At a Glance: The 7 best long-range scopes for your AR-15
Comparison of The 7 best long-range scopes for your AR-15
Our Top Pick
|Burris – AR 5.56 4.5-14x42mm Adjustable Objective Scope with Pepr Mount||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|Trijicon -Tenmile 4.5-30x56mm Illuminated Long-range Scope||View Latest Price|
|Vortex Optics – Diamondback tactical 6-24x50mm FFP||View Latest Price|
The AR-15 is America’s favorite gun, both for hunters and target shooters alike. Couple one with great optics you can expect accurate and precise long-range shooting. But if you just got your first AR-15 and never bought a long-range scope before, you’ll easily get lost in all the choices available on the market.
As usual, we are here to help you choose the best long-range scope for your needs. However, please bear in mind that choosing the top one might be a little bit problematic due to the fact that most AR-15 long-range scopes have deceptively similar features. The criteria we will be looking for include durability, accuracy, ease of mounting, and use, of course, the price, and much more.
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Burris – AR 5.56 4.5-14x42mm Adjustable Objective Scope with Pepr Mount
This is a great long-range scope that looks good as well. The scope is made from good quality and durable material with a matte black finish. It is a solid one-piece tube that was designed for rough handling in the field. The zoom on the scope turns smoothly as does the focus. However, the clicks are a little bit soft, not as distinct as expected. The elevation turret goes from 1 to 550 yards and is matched to the standard AR-15 ammunition. Both the top and side turrets move ¼ MOA at 100 yards per click. The adjustable dial for range finding is very handy. There is a convenient WindMap for determining wind hold-off for your 5.56 rounds. It zeroes very precisely. The eye relief and resistance to glare from the sides are very good. The reticle is adjustable and very crisp and clear but the sight picture can be slightly unclear under specific conditions. You can find more info in this video.
- Solid and durable
- Cool design
- Easy to mount with the Pepr mount
- Elevation and wind turrets
- Turrets are easy to adjust
- Quarter MOA adjustments
- The reticle is clear and crisp
- Great eye relief
- Reasonable price
- Clicks on turrets are a little bit soft
- Sight picture is blurry at times
Trijicon -Tenmile 4.5-30x56mm Illuminated Long-range Scope
This is a great, durable long-range performance scope suitable for precision rifle shooters, long-range hunters, and tactical shooters. The body is made out of aluminum and offers all-weather protection. It features extra-low dispersion glass that delivers true colors for exceptional target definition. The lenses are fully multi-coated so there is no glare or loss of light. The objective lens is 56mm and offers outstanding light transmission even in low-light conditions. The generous 29.1 MRAD of elevation travel will get you to your desired distance. There is also a 14. 5 MRAD capped windage adjustment range with an optional windage restrictor. The crosshair reticle is easy to use and the illumination control has been upgraded with five red and five green brightness settings. Smooth, controlled magnification with a repositionable magnification lever that accommodates multiple platforms and firing positions. The easy-focus eyepiece diopter accommodates the shooter’s individual needs. The glass is extremely clear, even around the edges. It doesn’t lose any clarity at 30x as some cheaper scopes do. In addition, the parallax on this scope is very precise and useful for ranging as it has specifically labeled ticks out to 1000. The only downside is its weight. For more info check out this video.
- All-weather protection
- Fully multi-coated lenses
- 56mm objective lens
- Elevation and windage
- MRAD measurements
- Higher price range
- Quite heavy
Vortex Optics – Diamondback tactical 6-24x50mm FFP
The Vortex is a well-made optic, manufactured from aircraft-grade aluminum. It’s a pretty decent weight too, coming in at just under 15 ounces. The magnification is 4-12×, which provides a decent long-range view for hunting deer and game or some long-range precision shooting. The Vortex is pretty easy to mount and thanks to that low weight, it doesn’t impact rifle handling much. This scope has the enhanced elements you’d expert of a high-end optic but at an affordable price. It is built on a 30mm aluminum tube with a matte-black low glare finish. Adjustments are done in ¼ MOA. It features a glass-etched super clear reticle and well-balanced resettable and exposed turrets. It is very easy to sight in. The Vortex also comes with a BDC Reticle, a handy feature to compensate for holdover. The light collection is definitely something worth shouting about. It easily pulls in as much light as any higher-end optic I’ve used. I didn’t get the chance to use the sight in low light but I believe that the Vortex should be able to give a bright and clear image.
However, when you get into the higher power range (18+) or during low light conditions, the glass really starts to blur up which is kind of expected in this price range.
- Matte-black finish for low glare
- Low weight
- Easy to sight in
- Great light collection
- BDC reticle
- Super affordable
- Starts blur up when at higher mag range
Kahles – K624i 6-24x56mm Scope FFP Moak Reticle
Kahles is Austria’s oldest existing optical manufacturer, dating back to 1898. Today, it is a sister company of Swarovski Optics. The company has focused its efforts on a new line of tactical, long-range rifle scopes. The Kahles K624i riflescope is an illuminated 6-24×56 mm scope with a 34 mm tube. It is known for its precision adjustments and optical quality, common among most expensive European scopes. It also brings some innovative features for the long-range shooter. It delivers extreme edge-to-edge clarity, more than 95% light transmission, and clear image at every magnification level. Its reticle is set in the front focal plane which ensures that the distance between the target and reticle size remains constant at all magnification levels. It is available with a left or right windage turret. The parallax adjustment is located under the elevation turret. That means the shooter can maintain position while using either hand to adjust parallax, which leads to the fast acquisition of multiple targets at varying distances. It has 26 mils of overall elevation adjustment in two rotations. For indexing, each click and line represents .1-MRAD (mil) for both elevation and windage. However, you can also get the Kahles K624i riflescope offered in an MOA version. There is a fast focus in the rear and the parallax goes from 50 meters to infinity.
- High-quality European scope
- Precision adjustment
- Great clarity
- 95% light transmission
- Clear images at every magnification level
- Reticle in FFP
- Available in MRAD or MOA
- High price
Athlon Optics – Midas Tac 6-24x50mm Scope FFP Side Focus APRS2
Athlon is one of the newest players in the sports optics industry. This scope is rather compact for its magnification range. It features a 50mm objective lens. Its length is 14.6″ with a weight of only 26.3oz. I am a big fan of lighter weight optics with objective lenses of this size with good light transmission aided by modern lens coatings. The Midas features a large uncapped 10 mil per turn zero stop elevation adjustment. The turret for adjustment is a little bit stiffer and has a higher rotation force between clicks which might cause over rotation at times. The windage knob is a little bit smaller with 10 mils per turn, marked 1-5 in each direction. It feels good and provides a nice compromise between a hunting design and a tactical design. The APRS2 is a typical mil hash reticle featuring a floating dot center and .2 mil increments. The turret adjustments are perfect in all respects. The windage and elevation are independent. No zero shift is affected by power change, parallax change, or diopter change. The power ring and euro style diopter are not the greatest. However, the parallax turret works great. The price is also quite nice. Check more info here.
- Significantly better quality than other scopes of this price range
- Properly sized reticle
- Smaller 50mm objective
- Lightweight, 26.3oz
- Full 10 mil/turn knobs
- Very simple effective zero stop that lets you chose travel below zero
- Good adjustment range, 25 mil
- Great price for a full-featured FFP/ zero stop scope
- No extras like scope caps or a sunshade
- Manual can be confusing for a beginner
Shmidt & Bender – PM II/P 12-50x56mm Scope Multi-Turn Turret FFP Illum. P4L Fine
The 12-50×56 PM II/P is robust and durable scope perfect for you if you need higher magnification for shooting longer distances. The parallax adjustment permits you to focus on field targets at a distance between 10 meters and the practical range of your rifle. It has one of the highest magnifications available. The turrets can be configured in three clicks. Both elevation and windage knobs are measured in ⅛ MOA per 1 click but can be switched to ¼ MOA. The elevation knob is on the top and has small windows for checking which revolution/turn the turret is currently on. On the side of the elevation turret, you can see how many MOAs are in each turn. The windage turret also has small windows which give a color indication of whether you are turning left (yellow) or right (black). The reticle is on the first focal plane. However, a model with the reticle on the second focal plane is available as well. No illumination but a lot of light comes through the objective lens. The scope is waterproof to 25m and can withstand temperatures between -25C to 50C. For more info, check out this video.
- German quality
- Perfect for any weather
- Easy adjustment
- Turrets with windows showing which turn you are on
- Measured in ⅛ MOA or ¼ MOA
- FFP Reticle
- High price
- No illumination
Sightron, Inc. – SVSS ED 10-50x60mm Scope 1/10 Moa Dot Reticle
This scope is made by a Japanese company based in the USA that focuses on long-range scopes. This is a high quality, high-end scope. It is made from a one-piece 34mm tube. It is quite long, 16.5 inches. There are two knobs for adjusting the parallax, a big one and a smaller one. You can adjust from 13m to infinity with almost a full rotation for 100m. After you adjust the big parallax knob you can adjust the smaller one in finer increments. That allows you to adjust your parallax extremely precisely. The reticle is on the second focal plane with a small dot and crosshair. Elevation and windage turrets have a locking mechanism for tactical shooting. One-click is ⅛ MOA with a total travel of 70 MOA for elevation. The clicks on the turrets are crisp and audible. However, a zero stop is not included.
- High quality for a high price
- One of the best parallax adjustments on the market
- Crisp view
- Locking mechanism for the turrets
- No zero stop on the turrets
- Long and heavy
What’s The Effective Range of an AR-15 with a long-range scope?
According to U.S. Military standards, effective range means the range in which a firearm is effective and can reach a target. A scope will be viewed as long-range if it allows for accurate shooting within the AR-15’s effective range. The range of an AR-15 is a popular topic for a debate among shooters. According to the factory instruction manual, the AR-15 has an effective range of approximately 600 yards (550m).
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In reality, the effective range of your AR-15 will depend on multiple factors.
- Weather conditions when you are shooting. The effective range will be longer on a dry clear day than when it is windy or raining.
- Is the shooter a beginner or a seasoned AR-15 marksman. The effective range for a beginner might be around 200 yards on a sunny day without wind. On the other hand, a shooting ace can precisely reach targets up to 1000 yards.
- What is the length of the barrel? AR-15s are available in at least three common barrel lengths.
- Carbine: up to 16 inches,
- Standard: 16 – 20 inches, and
- Target: at 24 inches.
Longer barrel length means that the round reaches a higher velocity due to the longer time the powder has to burn. The trajectory of high-velocity bullets is flatter over a long-range and has less drop. That allows for better accuracy over a distance. The effective velocity of a 16-inch barrel will be around 500 yards and for a 20-inch barrel close to 800 yards.
- What caliber are you using in your AR-15. The effective range of 500 yards applies to 5.56/.223 rounds. If you use heavier rounds like .224 Valkyrie, your effective range will be around 800 to 1000 yards.
What to Look for in an AR15 Long-Range Scope
For the purposes of this article, we will decide that long-range means up to around 1000 yards as that is more or less the maximum effective range of an AR-15. That means that we will be looking at scopes that can handle 500-1000 yards.
Shooting at a range of 1000 yards does not require very high magnification. There is an old rule of thumb which says that every 1x equals 100 yards. That would mean that a scope with a maximum of 15x magnification would do the trick. However, in reality magnification of twice that much, around 30x is popular for shooting at 1000 meters. Magnification beyond that will make it difficult to reach your target quickly and consistently.
A larger objective lens means more light can pass through the scope and give you a brighter picture. That means the size of the objective will be important for long-range shooting. Generally, scopes with around 12x magnification have a 40mm objective lens.
A large objective lens is, however, heavier and bulkier and needs to be placed higher over your rifle.
The reticle marks the point of aim in your sight picture. There are different types of reticles (also called cross-hairs) for different shooting purposes. To name a few, dot reticle, German reticle, duplex reticle, illuminated reticle, etc. BDC and mil-dot reticles let you, for example, adjust your elevation and windage with preset dots so you don’t have to adjust the turret every time you use your scope.
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The focal plane the reticle is on determines the size of the reticle when the scope is zoomed in. There are two focal plane options:
- The front focal plane (FFP) means that the size of the reticle will appear to change as the scope’s magnification is changed.
- The second focal plane (SFP), on the other hand, means that the reticle will appear to stay the same even under magnification.
A front focal plane reticle is optimal for long-range shooting.
Turret and MOA
Minute of Angle (MOA) is a unit of angular measurement meaning one inch off target at a hundred yards. Generally, high-power scopes can make adjustments at a fraction of MOA per click. The turret adjustment should be easily accessible, smooth, and audible for precise long-distance shot calibration.
All long-range scopes have windage and elevation knobs. These help you to sight in the optic at a set distance. Most turrets are, however, small and have a low profile. That makes them hard to use.
For long-distance shooting, a scope with target turrets can be a major asset. Target Turrets are tall, easy to turn, make tactile or audible clicks, and have external markings to represent MOA or mil (MRAD).
Eye relief refers to the distance your eye needs to be from the scope to achieve an optimal focus. There are two categories of eye relief:
- Short eye relief where the distance between the eye of the shooter and the lens is less than 5 inches, and
- Long eye relief where the distance is at least 6 inches.
Long eye relief means the scope is mounted forward on the rifle and the shooter has a wider field of view. However, for long-range accuracy, short eye relief is standard. The scope is mounted more to the back of the rifle which makes it more balanced and allows the shooter to use the magnification fully.
Most high-quality scopes have high-quality coated lenses. Fully multi-coated lenses are the best choice. The optical coatings reduce the loss of light due to reflection, minimize glare, maximize light transmission through the scope, and protect the lens from scratches.
There are different types of coated lenses:
- Coated with at least one layer on at least one lens,
- Fully coated – there is a single coat on each air-to-glass lens,
- Multi-coated – the scope has a single coat on most air-to-glass lenses with multiple coats on at least one lens,
- Fully multi-coated – all air-to-glass lenses have multiple layers of coating.
Minute of Angle and MRAD
MOA and MRAD/mil are two types of measurements used for sighting in a rifle. Sighting in or zeroing means aligning the scope with the point of impact, allowing the shooter to place bullets predictably and precisely at a given distance. Both systems are equally effective, however:
- MOA is used more in countries with imperial measurements, most ballistic tables are in feet and yards, and ¼ MOA adjustments are more precise than 1/10 mil adjustments.
- MRAD (Milliradian) are metric and easy to calculate. Also, the U.S. Military and high-end equipment use MRAD.
If you are more comfortable with imperial measurement then MOA might be more of your jam and vice versa.
MOA is equal to 1.047 inches at 100 yards while mil is equal to 3.6 inches at 100 yards.
Parallax is an inconsistency in the view that you see when you look through your rifle scope. It causes the reticle to move across the target as you shift your eye position. This means the reticle is not accurately reflecting where your rifle is pointing. Parallax is noticeable in higher magnification and it occurs when the projected image is too far away from the cross-hair in the scope.
There are ways to adjust for parallax:
- Place your AR-15 in a shooting stand or anchor it to a shooting table,
- Adjust the parallax adjustment ring to be as close as possible to the range you’re shooting out to using a quick guess at the distance from the target and dial it in from there,
- Aim down your scope and adjust your eye position slowly.
- Pay attention to the crosshair’s position on the target.
- If you’re seeing the crosshair move as you move your eye, you’re experiencing parallax.
- If you move your head to the left slightly, pay attention to how your crosshair moves. If it moves to the left on the target, it means your image is too far in front of the reticle and you need to increase the distance of the adjustment. If the reticle moves to the right on the target as you move your head left, you need to decrease the distance adjustment.
Benefits of Investing in a Long-Range Scope for your AR15
Long-range target shooting has enjoyed increased popularity recently which means the number of long-range scopes has increased as well. If you want to shoot precisely at a long-range, you will need a quality rifle, precise ammunition, and a high-performance optic. There is just no way around it. I know, rifle scopes are not the cheapest but having a high-quality rifle scope will help you to become a great long-range shooter with precise and accurate shots. This skill will come handy when you decide to get into hunting or try out a shooting competition.
How to mount a long-range scope on your AR15
Generally, people use two types of mounts for long-range precision shooting. Both are very easy to use and neither is better than the other. They simply offer shooters different options since they have two distinct roles. It is always important to examine your firearm to choose one or the other mounting system. Always weigh your options.
A single-piece scope mount is two scope rings mounted to a single base.
One-piece scope mounts are:
- Very rigid,
- Perfect for high recoiling systems,
- Not suitable for bolt action rifles,
- More pricey than two-piece mounts.
There are a few different reasons why they are typically used on modern semi-automatics:
- They can push your scope forward, allowing the bell of the scope to sit above certain handguards.
- They allow proper clearance for a long-range scope.
Two-piece rings are much lighter than a one-piece mount but still very durable.
Other important characteristics include:
- Suitable mainly for bolt action rifles,
- Need to be aligned properly,
- Can stay on the scope and be moved to a different firearm, and
- Great affordability.
You will need some tools to mount your long-range scope on your AR-15. These include:
- A torque wrench is the most important tool for precise mounting of your scope. The screws and the scope rings should never be overtightened. A proper torque wrench will click when screws are properly tightened.
- Loctite or Sure Thread can secure the bolts in place.
- A lapping bar and pin set, screwdriver and bits, and a modular level system will make sure the gun is leveled with the scope.
The following steps should be followed when mounting your scope:
- When your rifle is clear, get rid of any grease on your rifle’s rail as well as the mount and scope.
- Position the one-piece mount on the top rail (place the cantilever mount’s base just above the magwell/for non-cantilever mount’s place it further forward).
- If you are using ring mounts, then adjust the rings individually to fit the scope’s size.
- Put your scope on the mount and shoulder your rifle. Look through the scope, move it backward or forward on the rail until you see a full clear picture through the scope.
- Fix the mount to the rifle.
- Place your rifle into a vice and with help of the bubble level check that the mount is balanced in all directions.
- Set your scope inside the mount again to verify your eye relief.
- Place the top caps on and tighten the screws once you find the perfect position.
- Use a level to see if the scope is positioned right from all angles.
- Unscrew each top cap screw and add a drop of blue Loctite on the threads. Then screw back down. Do not over-torque it as it might make the scope shift. Repeat with each screw.
To learn more about how to mount a long-range scope on your AR15, check out this video.
We have reviewed seven long-range scopes in this article. Based on their price they can be divided into two groups:
- The higher-end options including
- Trijicon -Tenmile 4.5-30x56mm Illuminated
- Kahles – K624i 6-24x56mm FFP
- Shmidt & Bender – PM II/P 12-50x56mm FFP Illuminated
- Sightron, Inc. – SVSS ED 10-50x60mm
- The lower-end, including
- Burris – AR 5.56 4.5-14x42mm Adjustable Objective Scope
- Vortex Optics – Diamondback tactical 6-24x50mm FFP
- Athlon Optics – Midas Tac 6-24x50mm FFP Side Focus Aprs2
The first group of high-end and high-priced AR-15 long-range scopes presents amazing optics. They all are made of very durable materials, most of them waterproof and suitable for all weather conditions. On the other hand, most of them are also long and heavy. My favorite is the Kahles scope. It has amazing lenses, easy precise adjustment, top-notch clarity and it is illuminated.
The other group, in the lower-end of the price range, still offers decent long-range scopes for your AR-15. However, using them at high magnification may cause a blur. Some of them are also quite heavy. My favorite from this group is the Athlon Midas scope as it is small and lightweight and it has better optics than most competitors at this price range.