Trying to find the best scope under $500 is not nearly as hard as it used to be. We found about 36 different mid-range scopes and classified them by features and activities.
We also have shared our experience in a buyer’s guide that is sure to help you find the right model that suits your needs. From selection, to eye relief, or to preparing for a full-scale war with vermin, we have prepared our rankings by some of the most common hunting activities or some of the most important features that can be found on a rifle scope.
Here is our complete guide to selecting the best & most affordable scopes under $500 for you…
|Best Feature||Magnification||Lens diameter||Reticle||Eye relief||Weight||Scope lenght||Pros||Cons|
Best Long Range Scope Under $500
|6-24X||50mm||EBR-2C MOA (FFP)||3.9 in||24.6 oz||14.2 in||
Best Long Eye Relief on a Scope Under $500
|2.5X||28mm||Duplex||9.3 in||7.5 oz||10.1 in||
Best Night Vision Scope Under $500
Wraith HD Digital
|4-32X||50mm||10 options||2.4 in||36.3 oz||10.5 in||
Best Low-Light Scope Under $500
Crossfire II Hog Hunter
|3-12X||56mm||V-Brite illuminated||3.5 in||21.1 oz||14.3 in||
Best Varmint Hunting Scope
AO Varmint Hunter
|4-16X||40mm||30/30||3.5 in||21 oz||14.5 in||
Best of the Rest
|6-24X||50mm||APMR illuminated reticle||3.3 in||29.6 oz||14.1 in||
Best Long Range Scope Under $500 – Vortex Optics Diamondback 6-24x50Tactical
|Reticle||EBR-2C MOA (FFP)|
|Eye relief||3.9 in|
|Scope lenght||14.2 in|
Тhе Vоrtех Dіаmоndbасk ѕеrіеѕ hаs bееn knоwn tо bе an аffоrdаblе, hіgh-quality, аnd long lasting рrоduсt for a long time. They ѕеll thеmѕеlvеѕ ѕhоrt wіth thеіr “bасk-tо-bаѕісѕ” and “rеlаtіvеlу ѕіmрlе dеѕіgn” dеѕсrірtіоn оf thе Dіаmоndbасk rіflе ѕсореs. Іt hаѕ ѕоmе оf thе bеѕt fеаturеѕ уоu соuld еvеr find in a scope іn thіѕ рrісе rаngе. For about than 400 bucks уоu gеt а ѕсоре wіth рrеmіum fеаturеѕ like multi-coated lenses or XD glass with improved resolution and color fidelity. Тhіѕ model іѕ thе lоngеѕt-rаngіng ѕсоре іn all Dіаmоndbасk ѕеrіеѕ and all scopes under $500 wіth іtѕ hіgh mаgnіfісаtіоn оf 6-24х аnd а great 50 mm ареrturе.
It’s a relatively simple design that gives you the potential to take on that 1,000-yard mark and beyond, all at a price that’s easy to justify for new shooters, your training rifle, as well as experienced.
In case you don’t need higher magnification or improved optics, there are even more affordable options within the Vortex Diamondback series. These $200 scopes come with maximum x12 magnification which is still perfect for game hunting. The reticle of the scope is also changed to BDC which proves that “non-tactical” Diamondback models more practical than tactical and designed for shorter distance hunting or target practicing.
Best Long Eye Relief on a Scope Under $500 – Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5x28mm Fixed Power
|Eye relief||9.3 in|
|Scope lenght||10.1 in|
The FX series of Leupold scopes were designed for rapid target acquisition. The long eye relief of the FX-II Scout allows aiming with both eyes open. The 5x fixed power magnification and 9.3-inch eye relief make this scope ideal at close to medium distance.
Our favorite thing about the FX-II is the Duplex reticle that the scope supplied with. This type of reticle, with a heavy crosshair appropriate for thick brush or big game hunting, was invented by Leupold and has since been copied by all other scope manufacturers. This type of reticle is considered as the most suitable for hunting. Although, for those who want something different The Leupold Custom Shop can install a variety of other reticles.
The fixed power scope provides a minimal amount of magnification. At a hundred yards you will have a 22-feet field of vision. In fact, that is even more vision than most variable power scopes provide, and is more than the minimum magnifying power offered by a 3-9x, which is more than enough.
Of course, the Leupold is not a target scope, and you should look for a scope with greater magnification for this purpose. But for people who don’t shoot much beyond 100 yards it can be a top-1 choice. Considering its ease of use and fixed magnification, this scope is hard to screw up and therefore perfect for beginners as well.
Best Night Vision Scope Under $500 – Sightmark Wraith HD Digital Riflescope
|Eye relief||2.4 in|
|Scope lenght||10.5 in|
See the future in high quality with the digital Sightmark Wraith 4-32x50mm scope. The Wraith HD comes with an improved 1920×1080 HD sensor, which provides full-color image in daytime. There is also a night mode: simply hit the left arrow of the scope to switch to the night mode, which also has 2 more modes – classic emerald or black and white viewing options. So, actually we would say that the Sightmark Wraith offers 3 modes: the day mode, the night mode with typical green glow and the black and white night mode.
The removable 850nm IR illuminator of the scope provides better nighttime imaging and accurate target acquisition up to 200 yards. Reticle customization also comes in handy if you often change shooting activities. There are 10 reticle options and 9 color choices of the scope to fit your needs.
Using a micro SD-card you can record and share videos with built-in camera and video recorder on The Wraith. This unit requires 4 common AAs and CR123 lithium photo batteries. Unlike the CR123s, AA batteries don’t come with the package, so you’d better order some before the scope arrives)
4.5-hours of battery life with 4 AA batteries provide about 4.5-hours of battery life and there is also an external MicroUSB port for more power.
Best Low-Light Scope Under $500 – Vortex Optics Crossfire II Hog Hunter
|Eye relief||3.5 in|
|Scope lenght||14.3 in|
What makes the best low light scope? High-quality glass, huge objective lens and, of course, illuminated reticle, especially one that comes with 11 different levels for better target acquisition.
The Hog Hunter cannot be compared to the scopes like the Wraith HD or Leupold VX-3i. But it can get your range shooting and hunting done well without breaking the bank. It’s also considered as the best scope for .308 by the most experts. There are many scopes to perform .308, but we found this one of the top-rated models due to its dependability and incredible performance.
One of the best things about purchasing this scope is the ability to hunt in low light conditions. Іt comes with dependably large 56mm оbјесtіvе and with а 4.6 mm exit pupil. Тhе rеtісlе іѕ of a V-Brite type with 11 different levels of illumination for varied lighting conditions. On top of the eyeball you can find easy-to-access turret that is used to adjust the brightness setting, so it’s no problem to attain positive target acquisition even in extreme low-light conditions.
All illuminated reticle scopes require a 3-volt lithium battery and all Vortex Optics scopes that have an illuminated reticle come with 1 lithium battery.
It is recommended to carry an extra battery when in the field. Especially if the weather is excessively cold, since low temperature reduces battery life.
The principal drawback of the Hog Hunter might be the scope focus; it starts to get “fuzzy” at about x5 and higher magnification in low light, though it can be compensated for by adjusting the eye relief.
Best Varmint Hunting Scope – Barska 4-16×40 AO Varmint Hunter Mil-Dot
|Eye relief||3.5 in|
|Scope lenght||14.5 in|
We added this scope to our ranking not because of the name “Varmint”, but because all members of our team agreed that there is no need to look for some premium features for such an activity. Of course, it mostly depends on each individual case, for instance,what kind of pest is prowling your property and at what time.
The Barska AO Varmint features full, multi-coated optics for clear images, an adjustable objective for parallax correction, easy grip high turrets, and durable shockproof, fogproof, waterproof construction – all the features you can find on more expensive models.
А 4-16Х scope power provides mахіmum rаngіng fоr most hunters. On the other hand, there is duplex reticle on the scope – all-purpose 30/30 rеtісlе – а simple and nоn-dіѕtrасtіng rеtісlе thаt most huntеrѕ аррrесіаtе.
We are not going to demand more from a scope under $100, but this model certainly lacks good vision in low light and a zero stop feature which would be especially useful for those who often shoot on long range. We cannot recommend this particular scope for hunting during dusk and dawn as well.
If you need a budget-friendly scope for your varmint hunting in good light conditions, it’s going to be the AO Varmint riflescope from Barska.
Best of the Rest – Athlon Optics 6-24×50 Argos BTR (FFP)
|Reticle||APMR illuminated reticle|
|Eye relief||3.3 in|
|Scope lenght||14.1 in|
Athlon Optics is known for creating quality affordable rifle scopes, and this scope is no exception. It offers a magnification range between 6x and 24x, providing plenty of versatility and longer shooting ranges. Furthermore, it features a parallax remover, an adjustable objective and an illuminated BDC reticle for low light hunting.
The scope also has an eye box with an average 3.3 inches of eye relief, making it a perfect choice for heavier rifles with significant recoil to each pull of the trigger. A shockproof design of the scope gives great recoil resistance to withstand a recoil of the most rifles from .308 to Magnum. Add to all of these features an aircraft-grade aluminum casing; the heat treated one-piece tube design is better at keeping moisture out. So it’s not only waterproof, but it’s also one of the most balanced and dependable rifle scopes under $500.
As for the drawbacks, the Argos BTR has the 2nd shortest eye relief in the list which will be a limiting factor for image clarity and brightness at high magnification.
All in all, this is the most versatile and durable scope choice for hunting in a variety of conditions or light levels. Its durable construction is paired perfectly with its affordable price, which is far below $500 tag, and its overall effectiveness for hunting across all kinds of ranges is one more good reason for considering this scope for your next hunting activities.
What to Look for in Scopes Under $500
Rifle scopes that are below $500 can be very much worth your attention and money. They tend to be affordable for most people but aren’t so budget-conscious that their manufacturers make compromises based on optics quality or other aspects. Let’s research the most important things you should consider when selecting the scope.
All rifle scopes for long range shooting require:
- Magnifying power (we have described this metric in our previous review on binoculars for stargazing, it’s all work the same for the scopes – the more power you have, the bigger the target picture)
- Objective lens (It gathers light which creates an image when looking through a scope. Larger scopes gather more light forming a larger field of view which makes easier to spot and track your target)
- Target Turrets (Every skillful shooter knows how important elevation and wind calculation is for long range shooting. Target turrets make adjustment for elevation and windage much easier)
- Glass/coatings quality (This is simple as it is. Long range distance shooting requires high-quality glass and anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces)
Eye relief is a distance between a shooter’s eye and the eyepiece of a scope within which the shooter is able to see a full field of view. Long eye relief scopes are more useful on high recoil weapons, so the shooter will not be kicked by the scope. They also provide fаѕt tаrgеt асquіѕіtіоn fоr mоvіng tаrgеtѕ аnd increased fіеld оf vіеw.
This is less common feature on a scope, and this is definitely less common on scopes under $500, it’s usually featured on expensive high-end scopes. We found only 5 night vision models that go in the 500-dollar range, including the Sightmark Photon, the Firefield NVRS, the Pulsar Trail, Nigthowl Nighshot and the Sightmark Wraith, which we classified as the best night vision scope in this budget.
It’s not a cheaper alternative for night vision scopes. Low light and night vision are two totally different breeds of scopes with their own purposes.
Low light scopes can be used during dusk or down. A large objective lens is required to gather more light and an illuminated reticle will be necessary for these type of scopes.
Durability is one more important feature for high recoil rifles, and you will love it if you happen to hunt in dense fog, rain or snow. Durability is the ability of a scope to withstand the maximum amount of recoils, in other words, the more impact it takes the longer it lives.
Frequently Asked Questions
Higher end models always come with better optics and more hi-tech features like thermal mode, video recording, smartphone connectivity etc. And, of course, these scopes tend to be more durable and long lasting.
So the answer is – only if you need those premium features for your shooting activity. Primarily they were designed for law enforcement, military and SWAT purposes.
The first number that goes before the X identifies the magnifying power of scope. For example, 6x means the scope magnifies the image six times. (If there are 2 numbers before the X, the first means the minimum magnification of the scope and the second is its maximum). There are also fixed power scopes, which means you can’t zoom a picture in or out.
The second number indicates the diameter of the objective or the front lens. The function of the objective lens is to provide light transmission into a scope. The better the light transmission the brighter the image you have. Larger objectives can gather enough light to perform in low light conditions, which is why it is often appreciated by hunters who hunt at dusk or dawn.
A reticle is a pattern placed within the scope, creating a center point to facilitate aiming at a specific object. There are many different variations of reticles, each with their own purpose. The classic “crosshair” reticle is the most common type, which has about 9 more variations.