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Best AR-15 Scopes & Optics for 2023: Red Dots to Magnified

Find the best AR-15 scopes & optics for your budget and use. From red dots to magnifiers, prisms, holographic, and scopes.
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    Not sure what optic or scope to get for your AR? We’ve bought or used almost all of them

    A Couple AR-15 Optics
    A Couple AR-15 Optics

    We’ll cover 1x optics and magnified scopes, plus recommended mounts, accessories, and backup sights. 

    All with view-throughs and hands-on experience.

    By the end of this, you’ll know the perfect one for your budget and end-use.

    Aimpoint T2 on Unity Tactical FAST Mount
    Aimpoint T2 on Unity Tactical FAST Mount

    Summary of Our Top Picks

    1. Best Bang-For-The-Buck Red Dot

      Sig Sauer Romeo5

      Our favorite under-$200 red dot.

    2. Best Budget Red Dot

      Sig Sauer Romeo MSR

      The most budget option that we still trust but requires more battery changes.

    3. Gold Standard Red Dot

      Aimpoint Micro T-2 Red Dot

      The bombproof gold standard in red dots that is night vision compatible.

    4. Goldilocks Red Dot

      Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic (PRO)

      Aimpoint for the masses that doesn't compromise on reliability.

    5. Best Holographic Sight

      EOTech EXPS2

      Our go-to holographic sight that's compact, reliable, and our favorite type of reticle.

    6. Best 3x Magnifier

      Vortex VMX-3T 3x Magnifier

      When you want the advantages of a red dot plus magnification.

    7. Best 1x Prism Optic

      Primary Arms Cyclops Gen 2

      Compact, doesn't require batteries, and great for astigmatism.

    8. Battle Proven ACOG

      Trijicon ACOG TA31 4x32mm

      Want the most battle proven optic? It's going to be an ACOG.

    9. Best Bang-For-The-Buck

      Primary Arms SLx 1-6x24 Gen IV

      Best bang-for-the-buck LPVO that now sports a daylight bright reticle.

    10. Best 1-6x Scope

      Vortex PST Gen II 1-6x24

      Our favorite 1-6x that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

    11. Best Hunting Scope

      VX Freedom 3-9x

      Our go-to hunting scope that's robust and with the perfect magnification range.

    12. Perfect Backup

      Magpul MBUS Set Gen 2

      Using a red dot or scope? You'll want some flip up back-up irons.

    Table of Contents

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    Best AR-15 Red Dots

    These are “red dots” or “reflex” sights which are exactly what they sound like…they superimpose a red dot as the aiming reticle.

    Budget Red Dots All On
    Tested Budget Red Dots All On

    Whereas with standard “iron sights,” where you normally keep one eye closed and have to perfectly line up the two sights…red dots allow you to keep both eyes open and have a lot more leeway with where your head or eyes are positioned.

    This makes them much faster in acquiring a target and also allows for more peripheral vision. Plus, they are much more useful in darker environments.

    Sig Sauer MPX K Shooting
    Sig Sauer MPX K Shooting with Sig MSR

    1. Sig Sauer Romeo 5

    Red dots in the $100 to $200 space have multiplied recently and are picking up nice upgrades previously only available to high-end ones.

    Pros

    • Shake awake function
    • 10 illumination settings
    • Long battery life

    Cons

    • Slight tinge of blue
    • Mount could be nicer

    The Bottom Line

    Best under $200 red dot right now

    Sig Sauer Romeo 5 Specs:

    • Magnification: 1x
    • Dot Size: 2 MOA
    • Weight: 5.1 oz
    • Battery Life: 40,000 hrs
    • Battery: CR2032
    • Illumination: 8 daytime and 2 night vision
    18. Henry Big Boy X Sig Sauer Romeo 5
    Henry Big Boy X Sig Sauer Romeo 5

    The Sig Romeo 5 brings eight daylight settings (that actually are visible in bright light) and two night vision settings.

    PLUS motion on and off so you don’t have to deal with buttons. Not that you couldn’t just leave it on since battery life is at 40,000+ hours at a medium setting.

    Sig Romeo5 Top Buttons
    Sig Romeo5 Top Buttons

    Glass is pretty clear with a good field of view.

    And for around $120, it’s pretty robust that I wouldn’t hesitate to have it on a home defense gun. Check out the crispness and slight green glass indoors.

    Another added bonus is that the Romeo5 comes with a high-rise that’s the perfect height for AR-15 shooters.

    Grunt AR-15 with Romeo5 Red Dot
    Grunt AR-15 with Romeo5 Red Dot

    We’ve put TONS of rounds through several units spread across ARs and PCCs..and they’re all still running strong. Get our full report in our Romeo 5 review here.

    Romeo5 on MP5K and AR-15
    Romeo5 on MP5K and AR-15
    Best Bang-For-The-Buck Red Dot
    119
    at Palmetto State Armory

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    2. Sig Sauer Romeo MSR

    How about our most budget pick that we would still trust to go on a defensive rifle? That would have to be the Romeo MSR which clocks in around ~$90.

    Pros

    • Budget friendly
    • 12 illumination settings
    • Comes with nice mount

    Cons

    • Slightly small view-through
    • Uses CR1632 battery

    The Bottom Line

    A decent pick for the under $100 budget

    Sig Sauer Romeo MSR Specs:

    • Magnification: 1x
    • Dot Size: 2 MOA
    • Weight: 4.9 oz
    • Battery Life: 20,000 hrs
    • Battery: CR1632
    • Illumination: 10 daytime and 2 night vision

    You CAN go cheaper, but unless it’s purely for plinking, I would get this at a minimum. The MSR has taken over our previous affordable recommendation of the Bushnell TRS-25 since that was older tech.

    Sig Sauer MPX K Shooting
    Sig Sauer MPX K Shooting with Sig MSR

    The view-through is slightly smaller, but runtime is still rated at 20K hours at a low setting. Speaking of settings…there are 10 daytime and 2 night-vision settings on a stiff dial.

    I’ve kept mine on at the 7-level but found at 9 months the battery had gone dead. So be sure to set up a schedule for 6 months or leave it at a lower level.

    Sig Sauer MPX K Shooting Barrier
    Sig Sauer MPX K with MSR

    Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s a slightly weirder CR1632 battery.

    However, the dot is crisp, and the glass is clear for the price point.

    Plus…you get a lightweight high-rise mount that’s perfect for AR shooting.

    Best Budget Red Dot
    87
    at Optics Planet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    3. Trijicon MRO

    A relative newcomer to the high-end red dot game is the Trijicon MRO.

    Pros

    • Tough and durable
    • Compact design
    • Stellar glass and wide field of view

    Cons

    • Pricier

    The Bottom Line

    Great high-end, compact optic

    Trijicon MRO Specs:

    • Magnification: 1x
    • Dot Size: 2 MOA
    • Weight: 4.1 oz
    • Battery Life: 43,800 hrs (5 years) at setting 5 out of 8
    • Battery: CR2032
    • Illumination: 6 daytime and 2 night vision
    Trijicon MRO Midwest QD Mount
    Trijicon MRO

    It’s priced at around $400 but is smaller with a bigger field of view compared to others (such as the Aimpoint PRO down the list).

    Trijicon MRO Size Comparison with Other Optics
    Trijicon MRO (Left) Size Comparison with Other Optics

    Check it out in action…

    It has great reviews and has survived a bunch of abuse (High-End Optics Torture Test). 

    Trijicon MRO 12ga Birdshot
    Trijicon MRO 12 Gauge Birdshot

    From water submersion to drop testing, hot/cold cycling, and a variety of gun loads…the MRO survived with the best of them.

    This is what I’d consider a duty optic.

    Six daylight settings with one super bright one that works even in our desert hellscape…and two night vision settings.

    Trijicon MRO Red Reflex Sight in Desert on Steel
    Trijicon MRO Red Reflex Sight in Desert on Steel

    There are a couple of different flavors based on riser…from no riser to 1/3 co-witness and full co-witness.

    Trijicon MRO Shell Case Ejection in Desert 2
    Trijicon MRO Shell Case Ejection in Desert

    Our preferred one is 1/3 co-witness, so you can use irons as a backup — but they aren’t distracting.

    Or you can opt for a quick-detach one from Midwest Industries.

    Trijicon MRO Midwest QD Mount
    Trijicon MRO Midwest QD Mount

    Check out the full Trijicon MRO review and video for all our hot takes and tons of view-through sequences.

    And if it suits your budget and end-use…

    Higher-End Red Dot
    419
    at Optics Planet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    What’s your take on the MRO? Rate it below!

    Readers' Ratings

    4.98/5 (3507)

    Your Rating?

    4. Aimpoint Micro T-2

    The gold standard of red dots…the Aimpoint.

    Pros

    • 50,000+ hours of battery life
    • Fully waterproof
    • Good for close quarters or medium engagements

    Cons

    • Expensive

    The Bottom Line

    The gold standard for red dots, it's pricey but worth it.

    Aimpoint Micro T-2 Specs:

    • Magnification: 1x
    • Dot Size: 2 MOA
    • Weight: 3.0 oz
    • Battery Life: 50,000
    • Battery: CR2032
    • Illumination: 8 daytime and 4 night vision

    Costs a pretty penny but lasts for 50,000 hours on one battery and is fully waterproof. Also has extreme weather capabilities (around -20 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit).

    Unity FAST Mount & Aimpoint T2
    Unity FAST Mount & Aimpoint T2

    The older Micro H-1 is what I run on my regular AK, where the optic directly sits on top of the gas block, which gets extremely hot.

    Aimpoint H-1 on AK
    Aimpoint H-1 on AK

    Thousands of rounds and still going strong. I would not hesitate to go into something unknown with my Aimpoint H-1.

    However, the H-1 is discontinued, and the new H-2 is hard to find as of now. So I would recommend the T-2, which has additional protection for the adjustment knobs AND night vision capability.

    Aimpoint T2 Top
    Aimpoint T2 Top

    It’s what I’m using on night vision setups.

    Aimpoint T2 on Unity Tactical FAST Mount
    Aimpoint T2 on Unity Tactical FAST Mount

    The 2 MOA red dot is still plenty good for close quarters but can be useful for further engagements or if you ever plan on using a magnifier.

    Gold Standard Red Dot
    870
    at OpticsPlanet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    And for a nice optic…you need a better mount that will hold zero better. I suggest Unity Tactical’s FAST mount, which lets you see through your front irons still and is rock-solid.

    If you don’t run irons…it even has its own front sight you can easily add.

    Unity FAST Mount Viewthrough
    Unity FAST Mount View-through
    186
    at Optics Planet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    5. Aimpoint PRO (Patrol Rifle Optic)

    What I recommend the most for someone who wants duty-rated optic.

    Pros

    • 3 years of continunous battery life
    • Night vision capable
    • Beefy enclosure

    Cons

    • A bit bigger than some of the others

    The Bottom Line

    A cost effective means to own an Aimpoint.

    The Patrol Rifle Optic optic is bigger but gives an even beefier enclosure, 3 years of continuous battery life, night vision capability, submersible up to 150 feet, and better temperature tolerance (-50 to 160 degrees).

    Aimpoint PRO specs:

    • Magnification: 1x
    • Dot Size: 2 MOA
    • Weight: 7.8 oz
    • Battery Life: 30,000
    • Battery: CR2032
    • Illumination: 6 daytime and 4 night vision
    Steyr AUG with Aimpoint PRO
    Steyr AUG with Aimpoint PRO

    Plus, it’s cheaper than the Micro and comes with a mount that adds a little more to the stated weight.

    Check out our YouTube review of it after 3+ years and thousands of rounds:

    We also have a full written review (with some hammer torture testing, of course).

    Aimpoint PRO Testing
    Aimpoint PRO Testing
    Goldilocks Red Dot
    482
    at Optics Planet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Best Holographic Sights

    6. EOTech EXPS2

    Pros

    • Clear glass
    • Integrated QD mount
    • Durable

    Cons

    • $600+ price

    The Bottom Line

    A great option for those with astigmatism

    For a long time, it was Aimpoint vs. EOTech.

    Newer vs Classic EOTechs
    Newer vs Classic EOTechs

    Aimpoint had its tubular “reflex” sights, while Eotech had its distinct “holographic” sights. While the technology was a little different, both were heavily used by the U.S. military and had fervent supporters.

    Then a disaster hit EOTech and culminated in a lawsuit from the U.S. Government in 2015 for the sights losing their zero due to hot/cold weather and moisture.

    But they are back.

    John Wick I'm Back
    I’m back

    And if you do like the large circle reticle, I would recommend the newer EXPS2-0 model, which allows for 1/3 co-witness with iron sights.

    EOTech EXPS2-0 specs:

    • Magnification: 1x
    • Dot Size: 1 MOA Dot with 68 MOA ring
    • Weight: 7.8 oz
    • Battery Life: 30,000
    • Battery: CR2032
    • Illumination: 6 daytime and 4 night vision
    EOTech EXPS2-0 Reticle
    EOTech EXPS2-0 Reticle

    It’s the smallest EOTech model currently and has clear glass, 1000 hours of battery life, an integrated QD mount, and tons of other stuff.

    Top Holographic Sights
    Top Holographic Sights

    We test this and others from Vortex and Holosun in our Best Holographic Sights article and video below. Complete with video through each one.

    If you’ve got moderate to severe astigmatism, then people usually have a better time with a holographic compared to a regular red dot.

    Best Holographic Sight
    557
    at OpticsPlanet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Plus, holographic sights can survive complete destruction to their front lens without skipping a beat. And, oh yes…it was in our High-End Optics Torture Test and passed with flying colors.

    EOTech EXPS 3 .22 LR Killshot
    EOTech EXPS 3 .22 LR Killshot

    Learn more in Red Dots vs. Holographics.

    Best Flip-Mounted 3x Magnifiers

    Want the quick target acquisition of a 1x red dot or holographic sight…but still need to hit out farther?

    COD MW3 Magnified Sight
    COD MW3 Magnified Sight

    We tested three of the most popular 3x magnifiers under $200 and found the best…

    3x Magnifiers
    3x Magnifiers

    Drumroll…

    7. Vortex 3x Magnifier

    The Vortex 3x had the clearest glass, good eye-relief, changeable for lefties, easy to use mount, slim design, and was the lightest of the bunch.

    Pros

    • Super clear glass
    • Good eye-relief
    • Works for lefties

    Cons

    • Push-button style mount

    The Bottom Line

    A great slim, lightweigh option for both right and left handed shooters

    Vortex 3x Magnifier Specs:

    • Magnification: 3x
    • Eye Relief: 2.2″
    • Weight: 11.9 oz
    • Field of View: 38.2 ft/100 yards
    Best 3x Magnifier
    199
    at Optics Planet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Check how it compared to the competition in our Best 3x Magnifiers shootout.

    Best Prism (Fixed Magnification) Scopes

    Now we dive into optics with some magnification!

    We’ll first start with some prism scopes and then on to more traditional variable magnification scopes.

    All of the Prism Scopes
    All of the Tested Prism Scopes

    See all our Best Prism Scopes article as well as our full video review:

    But these are our favorites

    Prism scopes offer some great pros:

    • Etched reticles so it doesn’t require batteries
    • Much better for those with astigmatism
    • More robust construction

    But also some cons:

    • Not cheap
    • Heavier than red dot counterparts
    • Worse eye relief and eyebox

    8. Primary Arms 1x Prism (Cyclops)

    First up is Primary Arms 1x Cyclops, which you’ll love if you have astigmatism and/or are deathly afraid of running out of batteries.

    Pros

    • 25-50K battery life
    • 13 illumination settings
    • Decent eye relief

    Cons

    • ACSS reticle might not be the best if you only run it at 1X

    The Bottom Line

    Another great option if you have astigmatism

    Primary Arms 1x Prism Specs:

    • Magnification: 1x
    • Dot Size: Cyclops Gen 2 Reticle
    • Weight: 5.5 oz
    • Battery Life: 25-50K hours
    • Battery: CR2032
    • Illumination: 10 daytime and 3 night vision
    Cyclops Gen 2 medium left
    Cyclops Gen 2

    If neither of those points applies to you…stick with a red dot.

    Otherwise, the Cyclops is nicely built and has decent eye relief for close-up work. We’ve had a good time with the series ever since the Gen 1.

    Primary Arms ACSS 1x Prism Fired While Kneeling
    Primary Arms ACSS 1x Prism Fired While Kneeling

    It also has the ACSS reticle, which we love for higher magnifications, but at 1x, you don’t really get all the benefits.

    Cyclops Gen 2 Reticle
    Cyclops Gen 2 Reticle

    Still…it was decently quick when you needed it.

    Check it out if astigmatism is ruining your red dot life.

    And now…the newest generation that’s even better…

    Much smaller, better battery life, better eye relief, and tons of riser options in the box.

    Check out the full review of the PA Cyclops 1x Gen 2.

    Best 1x Prism Optic
    269
    at Primary Arms

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    9. Primary Arms SLx 3 Prism

    Our overall winner for a prism sight goes to the Primary Arms SLx 3, which gives the perfect amount of magnification.

    Pros

    • Compact design
    • Nice reticle
    • Super clear

    Cons

    • Slightly slower at close quarters

    The Bottom Line

    Our top pick if you want a good microprism

    Primary Arms 3x Prism Specs:

    • Magnification: 3x
    • Dot Size: CQB-M2 Reticle
    • Weight: 18.4 oz
    • Battery: CR2032
    • Illumination: Illuminated but no night vision mode
    Primary Arms SLx 3 Prism
    Primary Arms SLx 3 Prism

    It’s only slightly slower at close quarters compared to a 1x prism or red dot…especially with the ACSS CQB reticle.

    CQB-M2 Reticle
    CQB-M2 Reticle
    SLx 3 Closeup Shots

    But it also enables you to reach a little farther out with ease…

    Check out more of it in action in our Best Prism Scopes article.

    289
    at Primary Arms

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    10. Sig Sauer Bravo 5

    Want a bigger field of view and more magnification?

    Check out the Sig Sauer Bravo 5, which is one of the most impressive pieces of glass we’ve had the chance to use.

    Pros

    • Bigger field of view
    • Comes with 3 removable Picatinny rails

    Cons

    • Heavy

    The Bottom Line

    An impressive option when it comes to magnification and field of view

    Sig Sauer Bravo 5 Specs:

    • Magnification: 5x
    • Dot Size: 5.56/7.62 Horseshoe Dot
    • Weight: 23 oz
    • Battery Life: 25-50K hours
    • Battery: CR2032
    • Illumination: 8 daytime and 3 night vision
    Sig Sauer Bravo 5 Side View
    Sig Sauer Bravo 5 Side View

    With Megaview™ (lol), you get a much bigger field of view through its crystal clear glass.

    Sig Sauer Bravo 5 View Thru
    Sig Sauer Bravo 5 View Thru

    The only knock is on its hefty 23-ounce weight…but it has three Picatinny rails that can be removed if you aren’t adding a micro red dot onto it.

    354
    at GrabAGun

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    11. ACOG TA31F 4×32

    The Trijicon Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG) is battle-proven, compact, and basically bombproof.

    Pros

    • Doesn't require batteries
    • Great for longer ranges
    • Proven combat optic

    Cons

    • Fixed sight system isn't for everyone
    • Expensive

    The recommended TA31F version is a fixed 4x magnification and has a reticle calibrated for ARs shooting 5.56 from 0-800 meters.

    ACOG Reticle
    ACOG Reticle

    The ACOG is expensive because it combines the best of all worlds…it does not need a battery during the day since its fiber optic system illuminates the chevron (upside-down V) reticle, while at night the tritium lamps take over and are guaranteed to glow for 15 years.

    Trijicon ACOG TA31F Specs:

    • Magnification: 4x
    • Dot Size: ACOG Chevron
    • Weight: 15.1 oz
    • Battery Life: 10+ Years (Tritium)
    • Battery: none

    I would highly recommend trying one out in person since the fixed sight system is not for everyone.

    Trijicon-ACOG-TA11F-View-Through
    Trijicon ACOG View through

    Consider the ACOG or the Spitfire if you’re looking at mostly longer-range engagements since shorter distances require some getting used to.

    Trijicon-ACOG-Chevron-Reticle
    Trijicon ACOG Chevron Reticle

    But if you need a two-decade proven combat optic…it’s gotta be an ACOG.

    And if that wasn’t enough…the ACOG was the only optic to make it through our High-End Optics Torture Test and still be usable at the end.

    Trijicon TA-02 Acog .22 LR Minimag Damage
    Trijicon TA-02 Acog .22 LR Minimag Damage

    Need a tank? This is it!

    Battle Proven ACOG
    1048
    at Primary Arms

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    We also cover more popular (and newer) models in Best ACOG Scopes.

    Trijicon-ACOG-Lineup
    Trijicon ACOG Lineup

    Now with a full review video too!

    Best AR-15 Scopes

    12. Primary Arms SLx 1-6x ACSS, Gen III & IV

    The Primary Arms SLx 1-6x ACSS Gen III has been the winner of our Best 1-6x Scopes article for years. And for under $300, you can’t really beat it.

    Pros

    • Under $300
    • Great glass
    • Nice reticle

    Cons

    • A little distortion at 6x but better than most

    The Bottom Line

    Great optics with awesome reticles and super clear glass

    These scopes that start at 1x magnification and go up to 6x, 8x, and now even 10x are known as LPVOs (low-powered variable optics).

    And they are a great option for ARs for close-quarters shooting at 1x and zooming in for some farther shots.

    Primary Arms 1-6x with ACSS
    Primary Arms 1-6x with ACSS

    Primary Arms SLx 1-6x Gen III ACSS Specs:

    • Magnification: 1-6x
    • Objective Diameter: 24mm
    • Reticle: ACSS 5.56/5.45/.308
    • Weight: 16.9 oz
    • Battery: CR2032

    Great glass at 1x plus a sweet reticle they dub the ACSS, which has a small reticle for precise shots and a larger circle for close-up targets.

    Primary Arms at 1x, ACSS Reticle
    Primary Arms at 1x, ACSS Reticle

    1x is very clear, and there’s less distortion at 6x compared to the runner-up Strike Eagle 1-6x scope.

    Here it is at the range.

    Primary Arms at 6x, ACSS Reticle
    Primary Arms at 6x, ACSS Reticle

    We’ve also shot it a bunch in the desert and at competitions.

    Testing the PA 1-6x ACSS
    Testing the PA 1-6x ACSS

    Here’s a 200-yard target that was almost too easy to hit once we learned our bullet drop.

    We now have a full review of the 1-6x ACSS scope…AND Youtube:

    And get a free Primary Arms mount (in the last dropdown) when you use our link.

    Free Primary Arms Mount
    Free Primary Arms Mount
    Best Bang-For-The-Buck Scope
    289
    at Primary Arms

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    But now there’s the Gen IV with Nova ACSS reticle version that sports crisper glass and a true daytime bright reticle…for only a few bucks more.

    Primary Arms SLx 1-6x24mm Nova shoot right
    Primary Arms SLx 1-6x24mm Gen IV, Shooting

    Primary Arms SLx 1-6x Gen IV Nova ACSS Specs:

    • Magnification: 1-6x
    • Objective Diameter: 24mm
    • Reticle: Nova ACSS 5.56/5.45/.308; daylight bright
    • Weight: 17.9 oz
    • Battery: CR2032

    Check it out in action at 1x:

    The Nova ACSS reticle is great for a variety of calibers and also for both holding and ranging.

    Primary Arms SLx 1-6 Nova Reticle holds
    Primary Arms SLx 1-6 Nova Reticle holds
    Primary Arms SLx 1-6 Nova Reticle ranging
    Primary Arms SLx 1-6 Nova Reticle ranging

    Check out the zooming from 1x to 6x:

    Also qualifies for the free mount from the dropdown.

    Check out the full written review and YouTube review.

    But this is our new recommendation for the best bang-for-the-buck LPVO that’s worth the few extra bucks to get the daylight bright reticle.

    Best Bang-For-The-Buck
    339
    at Primary Arms

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    13. Vortex 1-6x Strike Eagle

    My previous 3-Gun optic of several years allowed me to much more easily hit the 375-yard targets at my local competition compared to a 1-4x scope.

    Pros

    • Affordable
    • Very clear glass from 1-4x

    Cons

    • Distortion at 6x

    The Bottom Line

    A great budget option for range shooting and competition

    The Strike Eagle 1-6x is very affordable and has very clear glass from 1-4x.

    Vortex Strike Eagle at 1x
    Vortex Strike Eagle at 1x

    Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x Specs:

    • Magnification: 1-6x
    • Objective Diameter: 24mm
    • Reticle: Strike Eagle
    • Weight: 17.6 oz
    • Battery: CR2032

    I can see some hints of distortion at 6x, but since I usually only use the max magnification one stage a match, it doesn’t bother me.

    Vortex Strike Eagle at 6x
    Vortex Strike Eagle at 6x

    If you’re shooting closer matches or distances, you can just turn it to 3-4x as well to minimize the minor distortion.

    The reticle is pretty good for close-up shots as well as farther shots.

    I paired mine up with an extended Aero one-piece mount for a super-secure hold and weight savings.

    Best Value Runner-Up
    249
    at OpticsPlanet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Recommended Add-Ons:

    14. Vortex Viper PST 1-4x

    Now with great 1-6x scopes under $300…there’s almost no reason to have a 1-4x. But if you really want one…here’s my pick for one with great glass.

    Pros

    • SFP design
    • Excels at close quarters and long distance

    Cons

    • Kinda irrelevant with 1-6x scopes under $300

    The Bottom Line

    If you have to have a 1-4x, this is the one you want.

    Vortex Viper 1-4x Specs:

    • Magnification: 1-4x
    • Objective Diameter: 24mm
    • Reticle: TMCQ MOA
    • Weight: 16.2 oz

    The PST 1-4x is a higher-end 1-4x scope with better/clearer glass and a different reticle that excels at both close-quarters and distance shooting.

    Second focal plane. With a better optic, I recommend a better mount as well.

    Viper PST Reticle
    Viper PST Reticle
    349
    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Recommended Add-on:

    15. Vortex Viper PST Gen II 1-6x

    What I now run in my competition rifle. The Viper PST II is the best combo of glass quality, a forgiving eye box, and daytime-bright illumination.

    Pros

    • Great for competition
    • daytime-bright illumination
    • Forgiving eyebox
    • Almost no distortion at 6x

    Cons

    • Over $500

    The Bottom Line

    A great option if you don't mind spending a little money

    Vortex Viper PST Gen II 1-6x Specs:

    • Magnification: 1-6x
    • Objective Diameter: 24mm
    • Reticle: VMR-2 MOA
    • Weight: 22.7 oz
    • Battery: CR2032
    Vortex Viper PST II 1-6x
    Vortex Viper PST II 1-6x

    That means for close-up shots, I can use it as a red dot (hard to show in pics)…

    PST II at 1x
    PST II at 1x

    And get up to 6x zoom of crystal clear glass with almost no side distortion.

    Plus, unless you’re in the blazing sun of the desert, the illuminated reticle is quite good.

    PST II at 6x
    PST II at 6x

    Check out more in our Best 1-6x Scopes article.

    Best 1-6x Scope
    599
    at OpticsPlanet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Recommended Add-Ons:

    Best Hunting Scopes

    16. Leupold 3-9x VX Freedom

    One of our recommended hunting optics (Best Hunting Rifles) where you don’t necessarily need 1x but might need something more magnified. The 3-9x VX Freedom fills this need nicely and at a great price.

    Pros

    • Glass is clear at 3x
    • Handles recoil well
    • Good price

    Cons

    • Magnification adjustment ring is meh

    The Bottom Line

    A decent hunting scope at a good pricepoint

    Leupold 3-9x VX Freedom Specs:

    • Magnification: 3-9x
    • Objective Diameter: 40mm
    • Reticle: Duplex
    • Weight: 22.7 oz
    Mossberg Patriot 30.06 with VX Freedom 3-9x
    Mossberg Patriot 30.06 with VX Freedom 3-9x

    I’m running it on my 30.06 rifle, and so far, it’s held up to the pretty large recoil.

    Glass is very clear at 3x.

    VX Freedom at 3x
    VX Freedom at 3x

    As well as at 9x.

    Plus, the 40mm objective lens brings in plenty of light.

    VX Freedom at 9x
    VX Freedom at 9x

    The Freedom takes over from Leupold’s venerable VX-1 scope, which we previously recommended. If you don’t mind it being phased out, there could be some good deals there.

    Best Hunting Scope
    349
    at Optics Planet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Recommended Add-On:

    Best Long Range Scopes

    This is a whole can of worms…check out our huge list in Best Long Range Scopes.

    Tested Long Range Scopes
    Just a few of our favorite things

    Best AR-15 Back-Up Iron Sights (BUIS)

    Now that you have your primary sight, you’ll need some backup sights in case your primary breaks, runs out of batteries, or just falls off.

    For 99.99% of their life, they will live flat underneath your scope. But if something happens to your primary, you’ll wish you had these to flip up!

    Magpul Gen 2 BUIS

    Polymer Magpul BUIS paved the way for backup sights to become mainstream. Affordable and still plenty accurate when you need them.

    Perfect Backup
    64
    at Brownells

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Magpul MBUS Pro

    The latest iteration from Magpul, the MBUS Pro is steel instead of polymer to survive anything you can throw at it.

    129
    at Brownells

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Offset Iron Sights

    Maybe not for everyone, but if you’re competing and don’t have time to switch your AR-15 scope back to 1x…these offset sights from Ade Advanced will help you get a better time.

    Ade Advanced 45 Degree BUIS
    Ade Advanced 45 Degree BUIS

    All you need to do is tilt your gun, and you have these ready for close targets.

    Viewthrough of Ade 45 Degree BUIS
    View-through of Ade 45 Degree BUIS

    Our budget picks so you can see if you want to upgrade to Magpul MBUS Offset ones (the Gold Standard).

    And, of course…now we have full in-depth reviews of both Backup Irons Sights and Offset Iron Sights.

    Final Thoughts

    Hopefully, we’ve given you a good starting point when it comes to choosing the perfect optic for your AR-15. From red dots to scopes and backup iron sights, make sure you have what fits your lifestyle.

    And don’t forget to sight that baby in.

    Faxon Firearms Ascent AR-15
    Faxon Firearms Ascent AR-15

    Of course, you’re probably going to need to mount your optic, so take a look at our list of the Best Scope Mounts.

    Now that you’ve seen everything for the AR-15, from red dot sights to ACOGs and variable optics, what will you choose for your purpose? Need some glass for a non-AR platform like rimfire or long-range…check out our huge Best Rifle Scopes and Best Pistol Red Dots article.

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    164 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar
      Melvin Thomas Fritz

      I just purchased a new Springfield Saint AR with the A2 front sight. I did also get, not installed yet, a new Sig Romeo5, green dot optic. Will this be ok using this with the A2 front sight ?

      September 5, 2023 7:15 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Denton

      Last time I checked the EXPS2 didn’t have 30,000 hours of battery life

      August 28, 2023 11:31 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ken B.

      Eric, you didn’t mention any optics from Holosun. Do you only review what you are paid to review or do you just randomly select what you write about?

      February 19, 2023 9:14 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Jacki Billings

        Hey Ken, thanks for the feedback. We typically write about our favorite products and what we have actually tested. We are continually updating articles and swapping products in and out depending on what we like and what's new. So these recs change. (We love Holosun, they're in several of our reviews and pistol-related articles.) So if we don't include a specific brand/model, it's nothing against them. We can't list everything we like or this article would never end. And we are not paid to include any brand or model on the list. Thanks for reading!

        February 21, 2023 8:13 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      JimW

      You show Amazon as a source for the SIG Romeo 5 red dot. I ordered one from them and returned it because it was a Chinese knockoff.

      February 9, 2023 7:44 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Bkwms

      I have a SIG Romeo 5 on the DDM4 PDW with Magpul off-set iron sights and a Primary Arms 1-8 LPVO on the AR.

      October 21, 2022 6:30 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Tom K

      No Holosun optics? As much as it's touted all over Al Gore's internet, and not included here? Makes no sense.

      July 20, 2022 5:23 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      PCBrig

      I wish you would identify country of origin in your reviews (many of these sights are made overseas, most troublingly in China). That matters, especially in the long run. (We Americans really need to support domestic manufacturing for these products (and, no, I have zero affiliation with any manufacturers, I'm just a combat vet who knows that ultimately we can only count on ourselves.)) At the very least, that way consumers can make a better informed decision.

      June 17, 2022 7:16 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Peter K

        100% Agreed!

        August 15, 2022 7:09 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ron

      On my handy little truck AR I have a Sig Romeo 5, nice sight for the price and doesn't seem to mind being jostled in the truck.. The next AR up I just got will either get the MRO HD or the new Aimpoint Duty RDS, waiting for a few more reviews for the Aimpoint before deciding. The AK is running an EXPS3 EOTech, bomb proof sight for a bomb proof gun. My last sight is a bit old school. I liked the simple 4X sight like the Vintage Weaver K from better times.
      Though I don't want to be stuck there totally. I was looking for a fixed 4X with 30mm tube and a 40-42 something objective lens. Prism need not apply. Closest thing I could find is the KAPS aptly named classic line. I went for their 4X36. They have a 6X42 which has the objective lens I would of liked on the 4X. They also have an 8X56 and a couple variables in that line up. Usually hard to beat German glass and can't wait till Aug for it to get here.

      June 16, 2022 8:17 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Bemused Berserker

      I picked up a Vortex Venom 3 MOA for my .300 AAC SBR (my go to Home Defense weapon), back when they were under $200 ($179 with shipping). Picked up Vortex's QR mount a little bit later, which gives me an absolute co witness when the BRISAS are up. Very happy with the crisp dot on it. No issues out to a 100 meters, with 220 gr Sub Sonics.

      I've an old Bushnell 1 - 6 x40 scope on my 5.56 AR, I picked up at a LGS GOOB sale/auction for $40. It had a decent scratch on the tube, so it was used as a display. Illuminated Mil Dot. Clear glass even AR high magnification It holds its zero well, but it does eat batteries, even when off. So I usually keep the batteries out when it's stored for any length of time. For what I paid for it, I've no reason to trade up, though I've been looking at SIG's MSR as a swap out for closer work. Being a retiree on a limited budget, these higher end scopes are outside my budget unless I save for a long time.

      Appreciate the articlw/review. I'm forwarding it to some friends.

      June 16, 2022 5:28 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Rilian

      Not much mention about AT3- can typically get their micro red dot and 3X magnifier for < $300 on sale. Not in the same league as the big names and a little heavy as a combo, but surprisingly solid all around. I have two and they are great setups for those on a budget.

      June 16, 2022 9:37 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      PH CIB

      Great Article ! For a Combat Rifle or a Hunting Rifle, I would take a 1 - 6 or 1- 8 or 1-10 scope with an illuminated reticle...and a field of view at 100 yards of at least 100 to 140 feet. With long eye relief at 1x it is almost like looking through a picture window with both eyes open. Also if the battery dies that just eliminates the illuminated reticle leaving a perfectly fine working scope with BUIS. I have have Aimpoint and EO Tech and Trijicon and they are great and better than the traditional riflescopes in certain situations but not nearly as good as an all around optic for close range and longer ranges. I always leave my scope when hunting at 1x for that close range shot, longer range shots almost always give me enough time to dial up the scope to its maximum magnification. Thanks again for a great article, now do one if you have not already on thermal optics.

      April 6, 2022 3:09 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ed Roncarati

      I like a red dot for close, fast on target. For range I prefer a 4X scope. Something along the ACOG but a bit more traditional looking. Use to be a few choice in this but now you find most rated for rimfire ammo only. Kaps makes what I am looking for in they're Classic Line, a 4X36 fixed scope with a 30mm tube diameter.

      March 8, 2022 9:49 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cody

      Any love for the PA SLX-MD25? It's probably the best sub-200 dot I've ever owned, it holds up and manages to look good on a rifle at the same time.

      March 3, 2022 4:04 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jeffrey Kaya Yucel

      You went over everything very well except one thing… you did not show anything for guys who bought their AR-15 back when they did not have detachable carry handles or no carry handle at all. Now don’t get me wrong, I love having the carry handle and hit my targets with the iron sights it came with just fine from 0-100 yards but a scope would be nice. Where can I find a scope and the mount that sits into the carry handle? I know they make them, I remember seeing SWAT and others with them on their guns.

      March 1, 2022 6:02 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Cody

        I googled "carry handle pic rail" and got about a zillion results. Tried to post a link for you but I forgot we can't lol

        March 3, 2022 4:06 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          Jeffrey Kaya Yucel

          Well hell, I could have done that. I was looking for a AR guy’s opinion on which one’s are better so I would not have to sift through the crap.

          March 4, 2022 3:30 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jason

      Love the Delta Stryker 1-6 i picked up for my 18" Tavor SAR. Also dig the griffin offsets that I run with a 2.5-10x PA on my 12" Grendel.

      Tried Moepta. No thanks. Holosun 510c red dots all day. Tract rimfire is excellent. Wish I never bought eotechs.

      January 4, 2022 6:59 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Evan Seelye

      MagPul MBUS are nice, but I found Monstrum Tactical has almost a carbon copy at half the price. Look 'em up, they have some awesome scopes at a really great prices too.

      November 23, 2021 6:30 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Keith P.

      Please update for 2021! A lot has changed in the past few years. For me the big game changer is the Vortex Spitfire 2 5x, which combines all the best features of the ACOG-class prism sights with significantly lower weight and price.

      July 26, 2021 11:36 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Anin

      Would have been good to mention the Brownells Retro 4x carry handle scope. Unless you think it is not good. After all, some AR owners do have that design.

      July 19, 2021 3:39 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jim

      Need to change the name to Primary Commerical donaters reviews Arms. Cant trust this site anymore im out.

      July 18, 2021 1:02 pm