Updated in January, 2021
This is an interesting price range and one where there is a lot of activity. Better Chinese manufacturers have become increasingly competent and they have surprisingly solid products in this category. There are still a few Japanese and Euro offerings as well.
Low range variables:
There isn’t really anything with truly daybright reticle illumination here, since Steiner’s P4Xi got a price hike. Similarly, I would be wary of any FFP LPVOs under $600. For now. SFP options are getting decent though and SwampFox Arrowhead 1-10×24 was a pleasant surprise. There are also 1-8×24 and 1-6×24 version of this scope that are quite competent.
General Purpose Hunting:
Meopta MeoPro 3-9×40 and 3-9×50 scopes standout here. Personally though, 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.
For once, there are a couple of compelling options in this category. 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. I do not think I have ever seen a variable scope in this price range with such bulletproof tracking. Honestly though, if you are looking at high magnification scopes you should try to stretch your finances and go a little higher in price or shop used. In principle, Arken and a few others look promising, but I simply have not spent enough time with them.
Reflex/Red Dot/Holographic Sights:
General Purpose Tactical:
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 difference lighting conditions and tracks like a champ. This is the scope I recommend more often than any other in any price range. There is a reason for it and there is a reason this recommendation has not changed in years years.