Best Illuminated Reticle Scopes [Reviewed in 2021]

If you’re wondering whether you can find a scope with the magnification range you want that also has an illuminated reticle, the short answer is yes. If you want more than just a short answer, you’re in the right place. We’re going to go over nine of the best-illuminated reticle scopes we could find and how these scopes made the list.

We’ll also go over what makes the best illuminated reticle scopes besides just the reticle illumination. The best illuminated scope will have more than just an illuminated reticle; it will do well in low light conditions, give you fast target acquisition, be waterproof and fog-proof, and give the shooter as many choices as possible.

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Products

BEST FOR RELIABILITY

Vortex Optics Crossfire II Rifle Scope 3-9x50mm 

Vortex Optics Crossfire II Rifle Scope 3-9x50mm 

  • Diameter: 50mm
  • Magnification: 3-9x
  • Length: 12.7 in
BEST FOR CRYSTAL IMAGE

Athlon Optics ARGOS BTR 6-24x50 FFP Riflescope

Athlon Optics ARGOS BTR 6-24x50 FFP Riflescope

  • Diameter: 50mm
  • Magnification: 6-24x
  • Length: 14.1 in
BEST FOR LONG RANGE

Burris XTR II 8-40x50mm Illuminated Reticle RIflescope

Burris-Optics-XTR II

Burris XTR II 8-40x50mm Illuminated Reticle Riflescope

  • Diameter: 50mm
  • Magnification: 8-40x
  • Length: 16.68 in
BEST FOR HUNTING

Primary Arms 4-16x44mm Illuminated Mil-Dot

Primary Arms 4-16x44mm Illuminated Mil-Dot

  • Diameter: 44mm
  • Magnification: 4-16x
  • Length: 14.38 in
BEST FOR ACCURACY

Bushnell 1-4x24mm AR Optics Riflescope

Bushnell 1-4x24mm AR Optics Riflescope

  • Diameter: 24mm
  • Magnification: 1-4x
  • Length: 9.4in
BEST FOR DURABILITY

Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35

Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35

Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35

  • Diameter: 35mm
  • Magnification: 3.5x
  • Length: 8.7 in
BEST FOR BRIGHT IMAGE

Leupold VX-R 4-12x50mm Illuminated FireDot

Leupold VX-R 4-12x50mm Illuminated FireDot

  • Diameter: 50mm
  • Magnification: 4-12x
  • Length: 12.2
BEST FOR LONG RANGE

NightForce ATACR 5-25x56 Riflescope with Zerostop

NightForce ATACR 5-25x56 Riflescope with Zerostop

  • Diameter: 56mm
  • Magnification: 5-25x
  • Length: 14.3 in
BEST FOR WEATHER

UTG 3-12x44 Compact Scope

UTG 3-12x44 Compact Scope

UTG 3-12x44 Compact Scope

  • Diameter: 44mm
  • Magnification: 3-12x
  • Length: 14 in

Choosing The Best Rifle Scopes

Low-Light Conditions

An illuminated reticle scope isn't just for shooting in darkness; the best illuminated reticle scope will be bright enough that you can use it in daytime. That said, a black, etched reticle is usually harder to see in the darkness, so if you are in low-light conditions it is more important to have an illuminated scope.

Ideally, illuminated reticle scopes will also have great light transmission to allow the shooter to see as much detail through the scope as possible even in low light. If you can't see your target, it doesn't matter if you have the best illuminated reticle scope and the fanciest mil-dot reticle available. Finding the best illuminated reticle scopes often means finding an illuminated scope that also does well in low light.

Eye Relief

As any experienced shooter knows, for an illuminated reticle rifle scope to be the best for them, it has to have enough eye relief for them to shoot comfortably. Usually a distance between 3.5 inches and 4.5 inches is considered comfortable, though you can find an illuminated reticle rifle scope with longer or shorter if you look.

If you're looking for a scout rifle, you'll need a special kind of scope with longer eye relief. A scout scope should have somewhere between 7-15 inches, and usually the scope will have between 9-12 inches.

Reticle Design

The best illuminated reticle scope could be anything from a simple red dot to a mil-dot reticle and more. If you're a long-range shooter, the best illuminated scope for you would probably have a reticle with a BDC ladder or mil-lines to help guide you when you compensate at different distances. The further out you shoot, typically the slower your target acquisition is going to be.

Best Illuminated Reticle

For CQB or mid-range shooting, a simple dot reticle is probably the best bet. A reticle with unnecessary information isn't helpful for a shooter aiming at a nearby target, and a scope with a complicated reticle can make hitting that target harder instead of easier. The best illuminated scope will change based on what you are using the scope to do.

A reticle designed for hunting will be different from a reticle designed for home defense.

Construction and Build Quality

Each illuminated scope that we review below will be waterproof and fog-proof, and the best ones (like the ARGOS BTR), are made out of aircraft grade aluminum. Most illuminated scopes use nitrogen-purging to make the scope fog-proof, but some higher-end scopes have started using argon instead.

Being waterproof and fog-proof is only the start of the durability conversation, though. An illuminated scope should be tested to be able to handle the recoil of the rifle you will be putting it on. Recoil can damage illuminated reticle riflescopes so you can't see your target or use the scope at all.

You can find fog-proof and aircraft grade aluminum scopes all across the price spectrum, though, from the budget Primary Arms scope to the Athlon Argos BTR to the Nightforce illuminated scopes.

Short vs. Long Range Shooting

This is the underlying theme of most features in comparing each scope, and is one of the best questions to ask yourself first: what distance will you be shooting at? If you want a versatile scope that can hit a target at 100 yards then hit the next target at 500 yards, then you'll want a scope that has a wide magnification range starting from as low as 3x and going as high as 16x.

 500 Yards Range

The Primary Arms below is a good example of this, as is the Leupold VX and the UTG. If you want exclusively long range then basic mil-dot reticles may not be enough for you, and you may need one of the best reticles designed specifically for long-range shooting. Not all scopes come with reticles designed that way, but some will.

Most people, including hunters, want a scope to help them with long-range shooting, but a scope of some kind can be incredibly helpful with fast target acquisition and high accuracy at short range as well. Typically a scope designed for shooting a close-range target will have a simple red dot and forgiving eye box. They will also go all the way down to one power to keep your field of view wide.

Reviews and Reputation

This article is absolutely the right place to be, because checking the reviews of different scopes is the best way to learn the ins and outs of each scope that manufacturers won't put in their product listing. Even things as important as whether it's a first or second focal plane scope are hard to find information sometimes.

Little value-added features like a power change lever or a more forgiving eye box don't end up mattering nearly as much as the reviews of the scope and the reputation of the optics manufacturer. These reviews of these nine scopes should be helpful in finding a high quality illuminated riflescope for you.

9 Best Illuminated  Reticle Scopes

1. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-9x50mm (V-brite)

illuminated reticle scope

The Vortex Crossfire II comes with three reticle options, so to get the reticle illumination you need to make sure to select the V-Brite reticle option and not the V-plex. The V-brite illuminated reticle is a small 2 MOA dot with 11 brightness settings with red illumination. It’s simple, has good functionality, and is a good addition to the glass etched reticle design.

Adjustments on the windage and elevation turrets are .25 MOA so you’ll have the precision you need even at the top of the 3-9x magnification range that the Vortex Optics Crossfire II has. The construction on the Vortex is top-notch and should handle recoil just fine.

The Vortex Optics Crossfire II has fully multi-coated optics to increase light transmission, and with the 50mm objective lens, brightness should not be an issue. The Crossfire II is a good jack-of-all-trades rifle scope; it’s bright enough to be a hunting scope, precise enough for long distance shots at the range, and can open up to 3x for targets that are closer.

The reticle is on the second focal plane of the scope, and the eye relief is a comfortable 3.8-4.4 inches. The Crossfire II rifle scope also has Vortex’s fast focus eye piece to keep the reticle nice and sharp. Parallax is fixed at 100 yards, which makes sense for this magnification and price range. Adjustable parallax is nice to have, but it becomes more important as you go further out.

Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-9x50mm

The price of Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-9x50mm varies, so check the latest price at

2. Athlon Optics ARGOS BTR 6-24x50 FFP Riflescope

illuminated scopes

The illuminated reticle on the Argos BTR rifle scope is on the first focal plane, which makes it great for shooting all the way out to 24x. A first focal plane reticle grows and shrinks as you zoom in and out, staying in scale with the image in your target area. At 24x, the entire reticle is illuminated with red illumination and 11 brightness settings to match your conditions, with lines to either side for target leads.

The lenses are fully multi-coated with Athlon’s Xtra Protective lens coating, the tube is made out of 6061 machined Aluminum and is a 30mm diameter tube. Eye relief starts at 3.3 inches, which should still be comfortable and still give you enough to shoot with heavy recoil and still be safe.

You should get good durability with an Athlon scope, although they don't emphasize durability in their marketing specifically, few people have had issues with the scope breaking even in low temperatures.

The adjustment clicks on the elevation and windage turrets are .25 MOA, and the magnification range goes from 6x all the way up to 24x. 24x is a massive zoom, and even though it’s not the longest on this list, 24x can get you out past 1000 yards with practice. You get parallax, which is important for a scope with this range.

For big game hunting, you can take shots at 1000 yards with as little as 10x magnification, so the 24x makes this good for competition shooting and long-range precision shots

Athlon Optics ARGOS BTR 6-24x50 FFP

The price of Athlon Optics ARGOS BTR 6-24x50 FFP  varies, so check the latest price at

Want to know more about best FFP scopes? Check out our guide.

3. Burris XTR II 8-40x50mm Illuminated Reticle RIflescope

illuminated rifle scopes

As long as we’re talking about long-range precision rifle scopes, here is the Burris XTR II 8-40x. Your adjustments on your windage and elevation turrets are .125 MOA (most turrets are .25 MOA), which means they are adjusting at a ¼ inch at 200 yards. Consequently, this illuminated riflescope is not recommended if you intend to ever use it to shoot closer than 200 yards.

The minimum 8x magnification would make the field of view smaller than comfortable at 100 yards, unless you are aiming at very small, static targets. The 40x maximum can easily take you out to a mile, and you will almost certainly be limited more by the ballistics of your round and accuracy of your rifle than you are by your ability to see your target with this scope.

You get enough illumination settings with red to match your conditions, and the illuminated reticle is on the first focal plane, as you would expect from a rifle scope designed for long range. The illumination on the reticle is unique, in that you have the F-Class MOA reticle with an illuminated ⅛ MOA dot every 10 MOA along the crosshairs.

Eye relief is comfortable between 3.5-4.25 inches and the exit pupil is between 1.25mm and 6.25mm. The Burris lifetime warranty is well-known in the industry as one of the best out there.

Burris Optics XTR II

Burris XTR II 8-40x50mm Illuminated

The price of Burris XTR II 8-40x50mm Illuminated varies, so check the latest price at

Looking for more scope options by same manufacturers? Check out our detailed Burris XTR II 5-25x50mm review

4. Primary Arms 4-16x44mm Illuminated Mil-Dot

illuminated reticle rifle scope

If you’re not looking for ultra long range rifle scopes, then something with a bit more flexibility like the Primary Arms classic series may be the way to go. The magnification range goes from 4x to 16x, which still gives you the flexibility to hit targets that are far out, but also comfortably shoot at under 100 yards.

Eye relief is a bit short between 3.3 and 3.5 inches, but still enough for most cases. This rifle scope has a second focal plane reticle, which means it won’t be as good for those long range shots as some other scopes, but still usable in a pinch. You may get some distortion around the edges of the lens, especially in extreme temperatures, but for the price it's not a problem for a casual hunter to deal with.

This rifle scope is multi-coated, and you get side focus parallax adjustment along with .25 MOA adjustments on the windage and elevation knobs. All in all, this is a good basic scope. Your maximum click adjustment each way is only 30 MOA, but that should be enough for most situations.

Primary Arms 4-16x44mm Illuminated

The price of Primary Arms 4-16x44mm Illuminated varies, so check the latest price at

5. Bushnell 1-4x24mm AR Optics Riflescope

iluminated reticle

This Bushnell illuminated rifle scope is a bit of an odd duck. It’s an LPVO (low-power variable optic) with a magnification range of 1x-4x, but the illuminated version has a first focal plane reticle, which is usually reserved for long range scopes. The BTR-1 illuminated reticle is a red illuminated chevron with a dot. Battery life is competitive.

The lenses are multi-coated for good light transmission and image clarity, and the eye relief is about what you’d expect. The elevation and windage turrets adjust at .1 MIL per “click”, but the turrets themselves don’t actually click, so you have to keep a close eye on where the numbers on the turrets are. It comes with a black matte finish.

The objective lens seems much smaller at 24mm, but for the 1-4 x range it's common to see a lens around that size. The further the magnifications, the larger the lens needs to be, so at short range you'll get similar performance with a lower diameter lens.

With practice, most shooters can get out to 200 yards with 4x magnification, but this riflescope is more designed with 100 yards or less in mind. The illumination and 1x power make it a good choice for home defense and CQB scenarios.

Bushnell 1-4x24mm AR Optics Riflescope

The price of Bushnell 1-4x24mm AR Optics Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

6. Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35

illuminated scope

The ACOG needs no introduction. If you’re looking for a low power prism scope, then the Trijicon ACOG is one of the best you could select. The illuminated reticle uses tritium and a fiber optic cable and doesn't require a battery to maintain its brightness. Trijicon gives you a lot of reticle choices, including a bar reticle.

The adjustments on the windage and elevation turrets are .1 mil, which is about ⅓ MOA, and is plenty of precision for the distances you’ll be attempting with a 3.5x magnification. 3.5x is open enough that you can shoot at mid-range targets and even close-range targets using the Bindon Aiming Concept to shoot with both eyes open.

Since the magnification is fixed, there is no functional difference between an SFP reticle or FFP reticle. Since the illumination is battery-free, there also are not different brightness settings, but the fiber optics provide more illumination in bright light to keep the reticle visible, while the tritium glows enough in darkness to provide enough illumination in those conditions.

The Trijicon ACOG is designed for military and combat use, and has been in use by the US military since 1991. If you are rigging your gun up for defense or work as a law enforcement professional, then the ACOG is probably a great choice.

Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35

Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35

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

Check out our guide on best ACOG scopes, if you are looking for some other ACOG options 

7. Leupold VX-R 4-12x50mm Illuminated FireDot

lighted reticle scopes

If the idea of a versatile scope like the Primary Arms appealed to you but you’re willing to spend more money to get a high-end rifle scope, then this Leupold is a good bet. The elevation turret and windage turret have .25 moa adjustments and the illumination control knob has eight settings and motion sensor technology that will deactivate the illumination after 5 minutes of holding still.

Leupold has two priorities: astounding image clarity and tough, rugged construction. Light transmission on the Leupold will be phenomenal thanks to their proprietary multi-coating, and large objective lens. The 4-12x magnification will be versatile but lean more towards longer-range. Their lifetime warranty is fantastic and everything from the glass to the MOA turrets is covered.

The reticle is on the second focal plane, which makes sense given the distance it is designed to shoot in, and the eye relief is just fine at 3.7-4.3 inches. If you have shot with scopes before, it’s easier to understand the real value in the better image quality that comes with better glass and multi-coating, especially if you spend a lot of time looking through your scope.

Leupold VX-R 4-12x50mm Illuminated

The price of Leupold VX-R 4-12x50mm Illuminated varies, so check the latest price at

If you are fond of leupold scopes, then here is a guide for you: best leupold scopes.

8. NightForce ATACR 5-25x56 Riflescope 

illuminated reticle scopes

This rifle scope from Nightforce is by far the most expensive scope on this list, but it also has the most powerful performance. The magnification range is 5x-25x, the objective lens is 56mm, and the image clarity and light transmission are off the charts. The lenses are multi-coated and the reticle is on the second focal plane for those who prefer SFP for long distance.

The ATACR doesn’t just have incredible lenses, it also has impressive technology built-in. Their DigIllum technology gives you either red or green illumination and 5 brightness settings on each, as well a simple push button that is on the side focus knob (oh, by the way, it has parallax) so it doesn’t take up any extra space.

The adjustments on the windage and elevation turrets are .25 Minute-of-angle, and you have three choices of reticle. There’s the MOAR, the MOAR-T, and the Mil-R. All of them have the same basic crosshair design, but the compensating lines are drawn at different distances depending on which version you choose.

If you are a novice to scopes, even if you have no issues affording the Nightforce, I would recommend getting a more basic scope first and learning the ropes with it. You don’t toss the keys to a semi-truck or a Formula 1 to someone who has never driven a car before.

NightForce ATACR 5-25x56 Riflescope

The price of NightForce ATACR 5-25x56 Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

Nightforce is one of the elite scope making brand, if you looking for their scopes collection then check out our guide on best nightforce scopes.

9. UTG 3-12x44 Compact Scope

illuminated reticle scope

For the beginner, I instead might recommend this illuminated reticle scope from UTG. The price is much, much easier to swallow, and you still get a versatile range that you can get used to and slowly learn the weaknesses of. You get all the basics that you can expect from more high-end scopes like .25 MOA adjustment clicks for elevation and windage and parallax adjustment.

It has an etched reticle and the illumination goes beyond the standard red/green to provide 36 colors to choose from to illuminate your reticle. There isn’t a lot of practical use for having a blue, purple, or pink reticle, but it can be a fun way to experiment and keep things interesting while you’re learning the ropes.

The lenses are multi-coated and light transmission is decent, although your image quality will not be in the same class as the Leupold or the Nightforce. Your turrets are even resettable to zero once you’ve sighted it in. The reticle is on the second focal plane, and the finish is black matte.

UTG 3-12x44 Compact Scope

The price of UTG 3-12x44 Compact Scope varies, so check the latest price at

Looking for more compact scope options, Check out our guide on best compact scopes

Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ)

i. Are Illuminated Scopes Worth It?

They are absolutely worth it if they bring more clarity through the lenses while you're hunting. The entire goal of a scope is to help you shoot more accurately, and there are a lot of components to a scope that help you do that. If you need a brightened reticle then it's worth it; if you don't, it's not.

In addition to the illuminated reticles, also pay attention the power source (battery or tritium), how many intensity levels the reticles have, whether the design is good for hunting, how the image clarity is, and if the scope is o-ring sealed.

ii. Do I Really Need An Illuminated Reticle?

There are some hunting scenarios which would call for an SFP or FFP illuminated reticle riflescope. Any hunting scenarios where you need to look through the lens and see a target area that is similar in color to the black etched reticle would potentially call for illuminated reticles. If you'll be shooting in good lighting conditions at normal magnification levels then you may not need one, even for hunting.

Combining illuminated reticles and the right magnification settings can make accuracy while hunting or doing any other shooting easier to achieve. No illumination feature will make up for quality training and practice, but the clarity that having a nice, bright bullet drop compensation (BDC) ladder in rough weather conditions can bring is hard to dispute.

I also would not recommend prioritizing illumination with numerous brightness levels over things that will make a bigger difference, like the right magnification settings, having a tough, one-piece tube constructed of aluminum alloy, an o-ring seal, etc. 

It's common for a new hunter to favor a riflescope with bells and whistles but not the specifications it needs to meet the requirements of the shooting conditions.

Magnification power, protection from fog, durability, battery life, and quality control knobs are all more important than having a million power settings and superflous "accuracy tools".

iii. What Is An Illuminated Reticle Scope?

Illuminated reticles have a red or green (usually) light that highlights them and makes them more visible when the standard black glass-etched reticle would not be easy to see on its own. Reticles that are etched into the glass are black, which is all well and good unless your target area is darker, has lots of shadows, or has a lot of dark rocks or other objects in view.

Shining light on the lens brings up the visibility without affecting any of the light passing from the target area through the lens to your eye.

iv. What Makes a Great Illuminated Reticle Scope?

It's critical that the riflescope is compatible with your needs. If you have a night vision device you want to use, you'll need a high quality scope that is compatible with night vision. On the other hand, if you don't need a scope for use at night, then paying extra for night vision compatibility makes no sense. Having a high magnification scope is great for hunting in dusk and dawn.

Beyond the same things that make any scope great (good reviews, high quality optics, etc.), an illuminated reticle should have an adjustment range to control the brightness level. The exception is the ACOG, which has a set brightness level that the fiber optics and tritium can get. It's also good to pay attention to what portion of the reticle is illuminated and what's not.

If you're making long shots in dark conditions then you'll want the bullet drop compensator illuminated in addition to the center dot. Some reticles are fully illuminated, but most reticles only have a partial illumination, so pay attention to what will make your task easier.

v. Illuminated Reticle Scope vs. Non-Illuminated Reticle Scope

In the case of hunting, it can depend a lot on what exactly you are hunting. If you need to wait for the sun to go down, then having a lit reticle on your scope can be more important than a fast focus eyepiece or side parallax adjustment.

Thinks like maximum magnification, anti-reflective coating, lens size, and lens quality are similar between an illuminated riflescope and a non-illuminated riflescope. In fact, many a scope have illuminated and non-illuminated versions.

Final Thoughts

  1. Was this list helpful in finding a riflescope for you? You can pick up any of these at Amazon or Optics Planet for a good price. I know some shooters like to have the bright reticle even during the daylight to keep it easy to see, but I find that unless I'm shooting at night I prefer to just use the etched reticle.

What has been your experience using an illuminated reticle? Has it made a big difference for what you're doing? They certainly have an important place but it's hard to predict all the situations where they might be significantly better than just a standard reticle. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, especially if you have experience using any of the scopes we covered here today.

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