The Curated List of the Best AR 15 Scopes under $200

best optics

Today at no time like before, the rifle scope has become almost a basic standard when it comes to shooting almost any type of rifle today. In some cases, spending the month's home mortgage payment on a new scope is just not necessary at all.

Only a few days ago, one of my favorite internet groups stated that there is far to much attention being paid to how much money you can put into a rifle, versus training hard with what you have and getting the very best out of that system. 

I agree completely, as some folks are going flat out over the top while not requiring a long-range or even a short-range rifle to save their back side in a real world gunfight.

Give me a guy with a cheap 22 Long Rifle and a 1” scope that is trained, and he will kick the daylights out of the showcase untrained shooter with the painted-up fancy rifle that mounts a $3000.00 with change scope on it.

With the advancement of the AR 15 rifle has come the need for optical flexibility, including scope sights that are both affordable and meet the task at hand. Here are some possible options to consider when selecting the best AR 15 scope.

These systems will not push the AR-15 compared to some of the new longer-range cartridge options currently available. However, they are a starting point for using optics with firearms.

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Products

OUR TOP PICK

Vortex Optics Strikefire II

Vortex Optics Strikefire II

  • Reticle: MOA
  • Magnification: 1x
  • Diameter: 30mm
  • Weight:  7.2 oz
OUR TOP PICK

Nikon P-223 3x32

Nikon P-223 3x32

  • Dimensions: 14.2 x 3.2 x 3.2 inches
  • Magnification: 3x
  • Diameter: 32mm
  • Weight:  4 pounds
BEST FOR ACCURACY

Barska 1-4X28 IR SWAT

Barska 1-4X28 IR SWAT

  • Weight: 16 oz
  • Magnification: 1-4X
  • Diameter: 28mm
BEST FOR MIDRANGE

Simmons 8-Point 3-9X50mm

Simmons 8-Point 3-9X50mm

  • Weight: 13.2 ounce
  • Magnification: 3-9x
  • Diameter50mm
BEST FOR MIDRANGE

Monstrum G2 1-4X24 FFP

Monstrum G2 1-4X24 FFP

  • Weight: 1lb
  • Magnification:1-4x
  • Diameter: 24mm
BEST FOR MIDRANGE

Bushnell AR Optics

Bushnell AR Optics

  • Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Magnification: 3-9x
  • Diameter: 40mm
  • Dimensions: 5 x 5 x 5 inches
BEST FOR LONG RANGE

Vortex Optics Diamondback

Vortex Optics Diamondback

  • Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Magnification: 4-12x
  • Diameter: 40mm
  • Dimensions:14.5 x 2 x 1.7 inches
BEST BUDGET OPTION

UTG 3-12X44 30mm

UTG 3-12X44 30mm

  • Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Magnification: 3-12x
  • Diameter: 30mm
  • Dimensions: 10.4 x 1.6 x 2.1 inches

Leupold VX-1 3-9x40mm

BEST FOR DURABILITY

Leupold VX-1

  • Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Magnification: 2-7x
  • Diameter: 33mm

Tract 22 FIRE 4-12X40

Tract 22 FIRE 4-12X40

  • Weight: 1.5 pound
  • Magnification: 4-12x
  • Diameter: 40mm

BURRIS - FULLFIELD II

BURRIS - FULLFIELD II

  • Type: Scope
  • Magnification: 3-9x
  • MOA: 1/2

Bushnell Optics, Incinerate

Bushnell Optics, Incinerate

  • Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Magnification: 1x
  • Diameter: 25mm
  • Dimensions: 7 x 5 x 4 inches

Bushnell Optics, Enrage

Bushnell Optics, Enrage

  • Weight:1 pounds
  • Magnification: 1x
  • Diameter: N/A
  • Dimensions: 7 x 5 x 4 inches

Pinty Rifle Scope 3-9X32 Rangefinder

Pinty Rifle Scope 3-9X32 Rangefinder

  • Weight:16 oz
  • Magnification: 3-9x
  • Diameter:  32mm

Quick List: 15 Best AR 15 Scopes Under $200

1. Vortex OpticsStrikefire II - Best AR Scope Under 200

As a red/green dot sight, the Vortex Strikefire is a good option for the AR-15 platform. This is not a long distance high accuracy precision sight, however, and it is best relegated to closer range and fast target acquisition situations. For example, hog hunting, night hunting, or three-gun games makes this an ideal sight.

best ar scope for the money

This sight allows the use of two dot colors depending on light conditions. These dots are subject to 10 brightness settings as, again, the sight allows for lighting adjustments at the target. The sight is built from a single piece of material, allowing for increased structural strength. 

Mounting is undertaken by way of an offset cantilever mount that again allows for some flexible adaptations in setting up the sight.

The unit is fog and water resistant.

Available at Opticsplanet

The price of Vortex Optics Strikefire II varies, so check the latest price at Opticsplanet

2. Nikon P-223 3x32 M BDC Clamshell - Best Budget AR Scope

ar 15 hunting scope

In a compact AR-15 platform scope, the Nikon P-223 in the 8496 series is a 3X32, matte-finished surface unit with a BDC reticle system. This scope meets the general purpose needs of the AR-15 shooter based on the BDC easy-to-use reticle for starters, and at an affordable price.

best ar scope for the money

This scope has a built-in 100-yard parallax setting that allows the shooter to shoot without additional adjustments. Nikon states the scope is good for up to 600 yards, based on its BDC circle-type reticle.

The BDC was developed for such work by an old friend of mine, John Anderson, past editor of The Varmint Hunter magazine. This reticle is not an MRAD or MOA system, but one that is unique to Nikon scopes.

While the scope is set up for long-range accuracy, according to the manufacturer, what is considered long-range today is a far cry from what this system is designed for. At best, the buyer should expect mid-range applications to be met.

best ar hunting scope

Open turrets allow the shooter to dial in advancing ranges or zero settings at a glance. This makes this product a Tactical scope instead of the standard hunting rifle-style field optical system. Click and shoot is the term best applied in this case.

This scope retains a 96% light transmission ability, coated optics, and is fully water- and fog-proof as well.

Available at Amazon

The price of Nikon P-223 Scope varies, so check the latest price at Amazon.

The Barska rifle scope is an AR mount design in that it is built for closer range three-gun games, light work at close-range when hunting general targets, and best kept away from the target range option much beyond 150 yards. 

The scope retains a lifetime warranty, etched glass sub tensions on MOA settings, with red, green and black options. 

The 1-4 magnification is workable for combat-style operations, but be advised this is not a mil spec (military grade) glass sight. Run-and-gun combat games, three-gun competitions, and general use are the primary objectives applied to this style and grade of scope.

Making use of the external turret adjustment system, this scope is well suited for change up in range at very short notice. The turrets can be locked in order to prevent zero loss during active use. The scope is nitrogen purged and O-ring sealed. It is fog- and waterproof.

Available at Amazon

The price of Barska 1-4X28 IR SWAT varies, so check the latest price at Amazon.

Another option for the AR-15, but a larger product on the small AR variant receiver, is the Simmons 8-Point 3-9X50mm rifle scope.

This is a full body scope sight that makes use of a Truplex reticle and turret adjustments in MOA clicks. I have used, and still run, several of these scopes on 17 Hornet and 22 Hornet rifles that are used for rifle season turkey hunting in the fall. They are tough little scopes and a good buy for the money.

Massive swamp nutria. Early morning delayed this big guy 25 pounds on the hoof. Good sights make a difference

No, you're not going to long-range shooting events with the glass, or take coyotes at half a mile, but you will get a good deal of working time out of the sight as a general purpose glass system.

The scope retains coated optics, and is water- and fog-proof, as it has a fully purged and sealed optical housing.

It uses the “Truezero” system, owned by the manufacturer. In other words, you can always return to the locked zero setting even if you have turned the turret adjusts well off the zero mark.

The 50mm objective lens allows a good amount of low light control for the size and type of scope design. The 3.75” eye relief allows use on heavy recoiling rifles that make use of larger cartridges than the 223 Rem.

Simmons 8-Point 3-9X50mm

Available at Amazon

The price of Simmons 8-Point 3-9X50mm varies, so check the latest price at Amazon.

This Monstrum scope is well suited to the AR-15 platform. The manufacturer offers the buyer a pair of Weaver-style mounts and rings to save the problem of searching out the same as an afterthought.

The scope is classed a Tactical, but that is best regarded as the design package and not the optics. Tactical systems, as in the real deal, are about five times the price of this unit and, as such, this scope is best used for general purpose recreational activities.

That's not to say it can’t send a message to a bad guy. But in that setting, mil spec operational tools are a safer bet.

For the money, this is a nice option when you are searching for a multi use scope that retains the illuminated reticle and a ranging system like the BDC system for use on game and target events.

I would not use this scope as a dead sure competitive target glass, but based on the external turret adjustments, 24mm objective, and long eye relief, the FFP range-finder reticle makes this a flexible sight option when applied to the AR-15 and others.

Reticle adjustments for color and light are by way of a turret dial system - easy and fast to get into operation when required. This scope is ideal for low-light hunting, hunting with air, or red or white light externally. I have hunted bank beaver, marsh rat and raccoon with this style of sight with some very good results. 

The current trend for hunting the evasive swamp nutria could make a home for this sight as well. ACOG style sights are outstanding, as with some of the others listed here. But this sight has got AR written all over it for general field applications.

Th scope is toughly built from aircraft-grade aluminum, and is a one-piece tube construction. The package also includes scope rings, bases, a sunshade, and a set of spring-loaded lens caps.

Available at Amazon

The price of Monstrum G2 1-4X24 varies, so check the latest price at Amazon.

ar 15 scope

Bushnell Optics has been around for a long time and has recently been revamped to increase overall quality. The Drop Zone, as designed for the AR-15, is an example of an optic in a low price range. This scope is great for the novice shooter who is a part-time Sunday afternoon plinker. 

This scope is built as a best 1-4x optical system and is set up specifically for the AR-15. Some scopes have a dual function.

ar 15 sights

This specially designed package carries a 30mm main tube and Drop Zone BDC reticle that is set up specifically for the 7.62 NATO, 223 Remington. This scope is based on a close quarter design for a fighting weapon.

best ar scope under 200

Target engagement AR-15 .224 Valkyrie 800 yards.

The BDC reticle is calibrated for the .223 Remington round and corresponds exactly to the drop figures of the cartridge, or at least within center mass target striking requirements. The scope carries aiming points for 55-grain through 62-grain bullets out to 500 yards. That distance is a stretch for this light duty optical system.

ar rifle scopes

The target turrets on this scope will correspond to the 0.1 mil click values meaning fine impact adjustments are possible down range when not using the BDC aiming system. 

Available at Amazon

The price of Bushnell AR Optics Drop Zone varies, so check the latest price at Amazon.

best scopes for ar 15 under 200

Vortex as applied to the Ruger Chassis 6.5 Creedmoor. Testing for industry standards. The scope passed.

I must say that Vortex, even being a newer company that is producing newer ideas in optics, is a damn good bet when searching out scopes for your smoke pole. I use this scope in both scopes and spotting equipment and none of my systems has been put to rest due to failure or poor performance under fire. 

The DiamondBack series by Vortex has several configurations. Their offerings range from the 4-12X40 Dead-Hold BDC/ MOA reticle to the 3-9X40 mounting a V-Plex, MOA reticle, or sub tensions.

The price range is under $200. However, both systems are very close while lacking the difference in the sub tension reticle systems.

Diamondback is designed to be a flexible rifle scope and can be switched from a muzzleloader to a high powered long-range rifle. The AR-15 is a firearm that fits right in the middle in terms of this scope's use for this platform.

best scope under 200

The all-metal turrets on this scope, as well as the overall construction level, allow the scope to be turned and reset to zero thousands of times before any element of wear sets in. Some optics are designed to be zeroed and then left alone for most of their working life. That is not the case with this system.

The solid one-piece tube is trouble-free when it comes to seam leaks or any other element of the scope design going out of specification and failing the shooter. The bottom line here is Vortex optics are just a good piece of equipment overall.

Available at Amazon

The price of Vortex DiamondBack
 varies, so check the latest price at Amazon.

Also Check Out Our Guide for the Best Scopes for 6.5 Creedmoor.

UTG offers a compact model AR-15-style scope. This scope fits the needs of a shooter who wants to keep the weight down on their rifle and, at the same time, fit the new optic into the family budget. 

The scope is built with a tactical range reticle built into the sub-tensions and makes use of mil dot sighting systems. The optic uses a series of 36 colored rings in mil dot increments.

Using colored glass in an emerald tint and a slant sunshade across the forward bell, the optic on this scope is sun-fighting ready when you start shooting in intense light conditions. This system is an elimination external adjustment settings unit.

The manufacturer indicates that the turret zero locking system is repeatable. The unit is sold with a full lifetime warranty in case there is ever an issue with the scope. The scope retains ¼ MOA clicks, making it paired with current ballistic data generated material.

In other words, the scope understands firing solutions (DOPE) and responds with its maximum range limits.

Parallax adjustable provides a clear, clean image even for distance shooting. This has a whole lot of added tools for a very modest price tag. This scope is totally waterproof and resistant to adverse weather conditions. It also features a nitrogen filled sealed tube system.

Available at Amazon

The price of UTG 3-12-44 30mm Compact varies, so check the latest price at Amazon.

best scope for 6.5 creedmoor

When searching for the best rifle scope that is priced right for your AR-15, the Leupold VX-1 in the 2-7X33MMa compact model is a workable solution. This is the youngster in the VX line as it is smaller, less complicated and far less expensive than its fellow brand members.

Currently, I shoot no less than six Leupold scopes on an assortment of rifles. I know the brand well and will defend it to the last scope standing. This light-duty model is not American-built, but an import. Even so, the scope must meet Leopold's requirements to say alive in the company's inventory.

best long range scope for 6.5 creedmoor

The VX-1 retains an aluminum one-piece housing crafted from 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum and carries a 3:1 zoom ratio erector system for sighting targets at longer range limits. The unit uses the Leopold fast focus eyepiece and retains a multicoat 4 lens system for very high-grade clarity.

Leupold freedom glass

Tech data: Objective Lens diameter 33mm with a tube diameter of 1 inch. Matte finish surface treatment that reduces glint in hunting or tactical situations. Adjustment click values 0.25, with an adjustment range of 60 MOA. Total weight 9.9oz, with a length of 11.3 inches.

Available at Amazon

The price of Leupold VX-1 varies, so check the latest price at Amazon.

budget ar scope

Mounted on 338 Lapua This is a one-mile target rig.

I know what you're going to say, "What on earth is a 22 rimfire scope doing in an AR-15 class review covering optics?" The bottom line is that TRACT optics are so damn good that their 22 LR scope will fit right in as a .223 chamber AR-15 class rifle.

TRACT is a young company that is building rifle scopes that outclass much of the competition because there is no middle man. I now shoot the TRACT optical system on my 1-mile Montana 1999, 338 Lapua, and a selected 6.5 Creedmoor in the Ruger Hawkeye. The result has been a totally awesome performance.

Because my task is to keep this material inside a $200 scope budget, I selected TRACT because I know for a fact that this glass is not worth $200, but at least $400 and some change.

By selling direct and through Amazon, the scope manufacturer does not have to bleed off profits. So, they can build a scope for far less money than others. Put this scope on your AR and you have $400 in glass right from the get-go!

Now, that's a winner no matter how you cut it.

This scope in the 22 Fire 4-12X40 is a 'big rifle' glass and it shows. I have switched out many of these systems in several brands. They work well even when designed for rimfire cartridges.

The TRACT 22 Fire carries outstanding glass that will not rainbow color the reticle edges but retains clear images, even at longer ranges.

Built of high-quality materials, this scope carries a lifetime guarantee for the first buyer and all others as well. That is something you never see in the industry. This is how sure TRACT optics is of their product.

Even though this is a small light rifle unit, it is mounting a turret system as found on 'big rifle' glass. When coupled with the T-Plex sub tensions, you will have very accurate bullet placement to extended range limits.

This great scope will not be found in stores, but directly through the manufacturer or on Amazon.

Available at Amazon

The price of TRACT 22 FIRE 4-12X40 varies, so check the latest price at Amazon.

best budget ar 15 scope

Burris Long Range scope mounted on the Ruger chassis rifle in 338 Lapua. Burris can take a pounding and still do the job.

Built as an entry level optic, the Burris 3-9 X40mm Fullfield II Plex rifle scope is a positive start when selecting good optics for the AR-15. Covered under a lifetime warranty and built with high standards in mind, this scope will last and do the job well for the shooter.

Burris scopes are a standard in my inventory of optical system here at Ballistics Research & Development. From the heavy 338 Lapua and 50 BMG rifles to lightweights like Rimfires and AR platforms, this scope has performed well across the board (model dependent on caliber use). 

This scope is built as a one-piece construction system and is gas sealed, waterproof. and fog-proof for field applications. The lens system makes use of the Burris Hi-Luma Multicoated process.

Using the Burris scopes for long-distance applications, I have found turret adjustments to be spot on with positive clicks at 1/4 MOA. It has good repeatability from an advance rotation for elevation and a return to the original zero. 

Available at Brownells

The price of Burris 3-9 x 40mm Fullfield II varies, so check the latest price at Brownells.

Red dot scopes are very popular among AR-15 shooters when the rifle is set up for fast shooting three-gun or other combat games that address close-range combat-style scenarios. This selected sight is a budget scope for an entry-level optics choice.

The optic retains eight different optics settings in terms of brightness, with an offsetting between each change in illumination. It is set up to look like the housing on an ACOG military sight, though it is not that system at all. ACOG is very expensive and designed for military use on a 556 NATO M-4 combat rifle.

The mounting system on this sight will apply to most AR-15 platform mounts. That takes into account that the Red Dot for AR-15 rifle meets most of the requirements when selecting varied mount system. Believe me when I tell you that there are more of them than one can count on the market today. 

Available at Amazon

The price of Bushnell AR  Red Dot Sight
 varies, so check the latest price at Amazon.

I have run this best red dot sight on crossbows and light rifles as night vision 
or low light setups (22 LR's) for years. The Enrage Red Dot sight at 1X2 MOA Dot is tough as nails and just keeps going regardless of the field conditions. 

I have harvested more than 18 buck whitetail deer in the past 15 years with this optic and only changed out the battery three times in all that use. The optic uses a standard Picatinny-style rail mount found on almost every sight system set up in rifles nowadays.

It is well designed for close quarter use, but I would not recommend this unit for distance shooting exceeding 100 yards when applied to big game applications.

The optic is gas filled and sealed for weather conditions in the field. I had outstanding service on my system until more than 100 hours in a tree stand, spot and stalk hunting, then a glitch came about in the light system itself.

No worries mates, I have been more than satisfied with the unit.

Available at Opticsplanet

The price of Bushnell AR Optic Enrage Red Dot varies, so check the latest price at Opticsplanet.

good ar15 scope

Here is the final scope being covered in this review and, as such, it is the most comprehensive of the whole group. Call this a 4-in-1 setup, because it can do just about everything an ultra complete reflex sight does.

The Pinty retains both green and red reticles (lighted) and these sub tension options carry 5 levels of light each. Dim low-light or bright light, this outfit has the bases covered.

The magnification level runs from 3X up to 9X. 

The unit has 4 different sub tension displays built in, including the HUD sight (holographic clear high resolution window). It also retains a green laser that can be zeroed as a direct fire sight, and all this is tacked into a Weaver-style rail mount that allows the unit to be installed in under a minute.

 Pinty Rifle Scope

Available at Amazon

The price of Pinty Rifle Scope 3-9X32  varies, so check the latest price at Amazon.

15. Nikon 6729 ProStaff 4-12X40

Nikon-Prostaff-Rimfire-Scope-2

The Nikon ProStaff optical line covers a wide range of scopes. I use several of these scopes on AR platform rifles.

The AR is changing with the addition of the very hot .224 Valkyrie cartridge to the basic AR-15 receiver/platform line. The AR-15 is now a 1,300-yard rifle and more when you push past the standard .223 Remington round.

best-ar-15-scope-under-200

.224 Valkyrie AR-15 with ProStaff long-range tactical application.

This aluminum tube-constructed scope has a 4X12X40 magnification setting system that uses a close-cap turret. The scope was designed for hunting applications and not static longer-range or tactical work.

The BDC reticle is a Nikon standard, and it has its own Nikon sighting language.

Nikon-Prostaff-Rimfire-Scope-1

This scope has a nitrogen filled tube, an O-ring sealed housing, and is water-, fog- and shock-proof. This basic optic is classed as a compact-type scope unit.

best-budget-ar-scope

Author with ProStaff long range on a ,224 Valkyrie.

The scopes in this price range are designed for novice applications. For a professional, or a shooter that runs three-gun competitions or other advanced gun games, it would be best to pass on these budget systems and move to a higher quality scope. For general use, however, the optics described here are a good buy.

References:

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L.P.Brezny has been writing and reviewing products as well as how to projects for the past 50 years. He has authored four books on shooting with three on long range, and one covering shotgunning.(Amazon) With 26 years in a metro police department as a street officer and the rank of SGT / training L.P. has covered all the bases regarding weapons and street survival.

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