Last Updated on April 12, 2021
How different can riflescopes be? Don’t they all do basically the same thing? Well, sort of, but you may be surprised at how many different scope options are out there. Luckily, we’ve put together a list of reviews of scopes that we think are the best on the market.
The tricky thing is that the best scope depends on what you’re shooting with, how far, what time of day, and for what purpose. If you’re hunting at short to mid-range during the night, your needs will be different from a hunter shooting at long ranges during the day. We’ve got reviews for every scenario on our list.
|Best Overall||Vortex Optics Crossfire II Adjustable||
|Best Value||CVLIFE Hunting Rifle Scope||
|Premium Choice||Leupold VX-3i Riflescope||
|Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Sight Riflescope||
|UTG 3-12X44 30mm Compact Scope||
The Vortex Optics Crossfire II is in the top spot for a number of reasons. Its magnification range goes from 2x to 7x, which makes it great at close distances, and usable all the way out to around 350 yards, so it will easily cover the distance needs of most shooters. The 32mm objective lens diameter along with the multi-coated lenses bring in plenty of light.
The Vortex has long eye relief, and a forgiving eye box, which means that it’s an easy scope to pick up and use successfully for the first time, but gives the experienced shooter all the options they could ask for. Vortex’s fast focus eyepiece allows you to focus the reticle quickly no matter how far out you’re aiming, and you get 3 choices of reticle. Unless you already have a preference, we recommend choosing the Dead-Hold BDC reticle.
All those things are great, but what cinches its place in the top spot is the Vortex reputation for durability, reliability, and their VIP (Very Important Promise) Warranty. There are other brands that are equally as dedicated to their craft and their customers, but very few are in the same price range as the Vortex Crossfire II.
This CVLIFE scope has an incredible zoom range from 6x to 24x and is our pick of the best rifle scopes for the money. Along with the magnification range, you have a 50 mm objective lens diameter, adjustment clicks of ⅛ minutes of angle (MOA), and an adjustable objective to remove parallax.
The large objective lens (plus multi-coating) gives you great brightness and clarity. The ⅛ MOA adjustment clicks and adjustable objective enable incredibly high-accuracy shooting even at farther distances. Such advanced features on a scope that is so affordable are rare.
So, you may ask, why isn’t this the best scope overall? Here’s why: the optical quality isn’t as high as other (albeit more expensive) scopes. Even though the scope can technically magnify up to 24x, the image quality becomes blurry and difficult to use beyond around 12-14x, so in practice, you won’t be able to get the performance it claims on paper.
The objective is also very particular and requires adjustment even if you have not drastically changed the distance you’re shooting at.
All that said, you also have an impressive reticle that will help you shoot accurately at long distances and illumination with 5 settings in red illumination and 5 in green illumination.
If you’re familiar with rifle scopes, you’re probably not surprised to see a Leupold as the premium choice. Leupold holds their scopes to exhausting standards of durability and strength. There are two things that are keeping Leupold from being our best overall rifle scope. First is the price. You get amazing image quality and build quality at the price, but you can also get amazing image quality at a much lower price.
Second is the lack of features. The VX-3i is not illuminated, does not have an adjustable objective or side focus knob to address parallax (unless you pay even more), and only has one reticle option, which is a very serviceable duplex.
Leupold represents a no-frills approach to getting what is really important for a rifle scope: amazing image quality in an incredibly tough and durable package. The Leupold is waterproof, shockproof, and fogproof, and tested to be able to withstand intense recoil over the long haul. Leupold will repair or replace any of their scopes for free even without proof of ownership or a warranty card.
A red dot is a different type of optic and comes with no magnification. At first, you might wonder why someone would pay extra money for something that does the same thing as the iron sights that came with their gun, but a red dot actually does much more. With iron sights, you have to carefully line up your front and rear sights on both the horizontal and vertical axes and hold it there perfectly while firing to shoot accurately.
A red dot uses just one dot (hence the name), and can even eliminate parallax so that even if your eye isn’t perfectly centered behind the optic, the dot will still appear where the bullet will land. The Bushnell earns a place on this list because it’s incredibly affordable for a red dot and performs very well.
It’s easy to mount on any rifle with either a Picatinny or Weaver rail, and it is parallax-free at 50 yards. At very close range you may have some issues with parallax, and this is the main reason it’s lower on the list, along with the fact that red dots do not provide any magnification and therefore aren’t as useful as variable optics at long range.
With this scope, you get a magnification range up to 12x and a 44 mm objective lens. This means you’ll get good light transmission and can shoot out as far as 600 yards or more. UTG holds their scopes to very high-quality standards and is similar to Leupold in that regard. Their “True Strength” platform is part of how the scope is designed and it keeps the scope more reliable and accurate over time.
The UTG also has a side wheel to adjust parallax so that you can shoot parallax free from as close as 10 yards all the way out to infinity. Shooting parallax-free is a big deal, and a side focus knob can make adjusting for that parallax even faster.
One of UTG’s most unique features is that they have an illumination mode that allows you to choose from 36 different colors for your reticle (which is a mil-dot, by the way). Want a yellow reticle? Sure. Want a purple reticle? Why not? Admittedly, this is a bit gimmicky, especially for experienced shooters, but it’s a fun feature and can actually be a great way to introduce new shooters and give them something to customize.
This scope is designed specifically for .17 HMR and .22 rifles, and for those calibers, this is probably the best scope on the list. The 3.5x-10x range is plenty (and maybe even a bit much) for that size of ammunition, and it will maximize the effective range of the rifle you’re shooting with.
The price is also appropriate for smaller rifles that are probably more for plinking or pest control than anything mission critical. Bushnell did a great job with the Banner, and it’s durable, does well in low light (hence the “Dusk & Dawn” moniker), and a fast focus eyepiece similar to the Vortex.
This is not going to be a good scope for larger-caliber rifles. Anything with more kick than a .22LR or possibly a .223 is going to damage this scope over the long run because it’s simply not designed for powerful recoil. Bushnell has other scope models that are designed for larger rifles, and you’d be better off looking at those.
This is a “tacticool” scope from MidTen. Where most scopes are either variable optic or a red dot or a laser sight, this one is all three — altogether at a lower price than what most individual pieces would cost to get a decent one. Despite the immediate red flags, this scope seems to work fairly well.
You get the 4-12x range with the main scope, a red dot sight, and a laser sight, and each component works passably well, though none of them work exceptionally well. If you’re looking for an easy way to get an all-in-one setup that would normally cost a huge amount of money, this can be a great way to go.
Here are the issues you should be aware of: the image quality degrades as you zoom in; at 4x the image is nice and sharp but by the time you get to 12x it is not usable. If you only want to go up to 8-10x anyway, then it shouldn’t be a problem. Next, the laser sight is not mounted incredibly securely and can get knocked off focus easily. Last, the red dot has some noticeable parallax.
The Simmons 8-Point is a solid piece of glass. It’s reliable and has high-quality optics inside of it. It’s along the same lines as the Leupold in that it’s a fairly stripped-down, minimalist philosophy (the exact opposite of the MidTen). You won’t get the same image quality and light transmission as you will with the Leupold, but you’ll get usable quality throughout the magnification range and a reliable scope that holds zero.
This is a great choice to put on an AR-15 variant. There are some reports that the Simmons has trouble with larger caliber rifles like the .308 Winchester, and while this scope should be fine on those, it could get damaged or lose zero after being exposed to the higher recoil.
If you want to use your .223 or 5.56 to shoot out to 200 yards, this is the scope for you. It’s affordable, powerful, and has a premium feel. The reticle is a fairly standard duplex, and there are not really any bells and whistles.
Here is another option for those looking for an all-in-one “tacticool” solution. The Pinty looks very similar to the MidTen, but it’s different in a few important ways. It offers a higher magnification range than the MidTen, capping out at 16x, and it uses a green laser sight instead of a red laser sight.
By all accounts, the scopes all zero in well and hold zero under light recoil. This is certainly not going to last on anything more powerful than a 5.56 NATO. If you want to put this on an AR-15 variant then it would work well. The Pinty has a lot of the same problems as the MidTen but is also more expensive.
If you prefer the green laser or want to experiment with the longer magnification range, those can be good reasons to choose this over the MidTen. You won’t get great image quality at the maximum magnification, though it might be usable depending on the exact model you get. The Pinty (and the MidTen) belong on this list because a lot of shooters are looking for a simple and affordable way to get everything they want.
The Sightmark is a completely different beast than any other scope on this list. It’s a digital riflescope, which means it achieves most of its magnification electronically by capturing a digital image and zooming in on the digital image. What this means in practice is that you can get up to 32x magnification, but the image quality at that point will not be anywhere near as good as it would be with 32x pure optical zoom.
This scope is not designed for competitive shooting. This is designed for shooting at center mass in a fast-paced tactical scenario such as a military engagement or some hunting situations. Not only does it offer high digital magnification, but it also has two night vision modes: black and white or green.
This is generation 3 night vision, so it comes with an IR illuminator that is effective up to 200 yards. The night vision is the main reason this scope is on this list. As a standard scope, the image quality would not earn it a place, but getting a highly competent night vision device that can also be used effectively in daylight at this price is a steal.
There are a lot of different types of scopes out there, and what’s best for one purpose may be terrible for another purpose. If you’re new to rifle scopes, here are some important things to consider when finding the right rifle scope for your needs.
This is one of the first questions you need to answer. If the scope is going to go on a rifle that you’ll be using for hunting, then you need to know roughly what ranges you will be shooting at. Are you going to be trying to make 350-yard shots or 50-yard shots? More magnification is not always better.
If you will be shooting exclusively under 100 yards with the rifle you are buying a scope for, then a red dot sight could be your best bet or a variable optic that opens up to 1x or 2x. If you’re trying to make 350-yard shots, you should get a scope that goes at least up to 7x magnification, and probably higher if you can.
For home defense and most self-defense situations, magnification can actually do more harm than good since most of the action will happen at close range.
Again, this depends completely on your situation. Let’s go over a few common scenarios.
Even more specifically, let’s say you want to make the occasional 200-yard shot but most of your shooting will be done at 100 yards or less and it’s all just recreational at the range. In that case, the most important things for your scope will be the image quality and appropriate magnification.
When light passes through a scope, not all of it gets through, and the image you see through your scope will (almost) always be at least a little darker than what you see with your naked eye. Finding a scope that has high light transmission will help make your sight picture and target area as clear as possible. Appropriate magnification for that distance would be anything from 1-4x to 2-7x.
This is a highly demanding use for a scope. For a purpose like this, your target may be as close as 30 yards or as far as 350, so a long zoom range will be most critical, but a good reticle is as well. For shooting so far out, you’ll want a minimalist reticle that doesn’t block too much of your target area from view, and if you can find a scope with fantastic image quality that comes with a mil-dot reticle or BDC ladder, that can be very helpful.
Good eye relief and a forgiving eye box also become more important here because you may need to take your shot quickly without much warning.
One of the most important things in this situation is keeping parallax to a minimum. Defending your home is a terrifying situation to be in, and your shooting form will almost certainly not be on par with what you can do when calm. The top priority for a home defense scope is an option with very little or zero parallax, which puts red dot sights at the top of the list.
But that’s not all. Another important factor here may be compatibility with night vision devices since you will most likely be defending your home at night.
Our pick for best overall is the Vortex Optics Crossfire II. It has the overall best combination of affordability, features, image quality, and power. Our pick for the best value for the money is the CVLIFE 6-24x50mm, which gives you an incredibly long magnification range at a very affordable price. Each of the scopes we covered in these reviews may be the best one in your situation.
Whether you need high magnification, unmatched image quality, or a lot of features, we hope these reviews were helpful and gave you some insight into what rifle scopes will be best for your needs.
Featured Image Credit: Maxim Potkin, Unsplash
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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