Riflescopes: Under $3000
Updated in February, 2023
If you prefer SFP scopes, between $2k and $3k are several high end scopes from S&B, Zeiss and Swarovski. They are all excellent and the choice between them comes down to personal preferences. I am somewhat partial to S&B Polar and its simpler variants (SFP with fixed parallax) sneak in under $3k. The 3-12×54 would probably be my low light choice.
As a general purpose hunting scope, Swarovski Z6i 2.5-15×44 has a lot to offer in a very useful configuration.
I have to admit though, that I like small scopes and March’s SFP 1.5-15×42 may very well be my choice when you need the most flexibility. I have spent quite a lot of time with this scope and it is surprisingly well balanced given the broad magnification range. If you want to occasionally throw a thermal clip-on in front of your hunting scope, March 1.5-15×42 is an easy choice.
Long range precision
This one used to be a harder choice, but I have to admit that from what I have seen so far, I think Vortex Razor HD Gen3 6-36×56 takes this one. At around $3k, I think this is the one to beat.
There are some promising newcomers though like the about to be announced Element Theos 6-36×56. I am looking at one of the first production models and I like what I see.
Burris XTR Pro 5.5-30×56 should be on this list.
Generally, we are looking at a broad range of FFP scopes here and there is a lot to choose from. With 56mm objective designs, Razor Gen3 takes the cake, but as we go down to smaller scopes, there are many good options. Razor Gen3 is, for the time being available with a tree reticle only. If you prefer a simpler reticle design, Leica PRS 5-30×56 with L-Ballistic reticle is worth looking at. For a lighter weight option while still maintaining a 56mm objective, Leupold Mark5HD 5-25×56 is is supposed to finally available with illuminated PR2-MIL reticle.
If you are looking for something with a 50mm objective, there are several good options. The one that has really been growing on me is US Optics FDN 17x 3.2-17×50. I am not a big fan of tunneling on this scope, but this scope has wide FOV above 5x, excellent eyepiece and a very nice elevation turret.
It is not short though, so if you want something more compact, Leupold finally made a version of the 3.6-18×44 with illuminated PR1-MIL reticle.
Another good crossover design is March’s 3-24×52 with FML-TR1H reticle. It is a little finicky on higher magnifications, but it is robust and lightweight with very broad magnification range and excellent image quality.
Lastly, if you are not looking for a ton of magnification, I really like Nightforce ATACR 4-16×42. I tested this scope a long time ago with Mil-R reticle. If Mil-XT was available back then, I would still own this scope.
The last three are also really good options for accurate gas guns.
I think Vortex Razor Gen3 1-10×24 owns this one. Nightforce ATACR 1-8×24 is a nice design as well, although the Razor Gen3 edges it out largely due to the wider FOV. If you are not looking for a high end FFP LPVO, you do not not need to spend this much money.
The dark horse here is March’s dual focal plane 1-10×24. It is now available with a tree reticle and if I were looking for an LPVO as a general purpose scope, this would be my pick. Because it has both SFP and FFP reticles, it also works quite well if your battery is dead. Naturally, it does not hurt that is also smaller and lighter than the competition. Mounting is a bit funky though since it requires different diameter rings. March does offer an appropriate Unimount, but it is a bit heavy, negating its weight advantage to some degree. It appears that March has decided to come out with a version of this scope that just takes normal 34mm rings. That’s the right move.
March owns this one. For around $2500 you can get March’s unusual EP Zoom 40-60×52 High Master.
$3k is a starter thermal category. In the past couple of years, I leaned toward Burris, but they are getting ready to roll out Gen2 of their thermals while Gen1 is pretty much sold out. If you are not shooting too far, Accufire Incendis works as a scope or as a clip-on. As far as clip0ns go, I really like the way Burris BTC50 comes together with their picatinny mount. Generally, Gen1 Burris thermals with a 50mm lens are still available at deep discounts. Under $3k, there are hard to pass by.
At regular prices, Pulsar Talion is good to keep in mind. They are doing some good things there.
I’m seeing a terrible trend of even high end scopes not fully illuminating the reticle. I’m looking to replace my Meostar R2 1-6 with something that illuminates the entire reticle. ATACR 1-8, Razor 1-10, Kahles/Swaro1-8, and March 1-10 do not. Minox ZP8 does, but it’s also 7oz heavier than my Meostar and I still don’t love it for $3000. Any ideas?
Honestly, I much prefer scopes where not the entire reticle is illuminated. It is a demonstrably bad idea to illuminate the whole thing unless you are taking advantage of varying illumination methods like Elcan does with the Specter or like S&B does with the Dual CC 1-8×24
I think you are talking about dual focal plane scopes like the ZP8. March F series is dual focal plane and manages to only illuminate a tiny dot. It looks like cynical cost cutting to me.
No, not necessarily. Either way, I assure you it is not a cost cutting measure. The CHEAPEST thing you can do is illuminate the whole reticle. Brightly illuminating a dot in the center is harder and more expensive. Aside from that, I re-iterate that from the perspective of using a scope, illuminating the whole reticle is usually a terrible idea. I did a whole discussion of reticle illumination technologies a while back during a live show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LI8Q75Rv2pw&t=2s
Hello, Ilya! How does the new Razor Gen 3 6-36×56 compare to the new Sightron SVIII 5-40×56 as far as optical performance? Thank you!