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How Much Magnification Do You Need For The AR-15?

Bushnell Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle-223 Riflescope

The AR-15 is an all-around tactical rifle. The uses of this weapon are almost as infinite as the number of scoping options that you can put on the rifle itself. When choosing how much magnification to use for your AR-15, there are a few things that you will need to ask yourself first.

What Style of Shooting will I be Doing?

When deciding the level of magnification to get for your AR 15, you will need to know what your primary shooting style is going to be. Deer hunting is far different than home defense and close quarters shooting. If you’re getting an AR 15 for long-range precision shooting, then your scope magnification is going to be far higher than if you are getting an AR 15 because you are a doomsday prepper. With so many different uses for an AR 15, there are varying answers about the right level of magnification to use on the rifle.

Bushnell Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle-223 Riflescope

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The reason the style of shooting is going to affect your choice of the magnification is because of the following scoping elements:

  • When on the move the wobble is magnified. If you’re shooting from a bench in or lying position, the magnification wobble will not be noticeable. But standing your crosshairs start to shake and shimmy all over the place. The higher the magnification, the greater the wobble.
  • The higher the magnification, the shorter your field-of-view will become. If you have high magnification your ability to find targets down range is going to diminish. Ammoland (https://www.ammoland.com/2015/08/best-ar-15-scopes-how-what-to-choose/#axzz4pADBrNP1) points this out in the case of the Bushnell Elite Tactical SMRS 1 – 6.5×24 optic. At the true one power setting, you can see an area of 105.8 feet wide through the scope. When you crank the magnification up to 6.5 power, you only see an area 16.3 feet wide. This will greatly hinder close styles of shooting. Though the smaller field-of-view would not be a problem for a long-range precision shooter.
  • Heatwave is increased at higher magnifications. If you’re seeing a lot of heatwave, it is because of the light diffraction. Your optic is only going to enhance the Mirage effect that you’re seeing and can cause you to be off target.

Many times, a skilled shooter with the AR 15 won’t need anything but iron sights for shots up to 400 m. If you’re having trouble hitting shots below 400 m, you may think about seeing a shooting instructor to gain additional skills with your rifle. You can take the money you would spend on an expensive scope to get real time tactical training. This type of training will not only make you a better rifleman but a better shooter with almost any weapon.

Red dot or magnified?

Once you know the style of shooting be doing, you can choose whether or not you’d like a red dot or magnified scope.

Red Dot

The red dot or reflex sights are not magnified, but they superimpose red dots on the reticle and allow you to keep both eyes open when shooting. This is especially important with tactical shooting and close quarter shooting where your peripheral vision is going to be not only necessary but life-saving.

Not all AR 15 shooting requires magnification. In fact, in some instances magnification, that narrows your field-of-view could be a detriment to your skills as a shooter. If you’re using a carbine style AR 15 it’s likely you need the faster mobility and are going to benefit from a red dot or holographic sight.

Magnified Scopes

For magnified scopes, you have options of the first focal plane or second focal plane scopes. Keep in mind with a first focal plane scope the reticle is going to grocery magnification making for easier sighting. However, second focal plane scopes are typically less expensive and can allow you to purchase better quality glass.

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Magnification Level

The magnification level that you need for your scope, again, will depend greatly on the style of shooting you’ll be doing. With field-of-view adjustments and wobble considerations by magnification is anything greater than sex acts is probably going to be a waste on an AR 15. Some of the best ACOG and fixed magnification scopes for the AR 15 only go up to 4X magnification.

If you’re doing long-range competition shooting, you may need the 6X magnification to hit those long-range shots. But for anything other than competition shooting a 6X magnification is probably going to hinder your ability to hit on target and it will interfere with your target acquisition.

The best thing for magnified scopes for moving targets such as deer is going to be something that easily adjusts from the true one magnification to 4X. The fast adjustment from true one magnification allows you to have the widest field-of-view to sight your target and then magnified to get into the kill zone. Slower zooming scopes are not going to be good for deer or other moving objects because you will not be able to sight the target.

The Best Scope For You!

When it comes to finding the best scope for your AR 15 you are going to have to look at your use case. Take the last six months of shooting with your AR 15 and see how you used it most often. If nearly every time you took your AR 15 out you were in a tree stand hunting for deer, then that’s your use case. If the last six months you spent practicing for a marksman competition, then that’s your use case. This is how you’re going to choose the best scope for you.

Now you know your use case and what type of magnification level is best for your type of shooting. Keep in mind, you don’t always need magnification on your scope, and sometimes magnification can hinder target acquisition.

Rifle Scopes Center Staff
 

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