Looking for the perfect accessory for your trusty AR-15?
If your main goal is to hit your hunting target and get the most accurate shot, then perhaps scopes with an illuminated reticle are what you’re looking for.
With that, allow us to present our top 8 picks for the best illuminated reticle scopes on the market so that you can get shooting!
- 8 Best Illuminated Reticle Scopes for AR-15
- 1. Vortex Optics Crossfire II Riflescope
- 2. Athlon Argos BTR 6-24x50mm Rifle Scope
- 3. UTG 3-12x44mm Rifle Scope
- 4. Nightforce ATACR 5-25x56mm Fi ZeroStop .250 MOA Scope
- 5. Primary Arms 4-16x44mm Illuminated MIL-DOT Reticle Riflescope
- 6. Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24mm Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle Riflescope
- 7. Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35mm Illuminated Reticle Riflescope
- 8. Leupold VX-R 4-12x50mm Riflescope
- What Is an Illuminated Reticle Scope?
- How Does an Illuminated Scope Work?
- How Important Is an Illuminated Reticle and How Does It Help?
- Pros & Cons of Illuminated Rifle Scopes
- Illuminated Reticle vs Non-Illuminated Reticle Scopes: What’s the Difference?
- When Should You Use an Illuminated Rifle Scope?
- Factors to Consider Before Buying the Best Illuminated Reticle Scope
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Top Picks: The Best Illuminated Reticle Scope?
- Final Words
8 Best Illuminated Reticle Scopes for AR-15
1. Vortex Optics Crossfire II Riflescope
With superior eye relief, powerful 50mm objective lens, and fast-focus technology, this Crossfire II riflescope is perfect for all ranges and situations.
The features of this scope make it versatile for any and all hunting scenarios. Thanks to its aircraft-grade aluminum build, you also won’t have to worry about wear and tear from heavy recoil.
This is the best illuminated reticle scope we recommend!
- Max Elevation Adjustment of 60 MOA
- Ultra-forgiving eye box
- Anti-reflective, fully multi-coated lenses for better light transmission
- Finger adjustable capped reset turrets
- Waterproof and fog-proof glass
- Does not come with flip-up scope covers
- Reports of quality control problems
2. Athlon Argos BTR 6-24x50mm Rifle Scope
BEST FOR LONG RANGES
The strength of the Athlon Argos BTR 6-24×50 rifle scope lies in its distance-related capabilities.
Reticles in the first focal plane produce an impressive performance at all power settings, allowing your reticle to adjust as you zoom in and out on your target.
With a 50mm objective lens and powerful magnification, long-range shooting has never been easier!
- Reticle is etched into the scope's glass, making it more stable
- Waterproofing and thermal stability
- Made from aircraft-grade aluminum
- Optimum brightness and true color across the entire light spectrum
- Not much focus was given to eye relief
3. UTG 3-12x44mm Rifle Scope
Looking for a good quality illuminated rifle scope but don’t want to break the bank?
Luckily for you, you’d be getting your money’s worth with the UTG 3-12X44 — without compromising features.
It gives great magnification, great shooting, and great value. What’s not to love?
- 30-millimeter SWAT 3-12x44 IE tactical range estimating scope with mil-dot reticle
- Shockproof, fog proof, and rainproof, and parallex-free
- Emerald coated lenses for a clear view through the scope glass
- Integrated angled front sunshade complete with flip-open lens caps
- With the reticle etched, the illumination feature doesn't need a battery
- On the heavier side, which may be a downside in dynamic situations where mobility is essential
4. Nightforce ATACR 5-25x56mm Fi ZeroStop .250 MOA Scope
Don’t let the heavy price tag turn your eyes away from the Nightforce ATACR. This powerful scope has features well worth the cost.
With incredible lense, image clarity, and a wide variety of illumination options to choose from, you’d really have all you need and more with this illuminated scope.
- Fully multi-coated ED glass for better light transmission
- Adjust on Xtreme Speed in a 34mm tube provides 60 MOA (20 Mil-Radians) of adjustment
- 5x-25x magnification range, with 56mm objective lenses
- Much pricier compared to the other options
5. Primary Arms 4-16x44mm Illuminated MIL-DOT Reticle Riflescope
Despite already being a strong name in the hunting industry, Primary Arms has surely outdone itself with the Primary Arms 4-16×44 Illuminated Mil-Dot Reticle Riflescope.
This Primary Arms illuminated scope can be used for long-range shooting, hunting in dark areas, or hitting targets during peak brightness.
With its versatility and all-around capabilities, this is a sure contender for the best illuminated rifle scope for many hunters.
Primary Arms is a brand you can count on as well to give you quality products and services.
- 4x to 16x magnification range
- Multi-coated rifle scope glass
- 12 brightness settings for use in low-light conditions
- Shockproof, waterproof and fogproof
- Zero resettable turrets
- Short eye relief (between 3.3 and 3.5 inches)
- Not best suited for long-range shooting
6. Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24mm Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle Riflescope
BEST UNIQUE FEATURES
This Bushnell illuminated scope is great when it comes to adjusting illumination and magnification levels due to the power change lever that makes modifications all the more easier.
Boasting impressive illumination, this illuminated reticle scope provides great accuracy even at 500 yards.
- Fully multi-coated optics
- 14x Magnification
- 11 reticle settings
- Exclusive Throw Down PCL (Power Change Lever)
- More on the heavy side
7. Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35mm Illuminated Reticle Riflescope
BEST FOR LOW-LIGHT SETTINGS
This particular entry is considered one of the most loved (and used) illuminated scopes out there.
Why? Because you don’t need any extra batteries for this illuminated scope’s reticle, which relies primarily on the light source from your environment.
- The green Horseshoe ranging reticle allows for bullet drop compensation out to 1,000 meters for 5.56 (.223 cal)
- Tritium/fiber optic illuminated reticle that automatically adjusts the brightness based on available light
- Made of aluminum alloy
- Extremely bright settings and dark settings make the illuminated reticle difficult to see
8. Leupold VX-R 4-12x50mm Riflescope
» DISCONTINUED BY MANUFACTURER «
Leupold’s all-American illuminated scopes are known not only for their crisp image clarity but for their tried-and-tested durability as well.
This scope has undergone several simulations to ensure it can function after a beating and even in extreme climates.
- Waterproof, fog proof, & shockproof
- Motion Sensor Technology (senses inactivity to save power)
- More on the heavy side
What Is an Illuminated Reticle Scope?
Before deciding to purchase an illuminated reticle scope for your rifle, it would be best to first learn what exactly an illuminated reticle scope is.
In simple words, an illuminated reticle scope is a normal scope you may be used to, with the addition of reticle illumination. This makes it easier to track targets against a dark background, but it also works great under any light conditions.
Additionally, these scopes also come in different magnification ranges, so you can pick the perfect magnification settings for your specific shooting needs.
How Does an Illuminated Scope Work?
Given that the main advantage of illuminated scopes is the contrast between the light from the reticle and your target, it is necessary to talk about how such light transmission can take place.
There are two common approaches on how to light illuminated reticles, with the first being electrical or battery power and the second being ambient light.
- Using electrical components, the reticle illumination takes place through a power source, like a battery.
- In utilizing ambient light, light transmission from the ambient light is absorbed through the glass and into the reticle, providing illumination.
TAKE NOTE: The latter’s brightness is harder to see in broad daylight or early morning compared to the more powerful battery-powered option.
Entering the more technical aspect of things, a rifle scope has two planes: The first focal plane and the second focal plane (or FFP and SFP).
A scope’s reticle can be placed in either one, but choosing between the first and second can provide you with different outcomes.
First Focal Plane
Riflescopes in the FIRST focal plane are best for long-ranged shooting since the reticle grows bigger and smaller as you magnify in and out.
If the illuminated reticle is placed here, then the reticle will have a variable magnification scope.
An important term to note for this discussion is parallax, which is the displacement of an object due to a change in point of view.
Here, parallax comes into play since the differing size of the illuminated reticle can also affect your perception of how far away, or what position, your target is in.
With this, it is necessary to keep parallax in mind when opting for a reticle in the FFP since parallax and object displacement can affect the accuracy of your shots.
Second Focal Plane
On the other hand, an illuminated reticle in the SECOND focal plane stays the same size regardless of the magnification level. This means that the reticle will not grow larger even if you zoom in.
This type of scope is more common and traditional, although it may be considered LESS accurate.
So, after learning all this, which is better?
Long story short, it depends on you, your gun, your preference, and the situation you’re in.
How Important Is an Illuminated Reticle and How Does It Help?
Some hunters may argue that a regular rifle scope can give you the same results as an illuminated scope, but the way illumination can guide your shots is not something to take lightly.
By far, the most advantageous aspect of illuminated reticle scopes is the illumination feature. The brightness, accompanied by the scope’s zoom, makes tracking targets a breeze.
The reticle’s illumination makes for better contrast against your target, ensuring that you have a better chance of landing your shots.
HOWEVER, take note that the illuminated reticle truly shines in low light scenarios where you can fully utilize the illumination to guide you to your target.
Pros & Cons of Illuminated Rifle Scopes
By this point, you should already more or less get the idea behind illuminated rifle scopes.
Now, let’s dive deeper into the advantages and disadvantages present in the world of the illuminated reticle.
One undeniable plus side is the increased accuracy in low-light situations. A non-illuminated reticle (which is usually black) may be difficult to see against a dark background or a similarly colored target.
With illumination from the reticle, there is more contrast between the target and your crosshair, allowing you to better position your gun.
Indeed, illuminated reticles can increase accuracy when hunting if used correctly and with proper handling.
On a related note, the contrast and better target distinction from the illuminated reticle make it easier to hit long-distance shots.
As the illumination and magnification from the scopes complement each other, your shots are better guided towards the target.
Illuminated scopes are expected to be on the pricier side compared to their non-illuminated counterparts.
This isn’t surprising considering that you’re getting more features and paying for illumination technology.
Another not-so-amazing factor to consider is how these illuminated scopes are harder to maintain compared to normal riflescopes.
This is mainly because some models need to have their batteries replaced, need constant maintenance for their illumination to function consistently, and other similar scenarios.
Illuminated Reticle vs Non-Illuminated Reticle Scopes: What’s the Difference?
As previously stated, the main difference between an illuminated reticle and a non-illuminated reticle is that the illuminated version contains a specially designed reticle that can light up.
In a non-illuminated reticle, the reticle used is just a normal crosshair meant to mark targets. Usually, non-illuminated reticles are black, which may be hard to see against dark hunting targets.
Moreover, this may be harder to see in low light conditions compared to illuminated reticles with better light and highlights to clearly see what you’re aiming for.
Low light-compatible scopes are the way to go if you frequent hunting at night!
When Should You Use an Illuminated Rifle Scope?
As mentioned, an illuminated reticle really SHINES in the dark!
When it’s evening, sunset, or even just a rainy or cloudy day, the extra brightness from an illuminated reticle can make all the difference in your hunting.
Additionally, if you’re hunting in a well-shaded area with a lot of trees and covering, illumination would definitely be best.
Another great opportunity to use an illuminated reticle scope is when hunting targets with a dark hide.
A black, navy blue, or brown reticle might make it difficult to strike the vital points of your target — and nobody likes missing shots!
Factors to Consider Before Buying the Best Illuminated Reticle Scope
We’ve gone through our top picks for the best illuminated scope, and we’ve even covered some of the background information on the topic.
Now, it’s time to dive deeper into the discussion and discern what YOU should be considering before buying a scope.
The first thing to think about is your situation:
- What will you be using the scope for, and what scenarios do you think you’ll encounter?
- Will you be in primarily bright or dark situations?
- What will you be hunting?
Here, you’ll be able to discern whether or not you should invest in an illuminated reticle with many brightness settings or if a regular non-illuminated reticle that’s etched into the scope glass is already sufficient.
You’ll also be able to decide how important factors are in your purchase, like eye relief, the eye box, and even the range of magnification you’d like your scope to possess.
Other than the situation, it would be good to take a look at your usage of the scope:
- How frequently will you use your rifle?
- Could you benefit from a more durable scope build, or is a more casual type sufficient for your needs?
This may also affect the decision to opt for batteries or ambient light since some may consider it a hassle to constantly replace batteries after constant use.
Lastly, you should ask yourself if your budget allows for more premium and feature-filled scopes or would it be more fitting to opt for better value.
Although budget may have little to do with hunting, it is definitely something to consider when purchasing gear.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Illuminated Reticles Legal?
First of all, an illuminated reticle scope isn’t something inherently bad. After all, it simply aims to improve your accuracy when hunting.
Additionally, it definitely isn’t as dangerous as the gun itself since this is the scope we’re talking about. You literally just use it to get a better visual of your target.
So, is it alright and perfectly legal for me to use an illuminated reticle scope? Well, it depends.
Some states, hunting competitions, and associations BAN battery-operated accessories like illuminated reticles. Because of this, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether an illuminated scope is legal or allowed.
It really depends on your location and context! Because of this, it would be best to call the necessary authorities or double-check state guidelines.
Do Snipers Use Illuminated Reticles?
Illuminated reticles are just one type of reticle scope used by snipers.
Given that there are many situations and contexts for snipers, there is no one perfect scope used by all snipers.
Even then, illuminated reticles are a strong option, providing great accuracy, especially for long-range shots.
What Type of Reticle Does the Military Use?
Sharing the same sentiments as stated above, there is no one specific type of reticle used by the military due to the wide range of shooting scenarios they could potentially face.
Even then, it is believed that illuminated reticle scopes like the Trijicon ACOG 3.5×35 Illuminated Reticle Riflescope are widely used by both casual hunters and professionals because it does not require batteries.
Top Picks: The Best Illuminated Reticle Scope?
After all this talk of the best illuminated reticle scopes, you’re probably wondering which one is the best suited for you. With that, we have some bad news and good news.
First of all, there is no definitive answer to which illuminated riflescope is perfect for you since it really depends on what you’re looking for.
However, this just means that you have an entire world of illuminated reticles to discover, with many different features to try out for yourself!
To help you on your journey, let’s look back at the top three picks from our list. Who knows, maybe we already mentioned your dream scope!
Best Overall – Vortex Optics Crossfire II Riflescope
Everybody make way for our #1 best illuminated scope, offering amazing eye relief and all-around practicality! Sound familiar? Well, that’s because it’s the Vortex Optics Crossfire II Riflescope!
This scope is well-loved by many, and for good reason — great durability, versatility, and adjustability all fit into one package.
Best for Long Ranges – Athlon Argos BTR 6-24x50mm Rifle Scope
And who could forget the Athlon Argos BTR 6-24x50mm Rifle Scope? Providing unparalleled performance over long distances, this illuminated scope is great for those who plan on maximizing range when hunting.
With the reticle placed in the first focal plane, you’ll surely hit the target regardless of whether it’s near or far.
Best Value – UTG 3-12x44mm Rifle Scope
Third on our top picks, but definitely not least, is the UTG 3-12x44mm Rifle Scope. Amazing value matched with amazing features — you really can’t go wrong with this one.
This option is perfect for beginners who don’t want to invest an enormous amount of money on an illuminated scope but still want a taste of the benefits.
Through all of this, we hope you were able to gain a better idea of how illuminated reticle scopes can illuminate your hunting game.
Although we were able to list down some of our top picks, do know that the option most suited for you really depends on your context (specifically your situation, usage, and budget).
So, what are you waiting for? Gear up and get ready — the outdoors await!