5 Best Rifle Scopes Under $500 in 2021
Spending more on your rifle scope means that that you are more likely to get something with solid quality and performance that suits your shooting or hunting style. But the good news is that there are many great rifle scopes out there that you can get for under $500.
At this price point, you can expect to get a feature-rich scope that is designed to make targeting and shooting quicker and easier. However, you still need to choose the best rifle scope under $500 from the many options.
Most top rifle scope brands will have several models in this price range that are meant for medium to long-range shooters.
And to help you pick one that suits your hunting/shooting needs, below we review 5 high-quality rifle scopes under $500 and highlight the important things to consider when making up your mind.
- 5 Best Rifle Scopes Under $500 – Review
- How to Buy the Best Rifle Scopes under $500
5 Best Rifle Scopes Under $500 – Review
1. Vortex Optics VPR-M-06BDC (Best Overall)
2. Leupold VX-3i 170680 (Best in Low Light)
3. Nikon Prostaff 5 BCD (Best Value)
4. Nikon M-308 (Best 308 Scope)
5. Nikon Monarch 3 6775 (Best Hunting Scope)
1. Vortex Optics VPR-M-06BDC
2. Leupold VX-3i 170680
(Best in Low Light)
3. Nikon Prostaff 5 BCD
4. Nikon M-308
(Best 308 Rifle Scope)
5. Nikon Monarch 3 6775
(Best Hunting Scope)
1. Vortex Optics VPR-M-06BDC – Best Overall
- Magnification: 6.5-20x
- Eye Relief: 3.1 inches
- Field of View: 6.2 to 17.4 feet at 100 yards
- Length: 14.4 inches
Vortex Optics combines several features with a solid main tube to make their Viper scope one of the best long range rifle scope under $500 that you can get anywhere.
These features include the dead-hold BDC reticle that is one of the key things that make this a great scope for long range shooting and situations where estimating the hold-over is vital.
The company also uses some premium quality and fully multicoated lenses that will help ensure maximum light transmission while also bringing great resolution and color fidelity for bright and clear images.
Parallax adjustment is also a quick and easy process thanks to the included side knob and there are also some capped reset turrets that will provide quick re-indexing to zero after sighting in.
Changing the magnification is also a rapid and simple process thanks to the Mag-Bar, and Vortex Optics uses an O-ring seal and argon purging to ensure a fog and waterproof performance.
The 3.1-inch eye relief is the smallest among our review of rifle scopes under $500 but it should still be more than enough for most shooting and hunting situations. Also, for some riffles it can be a little heavy but for most the weight is okay.
More Detailed: Vortex Optics VPR-M-06BDC Review
2. Leupold VX-3i 170680 – Best Low Light Rifle Scope
- Magnification: 3.5-10x
- Eye Relief: 3.6-4.4 inches
- Field of View: 11 to 29.8 feet at 100 yards
- Length: 12.7 inches
Whether you are on the search for the best tactical rifle scope under $500 or are looking for something reliable for sports shooting or hunting, Leupold always has you covered.
Their model VX-3i scope is a perfect example of a Leupold scope that will be perfect for all this and it has been designed to provide unparalleled performance in low light conditions.
The rifle scope is built with durability in mind, and it will feature one-piece aircraft-grade aluminum construction and with an equally durable matte black finish.
Its versatile 3:1 zoom ratio makes it ideal for various shooting conditions and situations and is one of the reasons why this is a highly versatile rifle scope.
You can also easily adjust the zoom when on the field thanks to the easy power selector. And both windage and elevation adjustment is made easier and more precise by the precise 1/4 MOA adjustments.
This scope also offers a generous eyebox with up to 4.4 inches of eye relief, edge-to-edge brightness and a full and clear sight picture that will fill the eyepiece completely.
Although the mounting hardware is not included, this should be a non-issue as you can easily and cheaply get high-quality mount rings and anything else you need to install it on your specific rifle type.
3. Nikon Prostaff 5 BCD – Best Value under $500
- Magnification: 4.5-18x
- Eye Relief: 4 inches
- Field of View: 5.6 to 22.4 feet at 100 yards
- Length: 13.6 inches
Given the overall construction of Nikon's Prostaff 5, its features and price tag, it will offer you the best value for an under $500, and it is also the cheapest on our list.
The feature-rich rifle scope has a patented BDC reticle that will be perfect for long-range shooting but can also work great for short range shooting.
The scope provides a 4-inch eye relief that is quite generous and the best thing about the scope is that the eye relief remains very consistent. With its fully multicoated optics, you will also get bright and vivid sight pictures at any time of the day.
Shooters can also bring the reticle into focus instantly when using this rifle scope thanks to the quick focus eyepiece. And with the click-stops that you can easily feel and hear, adjusting this scope is also quick and easy.
Nikon also optimizes this scope for use with their Spot On Ballistic Match Technology and will also back it with a lifetime repair or replacement warranty.
The crosshairs on this scope are quite thick which can be problematic at high magnification settings when shooting at long ranges. But unless you plan on using the scope to shoot from super long distances, the crosshairs should still be okay as they will not obstruct your target.
4. Nikon M-308 – Best 308 Rifle Scope
- Magnification: 4-16x
- Eye Relief: 3.7-4 in
- Field of View: 6.3 to 25.2 feet at 100 yards
- Length: 13.5 inches
With a magnification of 4-16x and eye relief of 3.7-4 inches, the Nikon M-308 is the perfect scope for long range shooting.
It is also one of the best 308 rifle scopes under $500 out there as it has been made specifically to accommodate the trajectory of these rounds.
The scope comes with a durable one-piece main body tube that is designed to give it maximum strength and to keep its weight down. And with its fully multi-coated optics, you also get up to 95% of light transmission and maximum brightness for excellent images from dawn to dusk.
The tactical-style turrets are designed with zero reset feature and are also super easy to adjust by hand when on the field. Also, the smooth zoom control makes changing the magnification quick and easy.
Although this scope no longer comes with one-piece mount, this is still not a deal breaker as it is easy to get and also not expensive.
5. Nikon Monarch 3 6775 – Best Hunting Rifle Scope
- Magnification: 4-16x
- Eye Relief: 4 inches
- Field of View: 6.3 to 25.2 feet at 100 yards
- Length: 14.7 inches
Nikon's Monarch 3 is a top-notch quality scope and one of the best hunting rifle scopes under $500 you can get out there, and besides the brand reputation, there are many other things that make it a great buy.
They include the super easy adjustment when on the field, and this is mostly thanks to the spring-loaded instant zero rest turrets that will give hunters a very easy time.
Bringing the reticle into focus whether you are aiming at a moving or stationary target is also made easy and fast by the quick focus eyepiece.
Also, with the smooth zoom control and handy magnification reference numbers, you can easily adjust the magnification setting to suit any situation.
This Nikon scope also uses the Ultra ClearCoat optics system to ensure up to an impressive 95% light transmission for an incredibly sharp and clear sight picture. And this is a completely water, fog, and shockproof scope.
Reticle markers may seem to get a little too large when at high magnification settings, but they are still within an acceptable range as they will not affect your aiming in any way. And it is easy to get better quality lens covers without spending much.
How to Buy the Best Rifle Scopes under $500
To get the best rifle scope for your firearm, it will be vital to consider the following important things as you compare different models and brands.
The scope on your rifle needs to be able to withstand use in any environment, and this is more so the abuse that comes with external conditions such as when you are hunting.
Durability is often determined by the choice of material and the construction of the scope. Rifle scopes made with aluminum alloy or aircraft-grade aluminum like Leupold VX-3i 170680 are some of the most durable ones and they also give you the benefit of being lightweight.
When it comes to the construction, a one-piece main tube is by far the best option as it is solid and highly durable. Also, a good scope should be nitrogen or argon-purged to make it water, fog and shockproof which enhances its performance and durability.
Magnification is how much the target or image gets enlarged when you zoom in on it, and it is one of the most crucial aspects of a rifle scope as it has a huge effect on accuracy.
You can get scopes with either fixed magnification or variable magnification with the latter being the most common and probably also the best option for most hunting situations.
But, variable scopes are also available in different options but for an under $500 scope, you will hardly get models with 3-9x magnification as these are mostly meant for short range shooting.
At this price range, a scope with at least 4-16x or 4.5- 18 x magnification like Nikon Prostaff 5 BCD should be good for you, and this is more so if you are looking for something for medium or long range shooting.
3. Field of View
Field of view is simply the width of the area that will be visible on the scope, and the larger it is the better as it will make ranging easier.
It will in most instances be expressed in feet at a distance of 100 yards and the wider it is the better because a smaller field of view makes it harder to find a visually spotted target with the scope and tracking moving targets is almost impossible.
But, even as you try to pick out a scope with the best field of view, it is important to note that magnification also affects it. The higher the magnification setting the narrower the field of view.
You need to strike a perfect balance between the two or decide which one you want most between high magnification and wide field of view.
4. Adjustment Range
Because long-range shooting will require some serious adjustment ranges, the best long range rifle scope under $500 for you is one that will allow for easy adjustment.
A scope with internal adjustment for the windage and elevation will make it easy to zero it in to the rifle it is mounted on.
Depending on the scope model and brand, the adjustments can be in form of dials that are flush with the tube or target knobs (turrets) that protrude from the scope's main tube.
Turrets will give you an easier time because you can make adjustments easily with your fingers while dials will require a coin or screwdriver for adjustment.
Competition shooters and small game hunters seem to prefer turrets while the big game hunters are more comfortable with dials. But, regardless of what you prefer, it is important to make sure that adjustments have discernible and audible clicks.
While magnification will make your target appear larger, it is the reticles that will make aiming easier and more accurate as they highlight the point where the shot will land.
You cannot afford to make the wrong reticle choice because by doing so the rifle scope will not be very useful as you will hardly ever hit anything when using it.
When it comes to scope reticles, you will generally need to choose between the duplex, BDC and mil-dot reticles and each option is ideal for different situations.
Duplex is the most common and preferred reticle option with both beginner and pro hunters and shooters. BDC reticles, on the other hand, are perfect for shooting situations where compensating for bullet drop is crucial.
But with the best mil-dot scopes under $500, you will get a rifle scope that will also help you estimate the range and target size.
As much as there are numerous great quality rifle scopes in the under $500 price range, you should still have an easy time finding one that suits your needs if you know what to look for and with our review above for recommendations
From these review, the Vortex Optics VPR-M-06BDC is our best overall as it will be perfect for long range shots and also provides easy adjustment and top-quality fully-multicoated lenses.
And if you are looking for something that will give you great value for your cash, go for the Nikon Prostaff 5 BCD.