The Top 5 Best Scopes For Your AR-15: Optics Ratings & Reviews

The AR-15 has become such a popular choice with today’s shooters that the number of platform-specific accessories has increased exponentially in the last few years. Manufacturers have climbed on the AR bandwagon, and many companies have now begun offering optics specifically geared towards this particular rifle/cartridge combination. Optics with drop compensation systems designed for the .223, special mounting systems and illuminated reticles are now par for the course and have become very desirable accessories for many shooting enthusiasts.

Our priority is to help you find the best choice for your assault rifle by providing you the best optics reviews on the web.  Below are our top 5 choices, and keep reading on if you want some additional options that we also like for the .223 platform outside of our top 5.  If pressed for a favorite on this chart below, we personally favor the Nikon M-223 as the best of all worlds for price, quality, and overall value.

Interactive Chart and Key:

BrandMagnificationLensPopular CalibersRatingPrice
NIKON M-223 8485 1-4x20
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3x32Fully Multicoated.223/.5564.8 Stars$$
Leupold 111412 Mark4 HAMR 4x24
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4x24Fully Multicoated.223/.5565 Stars$$$$
BARSKA 4x20 M-16
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4x20Fully Multicoated.223/.5564 Stars$
BSA Tactical Weapon 4 x 20mm
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4x20Fully Multicoated.223/.5564 Stars$
Burris Xtreme Tactical 1-4x24
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4x24Fully Multicoated.223/.5565 Stars$$$$

  • Brand – Manufacturer Name
  • Magnification Power – Distance Power
  • Lens Coating – What Type of Coating
  • Recommended Rifle – Assault Rifle Only for this Chart
  • Rating – Average Amazon User Rating
  • Price – Average Amazon Price as indicated by:  $ = Under $75, $$ = $75 to $150, $$$ = $150 to $225, $$$$ = $225.00 and up.

Popular Budget Models:

If you have a rifle with a carry handle there are a couple of popular low-cost options available to solve this particular quandary. The M-16 4x20mm from Barska comes with an integral mount to attach to the rifle’s carry handle. This option has an MSRP of $64.99 and features a drop compensation system that works in 100 yard increments out to 500 yards. Another popular low-cost option is the BSA Tactical Weapon 4x20mm. In addition to an integral handle mount, this product features a compact design and ¼ MOA adjustments. The BSA has an extremely reasonable MSRP of $39.99 and is a highly economical fix for a tricky problem.

Popular Top-End Models:

When it comes to outfitting your rifle with the more common Picatinny, or flattop, mount, there are literally dozens of popular models on the market these days. The flattop rifles present no problems when it comes to mounting or using any traditional optic, but many assault rifle users choose to pick an optic that is tailored to their specific needs. For those who don’t mind loosening their purse strings there is the Leupold HAMR 4x24mm, which comes with an adjustable red dot reticle, an integral mount and 60 MOA of adjustment for those shooters that want to really reach downrange. An MSRP of $1549 relegates this piece of hardware to the realm of serious AR shooters, but for discriminating buyers the Leupold name ensures that the HAMR will deliver in terms of quality and durability.

For those who want to spend a bit less, the Burris Xtreme Tactical XTR 1-4x24mm (with Fastfire) is an interesting option to consider. This model features an integral mount, adjustable magnification and an extremely tough housing. What makes the Burris Fastfire model a bit different from other AR choices is the addition of a separate red dot sight attached to the top of the optic for fast shots at close range. The MSRP of this XTR model is $899, but that’s not too steep when you consider that you’re getting a mount, optic and red dot sight in a single compact package.

Popular Under $500.00:

Those interested in maximizing their value for their AR-15 will find the Nikon M-223 1-4x20mm to be an excellent choice. This model is compact, comes with a lifetime warranty and has return-to-zero finger-adjustable turrets. Return-to-zero capability is especially handy with cartridges like the 233 Remington that require fairly large adjustments for long-range shooting. The return feature allows the user to turn any adjustments back to where they started without marking up the turrets or wasting time with arithmetic. An MSRP of $309 puts the M-223 within the reach of most shooters and will save a lot of time out on the range.

List Price: $289.95
Current Price: $289.00
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If your AR-15 is going to be used more for varminting or small game hunting there’s no reason not to choose an optic built for hunting applications. The Leupold VX-II 4-12x40mm is a fine choice for the shooter who wants a quality product geared towards varmint hunting. This particular model of Leupold offers all the built-in quality and ruggedness associated with the Leupold name, but comes at a surprisingly reasonable cost of $499.99.

Clarity and resolution are always good with Leupolds, and this model’s 4-12 magnification range means that you’ll be able to pick out small targets, like gophers, at longer ranges. Given the low recoil of most assault rifles there is a tendency to skimp a little when it comes to choosing a varmint hunter, but a high-end rig like the Leupold VX-II will help to milk every last bit of accuracy out of the rifle. Spending a bit more upfront will lead to more fun in the field later on.

Many shooters are beginning to discover that the AR-15 lends itself particularly well to coyote hunting. The diminutive .223 cartridge packs enough punch to put these small canines down effectively and humanely, but is surprisingly easy on the pelt if you wish to turn a small profit from your outings. Generally speaking, any optic designed for basic big game hunting is the one to choose for a coyote rifle, and the Zeiss line of Terra optics makes for an economical, quality choice for the coyote hunter.

Both the 3-9 and 4-12 Terras will work for nailing down coyotes, and the prices on them are surprising low for Zeiss products. The 3-9x42mm model can be had for $399.99 and the 4-12x42mm starts at around $449.99. These models can be mounted very low on the .223 and have a slim profile that comes in handy, as coyote hunting is oftentimes more vigorous than varminting. Of course, the Terra line has all of the Zeiss quality that people have come to expect and comes with a very nice warranty. Lower in price than traditional Zeiss offerings, the Terra line represents an opportunity not to be missed.

List Price: $444.43
Current Price: Too low to display
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If you’ve decided to get an AR-style rifle in a caliber more suited to big game hunting, like the 6.8 Remington or other available wildcat cartridges, then a model like the Burris Fullfield 30 3-9x40mm is the one for you. As its name implies, the Fullfield 30 has a 30mm tube which allows for a wider range of adjustment to accommodate the trajectory variations you’ll run into when switching uppers from caliber to caliber. The Fullfield 30 also has a pleasantly compact design that will keep the overall package manageable for brush hunting or whatever you find yourself doing.

Ruggedness, quality and an excellent MSRP of $179.95 make the Fullfield 30 a very flexible option that is hard to pass on. There are other 30mm tube models on the market, but the Burris represents the best balance between quality and price. Many of the new cartridges for these platforms require considerable flexibility in an optic and in the long run you’ll be happier getting a scope with plenty of flexibility built in.

Wrap Up:

While there are many scope choices for today’s active shooters, these are our favorites that every assault rifle enthusiast should be taking a look at when buying a now optic for their rifle. Not only are there companies not mentioned here that make AR-specific options, but the companies mentioned above have many additional models and configurations. Beyond this, many manufacturers now produce units that augment other models to increase magnification, add night vision functionality or supply a red or green dot. One of the great things that has come out of the proliferation of the AR-15 is that optics choices have broadened, prices have dropped and the quality of AR-specific choices has improved greatly.  Much like finding the best mosin nagant scope, finding the right choice for your assault rifle can be a complicated process.

With our vast experience in firearm optics of every caliber, we are extremely confident that any of these optics could be the best scope for your AR-15 rifle and that no matter what, you won’t go wrong by choosing any of them.  What once only made up a small portion of the overall market has now become a big deal to manufacturers who are striving to produce more and more interesting products to cash in on this new market. If you’re looking for an optic for your assault rifle, there has never been a better selection and there has definitely never been a better time to find a great deal.