9 Best Lightweight & Compact Rifle Scopes – Reviewed

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Let’s be honest. When it comes to rifle scopes, size matters. Generally speaking, the shorter and lighter you can get your rifle scope, the easier it will be to maneuver and balance on your rifle. If you have a light-weight rifle, then a heavy riflescope can quickly make it unwieldy, and if you already have a heavy rifle, the last thing you want to do is add even more weight to it.

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Products

BEST FOR VIVID IMAGE

Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x24 Riflescope

Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x24 Riflescope

  • Diameter: 24mm
  • Magnification: 1-6x
  • Length: 10.5 in
BEST FOR DURABILITY

UTG 3-9x32 BugBuster Scope

UTG 3-9x32 BugBuster Scope

  • Diameter: 32mm
  • Magnification: 3-9x
  • Length: 8.11 in
BEST FOR STABILITY

Simmons Truplex 3-9x32 .22 Mag Riflescope

Simmons Truplex 3-9x32 .22 Mag Riflescope

  • Diameter: 32mm
  • Magnification: 3-9x
  • Length: 12 in
BEST FOR CLARITY

Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn 3-9x40 Circle-X Reticle

Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn 3-9x40 Circle-X Reticle

  • Diameter: 40mm
  • Magnification: 3-9x
  • Length: 11.5
BEST FOR FLEXIBILITY

Nikon ProStaff 2-7x32 Black Matte Riflescope

Nikon ProStaff 2-7x32 Black Matte Riflescope

  • Diameter: 32mm
  • Magnification: 2-7x
  • Length: 11.5
BEST FOR BRIGHT IMAGE

Leupold VX-Freedom 2-7x33mm Compact Riflescope

Leupold VX-Freedom 2-7x33mm Compact Riflescope

  • Diameter: 33mm
  • Magnification: 2-7x
  • Length: 11.04 in
BEST FOR ACCURACY

Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35 Riflescope

Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35 Riflescope

  • Diameter: 35mm
  • Magnification: 3.5x
  • Length: 8.7 in
BEST FOR CLOSE RANGE

Primary Arms SLX Compact 3x32 Gen II Prism Scope

5-Primary-Arms-SLx-2.5x-Compact-Prism-Scope-Review

Primary Arms SLX Compact 3x32 Gen II Prism Scope

  • Diameter: 32mm
  • Magnification: 3x
  • Length: 5.59

There are some trade-offs when you’re looking for a compact riflescope; it takes more intensive engineering to achieve the same optical quality in a smaller and tighter frame, which often makes them more expensive, less durable, or with a smaller magnification range.

Best Compact Rifle Scope For the Money [9 Best Scopes]

1. Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x24 Riflescope

compact riflescope

There are a lot of reasons why Vortex often sits right at the top of my lists. Vortex makes lightweight scopes in price ranges all the way from just a few hundred dollars up to a few thousand dollars. Their more expensive compact scopes hold up well in their class, but the more budget optics they offer are incredible for the price. The Strike Eagle 1-6x24 is no exception.

The Strike Eagle is a Low Power Variable Optic (LPVO). LPVOs are rapidly gaining popularity because they are so versatile. 6x may not seem like much, but with practice you can take shots at 300 yards. Combine that with opening all the way up to one-power and you have something akin to a red dot, although with more parallax which is fixed at 100 yards.

The Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x is only 10.5 inches long and weighs 18.5 ounces. This makes it a few inches shorter than a lot of “standard” riflescopes and about the same weight. The reticle is illuminated and on the second focal plane. You have a BDC reticle to help calculate the drop at different distances.

This compact rifle scope is constructed with an anodized aluminum tube with their proprietary lens coating on the objective and the eyepiece.

Depending on what type of scopes you’re used to, you may not consider this Vortex riflescope to be on the cheaper end, but to me, “for the money” just means that it outperforms expectations at a certain price range.

The Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x24mm

Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x24 Riflescope

The price of Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x24 Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

Want to know more about that scope? Check out our detailed Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x24 Riflescope

2. UTG 3-9x32 BugBuster Scope

compact rifle scope

If the Vortex is a little more money than you want to spend, the BugBuster riflescope from UTG 3-9x is a great choice. If you’re looking for something simple, functional, light, and short that gives you a standard 3-9x range, then the BugBuster riflescope is a great option.

This thing only weighs 13 ounces and is less than 10 inches long. Despite that, it actually feels pretty solid. Given the price tag and the compact size, I wouldn’t use this on a rifle chambered in anything stronger than a 5.56. It might be able to hold up to 7.62x39mm, but it’s a chance that I wouldn’t personally take.

It comes with mounting rings, lens caps, and a lot of the hard work already done for you so you can slap it onto the picatinny rail on your MSR or AR and sight it in almost immediately. The eye relief is a little short, though, especially at 9x, so you will probably want to start by mounting it as far back as you can, and you may still need to adjust your stock forward a bit.

You get a lot of bang for your buck with the BugBuster. It comes with an illuminated mil-dot reticle with both red and green options and an adjustable objective to set your parallax anywhere from 3 yards to infinity. 3 yards is closer than I would ever want to shoot with 3x, so the parallax range should cover every shooting situation you find yourself in.

UTG 3-9x32 BugBuster Scope

The price of UTG 3-9x32 BugBuster Scope varies, so check the latest price at

Looking for more details about that scope? Here is the detailed utg 3-9x32 bugbuster scope review

3. Simmons Truplex 3-9x32 .22 Mag Riflescope

compact scope

The Simmons is not short, but it is really light. It’s technically a bit heavier than the BugBuster, but it feels lighter because the weight is spread out further. This is an important consideration when looking at compact riflescopes: you might automatically think that you want something as short and light as possible, but a lightweight compact scope that spreads out its weight over a longer tube can be easier to maneuver than a shorter one.

The windage and elevation turrets are low-profile and this riflescope is even more affordable than the BugBuster. The Simmons riflescope is designed for .22 and .17 HMR rifles. Do yourself a favor and don’t use this on anything more powerful than a .22.

There are plenty of reports of the optics inside not even surviving long-term against the recoil from a .22, but most of the Simmons do fine.

That said, considering the price point the Simmons is a quality lightweight scope and is definitely punching above its weight. I would consider the Simmons to be the ultimate .22 plinking riflescope; it’s not going to do well in low-light, it doesn’t have adjustable parallax, no illuminated reticle, nothing fancy at all, but it will get you out as far as your .22 can go.

Reticle is a “TruPlex” which is just crosshairs that don’t go all the way to meet in the middle. The Simmons comes in the silver, which some think looks high-quality, but you can also get it in matte black.

Simmons Truplex 3-9x32

The price of Simmons Truplex 3-9x32 varies, so check the latest price at

4. Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn 3-9x40

7-The-Bushnell-Banner-Dusk-&-Dawn-3-9x40mm-1-Review

This Bushnell is short and light. Not as short as the BugBuster or the Vortex, but noticeably shorter than the Simmons. It only weighs .78 pounds, and it takes you from 3x-9x with a 40mm objective lens diameter. Its low light performance and image quality will be better than the Simmons, but it’s also a little more expensive.

I consider the Simmons, Bushnell, and even the BugBuster to be in the same class and all serve basically the same purpose at basically the same price point. The reticle is the “circle-x” style reticle, which is weird. It’s a duplex, but in the center is a small circle with with an x inside that, in my opinion, kinda just clutters up the target area instead of helping.

The “Dusk & Dawn” refers to the multi-coating that Bushnell puts on their lenses, and it’s not bad. It’s not going to compare to a Leupold and certainly not a NightForce, but especially considering how affordable this riflescope is it’s damn good at long distance and in low-light conditions. It even comes with lens covers.

If you’re looking for a budget compact scope for something with more kick than a .22 or 5.56, this is probably the one to get. The Simmons is ideal for a .22, the BugBuster great for a 5.56 MSR or AR, and this Bushnell riflescope would be the best for something with more kick. This has been doing just fine on a 30-06 so it can handle some real recoil.

Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn

Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn 3-9x40

The price of Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn 3-9x40 varies, so check the latest price at

If you are looking for more options with same magnification, then must check out guide on best 3-9x40mm scopes

5. Nikon ProStaff 2-7x32 Black Matte Riflescope

compact scopes

Yes, I know Nikon isn’t making riflescopes anymore, but you can still find plenty of Prostaff’s around and ironically being discontinued made them even better for the money because they’re cheaper than they used to be. Nikon makes good glass, and you’ll get a clear, bright image through this riflescope. The image will be plenty sharp as well.

2-7x is a decent middle ground between 3-9x and 1-6x, so if you’re going to be doing more close range shooting and don’t want 3x, short-range compact scopes like this one are better than longer range. Zeroing is quick and easy, and having the reticle not on the first focal plane actually makes it easier for things like varmint shooting (in my opinion).

2x should allow you to comfortably shoot almost as close as a one-power because it won’t limit your field of view too much. That said, target acquisition will be quicker with a one-power, and shooting with both eyes open will be easier. Shooting with both eyes open is certainly possible with this lightweight scope at 2x, but it won’t be quite as nice as something that goes to 1x like the Vortex.

Not a lot of bells and whistles on this riflescope; it has no reticle illumination and no parallax adjustment. No MOA or mil-dot reticle here, just simple crosshairs. It’s a tough, durable and compact scope that should be able to handle the recoil of anything up to a .308. It has great light transmission for the price point and an overall good riflescope for the money.

Nikon ProStaff 2-7x32 Black Matte

The price of Nikon ProStaff 2-7x32 Black Matte  varies, so check the latest price at

6. Leupold VX-Freedom 2-7x33mm

lightweight rifle scope

I’ll admit upfront that I’m a Leupold fanboy, so I’m a big fan of their VX-Freedom line. Much like Vortex, the R&D that Leupold puts into their top-of-the-line riflescopes trickles down into their budget offerings and makes them incredible in their price range.

The 2-7x range is the same as the Nikon, but the Leupold has a number of advantages. First is the Twilight Light Management System which maximizes image clarity and brightness better than anything else I’ve seen short of a couple thousand dollars. The reticle is simple and straightforward.

You also get Leupold’s lifetime warranty. They warranty every one of their scopes and will repair or replace any damaged scope no matter how long ago it was purchased, and even if it has since been sold to another person. The warranty follows the scope, not the person who buys it new.

Like most compact scopes, this won’t have illumination or parallax adjustment, and your magnification range will be limited. You can get a VX-Freedom with longer magnification, but you’ll also increase size and weight (and price) to do so.

There are two reticle options with this lightweight scope: there’s the rimfire MOA reticle and the Hunt-Plex. The rimfire MOA has elevation lines in lieu of a BDC reticle.

Unlike most compact scopes, however, the VX-Freedom is held to excruciatingly high standards of durability and is constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum. If you’re wanting a compact scope that you can mount on virtually any rifle you want, the Leupold has the best chance of survival of any compact scope on this list, with the possible exception of the Trijicon.

Leupold VX-Freedom 2-7x33mm

The price of Leupold VX-Freedom 2-7x33mm varies, so check the latest price at

Want to know more about best leupold scopes ? Check out our guide on

7. Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35 Riflescope

compact rifle scopes

This is where the idea of “for the money” meaning the same thing as “budget” goes completely out the window. ACOGs are not cheap, but they are incredible scopes even considering their price point. The ACOG is a prism scope and has a fixed magnification of 3.5x. This makes it very much a tactical scope and Trijicon designed it for military use.

The ACOG scope is good for hunting in low light, for law enforcement, military, and militia use. I hesitate to recommend it for home defense because the 3.5x is likely to be too much in a lot of those situations. If you’re able to choose your own optic for your duty rifle, or you’re purchasing for a department, the ACOG is a proven choice for a compact riflescope.

It’s only 8 inches long, which makes it one of the shortest on this list, and only weighs 14 ounces. It uses Trijicon’s battery-free illumination courtesy of the fiber optics and Tritium. The fiber optic illuminates the reticle in the daytime and Tritium keeps it bright enough to be visible in the darkness. Technically the Tritium is illuminating during the day as well but it’s not really bright enough to see.

This is also a great choice for some competition shooters. If you do 3-guns that allow magnification, the ACOG will definitely help with target acquisition. Obviously, this wouldn’t be a good fit for long-range precision shooting competitions or matches that do not allow magnification.

The sunshade helps it perform in bright, CQB scenarios, and the ACOG is compatible with night vision.

Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35 Riflescope

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

You may want to know about best ACOG clones and alternatives? Check out our guide.

8. Primary Arms SLX Compact 3x32 Gen II 

lightweight scopes

If you like the idea of the ACOG but don’t have that kind of money just laying around, then a good alternative to consider is the Primary ARMS SLX. It is also a prism scope, also gives you a fixed magnification, and is also designed with military and law enforcement in mind. Essentially everything the Trijicon is designed to do, the SLX is designed to do, just slower and not as well.

The biggest difference is strength and durability. The SLX will hold up fine to recoil, but the Trijicon is practically bombproof. After a nuclear explosion the only things left will be cockroaches and ACOGs. And the ACOG will still be holding zero and illuminating the reticle when someone finds it 10 years later.

Jokes aside, if you’re mounting the SLX on a duty rifle, it’s less likely to stay functional if it gets hit with something. It also requires a battery for illumination, which is the norm, but it’s something to consider.

All that being said, the SLX is a high-quality, shockproof scope with windage and elevation adjustments. The ACSS reticle is really handy and you can get it in 5.56 NATO or 7.62x39 versions that shows the bullet drop over certain distances for those rounds, which effectively extends the range you can shoot at effectively with the SLX riflescope.

Primary Arms SLX Compact 3x32 Gen II Prism Scope

Primary Arms SLX Compact 3x32 Gen II

The price of Primary Arms SLX Compact 3x32 Gen II varies, so check the latest price at

You may want to know about primary arms Gen III 3x32 scope, Here is the detailed Primary Arms Gen III 3x32mm review

Buying Guide

Alrighty, now that we’re through our recommendations, let’s go over a few important things to think about when you’re looking at compact rifle scopes.

Honorable Mentions

Most of the scopes I considered didn’t make the cut because they’re just not compact enough, but there are a couple red dots I almost put on here. The Holosun 510C is a great red dot with a lot of features, impressive battery life, and a wide field of view, and will be in the same price range as the Vortex Strike Eagle and Leupold VX-Freedom.

Holosun 510C

Want to know more about that scope ? Check out our detailed Holosun 510C review.

The other red dot I was considering was the Sig Sauer Romeo5. It’s another solid red dot that is about half the price of the 510C. It’s a reflex sight where the Holosun is a holographic sight, and is the tube design which limits your field of view a bit more but still works great. In my experience, if you’re shooting the same way every time like you should be, the wider field of view from the 510C doesn’t make much of a difference.

Sig Sauer Romeo5

NightForce is a maker of high-end premium riflescopes, and they have a “compact” scope called the NXS 2.5-10x42. They accurately call it the “biggest...little scope on the market”. It’s certainly compact for a NightForce scope at only 11.9 inches and 20.5 ounces, but it’s heavier than longer than any of the scopes that made the list.

NightForce-NXS

If you’re looking for long-range up to 10x, though, and you’re willing to spend a pretty penny for a relatively compact one, you’ll get unparalleled image quality, durability, adjustable parallax, an illuminated MOAR or MIL-R reticle, and NightForce’s ZeroStop elevation turret. Both reticles have hash marks along both axes.

It’s really a fantastic scope, but it’s a little too big, a little too heavy, and a little too expensive to make the list.

A Little About Compact Rifle Scopes

Defining “Compact”

There is no set definition of what qualifies as a “compact” rifle scope and what does not. Red dot sights designed for rifles can be as short as a couple inches and weigh next to nothing, so compared to that a scope that’s almost a foot long and weighs around a pound doesn’t seem all that compact.

Compared to a high-end, high-magnification scope that weighs two pounds and is 14-15 inches long, though, being shorter and a lot lighter may seem like it makes the cut. For our recommendations above, I considered anything that was either less than a foot long or lighter than a pound, but not necessarily both.

A good example is the Vortex Strike Eagle. It’s short but it’s not really light. Each shooter needs to decide what they actually need to be compact: length, weight, or both. If you have a light rifle, you may find that you actually want a longer scope to spread the weight out and keep the rifle balanced and easy to maneuver.

For my Smith & Wesson M&P 15 I opted for a red dot mounted pretty far back because it just felt right to have the weight there and worked with my shooting style.

For the list of recommendations, I did my best to cover a wide range of priorities when it comes to compactness.

Prism vs. LPVO vs. HPVO

When you’re talking about compact scopes, prism scopes are bound to come up. The technical and mechanical differences between a prism scope and a lens scope aren’t really relevant to this discussion, just know that a prism scope uses prisms to focus the light and create the image instead of lenses.

Prism scopes don’t have variable magnification. It is my understanding that the way they are constructed does not allow for the image to be zoomed in or out beyond what it is initially set to. I could be wrong, but I have never seen a prism scope with variable magnification. The trade-off here is that the image sharpness, brightness, and clarity are all fantastic with prism scopes.

Part of this is likely the fact that they don’t have to deal with different zoom lengths and it’s easier to maximize the quality of an image at a certain magnification than it is to maximize the quality at all levels of a zoom range.

LPVO stands for Low Power Variable Optic, and this basically means a scope that goes down all the way to one-power (or possibly two-power) and goes up from there, usually no further than 6x, though some options from Vortex are now going up to 8x. Most compact scopes will be LPVOs, or at maximum a 3-9x. The versatility of an LPVO is hard to beat.

The higher the magnification, the longer the scope needs to physically be to provide it just based on how physics works. For this reason, High Power Variable Optics are not usually compact, at least not by most people’s definition of the word.

Choosing The Best Compact Scope For the Money

What Does “For the Money” Mean to You?

I touched on this above, but for those who missed it, “for the money” can mean different things to different people. I define “best for the money” as outperforming expectations at a given price point. With this definition, a $2,000 scope can be best for the money the same as a $100 scope can.

Everyone has a certain price range in mind when they start looking for a rifle scope, and I kept the recommendations more on the budget end because most of us can’t (or won’t) drop more money than we spent on our rifle on an optic to put on it. Not to say that we shouldn’t, just that we won’t.

If you are looking for a riflescope that is as affordable as possible while still being functional, you can look at the Simmons, the Bushnell, and the BugBuster. If you’re willing to spend a few hundred dollars but not ready to go nuts, the Vortex, Leupold, and Primary Arms SLX are good options. If you want to spend bigger money, the Trijicon is a good one to look at.

Magnification

Like with any scope purchase, magnification is one of the first things you should consider. If you’re an experienced shooter than you know all about this and have a good idea of what you need at different ranges, but if you’re buying your first scope or haven’t done a whole lot of shooting with optics, let me give you some information that I found helpful at that stage.

It’s easy to overestimate how much magnification you need for certain ranges. A lot of newcomers think they need 9x to shoot at 100 yards. Even if you’re shooting at clay pigeons hanging on a piece of cardboard, you probably only need ~4x to do it.

A general rule of thumb that I have found is that if I can hit a target of a certain size with iron sights at 50 yards, I just have to do the math to figure out how much magnification I need to hit that same target at longer distances. For example, at 100 yards, I would need 2x magnification to hit the same size of target. At 200 yards, I would need 4x magnification, etc.

That target may be only a few inches wide or it may be man-sized, but whatever you can hit at 50 yards with zero magnification, you can roughly expect to maintain the ratio as you go further out.

That takes practice, though. Even though a target at 200 yards with 4x magnification will appear the same size as it would at 50 yards with no magnification, your bullet’s trajectory will be different, wind may be a factor, and your own movements, breathing, and even heartbeat affect your shot placement more dramatically.

Eye Relief

You may run into issues with short eye relief when you’re looking at compact scopes. The worst offender here is the ACOG, but if you’re shooting a heavy-recoil round, make sure you double-check the eye relief on whatever scope you’re looking at before you buy.

Trade-Offs

Getting a compact scope comes with some natural trade-offs that you need to be aware of. The first that comes to mind is durability. Being lighter sometimes means being made with less material, which can mean that it won’t last as long when it’s subjected to recoil and harsh conditions.

The basics like being o-ring sealed to be waterproof, rainproof, shockproof, and fog-proof should still be here, though. Almost all compact scopes are nitrogen-filled to be fog-proof, while more expensive scopes will use argon and/or krypton.

Illumination also adds a lot of weight, so you won’t find very many illuminated scopes when you’re looking specifically for compact options, unless you are willing to pay more money, which brings me to my next point.

If you want to maintain the same durability and keep a lot of the features you could get with a standard-sized scope, you should expect to pay more for the privilege. It takes engineering to get a scope to do the same things while being smaller and lighter, so expect to pay more to get the same features out of a compact scope.

Final Thoughts

I hope this list was a helpful place to start as you’re looking at compact scope options. There are some incredible scopes out there at different prices, and while I haven’t personally used all of them, I’ve seen them used and talked to people who have used them in addition to doing my own research on their specs and performance, and I’m confident that each one of these options is good.

Have you used any of these scopes? Care to share your thoughts in the comments? Do they work well as compact scopes? Any scopes that belong on this list that I missed?

References

Featured Image The Daily Shooter

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