Updated in January, 2021
All sorts of stuff that used to be here is no more, so there are a lot of changes in this category. It is also a difficult one for me since there has been a lot of product turnover here from a large number of brands. I have not been able to look at as many as I would like and based on a cursory look, this is not where I can make recommendations without a fairly careful analysis.
General use hunting scopes:
Prices for a lot of stuff have been creeping up. If you manage to find a Meopta MeoPro 3-9×40 for four bills, that’s still your best bet. Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10×40 is in this price range. If you do not need to touch the turrets it works adequately.
Varminting and Target Shooting:
This basically means a SFP scope with high(ish) magnification. There are several possibilities, but I have barely looked at them. There are still some Gen1 Vortex PST 6-24×50 scopes around. They are reasonable. Athlon Argos 4-2050 looked alright as well. Still, if you want high magnification, I strongly recommend reaching deeper into your wallet.
For a hair under $400 you can get Leupold VX-3i 2.5-8×36. I am not a VX-3i fan, but this is a nice little scope. My favourite in this category is easily the SWFA SS Ultralight 2.5-10×32 if you can find it in stock.
This has sorta become more of a tactical category, but it extends to other firearms as well. My current favourite is probably Burris RT-6 1-6×24 scope. I think Burris is discontinuing it, but there are still some around. Delta Hornet 1-6×24 is another good option.
There are very few of these still made and Leupold FX-2 and FX-3 scopes are your best bet. Here I really like Leupold FX-3 6x42mm and FX-2 2.5×20 for serious kickers. Of course, there are always SWFA Classic fixed power scopes, but more on that below.
The $300 SWFA SS is still the one to beat here, but if you want side-focus instead of rear focus, $400 gets you the SWFA SS 10x42M which is the side parallax version. If you want to dial the turrets a lot, SWFA Classic scopes are pretty much your only safe bet under $400.
For $400 or a hair less you can do quite well here. For narrow slide handguns, there is Shield RMSc, while for wider slide with RMR cut Holosun HS507C X2 with ACSS Vulcan has really impressed me. Both work on carbines with appropriate riser, but Holosun does better here with a larger windwon and chevron reticle. Other really nice options are Sig Romeo4T and 4H or Leupold Deltapoint if you lean toward open reflex sights.
These days, you do not need to spend a huge amount of money for a very nice magnifier, with Sig Juliet4 4x probably being my favourite. I tend to prefer 3x and 4x magnifiers in general, but my preferred 3x magnifier, Vortex Micro 3x, slots into the $300 category.
In the past, all the inexpensive prismatic scopes have been of dubious quality. That is no longer the case.
SwampFox Blade 1x and TriHawk 3x are well designed and robust. Surprised the hell out of me, to be honest, but they work.
SwampFox Amazon Store
Primary arms GLx 2x prismatic is really superb. Burris RT-3 is looking pretty good too, but I need to spend more time with it. Vortex just introduced a couple of new prismatics I need to look at and I know Primary Arms is coming out with another interesting option. This is another active category that I may need to re-visit mid-year.