The best rifle in the world, on its own, is as good as your Mark 1 Eyeball, or as good as it can be if you point in a target’s direction and shoot enough ammo, it’s bound to hit something.
But if you want to be any kind of real marksman, you need the best rifle scope. It’s what separates shooters who are happy to hit anything from marksmen who want to hit what they’re aiming at.
So what’s the best rifle scope?
It’s not…quite that simple. The best rifle scope will depend on a lot of factors, not least what you’re aiming at, what environment you’re in when you do it, and why. But come with us – we can show you a handful of the best rifles scopes available right now.
In a hurry? Here’s our top pick.
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
Cheap reference, maybe, but then this is a cheap scope. Cheap in the sense of a hell of a lot of scope for very little money.
We liiiiike a hell of a lot of scope for very little money. We will take any company seriously that gives us as much scope as the BugBuster on a budget we can afford, oh yes sir we will.
The thing that makes the BugBuster stand out immediately is that a lot of the scopes you can get for the same sized chunk of change are probably not worth taking out of the store.
They’re probably not even worth the effort of a click on the ‘Buy’ button. They’re like pressing a button marked ‘Disappoint the ever-living heck out of me, and charge me money for the privilege.’
Compared to that, the UTG 3-9×32 BugBuster offers a lot of high-quality features, and so makes itself the king of its price-point, simply by not cracking wise and demanding money.
Now, let’s get real. You put the BugBuster up against scopes by Zeiss or Nightforce or some of the other scopes that make you bleed money, and it’s probably not going to compete in terms of optical quality.
But as an entry-level scope, it will see off challengers all day long and some of the night as well.
It brings you a mil dot reticle, with illumination in both red and green – a neat touch, and not one you’ll find as standard at the budget end of the scope spectrum.
The turret design is both lockable and comes with a reset – again, features you’d expect as standard in a mid-price scope, but not necessarily at the BugBuster’s point in the market. Its standard magnification range is 3-9x, and it has a 32-millimeter objective lens.
That’s good enough for a lot of people. That’s extra good enough for a lot of people without a bank account so full dollars randomly fall out.
Like many of the more expensive scopes, the BugBuster is nitrogen-filled, shockproof, fog-proof, and rainproof. You have to go quite some way out of your comfort zone to damage the BugBuster.
Built of aluminum with some good use of polymers along the way, it feels like the BugBuster is built to last, and built to help you every which way you need.
While it’s here to give you simplicity and ruggedness all day long, there’s thought at every step of the way too. The simple reticle gives you a crosshair and a few holdover dots. Simple – but effective.
At its price-point in the market, accept no substitutes. As a lot of scope for a little money, the BugBuster is unbeatable, and our top choice for best rifle scope.
- 3-9x magnification
- Simple mil dot reticle
- Lockable and resettable turret design
- Rugged construction
- Fogproof, shockproof, and rainproof
- 32mm objective lens
- Price – a lot of scope for not a lot of money
- Lacks some of the bells, whistles, and optic quality of more expensive scopes
Vortex Optics has a strong reputation in optics across scopes, binoculars, and rangefinders.
The Strike Eagle 3-18x44 gives you highly technical short-to-long range shot-making and consistent performance, shot after shot, with the Vortex Optics quality guarantee.
Zoomwise, it brings 6x magnification to your shooting party, but it brings versatility too, which gives you a range of shooting options.
A parallax knob gives you 11 levels of brightness, so you can shoot in a swathe of conditions and light levels.
The lenses on the Strike Eagle are multi-coated for crisp imaging, and the Strike Eagle’s point of differentiation, the second focal plane reticle, is glass-etched for clarity.
All of which is nice and all, but without turret control, it’s about as much use as a flan on a hunt.
Tactical turrets help you out with that – they deliver clearly marked adjustment rotation indicators and are resettable to zero.
Like the BugBuster, the Strike Eagle is ruggedly built to withstand the environments where you might use it.
Sealed with O-rings, nitrogen purged, waterproof, and fog-proof, it’s probably more rugged than you are, so you don’t need to worry about taking it on hardcore hunts.
The illuminated reticle gives you options, and as an extra, when you use the reticle illuminated, you can use it as a red dot scope if you happen to get involved in close quarters shooting.
Other refinements to the Strike Eagle give it an edge of practical luxury. A thread-in magnification throw lever and a low turret profile are neat additions.
Overall, while we give the top honors to the BugBuster for its simple, rugged, go-anywhere readiness, the Strike Eagle is an impressive SFP scope that can do everything you’d ask of it, and do it with an edge of quiet, designed-in competence.
If your game is short-to-long range shooting, it’s more than worth a try.
- Second Focal Plane (SFP) scope
- Robust construction
- O-ring sealed for fog-proof, waterproof operation
- Suitable for heavier recoil rifles
- AR-type suitable
- Illuminated reticle can be used as a red dot on close-quarters shooting
- More at home with short-to-mid range, rather than extra-long shooting
When you absolutely, positively have to know your scope is going to work, the Aimpoint PRO Red Dot Reflex Sight has a trick or two up its sleeve.
Ready to mount, with a removable spacer to let you adjust the optical height, the big selling point of this scope is its battery life.
You’re looking at up to 3 years of operation from a single battery. That gives you extra confidence that whatever shooting you do with it, the Aimpoint will be there like a faithful dog the next time you use it.
That’s all very well, but is it any good when you’re using it?
It is. Another element of the calm, competent vibe it gives off is the fact that its 2 MOA red dot gives you faster focus on your target, to enhance the likelihood of success with your first shot.
Easy to fit, it saves you having to fuss around with flips and switches. You just attach it, put your bead on the target, and bang – the Aimpoint helps you bag another direct hit.
In terms of its magnification, it’s more useful at shorter ranges, bringing only 1x to your game.
But it’s also compatible with most night vision devices and you can boost the magnification by using it with an Aimpoint 3x magnifier and concealed engagement unit.
3x is still under-magnified for longer-range hunting or shooting, but it’s a lot better than the standard 1x.
For the night owls, this scope delivers you 4 night vision settings, and 6 daylight settings, including one for use in direct, bright sunlight, which can otherwise interfere with your aiming.
The big selling points that push the Aimpoint onto our list are its ease of use, its range of light options, its versatility with night vision devices, and its sturdy construction from anodized aluminum alloy.
Add individual retainers for windage and elevation and recessed lens openings to help prevent impact damage, and you have a scope that gives you a wide range of options and lasts extra long without any battery issues.
- Impressive battery life
- Range of light settings, including 4 night vision settings
- Easy attachment
- Faster focus on target with a 2 MOA red dot
- Versatility of use – with AR15, M4 carbine, and M16 rifles
- The 1x built-in magnification is relatively poor compared to others
Another company with a long and illustrious reputation in the field, it’s no surprise to find Burris on a list like this.
The Fullfield II has high-performance, multi-coated, no-glare optics so you get the clearest images in its price range, whatever the external light condition.
The lenses are larger than in some comparable scopes, and the glare-kill is delivered by index-matched Hi-Lume coating.
The eyepiece in this model is straightforward and integrated, and you get steel-on-steel click adjustment so you can correct your turret alignments to perfection.
Let’s talk magnification. The Fullfield II is almost desperate for us to talk magnification. You’re looking at variable power 3x-9x-40mm ballistic matte plex.
That’s good enough for a heck of a lot of hunting and shooting.
Sealant-wise, the Strike Eagle has a single tube construction with reinforced quad-seal gas seals. You probably need quite a large mallet to get into that.
And while it’s not quite in the budget bracket of the BugBuster, if you want a BugBuster with a bit more class in construction and optic quality, you can certainly pick up the Fullfield II without breaking your bank.
Riffing on the ‘lot of scope for a little money’ vibe that put the BugBuster at the top of our list, the Fullfield II does very little ‘wrong’ to push it so far down the pecking order.
It will give you reliably kickass hunting or shooting all day long – though if you want to shoot all night long, you’re better off with the Aimpoint PRO.
- Ballistic reticle available
- Weather and shockproof
- Integrative focus/power ring
Let’s not dance around the Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35. It’s not a scope with much sense of humor.
It’s been used by the US military for years, which is where its ACOG name comes from – it stands for Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight.
This is not a scope that’s come to play. It’s come to help you shoot things with a devastating accuracy.
Made of aircraft-grade aluminum, it combines strength with lightness, so you can carry it and use it without hindrance.
The optics are high quality too, with a handful of coatings that add to their resilience and toughness. It feels almost redundant to assure you it’s rainproof and shockproof.
Did you catch the part where it’s been used by the US military? These are not people who stay indoors sewing quilts – they’re out in extreme environments, in life-or-death situations, where the reliability and versatility of their scope could be what keeps their heart beating till tomorrow.
Guaranteed, it’s going to be tough enough and versatile enough for your peacetime needs. Unless you’re setting up a compound.
Actually, probably even then…
As the name suggests, this is a fixed 3.5x magnification scope – not excessive, but a very comfortable range for most uses.
The range allows it to be used in a hurry if you suddenly spot close-range targets, but can also give you a realistic shot at pretty distant targets.
Providing scope illumination without a battery is just an extra swank-mode on the Trijicon, but it’s swank to a practical purpose. Batteries die.
By using fiber optics and Tritium in a dual illumination system, Trijicon has thought around that issue, gathering light during daylight hours to illuminate your sight in lower light conditions.
And you won’t be left having to tinker with your light levels as the sun sets – the Trijicon will do that for you automatically.
It comes in 10 reticle options (including a chevron reticle), and each of those options is available in red, amber, or green, giving you crystal clarity of image without the accompanying eye strain.
There’s little point in denying the Trijicon is a superb piece of equipment to take on your hunting or shooting adventures.
The only real downside to it is that it costs about what you think it should cost. It’s a lot of first-rate scope for a lot of first-rate cash.
That means that while there’s no argument with the idea that you should buy one, it’s worth asking yourself when – and whether – you need a scope this good, because while it has that new car excitement to it, it has the same heftiness of price tag that can make buying new a real commitment.
- Durable optics, good enough for the US military
- Crisp, clear images
- Illumination without the uncertainty of batteries
- Large range of reticle choices and color options
- A lot of scope in a small, light, rugged package
- Price – it costs what you think a military-grade scope with commercialized options should cost you
Best Rifle Scope Buying Guide
Buying the best rifle scope from the thousands on the market depends on getting a handful of decisions right.
Find your Range
There are scopes that are better for short-to-mid range shooting, and scopes that turn up the magnification to give you longer-range options.
The truth is that you’ll own a rifle that dictates your range to some degree.
Be aware you pay more for more magnification, so don’t pay for it if it’s not going to be of practical use to you.
Tricks Of The Light
When are you going to be shooting? Mainly in daylight?
Don’t pay too much extra for night vision options then – stick to scopes that give you good, reliable function in reasonable daylight conditions.
If you are doing the night stalker thing, then buckle up and buy those night vision levels – they’re going to make a world of difference to your shooting
There would be some percentage, probably, in telling you not to bother paying money for rugged construction unless you’re going to be hunting in harsh environments.
Bottom line though, anywhere can become a harsh environment with an accidental trip or bang, so always be prepared to pay more for sturdier construction values in your rifle scope
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes the best rifle scope?
Fulfillment of your shooting needs. Honestly, the best rifle scope will change depending on what those needs are.
Look for one that has the magnification you need, the reticle you’re comfortable with, an illumination solution, and above all, one that fits with your lifestyle, be that a fuss-free option or a precision tool.
Which focal plane is better for rifle shooting?
The one which gives you the best results.
Honestly – if you’re familiar with FFP, then any scope that’s in FFP will give you faster, more immediate, more accurate results.
Likewise with SFP. In terms of accuracy, neither is objectively better. It’s just a matter of what you’re used to.
How important is battery life in a rifle scope?
That depends on whether you need one at all.
If you pick a scope that’s powered by battery, it depends how long and how frequent your hunting trips are – the last thing you want is to be stranded looking through your illuminated reticle which is…no longer illuminated.
So in those circumstances, it’s pretty important to go for a scope with a longer battery life. The likes of Trijicon have thought around the problem and given you illumination without batteries, so there’s an option to go battery-free – but it costs you a lot extra.
The question becomes how important battery life is to you.