Riflescopes span the gamut when it comes to price. You’ll find cheap rifle scopes alongside scopes that can set you back several thousand dollars. When you’re shopping for a new rifle scope with a budget of around $500, you must know what to look for so you can maximize your budget and select a genuinely excellent scope.
Today, we’re going to cover everything you need to know to select the best rifle scope under $500 and take a look at some of the best options available today.
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Riflescopes are similar in their anatomy to telescopes, and their purpose is to magnify your target while gathering tons of light to illuminate the target correctly. These are the essential components of a scope.
The objective lens assembly is the lens at the front of the scope, and its job is to send light to the ocular lens at the rear of the riflescope. The OLA is measured in millimeters, and the larger the OLA, the more light it will be able to gather.
This component is a lens inside the scope that can be moved towards or away from the objective lens, which corrects parallax errors to provide a clear image.
This component holds the magnification lenses and the parts of the reticle. These components work together to deliver an upright image to the user.
These components allow you to adjust the image both vertically and horizontally. Inside the scope, springs from the erector tube press intro the windage and elevation screws, which can be adjusted outside of the riflescope by the user. Depending on the maker, these adjustments are measured in MOA or MRAD.
The power ring allows you to make magnification adjustments. When the ring is turned clockwise, the magnification elements move towards the objective lens, which increases magnification. The opposite is true when the ring is turned counter-clockwise.
The reticle can be placed before or after the magnification lenses depending on the manufacturer. This element provides the user with a crosshair to look through when sighting targets.
Regardless of the scope you choose, you’ll want to ensure that your riflescope possesses the characteristics below.
A scope that’s well-built and made to last is the most critical consideration to make. A quality scope will be made from reliable, heavy-duty components that can stand up to years of tactical use.
Ensure that the scope is nitrogen or argon-purged at the factory, as this will make the internal elements fog proof, waterproof, and shockproof.
You’ll find scopes with OLAs as small as 20mm and as large as 70mm or more. Larger OLAs will produce a brighter image for you to view, but large OLAs also present challenges regarding mounting and accessories.
Today’s advanced lens coatings allow smaller OLAs to produce incredibly bright images without the need for a huge lens. Select a scope with an OLA that’s comfortable for you and offers plenty of brightness.
Eye relief refers to the distance between your eye and the scope, and higher-quality rifle scopes offer more significant eye relief. Beware of rifle scopes that only provide 3-3.5” of eye relief, especially if you’re pairing the scope with a high-powered rifle. A rifle scope without enough eye relief and a high-powered rifle is a recipe for a black eye.
The turrets for adjusting windage and elevation are perhaps the most important adjustments on a scope. Look for turrets that offer an audible ‘click’ and reliable operation so you can easily make adjustments on the fly without looking.
There are plenty of riflescopes in the sub-$500 category, but which are the best? We’ve rounded up the five best rifle scope under $500 for you below so you can decide which is the best fit for your rifle.
Buyers are happy to report that this Viper scope offers tremendous value for the money. While there may be better scopes on the market, they tend to cost upwards of double or triple what this one will set you back.
Offering outstanding optical quality that holds up at all magnifications, the Viper from Vortex Optics is a proven performer, especially for long-range applications.
While it’s certainly on the heavier side, this scope provides a weighty feel and a finish that’s difficult to beat. This scope is built to stand up to years of use, providing reliable performance every time it’s called upon.
For shooters who need impressive accuracy at distances exceeding 500 yards, the Viper is the first scope you should consider. It’s built to stand up to anything, and should it ever let you down, Vortex stands behind it with a lifetime warranty.
Owners of the VX-3i from Leupold are thrilled about the performance of this scope in lower light conditions. The Twilight Max lens system of this scope eliminates up to 85% more stray light than competitors, providing a brighter image that’s critical at dawn or dusk.
More shooters trust Leupold than any other optics company, and the quality of their scopes extends from their top-of-the-line options down to more budget-conscious options like the VX-3i.
This scope possesses exceptional optical quality, it’s built to stand up to years of shooting, even in treacherous conditions, and it’s covered by Leupold’s best-in-the-business lifetime warranty. If you typically shoot at distances under 300 yards, the VX-3i is a scope you’ll want to look for.
For short and intermediate distances, especially in low light, this scope from Leupold is an incredible value in the sub-$500 category. The only reason this riflescope doesn’t get the nod as the winner is it’s not quite as versatile as the Vortex Viper.
New users are blown away by the ACSS reticle of this scope, which provides compensation for Wind holds, moving target leads, bullet drop, and range estimation. While it may seem like a lot, it’s intuitive and easy to use, especially at shorter ranges.
It’s hard to expect much at less than $300, but Primary Arms exceeds every expectation with this value-packed scope.
This scope offers excellent clarity, quick and true adjustments, and a reticle that’s easy to use. It will improve the accuracy of any shooter, whether they’re a beginner or a professional. You can illuminate the reticle for lower light conditions, which is another handy feature that can improve your accuracy.
Primary Arms makes some concessions to get this scope down below $300, but considering all of this scope’s features, it’s the proven leader in this price range.
Owners of the Argos BTR report optical quality that can rival many scopes, which cost upwards of triple what this one does. Beyond the optical quality, Athlon delivers value in other ways, too, like one of the only FFP reticles available in a scope under $500.
Impressive optical quality, reliable performance in all light conditions, and an FFP reticle make the Argos one of the best values in the sub-$500 price category.
The Argos is also one of the most versatile scopes on the market. While it’s best-suited to targets from 15-300 yards, this scope performs admirably at distances up to 1,000 yards. Shooters will need to remain vigilant when using this scope on higher-powered rifles, as the Argos doesn’t provide much eye relief.
For shooters interested in an FFP reticle without spending $1000 or more on a scope, the Argos BTR is one to check out. This scope offers clear optics, impressive high-end features, and a rugged build that can stand up to anything you’ll dish out.
Shooters who have picked up the Nikon P-Tactical BDC600 are impressed by the fit and finish of the scope and the generous eye relief it provides. They also report that the zero-reset feature makes field adjustments a breeze.
As you’d expect from Nikon, this scope delivers impressive optical quality and offers 98% light transmission for improved accuracy in low-light conditions. The optics far exceed what you’d expect from a riflescope this affordable.
This scope also delivers impressive usability with its open reticle design, zero-reset turrets, and smooth and easy adjustments. The BDC600 might not pack all the features of the best of breed models. Still, it’s reliable, affordable, and the tactical design of the reticle is exceptionally useful in a variety of situations.
Solid optical quality and an unbeatable price make this scope very popular with beginner and advanced rifle enthusiasts. Add to that a build-quality and finish that far exceeds what you can expect for the price, and you have a winning riflescope that’s worth a closer look.
Not sure if it’s worth investing in a quality scope? Consider these benefits below.
One of the significant benefits of a quality scope is it will make you a more accurate shooter. Quality scopes are factory tuned to provide you with an incredibly clear image as well as all the information you’ll need to hit your target time after time.
Anyone who has ever invested in a budget-quality scope can tell you that it isn’t worth it in the long run. Cheap riflescopes may do the job for a season or two, but over time, their inferior builds begin to degrade, resulting in shots that are off-target or missed altogether. Buying a quality scope that will last a lifetime will end up saving you money in the long run.
A scope can make or break your ability to hit targets at longer distances. A quality scope that’s accurate across long distances will allow you to take (and make) shots at greater distances than you’d be able to with an inferior riflescope.
When it comes to the best rifle scopes under $500, there are a few fantastic models that can help take your quickness and accuracy to the next level. When shopping for a new riflescope, be sure to consider what you’ve learned above, and select a scope that’s comfortable, accurate, and provides you with all the features you need to succeed on the range, on a hunt, or beyond.
Beyond the critical info above, rifle users typically have a few other questions about purchasing a scope. We’ve rounded them up here to make it easier for you to complete your research.
Both scopes offer incredible performance, and a choice between the two is mostly a matter of preference. Leupold brings decades of experience and a tried-and-true approach to optics, while Vortex is a much newer brand. However, Vortex scopes offer the same features and quality as Leupold does for a few dollars less.
Shooting at distances upwards of 300 yards requires some unique features that many short-range scopes don’t possess. When shopping for a long-range riflescope, look for an objective 40mm or greater, fully multi-coated optics, and top-of-the-line focusing features.
The diameter of a scope is mostly a matter of personal preference. While 50mm might seem better than 40mm on paper, most users prefer a riflescope with a smaller OLA as they offer greater strength, a lower price, and a greater field depth than a 50mm scope can.