It’s tough to find the right rifle scope for your purpose AND budget.
And it doesn’t help that most articles out there never even tried them in real life.
Well…we’re here to help with hands-on experience, real view-through pictures, and even some videos.
By the end you’ll know what kind of optic to get and which specific model suits your needs and wallet the best.
Starting from low power variable optics to prism, hunting, scout, long range, rimfire, and even magnifiers.
Let’s get started!
What’s a Rifle Scope?
For the purposes of this article we’re going to define a “rifle scope” as an optic that’s magnified and meant to shoot a decent distance.
If you’re looking for 1x red dots or holographic sights that are more suited for closer shots…
And fast transitions…
Check these articles out instead:
Looking to scope your AR-15…we’ve got an entire ginormous article dedicated to that.
Otherwise keep going and we’ll get you completely set up with the right glass!
Best Rifle Scopes
1. Primary Arms 1-6x ACSS: Best LPVO
Low Power Variable Scopes (LPVO) start at 1x to enable quick close-up shots and can go up to 4x, 6x, 8x, and now there’s even some 10x available.
My personal Goldilocks magnification zone is the 1-6x which I use for competition.
It enables CQB engagement and then I can quickly turn to 6x for up to 300/400 yards.
Anything higher like 8x or 10x gets a little more expensive and for my competitions…the magnification is actually a little too much and I have a harder time transitioning long-range targets.
And my favorite 1-6x LPVO is…
The Primary Arms 1-6x ACSS is affordable (~$290) for the glass quality, has a great reputation/warranty, and I love the reticle.
Check it out at 200 yards…
The reticle is well designed with the thick donut being really useful for close-up stuff and then nice elevation drops for farther distances.
It’s also illuminated and is fairly decent compared to other LPVOs but don’t go into it thinking it’s going to be a red dot.
Check out our full written review and also our YouTube video too:
And here’s a few places to pick it up:
Or if you want some cheaper or higher end LPVOs…check out our Best 1-6x Scopes article. But for best bang-for-the-buck…the Primary Arms takes it.
What’s your rating of the PA 1-6x?
2. Leupold 3-9x VX Freedom: Best Hunting Scope
Hunting scopes are built simpler and tougher to sustain the inclement weather and bumps/scratches it might encounter in the field.
My favorite magnification range is from 3x to 9x since you’re never going to be super close or super far from your prey.
The Leupold 3-9x VX Freedom has clear glass at both 3x…
Plus it can hold up to heavy recoil like on my 30.06 rifle.
Eye relief is also great so you don’t need that perfect cheekweld when the time comes for that one shot.
Here’s where to pick it up…
And be sure to get some scope rings with it. I match mine with Leupold See-Through Scope Rings that still enable you to use irons on most hunting rifles.
3. Primary Arms SLx 3: Best Budget Prism Scope
Instead of two pieces of glass at the front and back of a metal tube like traditional scope…prism scopes use…a prism that gives it a fixed magnification.
There’s almost no moving parts so it’s more robust and smaller.
If you’re not really making tons of close-up shots (you still can with practice) and 3x magnification is enough…check out prism scopes.
My favorite budget prism is Primary Arms’ SLx 3 at around $290.
Clear glass, decent eye relief for a prism, and affordable price. Plus it has a nice ACSS-like reticle that’s slightly better for close-up shots.
See it in action here…
Check out our full review on other prisms and our YouTube video too.
Snag the SLx here:
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
4. Sig Sauer Bravo 5: Premium Prism Scope
Want a little more fixed magnification and better glass?
The Sig Sauer Bravo 5 might be it.
There’s not too many optics anymore that make us say whoa. But the Bravo 5 did it with its insanely large field of view.
See it in shooting action…
Only downsides is that it’s a hefty boi at 23 oz…but you can lose the three Picatinny rails on the top and sides.
Cost is surprisingly ok given its performance boost over the Primary Arms.
Again, check out our full review on other prisms and our YouTube video too.
5. Trijicon TA648 6x48mm: Best ACOG
The Trijicon series of ACOGs are the OGs of truly battle-proven prism scopes.
Literally bombproof…the military has used them for 20+ years and it would be easy to choose the most often used TA31 4x32mm…
So we got a few in hand…and shot the hell out of them.
Really meant for full auto machine guns…it made our regular AR-15 have almost no reticle jump due to its chunkiness.
Check it out in action in our YouTube video:
And if you’ve got the bones..snag it here…
Otherwise for smaller more civilian friendly ACOGs…check out our Best ACOGs article.
7. Leupold VX-Freedom Scout 1.5-4x: Best Scout Scope
What’s a scout scope?
It’s the brainchild of Colonel Jeff Cooper of 4 Rules of Firearm Safety fame.
He envisioned an optic that would be low-powered, robust, but not heavy or bulky. One perfect for long treks and run-and-gun situations.
After testing a trio of the most popular scout scopes out there…my favorite is the Leupold VX 1.5-4x Scout.
The magnification range is enough for a scoutr rifle and the Colonel’s original purpose.
It’s also super light at around 9 oz when other scout scopes tested were 13-14 oz.
And has a nice reticle for both closer and farther engagements.
I also had the best eye relief with the Leupold for 1.5x and it was a close call for 4x.
If I could only choose one scout scope…I’d go with the Leupold.
Get it here…
But also check out our complete Best Scout Optics article.
8. Vortex Strike Eagle 4-24×50: Best Budget Long Distance Scope
Want to reach out past 500 yards? You’ll want something with a little more oomph in the magnification arena.
I typically call “long distance scopes” something along the lines of 4-24x or 5-25x.
And my favorite budget scope (that is still great) is the Vortex Strike Eagle 4-24x.
Decent glass for the price of around $400. Plus you get Vortex’s awesome and fully-transferable lifetime warranty.
Very usable at 4x through 24x.
Note the Strike Eagle is second focal plane (SFP) so the reticle stays the same size as you zoom. The thickness is just right so it doesn’t such at either end of the spectrum.
SFP scopes are cheaper to manufacturer and the main downside is if you’re ranging you’ll have to calculate at one specific magnification (normally the max). For example one hashmark at 4x is definitely different from one hashmark at 24x.
Otherwise eye relief is fine at a standard 3.5 inches which is fine unless you’re shooting really hard recoiling rounds. And eye box is ok…but you’ll have to be a little more diligent in getting your eyes in the right place at max magnification.
The elevation knob was very hard to turn and the feel of them could be a little better. But keep in mind this is towards the budget end of scopes.
However the tracking test (where I move only the elevation/windage knobs to change targets) was great at 100 yards on my .308 DTA SRS bolt gun.
Overall the Strike Eagle is my favorite “budget” scope where you get decent glass and good performance. Some things could be better but it will get you some nice shots!
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
Check out more of the Strike Eagle and others in our Best Long Distance Scopes article. But more if you scroll!
9. Vortex Viper PST II 5-25x: Upgrade Long Range Scope
What if I took all my complaints about the Strike Eagle and fixed them…and upgraded the glass?
Then I get the Viper PST II 5-25x which is my upgrade long range scope pick for around $1000.
It’s a first focal plane (FFP) scope so the reticle grows as you magnify. That means each hashmark at each magnification covers the same area.
The lines are slightly thin at 5x but still easy enough to make a crosshair hit.
And here’s 25x…
Eye relief is listed at 3.4 inches but feels better since the glass is better. And the eyebox is for sure more forgiving.
How about the knobs?
They are much more premium! Crisp clicks with the right amount of resistance.
Tracking was fine too…even with my oopsie by only going halfway sometimes.
The PST II 5-25x was also the scope I used at a PSA long range event.
Where I was able to hit 800+ yards on a 6.5 Creedmoor gas gun.
If you’re looking to start hitting 800+ as well…check out the PST II.
10. Primary Arms PLx 6-30x: Bang-for-the-Buck Long Distance Scope
Want to go even more above 25x and start playing with Japanese glass?
Primary Arms has got you with their PLx 6-30x scope.
We’re going up in price and this bad boy is priced at around $1500. But it really is hitting in the $2500+ arena with its glass and controls.
The one I tested had a DEKA reticle which I didn’t really care as much as their Athena.
The DEKA was a little too thick at max magnification. But with the Athena it’s great.
Eye relief is 3.3 to 4 inches which is pretty normal and the eye box was pretty forgiving even at 30x magnification.
Very nice knob with quality subdued yet still audible clicks.
Plus great on the tracking test.
If you’re looking for a step up from Vortex that uses quality Japanese glass and is solidly batting at a higher pricepoint…check out the PA PLx series.
Now if you want to see more higher end stuff…check out our Best Long Distance Scope article.
But be warned it’s really a buy once cry once sort of thing!
12. Vortex VMX-3T: Best 3x Magnifier Under $200
Already got a red dot or holographic 1x sight lying around but want to shoot just a little bit farther?
You can always go for a magnifier that goes behind it.
And my favorite for under $200 is the Vortex VMX-3T.
Here it is in action behind an EOTech.
The glass is pretty clear and it had the best hinge mechanism out of all the ones we tested.
There’s now a shorter micro version but it’s currently $299. We’re working on a review of it soon.
See the other two cheaper contenders in Best 3x Magnifiers if you’d like…but we give the original version a solid recommendation.
All the types of distance-based scopes we could think of…let us know if there’s any other type you’d like us to feature.
And in the meantime check out all of the individual articles: