they are actually waterproof to 20 meters for any sort of maritime or coastal situation that may arise.
The Trijicon VCOG is the absolute state of the art combat optic for your .223 rifle.
Top Tactical Brands
For an affordable variable zoom tactical optic the Monstrum Tactical 2-7x32 is a great choice. This optic is a good option for those new to shooting or looking to explore the world of variable zoom tactical scopes without spending a lot of money.
The body has been constructed to be weather resistant, but not totally weather or fog proof. However it still does a good job at keeping the elements at bay. The reticle has 5 brightness settings and can switch between red or green depending on the user's preference.
This model has a 2-7x variable zoom that can be utilized for any number of uses, including target shooting, hunting, or tactical applications.
Included with the scope are a set of Monstrum optic rings so you don't have to concern yourself with buying extra components.
For the first time buyer or the novice shooter, the Monstrum Tactical 2-7x32 is a great low-budget variable zoom optic.
As tactical variable zoom scopes become more popular, more manufactures are starting to make them available. Millet's offering is the Tactical Designated Marksman 1-4x24mm.
The Millet TDM offers a one piece body construction, fully multi-coated lenses, and an illuminated reticle. The reticle has 11 brightness settings, allowing you to easily use the TDM in any situation.
The unit functions as a true 1x red dot at the lowest power setting, allowing for both eyes open shooting for close quarter situations. Crank the zoom and you've got a optic capable of hitting targets at 300 yards or more with ease.
The tube will fit any standard 30mm ring, and standard windage and elevation controls are located on the side and top of the body.
Truglo makes a wide range of tactical sights, and other weapon accessories, and one of their newest models has been quite impressive. The TRU-TEC Compact 20mm mini red dot sight is a great lower budget option for those looking for a small red dot.
The TRUTEC Compact is a higher quality red dot than many other Truglo options available. It is an ultra-lightweight design that will hinder the performance of your tactical carbine with added weight.
The TRUTEC has a wide range of brightness settings for use in any condition. The CR2032 battery will provide thousands of hours of life, and a built in auto shutoff can be programmed for maximum battery performance.
For a great affordable mini red dot, the TRUTEC is an awesome choice.
For a full sized Aimpoint Style red dot without the price tag, check out the Sightmark Element Red Dot. The Sightmark Element is a 1x30 single power red dot sight that is perfect for short to medium range targets.
The basic tube design of the Element allows for both eyes open shooting at any distance, and the unlimited field of view and unlimited eye relief allow for extremely quick targeting no matter where you mount it to your rifle.
It has a rugged design, though not as durable as some other brands, and is submersible in water up to 3 feet deep. Built in caps add additional protection for the lenses, and the integrated mount is streamlined and attaches easily to any Picatinny rail system.
The Sightmark Element is a great, affordable option for a traditional full sized red dot sight.
Our Top Picks by Budget
The Trijicon ACOG series of optics are absolutely the most bullet proof tactical scope series on the market today. With a wide range of options and caliber specific models, there is an ACOG for almost any situation.
They are expensive, but the quality and lifetime durability you receive are not rivaled by anyone else in the combat optic market today. If you can spend the money, the ACOG should be your choice.
The Leupold Series of variable zoom patrol rifle optics are a great choice for the under $1000 price tag. Leupold scopes are always extreme reliable, accurate, and offer exceptional glass clarity.
Variable zoom scopes are continuing to increase in popularity and use, and Leupold makes some of the highest quality models on the market today.
While not reviewed above, for a fantastic tactical optic that cost less than $500 you should check out the EoTech 512 Holographic Weaponsight. The EoTech is unique because it projects a hologram onto the target instead of projecting a red dot onto glass.
The EoTech 512 has a large field a view and a unique 65 MOA circle/1 MOA red dot reticle that allows for extremely quick targeting close up and precise accuracy down range.For an excellent patrol rifle optic, the EoTech 512 is the top contender.
FINAL VERDICT: Top Choice for Your Money
With so many options available for tactical optics today it would almost be unfair to pick just one as the wisest choice for your money. There are simply too many variables, too many different designs, and too many decent quality optics on the market today to narrow it down to just one.
If you can afford it, then I recommend buying the Trijicon ACOG. However, that may be too expensive for many shooters today. The entire Vortex range of products is extremely well made and offers some good alternatives to more expensive models.
The bottom line is that you need to decide what kind of role your next tactical scope needs to fill, decide your budget, and then make your decision.Whatever you decide, you can't afford not to have a decent one on your rifle.
How to Choose the Perfect Optic for Your Needs
Ok, so you know you need a tactical scope, but the situation isn't that simple.
You need to decide what rifle you are using this one for and what role you need your scope to fill. With these simple questions answered, it will be easier to make a decision.
If your rifle is only used for one purpose, like a long range sniper rifle, then making a decision can be fairly straightforward. However, many law enforcement officers today have transitioned into carrying AR-15s on patrol, and their needs can vary multiple times a shift.In these cases a combat sight or variable zoom patrol optic may be a better choice. Figure out exactly what you need, and then you can move on to the second most important decision - your budget.
Choosing how much to spend on a new optic is not always an easy decision.
There are some brands that offer high quality sights at lower prices, but stray too far into cheap optics and you may end up regretting it before too long. This is especially true if you are counting on this rifle every day to help defend yourself and others.
It's always a good idea to spend a little more up front and get a quality optic rather than wasting your money on inexpensive models that won't provide the accuracy you need and have a tendency to fail when put under any sort of stress.