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You know, when first we got into this business, we thought scopes and iron sights provided the same benefits. We didn’t quite understand why some rifle users preferred scopes over iron sights, until we got the chance to use one. Needless to say, by the time we were done hunting, we couldn’t stop talking about the level of precision and accuracy offered by these sighting devices.
And now that you know how our love of scopes began, let’s now look at some of the best and affordable AR-15 scopes that have never disappointed us all through the years:
|Best Overall||MidTen 4-12x50 Dual Illuminated Scope||
|Best Value||CVLIFE 4x32 Tactical Rifle Scope||
|Premium Choice||Monstrum 3-9x32 Rifle Scope||
|Ozark Armament 4X Magnified Optic Scope||
|Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Sight Riflescope||
The 4-12×50 Dual Illuminated Scope is designed to guarantee that hunting and shooting fanatics have the best of times while they’re out there doing their thing. This device can be used in any situation, as it comes with authentic features, rarely found in rifle scopes designed for the same purpose.
The fully multicoated lens provides a crystal clear field of view with photochromic, UV, anti-radiation, anti-reflection, hydrophobic, and hard coatings The photochromic coating is the reason why the lens keeps darkening once exposed to certain types of light. The UV coating was designed to shield your eyes from any ultraviolet radiation, while the anti-reflective coating takes care of stray light, decreases lens reflection, and refines the transmission of light.
Thanks to the hydrophobic coating, you’ll no longer have to deal with blurred vision, seeing as the scope now has the ability to keep fog, water and snow at bay.
A higher magnification power normally equates to a narrower field of view. And a narrow field of view makes it difficult for a shooter or hunter to always stay on target, least of all, acquire one. That being said, the MidTen 4-12×50 Dual Illuminated Scope’s magnification power is sufficient to provide a wider field of view. As long as the target is within reasonable distance, the images created will always be bright and detailed.
The reticle feature is perfectly framed, and comes in different variations. There’s the Holographic, Reflex Sight, 3-MOA, and the Red/Green Circle Dot. To top that off, they are all illuminated, making it easy for shooters and hunters to work in ambient light conditions. And that’s not all. If you’re not into the red illumination, you still have an option of switching over to green.
With this type of reticle, there’s really no reason or excuse that you could to justify missing a target. You simply couldn’t deliver because you still need to work on your marksmanship, or because you weren’t concentrating. But not because the MidTen 4-12×50 Dual Illuminated Scope is inefficient or inaccurate.
It’s ability to hold zero, and the fact that the windage and elevation knob is easy to work with, is yet another reason why we found it to be special. Those two features together with the eyepiece are all factors that contribute to it being listed as the best under $100 AR-15 scope for professionals and newbies who are still trying to figure out whether they should take shooting professionally or as a hobby.
A sighting device’s overall weight is usually an aspect that we take seriously and into account while purchasing scopes. You don’t want an accessory that weighs more than the rifle itself because you’ll offset the weapon’s balance. And when that happens, everything else will be compromised, including accuracy and precision. Lucky you, the MidTen 4-12×50 Dual Illuminated Scope is lightweight, and has quality mounting rings.
It’s eye relief ranges from 3–3.4 inches depending on the magnification, and the Field of View is 10-27 square–arc minutes at 100 yards. The tube is also a quality matte black finish filled with nitrogen, so as to lock out water or any other type of moisture.
In terms of drawbacks, its crosshair isn’t properly aligned. If you know anything about rifle scopes, you’ll know that’s not something that can be ignored.
The other issue is the battery life. Sadly, they drain out fast. Otherwise, this is the best scope for AR-15 under $100 on the market in 2021.
First things first; going by the name alone, we’re sure many of you have realized this is a non-adjustable scope, with a magnification of 4x. These types of scopes are usually lightweight, and that’s primarily because they come with fewer glass elements. Their one and only drawback is the lack of versatility. You see, unlike their variable counterparts, they don’t often provide different magnification options to work with in the field.
Speaking of lightweight, we have to talk about its construction material, which is high-grade aluminum. It also has an exceptionally high corrosion resistance and strength for days. The only negative here is its high coefficient ratio of thermal expansion. This material is not the type of material that you’ll want to expose to excessive heat. The reaction will make you question lots of things.
Does its objective lens size impact shooting in any way? It does. In fact, to a greater extent.
The industry’s standard size of an objective lens is anything with a diameter that falls within the range of 32 mm to 44 mm. Anything below that is considered small, and very inefficient if we’re talking about light transmission. Opt for a larger diameter, and you’ll no longer be working with a lightweight scope. Also, properly mounting it on the weapon will be stressful and feel like a hassle.
The CVLIFE 4×32 Tactical Rifle Scope’s objective lens diameter is 32 mm. That means the scope can be used in low light conditions, as it will still produce clear, detailed images. The size also promises a brighter and wider Field of View.
Whoever thought of incorporating fiber optic technology into the CVLIFE 4×32 Tactical Rifle Scope’s system definitely needs a raise. It’s a feature that significantly contributes to the clarity of the images being created, as it’s been known to collect light even in ambient conditions, and direct it towards the reticle.
Quick Reminder: one of the factors that determine how well equipped a rifle scope is for extreme long-range shooting is the clarity of images produced. Remember that the next time you go out there looking for a good scope.
The next feature is the green multi-layered lens that was intentionally added into it. We’ve used the word ‘intentionally’ in view of the fact that green has for a very long time been considered appropriate for both low-light and sunny environments. These types of lenses have a knack for brightening shadows while at the same time reducing glare. They’ll unequivocally protect your eyes on a sunny day.
This talk about how bright the images are just reminded us of the etched glass reticle feature. It’s been designed to provide blue, red, and green illuminations, with an intensity that’s controlled by a 3-level brightness adjustment knob. The company obviously factored in the different weather conditions and user-brightness preference while working on it.
Furthermore, it offers a pre-set parallax, and fog resistance, courtesy of the dry nitrogen molecules.
We could go on and on, but we won’t. Because we believe the specifications and features discussed above are enough to convince anyone that this sighting system has all the prerequisites required of a good scope. Even if we ignore the matte black finish and weaver mount slot.
You’ll be glad to know the Monstrum 3-9×32 Rifle Scope offers versatility. It has a magnification power that ranges from 3x to 9x and a 32mm-diameter objective lens. So, if you feel like going for a close-range or freehand shooting, the 3x magnification will guarantee you enjoy the experience. If you think it’s a good day to try out long-range shooting, the 9x magnification setting is still available to enhance your visual experience.
That objective lens is, without a doubt, a standout feature. This multi-coated layered component has been designed to specifically improve the systems’ light transmission rate, and protect it against scratches.
Even though this optic is less than $100, the different lenses that are part of its system don’t come cheap. The hard coating does play an important role in helping them stay intact, but there’s only so much that they can do. So fair warning; if you’re the type of hunter who’s clumsy, you need to be very careful. Drop it one too many times, and you’ll be forced to fork out more money than you could ever imagine.
How good are the visuals during winter? Exceptional. And we give credit to the dry nitrogen molecules that deter fog build-up.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), the Monstrum 3-9×32 Rifle Scope doesn’t come with a First Focal Plane reticle. We felt this was pertinent information owing to the fact that some users prefer FFP reticles to SFP reticles. The main difference between the two styles is seen in the reticle size. With the FFP scope, the size of the reticle will gradually change as you increase your magnification. That’s not something that you see with the SFP scope.
Nevertheless, it’s a glass rangefinder reticle. Meaning, you’ll feel comfortable using it for long distance targeting and while determining an on-the-fly range estimation. The illumination is dial controlled, and it’s red or green depending on your preference.
Can the brightness intensity be adjusted? You bet it could. And by the way, if you’re a user who prefers using a low brightness setting, that 3V CR1632 battery model will last more than 8 hours.
Monstrum 3-9×32 Rifle Scope has an eye relief of 3.5-3.8 inches. You’ll notice that specification comes in the form of a range, and that’s because it’s designed to provide different magnification options. Everything considered, it’s a decent eye relief and an important factor for the guys using rifles with heavy recoil.
Incidentally, it’s also an aluminum build. The kind of construction material that doesn’t make you feel like you’re carrying firewood in your backpack while heading to the shooting range. It’s only weighs 13oz, and can hold its own against recoil effect for a longer period.
The last positive point goes to the lens’ cloth and cover. They’re meant to offer more protection, especially when the device is detached from the rifle.
Are there any downsides? Well, it’s more of a preference actually. We feel like they could have given us a higher magnification than 9x, seeing as it’s a variable scope. But other than that, everything else is A-okay.
The Ozark Armament 4X Magnified Optic Scope is a fixed scope that comes with an adjustable brightness for all day use. And that’s incredible considering some scopes are only designed to be effective in favorable light conditions. Meaning, if you’re the type of person who prefers hunting or even shooting under the cover of darkness, and the scope you’re using has a different brand name on it, other than the ones mentioned on this list, you’ll certainly feel limited.
The reticle is illuminated, and it also comes with multiple color settings. You could choose from blue, green, or red, and they’ll all be very visible even during daytime.
That 4x magnification power is just right for a scope designed to provide support for long distance shots. However, the one thing that makes it primed for such a task is its Bullet Drop Compensator reticle. It’s a critical feature, as you can’t really hit that bullseye, if you don’t know how much your bullet will drop at a predetermined range. That’s public knowledge. So if you’ve never heard it before, you still have a lot to learn, buddy.
Assuming you’ve zeroed the rifle at 200 yards, any point that falls under your crosshair will let you know what the bullet’s impact will be 300 yards, 400 yards, and so on.
The Ozark Armament 4X Magnified Optic Scope is the type of rifle accessory that you’d find yourself buying, even if the plan was to buy a different brand. Nearly all features are impressive. Take the picatinny rail feature, for example. Every rifle scope user is well aware of the fact that picatinny slot dimensions are deeper than the weaver slots and slightly wider. Their slots also have standardized spacing, and usually extend down the rail’s length.
Really quickly, just take a look at the top of the scope, the left side and finally right side. You’ll realize the Ozark Armament 4X Magnified Optic Scope offers optimal utility with 3 forward picatinny rail mounting points. We even tried to fit a flashlight on that rail, and realized it could easily mount without losing space.
How does it deal with moisture and film of dust that usually creates a disturbance to sighting systems? With regard to dust, you don’t have to worry about that because this tool has been tightly sealed. Concerning moisture, nitrogen has been purged so as to deal with that issue. Therefore, if you were hesitant to move from warm to cold environments fearing the fog issue might take a toll on its system, we promise you it won’t.
As a brand, you can trust Ozark Armament. We believe in them because the type of warranty that they offered us was a gold premium lifetime warranty. The only problem that we encountered was in the adjustment knobs. We didn’t know why, but for some reason they made us sweat a little.
The number ‘25’ that you see in that name refers to the diameter of its objective lens. It’s the brand’s way of telling you that you’ll be working with a medium red dot sight, should you decide to purchase it.
Anytime we see this scope on the shelf of any store, we immediately think about its build quality. This is the type of accessory that’s designed to provide accuracy and precision, but since it has a solid metal construction you could also use it as a weapon. Do you feel like hitting something? Just go ahead and use it. Are you a clumsy hunter? That’s okay. It will fall down a million times, and still record an optimal performance.
Versatility is a word that should have been added to that name. Unlike most scopes, this particular one can be used on different firearms. An AR-15m, shotgun, AKs, Handgun, you name them. That’s because it’s compatible with both weaver and Picatinny systems, and very light.
In the red/green dot adjustability department, Bushnell really outdid itself. Can you imagine they designed this bad boy with 11 daylight settings? We kid you not. And to make it easier for you to make these adjustments, they thought it was wise to place the knobs at the very top of the scope and on the sides.
The Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Sight Riflescope is an O-ring sealed optic, so it won’t be affected by water even if you decided to spend the whole day swimming. Moreover, its build helps it deal with shock, and the nitrogen inside ensures rapid temperature changes don’t affect the system.
The thing that you’ll probably hate about it is the lack of an auto-shutoff option that could help conserve the 3V CR2032 power cell’s life.
For the record, just because this scope comes last on this list, doesn’t mean that it’s the worst option. This beast packs some really cool features, as you’ll learn in due time.
We’ll start by asking you this: When’s the last time you saw a scope that’s affordable, and has an adjustable objective lens and parallax adjustments that could be fine-tuned to produce images of targets that are as close as 3 yards? Did you even know such scopes exist?
The second dope feature is the RGB Swat Illumination. That name sounds cool because it can regulate the brightness of the scope during the day and at night, when the light conditions can only be described as ambient.
These other brands should consult UGT when naming their features because they even got it right when they decided the reticle was going to be called the ‘Tactical Range Estimating mil-dot reticle.’ And in total, this feature provides 21 dot adjustments. Making it one of the few scopes in the market that can turn a rookie into a professional, by the time they’re done showcasing their ‘prowess’. The accuracy it provides is just insane, to be honest.
Are you tired of adjusting your turrets every time you reattach the scope? Well, now you have a scope that comes with lockable turrets. And if that doesn’t convince you to quickly make the purchase, UGT threw in a few mounting rings at no cost.
The only con here is the durability of the product. Yes, it’s always marketed as a durable scope but… our experience was different.
The MidTen 4-12×50 Dual Illuminated Scope’s magnification power and range of features earn its top spot on this list as the best overall scope for AR-15 under $100.
The CVLIFE 4×32 Tactical Rifle Scope’s objective lens diameter allows for great low-light operation and earns its nod at the best scope for AR-15 under $100 for the money.
That’s all we have for you today, folks. But before we leave, we’d like to remind you of the importance of a scope, especially on an AR-15 rifle. It’s you have to understand that these types of scopes don’t just help you improve your marksmanship. They’ll also help you be more aware of danger that might be lurking at a distance.
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Featured Image Credit: robbrownaustralia, Pixabay
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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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