Best Tactical Scopes Reviewed and Tested

Tactical scopes over the years have gone through some major changes in their design. They still remain as one of the few accessories that can get away with being bulky if the features warrant it. Having a tactical scope that you’re comfortable using makes the difference between hitting your target and missing it by a few inches.

Our Top 3 Picks

Bushnell Trophy TRS-25
  • Bushnell Trophy TRS-25
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • 6.4 ounces
  • Price: See Here
CVLIFE
  • CVLIFE
  • 4.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Free Mounts
  • Price: See Here
UTG 3-9X32
  • UTG 3-9X32
  • 4.2 out of 5
    Our rating
  • True Strength
  • Price: See Here

Best Brands

The usual leaders in optics are here, so expect to see Bushnell, Nikon and other familiar companies. The surprise on the list is CVLIFE, a company that has really come a long way. If you are looking at a change in company, then consider them as the first choice.

Maintenance and Cleaning Tips

For all tactical scopes that don’t come with a lens cap, make sure to purchase one. If the glass gets scratched or damaged in any way then it loses a lot of its effectiveness. Treat tactical scopes like you would any good high end camera. Keep it free of dust, and if there are electrical components make sure to take the batteries out if sitting for long periods of time.

10 Best Tactical Scopes

 

1. Bushnell Trophy TRS-25

With a Bushnell TRS-25 in your arsenal, there is nothing you can’t hit. While the CVLIFE scope in second position had a laser as an afterthought, the TRS-25 is close to perfection.

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Unlimited Eye Relief

This makes all the difference in the world, and allows users to sight with both eyes open. In any environment target acquisition will be quicker without sapping your awareness.

Features and Specifications

Amber-bright optics
Waterproof, shockproof and fog proof

Price/Value

For the top item on the list to be low priced is a good thing, and should convince buyers trying to make a decision. Bushnell is always a safe bet on value, and has great customer service.

Decision Time

As long as you keep some extra batteries handy then there is no other tactical scope in the industry that can touch this one. It is small and gets the job done without compromising the rest of your gear.
Pros
  • Easily mounts on Picatinny or Weaver rails
  • Only weighs 6.4 ounces
Cons
  • Batteries last less than a year

2. CVLIFE Optics 2.5-10x40e

CVLIFE brings out their best in second postion. As a package deal, this is one of the better kits in the industry.

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Free Mounts

Considering how low priced this tactical scope is, for CVLIFE to include two free mounts is amazing. A 11mm and 20mm rail mount is included with purchase, and all without making the entire package expensive.

Features and Specifications

5-10x magnification
100 yards laser distance

Price/Value

The price is amazing, and it would have vaulted this scope into the top spot if the laser was more useful. But with the inclusion of two free mounts, this low power scope is incredibly valuable.

Decision Time

Buying this tactical scope for personal or gift reasons is a great idea. At the current price it is about the best package value you can get in the industry.
Pros
  • Includes 11mm and 20mm weaver dovetail mounts
  • Low weight despite bulkiness
Cons
  • Laser feature is an afterthought

3. UTG 3-9X32

UTG makes an appearance on the list with an unlikely model, which is popular among the many that have bought it. This is probably one of the least flashy scopes on the list, yet one that earns its place in the top three.

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Great Light Gathering

The no frills design of this scope uses a 1 inch tube to get the maximum amount of light possible. You’ll always get a clear, crisp view of your target even at long distances.

Features and Specifications

Built on the True Strength Platform
Parallax free view from 3 yards-infinity

Price/Value

The Bug Buster is a competitively priced model that sells for a low price. It should hold up well over the years even if used extensively.

Decision Time

This is a scope for buyers that just want the bare essentials at its finest, with high quality materials. With the Bug Buster in your arsenal, you’ll never have to worry about getting that perfect shot again.
Pros
  • Simple, powerful, small and unobtrusive
  • RGB side wheel illumination
Cons
  • Takes some patience to get it to hold zero

4. Aipa AR15

Bulkiness is usually something that people shy away from when looking for tactical scopes. Yet when enough one of a kind features are present, it is a con that can be easily forgiven.

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Fantastic Wide Range Shooting

This is where the bulkiness comes in- magnification is at 4-12x50EG, so there is nothing you’ll miss. This is the most suitable scope on the list for wide range shooting.

Features and Specifications

33mm reflex lens aperture
1/4MOA audible click windage and elevation adjustments

Price/Value

Linger around the mid-high price point, the electronic adjustments make this scope worth it. The value will depend heavily on if you have a weapon that can comfortable fit it.

Decision Time

The bulkiness of this tactical scope will scare some potential buyers off, which is a real shame. This is the most technologically advanced scope on the list with an incredible amount of user friendly features.
Pros
  • Red/Green dot is fully adjusted using electronics
  • Buttons in place of normal hand adjustments
Cons
  • Bulkiest model on the list

5. CVLIFE Optics 6-24x50

If you’ve seen any of the marketing for this CVLIFE scope then you’re familiar with how big a deal it is. The company narrowly beat out Nikon on this list and has proven to be some serious competition.

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It’s All In The Design

Using a spherical structure design to make both the inner and outer tubes more reliable. You’ll find this most apparent when doing adjustments to the scope.

Features and Specifications

Parallax free view from 15 yard to infinity
Red and Green reticle illumination

Price/Value

This is another one of the low price models available, so it wins on that account. Anyone considering this purchase will get well worth their value with some patience.

Decision Time

With another low priced tactical scope that brings its a game, the decision on what to choose becomes harder. CVLIFE comes recommended not only for price, but for available features.
Pros
  • Great low light and night use
  • Fog and rain proof
Cons
  • Bulkier than other scopes

6. Nikon P-223

A list containing equipment focused on optics wouldn’t be complete without industry leader Nikon. They are the standard when it comes to any equipment, with the P-223 coming in at a respectable place on the list.

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A Brand Name You Can Trust

As the gold standard, Nikon made the P-223 as a balanced tactical scope made for the long haul. All of their products tend to last for years, and this model is no different.

Features and Specifications

BDC 600 reticle
100 yard parallax setting

Price/Value

The value is a given since it is from Nikon, with a high price to accompany it. Buyers will have no remorse for this tactical scope even if the end caps are a pain to get.

Decision Time

Nikon didn’t cut any corners with this model and it shows with the quality. All compatible weapons will get a considerable boost in performance with this purchase.
Pros
  • Fantastic eye relief
  • Zero reset turrets that take seconds to adjust
Cons
  • End caps are not standard size

7. Barska 4×32 IR

With the decision to keep this scope simple, Barska pushed this model in their lineup to be one of the best. There is little to hate about it with a lot of pros, and all at the lowest price possible.

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The Price

This is the lowest priced tactical scope on the list, and it is done without compromising the overall quality of the product. With such a great balance in features it’s hard to believe it is so low priced.

Features and Specifications

3 inches eye relief
Weighs 10 ounces


Price/Value

You can’t beat the low price of this scope, and this list proves that. All of this is available without lowering the quality of the optics, so the value is definitely high.

Decision Time

Don’t let the price fool you, as this is one of the best tactical scopes in the industry. With the right weapon this accessory is an unbeatable deal.
Pros
  • Lightweight, low price, easy to install
  • Fully coated optics offer superior views
Cons
  • Has comfort issues with some weapons

8. AR15 4-12x50EG

AOTOP takes its products seriously, and with all of the upgraded features of this scope it seems to have paid off. For a small price users can get one of the better scopes in the industry without leaving a dent in their wallets.

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A Great Warranty

The company firmly stands behind this scope and offers an 18 month warranty. That’s six months more than the leading brands on the market.

Features and Specifications

Waterproof, shockproof and fog proof
Red/Green multi-X 5 level reticles


Price/Value

AOTOP priced this scope in the low-mid price range so it’s the most affordable high end scope you can get. With the right mount it will be the best accessory you can purchase for your weapon.

Decision Time

Other than a minor mounting issue, this tactical scope checks out just fine. Customers will enjoy an ironclad warranty and a nice high end accessory.
Pros
  • Red laser reaches up to 100m
  • Lightweight and non-bulky
Cons
  • Has some issues with Picatinny rail slots

9. Vortex 4-12×40

The Diamondback is built tough for customers that tend to ding up their equipment. You can count on this model to still be around even years after the original purchase.

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Built To Resist The Elements

Built from aircraft grade aluminum, it can not only handle heavy use but is also resistant to recoil from a magnum. The Diamondback is also waterproof and fogproof for superior all weather performance.

Features and Specifications

Precision-Glide Erector System
Dead-HOLD BDC Reticle


Price/Value

Sitting at the midrange price, buyers will feel comfortable using this as a long-term scope. And with a little ingenuity, the few flaws it has can be fixed by the user.

Decision Time

Getting the hardcore Diamondback will make a lot of users happy. There are few tactical scopes in the industry that are built better.
Pros
  • Will be in your arsenal for years due to heavy construction
  • Solid 4-12×40 performance on all applicable weapons
Cons
  • Longer ranges can get a bit blurry

10. Monstrum 3-9×32

When a customer shows off their Monstrum Tactical equipment, it is always with pride. Available in both black and flat dark earth, there is a lot to appreciate about the way this tactical scope was made.

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Great Brightness Levels

The reticle illumination on this product comes in 5 brightness levels so that you can get adjusted pretty quickly. There is less to worry about when in specific environments and more room for sight comfort when needed.

Features and Specifications

3-9 times magnifications with illuminated reticle
Aircraft grade 6061 aluminum scope body


Price/Value

At the low price the scope is being offered at you can’t really go wrong. But if you’re a beginner, be wary of the customer support that won’t be much help if a technical issue arises.

Decision Time

With such a strong illumination feature this scope should be higher up on the list. Lackluster customer support pushes it further down. But don’t overlook just how fantastic a tactical scope this is if you’re an intermediate user.
Pros
  • Picatinny and Weaver rail ready
  • Lens cap and battery included
Cons
  • Customer service is below average

Criteria For Evaluation

Compatibility

Picatinny and weaver mounts are going to be the two supported options once you get a new scope. Before deciding on a scope for your gun, make sure that it supports your current mount. While the profile of both systems are almost identical, the difference between the placements of the recoil grooves leads customer to prefer one over the other. Then there are also customers that purchase their gun without any knowledge of the mounts, only to find out later that the scope they bought is incompatible. Because of the similarities between the two, a lot of scope manufacturers support both out of the box. Consider this a benefit in case you want to switch sometime in the future and don’t want to buy new equipment all over again.

Features

When grouping the picks based on features, BDC dials took greater priority over BDC reticles. This is due to the many options available for the dials that can’t be imitated with a reticle. The list was organized so that if a scope with similar features but different BDC technologies was offered, the BDC dial version would get top billing. That doesn’t mean that BDC reticles are pushed far down the list, as you’ll notice they have a prominent position in the top ten. This just goes to show that although BDC dials offer more customization, the reticles are still the standard and their scopes continue to offer a larger set of features than their dial counterparts. There are also a lot more choices to go through when comparing BDC reticle models, which is an added benefit even if they lack customizations. Still, there is even a higher upside to owning both and enjoying the benefits that they offer professionals, hunters and hobbyists.

Size

We wanted to offer choices on the list that had good eye relief and weren’t too bulky, so the lighter options are closer to the top than the bottom. A heavy scope can throw off your aim by a lot, and when you factor in recoil it can lead to faster fatigue while using. Wrist fatigue is a real thing, so a bipod can be helpful in that situation. Bulky scopes are a different situation altogether, and they throw off the balance of a gun when you’re trying to focus. Unfortunately a bipod can’t help curb the disadvantages of using a bulky scope. Users that ‘use too much scope’ will also notice that the larger lens is not as friendly for fast shooting as a smaller model. Even if it offers high magnification, you’re sacrificing a lot more to take advantage of that extra real estate than it is worth. With some bulky scopes, the tradeoff can be worth it if you need a killer feature not available on another model. But more than likely you can find the same features on easier to manage scopes that aren’t half the size of your gun.

Protection of the Lens

hunting rifle scope lens

Not all of the scopes on the list come with caps that protect the lens, and since it is easy to purchase them on your own, we didn’t give priority to the models that offered them out of the box. Protection of the lens should be your top priority, so if a model on the list doesn’t provide it, get the size needed from the manufacturer or from a third party that sells quality covers. An included cover doesn’t improve the overall quality of a scope, nor does it give it better value than a scope that doesn’t include one. Even flip covers can be purchased for a low price, and in many ways are more advantageous than flip covers that can’t be removed from a scope. Now where some decisions were made on placement came when scope cases were introduced. Although rare, some companies offer cases for your scope just in case you handle multiple scopes per trip. This isn’t common, and usually once a scope is attached it is rarely removed. But for the people that swap scopes out on a consistent basis, having a scope case that fits your specific model is like hunting a needle in a haystack. It’s not a common need, so the rarity of these cases and their quality are always in question. Even for non-conventional uses, having the case handy so you can store your accessories for a long trip is a great option to have.

Durability

durability of hunting scopes

Durability is always going to be questionable for scopes since their most important parts are also the easiest to break. Once the glass on a scope breaks, then a lot of things break down right after it. This includes the fog protection, clarity and even the reticle accuracy if there is a crack across it. So once the glass goes, the scope needs to have its warranty called in or you need to buy a new one. It wouldn’t have been fair to order the list based on durability since that is more of a user care issue. Taking proper care of your scope will guarantee the glass to be in top condition years after you purchase it. The only time durability was a big factor on the list is when comparing the hardiness of the materials enclosing the lens. Sometimes having a little extra protection on the outside keeps the knobs/dials on the scope from getting too much wear on it from repeated use. So only in specific circumstances in the top ten was durability a major factor in determining the position of a scope.

Support and Customer Care

Sometimes things can go wrong during the ownership period with your scope, and that is where having a company with top tier support can make a big difference in who you purchase from. With a little bit of luck, it will be a problem that occurs within your warranty. Like other products that depend primarily on optics quality, a scope needs to be immediately served when the glass becomes an issue. Letting a small problem linger with the lens can turn into something big, and ultimately something with a slower turnaround period. Big companies like Nikon and Bushnell are regarded as having the best support and warranty programs available. Their warranties are iron clad, their support is fast, and most of all they are dependable when it comes to customer service. Bad service in this area can turn customers away, and it was a huge factor in how we ordered the list. Some scopes with incredible features were left off of the list due to a company’s bad reputation for support. And when a very strict warranty was imposed on a scope, it led to red flags that also kept some key products off the list. Finding that balance between a quality scope, support and warranty was hard but well worth the effort. It’s always nice to be able to depend on a company when your top accessory is giving you a little bit of a problem.

Modifications

Some minor things that helped shape the list were modifications for products that are out of warranty. This is a very specific thing for buyers that tend to modify their equipment and improve the core features. It affects a minor part of the scope buying public yet is significant enough to impact some of the spots on the list. Modifications are usually done when a scope is out of warranty, but is not strictly tied to out of warranty products. Buyers that purchase a UTG product that doesn’t support Weaver mounts may take it upon themselves to make it compatible. Even if this is against a manufacturers specs, there will always be certain features in a scope that a customer can’t live without, yet can’t find anywhere else. The same can be said for scopes where buyers want to add permanent modifications like reticles that are rare, and in some cases completely defunct. A flat top tapered post and crosshair reticle is valuable to a lot of buyers, but not always available from their favorite scope manufacturer in newer models. Rather than use old inventory that lacks a lot of the improvements of the new scope, customers will make their own permanent mods after buying a new scope. Like all communities that innovate through modification, the one for scopes was influential enough to affect the placement of at least two scopes on the list. Even if only a small minority benefits from the models that are modification friendly, they’re still important to point out for people that are looking for them.

FAQs

Is a bulky scope a bad purchase?

It depends on your weapon of choice and what you’re looking to do with it. Some of the bulkier models on this best tactical scopes list provide some great sighting features that can’t be found on smaller models.

How long do the batteries last?

All scopes on the list come with batteries, and they all differ in lifetime. But even for a heavy user, the minimum amount of time a battery will last in any scope is six months.

When should you change batteries?

batteries for tactical scopes

Lithium batteries are used for the majority of scopes on the list that require them. Some are rechargeable, but most are single use. The good news is that they last for years, and in many cases will last the lifetime of the device. A commonly used battery in scopes is the CR2032, and can be found everywhere. If your scope doesn’t come with a low battery indicator and you notice essential functions like brightness starting to slow down, then you can always swap out the battery with a newer one. It’s rare that you’ll do this often, so there is no need to have a backup battery on hand.

How durable are tactical scopes?

Extremely tough, and some of them are even made from military grade material. They will turn out to be one of the hardest to break accessories you purchase.

Which company has the best scopes?

Bushnell, CVLIFE and UTG are beasts when it comes to tactical scopes that deliver for the customers. Bushnell can be considered king in not only this area but also a major leader in optics period. They follow a standard that smaller companies try to meet, and Bushnell is often the innovator of must have features. UTG and CVLIFE are not far behind, and provide a great level of comfort for any user that wants to get a long lasting product. With any of these three companies as your choice, you’ll get one of the leading products in the industry with a lot of support.

How important is the glass?

The glass is the engine of the scope, and without quality glass you will face a lot of problems when trying to get the most out of your purchase. A common rule of thumb is that more magnification is not always beneficial, and can also be a good way to spot cheap glass. When you say an inordinately high magnification number on a very cheap scope, then chances are the glass is not up to the standard of quality products. A good glass gives a performance advantage for both short range and long range shooting. You’ll also find that it is quicker to target with a good glass than a low quality one.

Is changing the reticle possible?

Yes, but isn’t cost effective. Most scopes have nitrogen sealed tubes to prevent fogging, while also offering other improvements. The reason a buyer would want to change the reticle could be many reasons, from small things like changing the crosshairs to wanting a reticle with more clarity. Whatever the reason, the cost is going to exceed that of buying the scope in the first place. This is a professional job that will void the warranty if you outsource it, so great care is needed to complete the process. Very few companies offer this service, but when they do it will be covered under your warranty. The easier thing to do would be to buy a scope with the reticle that fits your needs the most, and then work your way down to the other features.

Are batteries easy to locate?

You won’t have a hard time finding replaceable batteries for scopes since they aren’t proprietary or rare. A lot of the scopes on the list use the same kind of battery, and for those that stray away from the norm, the company usually makes the power save setting so strict that the batteries almost last a lifetime. Even when they run out, a quick trip to the store will have you up and running in no time. The only downside to batteries is that some models included the compartment as an afterthought, so getting it off to replace can be kind of a pain.

How hard is it to zero a scope?

how to zero a hunting rifle scope

There are some scopes that are easier to zero in than others, but that doesn’t automatically make them the best choice. A scope is measured by how it holds zero rather than how easy it is to set it. Having to constantly zero in your scope can really take you out of the experience, and if you own multiple weapons it can be a time assuming affair. When looking for scopes that will hold form the best, it all starts with the base and rings. This is an important step that works with a high quality mount to ensure the smoothest experience possible.

What is multi-coating and why does it matter?

The best way to look at multi-coating is to think of it an antireflective layer. It is applied on the inside and outside of the lens to provide the best effect. When it is done properly, it minimizes reflections so that you get crisper visuals. There are different levels of multi-coating, so having it applied doesn’t always mean that clarity will be guaranteed. The best way to guarantee top quality is to check out the specific wording with these types of lens. You always want fully multi-coated lens first, and then other variations like fully coated or multi-coated. It’s slight wordplay that separates the good products from the great products on the list.

Should you get a cleaning kit?

Cleaning kits of varying sizes are offered for scopes, and in every way are worth the money companies charge for them. But what is found in the kits can be found around the house, and a lot of the scopes on the list come with a microfiber cloth that does the job just fine. So unless you’re getting an unusual amount of dirt on the scope, the microfiber cloth will do the trick just fine. Rarely do any of the kits provide anything other than the basic necessities, yet they still are handy to have around for when

Can home repairs be done?

Not by the average user, and it isn’t beneficial unless you are applying a specific modification that can’t be found on a mainstream scope. The problem with home repairs is that it invalidates the warranty, and the second part is that repairing a scope is expensive. Even if a product is out of warranty and you want to squeeze out a few extra years, it would be more cost effective to purchase a brand new tactical scope than to repair your old one. With all of the options available with the scopes on the list, there are plenty of reasons to go shopping for a replacement.

How should a scope be stored?

With the glass being the most important part of the scope, storage when not in use is important to maintain its integrity. That means using lens caps when available and not putting anything heavy on top of it for long periods of time. If you notice your lens fogging up after long periods of storage, then call in your warranty so it can be repaired. Be aware of your lens size so that caps can be purchased if they aren’t provided with the scope. This should be your top priority when making a scope purchase, with a strong consideration for a scope case if you don’t plan on keeping it mounted when not in use.

Are BDC dials available for purchase?

bdc reticle for rifle scope

For select scopes that don’t have BDC reticles, BDC dials are available. They are more consistent and provide a better overall experience for the shooter. Some companies even off custom BDC dials that fit your preferred shooting style. All of this comes down to personal preference, so buyers that want more customizability with their scope will always go with a model that offers custom BDC dials. On the plus side, when speed is required nothing beats a BDC reticle. Having the option for both is possible for the buyer that wants the best of both worlds and wants to have the option of switching. It’s an extra expense that is worth the dollars required to get the setup you want.

How To Make The Best Decision

Get familiar with what you want to mount it on, since you’ll most likely need to decide between Picatinny and Weaver mounts. Purchasing a tactical scope that is incompatible with your chosen weapon will only waste time. You should also pay attention to any included accessories if this is your first tactical scope purchase.