Top 5 AR optics under $500

m&p15 moe-3

You just bought an AR15, and because you’re a smart person, you bought a quality AR from a quality manufacturer like Colt or Smith & Wesson. Unfortunately, that means you’re out about $1,000 (unless you bought an M&P15 Sport), and you’ve only got $500 left to spend on an optic, because let’s face it your AR needs an optic. Luckily, we are in living in a pretty awesome world right now where decent glass is more affordable than ever. Here are 5 AR optics, each of which I or someone on staff has personal experience with for under $500 that I recommend. These are not presented in any particular order.

1. Burris AR-332

Troy Defense Lamb Carbine with Burris 332

The Burris AR-332 3×32 is a great choice for solid AR optics on a budget. You can get it for $299 from Amazon at the link before this text. I used one in a couple of three-gun matches, and one of my coworkers has successfully used his to whack a couple of running coyotes. It’s a three power prismatic sight with built in BDC that’s set up for 55 grain ammo sighted in at 100 yards.

2. Leupold Mark AR 1.5-4x

Shelley Rae rockcastle

This scope we probably have the most experience with of all the optics in the office. Shelley Rae has been using it as her primary optic on her AR for the better part of three years now, and it has done nothing but impress us. Available on Amazon for $299, the Leupold 115388 Mark AR MOD 1 Rifle in my experience is incredibly tough. Our model has been dropped, banged around, and even has a slight crack in the lens. But it’s never lost zero and not once has it failed. I have been genuinely impressed with its performance. Ours has spent most of its career riding in an excellent Warne mount, so that has probably contributed to its durability as well.

3. Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x

Bushnell AR optics 1-4x

This scope is one I used with good affects on prairie dogs in Wyoming. It’s very clearly designed to be an entry level 3-gun optic as well, with the Throw Down lever to quickly adjust from 1 power all the way up to 4. When hunting prairie dogs, I never went lower than 2 power with it, because prairie dogs are small, so I couldn’t tell you what it’s like to use as a pure 1x. That being said, like every other optic on this list, it’s been used, and holds up well. Bushnell AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle AR-223 Riflescope with Target Turrets and Throw Down PCL, 1-4x 24mm is available for $199 on Amazon, which is a great deal.

4. Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic

aimpoint patrol rifle optic

Savvy readers knew this was coming, and you weren’t wrong. The Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic is Aimpoint’s entry into the “budget” optic space, and it’s no coincidence that it’s the closest to that $500 limit on the list. My experience with the PRO is limited to T&E evaluations, and I’ve never really beat on one like I have the other entries on this list. That’s okay though, because it’s a friggin’ Aimpoint and I know it’s going to be awesome. Available on Amazon for $424, it’s hard to go wrong with the Aimpoint PRO Patrol Rifle Optic. Because honestly, if it says “Aimpoint” you know that the quality is going to be there.

5. Trijicon RMR

Tristar Raptor with RMR

Okay, I know that there are about a billion flavors of RMR out there, and yes the one that’s best suited to carbine operations is over $500. But it’s only one hundred bucks over the limit, and there are RMRs right at or under $500. The best choice in that $500 band is probably this version of the Trijicon RMR the OG RM01, with a 3.25 MOA red dot powered by a battery. For under $500 you can get the dual illumination RMRs, these use fiber optics and tritium to illuminate the sight, so there are no batteries required. I have banged the hell out of some RMRs, down at Gunsite, on my rifles in classes and matches, and I think they are just about the bees knees for optics. You can use them on pistols, rifles, shotguns, pretty much anything that needs a dot will take an RMR.

I hope this of affordable optics helps you when you’re making your next choice. All the optics on the list have been personally used either by myself or someone on the staff, and I would recommend any one of them in a heartbeat. I tried to find something to fit every budget; when you start dipping below the $200 mark things get a little more difficult to find. Although I do want to give a shout out and honorable mention to the Primary Arms Micro Dot. If you want an Aimpoint Micro but can’t afford it, that would probably be your best bet.


  1. I also like the Primary Arms Advanced Micro Dot ( It’s a significant step up from their cheaper red dots (which are really just range toys). It’s much better built and sealed, and has a 50k hour battery life like an Aimpoint Micro, for around $170. I haven’t had mine for long enough to say that it’s just as a good as the real deal (and it probably isn’t), but it’s close, and you can literally get 4 of them for the price of one real Aimpoint Micro T-1. Normally not a fan of Made in China but for the price it’s a compelling buy.

  2. What do you think of the new meprolight? I was on the mako group last night and a 400 dollar sight from a credible group that runs on a single AA has a certain appeal to it.

  3. I picked up the Aimpoint Pro for my farm/truck gun. A little on the heavy side, but otherwise a great buy.

    I have looked at the Leupold to use in local 3 gun matches, but was worried the 1.5X one the low end would be a problem for fast shooting at close targets.

  4. I have the Leupold Mark AR 1.5-4x but with the firedot. The glass is nice like all Leupold scopes and it is very clear. I use it as a 3 gun rifle and used it in a night match with a weapon mounted light and it worked well for that as well. Holds zero, easy adjustments, all that good stuff. It’s a great scope.

    What I don’t like about it is that the dot has gone out on me in the middle of a string of fire once, and the small 1in tube makes it a little less generous in side to side eye relief. The 1.5x works well for what it is, but it is no substitute for a true 1x setting. I was kind of hoping for something that shot like both a red dot and a scope, but this really just shoots like a low power scope, (which makes sense because that is what it is). For my next scope I will probably go for something in 30mm and with a true 1x but that was out of my budget at the time.

    It’s still a great scope.

  5. Been there, done that with cheap optics….

    Just buy a used T1/H1, suck it up, you won’t need to replace it. Put it in a fixed mount because QD is kind of nonsense if you are budget shopping optics but think you are going to re-zero every time you swap it around.

      1. RMR maybe but a good mrds and you are at the almost to cost of the T1/H1, but the Pro I would have the same issue as the EOTechs. I have no room for 10-14oz optic! There are just much lighter and better options.

        1. Yeah, honestly I think that if you’re willing to spend $500, why not save up the extra bucks and get a $600 dollar RMR or an H1. But if you’re shopping under 400 bucks, then the Burris or Mark AR makes sense.

  6. I’ve been through the gamut of “it’s basically as good as…” optics. After way more trial and error than any intelligent person would’ve put themselves through, my ARs (pistol, carbine, and M&P 15-22) now all wear Aimpoints.

  7. I have the Laupold Mark AR and the Aimpoint, two great scopes, for two different uses, but great nonetheless.

    I put the Leuplold on a Warne RAMP Mount!! Great mount for this scope!!

  8. i would also include the Virtex Strikfire II over some of the others. The RMR is hardly an optic under 500. The Leupold AR Mod 1 is a solid choice for sure.

  9. Vertex should be on that list. I own the Crossfire 1-4 and the Sparc. Both are great quality scopes for the price and their VIP warranty is outstanding!

    1. I think I’ve shot a total of five, maybe 10 rounds through guns with EoTechs on them. Not enough for me to form an opinion, and certainly not enough for a valid review.

  10. (unless you bought an M&P15 Sport)- Which I did. And youre article couldn’t have come at a better time.

    Are the compact prismatic scopes any faster/user friendly than the more typical “tube and a couple of lenses” scopes, or is the only advantage the reduced size? I got my first look through the Burris AR-223 at a gun store yesterday, and I liked it, but I’m wondering what it can do that a decent 1-4 or 1-6 can’t. I’m not leaning in any particular direction, but I’d like to get a better idea before buy.

    1. Variable power scopes are the hotness right now; however I am old school and prefer a fixed prismatic. If I had unlimited money, all my guns would have 3x ACOGs on them.

    1. Because I’ve never used one, and I clearly stated in the article that I wanted to confine the scope of the discussion to optics I, or someone I trust a great deal, has.

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