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.
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.