Shooting Mystery is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

8 Best Rifle Scopes Under 500: A Complete Buying Guide

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 is a handful of incredible rifle scopes 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 my list of the 8 best rifle scopes for under $500, each made to impress you with their performance!

Best Budget Pick
Vortex Optics Strike Eagle SFP Rifle Scope
Best Overall
Nikon Prostaff 5 BDC Riflescope 1
Nikon Prostaff 5 BDC Riflescope
Best Value
Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical EBR 2C MOA

8 Best Rifle Scopes Under $500 – Budget & Value Picks

1. Nikon Prostaff 5 BDC Riflescope

OVERALL BEST Nikon Prostaff 1

BUYING OPTIONS:
» DISCONTINUED BY MANUFACTURER «

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

The Nikon Prostaff 5 is considered both the best low-light rifle scope and one of the best rifle scopes 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?

I recommend this Nikon Prostaff  BDC scope model for those who need to quickly lock on to their targets, firing rapid shots without compromising on 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 (say, 500 yards) or low-light accuracy matters, you will not regret investing in this quality rifle scope.

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

BUYING OPTIONS:
» Best Price on OpticsPlanet «
» Check Price on Cabelas «
» Check Price on Amazon «

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 second focal plane reticle
  • Anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces

Is This Scope for You?

The Vortex Strike Eagle SFP is what I’d recommend if you are looking for a rifle scope with a lower price range compared to the other rifle scopes I’ve covered here.

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

Pros
  • True 1x power
  • Fast target acquisition in all kinds of conditions
  • Shockproof, waterproof, and og proof
  • The scope has tight, repeatable turrets
  • Can be used with a rail mount (e.g. Weaver, Picatinny, etc.)
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

BUYING OPTIONS:
» Best Price on OpticsPlanet «
» Check Price on Cabelas «
» Check Price on Brownells «
» Check Price on Amazon «

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

Possibly the perfect entry-level option for you!

I like the Vortex Optics Diamondback series because it’s affordable while also great when I want to hit steel at the upper limits of what my rifle is capable of.

Key Features:

  • Glass-etched first focal plane 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.

I’d recommend this 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 a first focal plane reticle.

BUT if you’re a fan of the second focal plane reticle, Vortex Optics has another long-range scope under 500 known to have the highest accuracy at long range:

Check out this guide to learn the difference between first focal plane and second focal plane!

Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20×50 PA SFP Riflescope MOA

Bonus Option

BUYING OPTIONS:
» Best Price on OpticsPlanet «
» Check Price on Cabelas «
» Check Price on Brownells «
» Check Price on Amazon «

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

The advantage of an SFP reticle in the Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20×50 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?

I’d say it really depends on your FFP vs SFP preference.

Overall, the Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20×50 PA SFP scope is still ideal for shooting in either 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 Riflescope 6-24x50mm

Athlon 4

BUYING OPTIONS:
» Best Price on OpticsPlanet «
» Check Price on Brownells «
» Check Price on Amazon «

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 great scope for PRS (Precision Rifle Series) competition use?

This scope 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’s one of the best long-range rifle scopes I’ve found 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

BUYING OPTIONS:
» Best Price on OpticsPlanet «
» Check Price on Brownells «
» Check Price on Amazon «

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, I highly recommend the Helos BTR Riflescope 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

BUYING OPTIONS:
» Best Price on OpticsPlanet «
» Check Price on Brownells «
» Check Price on Amazon «

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, I’d strongly recommend this rifle scope for hunters that get into the muck and mud since they won’t need flashy gear.

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 toward 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

BUYING OPTIONS:
» DISCONTINUED BY MANUFACTURER «

*I recommend checking out our Complete Leupold VX Freedom Review as an alternative option

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

Leupold has been renowned for decades for its competitive rifle scopes, and it is no surprise why it is on 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?

Whether you’re in the field or out at the range, the Leupold VX 3i 3.5 won’t let you down.

This scope has excellent light transmission regardless of the time of day, and you’ll get Leupold’s lifetime warranty to boot!

I also like the Leupold VX 3i 3.5 because it’s lightweight and has abrasion-resistant lenses.

However, Leupold’s also priced this scope to match its features. If you can stretch your budget, this scope’s a great choice!

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

BUYING OPTIONS:
» DISCONTINUED BY MANUFACTURER «

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

This rifle scope under 500 has a winning mix of optical design, superior glass, and innovative materials.

I’ve found that optics from the P-Tactical series tend to prioritize 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.
Cons
  • Brown reference numbers on turrets can cause camouflaging with certain backgrounds

What Is the Best All-Around Rifle Scope?

What is

I’d rank the Nikon Prostaff 5 BDC Riflescope as the all-around best rifle scope under 500 thanks to its zero-reset feature, special patented reticle, and side focus.

Side focus corrects 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 greater magnification ranges
  • 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 I think the Nikon Prostaff 5 BDC is the overall best rifle scope under 500.

I also hope you’ve acquired useful information to help you determine what rifle scope 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’re well-versed with rifle scopes, you can safely skip this section.

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 rifle scope.

Below are some of the general guidelines that I use to check whether a great rifle scope is worth the price or not.

1. Quality of Construction

You want nothing but the most durable rifle scope you can get.

I’d recommend choosing scopes under 500 that are made of either an aircraft-grade aluminum tube or durable steel.

These materials will ensure that your scope won’t get dinged up while you’re using it, and they’ll protect the integrity of your internal components.

Also, an optic made with durable, high-quality glass won’t scratch too easily, meaning you’ll always have a clear view.

Whether you have a red dot or scope installed, durability is VITAL.

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’ll also want high reliability against thermal shock, especially if you use your rifle in extreme weather conditions.

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

3. Coated Lenses

I find that some light transmission is usually lost through reflection each time it passes through a glass-to-air surface.

This loss can be significant in multi-element rifle scopes; as much as 50 percent of the light transmission 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 Diameter and Eyepiece

In my experience, the bigger the lens diameter, the more light transmission.

Since this will give you brighter images, it’ll help you be more precise when sighting or target shooting.

A fast-focus eyepiece lets you instantly bring the reticle back into focus when you’re in a hurry — critically important for small and fast-moving targets. 

This feature is found in most of the rifle scopes I’ve covered.

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 ideal rifle scope magnification is highly dependent on the size of your target.

For example, having the best 1×4 scopes might be appropriate for some cases, but it might not be best for other situations.

This should help you out:

  • If you’re into long-distance shooting competitions, the environment is stable, and the target is often non-moving; having a high magnification can and will work very well for that.
  • For most hunting and shooting situations, you’ll be better off getting a high-quality lower range magnification scope with top-of-the-line glass and a larger tube (fixed power scopes may also be relevant here).

You can differentiate fixed and variable scopes with the help of this guide!

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

With different scenarios and circumstances, it is not uncommon for hunters and shooters to pack other scopes for their trip, so don’t limit yourself to just one scope.

You want to bring a set of quality rifle scopes and hunting scopes to be prepared for any situation, whether it be hunting in low light conditions or doing long-range target shooting.

Eye Relief in Rifle Scopes

Eye Relief Illustration

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:

1. 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 the military.

Duplex

 

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

BDC

6. Plane Reticle

Focal Plane

There are two different focal planes for rifle scopes:

  • First focal plane reticles (FFP) – For first focal plane reticles, 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) – For second focal plane reticles, 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.

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

Otherwise, a Second Focal Plane can work for you.

I highly recommend checking out my Top Rimfire Scopes Guide if you’re looking for rifle scopes good for shorter ranges.

7. Adjustability

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

It’s another plus if they have additional features like laser rangefinders.

Such adjustability in knobs accommodates distance and elevation differences between the shooter and the target and compensates for heavy wind before taking any critical shot.

Most scopes nowadays will include one or all of these knobs. I advise getting knobs that are audible and have nice, 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, MOA 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

Whether you get expensive scopes, a good scope, the most versatile scope, or the best scope for your budget, having a 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 is of high quality and doesn’t contain manufacturing defects.

I like to think of it as the manufacturer’s testament to their confidence in their product’s durability.

What Kind of Rifle Scope Do I Need for 300 Yards?

Kind

First, 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 magnification range, precision, and quick landing.

But here’s my general answer: 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.

  • 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.

To see our list of best scopes for 300 Blackout, check out this guide!

What Is the Best Rifle Scope 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’s important for a hunter to be prepared for anything and everything that could happen while on the hunt.

The design concept behind this Leupold VX 3i scope is catered to 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, light transmission, and contrast of your scope so that you can have an unobstructed, glare-free, and cloud-free field of view under any lighting condition.

Additionally, this list of .300 win mag rifles has great choices for hunting!

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

If you’re curious about red dot sights for less than $100, check out my buying guide!

Have any of these options sniped your attention just yet?

FINAL TIP: If you’re looking for even more budget options, you can take a look at our guide on the Best Affordable Rifle Scopes Under 300.

 

CHANGELOG:

August 30, 2022 - Added 1 new article link
August 25, 2022 - Added 1 new article link
August 18, 2022 - Added 1 new article link 
August 11, 2022 - Added 2 new article links
August 9, 2022 - Added 2 new article links
August 4, 2022 - Added 1 new article link 
July 31, 2022 - Added 1 new article link
April 6, 2022 - Updated article title, made minor updates to content
February 15, 2022 - Added 1 new article link
February 7, 2022 - Added 2 new article links
February 2, 2022 - Added 1 new article link
October 1, 2021 - Added new product link options
September 20, 2021 - Reviewed and updated article links, updated article title, marked 4 products as discontinued/unavailable, added a product table after introduction

About the author