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What is the Best Rifle Scope under $500?

Burris 6.5-20x50mm Fullfield II Riflescope

Buyer’s Guide to Finding the Best Rifle Scope under $500

Spending up to $500 on a rifle scope ensures that you get solid quality and performance that matches your shooting and hunting style. You won’t have an issue to find a high quality scope for that price as we show in our reviews of the 10 best rifle scopes under $500 below. You will find scopes from all of the best known rifle scope manufacturers in this category.

You can expect a high-quality scope at this price point. Most scopes will target the medium to long range shooting market. You won’t find your typical 3-9x scope in this price range and you also will not find any ultra-high magnification levels. If you shoot shorter distances then have a look at our Best Rifle Scope under $300 review. If you’re only interested in long range shooting then check our Buyer’s Guide for Long Range Rifle Scopes. Otherwise enjoy our reviews of the best scopes under $500 below.

What to expect from the Best Riflescope under $500

You can expect to get a great quality scope in this price range that will support medium to long range shots. Typically, you can get a scope that has a starting magnification of 4x. On the upper magnification level you can go up to 20x or even 25x in this price category.

You will typically see rifle scopes in this category that feature better optics and visibility than what you can get in the under $300 range. Most of the scopes offer better features and capabilities as in the lower price range. You also will usually get at least a 1 inch tube on the scope with a sufficiently large objective diameter. The combination of this is usually a much better image than what you get in the sub-$300 range.

The scopes in this price range are also all to be expected to be water proof, fog proof and shock proof. You can also expect these scope to hold zero without a problem.

Overall, you can get a great scope in this price range. Don’t expect the best of the best optics but it certainly will be great optics you can get. Most likely better than any scope in the above $1,000 range would have gotten you 10 or 15 years ago.

Vortex Optics Diamondback HP 4-16x42mm - Best Rifle Scope under $500 to buy in 2017

There is no question that Vortex designs and produces high-quality rifle scopes. It is thus also no surprise to see them on top of the category of scopes under $500. Vortex is on par with Nikon and Leupold when it comes to the quality and capability of their rifle scopes.

Vortex Optics Diamondback HP 4-16x42mm Rifle Scope

Vortex Optics Diamondback HP 4-16x42 Riflescope

The scope features a variable magnification of 4 – 16x. This provides a large range to shoot in. The objective diameter of 42 mm is large enough to match the magnification and allow this scope to be a great all-around scope. It won’t be a good fit if you are trying to shoot short distances as the minimum magnification of 4x will make it hard to get the target into your crosshairs.

This scope impresses with its impeccable glass quality. The BDC reticle sits on the second focal plane. The lenses are multi-coated to prevent reflections as well as keep the scope complete fog proof.

The tube is 1 inch in diameter allowing a lot of light to travel through the scope. The scope is also waterproof as you’d expect from any of today’s scopes.

Be aware that the scope is a little on the heavy side. Make sure of thinking about that when you pair it with your rifle of choice.

Overall this scope has all the bells and whistles combined with quality and performance to make it the best overall scope for under $500 in our opinion.

Nikon MONARCH 3 BDC 4-16x50mm – Best Rifle Scope under $500 for Hunters

The Nikon Monarch rifle scope series is a truly impressive lineup of highest quality optics for a wide variety of shooting. They are multipurpose scopes that you can match up to any shooting need and style.

In our opinion the best overall scope for hunters that stays under the $500 mark is the Monarch 3 4-16x50mm. It features the same magnification levels of 4-16x like the Vortex does but with a 50mm objective size it lets even more light in.

Nikon MONARCH 3 BDC 4-16x50mm Riflescope

Nikon MONARCH 3 BDC Riflescope 4-16x50

The Nikon Monarch scopes come in three different series. The most affordable is the 3 series that we picked here. The 5 series and 7 series are more expensive and offer larger tube and magnification levels.

As you’d expect from a Nikon scope, the Monarch 3 comes with fully coated lenses that keep the reflections to a minimum and won’t fog up. The reticle sits on the second focal plane.

Nikon designed the Monarch series of rifle scopes to be used in a variety of situations. And, they delivered. This scope is the overall best for hunting. If you’re looking for longer distance shooting then you will have to step up to the Monarch 5 or Monarch 7 series which will also cost you more. You can check out that information in our review of the Nikon Monarch rifle scopes.

Carl Zeiss Terra 3X 4-12x50mm – Best Low Light Rifle Scope under $500

The Terra series is the lower end rifle scope family offered by Zeiss. Now, don’t get us wrong. Lower end for a European and specifically German manufacturer means that it beats out most of the other scopes you can find.

Carl Zeiss Terra 3X 4-12x50mm Riflescope

Zeiss Terra 3X 4-12x50mm Riflescope

The scopes are of highest quality. The Terra 3x, as the name already gives away, is the scope series that has a 3 times zoom ration. This means that the magnification on the high end (12) vs. the low end (4) is a factor of 3x. Compared to the higher end scopes by Zeiss, the Terra series doesn’t use the highest end coatings and glass that Zeiss uses in more expensive scopes. However, you still get a truly brilliant image and vivid colors.

The scope sports a 50 mm objective and a 4-12x magnification. The large objective allows a lot of light into the scope making it a great choice for low light level hunts. Dusk or Dawn are your friend when you use this scope. The tube size is 1 inch which is pretty standard in the price range under 500.

The biggest downside with this scope is that you can’t set the turrets to zero once you zeroed in your scope. That would be a nice feature which is standard on most other scopes but it’s also something you can live without.

Nikon PROSTAFF 5 BDC 4.5-18x40mm – Best Long Range Rifle Scope under $500

We had already crowned the Nikon Prostaff 5 Mildot 4.5-18x40mm as the best long range rifle scope under $500. For this pick we chose the same scope with the BDC instead of the Mildot reticle.

As you’d expect, this scope does not disappoint. You really can’t go wrong whether you pick the Mildot or the BDC reticle, you get an excellent long range scope with the Nikon Prostaff 5.

Nikon PROSTAFF 5 BDC 4.5-18x40mm Riflescope

Nikon PROSTAFF 5 BCD Riflescope 4.5-18x40

The scope offers great optics and coatings. The magnifications range from 4.5x to 18x and the objective diameter is 40mm. Compared to other scopes in this price range the objective is smaller which hampers the low light performance of this scope. In regular light conditions there’s nothing you’d have to complain about though.

The scope delivers on quality and performance and is truly the best scope for long distance shooting in the under $500 price range. The spring-loaded turrets feature instant zero-reset. The scope has a quick focus eyepiece to allow to instantly bring the reticle into focus.

All in all you get a great scope for long distance shots. With a 4.5 x lower magnification you won’t really want to use this scope for shorter distances though.

Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40mm – Best Overall Image Rifle Scope under $500

The Leupold VX-3i series of scopes is a solid improvement over the original VX-3 series. The outstanding feature of this scope series and specifically the 3.5-10x40mm version are the optics. Leupold worked hard to get the best light transmission in this price range and their hard work paid off.

Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40mm Riflescope

Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40mm Rifle Scope

The combination of the 1 inch tube with the 40 mm objective lens and the ultra-clear glass in this scope provides a vivid image with bright colors when you look through it. The magnification range is slightly lower than for other scopes in this price range. However, having the magnification start at 3.5x means that you get a potentially more versatile scope as it works better at shorter ranges compared to the 4.5x versions we highlighted above.

The 10x maximum magnification makes this scope not a great fit if you are looking for a long range scope. It is a good level though for most hunting situations so if you’re not out to shoot targets or truly are intent on shooting your prey across long distances then you can rest assured that you’re having a sufficient magnification with this scope.

And the scope makes more than up for the missing highest end magnification with the superb optics and view you get. You will get a truly versatile hunting scope with some of the best optics money can buy at a price point that makes it affordable for many hunters and shooters.

Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20x50 PA – Best Long Range Accuracy Rifle Scope under $500

The Vortex Viper is a truly magnificent designed and built scope for long distances. The impressive magnifications levels range from 6.5x to 20x. The massive 50 mm objective lens allows a ton of light into the scope.

Best of all, the scope features a 30mm tube compared with many one inch tubes in this price range. This tremendously improves the accuracy for long distance shots in low light conditions.

Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20x50 PA Rifle Scope

VORTEX Optics Viper 6.5-20x50 PA Riflescope

You might ask why we didn’t pick this as the overall best long distance scope? Well, we could easily have done that but in our opinion the Nikon Prostaff has a more versatile magnification range. Yes, that might be a compromise if you’re really into long-distance shooting but a magnification starting at a 6.5 level restricts the scope to really only be useful for long range shots. In our opinion it loses some of the all-purpose features and that’s why we picked the Prostaff as the overall long range scope.

However, when it comes to shooting long range in less than perfect light conditions, the Vortex Viper shines. This scope is all about optics combined with overall quality. If you do nothing but shoot across long distances then this is the scope for you if you don’t want to spend more than $500.

The downside is that the larger tube size, the impressive objective diameter require a lot more glass and components. The result is a somewhat heavy scope that weighs in at over two pounds. Make sure to take this into consideration when you look at this scope.

Nikon M-308 SF 4-16x42mm– Best Rifle Scope under $500 for Heavy Hitting Centerfire Rifles

Nikon designed the M-308 scope series specifically for heavy hitting centerfire rifles. That doesn’t mean that you could only use this scope on such a rifle though. It does result in a very sturdily built scope that will not let you down.

Nikon M-308 SF 4-16x42mm Rifle Scope

Nikon M-308 SF 4-16x42mm Rifle Scope

The magnification on this scope ranges from 4x to 16x which gives you a wide spread for medium to long distances. As the scope is designed for rifles with a larger caliber and more recoil, it also is intended to be used on longer ranges. It’s not a great scope if you are shooting short distances.

The optics and lenses are what you’d expect from a Nikon scope. They feature Nikon’s multicoated lenses on ultra-clear glass. The objective diameter of 42 mm is large enough to let a lot of light in when targeting for a long distance shot. In low light conditions you might be better off with a scope with a larger objective and tube though. The Vortex Viper that we listed just above would be a better choice if that’s your style of hunting.

The scope is, as you would expect, fog and water and shock proof. It’s a very sturdy design as it was meant for rifles with a heavy hit. There’s also nothing to stop you from using it on a lighter hitting rifle while enjoying the toughness of this scope.

Overall this is simply a great scope. It combines great optics with a solid design at a good price. You won’t regret getting this scope for hunting or target shooting.

Burris 6.5-20x50mm Fullfield II – Best Affordable Long Range Rifle Scope under $500

The Burris Fullfield II scope is another solid scope in the price range under $500. The problem it has is that it competes with the Vortex Viper listed above. Is it a worse scope than the Viper? We can’t really say that it is. It’s just that the Viper feels just a touch better and brighter. And, in all fairness, this might just be our subjective take on it.

Burris 6.5-20x50mm Fullfield II Rifle Scope

Burris 6.5-20x50mm Fullfield II Riflescope

The Burris scope is solidly built with great optics. It offers a magnification ranging from 6.5x to 20x which makes it a great choice for long range shots. The 50 mm objective lens lets a lot of light travel into the scope for better visibility in low light conditions.

There’s really nothing that makes this scope worse than the Vortex Viper. One thing that we did really like was that this scope is significantly lighter than the Vortex. It comes in at just 1.2 pounds versus the more than 2 pounds on the Vortex scope.

It also is significantly cheaper than the Vortex. You can expect to save between $50 and $100 when you choose the Burris scope instead of the Vortex. Yet, the Vortex in our opinion is a tad bit better. If you have the additional money to spend then go for the Vortex. Otherwise, this Burris scope is an excellent choice.

Millett 6-25 X 56 LRS-1 - Best Illuminated Rifle Scope under $500

When looking at rifle scopes under $500 we didn’t want to exclude an illuminated scope. And the Millet LRS-1 does deliver as a fantastic scope in that price range featuring an illuminated reticle.

Millett 6-25 X 56 LRS-1 Rifle Scope

Millett 6-25 X 56 LRS-1 Rifle Scope

Yet, this is a pretty large scope. It measures 22 inches with the included sunshade. The magnification has a whopping range from 6x to 25x making it truly a long range rifle scope. If you shoot long distances then you’ll be very happy with this scope. If you need this scope to support shots at short distances then you might want to look elsewhere.

The objective lens has a massive diameter of 56mm allowing a lot of light to enter the scope. This scope is overall on par with the Vortex Viper except that the large dimensions might not make it a great fit for all rifles. That is something you should consider.

The 25x magnification without problems allows you accurately target up to the 1,000 yard range. However, the scope is not feeling as well-built and sturdy as the Vortex does. So, if you can skip the extra magnification then you might be happier with the Vortex Viper.

EOTech 512.A65 - Best Holographic Rifle Scope under $500

Last but not least we wanted to include a holographic scope into our list. The EOTech 512.A65 is probably the most popular holographic scope. These kinds of scopes are mostly designed for tactical and target shooting use. They are less usable for hunting except for somewhat shorter distances.

EOTech 512.A65 Holographic Rifle Scope

EOTech 512.A65 Holographic Rifle Scope

The scope is designed for shooting within 200 yards but does work best for shorter ranges. It provides a clear view of the target and provides a 1 MOA red dot. Within the 200 yards the dot is right on where the bullet hits after zeroing the scope.

This is not your traditional hunting scope yet there’s no reason why you couldn’t use it for that purpose. The scope has 20 different brightness settings to allow you to adjust it to whatever daylight condition you’re in. It does not have night-vision capabilities though. You’ll have to spend some more money to get that in a high-quality holographic lens.

The scope is great on an AR-15 for target shooting. It’s sturdy and performs well. The only drawback is that the batteries only last up to around 1,000 hours. That might sound like a lot but other holographic scopes provide a much higher batter life. On the bright side, the scope uses AA batteries which you can easily get pretty much anywhere on the planet.

Conclusion

There's no simple answer as to what the best rifle scope under $500 might be. We tried our best to highlight 10 great rifle scopes above and figure out what we think each one is best used for.

Mostly the 'Best of' will depend very much on what you want and need to use the scope for. If you're shooting a max. of 300 yards then you won't really need a 25x magnification. Our best suggestion - think of what you need and then pick the match out from our list above.

​These scopes all are good scopes. They've been used by thousands of hunters and shooters and the feedback for all of the ones listed above has been overwhelmingly positive. You won't go wrong if you pick one of the scopes we reviewed here.  Can you find other scopes in the price range that are great? Certainly you can. There will always be other scopes out there that are good and we would never assume or think that we've seen them all. However, the ones above are a safe bet with practically no risk on your end. Get the best scope for you and then happy shooting and hunting!