Updated in January, 2021
Low range variable scope for tactical use (think AR-15 or similar):
This one is pretty easy. If you have $2k to spend, get the new FFP Vortex Razor Gen3 1-10×24. I do not know how they pulled off selling this scope for this price, but it is quite remarkable in terms of what it offers for the money.
If you prefer SFP scopes, Kahles K16 1-6×24 is really excellent and the Gen2E Vortex Razor 1-6×24 is a nice design too. Meopta Meostar R2 is worth a look as well for tactical use now that it has more reticle options.
Compact fixed power scope for tactical use (think AR-15 or similar):
Elcan Specter OS 4×32 is still my favourite in this category, although there are some new designs I need to look at. That having been said, newly designed moderately priced prismatics are getting so competent that it is increasingly getting hard to recommend higher end ones. With switch power Elcans it is a little different and I keep on seeing Elcan Specter DR 1x/4x and TR 1x/3x/9x under $2k. It is a compelling option.
Low-range variable scope for hunting use (think DGR):
Kahles K16i mentioned above is probably still king, but Meopta MeoStar R2 1-6×24 and Vortex Razor Gen 2E 1-6×24 are quite compelling and less expensive.
All-round hunting use:
I think Meopta Meostar R2 2-12×50 is the way to go here.
The best is probably Swarovski Z5i 2.4-12×50. I think once you get to this price range, you should insist on illumination and when Swarovski added illumination to their Z5 line, they immediately got onto my list. It has always been an excellent scope optomechanically. Honorable mention to Leupold VX-6HD 3-18×44 that I really liked and Meopta Mestar R2 1.7-10×42 an 2-12×50.
No changes: Meopta Meostar R1 3-12×56 and Meostar R2 2.5-15×56 take it in terms of bang for the buck in this category.
Allround tactical use:
For this category I like scopes with no more than 5x on the low end. I used to hold it at 3x, but changed my mind over time. With well designed eyepieces, I can use 5x for shooting offhand fairly well and that is effectively my gating item for a general purpose scope. Still, I restrict this category to scopes that are not outrageously huge and heavy. I am looking for designed objectives in the 40 to 50mm range and reticle illumination.
This a somewhat under served category since most manufacturers have been paying attention to larger scopes, but that is changing.
Honestly, I think Burris XTR III 3.3-18×50 will be a really strong contender once the illuminated version comes out.
In the meantime, I really like the Nexus 5-20×50 from Element Optics. This is a very new company, but they have a well established parent company behind them, so I have high hopes for them sticking around. Nexus is an absolutely remarkable first product for a new company and I have now had one for about a year with zero problems and perfect tracking.
Tract Toric UHD 4-20×50 with PRS reticle is another excellent design. FOV is a bit narrow, but aside from that I have nothing to complain about for the price.
If you are looking to use a clip-on, the very short EOTech Vudu 5-25×50 with MD3 reticle is an excellent option. I see these pop up on sale with good regularity.
If you are looking for track record, check out SWFA SS HD 5-20×50. It lacks a few features, but it is excellent optomechanically and extremely robust. Technically, Vortex Razor Gen1 5-20×50 should also be in this group if you do not mind the bulk.
Long range tactical use:
My favourite scope in this category is probably Delta Stryker HD 4.5-30×56. Another excellent option is the rather similar Athlon Cronus 4.5-29×56. There is a Gen2 version of the Cronus that just came out and I need to take a look at it. Gen1 was very good. I slightly prefer the Delta reticle to theones in Cronus Gen1, but Gen2 has a new APRS6 reticle design that I expect to work exceptionally well.
Burris XTR III 5.5-30×56 and Tract Toric 4.5-30×56 should be strong contenders, but I need to spend more time with them.
Since I last updated this category, Vortex Razor Gen2 4.5-27×56 dropped in the sub-$2k range and is probably the reference standard here. If you are OK with a touch more weight, it is difficult to bet against the Gen2 Razor.
All of a sudden, there are some real options here. Delta Stryker HD 5-50×56 takes the cake as the best generalist in this group. However, Sightron SV ED 10-50×60 is better as a pure target scope owing to the advantages its dual speed parallax knob offers.
Honorable mention goes to Vortex Golden Eagle 15-60×52, except I wish it came with a mrad reticle.