If you’re a hunter looking for a quality scope that offers excellent quality and a great price-value ratio, you should take a closer look at models within the $500 price range.
I scoured the web, checked all the amazon options, and compiled this definitive list of some of the most versatile rifle scopes under $500 that offer more than you might expect. I decided to go for diversity, durability, affordability, important features, and value.
Any big game hunter or target practice enthusiast will find these scopes highly beneficial for their rifles.
Why Rifle Scopes Under $500?
You’ll ask yourself, “why look for rifle scopes that fall under the under $500 category exactly? Is there a catch?”
The fact of the matter is that most hunters and casual big-game shooters can fare well with rifle scopes for just under $500. You really don’t need many extra quality features because the rifle scopes in this price range can do it all with no problems.
Keep in mind that there’s a reason why the $2500 range is reserved for only the best long-range scopes, which would offer more durability and a lot of useful features, including excellent image quality.
That said, if you have a good, flat long-range rifle, and you need some long-range ballistic scopes and sights, then, by all means, you should go for an expensive rifle scope. Here’s how scope zooms look from various distances.
Rifle Scopes Under $500 Are Perfect for Mid-Range Hunting
When talking about rifle scopes under $500, it usually means you’re hunting and shooting around the 300-yard range.
Rifle scopes under $500 take care of shorter distances up to 300-400 yards, which is a no-brainer if you have .22 LR or 5.56mm rifles.
There’s no need to go for high-end expensive scopes that can reach more than 600 yards when your .22 LR rifle can’t possibly reach that distance without significant bullet drop and decreased velocity.
It’s just not worth it, and it’s an absolute waste of money.
What Are the Benefits of Rifle Scopes Under $500?
Quality rifle scopes in the $500 price range have scopes with solid optics and lenses that offer decent image quality, light transmission, clear field of view, magnification ranges, and image definition.
What’s more, most of these rifle scopes on the list are waterproof and can withstand shock and extreme weather conditions without budging.
This price range is one of the best for value and efficiency; a rifle scope in it is not exactly a budget option, but an in-between one, when the other more expensive options are taken into account.
They are sturdy and durable enough to last a long time. Besides, they are similar in aesthetics to the high-end ones. If you’re looking for good rifle bipods for stability, here are our chosen Best Rifle Bipods.
Here are our top picks for best rifle scopes under $500, in no particular order.
Best Rifle Scopes Under $500
- Durable and sturdy construction
- Smooth magnification, argon gas, and FFP MIL reticles
- Multi-coated lens and illuminated center for a brighter view
- Shockproof, waterproof, and fogproof
- Locking elevation turrets with good windage
- Not very comfortable for some
Athlon is well-known for high-end rifle scopes for an acceptable price, suitable for every casual and professional hunter.
The Athlon Optics Helos BTR 6-24×50 FFP (first focal plane) Riflescope is one of the best illuminated rifle scopes under $500 you can find on the market.
You have high magnification with the power of 6-24×50 zoom, and the illuminated MIL reticle is located on the first focal plane (FFP) with solid protective lens coating that has no problem with dirt, fog, and heavy weather.
For those of you who don’t know, BTR stands for ‘bright reticle’, IR stands for ‘illuminated reticle’, and MIL stands for ‘milliradians’ as opposed to MOA (minute of angle).
It’s glass-etched, has good reticle quality, and the side focus is adjustable for parallax problems. The Athlon Helos BTR rifle scope is argon-purged for better durability and longevity. It also offers good eye relief for comfort.
The strong and durable tube construction is made from aircraft aluminum and it also has special erector systems for better handling and controls. You’ll definitely need that extra recoil resistance.
The multi-coated glass is glare-free with excellent clarity, good light transmission, and a 30mm diameter which allows 18-mils adjustment with a 60 MOA (minute of angle) for elevation and good windage.
The only downside of the Athlon Optics Helos BTR is that it’s pretty heavy, which may impair handling, while it may also be costly for some. Other than that, the Helos BTR Riflescope is a great budget scope with features and qualities that any hunter will be satisfied with.
Check it out at Brownells here.
- Multi-coated, flip-up protective lens
- Special wideband, anti-reflection, EXO barrier coating
- Tool-less zero reset and lockable reset turrets for extra stability
- Waterproof and fog-proof construction
- Nitrogen purged with o-ring seal
- The reticle is prone to misalign
- Not very effective in dim light conditions
Bushnell’s optics are known for their budget rifle scopes, and the Bushnell Engage 4-16×44 Tuble Rifle scope is one of the best when looking for low-cost rifle scopes with great features.
The matte black rifle scope has 4x and 16x settings with a 44mm lens, excellent visibility and field of view, and 1-MOA elevation and windage for mid-range and short-range hunting.
The lens has an anti-reflective EXO barrier coating, protected and Nitrogen treated with an O-ring seal that makes it waterproof and helps you see through fog, which is perfect for hunters that aren’t scared of getting their hands dirty in bad weather conditions. The special coating repels water condensation, oil, dirt, and debris, and won’t be scratched easily.
It has easily adjustable windage and elevation knobs with a parallax adjustment. The elevation turrets are easily lockable for better stability and accuracy.
The Bushnell Engage is a good scope for mid to short-range hunting, but you may find the reticle tricky and easily misaligned at times. It’s also not a great contender for dimly-lit conditions.
However, The Bushnell Engage is a great scope, suitable for most calibers, and is perfect for those of you who don’t like the hassle of uncomfortable knob adjustment.
- Has magnification setting ring
- Durable fogproof and waterproof construction
- Crystal clear, multi-coated lenses for light transmission
- Fast-focus eyepiece for better target acquisition
- Lifetime warranty
- Dead-hold BDC reticle
- The optic might be too heavy for some (2.2 lbs)
- Slight turret problems
Here’s the almighty Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20×50 rifle scope—a long-range shooting giant in the under $500 category of rifle scopes for hunting and target shooting.
This high-quality rifle scope is set on the second focal plane that you can easily switch between various magnification settings up to 20x. It’s definitely one of the best for mid to long-range hunting around the 400-700 yard range, so it’s suitable for 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester calibers.
It has a durable 30mm aircraft-grade aluminum tube, multi-coated 50mm objective lens with 95% light transmission, good image quality, and offers long-term durability. It’s fogproof, waterproof, and withstands heavy weather conditions.
You’ll have a hard time finding high-quality precision glide and erector systems in an under-$500 rifle scope, but here we are. They ensure easy transitioning, windage and elevation adjustment, and tactile feedback.
The Viper rifle scope has a Mil-Dot reticle, perfect for long distances, and can estimate holdover with ease.
The optics are pretty heavy, and you’ll have to get used to the extra 2.2 lbs. Besides that, you’ll run into some turret problems because they can be slightly sticky and troublesome.
Overall, the Vortex Viper is one of the best you can find on the market today if you’re looking for some long-range hunting firepower. It’s as effective as those over the $1000 price range, and I definitely see why.
- Excellent light transmission with multi-coated lens and BDC reticle
- Great ballistic match technology
- Fast focus eyepiece for comfort and ease of use
- Turrets are easily adjustable
- Nikon lifetime warranty
- Crosshair reticle might be too wide and thick for some
Here’s another Nikon rifle scope that won’t burn a $600 hole in your pocket.
The Nikon PROSTAFF 5 rifle scope has a patented BDC reticle with transparent ballistic circles providing an excellent field of view, as well as some extra features like sun shade and quick zero caps.
It’s perfect for mid-range and long-distance shooting, and it’s very easy to zero, all thanks to its spring-loaded, instant zero-reset turrets.
The Nikon PROSTAFF 5 boasts a multi-coated anti-reflective optical lens with excellent light transmission, flexible brightness settings, and great image quality at long distances.
The quick focus eyepiece is a great addition because it makes it easy to bring the reticle focus back with fast target acquisition.
As for the magnification levels and zooming capability, they range from 4.5x to 18x. The magnification ring is pretty smooth and the objective diameter is smaller than its contenders, like the Vortex Viper. So, it’s not exactly superb in low light conditions, but it’s still acceptable. You can pair this with a Remington .308 and you’ll have no problem at 300-400 yards.
The downsides are that the Nikon PROSTAFF 5 crosshairs might be too thick for some, as they may get in the way of your field of view at max range.
Overall, it’s a great rifle scope for long-range shooting that any hunter can use for a long time, not to mention the lifetime warranty and service options available from Nikon.
- Lightweight and durable
- Easily zeroed adjustable turrets
- Excellent clarity and side focus
- Comfortable focus eyepiece
- Ultra ClearCoat Optical system
- Waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof
- Lifetime warranty
- Parallax adjustment can be tricky to use for some
The famous manufacturer Nikon are well-known for their lenses, and they’ve had some great series of sporting and rifle optics with solid quality.
In the Nikon Monarch riflescope series, we present to you the Nikon Monarch 3 BDC rifle scope. The Nikon Monarch is available in three different series, like the Monarch 5 and 7, which offer larger tubes and magnification levels. These are for long-range rifles.
The Nikon Monarch 3 is one of the most versatile pieces of optic lenses for rifles with a 4x to 16x zoom capacity, and a very comfy 4-inch eyepiece.
The lenses have a 42mm lens with flip-up covers and an Ultra ClearCoat Optical system with great light transmission of up to 95% that also works great in foggy weather. The construction is waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof.
The reticle is on the second focal plane and fits any shooting style – mostly suitable for mid-range hunters that shoot around the 400-500 yard range.
The Monarch 3 with BDC (bullet drop compensator) reticles offers large crosshairs, side-focus adjustment, and spring-loaded, zero-reset turrets if you run into any parallax problems. After you’re done with the adjustments and shooting, resetting it back to zero is easy – simply pull the trigger to zero in.
It has a suitable magnification level for that much-needed medium to long-range accuracy and the 8 different magnifying lenses and 5 reticles offer top-notch clarity.
The only downsides are that the rifle scope has a tricky parallax adjustment and it’s slightly over the $500 price range. Other than that, the Monarch 3 has great eye relief and should be comfortable enough for any hunter.
Additionally, the Monarch 3 BDC are durable rifle scopes with a lifetime warranty which means you won’t have to purchase another scope for a long time.
How to Choose the Best Rifle Scopes Under 500?
Before you choose your rifle scope, there are some essential features you’ll need to look for.
Durability and Construction Quality
Durability and longevity aside, you should really look for rifle scopes that are shockproof, fogproof, and waterproof. You never know when you’ll run into heavy weather, and you can find lots of models on this list and on Amazon that have low-dispersion glass designs.
Rifle scopes with large-diameter main tubes can be heavy, but they usually offer great durability, versatility, and performance on the ranges.
Parallax focusing issues can occur to anyone. Try to look for rifle scopes that have adjustable objectives installed. You can find them on 10-12x magnification scopes and usually at decent prices.
You should also go for scopes that hold zero very well. Any other scope is very difficult to use during long-range hunting.
Rifle scopes under $500 offer some great variable magnification, with configurations from 1-8x and 3.5-10x, 4-16x, and 6-24x for those extra long-range hunting situations.
Choose your setting to your caprice. You can really just go for 4-16x levels and call it a day.
This is a no-brainer. Glass quality for rifle scopes affects the overall image quality of your scope, and you should go for non-scratch, multicoated (FMC) lenses that have great light transmission and anti-reflective and non-glare features.
BDC reticles are alright too because you never know when bullet drop compensation will help you in your long-range hunting session.
You can also find red dot sightings with really great battery life. Red dot optics are great for tactical use, but hunters won’t find much use from them.
This is probably one of the most important aspects you should carefully take a look at.
When buying your rifle scopes, look for good light transmission rifle scopes that will make your hunting session fruitful, be it day or night.
Glass lenses that are fully sealed with rubber o-rings and are purged with Argon gas or Nitrogen are usually high-quality, as they make the optics more durable, prevent water vapor and leakage, and protect the construction from fall damage, temperature issues, and dust buildup.
Ease of Adjustment and Mounting Difficulty
Look for turrets and reticles that have windage or elevation adjuster settings on their sides, as they can offer better ease of use.
They are important if you want to set the adjustments to various ranges and compensate for heavy wind.
Parallax adjusters are important too if you want to eliminate parallax error during long-range and mid-range hunting. Reset turrets and a good parallax adjustment can place your crosshair on the target every time.
First Focal Plane and Second Focal Plane
Reticles that are on the first focal plane can change their size to suit your magnification levels and allow hash marks or holdover points to stay precise and to align with the crosshair.
They can be tricky to get used to if you’re a long-range hunter, and FFP (first focal plane) reticles can also make it much harder to handle on higher adjustments.
However, you have second focal plane reticles that aren’t able to change in size once you change the magnification levels, so they’re easier for casual hunters who are looking for game hunting at close to mid-range.
You just need to estimate the hash mark indicators when you adjust the reticle’s basic zoom.
Again, it just depends on your preference.
The Importance of Warranty
You should always look for rifle scopes that offer a lifetime warranty instead of a limited one.
Rifle scopes under $500 are not exactly the most expensive on the market, but this is still a hefty investment for most hunters and gun enthusiasts, and a lifetime warranty usually means good customer service as well.
Most of the rifle scopes that offer a lifetime warranty are very durable, but you should still go for a rifle scope that will benefit you for a very long time.
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about rifle scopes under $500.
What’s the Ideal Magnification?
Gunmade.com recommends 8x to 10x magnification because it’s mid-range and well-balanced.
What Magnification Do I Need for 500 Yards?
For 500 yard shooting, we recommend the Burris 6.5-20x50mm Fullfield II with the 50mm lens for excellent light procession.
What Magnification Is Enough for 100 Yards?
The Bushnell AR Optics 3-9×40 Rifle Scope is great for shooting at 100 yards, as it offers excellent low-range multi-coated lenses for crisp and clear sights.
Should I Go for Fixed or Variable Scope?
Fixed power scopes are generally more beneficial than variable scopes for mid to long-range hunting. Fixed scopes offer better durability and features, and they are far more reliable than variable scopes.
What Is the Best Size for the Objective Lens?
When it comes to rifle scopes, size doesn’t really matter, as long as they offer bright and clear sights with high-quality objective lenses.
How Many Reticles Do I Need?
You can go for 5 reticles with your purchase, but I highly recommend you go for two reticles for starters.
A standard reticle has much more beneficial features for long-range hunting.
What Is the Best Budget Long-Range Rifle Scope?
If you’re looking for a budget long-range rifle scope, the Vortex Optics Parallax is your best bet. It’s perfect for mid to long-range hunting rifles and has great light transmission.
What Is the Best Rifle Scope Under $500?
The best rifle scope under $500 has to be the Athlon Optics Helos BTR 6-24×50 MIL First Focal Plane Rifle Scope rifle scope. It’s perfect for any hunter that shoots in the mid to long range.
You can also check out the Leupold VX-3i if you’re looking for a versatile rifle scope with solid management system and a duplex reticle.
What Does Parallax Mean?
If you’re a long-range hunter, you’ve heard it at least once. Parallax error is when you improperly position your eye at the scope’s reticle, your aim is misaligned, and the lens edges become dark and blurry.
To avoid it, try to hold the riflescope in proper alignment with your eye, properly centered in the eyepiece.
Who Makes the Best Rifle Scope in the World?
There are a handful of great manufacturers with rifle scope series that never fail to satisfy the most seasoned of hunters.
Nikon, Vortex Optics, Bushnells, and Athlon are manufacturers that offer many rifle scope series and types that can suit most mid to long-range rifles.
What Are the Best Rifle Scopes for Deer Hunting?
The Nikon ProStaff is a good choice, and the Vortex Optics Viper and the Diamondback are an excellent choice as hunting scopes.
You can check out our Deer Rifle Buyer’s Guide for more info.
To sum up, it’s easy to understand that you don’t need to spend a lot of money for a high-end scope with great sighting when you can go for a decent one with great value and features that can be beneficial for today’s modern gun enthusiasts and hunters.
You can find a lot of great options on Amazon yourself, just check out the popular manufacturers like Nikon, Vortex Optics, Leupold, Athlon, Bushnells, and the others like Burris, Steiner, Swarovski, and Barska.
A great all-around rifle scope is the Nikon Monarch 3 BDC 4-16x42mm, as a well-balanced rifle scope with great features for a great price. It’s suitable for all kinds of hunting rifles.
Just remember to look for durable, waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof scopes that offer suitable light transmission and high definition image quality.
I hope this list and the buyer’s guidelines narrowed down your options for the best rifle scope under $500.