The Best AR-15 Scopes in 2023

The AR-15 is currently the most popular rifle on the face of the planet. Its lightweight maneuverability, reliable semi-automatic action, and serious modularity have earned it a die-hard fan base. Estimates from the National Shooting Sports Foundation put the number of AR-15-style rifles in the United States alone at approximately 15 million. 

Shooters love the AR-15 partly because it is so customizable. An abundance of accessories like handguards, vertical grips, bipods, and rail covers allow you to create a one-of-a-kind weapon. However, the most useful accessory you can add to an AR-15 is a quality optic. 

Thankfully, there are hundreds of AR-friendly optics to choose from. However, the best AR-15 scope for your shooting needs may not be a scope at all. If you aren’t sure if a traditional riflescope, a red dot, holographic sight, or a digital optic will best help you meet your shooting goals, we’re here to help.

Stick with us as we dive into the world of modern optics. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of how to best match your optic to your mission.

Types of AR-15 Optics

While a traditional riflescope works well for many shooting applications, there are several other options that partner well with modern sporting rifles. Let’s take a closer look at the types of AR-15 optics available to modern shooters.

Variable Power Scopes

Variable power scopes offer a range of magnification. The design allows you to zoom in on distant targets for more precise shot placement. You can also zoom out to a lower level of magnification when targets are closer. This makes a variable power scope one of the most versatile options available for your AR-15.

Hunters, 3 gun competitors, tactical shooters, and casual plinkers often choose a variable power scope for their AR-15. 

The major drawback to this type of optic is the size. To accommodate the lenses and internal structures for variable magnification, these scopes tend to be bulkier and heavier than other options. 

Fixed Power Scopes

Most modern fixed power scopes use a glass prism rather than a series of lenses to magnify the sight picture. Because prism scopes are more compact than variable power scopes, they make a great option for carbine-length ARs. They also make a practical option if your rifle has limited rail space. 

When using a fixed power scope, you are limited to a single magnification level. This can limit the versatility of your weapon and can make it particularly difficult to engage close-range targets. 

Red Dot and Holographic Sights

Red dot and holographic sights both provide a highly visible illuminated reticle. The design provides a wide field of view and allows for rapid target acquisition. Both options work well for close-range or fast-moving targets. 

Because these sights are highly intuitive, they work well for new shooters. They can also be handy in home defense scenarios, where even an experienced shooter’s skills can suffer due to fear and adrenaline. 

While these two types of sights provide a similar shooting experience, they use very different technology.

Holographic sights use a series of lasers and mirrors to produce a reticle superimposed over the target. These optics offer more detailed reticle configurations than a basic red dot. They are also great options for shooters with astigmatism. 

However, holographic technology does not come cheap. These optics tend to be more expensive than traditional red dots.

Red dot sights use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to project an aiming point from behind a mirror-coated objective lens. The dot, which is usually red, reflects off the objective lens toward the shooter’s eye. The reticle is usually a simple red dot that the shooter simply needs to line up with their intended target.

Shooters with astigmatism often have difficulty focusing their eyes on a red dot sight. Instead of a crisp clear aiming point, the shooter will instead see a blurred or fuzzy red smudge. 

Digital Scopes

Digital scopes are high-tech options that are usually designed for shooting after the sun goes down. Models may use thermal imaging or digital night vision technology to help you see targets in the dark. Many models also offer other cutting-edge features like ballistic calculators and recoil-activated video recording. 

Best AR-15 Scope on the Market Reviews

There are literally thousands of quality optics on the market today. Many of these optics are designed specifically for the AR-15. Others are well-suited for these modern rifles. Here are a few of what we consider the best models available to modern shooters. However, this is by no means an exhaustive list.

1. Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II 1-6×24

Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II 1-6x24 Second Focal Plane Riflescopes

Vortex is famous for engineering practical scopes that provide serious value for the money. The company’s Razor HD Gen II riflescope is one of their most popular models. This fan-favorite has a loyal following among 3 Gun competitors, tactical shooters, law enforcement officers, and serious hunters. 

This 1-6x low power variable optic (LPVO) works well for everything from CQB to targets out to 600 yards. 

The Razor HD is also built for rough use. This scope is crafted from aircraft-grade aluminum. The main housing is argon purged, o-ring sealed, and nearly indestructible. Not only is the optic waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof, but it also has lenses treated with scratch-resistant Armortek. This unique coating ensures your sight picture is always crystal clear.

With its high-density, extra-low dispersion glass and fully multi-coated lenses, the Razor HD offers jaw-dropping optical clarity. The scope also features XR anti-reflective coatings to enhance light transmission and reduce glare. The result is a bright, clear sight picture, even in low-light settings. 

Other notable features include capped, low-profile, zero-resettable turrets, a fast-focus eyepiece, and easy reticle focusing.

Is It Worth It?

One of the most versatile optics on our list, the Vortex Razor HD Gen II works well for 3 Gun, hog and varmint hunting, and tactical shooting applications. Here is what you can expect from this popular optic.

  • Sturdy construction.
  • Scratch-resistant lens coatings.
  • Hard-anodized exterior.
  • Fogproof, waterproof, shockproof performance.
  • HD glass.
  • Fully multi-coated lenses with XR anti-reflective coatings.
  • Capped low-profile turrets.
  • Zero reset function.
  • Fast-focus eyepiece. 
  • Illuminated SFP reticle.

Mounting and Accessories

The Vortex Cantilever Rifle Scope 30mm Ring Mount allows you to easily mount the Razor HD Gen II on a flat top rifle.

2. Trijicon ACOG 4×32

Acog 4 X 32 Scope Dual Illuminated Chevron .223 Ballistic Reticle, Black

Trijicon’s Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, better known as the ACOG, has proven its value in combat zones around the globe.  The US Marine Corps uses this battle-ready optic on their Squad DMRs (designated marksman rifle). DMRs are equipped to fill the gap between short-range infantry rifles and long-range sniper rifles. 

This tough-as-nails fixed power scope is built to survive rough use and some of the harshest environments on Earth. The main housing is made from forged aircraft-grade aluminum alloy. It is nitrogen-filled and o-ring sealed for reliable waterproof, fogproof, shockproof performance. Although the ACOG is basically bombproof, Trijicon still backs every single one with a lifetime warranty. 

The ACOG’s design includes a large objective lens and a massive FOV, both of which allow the shooter to engage targets with both eyes open. This method of shooting preserves peripheral vision, which is a major asset on the battlefield. 

The ACOG is best known for its reliable battery-free reticle illumination. Using fiber optics in bright conditions and a tritium phosphor lamp when the lights go out, the reticle is always visible. If you’re looking for a reliable scope for an SHTF scenario, this one doesn’t need batteries

Is It Worth It?

Although the ACOG comes with a hefty price tag, the investment is worth it for shooters who are serious about their optics. These scopes are extremely tough, hold their zero like there’s no tomorrow, and will never leave you with a dead battery. 

Here are the ACOG’s main features. 

  • Virtually indestructible.
  • Waterproof, fogproof, shockproof.
  • Generous field of view.
  • Allows for both-eyes-open shooting.
  • Battery-free illumination.
  • Night vision compatible.

Mounting and Accessories

The Trijicon ACOG comes with a TA51 Flattop Mount for easy mounting on your AR-15.

3. Steiner T5Xi 3-15×50

Steiner T5Xi Tactical Rifle Scope - Close Compact Riflescope for Hunting

If you want to flex some long-range muscle, an AR chambered for a hotrod cartridge like .224 Valkyrie or 6.5 Grendel and the Steiner T5Xi will certainly help you do it. 

Designed specifically for tactical long-range shooting, the T5Xi features an exclusive Special Competition Reticle (SCR). The detailed illuminated reticle is etched on the first focal plane. It provides MOA windage, holdover, and ranging marks for precision shooting.

Although the T5Xi was designed for the target range, it is built tough enough for backcountry hunting. The housing is crafted from a single piece of solid, aircraft-grade aluminum that is nitrogen-filled and o-ring sealed. The construction makes the scope reliably fogproof and waterproof. 

The T5Xi features a massive 50mm objective for maximum light transmission. It also features a generous eye box, a wide field of view, and low-profile turrets with a zero-reset feature. 

Unlike some long-range competition scopes, the T5Xi has a short, compact design that makes it well-suited for modern sporting rifles. 

Is It Worth It?

If you want to ping targets at longer ranges, this is the perfect optic for the job. It’s pricey, but most decent long-range optics come with hefty price tags.

Here are the main features that make the T5Xi worth the investment.

  • Durable construction.
  • Short, compact design.
  • Fogproof and waterproof.
  • Generous magnification.
  • Detailed illuminated glass-etched FFP reticle.
  • Resettable zero stop.
  • Low profile turrets with rotation indicator.
  • Side parallax adjustment.

Mounting and Accessories

The Steiner T5Xi comes with a throw lever, lens cloth, sunshade, lens cover, and a CR2450 battery.

4. EOTech Vudu 1-6×24

EOTECH Vudu 1-6x24mm Precision Rifle Scope

Most AR-15 aficionados are familiar with EOTech’s high-tech holographic sights (If you aren’t, keep scrolling. You’ll find them further down on this list). However, the company also produces top-notch traditional riflescopes that run well on modern sporting rifles. Their Vudu is a perfect example.

3 Gun and tactical shooters will appreciate the Vudu’s Speed Ring Reticle. Exclusive to EOTech, this easy-to-use reticle works perfectly for CQB. When the scope is dialed in at 1x, the reticle allows you to get on target quickly and intuitively. Zoom the optic up to 6x, and the reticle provides a precision aiming point for targets at longer ranges. 

The scope also offers incredible image resolution and impressive edge-to-edge clarity through the entire magnification range. EOTech uses quality XC high-density glass and anti-reflective lens coatings to enhance light transmission and reduce glare. The result is a bright, crisp sight picture, even in low-light shooting. 

Like all EOTech optics, the Vudu is built for harsh conditions. The main housing is made from a single piece of durable aircraft-grade aluminum that is finished off with a hard-anodized exterior. EOTech also backs their Vudu riflescope with a limited lifetime warranty. 

Is It Worth It?

It’s an EOTech. 

If that’s not enough to convince you, here is a list of this scope’s most impressive features.

  • Durable construction.
  • Surgically precise target turrets. 
  • EZ Chek zero stop feature.
  • EOTech FFP Speed Ring reticle.
  • Ten reticle brightness settings.
  • Two-hour automatic shut off. 
  • Throw lever for quick magnification changes. 
  • XC High-density glass.
  • Broadband anti-reflective lens coatings.

Mounting and Accessories

For best results, you will need a 30mm EOTech PRS 2 in Cantilever Riflescope Ring Mount to secure the Vudu to your AR-15.

5. Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9×40

Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40mm Riflescope, Duplex CDS (174182) (174182)

Nothing says you can’t run a traditional deer hunting scope on an AR-15. The Leupold VX-Freedom is the quintessential riflescope for whitetails, and it works surprisingly well on a modern sporting rifle.

This affordable scope has a practical 3-9x magnification range and impressive optical clarity for such an affordably priced scope. 

The VX-Freedom also features Leupold’s exclusive Twilight Max Light Management System. The system balances light transmission, glare reduction, and color contrast to provide bright, crisp clarity, even in low light. The low light performance is so great that Leupold claims it will add an extra 20 minutes of shooting light at the start and end of every day. 

The VX-Freedom is engineered for rough hunting environments. Crafted from 6061-T6 aluminum, this scope features a matte black finish and scratch resistance lenses. The scope is also fogproof and waterproof. 

Is It Worth It?

If you use your AR-15 for hunting whitetails, this affordable optic works quite well. Its main features include:

  • Durable construction.
  • Fogproof and waterproof. 
  • Scratch resistance lenses. 
  • Practical magnification range. 
  • Excellent clarity.
  • Twilight Max Light Management System.
  • Non-illuminated SFP reticle. 

Mounting and Accessories

Mounting the Leupold VX-Freedom requires a set of one-inch rings. We suggest using the Burris AR-P.E.P.R Tactical Riflescope Rings with Mount. This tactical-style mount fits most full-size scopes and easily attaches to the Picatinny rail upper on most AR-style rifles.

6. EOTech Model 512 Holographic Sight

EOTECH 512 Holographic Weapon Sight

Few optics pair better with an AR-15 than an EOTech holo sight. The company’s sights are the gold standard for holographic optics, and the Model 512 is their most popular offering. 

The Model 512 is EOTech’s basic, bare-bones holo sight. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have plenty to offer. The optic features twenty daylight brightness settings, a user-friendly 65 MOA Ring and 1 MOA Dot reticle. It also provides unlimited eye relief.

Virtually indestructible, the EOTech 512 still works even when damaged. If the front glass is shattered or partially obscured, the optic still produces the illuminated reticle. Plus, it holds its zero like there’s no tomorrow. 

The EOTech 512 runs on two common AA batteries which will provide up to 1,000 hours of use. The optic also has an auto shut-off feature that powers down the electronics after four or eight hours. This feature will help extend the life of your batteries.

Is It Worth It?

A holo sight and an AR-15 go together like peanut butter and jelly, and an EOTech is the cream of the crop. Here are the optic’s major features.

  • Works even if the glass is shattered or partially obscured by dirt or mud.
  • A versatile circle dot reticle is useful for CQB and medium-range engagements.
  • Virtually indestructible. 
  • Twenty brightness settings.
  • Runs on common AA batteries.
  • Up to 1,000 hours of use.
  • Auto shut-off feature.

Mounting and Accessories

The EOTech Model 512 is built to link with any Weaver or Picatinny rail.

7. Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic (PRO)

Aimpoint PRO Red Dot Reflex Sight with QRP2 Mount and Spacer - 2 MOA - 12841

If you’re running a compact carbine or AR pistol, this compact optic from Aimpoint won’t compromise your weapon’s maneuverability. The Aimpoint PRO is one of the most popular red dot optics on the market today. 

Engineered for military use, the Aimpoint PRO is literally bombproof. Constructed from a hard-anodized aluminum alloy, the PRO is completely waterproof and has a reliable operating range of -49 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. It also features recessed lens openings, which are designed to prevent impact damage, random dirt and fingerprints.

The PRO has a crisp 2 MOA red dot aiming point with six daytime brightness settings and four night vision settings. 

Virtually parallax-free, the PRO allows for absolute co-witness with fixed front sight. 

Aimpoint includes a 3-volt lithium battery. Each battery provides up to 30,000 hours of continuous operation. 

Is It Worth It?

Red dots pair beautifully with AR-15s and it doesn’t get any better than the Aimpoint PRO. 

  • Virtually indestructible. 
  • Waterproof to 150 feet.
  • Recessed lens openings to prevent scratches, dings, and smudges.
  • Razor-sharp 2 MOA red dot. 
  • Ten brightness settings (six for daytime and four that are night-vision compatible).
  • Virtually parallax-free.
  • Up to 30,000 hours of battery life. 

Mounting and Accessories

The Aimpoint PRO comes in a complete, ready-to-mount kit for use on flat-top AR-15, M4 carbine, and M16 rifles.
The PRO also features a threaded front lens opening that allows for easy attachment of an ARD (Anti Reflective Device) KillFlash Filter.

8. Bushnell TRS-25 Trophy Series Red Dot

Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Sight Riflescope, 1x20mm, Black

Unfortunately, not everyone has a ton of cash to drop on an optic for their AR-15. Thankfully, there are options like the TRS-25 Trophy Series Red Dot from Bushnell. Perfect for shooters on a shoestring budget, the TRS-25 comes in at under $100. 

Despite the economic price tag, the Bushnell TRS-25 is strongly built. It is nitrogen-purged and o-ring sealed, for solid waterproof, fogproof, shockproof performance.  This red dot is well-suited for rough-and-tumble conditions and holds up to bumps, drops, and bounces like a real champ.

The TRS-25 features a 3 MOA red dot reticle and multi-coated optics. Bushnell also used an Amber-Bright high-contrast lens coating designed to provide contrast between the brown of a deer’s coat and other shades of brown in the environment. The TRS-25 also comes with eleven brightness settings to maximize reticle visibility in any lighting condition. 

Is It Worth It?

The Bushnell TRS-25 Trophy Series red dot is perfect for budget-conscious shooters. It is also well-suited for deer hunting, especially when jumping deer in thick woods. 

Here’s what sets this red dot apart from the competition.

  • Affordable price tag.
  • Waterproof, fogproof, shockproof. 
  • Multi-coated optics.
  • Amber-Bright lens coatings. 
  • Eleven brightness settings.
  • Target turrets for quick windage and elevation adjustments. 

Mounting and Accessories

The Bushnell TRS-25 comes with a CR2032 battery. The optic mounts easily on a Picatinny rail.

9. Streamlight TLR-8A Weapon Light and Laser Sight

Streamlight 69434 TLR-8A G Flex Low-Profile Rail-Mounted Tactical Light, Black/Green Laser

This laser/flashlight combo from Streamlight is the perfect way to illuminate your surroundings while putting an easy-to-see dot on your target. The TLR-8A produces both a 500 lumen white light and a red laser dot. 

Built like a tank, the TLR-8A is constructed from tough anodized aluminum and is rated IPX4 water-resistant.

It also has a “safe off” feature to prevent accidental activation that could give away your location. Double-tap the switch and the TLR-8A switches to strobe mode to disorient an attacker. 

Is It Worth It?

This light/laser combo is small enough to use on a pistol, and it virtually disappears on an AR-15. It is ultra-reliable, incredibly easy to use, and costs under $300. If you need a reliable sight for your home defense rifle, this is a practical option. 

  • Anodized aluminum construction.
  • Water-resistant design. 
  • Ambidextrous controls. 
  • Safe off feature.
  • Strobe mode. 
  • Limited lifetime warranty. 

Mounting and Accessories

The Streamlight TLR-8A has a rail grip clamp system that quickly and easily attaches and detaches from your rail. You don’t even need any extra tools to do it.

10. ATN ThOR 4 Thermal Riflescope

ATN Thor 4, Thermal Rifle Scope with Full HD Video rec, WiFi, GPS, Smooth Zoom and Smartphone Controlling Thru iOS or Android Apps

AR-15s are perfect for nighttime coyote hunting, especially when paired with a thermal scope like the ATN ThOR 4. ATN makes top-notch, high-tech digital scopes. The company designs its products with after-dark hogs and predator hunters in mind. 

The ThOR 4 is far more than a simple riflescope. It features an onboard 3D gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, and E-Compass. It also has integrated GPS for geotagging and elevation tracking, ensuring you never lose track of your favorite hunting locations. 

Other cool high-tech features include a ballistic calculator, smart range finder, recoil-activated video (RAV), and Wi-Fi streaming. You can always count on the ThOR 4 to capture the action just before and immediately following your shots. Then you can instantly share the excitement with friends and family. 

Is It Worth It?

If you need to hunt after the sun sets, the ATN ThOR 4 will help you track the heat signature of game animals, even when you can’t spot them with the naked eye. However, the ThOR 4 is far more than a thermal scope. It is also jam-packed with high-tech features, including:

  • Digital thermal imaging. 
  • GPS.
  • E-Compass.
  • Ballistic calculator.
  • Smart rangefinder.
  • Recoil-activated video recording.
  • Wi-Fi streaming. 

Mounting and Accessories

The ATN ThOR 4 comes with everything you need to get started, including standard rings, a scope cover, and a USB-C cable.

11. ATN X-Sight 4K Pro

theOpticGuru ATN X-Sight-4k Pro Smart Day

The ATN X-Sight Pro is a digital night vision scope. Because this optic uses digital technology, it can be used in bright sunshine or complete darkness. This design allows you to seamlessly transition from day to night shooting with a single optic. 

More than a simple riflescope, the ATN X-Sight Pro uses a sensitive 4K ultra HD sensor with a dual-core processor. This processor provides the power to record and stream videos of your shooting adventures. The optic even features recoil-activated video (RAV) recording so you never have to fumble with buttons or switches in the heat of the moment.  

The X-Sight Pro also has adjustable magnification, a built-in ballistic calculator that stores multiple profiles, and a smart rangefinder. It also has a one-shot zero function that makes sighting-in easier than ever. 

Despite its high-tech design, the X-Sight Pro is insanely durable. It has a reliable operating temperature range of -20 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and is water-resistant.

Is It Worth It?

The ATN X-Sight Pro is a rather hefty beast, tipping the scales at 2.2 pounds. That is some serious weight to add to a lightweight AR-15. However, if you need to make precision shots after dark, this optic is hard to beat. 

Here is what you can expect from this high-tech day/night riflescope.

  • Durable construction.
  • Water-resistant.
  • One-shot zero.
  • Ballistic calculator.
  • Smart rangefinder.
  • Recoil-activated video recording.
  • Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connection.

Mounting and Accessories

The ATN X-Sight Pro comes with a set of standard scope rings as well as a ring with a Picatinny rail for easy mounting. The package also includes an IR850 infrared illuminator, a USB-C cable, a sunshade, and a scope cover.

12. Magpul Industries MBUS Flip-Up Sight

Magpul MBUS Flip-Up Backup Sights

No article on AR-15 optics would be complete without at least a brief discussion of backup iron sights (BUIS). Having a backup plan is critical to shooting success. Optics (especially the high-tech variety) are prone to failure. BUIS provide a failsafe in case your batteries die, your optic breaks, or you lose your zero through rough use.  

Magpul’s Gen 2 BUIS are arguably the best in the industry. They are made from a sturdy polymer resin, which makes them lightweight yet incredibly durable. Featuring a spring-loaded design, Magpul MBUS flips up for instant access when you need them. The design also lets them fold conveniently out of the way when you are using your primary optic. 

Is It Worth It?

If your primary optic ever fails in the field, you’ll understand just how important backup iron sights are, and Magpul’s are some of the best on the market. These sights are specifically engineered for AR-15 and M-16 weapons.

  • Made from impact-resistant polymer.
  • Spring-loaded, flip-up design. 

Mounting and Accessories

Magpul MBUIS flip-up sights fit most Picatinny rail equipped modern sporting rifles. 

Final Thoughts

In this day and age, running an AR-15 without an optic is practically unheard of. Modern sporting rifles are designed with a flat top for a reason, and a quality optic can seriously enhance your shooting experience. However, even the fanciest, most expensive optic is no substitute for basic shooting fundamentals. 

Even the best AR-15 scope won’t make up for deficits in your shooting skills. If you really want to improve your shooting skills, it will take some practice. Be sure to head to the range with your new rifle/optic set-up and send some lead downrange.

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