Bitten by the shooting bug lately but aren’t sure about investing yet?
Want to take your shooting more seriously, but just looking at scope prices dries out your wallet?
There’s no need to spend a lot to get a decent scope for your AR 15.
You can shoot at the target range without having to resort to high-end scopes or going beyond your budget range.
Whether you need it for recreational shooting or to protect yourself from a home invasion, here are my picks for the best AR 15 scope under 200 dollars!
- 10 Best AR 15 Scopes Under $200
- 1. Vortex Optics Strikefire II Rifle Scope
- 2. Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone 223 4.5-18×40 mm
- 3. TRUGLO TRU-Brite 30 Series 1-6x24mm Rifle Scope
- 4. Leupold VX-1 2-7×33 mm Rifle Scope
- 5. Nikon P-223 3×32 Matte BDC Carbine
- 6. Pinty Rifle Scope 3-9×32 Rangefinder Riflescope
- 7. UTG 3-9×32 BugBuster Scope
- 8. CVLIFE 4×32 Tactical Rifle Scope
- 9. Nikon P-223 3-9×40mm Rifle Scope
- 10. Vortex Optics Diamondback 3-9×40 SFP Riflescope
- Things to Keep In Mind When Shopping for AR 15 Rifle Scope
- Is a $200 Scope Worth it?
- Should I Put a Rifle Scope or Red Dot on My AR 15? Which Is Better?
- Frequently Asked Questions About Scopes
10 Best AR 15 Scopes Under $200
1. Vortex Optics Strikefire II Rifle Scope
- Brand: Vortex Optics
- Style: Red/green dot
- Dimensions: 7.25 x 6.25 x 3 inches
- Weight: 0.53 lbs
I’m starting off strong with the Vortex Optics Strikefire II Rifle Scope.
Many shooters have lauded this budget scope as one of the — if not THE — best budget AR 15 scope under $200.
- Lightweight with a compact design
- Fog and wind resistance
- Adjustable dot intensity depending on the brightness of your surroundings, making it ideal for night/low light situations
- Comes with a Picatinny/Cantilever scope mount
- Great for rapid target acquisition, which is especially useful for night hunting and three gun games
This red/green dot sight is special as it doesn’t require one closed eye to shoot. You can hit your target as long as you can see the dot.
What if the lighting conditions aren’t favorable?
You don’t need to worry, as this AR scope features 10 levels of dot intensity that can be adjusted by rear-facing controls.
At its LOWEST levels, it can even be used for nighttime shooting!
I found the sight to be visible through moonlight, a mounted flashlight, and even night vision.
The Vortex Optics Strikefire II Rifle Scope is also fog and water-resistant. You will find that this lightweight scope won’t weigh you down on the field!
However, it is NOT a high-accuracy precision sight for long-range shooting.
It is best used for close-range shooting and situations requiring fast target acquisition.
There have also been reports that the edges of the red dot can be irregular.
If you want to know more, you can check out my full review of the Vortex Strikefire II.
2. Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone 223 4.5-18×40 mm
BEST FOR LONG-RANGE SHOOTING
- Brand: Bushnell AR Optics
- Style: Variable-powered scope
- Dimensions: 18 x 5 x 5 inches
- Weight: 1 lb
You can expect no less than a quality scope from Bushnell AR Optics at a low price point.
This AR 15 scope is a NO-NONSENSE scope that positively improved my shooting performance.
Here are some of its features:
- 4.5x to 18x magnification range
- Great for long-range shooting
- Reticle up to modern standard
- Water and fog proof, as well as shock resistant with an extremely rugged build
- Has amazing accuracy for its price range
- Comes with a Drop Zone BDC reticle made specifically for the 7.62 NATO and .223 Remington
- Strong, durable build that can bear recoil from .223 Remington shots
- Capped turrets for extra protection.
I can shoot even under low visibility with the clear glass coating to reduce reflection loss.
It is also functional enough to correct any errors that come with shooting at longer ranges.
This scope comes with a ballistic drop zone reticle, reticle-specific calibers, and a fast-focus eyepiece to make every shot a great, precise shot.
It is also made of a high-quality aluminum alloy for reduced weight, with another coating to prevent damage due to exposure.
However, it is not very accurate in turret tracking, especially when you need to do quick hunting.
Wobbling is also an issue, but it can be eliminated by fixing the scope in place with glue, which I don’t recommend.
- Water and fog proof
- Great accuracy
- Great for long-range magnification
- Compact and lightweight
- Comes with a BDC reticle
- Turret tracking is not very accurate
3. TRUGLO TRU-Brite 30 Series 1-6x24mm Rifle Scope
- Brand: TRUGLO
- Style: Variable-powered scope
- Dimensions: 1 x 1 x 1 inches
- Weight: 2 lbs
This is a great entry-level scope for those who are just starting out. Here’s why:
- 1-6x magnification (ideal power range for an LPVO)
- Three choices of dot color for different shooting styles and conditions
- Easy to sight
- Doesn’t lose zero
- Great value for money
You get a BUNCH of accessories with this TRUGLO scope to start with.
- It comes with offset, reversible 30mm aluminum scope rings and mount, scope caps, and two turrets.
- The two calibrated turrets are .223 and .308, which are included in the AR 15 and AR 10.
If you’re just starting out, this is a great choice because you don’t even have to close one eye to take a good shot.
The center illuminated dot quickly draws your eye to the target.
You’ll also greatly benefit from the unique illuminated reticle technology found on this AR 15 scope!
The dot comes in red, green, and black (non-illuminated). However, because it’s meant for low-light conditions, the dot may not be very bright.
If you want to see further into the distance with your shot, you can crank the power up and utilize the ½ MOA turrets to get to a full 800 yards.
However, while you may be able to get the full distance, you may lose some eye relief. Image quality may also be lacking after 4x magnification.
The biggest drawback to this mid-range scope is its WEIGHT. At approximately 2 lbs, this is a really heavy scope.
It may not be the best hunting scope for escapades that involve a lot of moving around.
4. Leupold VX-1 2-7×33 mm Rifle Scope
BEST FOR SHORT TO MEDIUM-RANGE SHOOTING
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- Brand: Leupold, Inc.
- Style: Variable-powered scope
- Dimensions: 14 x 3.3 x 3 inches
- Weight: 1.1 lbs
This member of Leupold’s well-acclaimed VX line is smaller, less complicated, and a lot less expensive than the other models in the lineup.
Here’s why it’s no less than the other scopes and is definitely one of the best AR 15 scopes under $200:
- One-piece housing made from 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum
- Zooming range between 3x to 9x
- Great for short to medium-range shooting
- Bright and crisp images with the signature Leupold fast-focus eyepiece
- Has 56 minutes of angles, with each angle having windage and elevation at .25-inch clicks
- Compatible with .223, .270, and .308 calibers
While this is a great scope for short to medium-range shooting, it isn’t solely limited to close-range shots.
The 3:1 zoom ratio erector system will help you with long-range shooting. The simple reticle makes it easier to find and shoot your shot.
The multi-coated optics allow for high-grade clarity, 92% free from reflection.
You don’t need to worry about glint or reflection from the scope body due to its matte finish.
You can also easily lock onto a target with its unobtrusive locking ring.
HOWEVER, an important thing to note is this scope is designed for steady hunting as it does not have fast target acquisition.
I also don’t recommend it for tactical or personal defense situations.
5. Nikon P-223 3×32 Matte BDC Carbine
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- Brand: Nikon
- Style: Fixed scope
- Dimensions: 11.5 x 3.6 x 3.3 inches
- Weight: 1.13 lbs
Unlike the other AR 15 scopes on this list, this AR scope is a fixed scope.
You may think that this would put this scope at a disadvantage compared to the variable power scope, but the P-223 is a very popular model used on various rifles.
Here are some of the features that helped make it so popular:
- No adjustments are needed for shooting at closer ranges
- Great durability
- Reasonable price
- Matte black finish for a low profile, tactical look
- Has a .24 MOA
This fixed scope with low magnification is perfect for shooting at close range (between 200 – 300 yards).
You may consider its low magnification a hindrance, but it actually compensates you by giving a VERY wide field of view!
It is parallax-free for up to 100 yards. I find this to be useful for most hunting situations where you’d use this scope.
The fixed low magnification also means that you get a very quick target acquisition.
This also comes with a Bullet Drop Compensator (BDC) specifically calibrated for a .223 Remington round.
The BDC helps the scope adjust for targets of different ranges.
However, even this BDC won’t make the scope effective for mid-long-range shots above 300 yards.
6. Pinty Rifle Scope 3-9×32 Rangefinder Riflescope
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- Brand: Pinty
- Style: 4 in 1 scope
- Dimensions: 14.2 x 5.7 x 3 inches
- Weight: 2.29 lbs
Who doesn’t love a good bargain? With this Pinty rifle scope, you get four scopes for the price of one.
Yes, you heard that right. FOUR scopes in one!
With this scope, you get a red/green dot sight, a rangefinder riflescope, and a green laser sight on top of a conventional scope.
You get the performance of a holographic sight without the price of a holographic sight, plus the benefits of a tactical style scope.
Let’s look at the features of this scope:
- 3x to 9x magnification
- Clear images
- Easily adjustable brightness settings for various scenarios
- 4 reticle patterns are available for the red/green dot sight
- Fog and waterproof
- Comes with lens caps for added durability and protection
You would think that a sight with all these features would be very expensive.
However, you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that you can get all of this for under $200! What a steal!
Furthermore, don’t expect these sights to be made of cheap plastic either. They’re made of solid aluminum that can withstand the elements.
One downside of this is that it isn’t compatible with all AR variants. For example, when mounted on an AR10, you will find that it sits too high.
It can almost DOUBLE the height of the AR variant when looked at from the sight.
Of course, you can always remove the reflex sight to solve this problem, but that just defeats the purpose of having this variable sight.
Another downside, especially with a scope with this many features, is that it is VERY HEAVY! With 4 scopes in one, it’s to be expected.
- Four scopes in one
- Fog proof and waterproof
- Made of solid aluminum
- Great magnification
- Illuminated reticle
- Very heavy
- Not compatible with all AR variants
7. UTG 3-9×32 BugBuster Scope
- Brand: UTG
- Style: Red/green dot
- Dimensions: 9.84 x 3.35 x 3.94 inches
- Weight: 0.87 lbs
This UTG scope may make some shooters turn their noses up due to its lack of technology. However, don’t let that fool you.
Here’s why this scope can still challenge other scopes:
- Extremely durable with a true strength platform ready for all conditions
- Fog, water, and shock-resistant
This scope uses a red/green dot to help you make the perfect shot.
On a good day, it can aim up to INFINITY with the help of its mil-dot reticle.
Additionally, it is very easy to make adjustments to this scope for various shooting conditions.
If you’re worried about glare, then this scope has got you covered (literally!).
It has a two-inch sunshade which helps give less glare on bright days, helping you get a better shot.
However, one caveat this scope has is that it is impossible to adjust the brightness settings of the red/green dot. Believe me. I’ve tried.
8. CVLIFE 4×32 Tactical Rifle Scope
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- Brand: CVLIFE
- Style: Fixed power scope
- Dimensions: 6.89 x 3.39 x 2.99 inches
- Weight: 0.87 lbs
This tactical scope has one of the HIGHEST magnifications among other scopes in this price range, with a field of view of 36.6 per 100 yards.
If this scope’s magnification doesn’t amaze you, here’s what else it has:
- Fiber optic sight for rapid target acquisition with great accuracy
- Pre-set parallax adjusted for 100 yards
- Glass-etched reticle with a choice of green/blue/red that can be adjusted to 3 levels of brightness.
If you prefer moving around as opposed to using the stand, this is a scope for you!
Because it’s lower in the price range, you can add more attachments that can help enhance it further.
To aid in this, this scope has Weaver mounts on both sides. I recommend adding a small flashlight or laser.
One downside to this, however, is that the magnification cannot be adjusted.
While its brightness settings are adjustable, it may not be ideal for low-light shooting.
- Glass etched reticle
- Adjustable illumination
- Water, fog, and shockproof
- Weaver mount slots
- Not good for low light situations
- No adjustable objective
9. Nikon P-223 3-9×40mm Rifle Scope
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- Brand: Nikon
- Style: Variable power scope
- Dimensions: 13.5 x 3.7 x 3.3 inches
- Weight: 1.54 lbs
This is one of the BEST scopes for AR 15. If you want a good hunting scope, this is the scope for you.
- 3x to 9x magnification
- Great at minimizing the problem of light lost by reflection
- Has auto parallax correction up to 100 yards
- Resistant to fog and mist
- Offers a lot of eye relief
This scope’s BDC is ideal for a .223 Remington cartridge with a 55-grain polymer tip.
However, the 9x magnification may require some practice and experience to get the best shot with your AR 15.
You don’t need to worry about light transmission thanks to its quality optics.
The fully multi-coated lenses allow 98% of light to enter the scope, thus making you lose only 2% to reflection.
It’s easy to get positive feedback with its ¼-inch MOA. The turret can be reset by lifting and twisting the spring-loaded knob.
The caveat to this is that if you are aiming at long range, you may experience vibration and even migraines.
This will especially be a problem when you are aiming at a downward angle.
- Adjustable magnification
- Minimal light loss
- Generous eye relief
- Fog and mist resistant
- Easy reset
- May require experience to use successfully
- May cause the shooter to experience vibration or migraines
10. Vortex Optics Diamondback 3-9×40 SFP Riflescope
- Brand: Vortex
- Style: Variable power scope
- Dimensions: 14.5 x 2 x 1.73 inches
- Weight: 1.3 lbs
This budget scope is a great AR scope that won’t leave your pockets empty. It will make a great addition to your AR 15 for a seamless hunting experience!
- Has glass usually found in premium scopes without the premium price
- Has tough, durable construction with anti-fogging lenses
- Allows you to track targets faster
This scope easily sets to and holds zero, so that’s one problem down. The only time you have to adjust is when you have to move to another location.
However, it has really small dials, which can be a real issue because while it has finger-adjustable turrets, the dials can make it difficult to adjust them.
This small inconvenience can become a challenge if you’re wearing thick gloves.
To see how well Vortex scopes perform against Leupold scopes, check out this comparison guide!
- High-quality optics
- Precise dials
- Durable and solid scope body
- Great at holding zero
- Adaptable to various situations
- Turrets may be difficult to adjust
Things to Keep In Mind When Shopping for AR 15 Rifle Scope
To help you pick from the products above, this buying guide has all the factors you need to consider before pulling the trigger on any of these budget scopes!
A heavy scope will limit you from being at your full shooting potential.
A rifle is already heavy as it is, so adding more weight will make it even heavier. A heavy scope can make even light rifles a burden to carry!
It’s best to find a balanced scope with an objective lens diameter that isn’t too large.
It may be tempting to get a scope with a bigger objective lens with extensive power, but getting that boost comes at a heavy price. Literally.
It would be better to get one with a larger exit pupil, which gives a brighter image and weighs less.
In a given model, the second number in the expression (e.g., 3.9 x 40) denotes the objective lens diameter. So for “3.9 x 40”, the outer diameter is 40 mm.
The size of the lens corresponds to the amount of light that can get into the scope.
The bigger the lens, the more light can get into the scope.
The more light that can enter the scope, the CLEARER the image when viewed in the scope.
For some scopes, you can adjust the objective to cater to different shooting situations.
If you’re on an even tighter budget, I also have a guide on AR-15 scopes under $100.
Some of the scopes I listed here range from various objective lens sizes that may suit your needs.
This refers to how you can change the diameter of the objective, and thus the magnification.
This is found on variable-powered scopes where you can change the magnification. This is important to keep in mind if you’re looking for an AR 15 scope that can handle various distances.
It’s worth noting that an increase in magnification results in a phenomenon called PARALLAX.
Parallax will result in inaccurate sighting as the scope and reticle no longer produce images on the same plane.
In such a case, it is important to consider parallax correction when buying a scope, especially for hunting at longer distances.
Eye relief refers to the distance between your eye and the eyepiece. You may have to change your physical distance from the lenses when dealing with magnification range lenses.
Typical eye relief is between two to four inches. This is important not just for shooting but for safety too.
Aiming TOO CLOSE may result in a serious injury and a solemn farewell to your shooting days!
If you want to keep shooting, you must stay safe and take note of the scope’s eye relief.
The reticle, also known as the crosshair, is the small cross that marks the aim of the scope. Sometimes, it can be dots, bars, or even pointed posts.
The type of reticle that helps you hit your mark is up to you and your shooting style. Be sure that the reticle you’re choosing is compatible with the way you shoot.
This is the size of the light beam that leaves the scope. It can be calculated by dividing the lens diameter by the power of the current operation.
If you’re shooting during the day or in brightly lit situations, you don’t need a big exit pupil because of the availability of light.
If you’re hunting at night, however, you may want a bigger exit pupil.
Field of View
Field of view refers to the area captured by your lens. It is usually formed by the focal length and the eyepiece together.
A wider field of view means that there is a wider area you can see through the scope!
If you have a bigger field of view, it also means that more light transmission can enter the lens. This means that a blurrier image will be formed.
Thus, a wider field of view means less magnification power. More magnification means less image definition. The power is inversely related to the field of view.
Someone shooting at close range would need a wider field of view, while someone shooting at long range needs a smaller field of view.
The magnification power of a scope is VERY important. This refers to how much an object can be magnified in reference to the naked eye.
There are two types of scopes:
The first type has a variable magnification power. A scope with variable magnification power can change how much it magnifies a target.
- For instance, a scope with a magnification of 2.5 – 5 means it can change the magnification of an object from 2.5x to 5x. Because of this diversity, scopes with variable magnification power are more expensive.
The second type has fixed magnification power:
- This kind of scope cannot change how much it magnifies a target. If it has a fixed magnification of 4, then it will always only show that magnification.
The power of the scope you choose depends on your style of shooting. Shooting at close ranges calls for a magnification of up to 4x. This gives you a wider field of view.
For shooting at longer ranges, however, you should go for magnification up to 20x to be able to really see your targets from afar.
You won’t be able to find these scopes for under $200.
Minute of Angle
Minute of angle (MOA) refers to the adjustment of the scope relative to a target at 100 yards.
If you have an MOA of .25″, for example, each adjustment on the adjustment knob moves at an increment of .25″ at 100 yards.
Take note of MOA to know how well you can adjust your scope.
Not all the light that enters the scope pupil passes through seamlessly. Some of the light, usually 5% of it, is reflected back. Thus, the image observed is often of lower quality.
AR optics usually have the pupil side coated with magnesium fluoride to minimize this problem.
I advise you to pay attention to the optical coatings to find the best scope that will allow you to take a clear shot with your AR 15.
You need to decide whether you want a first or second focal plane reticle.
First Focal Plane
When the reticle is placed on the first focal plane, its size will seem to change as you change the scope’s magnification.
This is best for when you are shooting at long ranges.
Second Focal Plane
Unlike a first focal plane reticle which appears to change size with magnification, this appears to be unchanging.
This is best for when you aren’t shooting at long ranges or traditionally hunting among the trees.
There are two types of turrets to choose from; Capped and exposed turrets.
The style of the turret you choose affects your shooting style and should be considered to get the best scope for AR 15.
Capped turrets are recommended if you always hunt under the same conditions (i.e., always hiding in a specific place to shoot stationary deer).
The main reason people prefer this kind of turret is to avoid accidentally changing their settings.
If you don’t need to change distances or conditions often, it’s better to choose capped turrets.
Exposed turrets, also known as tactical-style turrets, are ideal for when you have targets that move at different distances (e.g., a deer running away from you).
Exposed turrets allow you to adjust elevation and windage points for long and short-range shots at a moment’s notice, making them perfect for snipers.
Novice shooters should steer clear from exposed turrets as they require a bit of experience to use them successfully.
Is a $200 Scope Worth it?
Yes, it can be!
As mentioned earlier, you don’t need to splurge on the most high-end, high-quality scope to get the best out of it.
Even the most AFFORDABLE options perform exceptionally well!
It may take a little trial and error to distinguish which brand is best or which features you do or do not need.
But either way, some of the most popular brands have budget-friendly scopes for beginners that promise high-quality optics!
However, if you are not careful, you may end up with a scope that is not only cheap but cheaply made.
Remember to do prior research before finally choosing one!
Should I Put a Rifle Scope or Red Dot on My AR 15? Which Is Better?
It really depends on you.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of red dot sights and scopes.
- Riflescopes are MORE VERSATILE than red dots, especially if it’s a variable magnification scope.
- They are also generally MORE ACCURATE than a red dot unless you are at very close range.
- Additionally, riflescopes are customizable with various reticle patterns at different price points.
- Riflescopes take up a lot more space than red dots or reflex sights. They also tend to be heavier.
- Another thing about rifle scopes is that you need to factor in eye relief distances. The problem with factoring this in is that it takes extra time to get into position, losing valuable seconds between you and your shot.
- Since you need to close one eye with most rifle scopes, you have less awareness on the field.
- They are also likely to suffer from parallax errors, especially at great distances.
Red Dot Sights
- The biggest advantage of red dots is their ability for fast target acquisition. A red dot sight eliminates the need for closing one eye or factoring in eye relief distance.
- Additionally, they are usually lighter and more compact and, thus, won’t weigh down your rifle.
- Since most red dots have a range maxing out at 50 – 100 yards, parallax errors generally aren’t an issue.
- Reduced distance and accuracy are the two main drawbacks of a red dot sight. Since they provide no magnification, even a spot-on 100-yard shot can be an achievement for most shooters.
- The dot or reticle can obscure your target at longer distances, further affecting the ability to shoot at a longer-range target.
- There’s always the chance that your dot will be obscured in brighter conditions. I’ve had to struggle to find my reticle in the middle of the day!
In conclusion, a RIFLE SCOPE is better when shooting at a distance of over 100 yards.
If you plan to shoot at close quarters, such as defending your home from an intruder late at night, a RED DOT SIGHT would be more fitting.
Frequently Asked Questions About Scopes
What Do Scope Numbers Mean?
You may have noticed above that the riflescopes often have some sort of number in their names. What do they mean?
To understand this, let’s use “3 x 25” as an example.
The first number represents the scope’s magnification power, or how much the objects are magnified with respect to the naked eye.
In a 3 x 25 scope, that means that it magnifies an object to 3x its size.
When there is only one number in the first part of the expression, like 3, that means that that is a fixed scope.
Now, what if we have an expression where there are more than two numbers, like 2.5-5 x 30?
2.5 – 5 represents the range of magnification. This means that the scope is a variable power scope that can magnify an object from 2.5x its regular size to 5x.
The second number in the expression refers to the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters. Thus, the 3 x 25 scope has a diameter of 25 mm.
What Is the Optimal Magnification for an AR 15?
It really depends on what you’ll use your AR 15 for.
- A scope with LOW POWER is perfect for close-range shooting or for shooting moving targets.
- If you prefer hunting big game such as deer, it would be better to get a MEDIUM POWER SCOPE.
- On the other hand, HIGH-POWER RIFLESCOPES are great for shooting sitting ducks and small game varmints, such as rodents.
When Will I Need to Use Parallax Adjustment on Scopes?
First of all, we need to understand what rifle scope parallax is.
A parallax is an optical illusion that causes an object to appear at a different location than it really is to an observer.
When a shooter experiences rifle scope parallax, the target appears out of focus or in the wrong place. This can lead to a lot of missed shots.
This phenomenon in shooting usually occurs at high levels of magnification and/or at distances above 250 yards. It can also occur if you have high magnification but a target at a short distance.
Some scopes come with a built-in parallax corrector or variable parallax adjustment. You will need to use parallax adjustments on scopes if you’re shooting at a long distance, specifically beyond 250 yards.
I have a guide on top-tier scopes perfect for 500 yards if you’re looking for more suitable long-range scope options.
The best AR scopes don’t need to dry out your account. Many entry-level scopes can give you a great hunting experience without giving you high credit card debt!
In conclusion, my best scope for AR 15 under $200 is the Vortex Optics Strikefire II Rifle Scope.
If you plan to focus on longer ranges, the Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone 223 4.5-18x40mm is the one for you.
Those who are looking for more value with their purchase will be better off with the TRUGLO TRU-Brite 30 Series 1-6x24mm Rifle Scope.
FINAL TIP: After choosing the best budget AR 15 scopes for you, consider getting a high-quality AR scope mount to pair it with.