Choosing The Best Scope for Your AR-15: A Helpful Guide

The AR-15 has accurately been called “America’s rifle” because of how beloved it is from sea to shining sea. While it’s an admirable weapon, I’ve always found that an AR-15 is only worth it with the proper scope, as you need clarity and precision when operating this firearm in order to truly appreciate it.

Finding the right scope for the job is easier said than done, though, with every gun owner claiming that this scope or that scope is the best option around. How should one go about finding the best scope for an AR-15, anyway?

ar scope

Here’s everything you need to know about selecting a scope for your AR-15, and what other AR fanatics have learned in the pursuit of the ultimate scope.

How Do You Like to Shoot Your AR?

Which scope should you be choosing for your AR-15? The answer to this question depends almost entirely upon the firing conditions you’ll be enjoying the next time you take your firearm out for some shooting. If you’re at an indoor range, for instance, the scope that you’ll need to accurately hit your targets will be vastly different than what you’ll need if you’re ranging in the great outdoors in the middle of a sunny day. Before you make a purchasing decision, it’s imperative that you assemble a list of conditions you may be shooting in to get the right scope.

Hunters who frequently foray into humid areas like swamps or bogs, for instance, will want a scope with anti-fog features. Anyone who may be exposed to rain or water will obviously want a water-proof scope, and those that enjoy shooting into the wee small hours of the morning may even be considering a night-vision option. Whichever style of shooting suits you the most, you’ll want to take into consideration the physical environment you’re placing your firearm in when shooting before buying a scope for your AR-15.

The AR rifle platform is so popular precisely because it’s universal. There’s nearly a limitless amount of applications for an AR-15 that’s properly managed. Some of the most popular reasons that Americans pick up the AR-15 have to do with deer hunting and personal defense, so we’ll consider those options first when analyzing scopes.

AR-15 Scopes for Hunting

You can’t bag a buck unless you can line him up in your sights, and that usually means you need a scope that can peer across long distances while you crouch hidden in a bush or tree stand. Not all AR-15 scopes for hunting need to be long-range, but a number of high-quality options feature high magnification that’s worth splurging for. Sights like the Bushnell AR optics Drop Zone rifle scope are literally tailor-made for the AR-15 and hunting, for instance, which means deer hunters who rely on this scope can largely be confident they’re getting their money’s worth.

ar scope for hunting

Scopes that feature a 40mm objective lens are great for hunting, especially in medium range scenarios that most hunters are familiar with. Try to find multi-coated glass that features anti-fog properties, too, as you’ll find that’s an important aspect of remaining an effective shooter in the face of fog, rain, or snow. If you’re not looking for a scope specifically designed for the AR-15, you may be pleased with scopes designed for the .223 round oftentimes used by the rifle. The Nikon M223 riflescope, for instance, is a great fit for AR-15’s firing .223 and is easily adjustable for hunters who need to keep their sights fluid.

AR-15 Scopes for Self-Defense

For self-defense, you likely don’t need a long-range option but are instead searching for something that can be used to defend your home and family members. For such close quarter encounters, a classic red dot sight is highly recommended, especially since they’re effectively created for low-light conditions. Heavy options like the Vortex Optics SPARC II MOA red dot sight feature aircraft grade aluminum and large profiles, whereas other red dot sights will be sleeker and less obstructive on the top of your AR-15.

As always, you’ll want to give these scopes a test-run and see what it’s like to actually have one mounted on an AR-15 similar to one you fire. Sights like Trijicon’s 6.5 red RMR dot sight are ideal for close quarter situations that take place in dim, indoor conditions, which effectively means they’re perfect for AR-15 owners looking to defend their homestead. If you’re not interested in shooting indoors but still want a laser sight for closer quarter shooting, consider getting a green option. Green laser sights perform better in outdoors, high-light conditions, and help give your AR-15 scope a tactical tint.

Do Scope Reticles Matter?

Whichever style scope you’re looking over, you’re likely encountering a wide range of reticles. From the simple red dot sight to more elaborate reticles that could fool a veteran sniper, you can find about a million different options when browsing AR-15 scopes. By and large, you’ll want to stick to something relatively simple that fits your purposes. Crosshair reticles are simple and easy to understand, with the vertical and horizontal lines neatly bisecting one another in the middle. BDC reticles feature holdover marks that indicate where your bullets may drop if fired over a long range. Such reticles are often only useful if you’re adept at ranging and are familiar with the location and distances you’re shooting at.

This is also a useful time to explore electronics and scopes. Certain scopes are complex and may require a battery pack to function. Over time, you may find that these batteries need to be replaced, so be sure that you have replacement options available in your local area if you’re purchasing a scope from far away or having it delivered to your home or range. Sophisticated scopes can even feature rangefinders and other elaborate features, but most AR-15 owners like to shirk such trivialities and stick to basic scopes that work in a variety of conditions without batteries.

It’s also worthwhile to know that you likely won’t need a scope with a huge 50-mm objective lens, though these can come in handy if you’re shooting at longer distances. Given that most shooters only need to hit targets within 300 meters, it’s fair to say that a 40mm objective lens is more than enough for most AR-15 engagements. Never be afraid to tweak with the windage or elevation knobs on your scope before making a purchase, too, as you may find it necessary to adjust it when shooting in the field.

Taking Delivery of Your New AR Scope

Remember that your work isn’t over once you’ve finalized a scope purchase and taken it home. You need to properly take care of your scope as you do any other piece of valuable equipment and will want to ensure it’s properly wiped down and removed (if necessary) after a long day’s shooting.

The AR-15 continues to be one of the most popular firearms in America because it’s versatile and fit for a wide-range of gun owners. As you’ll soon discover, having the right scope for the job effectively turns the AR-15 into a universal purpose firearm fit for any trained shooter. Buying scopes can be fun, too, and you may soon learn you’re unsatisfied with only one, buying two or three different options to test them out.