Riflescopes: Under $400

 

Updated in January, 2022

There is all sorts of stuff in the price range that I have not been able to get my hands on and many scopes that used to be real staples here are either discontinued or moved up in price.  I spent a lot of time looking at prismatics and other AR-type optics that are in this price range, but a bit less so when it comes to hunting.  Here are some tidbits on the stuff I know well enough to recommend.

 

General use hunting scopes:

Leupold VX-Freedom scopes are in this price range, but I am just not a fan.  I do like the tiny ultralight 2.5×20 fixed power scope from them.  Most of the Vortex Diamondback scopes nowadays are in the $250 range and I would really not overlook them.

Easily my favourite lightweight scope in this category is the SWFA SS Ultralight 2.5-10×32 if you can find it in stock.

With more conventional hunting scopes, I think Crimson Trace’s Brushline Pro scopes have a real chance of ending up being my go to recommendations here.  They are sort of beginning to occupy a market niche that Nikon used to be in except with better support.  Once I spend a little more time with them, I’ll get into more details.  I really like what I am seeing so far for the money.  Both Brushline and Hardline scopes are made in the Phillipines by a factory that has been making these designs for quite a while for a variety of brands.  I think most of the learning curve has been worked out.

 

Varminting, Tactical and Target Shooting:

If you plan to spend a lot time twisting turrets, the $300 SWFA SS is still the one to beat here in terms of bang for the buck, but if you want side-focus instead of rear focus, $400 gets you the SWFA SS 10x42M which is the side parallax version.  I would still not be itching to get into high magnification in this price range, but there are a couple of decent 4-16x options.  Vortex Diamondback Tactical 4-16×44 seems to soldier on quite consistently.  New for my recommendations is Arken SH4 Gen 2 4-16×50.  Arken had a rocky start, but things seem to have stabilized to a good degree.  If anything changes, I’ll post an update.

 

Low-range variables:

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.  Delta Hornet 1-6×24 is another good option although Burris is a little less expensive.

 

Reflex Sights:

For $400 or a hair less you can do quite well here.  For narrow slide handguns, there is Shield RMSc, while for wider slides 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 window and chevron reticle.  Other really nice options are Sig Romeo4T and 4H or Leupold Deltapoint if you lean toward open reflex sights.  Crimson Trace has a new line of small red dots under the name RAD.  I just started looking at one and it is really quite nice so far.  US Optics DRS 2.0 Enhanced look like a well sorted out red dot.

If you are looking to stay out of China, Shield Sights are made in the UK and the Deltapoint in the US.  Sig Romeo 4T is assembled in the US.  The rest are from China.

 

Magnifiers:

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.  Primary Arms micro magnifier is much cheaper, but it might be able to compete here.

Higher magnification magnifiers have somewhat limited utility, but the new Vortex 6x magnifier is pretty competent.

 

Prismatic Scopes:

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.  If I was forced to stick with just one general purpose AR-15 optic, this might end up at the top of my list.

The two Primary Arms SLx Micro prismatics are really superb given how small they are.  Both 1x and 3x Micro magnifiers from PA are easily worth recommending.

Interestingly, SwampFox has been using large prism designs which give up some compactness for very wide FOV and immersive sight picture.

Primary Arms has really focused on small prism designs that sacrifice some FOV, but deliver a lot of performance in a very compact package.

Both are viable approach that are worth looking at, but they are at their best on different rifles.

If I were looking at scopes an AR-15 in this price range, I would very likely lean toward one of these prismatics rather than LPVOs.  The reasons are simple: size, weight and price.  All of these have integrated mounts.  With an LPVO, you have to buy one and good quality mounts are not cheap.

The cheapest decent single piece mount seems to be SwampFox Freedom Light for about $110.  It is not the best mount I have seen to date, but it is definitely better than serviceable.  By the time you are done adding it to an LPVO, you are in a different price range.  In this category, you should be looking to add an offset and piggybacked red dot whether you are running an LPVO or prismatic.  I’d probably lean toward the prismatic with offset red dot if it is my wallet at stake.

 

 Posted by at 11:04 am