8 Best Rifle Scopes Under $500: High-End Performance on a Budget

best rifle scope under 500

There are plenty of high-quality, budget-friendly riflescopes out there that work well and won’t break the bank, but there are also a lot of traps out there that look nice and end up being total crap.

If you’re on a budget and wanting to buy a riflescope, then you’re in the right place. We’ve been hunting through Amazon and other retailers to find the best rifle scopes under $500, and testing them to see how good they really are.

best rifle scope under 500

Interested?

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Products

Athlon Argos BTR Gen I

Athlon Argos BTR Gen I

Athlon Argos BTR Gen I

  • Magnification: 6 - 24 x
  • Reticle: APMR FFP IR MIL
  • Tube Diameter: 30mm
  • Weight: ‎29.6 oz

Athlon Optics Midas HMR

Athlon Optics Midas HMR

Athlon Optics Midas HMR

  • Tube Diameter‎:30 mm
  • Magnification: 2.5 - 15 x
  • Reticle: Second Focal Plane (SFP)
  • Weight: 26 oz

Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn

Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn

Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn

  • Tube Diameter: 30mm
  • Magnification: 3-9X
  • Weight: 13 oz
  • Reticle: Multi-X

Bushnell Engage Riflescope

Bushnell Engage

Bushnell Engage Riflescope

  • Reticle: Deploy MOA
  • Magnification: 2 - 10 x
  • Weight:19.3 oz

Leupold VX-3i Riflescope

Leupold VX-3i

Leupold VX-3i Riflescope

  • Reticle: Second Focal Plane (SFP) 
  • Magnification:3.5 - 10 x
  • Tube Diameter: 1 in
  • Weight:14.7 oz

Nikon M-Tactical 3-12x42SF

Nikon M-Tactical

Nikon M-Tactical 3-12x42SF

  • Magnification: 3 - 12 x
  • Diameter: 30mm
  • Reticle: 30 mm
  • Weight: 20.5 oz

Primary ARMS SLx 1-8x Rifle Scope

Primary ARMS SLx

Primary ARMS SLx 1-8x Rifle Scope

  • Magnification: 1-8x
  • Tube Diameter: 30mm
  • Reticle: ACSS Raptor 5.56 FFP
  • Weight:17.9 Oz.

Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical FFP

Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical FFP

Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical FFP

  • Magnification: 4 - 16 x
  • Tube Diameter: 30mm
  • Reticle:First Focal Plane (FFP)
  • Weight:23.1 oz

Vortex Optics Strike Eagle

Vortex Optics Strike Eagle

Vortex Optics Strike Eagle

  • Magnification: 1 - 8 x
  • Tube Diameter: 30mm
  • Reticle: AR-BDC3
  • Weight:17.6 oz

During our testing, we found that these are the scopes that offered the best value for the money.

Let’s talk about what we looked for when choosing the best scopes, what you should keep in mind when picking one for your rifle, and why we like these particular scopes so much. We’ve got scopes for everything from general plinking to long-range shooting to hunting. 

Let’s get started.

Cheap vs Affordable: Why The Difference Matters When Choosing a Scope

When it comes time to buy a scope, it’s important to look at your needs and your budget, in order to find something that works. It’s worth remembering that some things just aren’t going to be possible at certain price points.

You’re just not going to get the same performance out of a $350 rifle scope that you are out of a $2,000 scope. That’s just not going to happen. There’s a reason there’s not a huge number of great night vision scopes out there under $500.

What we have to do instead is identify what we need our scope to do, and what we can get for our budget. There are plenty of scopes available for under $500, but if you’re looking for a super cheap version of a high-end scope, you’re going to have a bad time.

 It’s much better to go into this looking for the best $400 scope possible, rather than a $400 replacement for a $1500 scope.

What Should We Look For in a Rifle Scope Under $500?

So, how do we find the best scope in this price range?

I sure appreciate you asking. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re looking for a scope in this price range. 

Quality of Construction

Whatever scope we’re at, it needs to be something that is well made. There’s no excuse for a scope not to be able to hold a zero once you’re done sighting it in. All scopes at this price point should have repeatable and precise adjustments, even if it is a budget-minded scope. 

The best rifle scopes in this price bracket will still be made with solid materials like aircraft-grade aluminum, and will be waterproof and fogproof to survive inclement weather conditions. That means o-rings and gas purging of the scope tube.

best rifle scopes under 500

We also want clear, low-dispersion glass that has good light transmission. I’ve looked through cheapo $50 scopes with glass that is miles ahead of what was available even ten years ago, so there’s no excuse for a scope in the ~$500 range to have poor-quality glass.

Appropriate Magnification Range

This isn’t specific to just scopes in this price range, but one of the key factors when choosing a scope for your particular application is going to be choosing something with the right magnification range. 

A low-powered variable optic like the Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8x is great for competition and tactical shooting, but not so great for true long-range shooting. 

best scope under 500

A long-range scope for target shooting or varmint hunting will typically be in the 4-14x or 6-25x range. Standard hunting scopes typically have a magnification level in the 3-9x range, but can go higher for hunting plains game, or other animals that you typically shoot from a greater distance.

Adjustment Method

Are you going to be dialing windage and elevation for long-range shots, or do you make do with guestimating holdover on a duplex reticle?

For longer ranges, a quality scope will have reset turrets, a parallax adjustment (usually a side focus knob), and the ability to dial in at least your elevation so that you don’t have to guess at holdover and can instead confidently put your crosshair exactly where it needs to be

Reticle Style

Continuing on, make sure you pay attention to the reticle style you’re getting.

For a regular old hunting scope, a simple duplex reticle is probably fine. For more advanced target shooting, there are a variety of “Christmas tree” style reticles out there that allow you to quickly identify your windage and elevation holds, and compensate for drop and drift at longer ranges. 

BDC reticles are also good, as the bullet drop compensator makes it easy to know where your round is going to hit at distance, assuming your reticle is calibrated for your round choice.

best long range scope under 500

This is extremely helpful (if not vital) for making shots quickly from a cold bore when hunting or competing. 

Warranty & Support

No matter how cheap a scope is, the manufacturer should be willing to stand behind their product and provide a good warranty, and good customer support if you do have an issue.

All the scopes on this list either have a lifetime warranty, or at least a limited warranty and good customer support, so even if you do have an issue, you can rest easy knowing you can get it resolved quickly.

They also have a lot of aftermarket support in the form of third-party accessories like lens covers, sunshades, and the like. This is great if you’re wanting to build out an entire optical system including accessories from scratch and don’t have some of that stuff on hand.

Best Rifle Scopes Under $500: Reviewed

Alright, with all that out of the way, let’s look at some scopes. These are the ones that have done the best in all of our testing and evaluation, and I’d feel comfortable putting any of these on top of one of my rifles (and have, in most cases).

1. Athlon Argos BTR Gen I - Best Long-Range Scope Under $500

The Athlon Argos BTR is my go-to recommendation for anyone that asks for a budget-friendly long-range scope. This is perfect for an entry-level PRS rifle, long-range hunting rifle, or even just a fun gun that you want to reach out and hit something at extreme range with.

best scopes under 500

For about $400, you get a 6-24x50 scope with a first focal plane reticle (FFP reticles are much better than a second focal plane or SFP reticle for this type of shooting) and your choice of MOA or mil-dot reticles. You also get 10 yards to infinity adjustment on your parallax.

The lenses are fully multicoated for excellent light transmission, making it a good choice for hunters that are going after plains game, or small critters like prairie dogs or rock chucks. This lens coating also helps with scratch resistance.

The scope also has a precision zero-stop system that allows you to dial back to your zero, and a fast-focus eyepiece as well as exposed turrets that allow you to dial windage an elevation quickly and precisely when shooting at long distances.

The matte finish looks very sharp, and will also help keep your scope free of scratches and corrosion.

Overall, this is a great scope that I have used and abused for many years on a budget PRS build before I upgraded, and it never once let me down.

For something with this kind of magnification and with this feature set, it’s hard to do better for the price. This may be the best long-range rifle scope you can get at this price point.

Athlon Optics Argos BTR

Available at OpticsPlanet

The price of the Athlon Argos BTR Gen I varies, so check the latest price at OpticsPlanet.

2. Athlon Optics Midas HMR - Best Long Range Hunting Scope Under $500

Shifting more to the hunting side of things, we have the Athlon Midas HMR, which is more geared towards bagging whitetail than pinging steel.

best long range rifle scope under 500

The turrets are capped, so this is a set the zero and leave it alone type of scope, but it still has enough magnification to reach out and touch something with the 2.5-15x range. 

I really like the super low magnification on the low end and the 15x on the upper end because I hunt in a lot of varied areas, and sometimes I’m in some close-quarters like a swamp, and other times I’m on the edge of a big ole field and need the extra zoom.

The extra-low dispersion glass is crystal clear and is very, very bright in low-light conditions, which is perfect for getting in a few extra minutes of hunting time before the end of legal shooting hours. I also really love the 2.5x low end for the wider field of view and more forgiving eye box for faster target acquisition.

Speaking of low-light shooting, this one also has an illuminated reticle which is absolutely perfect for quick shots on the low magnification settings as well as those late afternoon and early morning shots when the light is bad.

Athlon Optics Midas HMR

Available at OpticsPlanet

The price of the Athlon Optics Midas HMR varies, so check the latest price at OpticsPlanet.

3. Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn

The Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn is another great hunting scope that’s super affordable. This one frequently goes on sale for as low as $75, making it one of the most affordable options on this list.

long range scope under 500

It’s pretty standard with a 3-9x magnification and a 40mm objective lens. Both the ocular and objective lenses are coated with Bushnell’s Dusk & Dawn Brightness (DDB) coating for superior light transmission, so the scope offers an extremely bright image, especially for the price.

The one-piece aluminum tube is nitrogen-filled so it is waterproof and fogproof like the more expensive options above.

Overall, we like this one because it gives you a really good entry-level scope for not a lot of money. It is also built around those all-important early morning and late evening hours when big game is most active. I don’t know about you, but every big buck I’ve ever killed has been in the near-darkness early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

With this scope, you have the best chance of making those shots with a less than $100 investment. 

Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn

Available at Amazon

The price of the Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn varies, so check the latest price at Amazon.

4. Bushnell Engage Riflescope

Stepping up from the Banner line we have another good scope from the Bushnell Engage series. This scope is still geared towards hunters, but it is also good for general range use and offers a step up in material quality over the Banner series.

best scope for 500 dollars

With this one you have the illuminated Mulit-X reticle which is basically a standard duplex reticle with an illuminated dot in the middle. Battery life is excellent at several hundred hours.

This dot gives you an easy point of aim in low light conditions, and you have 6 brightness settings that range from low-light settings to a full brightness option that’s well suited for quick shots in very bright ambient light.

The lenses here are coated with same light-enhancing DDB coating as the banner series, but you also get Bushnell’s EXO Barrier coating that helps repel oil, water, dust, and other debris to keep your view through the scope crystal clear at all times.

Bushnell Engage Riflescope

Available at OpticsPlanet

The price of the Bushnell Engage Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at OpticsPlanet.

5. Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40mm Riflescope

The Leupold VX-3i is one of the most revered hunting rifle scopes around, and with good reason. Like all Leupold scopes, it’s made of high-quality materials and is backed by Leupold’s lifetime warranty.

best illuminated rifle scope under 500

The scope itself is 100% waterproof, shockproof, and fogproof, and the classic Leupold duplex reticle (they invented the duplex reticle) is perfect for hunting most game at most common ranges. The 3.5-10x magnification is pretty much perfect for hunters as well, as this covers most ranges where we can take an ethical shot.

The one-inch tube is made out of extremely robust 6061-T6 aluminum, which can stand up to all sorts of abuse and harsh recoil with a smile. 

Finally, the lenses utilize Leupold’s DiamondCoat 2 coating that greatly improves light transmission and abrasion resistance to both help with those low-light shots and help keep your scope safe from scratches and the like.

Leupold VX-3i Riflescope

Available at OpticsPlanet

The price of the Leupold VX-3i Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at OpticsPlanet.

6. Nikon M-Tactical 3-12x42SF

Nikon’s M-Tactical SF scope has been making waves in the world of long-range shooting since it’s release. It’s sort of a mix of the Nikon Prostaff 5 and Nikon Monarch 3 with their spring-loaded instant zero reset turrets, with some new features added in. 

best tactical scope under 500

It is very affordable at under $350 most of the time, but comes packed with features that make it a great entry-level option for precision target shooters and long-range hunters alike.

The excellent Nikon glass here offers a very bright, high-contrast sight picture in a variety of lighting conditions, which is good for both hunters and target shooters/competitors. You also get a quick focus eyepiece.

Turret-wise, you have tactical-style windage and elevation turrets as well as a side focus parallax adjustment, all with coarsely knurled knobs that are easy to turn with or without gloves. I especially liked the big chunky knobs as they give you a good bit of extra purchase when you’re trying to dial your windage and elevation quickly.

Finally, this scope has a very generous eye relief and a shockproof design which combine to make it a very good option for heavily-recoiling calibers. I ran one on a .300 Win Mag for a while and it did just fine. Overall, it’s a quality optic that performs well in the field.

Nikon M-Tactical 3-12x42SF

Available at OpticsPlanet

The price of the Nikon M-Tactical 3-12x42SF varies, so check the latest price at OpticsPlanet.

7. Primary ARMS SLx 1-8x Rifle Scope

The Primary ARMS SLx 1-8x is a low-powered variable optic that is right at home on most any AR-15 or other tactical rifle. This one uses the illuminated ACSS-Raptor reticle for quickly judging distances and making the shot when it counts.

best rifle scopes under $500

The red reticle is full illuminated, and the finger-adjustable windage and elevation turrets are capped to keep your zero settings even when you’re bumping the scope around in the field. 

The fact that it’s an FFP reticle means you have what is basically a 2 MOA red dot at low magnification, and then you have the BDC and ranging functions of the ACSS reticle at high magnification ranges

And of course you get Primary Arms’ excellent lifetime warranty, so even if you do break something or something goes wrong, you’re covered forever. 

Primary ARMS SLx 1-8x

Available at Primary Arms

The price of the Primary ARMS SLx 1-8x Rifle Scope varies, so check the latest price at Primary Arms.

8. Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical FFP 4-14x

Like the Vortex Viper series, the entire Diamondback Tactical line is simply great. The Diamondback Tactical FFP 4-16x is easily in the running for the title of “best tactical scope for ar15 under $500”. 

best long range scopes under 500

This was actually the first scope I ever put on my Ruger Precision rifle way back when I first got into PRS shooting, and it was the perfect entry-level option for me. It’s currently living on my .300 WM hunting rifle and is going to soon take a trip with me out west to go after some Bighorn Sheep I think.

It uses Vortex’s frankly astounding glass and an FFP reticle that you can get in either MOA or Mil flavors depending on your preference. Turret adjustments are a little mushy on mine, but the newer models seem to have fixed this issue and ship with much more tactile tactical turrets (try to say that five times fast).

Overall, I trust this scope to put meat on my table and to help me hit steel at the upper limit of what my rifle is capable of. I can’t recommend it any higher than that.

Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical

Available at OpticsPlanet

The price of the Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical varies, so check the latest price at OpticsPlanet.

9. Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-8x

We’re going to end on one of my favorites in this price range, the Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-8x. This excellent LPVO features Vortex’s crystal-clear glass and awesome Dead-Hold BDC reticle for fast target acquisition in all kinds of conditions.

best rifle scope under $500

I’ve run this on 3Gun rifles for a lot of years (as have many other 3Gun shooters) and if it can handle getting smacked off barricades and slammed into dump barrels on several stages during each match, I’m confident it can stand up to whatever you care to throw at it.

The glass is crystal-clear, and the scope has tight, repeatable turrets that don’t’ seem to ever lose zero. The one thing you have to keep in mind is that the BDC on the second focal plane version is only accurate at the maximum magnification. The FFP version is accurate at all magnifications, but is a little more expensive.

Whichever one you decide to go with, you’ll have a very flexible optic that can handle almost any role.

Vortex Optics Strike Eagle

Available at OpticsPlanet

The price of the Vortex Optics Strike Eagle varies, so check the latest price at OpticsPlanet.

Final Thoughts

Finding a good optic doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, there are a number of great options that clock in well-under our $500 price point. 

All of these scopes have stood up to our testing and performed admirably, especially given their wallet-friendly price tags. 

Which of these rifle scopes did you like the best? Do you have experiences with any of them to share? Let us know in the comments!

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