Best Rifle Scope under $500 – 2021 Picks

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. 

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Best overall
  • Fully multi-coated for exceptional optical quality
  • Built like a tank for reliable durability
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  • Provides incredible light transmission for performance at dawn or dusk
  • Generous eye relief is ideal for high-powered rifles
  • Lightweight - weighing in at well under a pound
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  • Best under $300
  • Great price for fully multi-coated optics
  • Advanced Combined Sighting System allows for impressive accuracy at distance
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  • Best value for the money
  • Precision Zero Stop System allows you to lock your zero position and quickly return to it
  • Illuminated reticle for performance in low-light conditions
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  • Best tactical scope
  • Impressive optics allow for up to 98% light transmission
  • Unique P-Tactical reticle for range estimation, elevation holdover, and more
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What Are The Components of a Rifle Scope?

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. 

Objective Lens Assembly 

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.

Focus Lens Assembly

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.

Erector Tube Assembly

This component holds the magnification lenses and the parts of the reticle. These components work together to deliver an upright image to the user.

Windage and Elevation

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.

Power Ring

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.

Reticle

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.

Characteristics of Our Favorite Rifle Scopes

Regardless of the scope you choose, you’ll want to ensure that your riflescope possesses the characteristics below. 

Quality Construction

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. 

Objective Lens 

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

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.

Adjustment Turrets

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.

Review of the Best Rifle Scopes Under $500

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. 

Top Pick

Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20×50 PA SFP Riflescope Dead-Hold BDC MOA

Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20x50 PA SFP Riflescope Dead-Hold BDC MOA

PROS

CONS

What Recent Buyers Report

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.

Why It Stands Out to Us

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. 

Bottom Line

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.

Runner Up

Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40mm Riflescope

Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40mm Rifle Scope

PROS

CONS

What Recent Buyers Report

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.

Why It Stands Out to Us

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. 

Bottom Line

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. 

Best Under $300

Primary Arms 1-6x24mm SFP Gen III Illuminated Riflescope

PROS

CONS

What Recent Buyers Report

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.

Why It Stands Out to Us

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. 

Bottom Line

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.

Best Budget Option

Athlon Optics Argos BTR Riflescope 6-24 x 50 First Focal Plane (FFP) 30 mm Tube

Athlon Optics , Argos BTR, Riflescope, 6-24 x 50 First Focal Plane (FFP) 30 mm Tube, Illuminated APMR MIL Reticle, Black

PROS

CONS

What Recent Buyers Report

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.

Why It Stands Out to Us

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.

Bottom Line

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. 

Best Tactical Scope

Nikon P-Tactical .223 3-9×40 Matte BDC600

Nikon P-Tactical .223 3-9x40 Matte BDC600

PROS

CONS

What Recent Buyers Report

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.

Why It Stands Out to Us

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. 

Bottom Line

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. 

Advantages of Investing in a Quality Rifle Scope

Not sure if it’s worth investing in a quality scope? Consider these benefits below. 

Increases Accuracy

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. 

Saves Money (No Kidding!) 

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. 

Longer Range

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. 

Conclusion 

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.

People Also Ask

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.

Is Leupold better than Vortex?

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. 

What scope do I need for 300 yards?

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. 

Is a 50mm scope better than a 40mm?

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.

Joseph Fox

Joseph Fox

Joseph Fox writes on a variety of topics ranging from reloading ammunition to gun cleaning. He has been featured on various publications like thetruthaboutguns, Sofrep & many more. Joseph is also the founder of Gunloading, where he reviews different types of reloading & firearm products available on the market.