7 Best Scopes To Mount On AR-15 With Carry Handle

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Are you trying to figure out how to mount a scope on an AR-15 with a carry handle? It was not that long ago that AR-15 variants came with a carry handle that was not removable. Many of them are still in circulation. Even with a removable carry handle, there are those who prefer to keep the handle on but would like to still use a scope or sight.

While this comes with some complications, it doesn’t have to be difficult to find a scope that will do the job for you and do it well enough to let you shoot accurately to your heart’s content. In this article, we’re going to discuss the considerations you need to address when mounting a scope on a carry handle and go over our top 7 recommendations for scopes designed to mount on a carry handle instead of a flat top.

Dealing With the Added Height

The biggest issue that mounting an optic on a carry handle introduces is how much higher up the scope is than one that is mounted directly onto the flat top via a picatinny or weaver rail. Even when a scope is mounted onto the upper receiver, part of the zeroing process is compensating for the reticle being located an inch or so higher than where the bullet exits the barrel.

A carry handle can add up to a full two inches to that difference, along with the height of the optic itself. This has some serious implications for sighting in your scope, of course, but it’s also important to consider how this affects your ability to use the scope.

With that much added height, it’s often difficult to position your eye properly in the eye box within the eye relief of the scope. This is even harder if it’s important to you (like it is for me) to be comfortable while shooting. Between the zeroing issues and the usability issues, you may be wondering why anyone bothers trying to make it work.

There are a few reasons why a shooter may want to use an optic with a carry handle. Number one, the carry handle may not actually be removable. Number two, they may like the functionality of the carry handle, and number three, the free market has delivered some pretty awesome products to make this kind of setup work incredibly well.

Beyond the Scope - What Else Do You Need?

The #1 thing you’ll most likely need is a cheek riser to get a comfortable cheek weld on your AR. Something like this. Cheek risers come in different heights and do have some variation in compatibility, so you’ll want to make sure you grab the right one for your model and needs. These cheek risers are typically pretty affordable, so we highly recommend picking one up.

Beyond the cheek riser, you may also want to add an extended pad for the rifle butt. A lot of modern AR variants come with one of these already, but if you’re putting an optic on a carry handle chances are you have an older one that may not have it, or you may have a newer one that didn’t come with a butt pad.

For the most part that should be all you need to add to your setup to accommodate a handle-mounted optic.

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Products

BEST AFFORDABLE SCOPE

Barska 4x20 Electro Sight Carry Handle Mount

Barska 4x20 Electro Sight Carry Handle Mount

  • Diameter: 20mm
  • Magnification: 20mm
  • Length: Magnifier
BEST FOR RAPID TARGET

Vortex Optics Sparc Carry Handle Scope

Vortex Optics Sparc Carry Handle Scope

  • Diameter: 20mm
  • Magnification: 20mm
  • Length: Magnifier
BEST FOR ACCURACY

EOTECH 512 Holographic Weapon Sight

EOTECH 512 Holographic Weapon Sight

  • Diameter: 20mm
  • Magnification: 20mm
  • Length: Magnifier
BEST FOR DURABILTY

The Trijicon ACOG 4x32 Scope

The Trijicon ACOG 4x32 Scope

  • Diameter: 20mm
  • Magnification: 20mm
  • Length: Magnifier
BEST FOR CLEAR IMAGE

AT3 Tactical RD-50 Micro Reflex Red Dot Sight

AT3 Tactical RD-50 Micro Reflex Red Dot Sight

  • Diameter: 20mm
  • Magnification: 20mm
  • Length: Magnifier
BEST FOR MEDIUM RANGE

Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35 Rifle Scope

Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35 Rifle Scope

  • Diameter: 20mm
  • Magnification: 20mm
  • Length: Magnifier
BEST FOR PRECISE AIMING

TRUGLO Ignite Mini Compact 22mm Red-Dot Sight

TRUGLO Ignite Mini Compact 22mm Red-Dot Sight

  • Diameter: 20mm
  • Magnification: 20mm
  • Length: Magnifier

Important Characteristics of Handle-Mounted Optics

To be a good fit for mounting on a carry handle, there are a few things that you’ll want to look for in an optic, especially if you decide that none of the scopes on this list are a good fit for you.

You’ll want to look for optics with generous eye relief and a large eye box. This automatically makes optics like red dots more appropriate for carry handles than something with high magnification. Prism scopes or fixed power lens scopes can also be great options, but pay close attention to the eye relief and eye box specifications.

You will also need to find a scope that is specifically designed to mount onto a carry handle and is adjustable. You can find mounting ring adapters for traditional scopes that require rings, but they’re going to introduce more height differential and not be as finely-tuned and accurate as high-end rings that each mount individually to a rail.

The good news is that you have a whole range of optics that work great with carry handles, and you’ve got everything from ultra-budget options to high-end, premium options depending on your budget and needs.

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of carry handle-mounted optics, let’s jump into our recommendations. None of these options are designed for handguns, and since we’re talking about mounting them onto carry handles, we won’t be talking much about co-witnessing them with iron sights. 

1. Barska 4x20 Electro Sight Carry Handle Mount

ar 15 carrying handle scope

Barska is a generally well-reviewed budget brand, and their Electro is no exception. Available at a great price from Optics Planet. Electro is a fixed power riflescope with a 4x magnification and a 20mm objective lens, which is actually significantly smaller than the tube, which has a 34mm diameter.

This model of the Electro comes with a carry handle mount, which makes it a great fit for this list, along with its fixed magnification. It’s less than 7 inches long, weighs 13.4 ounces, and is waterproof, fogproof, and has a full optical coating and a mil-dot reticle, discreet enough to not obscure your aimpoint. 

Adjustment clicks are .5 MOA, which is perfect for something in this magnification range.

Barska 4x20

There are a few negatives with this scope, though, and explain why it is so affordable. The eye relief is only 2.7 inches, which means that your eye has to be fairly close to the ocular lens in order to see the whole picture. Granted, this is going on your AR-15, so recoil isn’t too much of a danger, but that doesn’t leave a lot of leeway for you to get into a comfortable and sustainable shooting position.

The exit pupil is also only 5mm. Considering this is a fixed power 4x scope, this may not be as big of a deal to you, but it means that the low light of this particular scope is not going to be great.

If the short eye relief and small exit pupil are not issues for you, then this is a fantastic option for your carry handle.

Barska 4x20 Electro Sight Carry Handle Mount

The price of Barska 4x20 Electro Sight Carry Handle Mount varies, so check the latest price at

2. Vortex Optics Sparc Carry Handle Scope

carry handle red dot

The Sparc is a 1x magnification red dot sight with amazing reviews. On this red dot sight, you’ll find a 2 MOA dot in the middle of a very minimalist sight picture, keeping your aimpoint clear and easy to see. The Sparc is a fantastic option for a carry handle; it is only an inch tall, less than 3 inches long, and weighs less than half a pound.

Where the Barska has short eye relief, the Sparc, like most (if not all) red dot sights, has unlimited eye relief and is completely parallax free. This means that essentially wherever your eye is, as long as you can see the dot, it should be on top of wherever your bullet is going to hit, as long as it's properly zeroed.

This is great even when you’re mounting an optic on the upper receiver, but it’s even more valuable when mounting on a carry handle, as it allows you a lot of flexibility in how you hold the rifle and position your head. This lets you find a comfortable position and go to town.

The Sparc is multi-coated, waterproof, shockproof, and nitrogen-purged. The chassis is a single piece, and the Sparc has 12 different illumination settings for use in different lighting conditions. It also takes a standard AAA battery and comes with a rubber cover and flip caps.

The downside to the Sparc is that it lacks magnification, and is a noticeable price jump from the Barsk. But hey, we’re still just getting started.

Vortex Optics Sparc Carry Handle Scope

The price of Vortex Optics Sparc Carry Handle Scope varies, so check the latest price at

3. EOTECH 512 Holographic Weapon Sight

carry handle scope

Ok, so we’re technically breaking one of our own rules here because the EOTECH 512 comes with a weaver mount, not a carry handle mount, but everything else about it is perfect for mounting on a carry handle, and you can pick up an adapter for next to nothing.

Really quick, for those who aren’t sure the difference between red dot sights and holographic sights, here are the highlights. The tech behind holographic sights is a lot more complicated than a reflex sight, and they have several massive advantages but also happen to be more expensive.

Holographic sights have 1 MOA dots instead of 2, and the dot will stay 1 MOA even if you add magnification.

Not only that, if you look past the dot to your aimpoint while aiming, the dot will actually stay in focus to your eye, while a red dot will become blurry and unfocused because your eyes are looking at something much further away.

Eotech 512 Holographic Weapon Sight

Holographic sights will also still work if the front lens is cracked or damaged or partially obstructed, which makes them a better fit for a lot of real-world use. 

But it’s not all sunshine and roses. Holographic sights are a lot more expensive than red dots (and the EOTECH 512 is no exception), only two companies make them, and the smallest holographic sights are noticeably bigger and heavier than the smallest red dots. 

Battery life is also measured in the hundreds of hours instead of the tens of thousands of hours that a red dot would have.

Looking at the 512 specifically, it’s waterproof up to 10 feet and has 20 brightness settings to cover you in different lighting scenarios. To be clear, it’s not the reticle that has 20 brightness settings, it is the image you see through the lens that can get brighter or dimmer. 

The 512 has over 900 ratings and an astonishing 4.8 stars out of 5.

EOTECH 512 Holographic Weapon Sight

The price of EOTECH 512 Holographic Weapon Sight varies, so check the latest price at

4. Trijicon ACOG 4x32 Scope

ar15 carry handle scope

We’ve officially entered premium territory. The Trijicon is a pretty expensive piece of kit, but it’s worth every penny. On a basic level, you’re getting a 4x magnification prism scope with a 32mm objective diameter. 

The ACOG was designed specifically with .223 ammo in mind which makes it a perfect fit for an AR-15 variant.

The Trijicon also comes with a carry handle mount so it can go right onto most carry handles without an adapter. The Trijicon doesn’t come with any flashy gimmicks; it’s all about performance and real-world use. 

Trijicon caters to military contracts with their optics, so you can expect all the tech where it matters and none where it doesn’t.

The ACOG comes with what they call a “tritium phosphor lamp” that allows the reticle to glow in low light conditions without requiring a battery. 

Trijicon ACOG 4x32 Scope Review

The lamp is guaranteed to work for 15 years, and is housed along with the rest of the scope in “Forged 7075-T6 aircraft aluminum alloy housing” and Trijicon boasts that the ACOG is nearly indestructible. It’s also waterproof down to 500 feet.

The intended purpose of the Trijicon ACOG also comes with considerations. The eye relief is about the shortest you’ll see at 1.5 inches. 

That said, thanks to the illuminated reticle and the Bindon Aiming Concept, you can use the ACOG with both eyes open. While the reticle will illuminate at night, the ACOG does not have any night vision features.

Other specs of the ACOG include a 5.8-inch length, a weight of 9.9 ounces, a crosshair reticle with a BDC (bullet drop compensator) out to 800 yards for a .223 round.

Adjustment clicks are ⅓ MOA, which is unusual but also very appropriate given the 4x magnification; ¼ MOA adjustments would probably be a bit too little and ½ MOA would be a bit too much.

The Trijicon ACOG 4x32 Scope

The price of The Trijicon ACOG 4x32 Scope varies, so check the latest price at

5. AT3 Tactical RD-50 Micro Reflex Red Dot Sight

ar carry handle scope

This little guy has all the advantages of a reflex sight in a tiny package. At only 2.4 inches long and 3.6 ounces in weight, this a great budget option for shooters who need something serviceable that sights in quickly and has fast target acquisition. 

The RD-50 is also perfect for beginners, as it is more affordable but provides the same basic functionality as a more expensive red dot.

Let’s clarify that a bit. The sight picture is just a single, solitary dot, with no extra rings or bullet drop compensation, and the adjustment clicks for windage & elevation are a full MOA, which means it’s simply not possible to get more precise than within 1 inch at 100 yards. 

That means if you’re shooting short-range or medium-range, this is going to work just fine.

AT3 Tactical RD 50

Another thing to consider is that the full MOA adjustments are actually nice for newer shooters who wouldn’t really appreciate the added precision of ½ MOA adjustments and who probably aren’t skilled or consistent enough yet with their shooting to achieve that much precision even if that adjustment allowed it.

AT3 advertises that the included battery (lithium CR2032) can get up to 50,000 hours of life, but that’s at the lowest brightness setting. Typical use results in around 5,000 hours of battery life, which isn’t great, but is certainly manageable.

This sight comes with a weaver mount, which will work with either a picatinny rail or weaver rail. That means that you’ll need to purchase an adapter like the one we linked above in order to get it on top of your carry handle

The main reason this is considered such a great option for a carry handle optic is because of how small it is.

It’s short enough that it won’t add very much height to the handle, and in fact, a lot of shooters who buy this to mount on the receiver even buy a riser plate to get it high enough to co-witness with their iron sights.

AT3 Tactical RD-50

The price of AT3 Tactical RD-50 varies, so check the latest price at

6. Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35 Rifle Scope

ar-15 carry handle scope

Since Trijicon has multiple styles of 3.5x35, we’re talking specifically about the Crosshair 5.56 style. There are a lot of similarities between this one and the ACOG we talked about earlier, so let’s go over the key differences.

First, obviously, there’s only 3.5x magnification on this guy, but it also has a slightly larger objective diameter. You’ll also find a lot more eye relief compared to the 4x32; the 3.5x35 will give you 2.4 inches of eye relief, with the same BAC both-eyes-open shooting capability. The same tritium-powered battery-free illumination is available on the 3.5x version, but it also uses fiber optics to achieve even better results.

The 3.5x magnification will give you a slightly wider field of view, which makes this a slightly better fit for short-range applications.

Of all the optics on this list, this Trijicon is probably the best suited to be used with a larger caliber rifle in addition to your AR-15 with a carry handle. 

Trijicon ACOG 3.5×35

The ACOG line is known for its durability and toughness, so it will be able to handle the more severe recoil from a larger weapon, and the extra inch (almost) of eye relief will give the disciplined shooter enough space.

Let’s talk about the minimal eye relief on these Trijicons for a moment. More standard eye relief that you’ll see in the “short” range is between 3 inches and 5 inches. You can find scopes with “long” eye relief that is in excess of 5 inches, but most of the time what you’ll see is between 3 and 5 inches. So why then, on the most premium of brands, is the eye relief so short?

I’m not an expert on this, so I’ll just give my thoughts on what it might be. When I’m competing with my buddies on the range, especially if we decide to put money down, I have a tendency to tense up and get nervous, which causes me to naturally lean in closer to the scope than I otherwise would. 

In military applications, most of the users will be in far more stressful situations, and so probably have a similar, or even worse, tendency to tense up, and that may be why Trijicon has designed it this way. It also may have absolutely nothing to do with that. I would love to hear any thoughts in the comments.

Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35 Rifle Scope

The price of Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35 Rifle Scope varies, so check the latest price at

7. TRUGLO Ignite Mini Compact 22mm Red-Dot Sight

best scope for ar15 carry handle

Despite the name, this sight is about the same size and weight as other sights in its class. Compared to a prism or lens scope, sure, it’s pretty small, but the real reason it’s on this list is because it’s not very tall. Much like the RD-50 we covered, this sight is often installed with riser plates if it’s mounted onto the upper receiver.

The TRUGLO takes it one step further, however, and actually comes with both low and high rail mounts. For mounting onto a carry handle, you’ll probably want to use the low rail mount with an adapter like the one we linked to before.

The objective diameter is pretty small here at only 22mm but for a red dot that’s not a big deal (literally). This sight comes with rubber lens covers and a 15v AAA battery for some (cough) serious savings. 

You get 10 brightness settings and ½ MOA adjustment clicks on both axes. All the standard benefits of red dot sights apply, including minimal parallax.

The TRUGLO has some intelligent features that may either appeal to you or turn you off.

The first is that it has an auto-off feature that shuts the optic down 4 hours after the last time you pushed a button. Coming from a guy who forgets to shut off pretty much everything all the time, I still don’t really like this feature. 

TRUGLO Ignite Mini Compact

4 hours is plenty of time, I just don’t like the idea that it might decide to malfunction at exactly the wrong moment and shut off when it’s not supposed to.

That said, 999 times out of 1000, the device probably won’t malfunction at all, and the chances of it having a critical malfunction at exactly the wrong moment are probably a lot like my chances of winning the lottery, and having the auto-off feature can be a big help to save battery life. 

Another nice feature is that it will remember the brightness setting it had the last time you turned it off. For the umpteen times you turn it off and on again on a trip to the range, it is nice to not have to readjust the brightness to where you want it. 

TRUGLO Ignite Mini Compact Red-Dot Sight

The price of TRUGLO Ignite Mini Compact 22mm Red-Dot Sight varies, so check the latest price at

Have Your Handle and Shoot Off of it Too

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t put an optic on a carry handle. Is it a different proposition than mounting an optic on the upper receiver? Yes. But there are optics specifically designed for that purpose and if you want the added functionality that a carry handle gives you then more power to you.

You’ve got options in all price ranges from sub $100 to over $1,000 depending on your budget and needs. The seven options we’ve gone over here are our recommendations, but there are plenty of other options out there if you want them. 

Many readers may be wondering how we got through a list of recommended optics without including Bushnell or Primary Arms, and both Bushnell and Primary Arms have options that can be great for a lot of shooters. 

To learn more about mounting options to get your favorite scope on your favorite rifle, check out this awesome article by Loyal Brezny. Also, if you want to add a scope on your AR 15, Check out our guide on best AR 15 scopes.

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