Riflescopes: Under $400


Updated in December, 2017

This price segment has changed a fair bit since I last updated this page, so there are a lot of new scopes to mention.

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 your best bet.  Aside from that, Sig Whiskey 3 3-9×40 is a very good option for the money as is Vortex Diamondback HP 3-12×42.  Lastly, Nikon Monarch 2.5-10×42 is a very respectable scope.

Varminting and Target Shooting:

This basically means a SFP scope with high(ish) magnification.  In this price range I like Sightron SII 6-24×42 and S-Tac 4-20×50.  Vortex Diamondback HP 4-16×42 is also worth a look, especially for a walking varminter.


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.

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.  It is an exceedingly nice scope for the money.  Contenders: SWFA SS 1-4×24 and HiLux CMR4 1-4×24.  CMR4 is your best bet if you want a reticle made with 7.62×39 or Blackout in mind.

Fixed Power:

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.


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.

Reflex Sights:

For $400 or a hair less you can get either one of my favourite compact reflex sights: Shield RMS and Doctersight III.   I really like both of these on a handgun, with Shield RMS being absolutely diminutive.  Both works on carbines with appropriate riser, although for long gun use, I prefer the more expensive Shield SIS (which you will see feature in the next price range up)

Updated in August, 2011

Ultimately, I am not entirely sure whether it makes a whole lot of sense to have an “under $400” category, but a brief survey of the market place indicates that there are a few options available between $300 and $400 that are worth looking at.

General use hunting scopes:

One of the versions of Zeiss’ excellent 3-9×40 Conquest scopes is available for $399.  It is a superb scopes and you’d be hard-pressed to do better.

Another good option in this price range is Sightron S2 Big Sky 3-9×42.

A couple more scopes have recently been introduced to the market that go head to head with the Conquest and Sightron: Minox ZA 3-9×40 and Meopta MeoPro 3-9×42.  I liked both a fair bit although for different reasons.

Can’t really go wrong with any of these four.

Varminting and Target Shooting:

Vortex Viper scopes went down in price for 2010, so the 6.5-20×44 is now available for just under $400.  For varmint or target shooting, you’ll have to spend a lot more money to do better.  Vortex Viper scopes have good resolution and exceptionally good contrast for this price range.

For a walking varminter, another very compelling design is Sightron S2 4-16×42.


For a hair under $400 you can get Leupold VX-3 2.5-8×36.  I am not a Leupold fan, but this is easily my favourite Leupold scope.

Low-range variables:

Hawke Endurance 30 1.25-4.5×24 and 1-4×24 run just a bit over $300 and are both pretty nice pieces.  I have one of them and I have not managed to break it yet.  Its #4 reticle with illuminated dot is pretty quick to acquire and is well adapted for low light.

For a bit more you can have Leupold VX-3 1.5-5×20 with heavy duplex reticle which works well in low light despite lack of illumination.

Another low range variable scope I like is the Leatherwood CMR 1-4×24.  It probably belongs in the “Tactical” category below, but I thought it is versatile enough design for dual use.  This is the first Leatherwood scope to grace by “recommended” list and I did not make the decision to add it here lightly.  It is very respectable both optically and mechanically while offering an unusually complete feature set for this price range.  Most notably, I found the reticle illumination very well calibrated.

Fixed Power:

I like the simplicity of fixed power scopes and for just a touch less than $400 there are a few excellent ones available:

IOR 4×32

Leupold FX-3 6×42 with heavy duplex reticle

Sightron S2 Big Sky 6×42


The $300 SWFA S.S. is still the one to beat here.  I suggest either 10×42 or 6×42 versions.

Honorable mention goes to Hawke Sidewinder 30 Tactical 4.5-14×42.  I have been testing one and it worked very well.  However, this line is fairly new, so only time will tell how it holds up.

 Posted by at 11:04 am