Riflescopes: Under $1000 or just over

 

Updated in January 2021

There is a considerable gap between $600 and $1000, so there are a lot of scopes to choose from  and most are pretty competent.  To me this is one of the more interesting price segments to watch since $1k is sort of a comparatively common “pain” threshold for a lot of people in the US. It is still a lot of money, but it is within range of a very wide audience, so I field a lot of questions on “what to get for $1k or thereabouts”.  I will admit though that I am getting a LOT of questions on what to get for $1500, so perhaps the “pain threshold” is moving up.

 Low Range Variables:

I think the Delta Stryker HD 1-6×24 is the bang for the buck choice here with good optics and day bright reticle illumination.  Steiner P4Xi 1-4×24 is a bit lighter an is similarly good on 1x with a bright dot.  If 4x on the high end is enough, it is a good choice as well.  With 1-6x scopes I can go either FFP or SFP. The FFP SWFA SS 1-6×24 has been around for a while, but is a very robust design.

General Purpose Hunting:

In many ways, the general purpose 3-9x 42 hunting scopes of twenty years ago have been largely replaced by 2-10×42 and 3-15×42 designs that are not much bigger and heavier, but offer a fair bit more capability. Vortex Razor HD LH scopes with G4-BDC reticle have been discontinued, but the 3-15x model came back in a 30mm tube with overall improvements as H-LHT 3-15×42 with HSR reticle (now available in mrad, which is my choice) and 3-15×50 that comes with the G4 reticle. I have both and like them. Other competent designs I suggest you check out are Swarovski Z3 3-10×42, Leupold VX-5HD 2-10×42 and Sig Whiskey5 2-10×42. I think they all need some help with reticles, but they are good scopes. Leupold and Sig are illuminated which is an advantage. Swaro Z3 is excellent optically, but still has a 3x erector which is not as flexible. To be fair, 3x erectors worked fine 20 years ago and work fine now, but if something more versatile is available why not go that way?  Generally, in this price range I lean toward having an illuinated reticle, so Meopta MeoPro 3.5-10x44RD should also be on this list.

If you like FFP for hunting, given its long and excellent track record, I would not overlook SWFA’s SS 3-9×42. 

 

Low Light:

A brief survey of current pricing suggests that some versions of Meopta Meostar 3-12×56 sneak in under $1k. This is an absolutely world class low light hunting scope, so look no further.

High Power/Target/ Long Range/Varminting :

This recommendation has not changed since I have not found anything under $1k that is better than Sightron SIII 6-24×50 and 8-32×56.  

Tactical and Precision Shooting:

This category has seen a lot of turnover and some of my previous recommendations have been discontinued.

I like Vortex PST Gen2 3-15×44 and PST Gen2 5-25×50 quite a lot, especially the 3-15×44

The best scope in this category is likely the Brownell MPO 3-18×50 though.

If you are looking for a bit more magnification than other options here, Meopta Optika6 5-30×56 with MRAD reticle is very competent, but I might be partial since it is my reticle design.  I also  like the Optika6 3-18×50, but the MPO is better (and $250 more, so you have to decide what your budget is).

If you want to stay close to $600, SWFA SS 3-9×42 is still excellent. I have two of these and use them all the time. Given how much different stuff I have access to…. well make your own conclusions based on that. Ditto for their 3-15×42.

Lastly, Steiner P4Xi 4-16×56 has been discontinued, but I still see them here an there for around $1k.  If you do not require high magnification and a tree reticle this may be the one to beat under $1k, especially if low light is important.

Red Dots and Magnifiers:

Generally, most red dots I recommend are a little bit less expensive than this, but I do like the MOR and Foresight from Meprolight.  MOR as a standalone sight and Foresight standalone or with the magnifier.

With compact sights, it is hard to go wrong with Aimpoint Micro T2, but it is expensive and I am beginning to prefer having reticle holdover marks if I am to pair the reflex sight with a magnifier (like in Sig Romeo4T and quite a few others).

With magnifiers, there have been some new entries, but for the moment, the only higher dollar one I like is the Aimpoint 6x.  With lower magnification models, I have seen no reason to go more expensive than Vortex Micro 3x and Sig Juliet4.  However, with 6x models, Aimpoint gets the nod.

 

 Posted by at 7:23 am

  22 Responses to “Riflescopes: Under $1000 or just over”

  1. For hunting use, if you had to choose between the following, what would be your go to? This is going on my 300 WSM. I already have American Rifle Company rings in 30mm, but could sell them to get 1″ rings.

    Right now, I’m using a Viper PST 2.5-10×32 FFP. I really like the optic, but I’d love capped windage turrets since it keeps spinning when I hike with my rifle slung.

    – Burris Veracity 2-10×42 Plex E1 for $625 USD
    – Leica ERi 2.5-10×42 Ballistic for $1100 USD
    – Leupold VX-5HD 3-15×44 Impact-29 for $1000 USD
    – Vortex Razor HD LH 2-10×40 G4-BDC for $700 USD

    I know they’re all over the place in terms of price / feature set. I carry a laser rangefinder, but also know how to range using reticles relatively quickly, as such FFP is nice, but not critical.

    I hunt to 30 minutes after dusk which means illumination is nice, but not critical as well, especially with a thicker reticle.

    And I’d prefer to keep the gun lighter if possible.

    Is any of the glass going to blow me away? Are any of those options truly stand out?

    Thanks!!

    • There is quite a bit of variance there.

      In terms of optics, ERi is the best scope in your list.
      Razor HD LH and VX-5HD are pretty close with a small edge to Razor HD LH.
      Veracity is very respectable for the money, but not quite as good as the rest of these in terms of optics.

      If you can find a Leica for a good price, it is hard to counsel against that. It is a really solid scope. If you are interested in a little more magnification on the top end, I am probably going to put up my VX-6HD 3-18×44 with Impact 29 for sale fairly soon. With Impact 29, you need reticle illumination. by itself, it is not great in low light.

      G4 BDC reticle in the Vortex was sorta conceived as a general purpose reticle design, so it works well in low light and the scope itself is nice and trim.

      ERi was available with different reticles, so I am not sure which exact one you are looking for. Both Ballistic and IBS reticels are essentially mil-scale designs on 10x, so they are easy to use, but they are also a touch on the thin side in the center, so they need illumination.

      Veracity, while not illuminated is pretty well designed and those tapering bars are very helpful on low mag. I am not big on BDCs, so if you were looking at the Burris 2-10×42, I would lean toward the XTR II with G2B reticle.

  2. Hi DLO,

    Have you had a chance to look at the Hawke 5-30×50 Frontier scope? If you have, how does it compare to the Athlon Midas BTR SFP scope? Looking for a budget scope for shooting paper targets at 100 yards. Thanks!

  3. Thanks. I ended up taking advantage of the Ares BTR sale and ordered on of those. I might pick up a Hawke later on if I end up building another AR upper. I’m glad there is someone like you that takes the time and does the hard work of evaluating scopes and letting us know what’s good and what’s not.

  4. Hello, I came across the novel scope Vanguard Endeavor RS VII 1-7×44. A low-power variable optic with LARGE objective lens. 599 USD.

    I wonder how this performs, and thought you might be the perfect guy for reviewing it. Would love a comparison against for example a Vortex PST Gen II 1-6×24, or cheaper options (like for exampleVortex Strike Eagle 1-8×24) and more expensive options (like for example Vortex Razor Gen II 1-6×24).

    • I have not seen that scope. I’ll take a look at SHOT. Generally, if they are using that large of an objective in a moderately priced scope that goes down to 1x, chances are that the FOV is quite narrow.

      I’ll let you know if I get any insight at SHOT next month. Generally, Vanguard is not a big name in riflescopes, but their product line has been growing, so I am happy to see them take some risks.

      ILya

    • Based on their respective product descriptions, I compared the Vanguard’s field of view to the Swarovski Z6i and Z8i, which I’ve heard are known for their generous field of view.

      Swarovski Z8i 1-8×24
      FOV: 24.0-3.0 deg

      Swarovski Z6i 1-6×24
      FOV: 23.8-3.9 deg

      Vanguard RS VII 1-7×44
      FOV: 17.5-2.3 deg

      Does this look “bad”? What other problems do you suspect might arise with such a large objective lens? A large exit pupil is tempting is tempting both for faster target acquisition and a brighter image on high magnification, but I am not sure what other factors I may be sacrificing.

    • In linear units:

      Z8i 1-8×24
      FOV: 42.5-5.3 m at 100 m

      Z6i 1-6×24
      FOV: 42.5-6.8 m at 100 m

      RS VII 1-7×44
      FOV: 38.8-5.9 m at 100 m

      • Sorry, an error sneaked in. The last linear number was for the RS VI 1-6×24. The RS VII is supposed to have a linear FOV of 30.5-4.1 m at 100 m.

        Nonetheless, it is interesting to compare the Endeavour 1-6×24 and 1-7×44:
        – Endeavour 1-6×24: 22.3–3.4 deg (38.8–5.9 m at 100 m)
        – Endeavour 1-7×44: 17.5–2.3 deg (30.5–4.1 m at 100 m)

        • OK, so my guess was correct and the 44mm objective scope has substantially narrower FOV.

          I will go to SHOT and take a look at image fidelity, but FOV this much narrower will likely slow down your target acquisition substantially.

          Generally, there is a good reason why most of the scopes of this type tend to have comparatively small objectives (I have a video on that on Youtube), but manufacturers are clearly learning how to bump up the objective diameter for LPVOs bit by bit. Blaser 1-7×28 I tested not long ago is really impressive, for example.

          ILya

        • Found your video:
          DLO Explanations: Why do LPVOs have small objectives?
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E7W3NbhvIU

          Seems clear to me that if you want a larger objective (for more light and a larger exit pupil), but you don’t want to sacrifice field of view and depth of field, then you would have to increase the length of the scope and the diameter of the internal lenses. This makes the scope larger and heavier. At around 11:30 you also say that such a scope will be harder to use. Can you elaborate on that?

          I just wanted to confirm another thing: Adding side focus is not desirable on a LPVO. Is this primarily because LPVO are intended for fast shooting, where adjusting a side focus becomes unwanted hassle?

          • Adding side focus, in principle, is not necessarily a bad thing on an LPVO, but for most situations where such a scope would be used it is an unnecessary complication. However, if you plan to use your LPVO at extended range or at close ranges, then a side focus is a very useful thing to have. Basically, if you want to use a LPVO as a true general purposes scope, March 1-8×24 or 1-10×24 is one of your better options partly because it has side focus.

            The comment on “harder to use” primarily pertains to field of view, depth of field and overall bulk and weight of LPVOs with large-ish objectives. I will say that the current crop of 28-30mm objective lens LPVOs is pretty decent, but it is not clear how much farther we can easily go without making too many sacrifices.

  5. Hi Ilya,
    I’m thinking of getting the 3-18x MPO for a new 6 ARC gas gun but also am considering the Razor Gen ii 3-18 which costs a bit more. Is the Razor a significant upgrade over the MPO? Any other ones to consider in this price range? What’s your expert opinion on this? Thanks!

    • Razor is definitely a step up in image quality, but it is also a step up in weight and price. For me, as much as I like the 3-18×50 Razor, it is a bit heavier than I want on a gas gun. However, if you are mostly shooting from bench or prone, it will work very well.
      You sorta need to converge on the type of shooting you do, the physical envelope you are willing to put on a gas gun and on the price your are willing to pay. For a general purpose scope on a gas gun, for $1k, MPO 3-18×50 is still my overall choice. However, if this is a larger gun, there are now deals on the Athlon Cronus 4.5-29×56 where you can pick it up in the $1200 range (there is a Gen2 coming). It is a larger and heavier scope, but for long range, it is a better scope.
      Also in the $1200 range is the Tract Toric UHD 4-20×50. FOV is a touch narrower than I like, but it is a very solid design and center performance is better than MPO. However, for standing/kneeling/etc shooting I prefer the MPO due to less perceived shake on 3x and much better reticle visibility on low power.
      I am in the planning stages of an accurate general purpose 6mm ARC, but since I am aiming for mine to by under 10 lbs with optics, all of these will be a bit heavy. This is the kind of thing where you really have to have very clear requirements.

  6. Oh and the Burris XTR III, which doesn’t have illumination. How does it compare with the MPO and Razor?

    • I have not tested it thoroughly yet. From what I’ve seen, it is a step up from MPO. Not sure about the Razor. I do not plan to test one until they bring out reticle illumination.

  7. Thank you very much again for the great info and advice!

    • My pleasure. Do keep in mind that I will be locking down the ability to comment on this website fairly soon. It will stay up as home to my recommendations and similar stuff, but the discussion and Q&A will be on darklordofoptics.com