Riflescopes: Under $2000


Updated in October, 2021

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

This one is pretty easy. If you have $2k to spend, get the new FFP Vortex Razor Gen3 1-10×24. I do not know how they pulled off selling this scope for this price, but it is quite remarkable in terms of what it offers for the money.

If you prefer SFP scopes, Kahles K16 1-6×24 is really excellent and the Gen2E Vortex Razor 1-6×24 is a nice design too.  Meopta Meostar R2 is worth a look as well for tactical use now that it has more reticle options.

With FFP designs, the new SAI 1-6×24 has really grown on me.  It is closer to $1k than $2k, so you will not get a daybright dot at this price, but the reticle is designed to be usable on 1x and the scope is exceptionally user friendly.


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

Elcan Specter OS 4×32 is still my favourite in this category, but it appears to be discontinued.  Newly designed moderately priced prismatics are getting so competent that it is increasingly getting hard to recommend higher end ones.  With switch power Elcans it is a little different and I keep on seeing Elcan Specter DR 1x/4x and TR 1x/3x/9x under $2k. It is a compelling option.


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

Kahles K16i mentioned above is probably still king, but Meopta MeoStar R2 1-6×24 and Vortex Razor Gen 2E 1-6×24 are quite compelling and less expensive.

If you prefer FFP designs, the new SAI 1-6×24 is really competent and I use it for hunting with and without a thermal clip-on.


All-round hunting use:

I think Meopta Meostar R2 2-12×50 is the way to go here.

This sorta comes down to whether you want FFP or SFP.  If this is a crossover scope that will also be used for precision shooting and long range hunting, the new Vortex Razor HD-LHT 4.5-22x50FFP is easily the best out there right now. 

The best of the SPF designs is probably Swarovski Z5i 2.4-12×50.  I think once you get to this price range, you should insist on illumination and when Swarovski added illumination to their Z5 line, they immediately got onto my list.  It has always been an excellent scope optomechanically.  Honorable mention to Leupold VX-6HD 3-18×44 that I really liked and Meopta Mestar R2 1.7-10×42 an 2-12×50.


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 5x on the low end. I used to hold it at 3x, but changed my mind over time. With well designed eyepieces, I can use 5x for shooting offhand fairly well and that is effectively my gating item for a general purpose scope. Still, I restrict this category to scopes that are not outrageously huge and heavy. I am looking for designed objectives in the 40 to 50mm range and reticle illumination.

This a somewhat under served category since most manufacturers have been paying attention to larger scopes, but that is changing.  Vortex finally introduced their Razor HD-LHT 4.5-22×50 that also gets the nod as an allround hunting scope.  It is just an excellent design.

Honestly, I think Burris XTR III 3.3-18×50 will be a really strong contender once the illuminated version comes out.

In the meantime, I really like the Nexus 5-20×50 from Element Optics. This is a very new company, but they have a well established parent company behind them, so I have high hopes for them sticking around. Nexus is an absolutely remarkable first product for a new company and I have now had one for about a year with zero problems and perfect tracking.

Tract Toric UHD 4-20×50 with PRS reticle is another excellent design. FOV is a bit narrow, but aside from that I have nothing to complain about for the price.

If you are looking to use a clip-on, the very short EOTech Vudu 5-25×50 with MD3 reticle is a compelling option.  I see these pop up on sale with good regularity.

If you are looking for track record, check out SWFA SS HD 5-20×50. It lacks a few features, but it is excellent optomechanically and extremely robust.  Technically, Vortex Razor Gen1 5-20×50 should also be in this group if you do not mind the bulk.


Long range tactical use:

My favourite scope in this category is probably Delta Stryker HD 4.5-30×56.  Another excellent option is the rather similar Athlon Cronus 4.5-29×56.  The Gen2 version of the Cronus has much improved turrets a new APRS6 reticle design that is very competent.

Burris XTR III 5.5-30×56 and Tract Toric 4.5-30×56 should be strong contenders, but I need to spend more time with them. 

Since I last updated this category, Vortex Razor Gen2 4.5-27×56 dropped in the sub-$2k range and is probably the reference standard here.  If you are OK with a touch more weight, it is difficult to bet against the Gen2 Razor.


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. However, Sightron SV ED 10-50×60 is better as a pure target scope owing to the advantages its dual speed parallax knob offers.

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

 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?