You want something with a reasonable, affordable price tag. At the same time, you don’t want to blow your budget on something that falls apart after only a couple of uses or doesn’t perform well in the first place.
So to help you out, we’ve put together this guide to the best AR-15 scopes under $100.
We’ll start out with some basics. This will help you determine what type of AR scope you need and what to look for when choosing a scope. Then, once you’re a savvy shopper, we’ll recommend a few of our favorite high-quality, low-price AR-15 scopes.
Ready to get started?
What Are AR-15 Scopes?
AR-15 scopes are rifle scopes that are well-suited for the AR-15 platform. They may be particularly designed for AR-15s or modern sporting rifles in general. However, they may also just be scopes that happen to have features that complement the AR-15 platform.
Scopes offer an advantage over traditional iron sights by providing magnification and a less obscured target.
They help extend your accurate shooting range, but can also be handy for close-range shooting by giving you a closer look at your target. Scopes are especially helpful for shooting small targets or in other situations where precision is particularly important.
What Are The Different Types Of AR-15 Scopes?
All AR-15 riflescopes have either fixed or variable magnification.
Variable magnification means that you can adjust the magnification strength of the scope within a set range. This makes these scopes versatile, well-suited for a variety of ranges and purposes.
It also means that they require more parts, including moving parts, and are more complicated to build. This makes variable magnification scopes more expensive than fixed magnification scopes. The moving parts break more easily than fixed ones do.
Fixed magnification scopes, as you can probably guess, only allow for one magnification power. They’re generally cheaper and more durable than variable magnification scopes. However, they lack versatility, so they’re best for when you’re looking for a scope for a very specific purpose.
How Do AR-15 Scopes Work?
Traditional scopes, including AR-15 scopes, all work more or less the same way.
First, light enters the scope through the objective lens. There, it’s focused down on travel through the rest of the scope.
Then the light exits the objective bell and enters the main tube, or body tube, of the scope. Within the main tube are the reticle and magnification lenses. The position of the reticle is changed by windage and elevation turrets on the outside of the scope.
In a variable magnification scope, a magnification lens can be moved back and forth to adjust the magnification power of the scope.
All of the scopes on our list are second, or rear focal plane scopes. This means that the reticle is positioned behind the magnification lenses. That means that the reticle isn’t magnified by the lenses. Therefore, it stays the same size regardless of magnification, even as the objects in the sight picture appear to grow larger or smaller.
From the main tube, the light travels into the ocular bell or eye bell. There the focused light is diffused out to form the sight picture, which is viewed through the ocular lens. The part of the ocular bell surrounding the ocular lens is called the eyepiece.
What Do You Look For In The Best Scope For AR-15 Under $100?
A budget of less than $100 does limit your scope-buying possibilities. However, you can still get a high-quality scope on a low budget. You just have to know what to look for:
First and foremost, your scope should have a clear, bright, high-definition sight picture. Even if everything else about the scope is great, a poor sight picture makes it a poor scope.
Look for a scope with fully multicoated lenses. Lens coatings reduce glare, filter certain types of light, and improve light transmission. This results in a clearer, brighter sight picture and allows you to shoot in darker conditions. Some lens coatings also offer scratch protection.
You’ll also want to ensure that the lenses themselves are made from clear, high-quality glass. They also shouldn’t have any distortions.
There are lots of different scope reticles available. None of them is inherently better than any other. Primarily, the right reticle just depends on your personal preferences. However, some reticles are better suited for certain purposes than others.
The most popular reticle types are crosshairs, duplex reticles, BDC reticles, and mil-dot reticles.
Crosshairs are the most traditional reticle. They’re simply made up of two perpendicular lines that cross in the center of the sight picture. They’re well suited for shooting at high-contrast targets at a closer range. The thin lines can easily get lost in busy backgrounds.
Duplex reticles help resolve that problem. They’re similar to crosshairs, but the lines thicken a short ways away from the center of the reticle. This makes them more visible and makes it easier to find the reticle’s center for fast target acquisition. The thin lines at the center avoid obstructing the target and allow for more precise shooting. Duplex reticles are a popular choice for hunting.
BDC, or bullet drop compensation, reticles encompass a wide range of reticle patterns. What unites them all is some form of markings below the center. These marks allow the shooter to make holdover adjustments without re-zeroing the rifle. BDC reticles are good for long-range precision shooting.
Mil-dot reticles are similar to BDC reticles. However, they have additional markings above the center and along each side. This allows for additional adjustments for not just elevation, but also windage. Like BDC reticle, mil-dots are good for long-range precision shooting.
The AR-15’s effective range is generally considered to max out around 600 yards. You, therefore, don’t need an AR-15 scope with super high magnification. In fact, limiting the magnification range can help you save money.
3-9x magnification is a good general-purpose magnification range for an AR-15 scope. A lower minimum and higher maximum magnification are also helpful, though.
For fixed magnification scopes, it’s helpful to know what range you’ll mostly be shooting in. A 3x magnification will cover you through most of .223’s effective range.
Lower cost scopes often don’t have the same durability as higher price ones, so you’ll want to take special care to make sure that you’re choosing a more durable low-cost AR-15 scope. After all, with a limited budget, the last thing you want is to have your scope fall apart when you’ve barely gotten to use it.
Look for a scope with features like o-ring seals, nitrogen or argon purging, and a single-piece scope body. These features help ensure that the scope is waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof.
You’ll also want a scope with a body made of aluminum or a similarly durable, yet lightweight material. A hard-anodized finish and scratch-resistant lens coatings are also huge advantages.
Ideally, the scope will also come with lens caps to protect the lenses. If it doesn’t you’ll want to be sure to budget for those as well.
AR-15 scopes typically mount to the rifle’s handguard using a Picatinny or Weaver rail mount.
Some scopes come with mounts, while others do not. Before buying, be sure to check if you’ll also need to budget for scope mounts. If scope mounts are included, confirm that they’ll work with your AR-15.
Best AR-15 Scopes Under $100 Reviewed
Now that all that’s out of the way, let’s move on to the actual scope recommendations.
1. Bushnell Banner Riflescope 3-9X40 Multi-X (Our Top Pick)
Our first pick, the Bushnell Banner Riflescope, makes an excellent addition to your hunting rifle.
It has fully multi-coated HD lenses. Bushnell’s proprietary dusk and dawn coatings especially improve light transmission for optimal low light performance.
Bushnell’s Multi-X duplex reticle is easily visible yet doesn’t block your target.
In addition, the scope features a one-piece body tube and is dry-nitrogen filled. It’s waterproof, fog-proof, and shockproof.
Capped fingertip-adjustable windage and elevation turrets
Precise ¼ MOA clicks
Fast focus eyepiece
A bit of image distortion at higher magnifications
2. CVLIFE 2.5-10x40e Red & Green Illuminated Scope (Best Budget)
If you’re trying to save as much as possible, the CVLIFE Red & Green Illuminated Scope is the way to go. At only about $50, it falls well under our $100 budget. At the same time, it’s not light on features.
It has an illuminated reticle with 5 brightness levels in each red and green. This allows for good reticle visibility in a variety of light and weather conditions. The mil-dot reticle makes it easy for the shooter to make adjustments.
Integrated adjustable laser sight
Wide magnification range
Comes with a lens cover and a 20mm weaver scope mount
Okay, so the UTG Bugbuster doesn’t quite fit into the under $100 price range, but it’s close enough and a good enough scope that I had to include it anyway.
Plus, it comes with a 2” sunshade, flip-open lens caps, and QD scope mount ring. Those QD mounts easily attach to a Picatinny rail. They also allow you to quickly remove the scope so you can switch to your backup iron sights.
The mil-dot reticle features red and green dual illumination. The scope’s lenses have an emerald coating for excellent light transmission, even in low light conditions.
For a fixed option, we love the Monstrum 3×30 Compact Prism Scope.
The illuminated circle dot reticle can illuminate with either a red or green dot with multiple brightness settings. That and the lightweight, compact construction of the scope make it feel almost like a red dot sight, but with magnification. A red dot scope, if you will.
The scope is made from aircraft-grade aluminum and has an integrated Picatinny mount.
Available in two matte finishes, black and flat dark earth
Getting a budget scope doesn’t have to mean getting a bad scope. You just have to know what to look for. By now, hopefully, you do.
All of the scopes we’ve listed here are great options, so just go with the one that suits your needs best. And if you’re budget isn’t quite limited at $100, check out The Best Riflescopes Under $500 for some more options. If you’re just looking for an AR-15 scope, take a look at The Best Scopes for .223.
Finally, another great way to save money on optics is with a holographic sight or red dot sight like the Bushnell Trophy TRS-25. Sure, it doesn’t give you the magnification of a scope, but it’s still a huge improvement over iron sights.