Riflescopes: Under $2000

 

Updated in January, 2019

Not too many changes compared to last year, so I will be brief.

Low range variable scope for tactical use (think AR-15 or similar):

No changes from what I have seen so far.

SFP: Vortex Razor HD Gen 2E 1-6×24 

FFP: Burris XTR II 1-8×24 

Honorable mentions: Meopta R2 1-6×24 has some new reticles that make it a player.  Nightforce NX8 seems to be doing well, although its crowned of fully hypnotized fanboys is annoying.  I did a brief look and liked what I saw up to 6x.  6x-8x looked odd to me.

 


Compact fixed power scope for tactical use (think AR-15 or similar):

Elcan Specter OS 4×32 is still my favourite in this category, although the crazy FOV of Sig Bravo4 is compelling.

Low-range variable scope for hunting use (think DGR):

Meopta MeoStar R2 1-6×24 is still a good choice, although the reduced weight Vortex Razor Gen 2E 1-6×24 is now a compelling option for hunters.

All-round hunting use:

I think Meopta Meostar R2 2-12×50 is the way to go here, now that Leicas are more expensive, but I still see ERi 3-12×50 here and there and occasional sales on Visus and Magnus scope. Unless you find one of those, stick with the Meostar R2.

Honorable mention to Leupold VX-6HD 3-18×44

Low Light:

No changes: Meopta Meostar R1 3-12×56 and Meostar R2 2.5-15×56 take it in terms of bang for the buck in this category

Allround tactical use:

For this category I like scopes with no more than 4x on the low end.

Honestly, I think Burris XTR III 3.3-18×50 will be the one to beat, but it is not out yet.  Sig’s Tango6 3-18×44 with DevL reticle is probably my choice here.  It is a very compelling scope (other than the weight).  Ditto for the slightly larger Tango6 4-24×50.  Generally, this is an undeserved category since manufacturers have been paying attention to larger scopes.

Long range tactical use:

My favourite scope in this category is Delta Stryker HD 4.5-30×56.  Another excellent option is the rather similar Athlon Cronus 4.5-29×56.  I slightly prefer the Delta reticle.

Target Scopes:

All of a sudden, there are some real options here.  Delta Stryker HD 5-50×56 takes the cake as the best generalist in this group. Sightron SV ED 10-50×60 is better as a pure target scope owing to the advantages its dual speed parallax knob offers, however, I usually see it a bit north of $2k, so the Delta wins this one.

Honorable mention goes to Vortex Golden Eagle 15-60×52, except I wish it came with a mrad reticle.

Updated in February, 2018

Many of my choices have not changed much in the last year, but this price range is seeing a lot of activity right now, so I may need to do a mid year update around August or thereabouts.

Low range variable scope for tactical use (think AR-15 or similar):

SFP: Vortex Razor HD Gen 2 went on a diet and Gen 2E 1-6×24 is several ounces lighter while being just as superb as it was before.

FFP: For the time being, Burris XTR II 1-8×24 is still my recommendation, but there are new entrants to this category.  I will be looking at the more expensive Nightforce NX8 and GPOTAC 1-8×24 soon.

 


Compact fixed power scope for tactical use (think AR-15 or similar):

This is a category I keep looking at, but Elcan Specter OS 4×32 is still my favourite (so much so, that I own one).  I bought the lighter Specter OS 3x for my brother, and it similarly very good.

Honorable mention: Leupold HAMR 4×24.  I was surprised with how good this lightweight sight it and it has an adjustable eyepiece which comes in handy if you are no longer 18.

Low-range variable scope for hunting use (think DGR):

Meopta MeoStar R2 1-6×24 is still a good choice, although the reduced weight Vortex Razor Gen 2 1-6×24 is now a compelling option for hunters.

Honorable mention: Minox ZEi 1-5×24 is a really nice scope, but I just havn’t spent enough time with it.

All-round hunting use:

Most scopes of this type that I really liked over the years are either re-priced out of reach or discontinued.

My favourite general purpose hunting scope for $2k or less is Leica Visus (rebranded ERi) 2.5-10×42.  It is not as impressive as some others on paper, but it is an absolutely superb design.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Low Light:

In this category, I am very partial to Meopta Meostar R1 3-12×56 and Meostar R2 2.5-15×56

I have a bit less mileage with it, but Minox SEi 3-15×56 is absolutely superb as well

Allround tactical use:

For this category I like scopes with no more than 4x on the low end.

Steiner T5Xi 3-15×50  is probably the best alround scope in this price class, but there are several good options available (Bushnell LRHS comes to mind)..

Long range tactical use:

Steiner T5Xi 5-25×56.  Steiner’s T-series had a little bit of a rough start, but I like what I see.  I started testing Delta Optical’s Stryker HD 4.5-30×56 and I really like what I see.  Same for the 56mm Athlon Cronus.

Honorable mention: SWFA SS HD 5-20×50  This scope has every feature other than a zerostop and costs a lot less than the Steiner.  I tested several of these and never had any issues.


Updated in January, 2016

Low range variable scope for tactical use (think AR-15 or similar):

If a few extra ounces do not scare you and you are OK with a SFP reticle, Vortex Razor HD Gen 2 1-6×24 is superb.

Honorable mention: Kahles K15i is lighter and optically spectacular, but a bit more expensive.  I prefer the reticle in the Razor Gen II though

Compact fixed power scope for tactical use (think AR-15 or similar):

I am still finishing my survey of this category, but so far Elcan Specter OS 4×32 is my favourite (so much so, that I own one)

Honorable mention: Leupold HAMR 4×24.  I was surprised with how good this lightweight sight it and it is the onle one in this category to have an adjustable eyepiece.

Low-range variable scope for hunting use (think DGR):

Meopta MeoStar R2 1-6×24 is an excellent design with superb optics and reticle illumination.  If you do not believe me, put side by side with Swarovski Z6 1-6×24 and tell me what you think.

Honorable mention: Kahles Helia 5 1-5×24.  I have been pretty impressed with recent Kahles designs and this scope is similar to K15i except with hunting reticles.

All-round hunting use:

Most scopes of this type that I really liked over the year are either re-priced out of reach or discontinued.

My favourite general purpose hunting scopes these days are from Kahles and Leica (I own both)

If you want a 1″ tube, Kahles 3.5-10×50  is an excellent design with an illuminated reticle which is not too common for 1″ scopes.

With 30mm tube designs, my favourite is the Leica ERi 2.5-10×42

Low Light:

In this category, I am very partial to Meopta Meostar R1 3-12×56 and Meostar R2 2.5-15×56

I have a bit less mileage with it, bu Minox SE5 3-15×56 is absoutely superb as well

Tactical scope disclaimer: I prefer FFP reticles in scopes of this type which rules out many otherwise excellent designs.

Allround tactical use:

For this category I like scopes with no more than 4x on the low end.

Steiner T5Xi 3-15×50  There was an early turret issue that is now resolved.  I am impressed with this scope.

Honorable mention goes to Sig Tactical Tango 6 3-18×44, but I need to finish testing it before I can be certain.

Long range tactical use:

Steiner T5Xi 5-25×56.  Steiner’s T-series had a little bit of a rough start, but I like what I see

Honorable mention: SWFA SS 5-20×50.  This scope has every feature other than a zerostop and costs a lot less than the Steiner.  I tested several of these and never had any issues.

Updated in May, 2015

There is a huge price difference between the “under $1000” and “under $2000” categories and if I wanted to be really precise I could comfortably split it up into a couple of segments.  However, I do not think that is warrantied.

This price range has been neglected a little bit int eh last few years, but recently I all of a sudden found myself staring at a significant number of options.

At the top of the heap are Zeiss, Shmidt and Bender, Swarovski, Leica and Kahles.  Minox ZEi scopes are in that range as well, but I have limited exposure to them.

Leupold makes several riflescopes in the $1000 to $2000 range, most notably some of the new VX-6 models (which I like) and some of the older Mark 4 designs (which I am not crazy about).

IOR, Nightforce and Vortex all have some assortment of products in this broad price category as well.

To top it off, Meopta joisne the group with their new MeoStar R2.

So how do they all stack up?

Here are some fairly arbitrary categories with my picks in them.

Low range variable scope for tactical use (think AR-15 or similar):

If a few extra ounces do not scare you and you are OK with a SFP reticle, Vortex Razor HD Gen 2 1-6×24 is superb.

Honorable mention: Kahles K15i is lighter and optically spectacular, but a bit more expensive.  I may upgrade it after a thorough test.  So far, I have seen it, but not tested it properly

Compact fixed power scope for tactical use (think AR-15 or similar):

I am still finishing my survey of this category, but so far Elcan Specter OS 4×32 is my favourite (so much so, that I own one)

Honorable mention: Leupold HAMR 4×24.  I was surprised with how good this lightweight sight it and it is the onle one in this category to have an adjustable eyepiece.

Low-range variable scope for hunting use (think DGR):

Meopta MeoStar R2 1-6×24 is an excellent design with superb optics and reticle illumination.  If you do not believe me, put side by side with Swarovski Z6 1-6×24 and tell me what you think.

Honorable mention: Kahles Helia 5 1-5×24.  I have been pretty impressed with recent Kahles designs and this scope is similar to K15i except with hunting reticles.

All-round hunting use:

Most scopes of this type that I really liked over the year are either re-priced out of reach or discontinued.

My favourite general purpose hunting scopes these days are from Kahles and Leica (I own both)

If you want a 1″ tube, Kahles 3.5-10×50  is an excellent design with an illuminated reticle which is not too common for 1″ scopes.

With 30mm tube designs, my favourite is the Leica ERi 2.5-10×42, although some new Kahles designs are also looking good and I will likely test.

Low Light:

To my suprise there wern’t all that many dedicated low light designs in this category that had a properly designed illuminated reticle.  Fortunately, the rather excellent Meopta Meostar R1 3-12×56 is in this group.  Technically, the newer  Meopta R2 2.5-15×56 might be a touch better, but I would prefer a scope that goes up to 15x to have parallax compensation.  Hence I stick with the R1

Tactical scope disclaimer: I prefer FFP reticles in scopes of this type which rules out many otherwise excellent designs.

Allround tactical use:

I am still working on this one.  There are several designs in this price range that look promising, but I have not yet converged on something I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Long range tactical use:

This comes down to two options.

First generation Vortex Razor HD 5-20×50 has been updated with 10 mrad turrets and a few optical improvements.  Since the Gen 2 has been introduced, this scope dropped in price and represents an escellent bargain.

Honorable mention: SWFA SSHD 5-20×50.  In most ways it is fully equal to the Razor HD, except for the lack of a ZeroStop, which keeps it as an honorable mention.

 Posted by at 12:58 am

  8 Responses to “Riflescopes: Under $2000”

  1. I hope you can give your expert opinion on what LVPO to get. I got a XTRII 1-8 with the circle dot for a BCM 5.56 AR-15 after reading your recommended list and have been very happy with it. I have used it to shoot paper out to 200 yards so far and the small center reticle dot has been great. The only thing I find as a negative are the turrets which are extremely stiff and hard to turn.

    I should soon be receiving another .223 AR that I ordered from JP and I need to get a LVPO for it . I’m trying to keep this rifle as light as possible. I was considering the NX8 due to the light weight and was wondering if you had a chance to look the NX8 over yet? I have a couple of reservations about it. One is the large center dot on the reticle and the other is the .2mil adjustments on the mil version. Would it be better to get the MOA version since the adjustments aren’t as coarse at .5 MOA? Or should I just get another Burris and put up with the weight? Oh, and I prefer to get a 1-8 for this new rifle and want to stay under $2K.

    Thanks for any advice.

    • To be honest with you, I do not spend a whole lot of time dialing with LPVOs, but I do spend a fair amount of time with them slung across my body which can move the turrets. I run my XTR II with covered turrets because of that. I did spend some time messing with it with the exposed zero-stop turret on and while stiff, it was very usable. Most importantly, it never shifted on me with all the slung transitions I experimented with.
      With NX8, most of what you gt over the Burris is smaller package and brighter reticle. It has fairly shallow depth of field, so at 8x it is fine if you do not stray too far from where the parallax is set (it is the same basic problem I had with March 1-8x Shorty). Weirdly, at longer distances I thought it did really well at 6x where it was easier to use. The reticle on the NX8 is very usable and dot size is just right. I do not like very small dots on LPVOs and once distances open up a little, your dispersion will likely exceed the dot size and the adjustment granularity. In other words, I think the reticle and click value of the NX8 are perfectly reasonable for a scope of this type and if the rest of the package works for you, go for it.
      That having been said, if this is a scope you are planning to spend a lot of time shooting at distance with, you should really consider March 1-8×24 with side focus (not the Shorty version). Side focus makes a huge difference at distance. March optical performance at 8x is just superb and FMC-2 reticle is not too thin, but reasonable if memory serves me right. I just looked and you can pick it up at March Optics website for just a bit over $2k (normally it is close to $3k). Turrets on the March are excellent, so if you dial, it will work great for you and it is lighter than Burris. What you give up is nuclear bright illumination on 1x, but as a general purpose scope, March is a really good option.

  2. A few more questions for you if that’s OK. I started looking at the Burris XTRII 2-10 which I think you seem to like. How does the Meopta Mostar 1.7-10×42 compare to the Burris? And what do you think of the NF 2.5-10? I think the Meopta doesn’t have adjustable parallax so is that a big disadvantage?
    Thank you very much for the great advice you always give on all the forums.

    • Meopta is better optically, but is not optimal for shooting beyond typical hunting distances. It works fine given moderate magnification, but you have to be wary of parallax, it is also SFP, vs Burris’ FFP and Burris is the better scope for dialing. Nightforce is a little better than XTR II optically as well, although frankly, 2-10×42 XTR II is very serviceable. It is SFP like the Meopta. Nightforce’s biggest advantage is that it focuses down to 25 yards and is a fair bit shorter and lighter. The NXS is an excellent scope, but honestly, I think it is grossly overpriced and you have to be one hell of a fanboy to pay almost $2k for it.
      If you are moving away from LPVO, and you want to be able to dial, I would look at either XTR II 2-10×42 or SWFA SS 3-9×42 and set-up an offset red dot for close range stuff. Honestly, for things that involve distance I really like to have FFP reticles. Not that it is not doable with SFP. It clearly is, but I like the freedom of not worrying what magnification I am on.

  3. Thank you very much again for all the great information. You’re definitely right about the price of the NXS. Better to get the Burris and buy ammo. I’m pretty happy with the 1-8 XTRII on my BCM so I guess another Burris will be OK. I have a 45* mount for a tiny RDS so I’ll most likely go that route as you recommend. I’ve seen reviews of the 2-10 Burris where the weight is stated to be around 22 ounces but I think that might not be correct and it’s heavier than that. Do you know what the actual weight is?

    Thanks again!

    • I think XTR II 2-10×42 is listed at around 27 ounces or something like that. I did not weigh it. That is where NSX has a distinct advantage. Same business with the XTR II 1-8×42 vs NX8. NX8 is more compact and notably lighter.
      That reminds me: EOTech has a 2.5-10×44 Vudu that is FFP. It is about the same size and weight as 2-10×42 XTR II. I have not had a chance to test it, but some impressions I have heard were favourable. I think it splits the price difference between NXS and XTR II.
      There are a few really interesting DMR-type scopes coming out in the next few months, so there may be a few additional options toward the beginning of the next year.

  4. If some good new scopes are coming out in the near future, I might just wait awhile. In the mean time I have a Razor 3-15 HD LH that’s sitting in my safe. It’s a nice lightweight scope so do you think it would be reasonable to stick than on an AR15 with an offset RDS for awhile?