Anyone who has experience with guns and shooting knows that scopes are a major part of their gun, and which one you choose will depend on what you’re wanting to use it for. A common misconception of scopes is that great models under the $500 mark are non-existent. Well, let me be the one to tell you that that is thankfully wrong!
As long as you know where and what to look for, finding a high quality scope for under $500 won’t be a difficult task. And with the help of our guide below, you’ll be able to find one much faster and get a better image of what you need to look out for.
We’ll be looking at a number of different scopes designed specifically for different reasons. From the best overall rifle scope to the best night vision scope, we have you covered and you’ll undoubtedly find your new affordable scope within our list.
Whatever your reason for wanting a scope, we’re sure we’ve included it within the list below. What’s more is that they’re all under $500 and therefore very affordable, so let’s find your new hunting best friend.
While we consider these to be our favorites for each type of scope, there are still hundreds of different models on the market for you to peruse and choose from. Our article aims to collate all the information you’ll need in one place to make your job of choosing your scope easier.
Thanks to the sport of hunting being around for many years, there is endless information about the different types of hunting and scopes for you to read. Due to this being so easily obtained, it’s wise to do your research before committing to a potentially useless scope for your individual needs.
Luckily for you, we’ve aimed to fill this article with lots of useful information so you don’t have to spend hours searching different websites and you can be confident in your purchase before spending a considerable amount of money.
Let’s begin with: Where do you even begin to find the best affordable scope? You may find yourself looking through pages and pages of different models of scopes, taking hours out of your day and ending up with nothing of any value.
Our handy guide will enable you to be able to go through these same pages and pinpoint a number of different models that could suit your hunting needs, so take some time to understand all of the information below.
By doing this, not only will you have a higher chance of finding a scope that’s going to work best during your hunting trips, but you’ll also save yourself a nice chunk of your well deserved money.
Before even thinking about searching for scopes online, you should ask yourself some questions to get a better idea of what you’re looking for. The most valuable thing to have while looking for your new scope is a clear image of what you want and need from a piece of gun gear, so go through the questions below and keep the answers handy.
What’s the main reason you want a scope? What are you going to be using it for most? Are you wanting it for general hunting or do you have a specific kind of prey in mind?
What are the main features you’re looking for? Or rather what are the features you’re trying to avoid?
It’s important to understand your answers to these questions fully before spending a large sum of money on a scope that could potentially add nothing to your hunting trips. Ultimately, your aim is the most important thing when it comes to hunting, so you need a scope that is going to enrich your ability and experience.
Now you’ve got some sort of idea what you may be looking for, let's get into the fun stuff. Below we’ll go through our top picks of scopes designed for all sorts of scenarios, from night time to hunting, long range to spotting.
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The Best Scopes Under $500 - Comparison Table
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The Best Scopes Under $500 - Reviews
When you think of scopes, you may find yourself thinking of rifle scopes. However, there are many other types of scope that are important depending on the scenario used in, which is why we’re starting this list with the best spotting scope. Having said this, If you’re looking for the best rifle scope, you’ll find it down the list. For now, however, let’s look at our top pick for spotting scopes.
Spotting scopes, or terrestrial telescopes, are designed to assist you in spotting your prey - we know, who would’ve thought it? They’re mostly used to be mounted on your tripod and enable you to see where your shots are going, so you’re not just shooting blind.
This is beneficial to gun owners who are practicing to track your progress with how close you’re getting to the target. This scope can be used with any gun, giving it a great versatility.
Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scopes actually come in either a straight design or an angled position. Opting for the straight scope gives a more traditional look and is easier to transport thanks to its simplicity. However, the angled scope offers more efficiency and will allow you to see more of your shots if you’re not shooting dead straight in front of you.
Why have we chosen this scope?
Why does anyone choose their favorite anything? They like the performance on offer. The Diamondback Spotting Scopes offer perfect performance along with a respectable price under the $500 mark. We also appreciate the lightweight design as to not weigh the user down any more than they already are with all their gear.
Vortex has spared no detail with their spotting scopes, from covering the scope in durable armor to building a sunshade that can be pulled in and out to protect from the glaring sun. The interior of the cylinder has been flushed with nitrogen to prevent it fogging up and each joint is protected with a sealed o-ring.
These are preventative measures put in place to let you use this scope in any kind of weather imaginable, from blinding sunshine to cold, winter rain.
Another distinctive feature is the XR lens which is fully coated multiple times to increase the light transmission and control the amount of light allowed into the lens at one time. This gives you a better image because the reflection is clearer and less image is lost thanks to too much light.
Lastly, the lifetime warranty is a nice touch to ensure you don’t have to worry about shelling out on another scope if your first happens to break.
Avid shooters who have had the opportunity to use the Diamondback spotting scopes can’t fault it’s amazing image quality. Many have said the only difference between this scope and the naked eye is the distance they are away from their bullet.
Other features that are only seen in a positive light are the easily focusable magnification and the adjustable eyepiece to ensure comfort. The multi-coated lens is extremely effective as many reviewers think the image is bright and clear enough to see their shot greatly.
This scope isn’t just a one trick pony - it can be used for spotting your shot as well as observing your prey. You don’t even just have to use it for hunting, take it out in your backyard and notice little details in wildlife you’ve never seen before.
Hunting is an excellent sport for group activities or individuals to experience by themselves. There are a number of techniques and pieces of gear that hunters collectively agree are the best, however you’ll be pressed to find two hunters who agree on a scope best used for hunting.
This is because there are so many out there on the market which deliver different features. As many hunters adopt their own techniques and habits, different hunting scopes will work better for different people - you just have to find your favorite.
Due to this our top pick may not be yours, so instead of showing you this, we’ve chosen to take a different approach and choose a model for price, as many hunters will agree that it's the best model for under $500, even if it’s not the best scope for their individual needs..
Why have we chosen this scope?
Nikon was founded over 100 years ago and has dipped their fingers into many different sectors, including the scope market. This is for good reason, as their extensive knowledge of lenses, magnification and viewpoints has landed their products on our list more than once.
The Nikon Monarch 3 is extremely adjustable so you can be sure you’ll find the perfect settings for your hunting trip. The four inch eye relief also secures its place as our favorite hunting scope due to the long hours hunters remain looking through their scopes.
The last thing hunters need during their expedition is eye strain or a migraine, so the eye relief is a key feature and welcomed by many hunters.
The Nikon Monarch 3 is a high quality scope with loads of features to impress the hunter using it. In addition to all of the features we’ve touched on above such as the eye relief, the eyepiece is also extremely fast focusing so you won’t even miss the tiniest of movements.
The 4X magnification and coated lenses provide amazing clarity even when your prey is a reasonable distance away from you.
Accuracy is the most important factor in hunting as if you take an inaccurate shot, you won’t get another chance. This is why Nikon’s Spot On Ballistic Match Technology application gives precise and accurate shots time after time, giving you an easier and more fulfilling hunt.
Hunters who have used the Nikon Monarch 3 during their hunting adventures have nothing but high praise towards the scope. Perhaps the most distinctive advantage of this scope is Nikon’s app that they offer to allow the hunter to use their smartphone to get a clear image. Many reviewers have admitted that the app does a lot of the work for them, giving them a better overall experience.
Other features are that it’s incredibly easy to mount onto guns or tripods, and this scope can be used well in low light conditions without having to jeopardize the image quality.
Like we said earlier, no two hunters are going to agree on one scope to be the one best hunting scope. However, this model is an excellent place to start and, for a model on the market under $500, you can’t get much better than the Nikon Monarch 3.
FFP stands for First Focal Plane, which means the reticle is positioned towards the front of the scope’s optic. When zooming in or out the reticle’s size increases or decreases allowing the FFP scope to remain relative to the target, giving you access to a larger variety of ranges and an easier view of your target no matter how far away you are.
This is a widely popular feature which can often hike up the price of a scope, which is why the Athlon Optics Argos Riflescope is our top pick. It’s price point sits comfortably underneath the $500 mark without compromising the quality or usability.
Why have we chosen this scope?
FFP lenses sound complicated, but once you’ve used one you’ll realize that it’s just another incredibly helpful feature. We’ve chosen this scope as our top pick thanks to the professional quality materials used and therefore the durability, as well as the handy fully coated lens.
Many different brands choose different ways to make their products waterproof and fogproof, and Athlon has chosen to purge their scope with argon which is greatly effective at keeping their model weatherproof.
When talking about the Athlon Optics Argos scope’s features, who can ignore the mighty use of FFP technology? This provides an extra ability to the scope that a lot of other models fail to possess. The reticle can also be seen on the glass to offer extra stability.
Another great feature is the multi-coated lens which ensures just enough light is let into the scope. This also makes sure you see the correct colors, as it would be rather embarrassing to shoot a tree instead of the target because the colors had all muddled together.
This scope boasts a wide range of features, however the last one we’re going to talk about is the shock resistant body, enabling you to mount it right onto your rifle without the worry of it being damaged from large kickbacks or accidental drops.
While we could go on about all these great features from the Athlon Optics Argos, sadly we don’t have time. You’ll just have to buy it and find out for yourself and discover them for yourself - what a treat!
The pages and pages of reviews for this model were all littered with praise about the low cost and the great customer service. People were amazed with the quality and how it was able to ‘hold zero’ so well, as well as many of them saying that you couldn’t find a better FFP scope for the incredible price.
‘If you know, you know’ is the term many people use when describing mil-dot scopes. The ‘Mil’ in mil-dot is an abbreviation of ‘milliradian’ which is used in the military as a unit of angle. Mil-dot scopes are very particular and many shooters only know what they are once they need one. Otherwise, ignorance is bliss.
A mil-dot scope includes a built in aiming point which can make your shooting much easier and more efficient. Take the guesswork out of your hobby with a great mil-dot scope. They’re also incredibly easy to adjust quickly and the fast focusing eyepiece allows you to see every minute movement.
Again, mil-dot scopes are incredible pieces of gear for shooters of all kinds, but this means they can be quite pricey. If you’re looking for a mil-dot scope under $500, look no further than the Nikon Prostaff 4.
Why have we chosen this scope?
Nikon has proven time and time again that they’re a trustworthy brand who only make great, well thought out products. This is the reason why not one, not two, but three Nikon scopes have made their way onto this list. Moreover, the Nikon Prostaff 4 is such a high quality scope with such an affordable price that it’s hard to beat in this category.
The most important feature of the Nikon Prostaff 4 is the mil-dot built into the reticle, as this makes it much easier and quicker to find your target and aim most effectively to take the guesswork out of your sport. This lens is also multi-coated to ensure the optimal amount of light comes into the scope - no more, no less.
Much like the Nikon Monarch 3, the Prostaff 4 is equipped with Nikon’s Spot On Ballistic Match Technology, which is an application that gives you a more accurate aim. Using this along with the mil-dot gives you very little room to get a bad shot.
Other impressive features include the zero-reset turrets which are spring loaded for the most efficiency, and the features of this scope are extremely easy to adjust quickly so you’re not slowed down if your shot is time sensitive.
Nikon scope users often are very impressed about their app technology compared to their low price points. You can get a lot less technologically advanced scopes for much higher prices, which is why the Prostaff 4 is our favorite mil-dot scope.
Users also appreciate the quick focusing eyepiece, the sleek and lightweight design, and the faultless aiming accuracy that comes along with using this scope.
The Prostaff 4 offers crisp and clear image quality which really solidifies the fact that this is the best mil-dot scope for under $500. To make it even greater, Nikon offers a repair or replacement service so you don’t have to worry about your scope breaking.
The AR style is the most popular and widely used rifle in the United States, which is why we had to include the best scope for AR rifles on our list. ArmaLite Rifles (AR) are admired for their accuracy, however their 5.56 rounds makes it vital that your shot placement is correctly positioned.
This is where scopes excel and using a high quality model with an AR can be a dream team. Pairing these two together will deliver more accurate shots and make your experience a lot more enjoyable. Looking at AR scopes under $500, the Nikon P-223 is a quality contender which is hard to beat.
Why have we chosen this scope?
As we have already mentioned when discussing Nikon scopes, Nikon is a widely known brand who has a lot of experience in creating professional products. Much like the Nikon Monarch 3, the P-223 offers the user a lot of eye relief to prevent headaches and eye fatigue.
This model is not phased in the slightest by fog or water, and it even prevents your view being altered or displaced by low light conditions or fast movements. This, along with the plethora of other great features the P-223 possesses, makes this an excellent scope for AR shooters.
The Nikon P-223 is a scope which boasts a number of great features, such as the welcomed eye relief. Many shooters suffer through eye strain and headaches when they really don’t have to, and Nikon strives to eliminate this to keep you on top form while shooting.
All scopes would benefit from having a decent eye relief, however AR’s are lightweight and can handle reasonably heavy rounds, making for a perfect recipe for eye strain. This is why the eye relief the P-223 offers is an extremely beneficial feature for AR shooters.
Much like us, reviewers of the Nikon P-223 absolutely love the eye relief that comes with this scope. There’s nothing bad to say about this feature. Other positive reviews included admiration of the durable design and the adjustable magnification feature.
We cannot forget about the clarity of the scope, and many users claimed it was surprisingly great considering the attractive price point. Furthermore, this scope may be for AR shooters, however some reviewers stated that they would use it for other uses thanks to the versatility and rugged exterior.
We said we’d have the best rifle scope down the list, and our favorite just happens to be a different variation of the same model for our top spotting scope! Everything has really come full circle here, hasn’t it.
The best rifle scope is a pretty generic topic that sounds like it could take years of trial and error to find the answer, especially under $500. There are many different kinds of rifles that will all benefit differently from scopes, so it’s important to remember that the best model is going to be different for everyone.
There’s also the possibility that you may even find a number of different rifle scopes that you consider the ‘best’ for you during your sport, so it’s wise to never stop looking through the newest models and how they differ from the older ones to see if they could aid you more beneficially.
That being said, we have chosen the Vortex Optics Diamondback HD as our overall favorite scope for rifles.
Why have we chosen this scope?
When looking for our top pick for rifle scopes, we focused our attention on finding a perfect balance between performance and price point. There’s no use getting a sweet deal on a scope that doesn’t work better than the naked eye.
Similarly, we’re not looking for excellent scopes that are going to make you have to remortgage your house. The Vortex Optics Diamondback HD had the best features and overall performance paired with a stellar price, which is why we chose it as our must have.
The Vortex Optics Diamondback HD offers an impressive range of features that compliment each other perfectly. Shooters typically have more success rate when shooting from long distances, and this scope allows you to do this excellently.
The most noteworthy feature of the Diamondback is the Dead-Hold BDC reticle, which opens your shot up to a world of new ranges - ones you simply can’t get with average scopes.
Impress your peers with amazing shots from unbelievable ranges that were once a mere legend in the hunting business.
What’s more is that this isn’t the only feature the Diamondback offers. This scope is shockproof and features a fast focusing eyepiece, so you’ll still be able to get a clear shot while on the move.
Both the side focusing abilities and the magnification that can reach up to 4X further the ranging abilities and simplify your long distance shots.
The Diamondback features lenses that are made from low dispersion glass which has been coated multiple times to affect the light allowed into the scope. This gives you a more detailed view of your shot as there is no glare of shadowing.
There’s also turrets so you can adjust your scope's optics simply and quickly with your fingers, and durable o-ring seals to keep this model in top form no matter the weather.
The reviews online associated with the Diamondback further back up our opinion that this is the top pick for the best rifle scope. Experienced hunters and shooters have revelled in the fact that it features a parallax adjustment and how clear the image is even from incredible distances.
Moreover, all of the happy reviewers cannot get over the price for such a high quality piece of equipment. If we didn’t already consider this our favorite scope for rifles, the raving reviews sure tipped us over the edge and solidified our opinion.
No matter the price of a scope, the performance is the ultimate deciding factor of whether you’re going to buy the model or not. Scopes are all about magnifying things in the distance so that the shooter can see as if they were much closer to the target. However, it’s not a one size fits all situation and some models are better suited for longer ranges than others, such as the Burris Fullfield II.
Long range shooting gives you more of an advantage as your prey is less likely to hear or spot you and run away before you have the opportunity to shoot. However, shooting further distances can impact your aim and therefore a long range scope is vital when you’re trying to pull off this tactic.
When looking for a long range scope, you’re going to want to choose a model which features strong magnification and power. The stronger these two aspects are, the further away you’re able to see, giving you more opportunities to hit your target from longer distances. Using the Burris Fullfield II will give you the best chance of hitting these distant targets.
Why have we chosen this scope?
To put it simply, we’ve chosen the Burris Fullfield II as our top pick because it’s the greatest long range scope for an affordable price. Additionally, the number of additional features you get with this model makes it great value for money.
Speaking of features, let’s discuss some of the most impressive features from this model. It’s waterproof, fogproof and shockproof, meaning you can essentially use this scope in any situation and still get a clear view of your target. This is thanks to the scope cylinder being reinforced with gas seals.
Another interesting and necessary feature is that the glass is multi-coated to keep the image on top form. The adjustable power allows this scope to become incredibly versatile for the user.
Users of the Burris Fullfield II scope really like how durable the exterior of this model is as well as the lifetime warranty in case something falters. These are great benefits to look out for if you’re going to be mounting it on a powerful rifle.
They also admire how easy to use and maintain the scope is, which along with the attractive price point makes the Burris Fullfield II a very popular choice amongst long range shooters.
Scopes can be used at all times of the day, but without a decent night vision feature you may find your scope a little redundant in the middle of the night. Night vision is a great feature for your scope to have in case your shooting time eats into the later hours. Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, isn’t it better to be prepared just in case? Without a doubt the best scope that adopts this feature the best is the Firefield FF16001 Night Vision Riflescope.
Why have we chosen this scope?
There are many scopes on the market which claim they feature night vision technology, however these often prove hard to use in low lighting, let alone pitch black. The Firefield FF16001 is one of the most versatile models on our list thanks to this, and the resolution is great quality.
Night vision is typically overlooked as many shooters don’t think they’ll need to use it. However, what if you’re caught out in the hunt of your life and suddenly lose all vision thanks to your lack of night vision capabilities?
The Firefield FF16001 is an excellent scope with a number of noteworthy features. The frontrunner has to be the incredible night vision capabilities that allows the shooter to see everything as clearly as if they were in daylight. The use of the built in infrared lighting is incredibly high powered and gives you a great range, even in the dark.
Other features this scope offers the user are the lightweight yet super durable titanium body, the 3X magnification and the versatility of this model. Last but not least, the battery life of this model is impressively long, and lasts even longer when being used without the IR illumination.
There are lots of positive reviews of this scope which feature a number of different reasons why shooters love this. Some rave about the adjustable brightness levels, whereas some find the resolution more impressive.
It’s also admired thanks to its durability and ease of use, and of course it’s competitive price. These are just a few of the reasons why the Firefield FF16001 is considered the best night vision scope for under $500.
The Best Scopes Under $500 - Buyers Guide
So, what do you want out of all of this?
Other than looking for the best scope under $500, what are you wanting from your scope? Do you want the best scope for general use, or maybe you need it for nighttime shooting. Perhaps you need a mil-dot or FFP capabilities to improve your aim, or is it more important for you to find a scope that can be used while hunting? So many questions!
We’ve included many different scopes above that work the best for all kinds of scenarios, and hopefully you’ve discovered a little more about which features will be most beneficial to you.. We’ve done the hard bit, now all you need to do is choose which one your shooting style fits most into.
You may think your needs fit into two of three of the scenarios above, or maybe you feel connected to every single one! Unless you’re looking to buy multiple different scopes for different occasions, you’ll need to refine this down to just one type of scope. It’s difficult, we know, so take your time.
Once you’ve decided on a single scope, you can purchase it with the knowledge that you’ll be getting the most use out of it, rather than buying a scope that works for only one or two shooting events every year.
Of course, you may even find that the scopes listed above work for more than one scenario. Just because we’ve listed them as the best for that one instance, doesn’t mean that they won’t work in others! It simply means that they’ll excel in that one specific environment.
At first glance, scopes may all look the same and you may be wondering what the difference is between all of the scopes on this list. However, different brands prioritize different features which means that they’re better for some situations than others.
Rifle scopes are all made with the same ideology and therefore they have similar properties and technologies, however they each come with distinct features which will either appeal to you or not.
You don’t want to end up with a scope that doesn’t enrich your shooting experience as much as it should just because you purchased the first one you set eyes upon, so take the time to do some research and get to know each model before making your final decision.
While this is a list of budget friendly scopes, you’ll still be required to spend a reasonable sum of money, so it’s vital that you choose the right one for you and are content with your purchase for years to come. No pressure!
Hopefully you’re not so put off by looking for your new scope after reading our article. Hey - you may have already found it with our list of favorites. If not, hopefully you’re less daunted by the pages of different scopes out there on the market right now.
Once you know what you’re looking for and which features will benefit your individual needs most, you’ll be able to find your new piece of equipment much easier. And, if you look in all the right places and find the best features out there, it may even turn into your best friend while on the range or out in the woodlands.
Now we know this article was super long and you may have forgotten a lot of the details we went over, so let’s quickly summarize what to think about when considering which scope to purchase:
Number one: Figure out what you want, what you don’t want, and why this is.
Number two: Why will you use your rifle? What’s the main purpose? This will stem from the first step and give you a clearer image of what exactly you’re looking for.
Number three: Lastly, don’t compromise. $500 is still a reasonable chunk of money, so it’s important to choose one that’s going to serve you to the best of its ability, and that is going to aid you thoroughly for whatever you may need your gun for.
Remember, choosing a scope just because it’s within your budget isn’t enough. You need a scope that is going to enrich your experience and aid you properly, otherwise what is the point of spending your hard earned money? Good luck, and have fun!