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The Best Optics for AR15: Red Dots, Holographic, & Scopes

Best Optics for AR15

One of the most important accessories you can use with your AR15 is the scope or optic. 

It helps you view your target and ensures your shot will hit its intended mark.

You probably think traditional hunting scopes are the only optic you need for modern sporting rifles like the AR15.

BUT, I have to disagree.

In my experience, red dots and holographic sights have worked just as well as scopes, depending on what I use them for.

Let’s dive into the best optics for AR15 weapons, including my top picks for every type.

Red Dot Sights

Man looking through scope

Red dots are one of the most popular optic styles for the AR15.

Red dots are electronic sighting systems that use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to project an aiming point (usually red) from behind the objective lens.

How it works:

The “red dot” is reflected off the lens and towards the shooter’s eye.

The shooter can then position the red dot over the intended target before making the shot.

This type of optic is EXCELLENT for:

  • Close-range shooting
  • Engagements where speed and accuracy are required
  • Multiple or moving targets
  • Home defense situations as they can give you quick, accurate shots even through the haze of stress and adrenaline.

The term “red dot” has come to mean any optic, including reflex sights and holographic sights, that make use of a red reticle that projects onto the target. 

However, these holographic and reflex sights under this umbrella use vastly different technologies from red dots despite having more or less the same general functions.

Keep this in mind to avoid confusion in both theory and application!

Best Red Dot Sights

If you anticipate that you will be using your AR 15 mainly for close-range shooting or home defense, it’s best to invest in a red dot!

Here are some of my top red dots for Your AR15:

1. Aimpoint PRO Rifle Optic


Aimpoint PRO Rifle Optic

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  • Brand: Aimpoint
  • Dimensions: 6.75 x 4.63 x 3.38 inches
  • Weight: 0.49 lbs

This is an excellent ALL-AROUND red dot scope for your AR 15 that delivers superior performance even under the harshest conditions.

Let’s look at why it is my best red dot sight:

  • 26 mm objective lens
  • 2 MOA red dot with 10 brightness settings
  • Practically indestructible 
  • Front and rear flip lens covers
  • Recessed lens openings 
  • Long-lasting battery life

Longevity & Durability

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve accidentally left my red dots on and drained its battery.

There’s no need to worry about that with this red dot sight because it can guarantee up to 30,000 hours of continuous operation on a single DL1/3N battery.

Technically, you can leave this thing on for 3 years straight and still not have to worry about it losing power!

Its anodized aluminum makes it virtually indestructible! I’ve taken it out in harsh, wet conditions, and it still operates like it’s brand new.

You can submerge this scope in water for up to 150 feet, and it will still work as usual.

Meanwhile, the recessed lens openings help to protect the lens from snow, dirt, and fingerprints.

Mounting & Other Features

This best red dot sight comes with an included mount that has a removable spacer, which I can use to achieve co-witness with iron sights on a flat-top AR.

It can also be removed to achieve a lower profile on weapons without a straight-line stock.

Needless to say, I was amazed by the attention to detail on this sight!

It comes with a clear rear cap which is great for when I need to shoot on the spot but don’t have time to flip up the caps.

Instead of removing the lens covers, you can simply look through the clear rear cap to see the red dot.

There’s also no need to close one eye when honing in on your target, which is the major advantage red dots have over other sights.

Speaking of caps, the battery cover and adjustment caps have retaining lanyards to prevent losing them.

I can tell that they really thought of everything and every possible situation.


This red dot scope is the perfect choice for everyone who owns an AR 15, regardless of whether you’re a beginner or experienced shooter.

HOWEVER, it is worth noting that this is one of the most EXPENSIVE choices out there at the time of this writing.

Despite this, I would say the expense is well worth it, given its fantastic quality and durability. 

I can’t recommend it enough!

  • Extremely durable
  • Long battery life
  • Easy to install
  • Expensive

2. Vortex Optics Strikefire II


Vortex Optics Strikefire II

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  • Brand: Vortex Optics
  • Dimensions: 5.59 x 2.36 x 2.36 inches
  • Weight: 1.22 lbs

You may have heard of the legendary Vortex Optics, owned by a family of hardworking veterans in Wisconsin.

Just like all of the other durable, high-quality scopes from Vortex Optics, the Vortex Strikefire has made its mark as one of the BEST red dot sights on the market, especially for those on a budget.

What makes it stand out:

  • Multi-coated lenses for clean and unobscured sight pictures
  • 4 MOA green/red dot with 10 brightness settings
  • Night vision compatible 
  • Parallax adjustment
  • Fast focus eyepiece
  • Vortex Optics lifetime warranty

Reticle Features

A great thing about this AR 15 scope is that it is more than just a budget red dot sight.

The Vortex Strikefire II has two reticle options: A red or green reticle.

Both of these options come with ten brightness modes to maximize reticle visibility.

Out of these 10, I find the lowest 2 settings are perfect for night vision shooting.

This red dot features a reticle dot with a 4 MOA diameter.

While I wouldn’t recommend it for long-distance shooting with modern sporting rifles, it is just the bee’s knees when it comes to shooting fast targets at close range.

Other Features

Turrets are adjustable with audible clicks at ½ MOA per click, giving you the precision you need to make that one perfect, accurate shot.

This compact tactical scope can also co-witness easily with iron sights on a flat top AR 15, especially with the included offset cantilever mount.


If you need to save money, consider this red dot sight!

It even comes with an auto shutdown feature after 12 hours of idle time to help preserve the battery.

God knows how many times I’ve accidentally left mine on for too long.

On top of all that, it comes with the signature Vortex Lifetime Warranty. Unlimited, unconditional service and repair for as long as you need it.

I have a solo review of the Strikfire 2 if you want to learn more.

  • Affordable
  • Durable
  • Waterproof
  • Night vision compatible
  • Auto-shutdown after 12 hours
  • Manufactured abroad
  • Not ideal for longer ranges

3. Bushnell TRS-25


Bushnell TRS-25

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  • Brand: Bushnell
  • Dimensions: 2.5 x 3.4 x 2.2 inches
  • Weight: 0.23 lbs

I would 100% recommend this scope for deer hunters. You can’t go wrong with this red dot. I promise.

This is the original and the standard for BUDGET red dot sights!

The Bushnell TRS-25 is one of the most popular beginner optics out there, not just for the AR 15 but even for handguns and SMGs.

Check it out:

  • 3 MOA dot reticle with 11 brightness settings
  • Waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof
  • Red dot reticle
  • Affordable
  • Amber-Bright high contrast lens coating

Unique Features

Probably the most standout feature on this scope is its use of their Amber-Bright high contrast lens coating.

As the name implies, it generates a high-contrast sight picture for rapid target acquisition.

My images were clear and I was able to decipher between the different shades of brown in the environment!

You’ll be able to quickly and easily see the difference between the brown of the deer’s coat and the brown of the trees, making for a quick, accurate shot.

Adjustability & Durability

So, you’re able to spot the difference between the deer and the tree. The next step, of course, is to take the shot.

But what if the reticle isn’t perfectly where you need it to be?

There’s no need to fear as any adjustments needed are a breeze with the easy-to-use target turrets for quick windage and elevation adjustment.

I need not worry about the harshness of terrain or your clumsiness as a beginner. This scope is nitrogen-purged and o-ring sealed.

It can survive drops, bumps, and bounces!

Even after shooting 500 rounds, I found that this scope was still able to hold zero perfectly!

You don’t have to worry about losing battery either, as this comes with a long-lasting CR3032 battery for continuous operation.


These sturdy and robust cheap red dot sights surprisingly retail for less than $100.

It has been a huge help for me during my close-range sessions.

  • Very affordable
  • Durable
  • Simple
  • High contrast sight picture
  • Manufactured abroad
  • Not the best for low-light situations

Holographic Sights

Soldier pointing rifle

Holographic sights are often confused with red dots. However, it uses a different system compared to red dots.

While traditional red dots make use of LEDs to project a red aiming point that is reflected from the back of an objective lens, a holo sight makes use of multiple lasers and mirrors to produce the reticle dot.

They are used mostly for shooting in close quarters by law enforcement and military personnel.

Holo sights have also enjoyed a recent increase in popularity from civilians who prefer to hunt varmints at an even closer range with their AR15.

Compared to a red dot sight, a holo sight has a much bigger reticle and an MOA with better range precision.

Because of the more complicated technology used by holo sights compared to red dots, they are often more expensive.

However, thanks to this same technology, holo sights have more room for larger reticles, leading to more precision.

Best Holographic Sights

Despite their similarities (and confusion) with red dots, only two reputable companies make holographic sights at the moment: Vortex Optics and EOTech.

However, I lean towards EOTech for my top holographic sights:

1. EOTech 552


EOTech 552

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  • Brand: EOTech
  • Dimensions: 5 x 1.8 x 2.25 inches
  • Weight: 1.45 lbs

Want to know how good this holo sight is?

Most US military and law enforcement agencies have ranked this sight as their #1 pick for holographic scopes. I do too.

Let’s see why:

  • 20 daylight settings with 10 night vision compatible settings
  • 68 MOA ring with 1 MOA dot reticle
  • Parallax-free
  • Extremely durable
  • Water-resistant

However, the downside to this scope is that it is pretty EXPENSIVE and can be bulkier than other sights, especially red dots and prism sights.

Superior Durability

This sight is best used for close-quarters combat and self-defense situations.

But does the thought of these kinds of situations scare you for your life and the life of your sight?

Not to worry. This scope is built TOUGH. I guarantee it!

It is so tough that I have crossed rivers and endured rain with this thing and it still holds up to this day!

You can throw this around or even hit something with it (not recommended, but possible) without worrying about it losing zero.

I have dropped in dirt, mud, and snow, but even those didn’t stop this sight from being incredibly accurate!

It even works when partially shattered!

The amazing durability on this rifle scope is one of the many reasons why it’s a hit with our brave men and women in the military and law enforcement.


In addition to this, the incredibly clear glass is amazing for rapid target acquisition for short to medium-range shots.

I can use it in all possible situations and lighting conditions without any worries!

The UNLIMITED eye relief and wide field of view also help give you a tactical advantage.

You can use this sight even with both eyes open while maintaining situational awareness!


Adjustments are easy with elevation and windage turrets that adjust with ½ MOA adjustment clicks.

Unlike other sights that have capped turrets, the screws on the turrets are exposed and easily adjustable on the spot with a coin or screwdriver.

There’s no need to fiddle with any caps that you need to remove and can lose.

  • Water-resistant
  • Extremely durable 
  • Holds zero despite everything
  • Easily adjustable
  • Expensive
  • Bulky

2. EOTech 512


EOTech 512

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  • Brand: EOTech
  • Dimensions: 8 x 6.5 x 3.5 inches
  • Weight: 0.68 lbs

While EOTech is known to be the gold standard for holographic sights, the 512 is their most popular model, and for a good reason.

It is the POSTER BOY and most basic of holo sights.

Even beginners can use this simple-to-use EOTech 512! It was the first one I tried when I was learning about them.

However, don’t let the simplicity of this sight fool you. It has everything you need, and more:

  • .85 objective lens
  • 20 brightness setting
  • Incredibly accurate
  • User friendly 65 MOA ring with 1 MOA dot reticle
  • Waterproof, shockproof, and fog proof
  • Virtually indestructible 
  • Parallax-free


If durability were an optic, it would definitely be this one.

This USA-made sight is water-resistant for up to 10 feet and will never let you down no matter how much you run around with it.

It also runs on 2 AA batteries — one of the most common and most accessible batteries to find!

I didn’t have to worry about finding replacements, which saves me a lot of time!


The UNLIMITED eye relief on this gun sight ensures you can get as close or as far as needed to the scope without having to say goodbye to your eye. 

With a field of view of 30-100 yards, this is also a great rifle scope for hunting varmint at close ranges or for training in an urban environment.

I’ve also had easy and quick target acquisition, thanks to the generously sized window, together with the clear, non-reflective glass of its lenses.

The rear adjustment buttons that are compatible with both left and right-handed shooters help with this as well.

HOWEVER, it is worth noting that this is NOT a night vision sight. 

I talk more about this sight in my 512 vs. 518 comparison guide.

  • Water-resistant up to 10 feet
  • Simple and easy to use
  • Very durable 
  • Can't be used at night

3. EOTech EXPS3



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  • Brand: EOTech
  • Dimensions: 3.8 x 2.3 x 2.9 inches
  • Weight: 0.70 lbs

This is another one of the best and most versatile sights out there.

I’ve used it for both sunup and sundown shooting as well as casual and competitive shooting!

In fact, some military personnel named this as one of the best sights for speedy target acquisition in close quarters! I tend to agree.

Let’s put our sights on this sight:

  • 68 MOA Circle with 1 MOA red dot 
  • Waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof
  • Hardly any recoil 
  • 20 reticle brightness settings with 10 night vision compatible settings
  • Wide field of view
  • Unlimited eye relief

Brightness Settings

This sight really stands out because it’s the only one with absolutely no tint on its glass lens.

You heard me right — the glass is clear and bright on its own WITHOUT the help of any additional tinting.

It has 20 brightness settings, and of these 20, the “standard” or regular brightness setting as found on other sights is set at level 12.

If the “standard” is at level 12, you can just imagine what the other 19 settings are like.

You can go from a barely visible dot to one that is practically blinding, depending on the lighting conditions you’re shooting in. 

In addition to those 20 brightness modes, this optic also has 10 other settings which are compatible with night vision devices from Gen I all the way up to III+.

I was blown away by the range and versatility of this scope that is up for everything!


One downside I experienced was that it takes a long time to turn on.

You’d think that a sight with this price tag would have an always-on feature just in case trouble finds you.

Fortunately, it does have an auto shutdown feature, which automatically shuts down after four or eight hours, depending on the mode you use. 

The buttons used to choose whether you want an automatic shut down at 4 or 8 hours are also used to change the reticle’s intensity.

If these buttons are used at any time during shooting, the shutdown time is automatically reset.

Another downside is that it has a battery life of only 600 hours when on level 12 brightness.

  • Durable
  • Extremely versatile
  • Auto shut down
  • Short battery life

Prism Scopes/Fixed Magnification Scopes

Holding rifle in snow

Fixed power scopes, a.k.a prism scopes, are different from red dots and holo sights as they can magnify the sight picture, unlike the aforementioned two.

As the name suggests, a fixed power scope or prism scope has one fixed magnification or power level. You can’t adjust how little or how much you want the magnification to be once you’ve got it.

Prism scopes make use of a single glass prism to magnify the sight picture.

This simplified system means that prism scopes are more compact than other traditional scopes.

They’re IDEAL for shorter AR 15s with limited rail space!

Best Prism Scopes/Fixed Magnification Scopes

Prism scopes or fixed magnification scopes, sometimes referred to as ACOG sights, typically have fixed magnifications between 1x-5x.

Because these magnifications tend to be lower than standard rifle scopes, they are better suited for short to medium-range shooting up to 600 yards.

Here are my top recommendations for your AR 15:

1. Trijicon ACOG 4x32mm


Trijicon ACOG 4x32mm

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  • Brand: Trijicon
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 8.5 x 5 inches
  • Weight: 2.2 lbs

I start my list off with the very prism scope the United States Marine Corps uses for their Squad Designated Marksman Rifle.

The Trijicon Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (or ACOG) is not just one of the BEST fixed power scopes out there, but also probably the best tactical scope I’ve used.

This fixed scope is designed to fill the gap between an infantryman and a long-range sniper, so you know it’s perfect for medium-range shooting.

Check it out:

  • 32 mm objective lens
  • 4x magnification
  • Waterproof, fogproof, bombproof, and shockproof
  • Extremely rugged
  • Green reticle
  • Lifetime warranty

Durable and Versatile

As a scope made to withstand the stress of battle, the Trijicon ACOG is housed in forged 7075-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum alloy.

In short, it’s basically indestructible.

This scope has a bright green reticle that is illuminated WITHOUT any batteries.

Instead of using batteries like traditional scopes, the ACOG is powered by fiber optics at day and by tritium at night. This is great for off-grid scenarios.

The ACOG also boasts a MASSIVE field of view. I was surprised by how much I could see!

This prism scope is designed specifically for shooting with both eyes open, allowing you to retain peripheral vision and situational awareness.


The only downside to this is that it is a VERY expensive option. It is a tactical scope, after all.

However, if you are a serious shooter who wants an extremely tough, accurate rifle scope that will never die on you, this investment is very much worth it. 

I’d say it’s worth every penny!

  • Very durable
  • Not powered by battery
  • Amazingly accurate and easy to use
  • Expensive

2. Vortex Spitfire


Vortex Spitfire

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  • Brand: Vortex Optics
  • Dimensions: 4.7 x 8.6 x 3.3 inches
  • Weight: 1.01 lbs

Got your heart set on the Trijicon ACOG but don’t have the money for it?

Allow me to glue the shattered pieces of your heart back together with the Vortex Spitfire, which has been hailed as the “budget ACOG.”

But is it REALLY deserving of this title?

Check it out:

  • Affordable
  • 3x magnification
  • 30 mm objective lens
  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • Illuminated reticle
  • Parallax adjustment
  • Shockproof, waterproof, fog-proof, and bombproof
  • Multi-height mounting system 
  • Vortex lifetime warranty

What I Love

Something revolutionary about this AR 15 rifle scope is that it combines short-range fixed magnification with red dot technology. 

This prism scope is also compact and lightweight. It’s perfect for long shooting days since I don’t have to worry about that unwanted bulk.

One thing I really love about this is the etched reticle that makes it practically impossible to break without destroying the entire scope.

You’ll need to be extraordinarily careless and clumsy to break this one!

Not only is the reticle practically indestructible, but it is also visible 24/7 regardless of battery level.

It’s even good for people with astigmatism!

The EBR-566 Enhanced Battle Reticle comes with a choice of either red or green illumination with five brightness settings.

I can use it even during low light conditions!

You need not worry about fuss either, as switching illuminations is as easy as flipping a switch.

With a wide field of view paired with a fast-focus eyepiece, you can really be assured of INCREDIBLY accurate shots regardless of range with this AR 15 scope.

What I Don’t Love

One downside to this scope, however, is that this prism scope doesn’t have a particularly long battery life.

If used constantly on LOW, it can only give you 3000 hours, and 250 hours when on HIGH. 

As this scope runs on CR 2032 batteries, it may be a good idea to always keep some on hand. They shouldn’t be too bulky to not keep in your bag.

Another downside to this scope is the limited eye relief of a sad 2.8″, making it a bit tight for the AR platform.

I found that I needed to remove my flip-up iron sights to use this scope.

  • Good dupe for the ACOG
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Extremely durable
  • Short battery life
  • Limited eye relief

3. Nikon P-223 3x32mm Carbine


Nikon P-223 3x32mm Carbine



  • Brand: Nikon
  • Dimensions: 14.25 x 3.15 x 3.15 inches
  • Weight: 0.76lbs

Nikon optics are well known in the shooting community for their quality. The P-223 is no exception.

This AR 15 scope has fully multi-coated lenses and is compact and lightweight, making it the ideal optic for light and short AR 15s.

Here are the specifics:

  • 3x magnification
  • 98% light transmission
  • Parallax elimination
  • Wide field of view
  • Waterproof, shockproof, nitrogen-filled tube
  • 32 mm objective lens


This optic is fitted with a bullet drop compensator reticle (BDC) that is perfectly calibrated for a .223 round.

The main crosshair in this sight is set up for a 200-yard zero.

The additional marks at 400 and 600 yards are very convenient as well, so I don’t have to worry about farther distances!


While the main crosshair in this sight is set up for a 200-yard zero, any additional adjustments needed are not a problem!

The large, easy-to-use windage and elevation adjustment turrets make any necessary adjustments at precise ½ MOA clicks for the perfect shot.

Even if I mess up my adjustments and need to go back to original zero, I can do so with no problem!

Simply lift the windage and elevation turrets to return back to zero without moving the reticles.  

I found that this works best for shots at 300 yards.

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Contains zero-reset function
  • Manufactured abroad

Variable Power Scopes

Soldier looking through scope

Variable power scopes are probably one of the most versatile scopes out there.

This is also probably what people refer to when describing a “traditional scope.”

Unlike a red dot or holographic sight that doesn’t provide magnification, and unlike prism scopes that offer only one fixed magnification, a variable scope is capable of giving a range of magnification.

With variable magnification, I can zoom in on long-range targets and zoom out on closer ones, making them ideal for medium to long-range encounters.

I found them to be excellent for hunting, 3-gun competitions, and tactical shooting.

However, variable power scopes are bigger and bulkier than other types of optics. Here are the other things you need to know about them:

#1 Magnification

Magnified scopes usually have a series of numbers in their designation.

The two numbers before the “x” refer to the scope’s magnification range.

If it says 1-3x, for example, that means that the magnified optic in question can magnify an object from 1 to 3x its actual size.

A scope with magnification of 3-5x would mean that it could magnify an object from 3-5x its actual size, and so on and so forth.

#2 Objective Lens

If the numbers before the “x” indicate the scope’s magnification range, then the number after it indicates the objective lens diameter in millimeters.

Scopes with a larger objective lens allow MORE light transmission, resulting in a clearer and brighter picture, especially under low light.

However, it is worth noting that the larger the lens, the heavier and bulkier the scope will be.

As such, I don’t recommend getting a large objective lens on a compact and lightweight AR15.

#3 FFP vs. SFP

There are two models of variable power scope for the AR 15: The FFP and the SFP model.

FFP or First Focal Plane refers to a scope with its reticle on the first focal plane:

With an FFP scope, the reticle changes size as it zooms in and out. As you zoom in, your target appears bigger as does your reticle.

SFP or Second Focal Plane refers to a scope where the reticle is on the second focal plane:

This means that the reticle doesn’t change size with the magnification.

First focal plane vs. second focal plane

A good way to remember which does which is to remember this little line:

If it’s first, it follows. If it’s second, it stays.

So how do you know which one to use?

If you often find yourself shooting at long distances wherein you would need a quick follow-up shot after, it would be best to use a reticle on the first focal plane.

I would NOT recommend an FFP scope at closer ranges against dark backgrounds.

In such situations, it’s best to get an illuminated reticle in the SFP, which is better for visibility regardless of magnification.

Check out this comparison guide to learn more!

Best Variable Power Scopes for Short-Range Shooting

Short-range shooting is classified as shooting that is between 0-100 yards.

Shooting in this range usually includes shooting for home defense or close-quarter combat.

Here are my top picks for the best AR 15 scopes for shorter ranges:

1. Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6x24mm


Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6x24mm

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  • Brand: Vortex Optics
  • Dimensions: 10.5 x 1.77 x 1.77 inches
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs

The Vortex Optics Strike Eagle is another great offering from Vortex Optics.

However, unlike Vortex’s other tactical style AR 15 scopes, the Vortex Strike Eagle has a more traditional look without sacrificing the top-of-the-line technology that Vortex is known for.

Let’s take a look at the features: 

  • 1-6x magnification
  • 24 mm objective
  • Shockproof and fogproof
  • Fast focus eyepiece

Notable Features

This AR 15 scope is made of aircraft-grade aluminum, making it just as durable as it is versatile.

It’s also specifically designed for an AR 15 that’s fitted with a reticle with bullet drop compensation that has been calibrated to .223 rounds.

The Strike Eagle can magnify an image from 1 to 6x its original size. 

Reflection is minimized with the fully multi-coated lenses for a crisp and clear sight picture.

Are you worried about the reticle breaking with repeated recoil? 

You can rest easy knowing that the reticle is etched directly into the glass for durability. 

Another great thing about this scope is that it has traditional adjustment screws instead of regular turrets.

These screws are covered with protected caps to ward against damage and help give the scope a low profile.


The Vortex Strike Eagle is, by far, one of the best all-around low-power variable optic (LPVO) for most shooters.

It’s perfect for 3-gun competitions, hunting, and target shooting. 

Best of all, it comes with a lifetime warranty!

I also wrote a dedicated review on the Vortex Strike Eagle if you want to learn more before buying it.

  • Durable
  • Minimal reflection
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Takes up a lot of space on the AR 15 rail

2. Bushnell AR-15 Optics FFP 1-4x24mm


Bushnell AR-15 Optics FFP 1-4x24mm

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  • Brand: Bushnell
  • Dimensions: 2 x 12 x 2 inches
  • Weight: 1.12 lbs

This AR 15 scope stands out because of how it handled a common problem among smaller scopes: A dimmer sight picture around dusk and dawn.

This causes problems as the target may be visible, but the reticle may not be so visible.

Bushnell fixed this problem by providing a red focal plane reticle illuminator and a new illumination control system.

Reticle brightness is quickly and easily changed with the help of a throw-down lever that allows you to quickly change the intensity.

What else does this scope have? Let’s take a look:

  • 24 mm objective
  • Fixed parallax adjustment at 100 yards
  • Compact
  • Fully multi-coated optics

Notable Features

I like this scope for its ample illumination for when I hunt during twilight and beyond! Plus, it’s small size makes it easy to carry.

Windage and elevation adjustments are made quickly and accurately with the exposed turrets with a 0.1 mil click value. 

Another great feature of this is the Throw Down PCL power change lever that can be set at two different heights.

With this I have a range of customization to suit my own unique needs!


This scope gets major points for its tank-like durability! When I first held it, it felt like it could withstand a nuclear explosion.

If ever something does happen, I can rest easy knowing the fully transferable Bushnell Lifetime Ironclad Warranty has my back!

You will find this to be an excellent AR 15 scope regardless of whether you’re using your AR15 for target shooting at a shooting range or on the hunt.

  • Customizable
  • Great for low light shooting
  • Durable
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Easy adjustments
  • Expensive

3. Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II-E 1-6x24mm


Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II 1-6x24mm

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  • Brand: Vortex Optics
  • Dimensions: 5.2 x 13.9 x 4.8 inches
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs

This rifle scope from Vortex Optics has nothing short of a huge fan base that includes predator hunters, recreational shooters, and even 3 gun competitors.

I count myself among these lucky many!

Here’s a sneak peek:

  • 1-6x magnification
  • 24 mm objective lens
  • Shockproof, waterproof, and fogproof
  • Wide field of view
  • Huge eye box

Topnotch Quality

It gets all these accolades from the remarkable optical quality that it has.

The high density, extra-low dispersion glass and fully multi-coated lenses maximize light transmission and guarantee a clear and bright sight picture.

The unique illuminated reticle on this AR 15 scope with a center dot allows me to shoot quickly and accurately for up to 600 yards.

You are also assured of DURABILITY with this AR 15 scope.

Not a single bump, scratch, or dent on this thing, thanks to its single piece of aircraft-grade aluminum alloy.


If you want a good scope for your AR 15 for 3-gun games, then this is definitely the best AR 15 scope for you. 

Here are some more 1-6x rifle scopes for you to check out!

  • Very durable 
  • Quick target acquisition
  • Extremely clear sight picture
  • Crosshair may split

Best Variable Power Scopes for Medium-Range Shooting

Medium range shooting refers to shooting between the range of 0-500 yards and is the most common type of shooting for AR15.

Here are the best AR15 scopes I can recommend for medium-range encounters:

1. Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40mm


Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40mm

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  • Brand: Leupold
  • Dimensions: 14 x 3.4 x 3 inches
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs

If you want the absolute best scope for hunting, look no further than the Leupold VX-Freedom, which is the standard riflescope for whitetails.

Take a look here:

  • 3 – 9x magnification
  • Twilight Max Light Management System
  • Matte black finish
  • Fogproof and waterproof
  • Scratch-resistant lenses

Top-Tier Sight Picture

I don’t think any other scope brand can boast a Twilight Max Light Management System.

Thanks to this unique system, I get crisp, clear images, even in low-light conditions by balancing glare light transmission and color contrast.

This, combined with the quality glass provided that Leupold is known for, makes for an incredible sight picture for easy breezy beautiful shooting.


This scope made from 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum is extraordinarily durable and made specifically to handle rough hunting with the AR 15.

Plus, I can save some money, thanks to its wallet-friendly price!

I love that this scope comes at an impressive yet affordable 3-9x magnification without sacrificing quality.

Check out my comparison guide on Leupold and Vortex to see which scope manufacturer is better for you!

  • Affordable
  • Good sight picture
  • Durable
  • Can be hard to adjust

2. Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40mm


Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40mm



  • Brand: Nikon
  • Dimensions: 0.04 x 0.04 x 0.03 inches
  • Weight: 1 lb

This incredibly versatile hunting scope gives you excellent quality without the unbelievable price:

  • 9x maximum zoom
  • Rugged and simple 
  • Shockproof and waterproof


Zeroing adjustments are done easily through the screws underneath the protective caps that move at ¼ MOA increments with audible clicks.

Magnification power is easily controlled with a ring in front of the eyepiece.


This fully multi-coated optical system with 98% light transmission boasts a bullet drop compensator reticle that helps me aim into the distance.

This, combined with the quick focus eyepiece, allows for rapid target acquisition and deadly aim. 

I like that this scope can gather light like a larger scope WITHOUT the downside of weight and bulk.

With its bright and clear sight picture, this is the perfect scope for hunters looking for reliable zoom capacity.

  • Excellent sight picture 
  • Simple to use
  • Compact
  • Manufactured abroad

3. Bushnell AR-15 Optics 3-9x40mm


Bushnell AR-15 Optics 3-9x40mm

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  • Brand: Bushnell
  • Dimensions: 5 x 5 x 5 inches
  • Weight: 1.31 lb

This scope has all the features of smaller Bushnells with more magnification and light gathering ability.

It stands out with its higher zoom range and an objective lens with nearly three times the lens area of other scopes.

Not to mention, it boasts the same excellent optics and rugged construction as other Bushnell scopes.

What else does it have?

  • 40 mm objective lens
  • Side parallax adjustment
  • Waterproof and shockproof
  • Exposed turrets

Notable Features

Adjustments on this scope are quick and precise with ¼ MOA clicks. It even has a parallax turret located on the left side of the tube.

Put this with the rapid focus eyepiece and smooth zoom ring, and you get a quick, easy, and deadly scope that holds its zero no matter what. 

A drawback of this, however, is that it is extremely EXPENSIVE.

  • Easy to adjust
  • Durable
  • Holds zero well
  • Expensive

Best Variable Power Scopes for Long-Range Shooting

Long-range shooting is defined as any shooting beyond 500 yards.

For shots at this level, it is best to get a long-range scope with higher magnification power.

Here are my best long-range scopes for your AR15:

1. Nikon P-223 BDC 600 4-12x40mm


Nikon P-223 BDC 600 4-12x40mm



  • Brand: Nikon
  • Dimensions: 4 x 15.5 x 3.5 inches
  • Weight: 1.1 lb

This is definitely the BEST AR 15 scope for long ranges. 

With a fully multi-coated optical system that provides up to 98% light transmission, all I see every session is a clear and bright sight picture!

What else does this have?

  • Generous and consistent eye relief
  • 100-yard parallax setting
  • Waterproof with a nitrogen purged tube and O-ring seals


This reticle uses the bullet drop compensator pattern, a series of hash marks and rings below the central crosshairs, calibrated for a .223 round.

This makes it very easy for me to aim and achieve excellent precision for up to 600 yards.


Zoom is easily controlled with a ring in front of the eyepiece and is easily adjustable with a large stud that can be rotated even with gloves. 

The audible clicks on the adjustment turrets eliminate any guessing games as to whether or not you could make the necessary adjustments.

If you have any problems with your adjustments, fear not.

You can simply lift the spring-loaded caps to reset your scope back to its original zero.

I found this extremely useful, especially in a pinch!

What really stands out to me is that this scope is compatible with Nikon’s Spot On app

This app allows you to get a customized aim point/range table after entering bullet weight and muzzle velocity.

  • Easy to adjust
  • Compatible with the Nikon app
  • Durable
  • Manufactured abroad

2. Bushnell AR-15 Optics 4.5-18x40mm


Bushnell AR-15 Optics 4.5-18x40mm

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  • Brand: Bushnell
  • Dimensions: 12 x 10 x 6 inches
  • Weight: 1.34 lb

If you want magnification, this scope’s got it. 

It doesn’t magnify to just 8x the image size or 10x the image size — it magnifies all the way to a whopping 18x magnification! 

If you’re planning to hunt at longer ranges, this is the long-range scope for you. 

Its features include:

  • 40 mm objective lens
  • Shockproof
  • HD optics clarity

However, it is worth noting that as the light fades, it will be harder and harder to use the full zoom range of this scope. 

  • Very powerful magnification
  • Excellent clarity during the day
  • Can be hard to use in low light

3. Carl Zeiss Optical HD5 – 25x50mm


Carl Zeiss Optical HD5 - 25x50mm



  • Brand: Carl Zeiss
  • Dimensions: 2 x 2 x 14.17 inches
  • Weight: 1.66 lb

Besides their beer, Germany is known for its top-of-the-line technology and engineering.

Get a taste of German ingenuity on the field with this incredible German-made scope:

  • Sleek, compact design
  • Enhanced image quality
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • 50 mm objective lens 
  • 25x maximum power

Long Range Performance

Some may think that a 50 mm objective is way too big for an AR 15.

I personally think that 50 mm is the perfect size for light to come in when hunting feral hogs at dusk.

Regardless of where you stand, what is without question is that HD5 is an extremely versatile scope that you can use at various distances.

However, I would NOT recommend this scope for close quarters.

Although, it can be used in conjunction with a red dot scope and is best used for long-distance coyote or varmint hunting.

  • Very versatile
  • Excellent for longer ranges
  • Durable
  • Can't be used in close quarters

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Optics for Your AR 15

Of course, you can’t just spin a wheel to decide what kind of optic to use for your AR 15.

Optics are quite the investment, after all. Let’s look at how to choose the best AR 15 scope for you and your lifestyle.

#1 Intended Usage

Intended usage icon

“What am I using my AR15 for?”

That is the first question you should be asking yourself when looking for the best AR 15 scopes.

Different AR15 scopes are used for different reasons and suit different needs.

For example, an AR15/M4 platform used for military purposes would have very different requirements compared to an AR 15 used for hunting.

Some types of hunting, for instance, won’t even need a scope.

If you’re just blasting away annoying little critters at short range, you’ll do well with just a red dot sight or even iron sights.

However, if you’re planning to shoot at a long-range, you may need a better set of quality optics. 

My rule of thumb is:

If you plan to use your rifle at a short range, whether for close-quarters combat, self-defense, or pest control, then a red dot or holo sight would be better for your rifle.

However, if you plan to do some serious critter control or go hunting, it might be better to find a scope with magnification that can do better at various ranges.

Take note, too, of your hunting style.

Do you prefer to hunt distant, moving targets in wider areas? Is your ideal target a small, fast animal?

If so, then a fixed magnification scope may be the best AR 15 scope for you. 

However, if you like chasing your target down, especially large land animals or fast birds, it’s best to get a variable magnification scope. 

#2 Cost

Cost icon

You were probably told growing up that money doesn’t grow on trees.

This would be a good thing to keep in mind when choosing an optic for your AR 15.

How much dough can you afford to spare?

While this may be a downer, it would be best to look into scopes within your budget.  

Another good benchmark to decide how much you should spend on an optic would be how much experience you have with your rifle.

If you’ve shot less than 1000 rounds with your AR 15, it is best to spend no more than $500 on an optic. 


If you are still practicing, it would be better to focus on your technique first instead of getting an expensive scope and relying on it for your shots.

As a result, your marksmanship will not be fully developed.

I made the mistake of spending too much on a high-end scope that barely knew how to use. Needless to say I wasted a lot of resources that day.

If you’re still new, I advise putting your money into training and ammunition before accessories.

#3 Type of AR 15 Rifle

Type of AR 15 Rifle icon

It is important to consider the type of AR 15 rifle you have, not only for optics but also for all types of hardware you wish to equip on it.

What kind of rail or fittings does your rifle have? 

It’s best to get an AR 15 with a flat top receiver and Picatinny rail, as this makes mounting the scope so much easier.

The most common rail you’ll find on AR 15s is a 1913 rail that runs through the receiver’s length. 

However, some rifles have a carrying handle cast on the upper receiver.

While it is still possible to mount a scope onto such a rifle, it is incredibly difficult, uncomfortable, and limits the optics you can choose from unless the handle has a Picatinny rail on top.

This also plays into whether or not you will be able to co-witness with iron sights. 

#4 Other Features

Other features icon

Are there any special conditions you’ll be shooting in? Will you be shooting in low-light or daylight?

It’s important to take these into consideration.

If you’re planning to use your rifles mostly at night or in other low-light conditions, you should get a night vision scope or a sight that can let in more light. 

If you’re planning to use a red dot or holo sight and have a bigger house where an intruder would have more places to run and hide, you might want to get a magnifier.

A magnifier would extend the dot in the distance, thus eliminating the need for other optics that you’d need to switch to in the heat of the moment.

Consider whether or not the optics you choose are compatible with these features or not before making a purchase.

Frequently Asked Questions

Man pointing rifle while looking through scope

What’s the Difference Between a Red Dot and a Scope?

The biggest difference between a red dot and scope is the target acquisition speed.

While both are reliable AR15 optics, a scope often offers a slower target acquisition speed than a red dot despite the better range.

I recommend getting a scope good for long-range encounters while getting a red dot for CQB and home defense situations that require less range and more speed.

Are Red Dot Sights Better Than Holographic Sights? Which Is Better?

Yes, I understand. Red dot sights and holo sights can be confusing as they are very similar.

The main difference is really in how they work. But when it comes to application, how do you choose which to use?

Aren’t they both best if you want to engage close-range targets?

Let me clear that up a bit with a simple pros and cons list:

Red Dot

Red dot icon

  • Simple design
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • More affordable
  • Longer battery life
  • Can't function with a broken or obscured lens
  • Likely for parallax distortion
  • Forces eye movement between target and optical plane

Holographic Sight

Holographic sight icon

  • Allows the shooter to focus on the target and reticle simultaneously
  • Fewer parallax issues
  • Faster for CQB
  • More compatible with magnifier
  • Can function with a broken or obscured lens
  • Bulkier
  • More expensive
  • Shorter battery life

Basically, if you want a more compact scope and don’t worry so much about durability, you should go for a red dot.

If you will be in adrenaline-fueled situations that require less reflex time and possibly a lot of action, go for a holo sight for your AR 15.

How Much Magnification Should I Get for My Scope?

If you intend to shoot for up to 100 yards and focus on stalking small game, close-range targets, or home defense, a magnification of 1-4x is best for you.

If you intend to shoot up to 200 yards and focus on hunting in closed areas (e.g., forests, mountains) and stalking large game, a magnification of 5-8x is best for you.

If you intend to shoot beyond 200 yards and focus on hunting in open areas such as deserts and fields,  magnification of 9-12x is best for you.

Should Beginner Shooters Get an Expensive AR 15 Scope?

My answer to that is, NO.

I understand it may be tempting to jump straight into the expensive optics if you are a new shooter.

After all, wouldn’t you want the best optics out there? Wouldn’t starting your shooting journey on a high quality start you on the right habits?

Starting your shooting journey on advanced and expensive optics will only cause you to rely on their accuracy or get you all confused with the different settings.

Being too reliant on their accuracy would mean that you won’t properly develop the proper skills needed for shooting.

On the other hand, being thrust into the shooting world with advanced scopes with all these settings can cause many deadly and painful accidents.

It is best to get a budget AR 15 scope and invest in ammunition and training if you are a beginner.

Trust me, with the amount of learning you’re going to be doing, you’re going to need a lot of ammo. 


There are a lot of optics on the market for your modern sporting rifle, such as the AR 15, making it difficult to pick the absolute best AR15 scope for you.

However, don’t be afraid to try out new AR 15 scopes! Especially if you have the money for them.

Just make sure NOT to jump into it!

Ensure that the AR 15 scopes you are trying out are compatible with the kind of shooting you do, as well as YOUR lifestyle.

I hope this guide helped you decide what AR 15 scopes can and cannot be used for your AR 15!

You can also find some high-quality optics for your shotgun as well!

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