8 Best Rifle Scopes under 500: Budget, Buyer Guide

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8 Best Rifle Scopes under 500

At the price point of under $500, you can get yourself a reasonable sighting tool to go with your rifle.

Whether you’re an avid hunter or just into professional target shooting, there are a handful of incredible rifle scope under 500 options that can get you the best bang for your buck (no pun intended).

Figure out the scope best suited for your rifle with this roundup review of the 8 best well-reviewed riflescopes within their price range, each arguably made to impress you with their performance.

1. Nikon Prostaff 5 BDC Riflescope

OVERALL BEST Nikon Prostaff 1

Objective Lens: 40mm | Magnification range: Between 4.5X and 18X  | Material: Aircraft Aluminum

The Nikon Prostaff 5 is considered both the best low-light riflescope and one of the best riflescopes for hunters in the below $500 price range.

Key Features:

  • See-through Ballistic Circles for superior long-range shooting
  • Remarkable Hand-Turn Turrets with 1/8-inch MOA Adjustments
  • High Quality (Patented) BDC Reticle
  • Spring-Loaded Instant Turrets and Aluminum Turret Caps
  • Side Focus

Is This Scope for You?

This  Nikon Prostaff  BDC scope model is certainly suitable for those who need to snap to their targets quickly, firing rapid shots without compromising accuracy.

The eyepiece and BDC reticle combined definitely contribute to both accurate and high quality images.

If you are a hunter and if long-range and/or low-light accuracy matters, you will not regret investing in the PROSTAFF 5 riflescope.

Pros:

  • Shockproof, Waterproof, and Fog proof
  • Clear and bright optical system with a generous and consistent eye relief
  • Nikon has a lifetime warranty
  • Precise adjustability and interchangeable turrets
  • Fully multicoated lens to improve overall brightness and light transmission, even in low light conditions

Cons:

  • The turrets are a bit bulky
  • Some may consider crosshairs to be a little thick

2. Vortex Optics Strike Eagle Second Focal Plane Rifle Scopes

BEST BUDGET RIFLE SCOPE

Vortex 2

Lens: 24 mm | Magnification range between 1X and 6X | 30 millimeter tube |Material: Aircraft Aluminum

This rifle scope has what you need for 3-Gun competitions. It has the ability to rapidly engage targets from point-blank to extended ranges.

Key Features

  • Vortex’s crystal-clear glass
  • Dead-Hold BDC3 reticle
  • Anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces

Is This Scope for You?

The Strike Eagle SFP is the perfect one for you if you are looking for a riflescope with a lower price range compared to the other rifle scopes under 500.

As a multi-functional scope with an upgrade in glass and reticle construction, the Vortex Optics Strike Eagle is the top riflescope for those on the tightest of budgets, but still deserve promising quality.

Pros:

  • True 1x power
  • Fast target acquisition in all kinds of conditions
  • Shockproof, Waterproof, and Fog proof
  • The scope has tight, repeatable turrets

Cons:

  • At maximum magnification, eye relief and finding the sweet spot can be rather sensitive and difficult to manage

3. Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical EBR 2C MOA

BEST VALUE & BEST LONG RANGE SCOPE UNDER 500

Vortex 3

Objective Lens: 50mm | Magnification range between 6X and 24X  | 30mm tube | Material: Aircraft-Grade Aluminum

Possibly the perfect entry level option for you. The Vortex Optics Diamondback series is well-known for being affordable while helping you hit steel at the upper limit of what your rifle is capable of.

Key Features:

  • Glass-etched FFP Reticle
  • EBR-2C MOA with neat hashmarks
  • XD Extra low-dispersion glass
  • Tall Exposed Tactical Turrets

Is This Scope for You?

The Vortex Optics Diamondback  Tactical EBR 2C MOA equips shooters with the scope needed for long distance precision shooting at a reasonable price.

Suitable for a new shooter’s training rifle, or even an experienced shooter looking for a basic essential optic for their fun gun.

Pros:

  • Lifetime warranty 
  • Shockproof, Waterproof, and Fog proof
  • High magnification with crisp clarity
  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • With a focus eyepiece allowing for quick and easy reticle focusing
  • With the potential to take on that 1,000 yard mark and beyond (Great for long range shooting)

Cons:

  • No “Zero Stop” feature

Now, before I move on to the 4th item on the best rifle scopes under 500 list…

BONUS OPTION:

The above Diamondback  Tactical Riflescope is a long range scope that has the FFP Reticle.

BUT if you’re a fan of the SFP Reticle, Vortex Optics has another long range scope under 500 known to have the highest accuracy at long range:

Vortex Viper 6.5-20×50 PA SFP Riflescope MOA

Bonus Option

Objective Lens: 50mm | Magnification range between 6.5X and 20X | 30mm tube | | Material: Aircraft Aluminum

The advantage of an SFP reticle in the Vortex Viper is that the reticle always maintains the same appearance.

Key Features

  •  Mildot Reticle
  • Capped MOA windage and elevation reset turrets for quick re-indexing of the turret to zero
  • Side knob parallax
  • MAG-Bar in this scope allows easy and quick adjustments on the magnification power of your scope

Is This Scope for You?

It really depends on your FFP vs SFP preference. Overall, the Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20×50 PA SFP scope can still prove to be ideal for shooting tactical, long-range, and hunting situations.

Pros:

  • Best for estimating range, windage and bullet holdover
  • Excellent image resolution and color fidelity
  • Focus eyepiece
  • Premium, multi-coated, extra-low dispersion lenses 
  • Argon Purged tube, Waterproof, Fogproof

Cons:

  • A heavy 2.2-lb scope
  • Does not consistently hold zero well
  • Though SFP reticles can do the job, FFP reticles are generally preferred for long range shooting

4. Athlon Optics Argos BTR

Athlon 4

Objective Lens: 50mm | Magnification range: Between 6X and 24X | 30 mm tube | Material: 6061T6 Aluminum

Key Features:

  • Glass-etched, FFP Reticle
  • Illuminated ATMR MOA Reticle
  • Tall Exposed Turrets
  • Advanced wide-band, multi-coated lenses

Is This Scope for You?

Need a scope for PRS (Precision Rifle Series) competition use? This might just be the next in line for the best budget rifle scopes under 500 that can get you through just that.

The Athlon Optics Argos BTR is capable of rapid target aiming thanks to its illuminated reticle. On top of that, it may also be the best long range rifle scope you can get at this price point.

Pros:

  • Under $400
  • Scratch-resistant optic system with great light transmission, optimum brightness and true color across the entire light spectrum
  • Exceptional strength and mechanical integrity 
  • Better Waterproofing and Thermal Stability

Cons:

  • No “Zero Stop” feature

5. Athlon Optics Helos BTR FFP Riflescope

Athlon 5

Lens: 50mm | Magnification range: Between 6X and 24X | 30 mm tube | Material: Aircraft Aluminum

Athlon is known for making high-end scopes for the lowest possible price.

Key Features:

  • Crisp Locking Turrets
  • APLR2 FFP Illuminated MOA Reticle

Is This Scope for You?

The locking turret of the Athlon Optics Helos BTR Riflescope is most useful for hunting. Although,  given its highly developed features, the Helos BTR Riflescope is also highly recommend for long range shooters and service rifle competitors on a strict budget.

Pros:

  • Advanced multi-coated optic system
  • Argon Purged tube, Waterproof, Fog proof
  • Better Waterproofing and Thermal Stability
  • Quickly acquire and lock on a target with ease even under harsh lightings
  • Reduces reflected light and increases image brightness with its superior light transmission

Cons:

  • Insufficient eye relief

6. Bushnell Engage Riflescope

Bushnell 6

Objective Lens: 50 mm | Magnification range: Between 6X and 24X | 30 mm tube

Key Features:

  • EXO Barrier, flip-up protective lens with anti-reflection coatings
  • Illuminated Mulit-X reticle: a standard duplex reticle with an illuminated dot in the middle
  • Tool-less Locking Turret
  • 1-MOA windage and elevation hashmarks
  • Easy parallax adjustments with the side-mounted dial
  • Battery life is excellent at several hundred hours

Is This Scope for You?

Because the Bushnell Engage is matte in color, this rifle scope is a great choice for hunters that get into the muck and mud since flashiness is eliminated.

If you find that shifting adjustment turrets is a hassle, this is perfect for you. Just set this scope up once, and you’re good to go!

The Bushnell Engage Riflescope is mainly geared towards hunters, but it is also good for general range use since it can reach short- and mid-range targets well.

Pros:

  • Great view across most ranges with 6 brightness settings that range from low-light settings to a full brightness option
  • The illuminated dot gives an easy point of aim in low light conditions
  • Repels water, oil, fog, dust and debris
  • Accurate and firm turrets that don’t need adjustment

Cons:

  • It is possible for the reticle to fall out of alignment at times

7. Leupold VX 3i 3.5 Riflescope

Leupold 7

Objective Lens: 50 mm | Magnification range: Between 3.5X and 10X | 1 in. tube | Material: Aircraft-Grade Aluminum

Leupold is renowned for decades for its competitive rifle scopes, and it is to no surprise as to why it is in the best rifle scope under 500 list.

Key Features:

  • Twilight Max Light Management System
  • Duplex Reticle
  • Diamond Coat 2 Lens
  • Turrets are finger adjustable and made in 1/4 MOA clicks

Is This Scope for You?

Hunt, stalk, and snipe.

Designed with high power, reliable durability, accurate tracking and repeatability, and excellent glass clarity, you can literally do it all with this M-tactical riflescope.  The Nikon M Tactical is the best .308 scope under 500 dollars.

Definitely a great entry-level option for precision target shooters and long-range hunters alike.

Pros:

  • Superb light transmission during dusk and dawn
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Exceptional abrasion-resistant objective lens
  • Shockproof, Waterproof, and Fog proof
  • Features great eye relief ranging from 3.6 inches to 4.4 inches
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Turrets can’t be reset to zero
  • Priced higher compared to other best rifle scopes on the list

8. Nikon P-Tactical .223 3-9×40 Matte BDC600

Nikon 8

Objective Lens: 42 mm | Magnification range between 4X and 16X |30millimeter tube | Material: Aircraft-Grade Aluminum

This rifle scope under 500 has a profound mix of optical design, superior glass, and innovative materials. The whole optic system of the P-Tactical series prioritizes bright, high contrast sight pictures.

Key Features

  • Designed for .308 cartridges
  • Spring-Loaded Instant Zero-Reset Turrets with coarse knurling
  • Exposed Turrets
  • BDC800 Reticle
  • Side-Focus Parallax adjustment

Is This Scope for You?

Hunt, stalk, and snipe.

Designed with high power, reliable durability, accurate tracking and repeatability, and excellent glass clarity, you can literally do it all with this M-tactical riflescope.  The Nikon P Tactical is the best .308 scope under 500 dollars.

Definitely a great entry-level option for precision target shooters and long-range hunters alike.

Pros:

  • Generous eye relief
  • Fully Multicoated Optical System
  • Fully Waterproof, Fog proof, and Shockproof
  • Nikon Lifetime Warranty
  • Fast focus eye piece coupled with purpose-driven reticles designed for long range
  • Designed for a 100 yard zero on the crosshair – with points to shoot from 200 to 800 yards at the range or in the plains.

Con:

  • Brown reference numbers on turrets can cause camouflaging with certain backgrounds

What is the Best All-Around Riflescope?

What is

The Nikon Prostaff 5 BDC Riflescope can rank the all-around best rifle scope under 500 thanks to its zero-reset feature, special patented reticle, and side focus. Side focus corrects for parallax error and becomes useful when it’s counterproductive to remove your eye from the eyepiece.

Shooters like the Nikon Prostaff BDC Scope so much that they usually buy multiples of it to equip on their other rifles!

However, the Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical FFP Riflescope is also worth the attention for the functions it offers for its value. Both scopes are of high quality for their price point and, most importantly, very versatile and effective.

What Can I Expect From Rifle Scopes at This Price Point?

Others would first think there could be a catch with such an affordable price range for scopes. But that is not exactly the case. With advanced technologies, your hobby does not have to cost a fortune.

You can expect:

  • Accuracy for long-distance shooting
  • Light transmission on the scopes allows clarity and brightness at a greater magnification range
  • Can withstand heavy recoil of large caliber rifles
  • Comparable aesthetics with more expensive rifle scopes

Hopefully, reading about the specifications of each rifle scope described in this buying guide helped you understand why the Nikon Prostaff 5 BDC may be deemed the overall best rifle scope under 500

Or, more importantly, that you acquired useful information to help you determine what riflescope exactly fits YOUR OWN purpose and budget.

Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Rifle Scope Under 500

Important Things to Keep in Mind

If you are well-versed with the specs of a riflescope, it must have been easier to weigh the key features, pros, and cons of all the products listed in this roundup review.

But if you are someone who needs a bit more context, worry not. You just need to be aware of some important things when it comes to purchasing a perfect riflescope.

Below are some general guidelines of not only the definitions and implications of each of the mentioned product features, but also why the specs make up a great riflescope that’s worth its price.

1. Quality of Construction

You want nothing but utmost durability for your rifle scope. It’s best to choose scopes under 500 that are made of an aircraft-grade aluminum tube or one of durable steel.

Such materials do well in protecting the scopes from obtaining damage throughout its usage, or protect the integrity your internal components.

Also, an optic component or system made of high-quality, durable glass will not be easily scratched to ensure a clear view.

2. Is it Weatherproof?

You want to prevent moisture or any liquid from entering your gear as much as possible to maintain the integrity of your components.

Not only that, but you would want high reliability against thermal shock especially when your rifle use is in varied and extreme environments.

Shockproof construction helps your scope crucially withstand rugged use and heavily-recoiling calibers.

3. Coated Lenses

Some light is lost through reflection each time it passes through a glass-to-air surface. This loss can be significant in multi-element riflescopes; as much as 50 percent of the light may be lost through an uncoated lens system. 

Lenses’ coatings also serve as resistance against abrasion and weathering.

The terms used above such as fully-coated, multi-coated, and fully multi-coated aren’t just thrown around. They actually imply different things:

  • Fully-Coated: A single layer on all exterior glass surfaces.
  • Multi-Coated: Several layers on at least one surface.
  • Fully Multi-Coated: Several layers on all exterior glass surfaces.

4. Objective Lens and Eyepiece

The bigger the lens diameter means the more light is gathered and the brightness level of the images is increased, a variable crucial to your desired precision in sighting and target shooting.

A fast-focus eyepiece lets you bring the reticle back instantly into focus when you’re in a hurry – critically important when it comes to small and fast-moving targets.  This feature is found in most of the riflescopes in the list.

5. Appropriate Magnification

More does not necessarily mean better when it comes to magnification. How much do you really need for your purpose? Choosing the best rifle scope magnification is highly dependent on the size of your target.

This should help you out:

  •  If you’re into long-distance shooting competitions: The environment is stable and the target is often non-moving. High magnification can and will work very well for that.
  • For most hunting and shooting situations, you’ll be better off to get a high-quality lower range magnification scope with top-of-the-line glass and a larger tube

Just remember, the larger the scope magnification, the smaller the field of view gets.

Eye Relief in Rifle Scopes

Eye Relief

 Eye relief is the distance from the rear lens your eye requires to see a full picture.

Typically, the more magnification a scope provides, the shorter its eye relief. If the eye relief of your scope is not sufficient, the top of the scope will find your eyebrow.

The industry-standard for the eye relief of rifle scopes is 3 ½ inches. This minimum allows you to fully enjoy your time shooting, as many hours as you want, without having to worry about any unwanted injuries.

5. Reticle Style

Here are the 3 most common reticles of rifle scopes:

Duplex1. Duplex: A duplex reticle is the simplest crosshair pattern. Ideal for target shooting or hunting.

Mil-Dot

2. Mil-Dot: This is similar to the duplex reticle but the special dots in the reticle help estimate your target’s distance based on size. Ideal for law enforcement and military.

BDC

3. BDC: In a BDC reticle, your bullet trajectory at different distances is estimated well. Ideal for long-range shooters.

6. Plane Reticle

Plane Reticle

There are two different focal planes for rifle scopes:

  • First focal plane reticles (FFP) – the size of the reticle adjusts as you change magnifications, allowing its hash marks or holdover points to remain accurate relative to the crosshair. 
  • Second focal plane reticles (SFP) – the size of the reticle stays the same regardless of magnification

If you need the best long range rifle scope, go with one with the First Focal Plane reticle. Otherwise, a Second Focal Plane can work for you.

Also, long-range rifles would work much better with 1000 yard long-range scopes.

7. Adjustability

It’s definitely a huge bonus if scopes under 500 will include windage or elevation adjuster knobs on their sides or tops. 

Such adjustability in knobs accommodate distance and elevation differences between the shooter and the target, as well as compensate for heavy wind before taking any critical shot.

Most scopes nowadays will include one or all of these knobs; the best being those that are audible and include tactile clicks. 

M.O.A

MOA stands for Minute of Angle. A minute refers to 1/60th of a degree. When it comes to shooting, it refers to a tiny fraction of one angle.

The width increases linearly with distance, because a minute is an angle. Therefore, one minute of angle at 100 yards, is still one minute of angle at 1000 yards. 

Depending on the featured MOA adjustment, it means that the turret will turn in such increments. Therefore, ¼ MOA turret will have ¼ increments, and so on.  If your scope says it has the 1/8 MOA adjustments, it means you need eight turret clicks to make one MOA.

Turret Resettable to Zero (“Zero-Reset”) vs. “Zero Stop” Feature

Zero stop is a mechanical stopping point that when set physically prevents elevation from being adjusted below the point at which it is set.

When a turret is resettable to zero, this generally means that the turret covers that can be disengaged and rotated without moving the adjustment mechanism of the turret itself, thereby allowing the zero marker on the turret to be realigned.

8. Scope Warranty

No matter the price range of any product, having warranty in your back pocket can be beneficial.

A warranty assures you the best rifle scope that you invest in with your hard-earned money are of high quality, and don’t contain manufacturing defects – sort of like the manufacturer’s testament to the full confidence they have in their product’s durability.

What Kind of Riflescope Do I Need for 300 Yards?

Kind

First of all, if you want to target an object at a distance of 300 yards, your scope should be built with quality materials, resistance characteristics, an appropriate range of magnification, precision, and quick landing.

But the general answer is simple: a 3-9X magnification on a scope provides an additional level of magnification for every 100 feet, all the way out to 300 yards (900 feet) — what most big-game hunters consider to be the limit of an ethical shooting distance. That should be ample scope magnification to make a precisely aimed shot.

To meet the said requirements you will need an intensive gun-optics system. Among the above list of the 8 best rifle scopes under 500, the Vortex Optics Diamondback  Tactical Riflescope and the Leupold VX 3i 3.5 Riflescope qualify to be the best rifle scopes for their price range to perform well at 300 yards.

READ: Best Affordable Rifle Scopes Under 300

What is the Best Riflescope for Deer Hunting?

Conclusion

Most shots during deer season are from 100 to 200 yards, and at that range, your hunting scope will not really need  extremely high magnification.

The Leupold VX-3i is the best rifle scope under 500 to bring with its greatly versatile power range to take down prey whether it’s a short-, mid-, or long-range shot.

It is important for a hunter to be prepared for when anything and everything happens while in the hunt. The design concept behind this Leupold VX 3i scope is catered for the hunter.

Its highlighted feature – The Twilight Max Light Management System – makes this best rifle scope under 500 very unique as it grants you up to twenty extra minutes of shooting light during dusk or dawn.

It adjusts the brightness levels and contrast of your scope so that you can have an unobstructed, glare-free, and cloud-free field of view under any lighting condition.

Conclusion

Realistically priced, yet these exceptional and dependable rifle scopes under 500 deliver without fail. Top-notch brands like Nikon, Vortex Optics, and Leupold have the best rifle scopes under 500 waiting for you. 

Remember that the perfect riflescope for you is not based solely on the measurements or special features; it’s the one that serves your shooting purposes optimally.

Have any of these options sniped your attention just yet?

RELATED: Aimpoint ACO Scope vs. Vortex Strikefire Scope

About the author

Christopher Wade

Christopher Wade

Christopher Wade is a true outdoorsman. After spending most of his career as a firearms expert and instructor in Nebraska, he retreated to the great outdoors to enjoy retirement.

Christopher’s expertise in handling firearms and hunting gear are what propelled him to create the Shooting Mystery blog. He hopes for all readers to gain useful and practical knowledge for enjoying their time outdoors.