Last Updated on November 18, 2020
If there’s one accessory we’d recommend for your rifle, it’s a decent scope. Installing a quality rifle scope not only improves your shot pattern but upgrades your life as a shooter. But there’s just one problem. A good quality riflescope is seriously expensive. Seriously.
If you listen to any of the gun gurus out there, they’re going to recommend top-of-the-line scopes that cost thousands of dollars. And not to say they’re wrong, but not everyone is willing to invest that much in a riflescope.
There are some decent scopes to be had for just under $200. Keep in mind, these budget scopes aren’t going to have the full range of ability that their more expensive counterparts do. However, unless you’re a competitive long range shooter or sniper, one of these could suit you just fine.
So, what are the best scopes out there under 200 bucks? And what should you look for when purchasing a one? We’ve done our homework and put together these reviews of the best budget scopes to help you answer that question.
|Best Overall||Vortex Optics Crossfire II Tube Rifle Scope||
|Best Value||CVLIFE Hunting Rifle Scope||
|Premium Choice||Leupold VX-Freedom Riflescope||
|Simmons 3 Matte Black Riflescope||
|UTG 3-9X32 BugBuster Rifle Scope||
If you’ve been around the gun world for any length of time, you’re sure to have heard of Vortex Optics. What started out as a small business in Wisconsin has quickly exploded into one of the most trusted outlets for optics in the gun community.
And their Crossfire line of riflescopes is perfect for casual shooters and hunters. This particular entry to the Crossfire family comes equipped with a Dead-Hold BDC reticle. It’s a Vortex-exclusive reticle that helps to alleviate guessing of bullet hold-over at longer ranges. And if you didn’t already know, Vortex makes some awesome reticles.
This Crossfire model is measured via MOA (minute of angle) standards and not mils (milliradians) . Many casual shooters actually prefer MOA readouts to mils because of their easier calculation rates. This is great for making simple adjustments. The Crossfire II has max elevation adjustment of 60 MOA which should be more than useful for most occasions.
The lenses themselves are constructed out of an anti-glare glass in order to help acquire and lock on to your target faster. With its long eye-relief and forgiving box, you’ll have a much wider sight picture. The only real gripe we have about this scope is that the sight tends to get a bit fuzzy at higher magnifications.
While it doesn’t carry the most powerful magnification or offer the best eye relief, it’s the best bang for your buck. The scope comes with a two-option illuminated reticle—either green or red. This is great for those who prefer one to the other. Color changing reticles is not so commonly found in lower priced scopes.
The CVLIFE is also known to hold its zero exceptionally well for a bargain scope. This minimizes the amount of time spent adjusting. And that’s good because the turrets aren’t necessarily the greatest.
The click adjustment for this scope is actually measured at ⅛ inch from 100 yards. But at higher magnification, the image tends to get a bit murky. Also, while the scope does come with easy mounts on top of a Picatinny, it’s just a bit too long on the rail.
If you’re familiar with Vortex Optics, then there’s no way you haven’t heard of this company. Leupold is known for their top-notch rifle scopes, many of which are priced into the thousands. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t produced something a little more friendly for the wallet.
The VX-Freedom rifle scope is definitely a solid choice for any one trying to purchase a premium scope on a budget. First off, this scope upholds Leupold’s reputation for being tough as nails. It’s fogproof, waterproof, shockproof, and virtually bombproof.
This unit comes equipped with a Duplex reticle with minimal sight obstruction and a 3:1 zoom ratio. It’s an ideal setup for most situations. The scope adjusts in ⅛ MOA per click on easy to operate turrets. Another feature we really love is the Twilight Management System. It gives you a much clearer shot and adds up to 10 more minutes of shooting light.
So why isn’t it our top pick?
It all boils down to the weight of the scope. The Leupold is 5 oz heavier than the Vortex. And if you’re looking for a lightweight scope, the Vortex still comes out on top.
This Simmons riflescope is the first on our list to be a dedicated rimfire riflescope. That being said this scope would be best on a .22 plinker for varmint. It’s not necessarily suitable for centerfire shot at 100 yards.
The first thing you’ll notice with the Simmons is its sight clarity. Although you can acquire this scope at a bargain, the glass feels to be better quality. That could be thanks to the HydroShield Lens Coating applied. Drawing a bead on your target is also made easier through their QTA (Quick Targeting Acquistion) system by maintaining a steady 3½ inches of eye relief through the entire magnification range.
Another great feature for this scope is the SureGrip adjustment setup. They’ve rubberized the turrets in order to make adjustments easier even when wearing gloves. However, the turrets themselves could use a little work. They’re not as clicky as we’d like them to be and barely produce and audible sound. This can make it more difficult to really dial in a shot.
Lastly, the scope is shipped with dovetail mounting rings. If you’re really bent on using this scope, heed this advice. Toss those rings and pick up a new set.
If you’re looking an excellent riflescope for a small caliber rifle or airsoft, the UTG BugBuster is prime candidate.
One of the most defining features of this scope is its durability. You can put this scope through some pretty intense conditions and it will retain its functionality. It’s also super simple to mount via Picatinny/Weaver rail.
Another notable feature lies with its reticle selection. It comes with a clear Mil-dot reticle that is easily used, but you have the option to illuminate it either red or green. The UTG also boasts a parallax-free field of vision from 3 yards to infinity through its adjustable wide angle objective.
What we didn’t really care for was the eye relief at higher zoom power. It’s probably for the best to keep the BugBuster on a lower powered setting. The reticles also gave us a bit of worry. They tend to be a little thick and tend to blur towards the outer areas.
The UTG BugBuster overall is a pretty tough and reliable scope. But again we’d recommend this more for an airsoft situation.
The Pinty MIO0039 is another one of those scopes that truly belongs on a smaller caliber rimfire rifle. Under these conditions, the Pinty holds its zero just fine and experiences little issue. However, under a larger caliber centerfire such as a .308, the scope just can’t handle the recoil.
When it comes to glass and lens clarity, the Pinty really surprises. It’s not top-dollar clear, but it’s close enough. And under low light conditions, this thing performs like a champ. Another pleasant surprise from the Pinty is the illuminated reticle. At this price point, illuminated reticles are hard to find. But that’s not the real find, the fact that the reticles can be red or green in 5 different brightness levels each. That’s a total of 10 different illuminated settings!
The field of view and eye relief are pretty standard as far as bargain scopes go. It’s not the best, but it’ll work. And it’s very easy to install onto a Picatinny or Weaver rail.
The Pinty, while not the greatest scope on this list, really made us scratch our heads. We really wanted to set this up higher on the list, but durability issues severely limit this riflescope.
At first glance, you’ll notice the Bushnell Dusk & Dawn riflescope is a very good-looking scope. When you think of a scope, this is probably what popped into your head. It’s a 1-inch single tube construction that would look great on any long gun. From rifles to scatterguns, this scope can handle them all.
But that’s not what makes this scope so special. It’s the Dusk & Dawn Brightness (DDB) coating on each of the lenses. This coating intensifies clarity and brightness under low-level conditions, making this an ideal scope for early morning and evening hunts.
The reticle and turrets follow MOA measurements, and you’re able to make clean ¼ MOA elevation and windage adjustments with ease. And it’s lightweight to boot. With the scope weighing in at under a pound, it’s much less noticeable when carrying.
One thing about the reticle we would change is the thickness of the crosshairs. We prefer a thinner set in order to get the most accurate shot. While they are easier to see, they block up just a bit too much field of vision. Another thing we’ve found is that the eye relief tends to be too short at times making acquiring a target more difficult.
The Monstrum AO Rifle Scope is an absolute unit. It’s a durable scope that’s thick in all the right places.
Aside from its exterior figure, the first thing that really jumps out on the Monstrum is the reticle. It’s a really great setup. The outer walls are thick and defined ensuring a clean capture of your field of vision. But the actual crosshairs are thin enough to get a dead-on shot while being dark enough to actually aim. Big win for the Monstrum here.
The reticle also impressed us with his multiple illuminated color selection. It can be colored either red or green and in 5 different brightness settings.
Perhaps the biggest standout feature of the Monstrum though is the adjustable objective lens (AO). This allows you to minimize or eliminate parallax, sharpen your image, and allow for range estimation.
But this thing is heavy. It weighs right around 2 pounds, which will become noticeable if carried for extended periods. And we really wish this scope had locking turrets. With so many knobs, accidents are bound to happen and things will need constant readjusting.
Don’t get us wrong. Nikon’s made some pretty decent scopes. And while this one isn’t terrible; we find it to be somewhat lacking.
First off, the Nikon is another beautiful looking scope. It really reminds us of the Bushnell reviewed above. But it’s not just physical appearance that reminds us of the Bushnell. The Nikon Buckmasters II is lightweight, element proof, and comes with its own lens coating for clarity.
But that coating pales in comparison to the DBB of Bushnell. And whereas the Bushnell’s crosshairs were just a tad too thick, these are a bit too thin. It makes it hard to see exactly where your line is especially for older eyes.
Also, the scope does have some issues holding a zero when compared to the Bushnell.
Again, nothing against Nikon. They’re a great company with other excellent scopes. This one just seems to fall a bit short when compared to others in its class.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive scope to use solely for airsoft, consider the SVBONY.
This scope is what you’d imagine a cheap scope to be. The construction is very lightweight for its size portraying a less than durable composition. And the mounting rings don’t feel very trustworthy for any considerable amount of recoil.
The scope adjusts in ¼ MOA; however, that’s a moot point when you’re having to rezero after only a few shots. The scope looks cool and it has clear glass. But we’d really recommend picking up something a little higher on this list.
After looking at all these different scopes, we were able to single out two clear cut winners that edged out the other competitors.
The Vortex Optics Crossfire II is a phenomenal scope for shooters of all calibers. Its rugged, reliable, and really sets the bar as to what a scope should strive to be—especially for one that costs under $200.
And if you’re really looking to tighten the belt, the CVLIFE Hunting Rifle Scope provides the best bang for your buck.
Hopefully, our reviews have helped to home in on what it means to be an excellent budget scope. Some of these scopes go to show that you don’t have to cost a thousand bucks to perform like it.
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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