Riflescopes: under $750

 

Updated in January, 2024

A lot of stuff here is from better Chinese OEMs and it is really competent.  If you would rather avoid China, there are occasional options from Japan and Phillipines here and there as well.  With the inflation being what it is, increasingly little here is from Japan.  Geopolitical considerations aside, several Chinese OEMs are making really excellent scopes.  On the upper end of that range, they are somewhat better than the ones from the Phillipines, but ultimately competition makes everyone improve.  I bumped up the price cutoff slightly to reflect inflation.

 

Low range variables:

The only daybright option here is Vortex PST Gen2 1-6×24.  It used to be the only fiber illuminated option in this price range, but now there is also PA’s SLx 1-6×24 with Nova reticle.  I do think the Gen2 PST is a better scope in terms of optimization and it does have a nice long track record.  Whether it is worth the extra money is up to you.  There are still no FFP LPVOs here that I can comfortably recommend (with a potential exception below).  There are quite a few on the market, but almost all the ones I have seen (like Atibal, for example), have been different flavors of the same unadulterated crap.

One possible exception here would be SwampFox Warhorse LPVOs.  The 1-6×24 has been released and 1-8×24 and 1-10×24 are coming later.  Based on some prototypes I have seen, these are very promising.  There is also Primary Arms GLx 1-6×24 that is made in the Phillipines.  I sorta have an occasionally complicated relationship with ACSS reticles.  Their mrad reticles have a little too much going on for me, but the BDC reticles are not bad at all.  If the reticle works well for you, GLx 1-6×24 is a good option.  There is also the 1-10×24 GLx (made in Japan), but it is more money and I have not yet tested it.  I have seen that scope from other makers and it is very serviceable.

If you want more magnification and you are OK with SFP reticle SwampFox Arrowhead 1-10×24 is a nicely competent design that is toward the bottom of this price segment.   There are a few other 1-10x SFP designs out there, but they change fairly quickly and I have not tried looking at them.

 

General Purpose Hunting:

I am fundamentally a FFP guy in most circumstances and for $600, I would lean toward the same scope I recommend on the tactical side of things SWFA SS 3-9×42.  This scope has been around for a while, I have two of them, and it just plain works.  It also helps that I generally lean toward FFP designs.  I would probably like it even more if they refreshed some of the features: zero-stop elevation turret, covered windage turret and an abbreviated tree reticle would make me like it even more.  SWFA line up is going through a bit of a refresh in 2024, so we will see what happens there.

Other good more full featured FFP options are Athlon Helos BTR Gen2 2-12×42 and Primary Arms GLx 2.5-10×44.  Athlon is easily your best bang for the buck in this category and one of the best bang for the buck scopes available today.  It has been out long enough now that we know it holds up well.  I would have preferred a different reticle illumination scheme for better low light utility.  Beyond that, I have nothing to complain about at this price.

PA’s GLx 2.5-10×44 is made in the Phillipines.  It is also a bit more than $700, but PA runs sales frequently.  Both are bit heavier than SWFA 3-9×42 though.  GLx is a very well rounded scope.  Optics are midpack, but I really like the way the mechanical package on this one worked out.

If you prefer SFP, check out Trijicon Accupoint 3-9×40 and 2.5-10×56.  They have been around for a long time.  They work well and fiber optic collector illuminates the reticle without relying on batteries.  Pick the larger 2.5-10×56 if you hunt in very low light.  The smaller 3-9×40 is trim, light and capable for general purpose hunting.  Somehow, these scopes used to be not that great of a deal, but their competitors moved up in price, while Trijicon, to its credit, kept these at the same price for years.  If I were scoping a lightweight hunting rifle that will not be used beyond 300 yards or so, I’d likely get the 3-9×40 Accupoint with MilDot reticle and not look back.

 

Reflex/Red Dot/Holographic Sights:

You can get some really nice stuff in the under $700 range.  Unless you are trying to stay away from Chinese OEMs, I do not know if it makes all that much sense to go all the way up to $700.  However, there are some nice red dot sights here like the Aimpoint ACRO P-2.  One of ACRO’s more prominent competitors, Steiner MPS is also in this price range and does well.  Compact closed emitter red dot sights are all the rage right now and for a good reason.  They do tend to cost a little more.  They are a big deal on handguns, but I have to admit I lean toward compact red dots on carbines as well.

With compact open emitter red dot sights, I still prefer to stick with either Shield’s RMSw and RMSc or with Holosun’s 507C with the Vulcan reticle.

With red dot sights in general, I am not big on sights bigger than an Aimpoint Micro or thereabouts.  My perennial favourite here is Shield SIS.  I have the original, but SIS2 is on the way and looking very promising as does the upcoming ultracompact Shield AMS.  If you just want a simple dot in an exceedingl robust sight, the upcoming CQS2 with redundant power supply should be interesting.

There are some well regarded full size red dot sights here as well, but once you go to a larger housing, I tend to prefer holographic sights.  Yes, the battery life is shorter, but holographics play a little better with my astigmatism and the window is absolutely distortion free.  There is a lot to be said about EOTech’s EXPS3, but for the money the nod has to go to the Gen2 version of  Vortex AMG UH-1 .  One exception to that is if you plan to have a magnifier behind it and need holdover.  Then, EOTech’s reticle with holdover dots is the way to go.  In my case, I ended up using a Tarac Alpha from TacomHQ to shift POA for shooting at distance.  It is fairly pricy, but the technology was licensed to Axeon and called “Second Zero“.  It is an interesting idea and has notable advantages.  Aeon’s device is lower priced than the difference between UH-1 and EOTech.

Speaking of magnifiers: there are some magnifiers in this price range, but I am not convinced they are worth the price premium over the sub-$400 ones. Once again, a lot of this comes down to whether a made-in-China magnifier bothers you.  If the answer is yes, your options are very limited.  You can either get an Aimpoint magnifier or EOTech’s G33.  Personally, I sorta came to grips that for now my best bang for the buck is with Chinese OEMs.  More importantly, I prefer compact and light magnifiers and with those, I really do not have an option for something not made in China.  I do use a 6x magnifier from Aimpoint, but that is another step up in price.

 

General Purpose Tactical and Precision:

There are a few compelling options in this category if you want some magnification.  SwampFox Kentucky Long 5-30×56 is a very respectable option.  For a touch less money the new and slightly smaller Element Helix 6-24×50 FFP has really impressed me while being toward the end of this price range.  I do not think I have ever seen a variable scope in this price range with such bulletproof tracking, although several riflescope companies are making very bold claims in that regard.  Since I always get asked about Arken, I’ll just note that I am not happy with the consistency I see out of Arken.  Until, I have reasonable confidence in their QC, I will not be testing them.

If you can live wihout reticle illumination and locking turrets, Vortex Venom 5-25×56 to be a surprisingly compelling choice for not a ton of money.

If you want something with a lot of adjustment and wide FOV, I think Vortex Strike Eagle 5-25×56 is a little better than Venom, but more expensive.  It is very full featured.  If you can live with less adjustment and no illumination, Vortex Venom 5-25×56 is actually easier to get behind at the expense of a slight amount of FOV.  Do keep in mind that Vortex zero stop design limits your adjustment range to two revolutions, so to get more adjustment out of the Strike Eagle, you will need to sacrifice the zero stop.

If you do not need zero stop you should also look at SwampFox Warhawk 5-25×56, but for me zero stop is important with this magnification range.

The recently released Vortex Strike Eagle 3-18×44 is the “generalist” of the group, but it is a bit above the price cutoff here.  Still, there are deals out there.

Element Titan 3-18×50 is discounted into this price range as I write this and is very competent.  I do not like that the whole reticle is illuminated.

SWFA’s SS HD 3-9×42 FFP scope with Mil-Quad reticle has probably been my most recommended scope since it came onto the market.  It does not look all that fancy on paper, but it is just about bulletproof, works well in different lighting conditions and tracks like a champ.

Primary Arms released their Phillipine-made GLx 2.5-10×44 with side focus, ike the SWFA is covered above.  It is a nice MPVO.
Another MPVO worth considering is SwampFox Warhawk 2-10×44 for a bit under $500.  It is very solid optically and Recce Mil reticle is nicely done.  I wish it had a zero stop, but in this mag range, I do not mind using the reticle only.
Finally, a somewhat oddball option here is US Optics’ diminutive TS-12x 3-12×44.  It could use illumination, but even as is it is a very compelling option when you need something compact.  For example, on an accurate semi-auto 22LR trainer, it is easily one of the better options out there, but it is as comfortable on an accurate AR-15 carbine with an offset red dot.
Prismatics (mostly for ARs):
There are some prismatics in this price range, but quite frankly, when it comes to lower magnifications and small prism models, I would stick with the less expensive ones from Primary Arms, Vortex and SwampFox that are in the sub-$400 category.
With large prism designs there are a few options here and the most interesting ones seem to be the new Element Immersive 5×30 scopes.  There are two versions: BDC/MOA reticle and MRAD reticle.  They have side focus which helps versatility, wide FOV and really impressive image quality.  Durability has been good so far on both 223 and 458SOCOM ARs.
Full disclosure: I designed the reticles for these, so I am not unbiased.  I did design the reticle for the way I think this type of a prismatic should be used and feedback has been good so far.
 Posted by at 11:17 am

  7 Responses to “Riflescopes: under $750”

  1. I would like your recommendation for a scope for my Grandson’s T/C Venture 7mm-08. He will be hunting deer and hogs in low light conditions. Price range <$600.

    • Since you are mentioning pigs, I assume that you might be takign a shot in very low light, since there is not time limitation on how late you can shoot one (correct me if I am wrong; I do not know the rules for all states). In the sub-$600 range I would look at 3-9×40 or 3-9×50 Leupold VX-R. Another good option is Meopta MeoPro 3.5-10x44RD (recently discontinued, but still around).

      ILya

      • Thank you Ilya. I had considered the SWFA SS 3-9x 42. I have found a website selling it for $449. My grand son hunts deer more than hogs, but most shots occur at daylight or dusk. Hog hunting in Florida may done anytime 24/7/ all year long.

  2. Thank you Ilya. I had considered the SWFA SS 3-9x 42. I have found a website selling it for $449. My grand son hunts deer more than hogs, but most shots occur at daylight or dusk. Hog hunting in Florida may done anytime 24/7/ all year long.

  3. I have been beating on them to offer version os this one & the 3-15×42 with shorter or capped turrets for more sporting/hunting friendliness?

  4. While I have use for the SWFA 3-9, I’ve always hesitated because of the lack of parallax adjustment. Is it really not a big deal? I would most likely put it on a rimfire rifle for 25-350 yds.