Is 500 bucks enough for high-quality riflescope? Considering that some rifle scopes cost upwards of $2500, $500 looks like a very small amount to spend on a rifle scope. But do you really need a 2000 dollar Swarovski to be a good hunter?
Truth is even with $500 you can find a great quality optic. More importantly, rifles scopes priced under $500 are more practical for hunting than their high-end 2000 dollar counterparts. So which is the best rifle scope under 500?
There are quite a number of rifle scopes that can stake a claim to being the best hunting rifle scope under 500. To make things easier for you, I have narrowed down the list to eight. I have handpicked these eight because of their performance and the extra perks some offer.
Review Of The Best Rifle Scope Under 500
Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8x24 SFP : Best Hunting Scope Under 500
The Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-8x24 Second Focal Plane Riflescope has to be one of the best all-round rifle scopes on the market. Its magnification is suited to a wide range of activities and engagements.
Speaking of magnification, I am a big fan of the magnification range on this scope. It starts from 1x all the way to 8x. On max magnification level, it is possible to hit distant targets without the field of view being narrowed.
Given it's a second focal plane scope, it remains the same regardless of the magnification power. Another thing I like about the scope is its illuminated reticle. It is etched on the glass of the scope's fully multi-coated lenses.
That's right, this scope has fully multi-coated lenses. So you can expect improved light transmission, especially in low light. This combined with the illuminated reticle, means you can hunt at dawn or at dusk when prey is in plenty.
- The illuminated reticle has 11 brightness settings
- It comes with a BDC reticle that compensates for bullet drop when aiming at distant targets
- The scope is built from a 30 mm tube and is waterproof as well as fog proof
- Has a storage compartment for an extra battery pack
- Works well within the standard hunting range of between 300 and 600 yards
- Does not have a windage and elevation turrets locking
- There is no parallax turret
Vortex has done an incredible job of offering an awesome features at such an affordable price tag. It is a versatile scope that can be installed on either a rail or a ring mounting mechanism. Making it one of the most versatile hunting scope under 500 dollar.
Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x50mm Riflescope : Best AR Scopes Under 500
Leupold is known for its more high-end rifle scope offerings. However, the scope maker has had successes in the production of budget rifle scopes. The Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x50mm Riflescope is one of its best budget models.
The first thing I loved about this scope is its magnification. After all, a riflescope is nothing without magnification. With this scope, you get a variable magnification of between 3.5x and 10X. This is slightly more than what the Vortex Strike Eagle offers.
This magnification is paired with a gigantic 50mm objective lens. The lenses on this scope are coated with 2 ion assist lens coating. This ensures a crisp and clear image quality with good contrast.
I was pleased with the ¼ MOA finger adjustment for windage and elevation. Its field of view of 29.8 ft at 100 yards is to be expected from a scope in this price range And so is the 14.7-ounce weight.
- The scope is constructed using aircraft grade aluminum meaning it's lightweight and durable
- Comes with a large objective lens that improves on light transmission
- The lenses are multi-coated and feature a scratch-resistant diamond coating
- The scope is both waterproof and fog proof
- You get precision performance windage and elevation knob
- It has a relatively small 11 ft field of view at max magnification
It is great to see that Leupold put the same attention to detail they put on their high end makes on this inexpensive model. With its features and lightweight design, it is one of the best ar scopes under 500.
Vortex Diamondback 6-24x50 : Best Long Range Rifle Scope Under 500
Some of the most expensive scopes on the market are the first focal plane rifle scopes. Not the Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical 6-24x50 First Focal Plane Riflescopes though. The Diamondback series of rifle scopes is known for quality and affordable price tags.
The Tactical First Focal Plane riflescopes from Vortex are best suited to long-range shooting. The 6-24x50 model, which is the subject of this review, excels at long-range targeting. Both come with Vortex's EBR-2C reticle.
This reticle is perfect for fast target acquisition and engaging multiple targets. As for the lenses, they are multi-coated and have an anti-reflective coating. The result is a crisp and clear image with no distortions.
The turrets on this riflescope are exposed to allow for quick and easy elevation and windage adjustments. So you can quickly set them to zero after acquiring your target.
- Given it's a first focal plane riflescope, it is suited to long-range shooting
- The 6-24x magnification is fantastic for long-distance target shooting
- Has fully multi-coated lenses that enhance light transmission in low light conditions
- The tactical turrets on this scope can easily be adjusted even with gloved hands
- The reticle is fantastic for fast target acquisitions
- The field of view is not the best
- Weighing 23.1 ounces, there are other more lightweight options
There aren't many First Focal Plane rifle scopes in the under 500 price points. This Vortex model is among the best and for good reasons. It is designed for long-distance shooting and earns the title of the best long range rifle scope under 500.
ATN X-Sight II HD 3-14 Smart : Best Low Light Scope Under $500
At first glance, the ATN X-Sight II HD 3-14 Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope looks more expensive than it really is. And when you go through its spec sheet, it becomes even harder to believe that it costs less than $500. So what does it offer in terms of performance and features?
This scope has all the features you would expect from a rifle scope. But it also has some extra features that earn it a spot on the list. One extra feature that I cannot mention is the ballistic calculator.
The calculator works with the rangefinder that also comes as part of the package. One thing I loved about this calculator is how easy it is to use. Another extra feature that is an absolute delight is the recoil activated video.
The video recording is activated immediately; you pull the trigger and fire your rifle. What you are left with is a video of the moment just before you fired your gun. As you probably might have guessed from its name it comes with a 3x to 14x magnification. This is standard for riflescopes within this price range.
- It cannot work without battery power
- If you use an AR-style gun, you may have to collapse the stock to get your eye in the viewfinder
It is a fun and exciting riflescope to play around with. It offers features that you do not normally find in most standard $500 riflescopes. And while it is not without its drawbacks, it is still an awesome piece of equipment to own. It is by far the best night vision rifle scope under $500.
Vortex Optics Razor HD LH 1.5-8x32 Second Focal Plane Riflescope
My first impression of the Vortex Optics Razor HD LH 1.5-8x32 Second Focal Plane Riflescope is that it is a small and compact scope. You won't feel any difference in the weight of your rifle when you have this scope mounted.
The lenses are fully multi-coated and have an ArmorTek coating that protects the surface of the lenses. The image quality is sharp and crisp, and also unlike most other budget scopes, this one keeps image resolution sharp from edge to edge.
It is constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum, which explains its lightweight of 16 ounces. The magnification can be used for a wide variety of targeting scenarios. Combine with the 32 mm objective lens; you can pick out distant targets at max magnification without interfering with the field of view.
The scope has a strong o-ring seal, and the inside of the tube is argon purged. As such, it is both waterproof and fog proof.
- It's a bit too slow to adjust magnification
This is a rifle scope that offers great value for money. It is not a sophisticated scope offering only the standard features of a rifle scope. But this is what makes it a great option for hunters. It excels at what it was built to do.
Vortex Viper HS-T 4-16x44 SFP : Best Long Range Rifle Scope Under 500
The Viper HS-T series of rifle scopes from Google is by far the best tactical rifle scope under $500. And they come at a very affordable price tag of just under $500. So there was no way I was going to pass out on a chance to try out one of the scopes in this line.
The scope is settled on is the HS-T 4-16x 44-second focal plane scope. The lens system used here is among the best I have seen. Most likely, thanks to the lenses being fully multi-coated as well as the XR coating.
With exposed target-style turrets, I found it very easy to make elevation and windage adjustments even with gloved hands. As for the magnification, it is perfect for sighting targets from a long way out. The 16x maximum magnification level is sufficient enough for long-range shooting.
This magnification is paired with a 44 mm objective lens. Therefore, it maintains a decent field of view, even in max magnification power. As with any other riflescope that earns a spot on the list, this one is fog proof and waterproof.
- The eye relief is not the best
- It is not the most lightweight scope out there
So what is the verdict on the Vortex creation? For what it is built to do it is a fantastic piece of optical equipment. It feels very well made and rugged. As for its performance, it does not disappoint, thanks to its excellent lens system.
Vortex Viper 6.5-20x50 SFP : Best Mil Dot Scope Under $500
The Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20x 50 riflescope is one of those scopes that looks premium but is offered at a budget price. There is a lot to be excited about this rifle scope key among them the people behind it.
But I believe brand name alone is not enough to convince you of its excellent performance. From its name, it's clear that this is designed for long-range shooting. It comes with a max magnification power of 20x and a minimum magnification level of 6.5x.
With such a magnification, you can zoom in on targets from a great distance. And when paired with the mighty 50mm objective lens, you can do so even in low light. Throw in fully-multicoated lenses, and you got yourself a long-range shooter's dream rifle scope.
The reticle is the feature that earns it a spot on the list, though. It comes equipped with a Mil-dot reticle that helps in calculating range. It also helps in the estimation of windage and elevation adjustments while shooting.
- Offers excellent light transmission and great image quality from long distances
- There is a quick focus eyepiece that allows for easy zooming in and out in the field
- Comes with an easy to use a zero-reset function
- The lenses are fully multi-coated for a crisp and sharp image quality
- Comes with a lifetime warranty
- This scope is not intended for close-range aiming and shooting
- The eye relief is poor especially at high magnification
This is the Best Mil-Dot Scope Under $500 on the list. It works well in different situations and is a delight for long-range shooting. For close-range shooting, I suggest you look elsewhere. Nonetheless, it is one of the best on the market and has the spec sheet to prove it.
Nikon 16384 X1000 x-MRAD : Best Long Range Scope Under 500
In the spring of 2017, Nikon decided to break into the long-range and AR rifle market by releasing the Nikon X1000 rifle scope. The latter was designed to be affordable without compromising on quality. And true to Nikon's legacy of making high-quality optics, this scope delivers on all fronts.
It is a second focal plane scope meaning the reticle stays the same regardless of the magnification power. For this review, I opted for the x-MRAD version. This model has 17 mils of internal adjustments.
The reticle is glass etched, which means you get precise and repeatable adjustments. As with all the other scopes of the list, this one features fully multi-layer lens coating. This translates to a clear and crisp image quality across all magnification levels.
The magnification ranges from 6x to 24x. Therefore this is not the kind of scope you get for close-range shooting. It works best for long-range targeting. This magnification is paired with a 50mm objective lens.
- Is a bit longer than most 1-inch tube rifle scopes
- Weighing up to 4.8 ounces it is more on the heavier side
Nikon got it absolutely right with this rifle scope. It delivers exceptional optical performance and is a better option compared to other similar products. Despite its size, it can still work well on a hunting rifle. It is probably the best hunting rifle scope under 500 in its price point.
How To Buy The Best Rifle Scope Under 500 : Buying Guide
So which features should you pay attention to when shopping for a rifle scope for under 500? There are a couple of features that should top your list of features to consider. These are;
The objective lenses
A rifle scope like most optical tools has two main lenses, the ocular and objective lens. The latter is the bigger of the two and is located at the rear of the scope. The function of this lens is to gather light to allow a clear image of a target to be made on the ocular lens.
A larger objective lens means more light coming into the riflescope and thus, a more clear image. It is for this reason that most of the rifle scopes above have an objective lens of 40 to 50mm.
This is the feature that most people obsess about. This obsession has led to a misconception that higher magnification is better. However, this is not necessarily true as a higher magnification comes with several disadvantages.
For starters, a higher magnification means a narrower field of view. The best magnification range for hunting is 4x to 10x. For long-distance shooting, a higher magnification is better. If you want the best long-range rifle scope under 500 shooting, a higher magnification will be ideal.
For whatever reason you want a rifle scope, though, a variable magnification range is always ideal. With variable magnification, you can set it to suit your hunting needs.
First focal plane vs. second focal plane
Riflescopes will have either a first focal plane or a second focal plane reticle. A first focal plane point of impact remains the same regardless of the magnification level. On the other hand, second focal plane reticles have a point of impact that is affected by magnification.
Most budget rifle scopes are first focal plane scopes. Second focal plane scopes tend to be pricier. Thus, for this price point, you will interact more with the first focal plane scopes.
Field of view
The field of view is the observable area that you can see when you look through an ocular lens. This is an important factor to consider than normally gets forgotten. A bigger field of view allows you to aim faster at your target.
The lenses on a rifle scope can either be coated, multi-coated, fully coated, or fully multi-coated. Of the three fully multi-coated lenses are the best. There are budget scopes that come with either fully coated or multi-coated lenses.
However, the best low light scope under $500 have fully multi-coated lenses. These lenses reduce glare and light reflection and provide a brighter and sharp image quality.
$500 is the average price most people are willing to spend on a rifle scope. This is something that manufacturers understand. As such, there are plenty of rifle scope options in the under 500 price point.
The eight rifle scopes reviewed above offer plenty of benefits. Thus while they are not without their drawbacks, you cannot go wrong with any one of them.