Last Updated on August 3, 2016
If you have an AR-15 or any rifle really, and you plan on using this in a defensive role should the need arise, you need to consider what is the best scope for your use. Even if you have the venerable AK-47, the scope that you use will greatly determine your capabilities after your natural skill and training have reached their limits. A good scope is a huge benefit in allowing you to accurately acquire a target and with a properly sighted rifle and good fundamentals hit what you are shooting at. There are many different configurations that are possible given the role you intend your AR-15 to be in but I wanted to discuss what I think are some of the best AR-15 scope options you have right now in order to help you hit what you are shooting at in a SHTF scenario.
Before I begin, let me state to everyone who is reading this that I am not trying to say any scope will make you a better shooter. No amount of money you spend on optics will make you a better shot with whatever rifle you have and there are people who can shoot better than you(or I) could ever dream with nothing more than iron sights. I understand this and so should everyone reading this post.
Scopes do enhance our abilities though by augmenting our ability to focus and select objects usually at a distance. You can’t ignore all of the other aspects of the shooting skills, but a scope does help. Another aspect to consider is cost. Will you get $1000 worth of value out of that scope you have your eyes on, or would something much less expensive be perfectly suited to your needs?
Different AR-15 Scope for different missions
For the purposes of this article, I am only going to focus on Red Dot sights and Rifle scopes. What are the differences? The over simplified version is that Red dot sights usually have zero magnification and project a red (hence the name) dot onto glass for a heads up display instead of the typical cross-hairs, of where the bullet will hit. Assuming of course that you have the rifle sighted in to your sight.
Red dot sights are usually preferred in close quarter combat (less than 20 yards) situations where target acquisition speed is crucial. They are also designed to be used with both eyes open.
If you plan on pushing your rifle out to longer distances (50 to 300 yards), have older eyes or want the best lenses for low-light (not night vision) you are typically looking for a rifle scope that has some magnification factor and greater light transmission.
Red Dot Options for the AR-15
The EOTech XPS2-0 HOLOgraphic Weapon Sight is extremely rugged and durable. It’s compact size also leaves you more room on your picattiny rail for a magnifier if you want, but if you are buying a magnifier, why wouldn’t you get a dedicated scope? I understand options. Options.
EOTech’s are not cheap and this one is currently $499 on Amazon which is a pretty decent price, but you have to determine if spending this much on an optic is necessary for your skill level and what you plan on needing in a SHTF scenario. When I first started prepping I was convinced that I would need a red dot sight for close quarters, but my thoughts have evolved since then.
If you like the idea of Red Dot sites, but are trying to keep from spending a new car payment on one, the Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 is a much more economical option. I have one of these myself and while there are some things I don’t like about it (the adjustment knob is hard as hell to turn) it is a great little optic that gives me the same red dot feature for a much more reasonable price of around $80. Now, I am not comparing the quality of the Bushnell to the EOTech, but it is an option you could consider.
Moving away from Red Dot sites and going into scopes, another good option is the Nikon P-223 3×32. This scope was made specifically for the trajectory of the .223 Rem/5.56 NATO round. There isn’t an adjustable magnification with this scope, but once you have it sighted in at 100 yards, there are reticules for targets at 200, 400 and 600. It is nicely set up so that if your rifle is sighted in, and you have a target out to 600 yards, you can elevate the rifle to get the bottom reticule on the target and the ballistics should work out. One thing about this scope is the lack of magnification makes sighting in at 100 yards impossible without a shooting scope or someone to tell you where you are hitting. Once sighted in you won’t be able to choose between head or body really, but you should be able to hit them. For me this is a good balance of close quarters capability and long range assistance with the reticules. Target acquisition at long ranges wouldn’t be easy with this scope, but I could hit them.
For excellent magnification and much longer range, the Redfield Revolution 3-9x40mm TAC-MOA is a great scope with a very good price point of $265. No, this isn’t the same quality (or cost) as a Leupold or NightForce, but if you are looking to spend 1 to 2 thousand dollars on a sniper scope, you should be looking somewhere else for advice.
There are many more options depending on what you are looking for and this great video from Nutnfancy lists off many more options. I have added links to all of his suggestions below the video. What do you think is the best AR-15 Scope?