Best Rifle Scope under $500 – Quality by a Long Shot

Scopes come in all shapes and sizes, but, more importantly, they come at cheap and expensive prices. I’ve made this review of the best rifle scope under 500 bucks, as this sum is considered as “moderately affordable” in this sphere.

Take a gander at my top picks from Nikon, Vortex, and Primary Arms, I’m sure you’ll find something to your liking in my selection of the best rifle scope under 500 dollars.

Best rifle scope under 500 comparison table

NameOpticsWeather capabilityPrice
Nikon M-3084-16x42mm, BDC 800 ReticleFog-proof, waterproof, shock-proof
Vortex Optics Diamondback4-16x42mm, Dead-Hold BDC ReticleWaterproof, fog-proof, shock performance with O-ring seals & gas purging
Nikon M-2233-12x42mm, BDC-600 ReticleWaterproof and fog-proof
Vortex Optics Strike Eagle1-6x24mm, AR-BDC ReticleWaterproof and fog-proof
Primary Arms1-6x24mm, KISS ReticleWaterproof, fog-proof

Top rifle scope under 500 reviews

Nikon M-308 4-16x42mm Riflescope w/ BDC 800 Reticle

Nikon-M-308 4-16x42mm-RiflescopeThe first rifle scope in this review comes from Nikon and it’s called the M-308. I was positively surprised at how great this scope is – it comes outfitted with high-quality features and hardware, it’s very reliable, and it boasts a tremendous level of durability. Simply put, it has everything you need to substantially improve your chances of hitting your target at the longest ranges.

First of all, the M-308 comes with multi-coated optics that provide optimal light transmission (specifically, up to ninety five percent), as well as maximum brightness all day long. This was all provided by the premium-quality ClearCoat™ system.

When compared to earlier Nikon scopes, this model features an enhanced spacing for the mount ring that significantly increases the mounting versatility. Further at that point, you’ll get the exquisite M-308 mount which features a built-in MOA slope – pretty neat if you ask me.

The Eye-Box technology will grant you the benefits of four-time zoom, as well as 4-inch constant eye relief. These features aim to reduce the eye fatigue of the shooter, making you more relaxed for extended periods of time.

The one-piece body design of M-308 rifle scope represents an ideal balance between minimal weight and maximal strength. What’s more, this is one of the most durable rifle scopes in this price point category – even though it’s quite long, the sturdy build materials will make sure that it survives quite a few dangerous voyages and hunting trips.

As for its weather capabilities, the M-308 rifle scope is fog-proof, waterproof, and shock-proof. This means that you’ll be able to use it in virtually every possible situation without having to fret about it letting you down. Rest assured, its reliability is unparalleled and unmatched.

The only problem you might have with this rifle scope is the windage turret. Namely, it’s not as reliable as the main body, so you can expect it to break if you’re not ultra careful with it.

Overall, I’m more than pleased how this scope performs. There’s just so much you can do with it, and I’m certain you’ll be very pleased with its performance if you could look past the small issues with the turret. In fact, the low durability of the turret won’t even get in your way if you make a habit of checking it and handling it gently whenever you use the scope.

What we liked

  • EyeBox technology for minimal eye fatigue
  • Outstanding magnification range
  • Oversized lens which boasts superb durability level
  • Nearly weightless
  • Fog-proof, shockproof, and waterproof
  • Captures nearly 100% light at any time of day

What we didn’t like

  • The durability of the windage turret is mediocre

Vortex Optics Diamondback HP 4-16×42 Second Focal Plane Riflescope

Vortex-Optics-Diamondback-HP-4-16x42-Second-Focal-Plane-RiflescopeVortex is one of the world-class leaders in the scope manufacturing industry, and you can rest assured that it’s quality you’re getting if their name is written on the price tag. The Diamondback series is, perhaps, their best generation of long rifle scopes – you’ll see why soon enough.

First of all, the magnification allows you to snipe out close-range targets at 4x magnification and utilize the longest range magnification for hard to reach marks (up to 16x magnification).

The 42mm lens is pretty much a “standard” set by the earliest brands – there’s nothing peculiar about it other than that it’s as reliable as they make them.

Now, the Dead-Hold BDC reticle is one of the finest features of this amazing scope. It will help you eliminate all insecurities regarding your aim. The custom-dot design is perfect for hunting and range shooting, so you’re safe either way.

The “second focal-plane” means that the reticle will remain ideal in size, regardless of the external factors. Again, this is just another reason why I love Vortex scopes – their reliability is something truly magnificent.

Other features include the XD Lens, the XR multi-coats, ArmorTek coats, and Argon-gas purging. On top of that, this scope is waterproof, fog-proof, as well as shock-proof. You’ll get a bonus 4-inch sunshade, a protective lens cap, and a lens cloth – free goodies are an unnecessary bonus, since the scope is already highly valuable for the money.

Please note, zooming over 14x might appear blurry at times – people report this as a “flaw”, but it’s safe to say that a mid-priced scope won’t perform as good as high-end models, exceptionally at maximal magnification settings.

If we take this small flaw out of the way, we’ll see a perfect, maybe even the best rifle scope under 500 bucks. I highly recommend it for its absolute performance and reliability.

What we liked

  • Remarkable value for the cash
  • High-end features
  • Comes with bonus lens cloth and lens caps
  • Superb reliability and performance
  • Ultra magnification capabilities

What we didn’t like

  • Refrain from going above 14x, as you might experience blurry vision and mirages

Nikon M-223 3-12x42mm Riflescope

Nikon-M-223 3-12x42mm-RiflescopeHere we have another Nikon long-rifle scope – the M-223. Even though this particular model appears outdated (the M-300, our first pick, is an improved version of this model), there are still plenty of reasons why you should consider this one.

Just like the M-300, Nikon’s M-233 features the quick-focus eyepiece – it sharpens out the reticle in mere seconds, which is ideal for long-range shots. The spring-loaded zero-reset turrets are remarkably easy to use, and, more importantly, very plain when it comes to returning their values to the original position.

The optics are multi-coated for enhanced performance – you’ll be able to use this scope in every possible weather condition due to fog-proof, shock-proof, and waterproof qualities.

The magnification spans from 3 to 12 times the vision (note: M-300 features 4-16x magnification), the objective is 42 mm in diameter, and the exit pupil extends up to 14mm. The field of view spans up to 33,6 feet at the distance of 100 yards, which is awesome, and that’s an understatement.

The tube is 1 inch in diameter, the eye relief is four. This might sound uninmportant, but trust me, the specs you’re looking at are top-notch.

Now, I don’t know about you, but personally, I like my scopes to be lightweight. The M-233 weighs only 20 ounces, which is more than just cool – apart from reduced hand fatigue, lightweight scopes are more easily adjusted, mounted, replaced, and maintained.

Other features include the spot-on custom turret, a beautiful matte finish, and the superb BDC 600 reticle. In all honesty, I liked the BDC 800 (which comes supplied to M-300) a little bit better, but this one fares well so far.

One of the reasons why I’m recommending this long rifle scope is because it comes at a lower price when compared to the improved version (the M-300). All things considered, this is a great scope which boasts a similar set of hardware and features when compared to its upgraded version, but it comes at a more approachable price.

It does lack in some departments, though. First of all, the magnification range is not so great. Secondly, most people report that they have had troubles “zeroing it in”. That can be a major issue, but since it never happened to me personally, I can only hazard a guess that the probability of this happening to you is greater than “zero”.

What we liked

  • Very affordable, even for a mid-priced long range scope
  • Lightweight construction
  • Easy to replace, adjust, and use
  • Superb onboard turrets
  • High-quality BDC 600 reticle

What we didn’t like

  • Mediocre magnification

Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6×24 Second Focal Plane Riflescope

Vortex-Optics-Strike-Eagle-1-6x24-Second-Focal-Plane-RiflescopeVortex’s Strike Eagle is one of my favourite long rifle scopes – it features a bunch of premium-quality hardware which makes it among the most reliable scopes you could get for the buck. Even though Vortex has quite a few models which surpasses this one in terms of quality in their catalogue, this price range doesn’t include them.

Like most Vortex’ scopes, the Strike Eagle comes with a multi-coated construction. The light transmission is pure and great, featuring a number of anti-reflective coatings which capture nearly all of the incoming light.

The SFP reticle remains the same in appearance and size regardless of how long you use it – this is a guarantee that your sniping habits will continue to grow as you get accustomed to this marvellous scope.

The 30mm tube comes with a single-piece design – there’s no need for you to make unnecessary adjustments. Tinkering with a scope can be quite tricky, so let’s thank Vortex for making one that’s already near perfection. What’s more, this design type maximizes the alignment potential of this scope, providing enhanced accuracy and visual performance at various ranges.

Furthermore, the durability of Vortex’s Strike Eagle is great – it’s robust and sturdy, capable of withstanding quite a punishment before cracking under the pressure. Both fogproof and waterproof qualities are present as well.

Let’s talk a bit about its price – the Vortex Strike Eagle is somewhere in between the middle and upper brackets of the “medium price point category”. That means that it isn’t cheap per se, but it doesn’t cost a fortune either. That being said, I won’t be able to label it as affordable, although it is quite worth the cash.

Now, people complain about two things regarding the Strike Eagle. Firstly, the eyebox isn’t as great as with other Vortex scopes. Namely, the eye relief isn’t as good, so your eyes might tire at a faster rate.

Secondly, some folk don’t like the reticle. Personally, I found it as great and useful, but there are others that claim “it’s hard to use it”. Even though I disagree, I think you need to be aware of the possibility that you might find it as “difficult” as well.

Be it as it may, this is a superb scope – even though it has a few minor flaws, the pros heavily outweigh them. Great value for the cash, and that’s an understatement.

Primary Arms 1-6X24mm SFP Riflescope Gen III with KISS Reticle

Primary-Arms-1-6X24mm-SFP-Riflescope-Gen IIIThe last long rifle scope in this review comes from Primary Arms, bearing the name of “1-6x SFP Riflescope” from the third generation of their products.

I’ve had the luck of trying out their Gen II scope (the 6×24 model), and I must say I was pretty pleased with it. It was very accurate and plain to use, but I felt like something was missing. That “something” was improved with the Gen III riflescope.

This remarkable scope features finger-adjustable turrets, and not just any turrets – the ones that are remarkably easy to use. The second focal-plane ensures that you’ll see the reticle with superb clarity regardless of the magnification and distance.

The ACSS Standard reticle is quite plain and straightforward – there’s not much of a customization potential here, but I’m sure you’ll be content with what you see.

With aluminium body, the construction of this scope is quite durable and sturdy, but what makes it so good is the Intelligent Shooting system – it adapts the reticle in accordance to the external factors of the shooting range (position, area).

There’s only one thing I didn’t like about it – the awful magnification capabilities which span from 1x to 6x. That’s quite low, as you’ll be able to see further with a pair of budget binoculars. However, there are no flaws apart from that in my book.

What we liked

  • Incredibly durable construction
  • Second focal-plane reticle
  • Kwik Intelligent Shooting System
  • Fairly affordable
  • Outstanding reliability

What we didn’t like

  • Low magnification (1-6x)

How to pick the best rifle scope under 500 bucks

Even though there are only a couple of things you should consider before picking your scope, each element is crucial to its performance, thus neither should be neglected. All of the following qualities sum up the performance of a scope, so let’s begin:

Magnification

Every scope serves the same purpose – you want to get closer to your target, and the higher the magnification is, the better you’ll see it, or the closer you’ll see it. Scopes with high magnification (usually beyond 12x) are best if you’re in for long-shots.

Reticle

The reticle (or crosshair, as some call it) represent the lines which help you aim at your mark. Most sophisticated reticle systems (such as Primary Arms scope) allow you to snipe out your marks with utmost accuracy, as they provide numerous benefits to your sniping skills.

Others are plain, but nearly all brands make different visual designs of their scope’s reticles. Check out the individual reviews for more information on types and models.

Design

Design is quite important, as it is the foundation of the hardware contained in it. Some scopes are made in a very complex way – they do the job fine, but are messy during maintenance and modification.

Others are made as one-piece scopes. Most of the models in this review come with it, and I just wanted to accentuate the fact that this is the best type you can choose – easy to maintain, clean, remove, adjust, and mod.

Final words

The competition was stiff in this rundown of the best scope under 500 bucks, but in the end, only one could be the victor. In my opinion, Vortex scopes are better than all mid-priced models, the 4-16×42 from the Diamondback HP series in particular.

Let’s be clear on one point – all of the scopes I picked for you are worthy of bearing the title of the “best scope under 500 bucks”, although this model stands out from the rest. Make sure to check out the reviews, and I wish you all the luck in finding the scope that’s right for you.

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