Best AR-15 1-4x Scopes – 2019 Buyer’s Guide

As an introduction, here is a quote from the SIG Sauer Electro-Optics Review by Craig Boddington on American Rifleman's website.

“My old friend and a great sheep hunter, Jack Atcheson, Jr., once commented that 'optics cost nothing and weigh nothing.' What he meant, of course, is that the role of optics is so important that neither how much you pay for them nor how heavy they are to pack should be significant factors in your choices.”

Optic Rifle Scopes have become a necessity for modern shooters. Choosing a scope for your AR-15 depends upon several factors, with the most important being the range of your rifle. The most basic type of variable rifle scopes available in the market is the 1-4x scope. Here, we’ll be talking about these scopes and their effective use with your AR-15 platform. We’ll also take a look at some of the best 1x-4x scopes available on the market.

Comparison of the Best 1-4x Scopes

PRODUCT DETAILS
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Nikon M-223 1-4×20

  • Specifically designed to fit your AR-15.
  • Featuring spring-loaded Instant Zero-Reset Turrets.
  • It can be used with Nikon’s Spot On Ballistic Match Technology.
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Trijicon Accupoint TR24 1-4×24

  • Illuminated Red Triangle Reticle powered by tritium.
  • Aircraft-grade aluminum housing, waterproof and fogproof.
  • A variable scope with true 1x magnification at the low end.
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Vortex Crossfire II 1-4×24

  • Non-illuminated V-Plex reticle with Duplex crosshairs.
  • Compact 1-4x24mm riflescope with 30mm main tube.
  • Low-powered scope with an extremely wide field of view.
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Bushnell AR Optics 1-4×24mm

  • It comes with a 2nd focal plane Drop Zone 223 BDC reticle.
  • Exclusively designed scope for the AR-15 with 4 times magnification range.
  • Low-profile turrets provide a generous 100 MOA windage and elevation ranges.
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What is a 1-4x Scope?

What are these numbers and what do they mean? If you are a novice with optic scopes, these numbers define the magnifying power of a scope. Magnification refers to the number of times an object can be viewed closer or enlarged. A 1x scope provides one times the magnifying power, a 2x provides two times the magnifying power and so on. This means that with a 2x scope, you can view an object that appears to be two times closer than its present position.

Scopes can have fixed or variable magnifying power. With fixed power scopes, you can attain only a fixed magnifying power while viewing through them. A variable scope offers a wide range of magnifying powers. For example, in a 1x-4x scope, you can attain magnification of 1x, 1.5x, 2x, 2.3x, so on and so forth to a maximum of 4x magnification. Variable scopes are good for taking shots at different distances and for different target sizes.

Another important aspect of an optic scope is the objective lens diameter. For example, if a scope is marked as 1-4 x 24 mm, then 24 is the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters. The objective lens is in the front and is the aperture where the light enters the scope. A larger objective lens means more light will enter the scope, which in turn will generate a brighter and clearer image.

aiming with a ar-15

Other important factors are the reticles and focal plane of a scope. A reticle was simply known as a crosshair some decades ago, until the advent of the latest, more technically-advanced crosshairs known as reticles, ranging from duplex and BDC to mil-dots and illuminated ones, there are numerous reticle types available in the market.

Another important aspect is the focal plane. There are FFP (First Focal Plane) and SFP (Second Focal Plane) scopes available in the market. The basic difference among these is that, while you zoom over the target, the reticle size increases respective to the target in an SFP scope, whereas in an FFP, it does not. SFP scopes are without a doubt amazing for long-range shooting.

One very minor and often overlooked factor to check for in a scope are the target turrets. These turrets have knobs to make adjustments for windage and elevation for long-range shooting. Before buying a scope, you must ensure that target turrets are accurate, easy to use, and audible (if that’s available in your price range).

Perks of Using a 1-4x Scope

Since we are talking about adding 1-4x scopes to the AR-15, let’s look at some of the reasons this combination makes sense.

Teach The Basics

When a novice learns shooting, the trainer has to explain the fundamentals and basic techniques. A 1x-4x scope is an appropriate choice for teaching anyone about long-range shooting. Of course, here we just mean longer ranges than you can view with the naked eye.

The AR-15 proves to be an excellent rifle for teaching people to shoot with centerfire rifles. A 1-4x scope ensures that proper basics of shooting through scopes are learned without letting them get bogged down in the more complex adjustments of higher-range scopes.

Range of the Rifle

According to the instruction manual, the effective range of an AR-15 rifle is 550 meters (600 yards). Remember, this is the effective range. If you are shooting heavier subsonic rounds or using bull barrels, you can achieve another 100 - 200 meters, but that’s as an expert shooter. A 1-4x scope is quite effective in the normal range, giving you a clear shot at different distances.

rifle target shooting

Hunting in the Woods

AR-15 rifles are among the most-loved rifles for hunting in North America. The silent recoil, weight, powerful ammo, and easy operation make it a great tool for hunting. If you’ve been on hunting trips (especially for whitetails and mule deer), you might be aware that high magnification scopes are next to useless in dense woods. That’s because once you try a higher magnification, all you’ll see will be magnified tree trunks with beetles on them.

Quick Adjustments

Scopes with 1-4x optics offer optimum magnification for quick acquisition of targets over varied distances. Devices with higher magnification powers are quite difficult to adjust and it is a struggle to create a perfect sight-picture at short distances. These 1-4x scopes offer quick adjustments in line with the range of your AR-15 rifle.

Weight

More power means larger lenses, more components, and thus, a heavier scope. A 1-4x optic scope has a comparatively smaller objective lens, small main tube, and fewer components. This helps reduce its weight, meanwhile keeping it effective at the shorter distances you’ll probably be shooting with your AR-15.

Quick Take - The Best AR-15 1-4x Scopes

These are our recommendations for the best 1-4x scopes for the AR-15:

  1. Nikon M223 1-4x20
  2. Trijicon Accupoint TR24 1-4x24
  3. Vortex Crossfire II 1-4x24

Review of the Best 1-4x Scopes for the AR-15

Let’s take a quick look at some of the best low magnification scopes that will mount to your AR-15.

Best Overall: 
Nikon M223 1-4x20

nikon m223 scope review

Pros

  • Point-blank reticle
  • Single-piece durable main body
  • Eye box technology with a constant 4” eye relief
  • Enhanced ring mount spacing means it can be attached to any rifle, including magnums

Cons

  • Weighs 13 ounces, which is a bit more than its counterparts

What Recent Buyers Report  

Many people prefer low-magnification scopes over red dot sights because of their versatility and reliability. Whether you need short-range precision or accurate shots to 200 yards, Nikon's point-blank reticle will deliver fast and accurate shots. However, for some customers, this is not the best solution since this shrunken and thinned variation of the standard duplex reticle with a big dot in the center covers the bullseye, making target engagement slower than with a red dot or other similar type sights.

This is not an illuminated reticle and in combination with small 20 mm objective lens, it is less than ideal for super-low-light conditions.

Anyway, the M-223 1-4x20 riflescope incorporates some of the latest adjustment technologies from Nikon Sport Optics, which provides excellent optical clarity entirely above par at this price point.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Nikon Optics has released two scope lines dubbed M-223 and P-223, designed explicitly for AR-15-style rifles in standard chamberings. 

Our model number NK16300 from the M-223 family boasts 1x-4x zoom power and 20 mm objective lens. This low-magnification scope offers a vast field of view and permanent four-inch eye relief for quick and effortless target acquisition.

For a low-magnification scope and slender body, it is unusual to see bulky exposed target-style turrets for windage and elevation. However, they come in precise 1⁄4-MOA increments and provide up to a whopping 120 MOA of total adjustment.

The M-223 also sports a very long body because of the two-inch long sunshade which provides the optic with excellent anti-glare performance.

The Nikon's M-223 1-4x20 Riflescope is assembled in the Philippines and consists of a one-inch aluminum single-piece tube, which is nitrogen-filled and O-ring sealed to make it completely watertight.

You can purchase separately Nikon's Spot-on Custom Turrets and one-piece mount for the M-223 for attaching it to your AR-15.

A masterpiece from Nikon, the M223 has been specifically designed to fit your AR-15. The 1-4x scope features a 20 mm objective lens, which creates bright images for the effective range of an AR-15. The wide field of view and point-blank reticle provide quick and effortless target acquisition. The patented ultra-clear-coat optical system provides an incredibly flat sight picture and maximum light transmission.

The elevated target turrets offer precise ½ MOA adjustment for windage and elevation. Nikon’s eye box technology offers a constant four-inch eye relief. The single-piece, main body construction is nitrogen-filled and O-ring sealed. The scope is waterproof, shock-proof, and fog-proof.

Who Will Use This Most

This scope is made with .223 AR-15 style rifles in mind, especially when coupled with a unique mount explicitly developed for the M-223 series of scopes that fits Picatinny rails found atop most flattop ARs.

The M-223 is also a solid option for those interested in competitive shooting, like three-gun or other events where it commonly requires fast transitions between close and medium-range targets.

With a lifetime warranty, this M-223 is definitely your best option for home defense and a go-to scope you can depend on without worrying about damaging or scratching it in the harshest hunting or tactical conditions.

Bottom Line

With a fully multi-coated optics and  4x zoom range, Nikon’s M-223 comes with noticeable improvements over the more affordable P-223 line. The Nikon M-223 scope offers similar basic feature sets and capabilities of higher-end family of Nikon scopes such as the target turrets with return-to-zero capability and crystal clear glass, which boasts up to 95-percent light transmission.

trijicon accupoint scope review

Pros

  • Zero forward emission
  • Aircraft-grade aluminum body
  • Illuminated Triangle Reticle with SFP
  • Battery-free operation due to tritium phosphor lamp
  • Auto-adjustment of the illumination with manual override as well

Cons

  • A bit heavier than its counterparts (14 ounces)

What Recent Buyers Report  

While the Accupoint 1-4x24mm is a "true" 1x scope, it comes with a noticeably narrower field of view at 100 yards compared to similarly priced optics.

The eye relief in the TR24R is advertised at 3.2″ which may be bordering for shooters, but since it is mainly intended for use with small-caliber ammunition, it may not represent a big problem.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Trijicon Accupoint 1-4x24 has a traditional scope configuration that uses a tritium aiming-point illumination for speed target acquisition. This battery-free optic utilizes fiber-optic technology with a tritium phosphor lamp to illuminate the reticle in low to no light.

The Trijicon Accupoint TR24R features a post-style Tri-Dot reticle with a triangle on it that is illuminated by fiber-optic spool located by the ocular. Besides the red color, there are also amber or green– TR24A and TR24G, respectively. 

The sharp triangle reticle is set up in the second focal plane and allows you both open eyes while shooting at 1x and allows easy movement up to 4x magnification.

The TR24R caomes with turrets capped with threaded aluminum covers and marked in 1/4 MOA increments.

The Accupoint's main body 30 mm tube is made of 6061-T6 aluminum and weighs in at 14.4 ounces by itself. 

The Trijicon Accupoint has a lifetime limited warranty, with a 15-year guarantee on the tritium as an illumination source.

The Trijicon Accupoint TR24 optical rifle scope has a 1-4x magnification with a large 24 mm objective lens. The scope features a tri-dot illuminated reticle which does not require batteries to operate. The fiber-optic technology automatically adjusts the illumination of the reticle (a manual override option is available).

The tritium phosphor lamp illuminates the reticle in low to no light. The illuminated reticle does not project any light through the front objective lens. Sealed in a high-grade aluminum casing, the multi-coated lenses provide superior clarity with zero distortion.

Who Will Use This Most

Sealed in a high-grade aluminum casing and equipped with a multi-layer coated lenses, the Accupoint 1-4x24 is perfect for those big game driven-hunts or competition (3-gun) where close encounters are common and a wide field of view is a must.

The Trijicon TR24R is ideal for close-range shots, but it also works from point-blank to about 350 yards, providing hunters optimum aiming-point illumination.

Bottom Line

While the 1-6x riflescopes have quickly become the new standard for low-powered optics, the old-fashioned 1-4x, like the Trijicon Accupoint Triangle riflescope still holds its own.

This low-powered scope, paired with Trijicon's patented triangle post, produces battle-proven aiming systems that speeds target acquisition and extends available shooting hours.

Best for the Money:
Vortex Crossfire II 1-4x24

vortex crossfire 2 30mm scope review

Pros

  • Illuminated reticle
  • Dot reticle with duplex crosshairs
  • Aircraft-grade aluminum construction
  • Fast-focus eyepiece and long eye relief
  • Backed by an unlimited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Heavy (16 ounces)
  • Effective with live batteries only

What Recent Buyers Report  

The traditional duplex-type reticle is not illuminated, but paired with a wide field of view and fast focus eyepiece it is perfect for its intended purpose – fast tactical shooting on the move. 

The compact, rugged Crossfire II comes with capped turrets, but some users don’t prefer that design for dynamic shooting situations.

Like all Vortex small magnification riflescopes, the Crossfire II 1-4×24 has fixed parallax on 100 yards, which allows for good, all-purpose use. However, a few shooters have issues with an appalling parallax at close range, which may be a fault of the quality control department.

Why it Stands Out to Us

However, like the high-end Trijicon Accupoint, the Vortex Crossfire II uses a 30 mm tube diameter rather than the one-inch tubes much of the competition offers.

The large, one-piece housing is made of aircraft-grade aluminum and comfortably and securely provides reliable mechanics with a 4x zoom factor.

While the entire construction is scratch-resistant, its waterproof, one-piece tube is nitrogen-purged for fog-proof use at low temperatures.

All lenses are fully multi-coated for image brightness and contrast to assure accurate shot placement in low-light conditions.

This entry-level wide angle riflescope offers a great field of view ranging from vast 96.1 feet at 1x to 24.1 feet at 4x zoom. It is a significant advantage for faster target spotting, acquisition, and tracking.

The new Crossfire II line features longer eye relief of four inches and capped turrets to reduce the risk of damage. The new, zero resettable turrets provide a 1/2 MOA adjustment, offering a rather large maximal adjustment travel of 100 MOA for both elevation and windage.

The second generation of Crossfire riflescopes is available with two types of reticles. Our model CF2-31047 features the simple and effective second focal plane V-Plex reticle.

It also features multi-coated lenses for acquiring a clean and clear target image. The scope has been sealed with inert gases to keep it fog-proof, shock-proof, and waterproof under harsh weather conditions. The anodized aircraft-grade aluminum body makes the scope durable and apt for hunting trips.

The fast-focus eyepiece, complemented by an illuminated center-dot reticle allows quick and easy target acquisition. The elevated target turrets allow re-indexing of the turret to zero after sighting-in the riflescope. The scope is backed by an unlimited lifetime warranty by Vortex. It is exceptional for three-gun competitions.

Who Would Use This Most?

The 1-4x24 mm Crossfire II Riflescope from Vortex Optics is a low-powered type of scope purpose-built for mounting on AR-style platforms or MSR rifles. 

While some gun authors deem it an entry-level hunting riflescope, the Vortex Crossfire II is a great option for your AR, regardless of whether you are hobbyist or expert shooter who may be using it for professional shooting.

Like other 1-4x scopes, this is exceptionally good for hunting and three-gun competitions as they expand rifle shots to various distances out to 100 yards and beyond.

This second generation of Crossfire riflescopes will perfectly be suited for varmint hunting out to 120 yards or target shooting from 0-200 yards.

Bottom Line

The Vortex Crossfire II 1-4x24 is an extremely versatile optic packed with many features that make it an ideal telescopic sight for your AR, shotgun, muzzleloader, or .22 rifle. 

Crafted from premium materials, this scope is one of the company’s more affordable offerings that will exceed the demands of most gun aficionados.

bushnell scope 1-4 24mm

Pros

  • Excellent eye-relief
  • Multi-coated optics
  • Quality construction
  • BDC 223 ballistic reticle
  • Best value for the money

Cons

  • Comparatively heavy
  • Reticle is not illuminated

What Recent Buyers Report  

While the exposed turrets allow you to dial quickly and accurately with audible clicks, they aren’t as convenient to reset to zero as the push/pull style found on its counterparts. Besides, customers lament of the turrets adjusting being on mil-specifications, while the ballistic reticle doesn’t use mil-dots at all.

If we look at similar class optics, this Bushnell compact scope is comparatively heavy at a weight of 16.9 ounces, but provides outstanding low-light performance.

With further comparison, some users noted the image through this scope at 1X magnification looks closer to a 1.25X zoom.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Bushnell line of AR optic riflescopes is available in six configurations, but the model AR91424 comes with their new Drop Zone-223 Ballistic Reticle, with aiming points out to 500 yards. This modified duplex-style reticle with four tapered posts and a thin crosshair is placed in the second focal plane (SFP). It is designed for use with 223 Rem/5.56 ammunition loaded with 55 to 62-grain projectiles.

With fully multi-coated optics, the Bushnell AR optical system provides incredible brightness to the sight picture.

This compact and straightforward riflescope provides a consistent 3.5" eye relief through entire 4x magnification range and generous a 112' field of view at 100 yards. 

Bushnell has created the ideal AR-15 optic with aluminum housing based on a single-piece 30 mm maintube that is waterproof and shock-resistant. They have accomplished the waterproof construction due to the O-ring which seals the optics to keep internal components dry inside. 

Besides that, nitrogen-purged optics remain stable regardless of ambient temperature for ultimate fog-proof protection.

As the name suggests, this scope from Bushnell has been designed exclusively for the AR-15. Fully multi-coated optics provide incredible brightness to the sight picture. The Drop Zone 223 BDC reticle has caliber-specific markings and aiming points out to 500 yards to allow you to shoot every bullet with pinpoint accuracy.

Who Will Use This Most

This feature-packed AR optic offers both outstanding close-quarters accuracy and medium-range tactical target shooting. Though some customers claim that Bushnell AR/223 is an excellent entry-level riflescope, some professionals successfully use this optic on patrol rifles in the urban jungles.

This optic is engineered for short distance target shooting – CQB. However, with ballistic compensation dots, this ultra-compact (9.5"-long), low-powered scope also represents a precise aiming tool for mid-range tactical scenarios.

Bottom Line

The Bushnell AR Optics family is intended for every AR platform from the .22 Rimfire to .223 Rem/5.56 firearms. Indeed, at this price point, it is not high-end glass, but it works flawlessly for short-range engagements.

If you're looking for a good quality, fast-deploying optic to outfit your AR, the versatile Bushnell AR Optics scopes are a very good choice in the lower magnification range.

Leupold VX-2 1-4×20 review

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Click adjustments
  • Leupold lifetime guarantee
  • Second focal plane duplex reticle
  • Fog-proof, waterproof, and shockproof

Cons

  • No sunshade
  • No holdover reticle
  • Doesn’t have a zero stop

The Leupold VX-2 scope has a variable magnification of 1x - 4x. The 20 mm objective lens is large enough to let a good amount of light enter the scope at ranges respective to the scope’s power.

The index-matched lens system and lead-free glass offer a brighter image. A custom dial system lets you adjust the ¼ MOA windage and elevation easily with your fingers. The scope is fully waterproof and the tube is filled with argon/krypton to make it shockproof and durable. The click adjustments let you keep track of the windage and elevation without removing your eye from the ergonomic aperture.

The scope weighs only 8.1 ounces and has a long eye relief of 3.7 - 4.2 inches. This Leupold VX2 scope also features a Second Focal Plane Duplex Reticle to let you take precise shots over a long distance.

Conclusion

Relative to the range of an AR-15, 1-4x scopes are an apt choice for taking short, mid, and long-range shots. Factors such as magnification, objective lens size, focal plane, and reticles affect the effectiveness of a scope. 

1-4x scopes have a wide field of view (FOV) and are easily adjustable, making them great for hunting and three-gun competitions. Illuminated reticles may or may not be a concern while choosing 1-4x scopes because of your hunting habits and local state laws. By far, 1-4x scopes are perfect for your AR-15 if you’re not really looking to go sniping.

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