DEADLY FROM A DISTANCE: CHOOSING THE BEST SPR SCOPE

BEST SPR SCOPE

Are you interested in building a Special Purpose Rifle but aren't sure where to start when it comes to choosing the right optic? Properly setting up an SPR can be a challenge, especially if it's your first foray into the world of long-range shooting. 

Luckily, we've got you covered—we're going to break down exactly what an SPR is, what kind of optics best suit them, and which are our best picks for a rugged, reliable, and effective riflescope no matter what your budget is. Let's jump right in and clear up some basic information.

What Is An SPR? 

In the simplest terms, SPR stands for “Special Purpose Rifle.” If you're still wondering what exactly that means, bear with me for a second—it's a little bit complicated. Originally, the term SPR actually referred to “Special Purpose Receiver,” a modified upper receiver assembly that the US military included as part of the SOPMOD accessory system for rifles in use by Special Operations units.

Over time, the SPR became its own stand-alone weapon, which is when the term “Special Purpose Rifle” came into use. In terms of military doctrine, the SPR was designed to fill the gap between regular infantry rifles, which were typically used at ranges of up to 300 yards, and dedicated sniper rifles, which usually didn't come into play unless a target was 600 yards or more away.

The SPR's role was to give a squad a tool that could be used to accurately engage targets between those two ranges, which quickly became necessary in the open, mountainous terrain of Iraq and Afghanistan.

You might be thinking, “That sounds like a Designated Marksman Rifle!” And yes, there is quite a bit of overlap between the two. But the difference is in both how the rifle is set up and who is using it.

An SPR is typically put in the hands of a sniper-qualified shooter, and the rifle itself is usually equipped with parts and accessories you may not always see on a DMR, such as a suppressor, a free-float handguard, or match-grade barrels and triggers.

Now that you've got a better idea of what an SPR is, let's look at what kind of optics best suit the platform.

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Products

BEST FOR SHOOTING

Leupold VX-Freedom Riflescope

Leupold VX-Freedom Riflescope

Leupold VX-Freedom Riflescope

  • Magnification:1.5 - 4 x
  • Eye Relief:4.2 - 3.7 in
  • Weight:9.6 oz
BEST FOR HUNTING

Vortex Optics Crossfire II Riflescope

Vortex Optics Crossfire II Riflescope

Vortex Optics Crossfire II Riflescope

  • Magnification:2 - 7 x
  • Eye Relief:3.9 - 4.7 in
  • Weight: 14.3 oz
BEST FOR MID-RANGE

Bushnell AR Optics FFP Riflescope

Bushnell AR Optics FFP Riflescope

Bushnell AR Optics FFP Riflescope

  • Magnification:1 - 4 x
  • Eye Relief:3.6 in
  • Weight:1.1 Pounds
BEST FOR HUNTING

Leapers UTG 30mm Compact Scope

Leapers UTG 30mm Compact Scope

Leapers UTG 30mm Compact Scope

  • Magnification:3 - 12 x
  • Eye Relief:3 - 3.4 in
  • Weight: 23.1 oz
BEST FOR VERSATILITY

Leupold Mark AR MOD 1

Leupold Mark AR MOD 1

Leupold Mark AR MOD 1

  • Magnification: 3-9X
  • Eye Relief: 3.6 - 4.3
  • Weight:1.2 Pounds
BEST FOR FASTTARGET

Primary Arms SFP Gen III Illuminated Riflescope

Primary Arms SFP Gen III

Primary Arms SFP Gen III Illuminated Riflescope

  • Magnification:1 - 6 x
  • Eye Relief:3.3 - 3.5 in
  • Weight:16.9 Oz
BEST FOR DURABILITY

Trijicon AccuPower Riflescope

Trijicon AccuPower Riflescope

Trijicon AccuPower Riflescope

  • Magnification: 3-9x
  • Eye Relief:3.5 - 3.7 in
  • Weight:17 oz

Choosing The Right Magnification

Special Purpose Rifles are built for shooting in that 300-600 yard sweet spot, though obviously plenty of optics are capable of handling targets at closer ranges as well, and so it's important to choose an optic with that in mind. By the same token, it also depends on what you're going to be using it for.

If you're a collector looking to make a perfect clone of the SCAR Mk 17 SPR currently in use by Special Operations, your choice of scope is going to look very different from someone building an SPR for target shooting at an indoor range or hunting at mid-range distances. If you aren't planning on spending time in an active warzone, you probably don't need to shell out for the absolute top-of-the-line equipment unless you absolutely must have the best of the best.

Generally speaking, we recommend a scope that is capable of at least 4x magnification, though 8x is probably the sweet spot for most traditional SPR builds. Anything less than that is straying to close-range territory where you'd likely be better served by using a red dot or holosight instead.

Similarly, you don't want so much magnification that you're no longer able to engage targets inside of 300 yards if necessary—remember, an SPR isn't meant for extreme long-range shooting or sniping.

Other Factors To Consider

When it comes to putting together an SPR loadout, your optic isn't the only thing you need to to worry about. Long-range shooting requires your rifle to perform above and beyond what is necessary at shorter distances, and that means almost every part and accessory that goes into your rifle will have an impact on your ability to make precise shots.

For instance, a free-float handguard prevents pressure from being exerted on the barrel—not something you'd notice while shooting at close distances, but enough to throw a round off target at 600 yards. Similarly, a bad trigger will have a heavy trigger pull and noticeable creep that can have a surprising impact on your accuracy.

I personally run a Geissele 2-Stage trigger on my own AR and I can say without a doubt that I would never put a stock mil-spec trigger in any AR I was building with long-range shooting in mind—the difference will make you a trigger snob, and a bad trigger will turn shooting your SPR into an exercise in frustration.

Finally, I would highly recommend investing in a sturdy bipod if you plan on primarily shooting from a bench. There is nothing worse that missing shots because you're trying to awkwardly brace your rifle on top of a lumpy sandbag or backpack.

With all of that out of the way, lets get on to the scopes themselves. Here are our picks for the best SPR scope for every budget level

7 Best SPR Scopes

1. Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4x20mm Riflescope

spr optic

The name Leupold is synonymous with quality glass, and if you've ever stuck one on top of your rifle, you know their reputation is well-deserved. The VX-Freedom's price point may seem too good to be true at first glance, and it's true that it doesn't quite stack up to the higher-end Leupold scopes—but it does outperform plenty of other optics in this price range.

This scope is crystal clear and the reticle (I'd recommend going with the AR Ballistic reticle over the Pig-Plex for an SPR build)  is easy to pick up and very crisp, which is handy if you're like me and spend too much time in front of a screen. The VX-Freedom performs admirably in low light conditions too, thanks to Leupold's high-contrast multicoating. I'm a big fan of getting out early when I'm hunting, and this scope gives you a bit of extra shooting time during those dawn and dusk hours.

Eye relief is above average and the eyebox is roomy, but if your rifle has a fixed front sight, be aware that you'll probably see a bit of ghosting on the lowest magnification. Other than that, the only minor nitpick I have is that the windage and elevation adjustment knobs feel just a little soft, and I'd personally prefer uncapped tactical-style turrets for an SPR build.

Still, for this price you will be hard-pressed to find clearer, brighter glass, and you also get Leupold's usual rock-solid durability, with a scope that is waterpoof, fog proof, and shockproof, and backed by a generous warranty just in case.

Leupold VX-Freedom Riflescope

Leupold VX-Freedom Riflescope

The price of Leupold VX-Freedom Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

2. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7×32 BDC Riflescope

scope-for-spr

Vortex Optics is quickly becoming one of my go-to companies for high quality scopes on a budget, and the Crossfire II is a great example.

The Crossfire II boasts excellent optical clarity, and the reticle's convenient bullet drop compensation hashmarks let you quickly estimate holdover at longer distances, which is exactly the kind of feature you want in an SPR scope. The illuminated reticle is also night vision compatible at the lowest two settings. 

The fast focus eyepiece is another welcome feature – we've all had one of those situations where we were expecting to make a shot at 200 yards only to have a big buck wander into the open 50 yards away, so being able to quickly refocus throughout the entire magnification range with a quick twist of the wrist could be the difference between a freezer full of venison or a disappointing trip home.

Sighting in the scope is a breeze, and the turrets make a nice audible click and won't need to be messed with again unless your rifle takes a tumble or you skimped out on the mounting rings. Speaking of taking a tumble, the Crossfire II's matte aircraft grade aluminum tube feels very solid, and has a hard anodized finish for even more protection.

All in all, it's another great scope that won't break the bank. My only criticism is that low-light performance isn't quite up to snuff compared to some of the competition, and it's also worth noting that this is a second focal plane (SFP) optic—I personally prefer a first focal plane scope, but this is completely up to personal preference, and at long distances it hardly makes a difference anyway.

Vortex Optics Crossfire II Riflescope

Vortex Optics Crossfire II Riflescope

The price of Vortex Optics Crossfire II Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

3. Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24mm FFP Riflescope

spr scopes

A 1-4x magnification scope may be pushing it a bit for an SPR build, but hear me out. This scope comes with two reticle choices: an illuminated SFP reticle with BDC markings out to 500 yards, and an SFP option with holds out to 600 yards—both designed specifically with .223 ammo in mind. Optical clarity is great, and the anti-reflective multicoating cuts glare without making it too dark to see in poor light.

The windage and elevation turrets are uncapped and don't require a tool to adjust, both of which are excellent features in an SPR or other tactical rifle—even when hunting, you don't want to lose a trophy buck because you're busy trying to find some spare change to adjust your knobs with. 

The built-in throw lever is also very nice for hunting or competition shooting where you might need to rapidly switch between targets at various distances.

Another thing I like about this scope is how compact it is, which means plenty of room for an accessory depending on what your needs are. Close quarters shooting? Slap on some back-up iron sights or an offset red dot sight. 

A little extra reach for those longer ranges? Plenty of space for a magnifier. This versatility is what makes me recommend the AR Optics scope despite being on the low-end of the magnification range.

Bushnell AR Optics FFP Riflescope

Bushnell AR Optics FFP Riflescope

The price of Bushnell AR Optics FFP Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

If you are looking for some other optics with same magnification, then must check out our guide on best 1-4x scopes.

4. Leapers/UTG 3-12 X 44mm Riflescope

ar 15 spr scope

UTG is a more budget-oriented scope manufacturer, and the fact that they also produce airsoft and air rifle scopes has led to some unfair complaints from shooters who didn't read the product descriptions before making a purchase. Fortunately, their actual rifle scopes are impressively durable, and offer a few features that are very hard to find at a similar price.

This scope has a versatile magnification range, and is more than capable of operating in that 300-600 yard sweet spot that the Special Purpose Rifle was designed for. 

While that kind of higher magnification on a budget means you are making a small sacrifice in glass quality, this optic is still no slouch in that department, and the illuminated reticle is plenty bright, even on a sunny day. 

The scope also has an integrated sunshade and multi-coated lenses to knock down the glare and reflections even more.

This scope also allows for side parallax adjustment, another great feature that often gets cut on inexpensive optics. There is a tiny bit of distortion around the edges, but it's only really noticeable if you're specifically looking for it. 

The scope feels quite sturdy, and with a fogproof, waterproof, and shockproof rating, it should hold up even in nasty weather conditions.

Leapers UTG 30mm Compact Scope

Leapers UTG 30mm Compact Scope

The price of Leapers UTG 30mm Compact Scope varies, so check the latest price at

5. Leupold Mark AR MOD 1

Leupold Mark AR MOD 1

The Leupold Mark AR MOD 1 combines their legendary glass with a host of features that make it an excellent pick for an SPR scope. The mil-dot reticle is sharp and doesn't get in the way at long distances, and the clarity is great top to bottom, with none of the fishbowl effect that you sometimes see in cheap scopes.

With a set of Burris AR rings the eye relief on the MOD 1 was just about perfect for me, and zeroing it in is fast and easy. The 3-9x magnification feels about right for an SPR, while still allowing for fast target acquisition at closer ranges. 

At under 10 ounces, it's also pretty light, which is important if you're planning on using it on top of something like an AR-10. The tube is also argon-purged, which offers slightly better thermal protection that the nitrogen-purging that most other scopes at this price are using.

My only real gripe is that the scope doesn't include rings or even lens caps – it's a nice enough scope to get a pass, but plenty of scopes are able to deliver similar quality at the same price point while still including some basic accessories, so hopefully Leupold takes a page from their competitors' books in that regard.

Leupold Mark AR MOD 1

Leupold Mark AR MOD 1

The price of Leupold Mark AR MOD 1 varies, so check the latest price at

6. Primary Arms 1-6×24mm SFP Riflescope

Primary ArmsSFP

Primary Arms are another optics manufacturer punching way above their weight when it comes to delivering quality products at a great price.

This scope comes equipped with their K.I.S.S. second focal plane reticle, which is a fancy name for a chevron-style reticle that will feel familiar for anyone who has ever spent some time behind an ACOG. 

This type of reticle isn't for everyone, and there's no denying that long-range precision suffers a bit compared to a more traditional mil-dot or MOA crosshair, but the tradeoff is worth it if you plan on primarily doing target shooting or hunting at 350 yards and under (you can certainly still hit targets beyond that range, but I wouldn't recommend hunting with it past that, as it lacks the precision to ensure a clean, ethical kill at those distances).

The very first optic I ever bought for an AR build was a Primary Arms microdot, and I'm happy to say that they're still turning out high quality scopes that offer simple, reliable performance at a price that's hard to beat. And as usual, this scope is fog proof, waterproof, and shockproof, with a no-nonsense lifetime warranty to back it up.

Primary Arms SFP Gen III

Primary Arms SFP Gen III illuminated Riflescope

The price of Primary Arms SFP Gen III Illuminated Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

7. Trijicon AccuPower 3-9x40 Riflescope

Trijicon AccuPower

Trijicon optics are legendary for their durability and performance under harsh conditions, which makes the AccuPower a top pick for anyone who is looking for utmost reliability out of their rifle.

Optical clarity is excellent, and the hashmarks for bullet drop and windage compensation are clear without cluttering up the sight picture. The illuminated reticle is very bright on its highest settings, and on medium settings its sharp enough that it won't interfere with precision shooting even at maximum magnification.

Turret adjustments are tactile and smooth, with a simple zero reset that makes fine-tune corrections quick and easy. Light transmission through the scope is excellent thanks to the 40mm objective lens, which does bring me to the one potential downside – this scope is a bit bulky, in terms of both length and weight, especially for a carbine length platform. If you're mounting in on a heavy rifle, be prepared for some soreness at the end of a long hunting day. Other than that, you're getting a whole lot of scope for the price, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a good all-around option.

Trijicon AccuPower (2)

Trijicon AccuPower Riflescope

The price of Trijicon AccuPower Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

Check out our detailed Trijicon AccuPower 2.5-10x56 review for similar options.

Picking A Good SPR Scope Mount 

If you're going to invest in a good scope, don't blow it at the last minute by buying a cheap set of scope rings. I've seen $5 specials shear completely off under recoil, dumping an expensive optic onto concrete. Even if it stays on, a cheap mount probably won't hold zero, which is going to leave you frustrated and severely hamper your ability to place rounds on target.

Here's a few solid options to get you started:

i. Aero Precision Ultralight 30mm SPR Scope Mount

Extruded aluminum construction, a pushed-forward design to give you better eye relief, and weighing in at just a hair over 3 ounces: this mount has everything you could ask for, especially if you go with one of the heavier scopes on this list. 

Every ounce adds up, especially on a long day of hunting or a grueling day of competition shooting. Slap this mount on a picatinny rail and rest assured that you don't need to worry about any drifting zero or your scope suddenly taking a dive.

Aero Precision

Aero Precision 30mm SPR Scope Mount

The price of Aero Precision Ultralight 30mm SPR Scope Mount varies, so check the latest price at

ii. Weaver Thumbnut Spr 1″ Mount

It's quite a bit heavier than the Aero Precision mount, but this tried-and-true Weaver mount is still worth consideration. I'm a big fan of cantilevered mounts, which allow for a more low-profile mounting option while also giving you a little extra rail space for a magnifier or back-up irons. Speaking of which, the mount is milled to allow for back-up irons to be used through the mount's base – I can't speak to every setup, but it gives enough space to use Magpul BUIS comfortably.

Both of these mounts are sturdy and hold a rock-steady zero, so it mostly comes down to whether the scope you pick has a 1 inch or 30mm tube, weight considerations, and which features you prefer.

Weaver Thumbnut

Weaver Thumbnut Spr 1″ Mount

The price of Weaver Thumbnut Spr 1″ Mount varies, so check the latest price at

Parting Shots

A reliable, high quality scope is essential to any SPR build worth its salt. Luckily, we did the legwork in figuring out which scopes pass muster, whether you're on a tight budget or whether money is no object. Pair one of the scopes on this list with our recommended mounts and see what a difference it makes! You just might find yourself ringing those plates at 600 yards like never before. 

As always, we recommend buying optics from reliable sellers so you can avoid knock-offs and have access to excellent customer service in case of any defects. We've included links here to both certified retailers on Amazon and OpticsPlanet, two of our favorite places to get scopes without paying a markup.

Do you have experience with any of the scopes on this list? Did we leave off one of your favorites? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think, especially if you end up buying one of the scopes on this list! If  you're interested in putting together an SPR build, you should also check out our rundown on the best DMR scopes for a few more great options!

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