Best Rifle Scope Under $300: The Ultimate Shopping Guide
All gun owners want to get a quality optic for their rifle but is it really necessary to go after expensive products? Well, the answer is no. It’s true that the price of an optic and its performance are more or less related to each other. However, you could still find a good rifle scope with a reasonable price tag as long as you are willing to look around. So if you want to check out some affordable optics on the market, this article should come in handy. Down below are some of the best rifle scopes under $300 and their characteristics for your consideration. You would be provided with a step by step instruction on how to make a wise investment well.
Before we take a look at the examples, do keep in mind that personal tastes and shooting styles vary a lot from people to people. The perfect rifle optic to someone else could have a lackluster performance in your case so consider your options carefully. Buying on a whim could make you waste money for a less than ideal product and that is why you must research beforehand. It’s not a bad idea to read customer reviews and user opinion of market products. While they are not always reliable, reviews and onions are great sources of information which you could use as references.
Top 6 Best Rifle Scopes Under $300 On The Market – 2018
Dont have much time? Here is the short list for you:
- 1/ Nikon PROSTAFF 5
- 2/ Bushnell Throw Down PCL
- 3/ Leupold VX-2
- 4/ Muller Side Focus Tactical
- 5/ Burris Fullfield II
- 6/ Barska AO Varmint
1/ Nikon PROSTAFF 5 – Best long range scope under $300
- Reticle: BDC
- Magnification: 3.5 – 14x
- Lens diameter: 40mm
Equipped with a BDC reticle and a 4x quick focus eyepiece, Nikon PROSTAFF 5 is able to match a wide range of shooting application. Thanks to the Spot On Ballistic Match Technology, you no longer have to make a guess when it comes to compensating bullet drop. As a multicoated optic, PROSTAFF 5 could maximize light transmission if you are in a low light environment. The wide field of vision provided by the Nikon scope permits you to keep track of the target if you are surrounded by bushes. In term of operation, the Spring-Loaded Instant Zero-Reset Turrets allow the average shooter to conveniently make adjustments in time of need.
To protect the user eyebrow from heavy recoil, the Nikon scow possesses a generous and consistent eye relief.
The scope is waterproof and fog proof so it should function normally under adverse condition. To adjust the reticle, the optic utilize a 1/4 MOA click-stop correction mechanism so you could feel and hear the adjustment. For most of the time, PROSTAFF 5 is capable of maintaining your setting even if subjected to repeated firing and challenging environment. It’s a high power scope that you could depend on in any situation.
- Tough lens
- Light and easy to use
- Hold zero consistently
- Excellent clarity at long distances
- Oversensitive to movement
- Quality control is barely acceptable
- The packaging could use some improvements
2/ Bushnell Throw Down PCL
- Reticle: BDC
- Magnification: 1 – 4x
- Lense diameter: 24mm
Durable and precise, Bushnell Throw Down PCL is a flawless scope that offers its user nothing but satisfaction. It possesses excellent endurance compared to other products due to the presence of aluminum alloy along with an anodized finish. The illuminated BDC style reticle is well calibrated so you could shoot accurately up to 600 yards. Because the Bushnell optic is a multi-coated design, its light transmission level is considered commendable. Overall, Bushnell Throw Down PCL would not disappoint you if all you need is a short to medium range scope for your rifle.
In case you are wondering about the name, Throw Down PCL is actually a reference of the scope adjusting mechanism. PCL stands for “Power Change Lever” which is attached to the optic magnification ring and Throw Down is its designation. The lever let you make rapid and accurate magnification adjustment even you are wearing gloves. Therefore, the scope is well liked by shooters in cold regions of the world. Because it’s sealed tight, the optic is invulnerable to water, dust and debris. It’s optimized for 5.56 x 45mm Nato, .223 Remington and similar calibers so the Bushnell scope is a good match for assault rifles.
- Illuminated reticle
- Solid construction
- Pinpoint adjustment
- Perform well in low light condition
- Slightly heavy
- Inconsistent performance
- Mediocre delivery service
3/ Leupold VX-2
- Reticle: Duplex
- Magnification: 3 – 9x
- Lense diameter: 40mm
Leupold is a well know brand in the optics business and Leupold VX-2 is of their best products. The scope is held in high regard by amateurs and professionals alike, it has everything you ever need. A convenient power indicator is available to help you determine the optic magnification level without having to change your position. Since it’s quite light and compact, you could easily carry the Leupold scope in extended hunting trips. Windage and elevation dials could be manipulated within a blink of an eye which eliminates unnecessary delay in tactical engagements.
Leupold VX-2 is waterproof, fog proof and shockproof so this quality scope could handle pretty much anything you throw at it. The Quantum Optical System lens enhances overall contrast and provides the shooter with respectable light transmission level. To protect the lens, a DiamondCoat coating is applied to shield the glass surface from abrasion. A fast focus eyepiece is externally threaded to the Leupold scope so you could quickly acquire your target. To cleanse the scope lens, all you need is a couple of cotton swab and some pure alcohol or high-grade glass cleaner.
- High endurance
- Smooth operation
- Comfortable eye relief
- Great scope for the price
- May feel a bit stiff
- The packaging is not really nice
- Customers complain about receiving damaged products
4/ Muller Side Focus Tactical
- Reticle: Mil-dot
- Magnification: 8 – 32x
- Lense diameter: 44mm
Designed for long-range shooting, Muller Side Focus Tactical is a good choice for people in need of an exceptionally precise rifle scope. With a maximum magnification power of 32x, the optic is capable of bringing a distant object close to your eye. The scope is tough and compatible with powerful rounds such as .338 Lapua Magnum or .416 Barrett. If needed, you could turn the scope around so you could use light long range ammunitions like .22-250 Remington. Due to the comfortable 4-inch eye relief, you don’t have to worry about ending up with a nasty scope eye.
When being turned, the Muller Side Focus Tactical turrets would emit audible clicking noise so you could make accurate adjustments. Because it’s able to deal with heavy recoil from repeated firing in an efficient manner, the Muller product retains your zero setting consistently. The scope lenses are multi-coat which maximize light transmission and minimize glare at high magnification levels. While the 32x power level is great for long range shooting, it’s unsuitable when you have to engage up close targets.
- Ultra-fine reticle
- Generous eye relief and hold its zero well
- Excellent magnifying options and shooting stability
- Reasonable cost compared to other high power scopes
- Turret tuning is not exactly pleasant
- Parallax adjustment could use some improvements
- Several people receive scopes with missing features
5/ Burris Fullfield II
- Reticle: BDC
- Magnification: 4.5 – 14x
- Lense diameter: 42mm
A combination of classic feature and modern technology, Burris Fullfield II is the scope that could be put to good use by everyone. The high-grade glass provides the shooter with excellent contrast and clarity in a variety of condition. Thanks to the no glare multicoat lens, you are able to shoot accurately in a low light environment.
The scope Ballistic Plex reticle incorporated automatic BDC pattern for shooting between 1000 and 500 yards. Made from top of the line material, the scope would last for generations without fail.
- Nice magnifying levels
- Great quality for the price
- Backed by Burris Forever Warranty
- Come without lens caps
- No independent adjustment ring
6/ Barska AO Varmint – Best long range scope under $300
- Reticle: Mil-dot
- Magnification: 6.5 – 20x
- Lense diameter: 50mm
If you have a tight budget but still want to buy something good, you should definitely take a look at Barska AO Varmint. When accuracy is one of your top priorities, the Barska scope would let you shoot with precision across long distances. The sizable objective lens and multi-coat design ensure top-notch clarity and light transmission in a wide range of condition. Being shockproof, waterproof and fog proof, the scope could wok in pretty much any type environment you could think of. In term of operation, Varmint features a convenient Adjustable Objective (AO), instant access zoom ring and high adjustment turrets.
However, Barska AO Varmint does have a couple of shortcoming such as slightly blur target image at 16x and above, it’s not very stable as well. But if you take into account its price tag, you would see that the scope is still an efficient investment for basic applications. It’s arguably one of the most affordable scopes you could get in its magnification range. Barska backed their product with a limited lifetime warranty so you are well taken care of in the long run.
- Easy to wield
- Quality and affordable
- Commendable reliability
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Get fuzzy at high power settings
- The adjusting mechanism is not reliable
- The customer service is less than helpful sometimes
Features and specification of the best rifle scope under $300
It’s often recommended to avoid abusing your optic too much since that is a delicate accessory. Constant slamming and rattling could make the scope lose its zero adjustments as well so don’t do anything extreme. Nonetheless, when it comes to hunting in the wilderness, you may have to traverse through dense bushes and rough terrains. This means a quality scope must be able to deal with slightly rough handling without breaking apart. Depend on the caliber of your rifle, repeated firing could throw the scope out of alignment so ensure you pick something that could handle the recoil.
The most notable advantage of rifle scopes over traditional iron sights is the ability to magnify the target. Everyone would have different magnification preference due to different shooting style. Low magnification scopes let you shoot faster base on personal experience as well as shooter tuition. In contrast, high magnification optic provides shooters with excellent vision but they are often unwieldy, costly and generally not versatile in certain situations. Variable power scopes let you change the magnification at will but they are pricey and not exactly tough. For an average shooter, a magnifying power of 10x or below that should be sufficient.
One of the most critical components of a rifle scope is its objective lens, the bigger the lens, the brighter the target image. However, a sizable objective lens has a couple of issues that could affect the overall performance of the rifle optic. For example, a big lens must be mounted higher than smaller lenses which make it hard for you to keep up a proper cheek weld. Scopes with big objective lens have a negative impact on the rifle balance and your shooting skill too. As a result, you are advised to go after a scope with a small lens.
Choosing a scope with an appropriate reticle pattern would considerably enhance your shooting accuracy so pick one that suits you the most. There are 3 popular types of reticle pattern that a rifle scope could employ nowadays.
BDC (Bullet Drop Compensator)
Scopes that employ this reticle help you shoot precisely over different distances without any need to adjust the scope setting. A couple of aiming points are included within the reticle pattern that corresponds to different aiming distances.
This is a pretty simple reticle with a thin central crosshair that becomes thicker as it gets close to the scope outer section. The pattern allows you to concentrate your eyes toward the central section while thick bar assists you with aiming in low light condition.
Often considered to be an enhanced version of the Duplex, Mildot reticle excels at long distance shooting. There are several dots integrated into the reticle pattern that you could use to calculate the target range and wind speed. If you are an experienced shooter, a scope with a Mil-dot reticle should come in handy in many applications.
Useful information about rifle scope that you must know
Fixed Magnification Vs Variable Magnification
As the name suggests, fixed magnification mean that the power setting is unchangeable, there is really nothing you can do to increase or decrease it. In exchange, fixed magnification scopes in general contain rather few moveable components so they have excellent reliability and structural strength. On the other hand, variable magnification scopes allow you to choose between a couple of power settings which offer valuable tactical flexibility on the field. As the power setting get higher, the shooter field of view would narrow down accordingly. Moreover, the price of a variable magnification scope is often higher than its fixed counterpart.
In the end, it entirely up to you to decide whether you should go for fixed magnification or variable magnification. In the case your shooting distance rarely changes, a fixed power scope is quite sufficient. Otherwise, grab a variable power scope if you wish to shoot accurately at multiple ranges
What Is Parallax And Why It Affect Your Shooting Precision
To put it plainly, parallax errors are inconsistencies that come into view once you look down the scope of your rifle which hampers sighting accuracy. With the presence of parallax, the scope reticle moves around the target whenever you change the position of your eyes. As a result, the reticle no longer reflects the way your rifle is pointing at. For most of the time, parallax errors cause troubles in high power scopes and they would get more notice as you reach the maximum setting. In addition to that, parallax varies from case to case depending on the distance between the target and the shooter.
Considering the way parallax influences the scope precision, make sure that that you compensate and adjust for parallax before shooting. Fortunately, the majority of modern-day rifle scopes are parallax free out to 100 yards or so and they also have a handy parallax adjustment knob. Because of that, the average shooter should be able to eliminate parallax if he/she knows how to operate scopes. Here is a short guide to help you detect parallax and get rid of it.
- Step 1: Secure your rifle (you could use a stand, a rest or even a table)
- Step 2: Proceed to adjust the parallax adjustment knob base on the range you often shoot. You don’t have to get it on point, just make a quick, educated guess.
- Step 3: Take aim and adjust the position of your eyes.
- Step 4: Focus on the position of the reticle on targets
- Step 5: Move your head to the left a bit while paying close attention to the scope reticle. If the reticle shifts to the left of the target, increase the distance on the adjustment. In the case the reticle moves to the right, you have to promptly decrease the distance adjustment.
Scope Manufacturers That You Should Keep An Eye Out For
Once you manage to conclude that a particular rifle scope is good for you, you don’t have to care too much about its brand. That being said, it’s always a good idea to prioritize examples that come from reputable brands in the industry. As the scope is highly competitive, manufacturers could only become well known by attracting a lot of customers and keep them more or less satisfied. The following names are some the most famous scope brands in business nowadays, keep an eye out for their products.
Utilizing well-tested designs along with high-quality material, Nikon scopes receive many praises from hunters who need something solid. Bright, precise and rugged, these are the most noticeable attributes of Nikon scope which explain their popularity to the public. The brand releases several series of products from entry level to high end so virtually everyone could get a Nikon scope that matches their taste.
Similar to Nikon, Leupold is a venerable optic manufacturer that receives critical acclaim from experts as well as experienced shooters. Unsurprisingly, a lot of militaries around the globe have Leupold rifle scopes in their service from the United States Army to the Israel Defense Forces. If build quality is your number one criterion, Leupold got some fine examples for you.
Dependable and affordable, Burris is the brand to go after in the case you have a rather limited shopping wallet.
While Burris scopes lack top-of-the-line features, they are still excellent choices for the average budget minded shooters. People that are searching the market for a basic and straightforward scope would likely get what they need from Burris.
When it comes to optical goods, Zeiss needs little introduction as it’s among the leading brands in the industry. With the innovative use of state-of-the-art technologies, Zeiss has introduced many quality rifle scopes to the markets. Therefore, if you have money to spare and want to acquire an advanced scope, Zeiss could offer you a whole range of top-notch products.
A familiar name in the low-end market, Simmons offer shooters models that only consist of practical and pragmatic features. However, compared to other budget examples available for purchase, Simmons scopes also have certain features found on high-end scopes. So if you are relatively new to rifle scope and intend to experiment with different optic layouts, Simmons models would definitely be a great start.
Scope FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions/)
- What are the differences between first focal plane scopes and second focal plane scopes anyway?
Base on the way the reticle react when you adjust the magnification, scopes could be classified into 2 categories: first focal plane and second focal plane. In first focal plane scopes, the reticle would grow bigger and smaller as the power setting is increased and decreased. As a result, the holdover point remains essentially the same. On the other hand, the reticle pattern of second focal plane scopes never changes its size no matter what happens. Because of that, the spacing holdover of the scope is only correct at a single power setting., usually the highest.
- What is MOA (also referred to as minute of angle)?
MOA is a measurement system utilized by multiple rifle scope on the market when it comes to windage/elevation adjustments. Generally speaking, 1 MOA is roughly equal to 1 inch at 100 yards.
So for instances, you are shooting at a target 100 yards away and notice that the shots miss the bull’s-eye by 2 inches or so. In order to ensure that the next rounds would hit where you want, you must adjust the point of aim by 2 inches which mean 2 MOA. Depending on the increment of the adjustment turrets, you have to turn a couple of clicks to make the change (a 1/2 MOA system require 4 clicks, a 1/4 MOA system require 8 clicks,…)
- What are fiber optic scopes?
Rifle scopes that are classified as fiber optic model often have brightly colored inserts as well as certain fluorescent materials which keep the sight visible. Thanks to that, fiber optic scopes come in handy in low light condition as they keep the vision of the shooter more or less bright. The fiber optic could be located at the front and/or the back of the scope, depending on the models. However, you need to stay focus and pay attention while using this type of scope. Rough handlings might crack the inserts or damage the fluorescents which lead to reductions in the performance of the optics.
- What is AO (Adjustable Objective)?
When you go shopping for scopes, you would likely pass by examples that have the term “AO” in their description. An AO rifle scope permits the shooter to compensate for parallax error through a ring, a knob or a dial. In many cases, the adjustment range of an AO scope is largely decided by the magnification of the scope itself. It’s a good idea to get an AO scope if you intend to shoot at extended ranges and parallax is among your main concerns. That being said, if you only shoot at close range, the practical value of AO scopes probably not worth the money you pay for them.
- What kind of ring should I use for my scope?
There are many things you must think about when it comes to mounting ring: the scope size, the ring height, … The rule of thumb here is that the bigger the lens, the higher the rings. Virtually every rifle scope with a 40mm objective lens is compatible with low rings as well as standard contour barrels. In the case the lens diameter exceeds 50mm, you need to consider using high rings. With numerous different choices available nowadays, it’s not too hard to get appropriate mounting rings for your rifle scope. For most of the time, it’s widely advised that you get a set of rings that keep the mount low without touching the barrel.
How To Mount Rifle Scope: Tips And Tricks For Beginners
Important Note: Due to safety reason, unload the magazine and clear the chamber of your rifle before mounting the scope. The last thing you want to experience is an accidental discharge while handling your rifle.
- Step 1: Check Out Every Component
Fortunately, most weapon manufacturers already drill and tap their products so it takes little time and effort to outfit modern-day rifles with a scope. However, some scopes only accept specific of bases and as a result, you need to ensure that you get the right component for the job. In addition to that, mounting screws could vary in length so misplacing them would inevitably lead to foul bolt operation. Take the opportunity to check again whether the height and the diameter of your mounting rings are sufficient or not. Once everything seems to your liking, feel free to jump right to the next step.
- Step 2: Get Them In Place
Wipe clean the surface where the base will sit on and apply a moderate amount of oil or rust preventive. After that, mount the scope base, put in the screw and then drive them tight. To be on the safe side, check out the manufacturer manual to decide how much force you should use here. In order to ensure an even fit, you should take your time and tighten the screws of the base alternatively. For rings that utilize rotating socket designs, don’t ever use the scope to get the ring into their spots. Instead, use a wooden dowel that possesses a similar diameter for that kind of task.
- Step 3: Align The Scope Reticle
Place your rifle on solid surfaces, slightly tighten the top halves of the rings and then take aim at straight vertical objects like door frames. As the rifle is more or less level, rotate the scope until you certain that the reticle is aligned properly. At that point, tighten the ring screws in a gradual manner while keeping a close eye on the reticle alignment. So what would you do if you finish mounting the scope yet the sight picture doesn’t seem right somehow? Well, nothing, the rifle scope is fine as it is. The fault actually lies with the way your eyes work.
- Step 4: Adjust The Eye Relief
Really hate to end up with a nasty scope eye? Then you must meddle with the eye relief until the recoil could not touch you. Place the scope as far forward as permitted by the mounting hardware and then get into your usual shooting position. Next, steadily move the scope toward your eye and stop if you manage to achieve a full field of view. For most of the time, a position like that would likely provide you with an eye relief of 3 to 5 inches. But just in case, get the scope of your rifle an inch further forward than you think it should be. That might make the difference if you suddenly have to shoot in an awkward position.
- Step 5: Tighten The Ring Halves
Finally, double check the orientation of the rifle scope and proceed to tighten the remaining halves of the mounting rings. Again, drive the screws alternatively in order to keep the spacing between the halves even.
Zeroing: Step-By-Step Instructions
- 1/ Get Thing Straight On Paper
Generally speaking, zeroing is best done at shooting ranges but there is something could do at home in order to pre-align the scope: boresighting. The method is applicable to every firearm in circulation nowadays, especially the ones that don’t let you look down the barrel from the breech. Simply get a boresighter, which possesses an optical head, and either load it into the chamber or fix it to the muzzle of the rifle. After that, you could start applying adjustments to align the rifle scope with the laser dot projected by the boresighter. By ensuring that the scope is in good position on “on paper”, subsequent zeroing calibrations would be made much easier.
- 2/ Think About The Right Ammunition
Once you zeroed a scope to your rifle, you also zeroed it to the type of ammunition you are using. As a result, any change to the ammunition load, bullet weight as well as overall length could variations in accuracy. So take time to think about what kind of ammunition you should use to get optimal results with the zeroing. If you are unable to make up your mind yet, just shoot a bunch of rounds from different brands and select the most accurate type. Depending on your habits and shooting conditions, it might be necessary to compromise between precision, muzzle velocity and bullet ballistic.
- 3/ Eliminate All Potential Human Errors
Zeroing pretty much has nothing to do with how well you could shoot, it’s all about the actual rifle. Because of that, it’s of utmost importance that you minimize the effect of human error while zeroing your scope. To achieve such a goal, you have to set up your rifle on a rest, a bench or a table. In a pinch, you could even use sandbags or a couple of bricks but needless to say, they are not exactly ideal for the task. For the distance, 100 yards is a good start but it’s not really a bad idea to get straight to the distance you often shoot. When it comes to shooting at extended arrange, you probably want to your point of impact high at 100 yards ranges.
- 4/ Shoot A Couple Of Rounds
If you judge the setup to be adequate for your demands, start shooting and make necessary changes as you go. In the best scenario, you should be able to get fairly close after 5 shots or so but on occasion, you must send out multiple rounds. Due to engineering tolerances, few scopes on the market have truly accurate and consistent adjustments. Hence, prepare to back and forth with the adjustment for a period of time in order to get everything right. It worth noting that an overheated barrel would likely impair the precision of the rifle so short breaks are essentials. Moreover, after roughly 20 shots, give the barrel a good cleaning.
- 5/ Double Check And Triple Check
At long last, the rifle is zeroed, is it high time to hit the field? Well, not yet, there is something else you must do. Remove the rifle from whatever shooting aid you are using, discharge several rounds and see the way things turn out. It goes without saying that in this case, the shots would not be as good due to the fact that you are not perfectly steady. But a significant drop in accuracy might indicate that there are issues with the zeroing. In addition to that, when you reach the hunting area or competition field, check the zero again as a precaution. It’s highly unlikely that a well-mounted scope would lose it zero while traveling but anyway, play it safe.
3 Ways To Tell If Your Scope Is No Longer Usable
Your scope is acting up lately and you wonder if it’s broken or not? There are many things to check before concluding that a particular scope is not in working order aside from noting that aim is off repeatedly. Here are a couple of symptoms of a broken scope, if your optic shows one or more of these sights, you need a new scope.
A rifle scope consists of various parts from the lenses to the turrets and they are secured to each other. As a result, if you shake the scope side to side and hear rattling noises, there is a chance that some internal components are loosed. Needless to say, no optic could function as designed if its body parts are roaming freely all over the place. The only practical solution available is to send in the scope for repair as you lack the skill and knowledge to fix problems like this. In certain case, scopes with loosed components could not be fixed at all and you need to get another one.
- Unresponsive Controls
While shooting on the field, there are times you have to make quick changes to the windage and elevation settings. That means wobbly and loosed turrets are unacceptable since they would interfere with your adjustment. Considering that each change affects the scope point of aim pact, you want every click to respond audibly and snugly. Fortunately, you could theoretically tighten the controls and increase their responsiveness if you happen to have the right tools around. That being said, as with the rattling symptom, you probably have to search the market for a new optic soon.
- Reticle Shift
Normally, the reticle stays at the center of the scope in order to guide your shots into their intended targets. Hence, if somehow the reticle shift and is no longer centered, you have a big problem at your hand. Among the troubles that you may experiences while using scopes, off-center reticle is considered by many people to be the most serious mechanical fault. There is nothing to do besides handling the scope over to the professionals and hope that they could salvage it.
And those are some the best rifle scope under $300 on the market nowadays, see anything you like? Unless you have sophisticated requirements, you don’t really need to get an expensive top of the line scope. With the help of this article, you should be able to get a scope that is both quality and affordable.