As one of the most modular, easy to use, and accurate weapons currently on the market, the AR-15 is justifiably popular. If you are looking to improve your accuracy with this rifle, you may need a carry handle scope. This type of product will improve your aim, allowing you to hit targets more consistently whether you are target shooting or hunting your favorite game.
These scopes attach to the carry handle of your AR-15, without any significant modification. The use of a carry handle does significantly limit your options for optics. But using a simple, secure mount, you can choose from several perfectly suitable and dedicated scopes that attach easily to the carry handle.
Choosing a carry handle scope for your AR-15 can be difficult, but if you know what to look for, it will be much easier. We have provided some valuable information on how to choose one for your specific usage, as well as reviewed four of the best models on the market today.
Comparison of the Best AR-15 Carry Handle Scopes
How to Choose a Scope Suited for Carry Handles
Knowing the characteristics and features of a carry handle scope is key, especially when you have to distinguish a great one from a model that is not so reliable and is crappy in quality. Being one step ahead of the average shopper will give you an edge in your search for a scope of your own. With that said, here’s what you need to look for:
The price is going to be one of the things that budget shoppers will look for first. However, it should not be the only reason you purchase the scope in the first place. Of course, price will still matter, depending on your budget.
But it’s the quality and performance you can afford that matters. Never sacrifice quality for the sake of saving money. Instead, invest in the best quality you can afford, even if it means spending a little more.
The best carry handle scopes are made of high-quality materials. Most scopes are made from high-quality types of aluminum proven to take on beatings, impacts, and whatever else. At the same time, they do a good job handling shock associated with recoil and protect the zero settings of a scope.
If you’re not a gunsmith or don’t possess any gunsmithing skills, odds are you’ll need a scope that is easy to install. Fortunately, the scopes on this list take only a few minutes to install. You won’t need a professional to help you out with installing these.
Review of the Best AR-15 Carry Handle Scopes
The following is a list of the four best AR-15 scopes designed for carrying handles. As you go through each one, it would be wise to note any features and characteristics that make a scope stand out, especially if you already have an idea of what your “dream scope” should consist of. Once you find one that is close enough, consider it a winner.
Now, let’s look at some of the scopes that work best with first scope on our list:
What Recent Buyers Report
This scope impressed a lot of new buyers. They were quite satisfied with how accurate this rifle was from various distances. One user said it took him a few minutes to zero-in the scope at 100 yards. Once it was set, he was able to hit targets effectively from 100 to 200 yards out. The best uses, of course, were for target shooting and hunting, to name a few.
Why it Stands Out to Us
This is probably one of the toughest carry handle scopes on the market, bar none. Made from 7075-T6 aluminum, it’s proven itself to handle a great deal of impact and abuse like nothing else. That’s a good sign if you’re tired of dealing with scopes that always lose their zero settings due to the shock from recoil.
On top of that, the reticle is bright. It will boost your accuracy in either broad daylight or low-light settings. Either way, it’s a scope that will almost guarantee you a better hit probability.
ACOG stands for Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight. It’s made by the world-renowned Trijicon Company, based in Michigan.
The ACOG series of telescopic sights are intended for tactical and sporting applications. The most popular ACOG is the 4x32mm, used as a standard military-grade optic in U.S. armed forces.
With an innovative use of tritium and advanced fiber optics, this device is battery-free. A tritium phosphor lamp provides nighttime illumination. Fiber optics offer optimal daytime illumination.
The Trijicon ACOG is one of the few scopes that securely mounts on an AR-15 A2 carry handle through a special adapter, while giving you a good cheek weld and full view of the metal sights.
The ACOG base fits inside the carry handle channel. It’s fixed in place by the most straightforward method, which is a mounting screw that stays flush. The ACOG attaches quickly and sits flat against the bottom. It gives you a decent cheek weld and unrivaled rigidity.
There are five types of reticle styles and two colors available, but the choice really comes down to personal preference. Several ACOG models use the Bindon Aiming Concept (BAC), an aiming technique excellent for both-eyes-open target acquisition.
Since the ACOG optic is first class, the cost of investment is far higher than its competitors.
Besides its cost, another negative is the eye relief, at about 1.5". It’s the shortest eye relief among the models we’re reviewing here. Also, your zero is going to shift every time you remove and replace the ACOG in the carry handle mount.
Who Will Use This Most
Expect hunters and target shooters to be your primary users of this scope, in particular, especially with a reticle that is equipped with two of the brightest types of sights on the market. Tritium and fiber optics are your best friends when it comes to accuracy and precision (which has been proven time and again with other sights).
If you want durability and accuracy out of a scope for your AR-15 carry handle, the Trijicon ACOG 4x32mm BAC Rifle Scope will be the scope you’ll want in your arsenal. Once you’ve installed this, you can bet it will make your rifle stand out like an intimidating force to be reckoned with.
Barska 4×20 Carry Handle Scope
What Recent Buyers Report
A lot of the new buyers were satisfied with the scope. They were able to install this with ease and zero it in quickly. Once it was good to go, they were able to fire off shots which consistently landed at the bullseye or near it from an average distance of 100 yards. Shooting groups at various ranges were tighter than expected.
Why it Stands Out to Us s
This scope is at the perfect size to fit on most carry handles. Once installed, it’s perfectly aligned to the point where you can land a shot exactly where you need to. If you know how to land a good kill shot, chances are you’ll be able to shoot exactly where it needs to go in a hunting situation.
Many experts will claim an ACOG might be the only option for a carry handle. But on the other end of the spectrum, there is BARSKA 4×20 Carry Handle Scope. This is a budget-friendly and quality low-end model.
The Barska 4x20mm has an old school retro look. Many people try to compare it to the classic Colt optics. In fact, it’s a copy of the Israeli El-Op Eyal 3x20 from the early 1980's, which was made for M-16 Armalite rifles.
This compact and small scope with tubular design attaches by a unique self-locking thumbnut feature. It sets at a good height, neither too high nor too low for a good cheek weld. It also provides decent 2.7-inch eye relief.
The Barska 4x20 has an integrated base that easily mounts onto the inside track of an AR-15's carry handle. This will allow you to use the iron sight during close shooting.
The riflescope has side-adjustment knobs for windage and elevation. It features standard solid-line crosshairs and a bullet drop compensator.
This fun little scope does have a problem with its weak attaching bracket. Be careful when installing it or you could break it right off. Also, the elevation quick adjustment turret is a little too easy to turn.
Who Will Use This Most
This will be a reliable hunting scope for those looking to increase their accuracy and hit probability in a hunting application. You could be hunting varmints, predators, or even some big game. Regardless, this is a scope you’ll want to have handy if you want a straight, accurate shot from a good distance.
The Barska 4x20 Electro Sight Rifle Scope will probably be an AR-15's best friend if you want something that can reach various distances. Plus, the quicker you sight-in this scope, the faster you’ll be able to get some good shots out of it.
Best for the Money:
Vortex Optics Sparc Carry Handle Scope
What Recent Buyers Report
This scope has worked quite well with most users. A lot of people were able to use it in broad daylight or in low-light settings, thanks to the brightness levels. They also added that it was a durable scope design, thus making the scope’s zero settings impossible to throw off after so many rounds. One user said this scope served him well across a few applications.
Why it Stands Out to Us
The Vortex Optics brand is hands-down one of the best names in scopes. The reason why? Their durability. The scope’s body is made from aircraft-grade aluminum, one of the best types of aluminum in the business.
This aluminum has the ability to handle impacts and abuse better than any other type of aluminum that manufacturers use. Other than that, the adjustments are pretty easy to use. If you’re shooting too far to the right or too high, you can make adjustments on the fly.
Vortex Optics has recently released the very compact Sparc I and II generation red-dot optics. These are designed to fit both on the AR-15 flat-top receiver, as well as on the carry handle through a sturdy mounting system.
This light and user-friendly red dot utilizes a crisp 2 MOA dot. It’s perfect for precise, slow shooting, as well as rapid shooting with unlimited eye relief.
With a streamlined design and weatherproof and shockproof construction, the Sparc allows movement without hindrance. That’s obviously key for hunting and other outdoor activities.
The Vortex Sparc offers ten settings for brightness and an automatic shut-off setting after 12 hours.
As a mid-priced option, the Vortex Optics Sparc is a nice option. It’s a well-thought-out and well-made scope, but not an excellent one.
The main complaint refers to lower dot clarity than comparable models. The Sparc red dot is a bit hazy and becomes distorted after the first three or four power settings.
The other drawback is related to the lens caps. They tend to dangle and obstruct your field of view because it’s hard to snap them together.
As a point of advice and maybe a slight design flaw, try never to lay your gun with a Vortex Sparc on its right side. Even such slight pressure on the buttons can turn it on and quickly drain the batteries.
Who Will Use This Most
Expect this to be used by hunters, target shooters, and competitive shooters alike. If you want a scope with the potential to last you a long time and provide you a good deal of reliable service, this might be the scope you’ll want for your AR-15 rifle.
The Vortex Optics SPARC II Red Dot Sight is a scope that’s proven to be tough, accurate, and dependable. Install this scope on your rifle and you’ll have something that will work hard in even the most stressful environments. If you love it, you’ll never find a scope that will replace this one.
What Recent Buyers Report
A lot of users were happy with this scope. The scope’s overall performance stood out as impressive since it was able to accurately hit targets at about 100 yards out. One user said this scope has helped him out in hunting applications both in low-light and daylight conditions. He also added that in a low-light settings, he could recognize his targets quite easily.
Why it Stands Out to Us
One thing that stands out about this scope is the twenty different brightness settings at your disposal. This might be a scope you can rely on around the clock whenever you need to use your AR-15 rifle. Need it for deer hunting before the sun is finally up? You can do that. Need it to ward off any prowlers or home invaders? There’s a setting for that, as well. Overall, the scope is not just durable and accurate, it’s your best friend in any given situation at any time of the day.
This suggestion for the best AR-15 carry handle scope comes from a completely different line of technology from the previous sights.
The flagship of the Electro-Optic Technologies line is the EOTech 512.A65, a holographic sight that offers a basic but accurate, round red dot reticle. Its strength is that this carry handle scope will allow you to shoot at medium or close range with high precision.
This holographic sight is used exactly the same way as a reflex sight. But Holographic Weapon Sights (HWS) are becoming more and more popular with their laser light illuminating the holographic red reticle projected on the target plane.
The EOTech 512.A65 Holographic Sight is the favorite sight of many hunters because it is completely waterproof, shockproof, and fog-proof. Also, like reflex sights, it has unlimited eye relief.
The best way of mounting an EOTech 512 is through an adjustable gooseneck-style mount that fits the carry handle of AR-15s. It will help you line the reticle up perfectly with iron sights.
The EOTech sports an excellent standard one-minute dot with a 65-minute circle. That means it’s fantastic for targets at 5 to 200 yards.
As an added value, it offers 20 brightness levels with a programmable four or eight-hour auto shut-off.
The complaints about this scope are related to both its size and weight. Most of the blame is due to its AA batteries. In addition, despite EOTech’s claim that batteries will last for up to 1,000 hours, the battery life is really not as good as the competition.
This would have been a perfect sight to make night-vision compatible. But unfortunately, it’s not.
Who Will Use This Most
This might be a general-purpose scope, at best. It will be used across many applications. So long as you’re using the right illumination settings, the sky is the limit on how you can use it. If you want a scope that is dependable whenever you need it most, you’d be hard-pressed to find any other scope like it.
If you want something that will fit your carry handle nicely and provide a lot of reliable and dependable service, the Eotech 512 Holographic Weapon Sight is probably the kind of scope you’d want to have on-hand all the time. Don’t be shocked if it gives you the best results right out of the box.
A Bit of History
In the late 1960s, the U.S. military began using an AR-15 variant known as the M16 rifle. The U.S. service rifle has gone through several generations of developing and enhancements since the original model and the result has been an improved “Black Rifle” for both military and civilian use.
Recently re-adopted as the M16A4, the AR-15 is the most tried, proved, and improved battle rifle of the Western world - an excellent piece of equipment.
During the early phase of development, Eugene Stoner added a "carrying handle" to AR-15/M16. We’ve rarely seen any rational person actually carry an AR by the carry handle, though. But the secondary reason for the existence of the handle is reflected in another function - making a more rigid and stable rear sight base, but that’s another story.
The initial appeal of this revolutionary select-fire gun with signature carry handle was based more on simplicity and effectiveness. However, the modern AR-15 has an emphasis on modularity. The removable carrying handle is the main feature of the M16A4 MWS (Modular Weapons System), setting it apart from preceding M16 renditions. Its purpose is to accommodate mounting accessories such as scopes and other secondary devices.
The AR-15 is a commercial designation for the U.S. service M16/M4 rifles and carbines. The main difference is that the AR-15 is semi-automatic only. The M16 is a selective fire weapon. Not all AR models have the carry handle. But the classic AR Sporter design is still quite prevalent in the gun safes of law-abiding citizens.
In the past, using carry handle-mounted optics was standard practice across all the armed forces. Civilians also followed the trend but most people had to adjust their purchases to their budgets. The military, of course, always had to worry a bit less about the price tag.
Lower priced scopes usually come with mounts that are somewhat inferior. They have more substantial deviations and tolerances and are made of lower-quality material. That makes them more susceptible to slipping off the carry handle groove or losing zero.
We’ve looked at some options for handling issues with mounts for carry handles in another post. But there are a couple of other issues to look out for with carry handle-mounted scopes. One is the difficulty in getting a proper cheek weld. This often causes inexperienced shooters to cant the rifle, leading to widened shot groups.
Some carry handle mounts are drilled to allow you to still use the original iron sights but they increase the scope height compared to a flat-top AR receiver. The sight line is far too high for the average shooter to get a good cheek weld.
Also, the higher the scope is, the more force and torque will affect it during recoil.
To minimize or even neutralize such issues, the best option for most AR-15s owners is to purchase optics that attach directly to the carry handle. This may be through an integrated or a detachable base. Alternatively you can employ a rail on the carry handle and mount a scope to the rail.
Perks of Adding a Scope to Your Carry Handle
If you choose a scope to best suit your carry handle, you’ll enjoy some excellent benefits. Missing out on them should be the last thing you’d ever want to do. So here’s what you’ll experience as a result of adding on a scope:
Of course, we take a look at one of the more obvious benefits of a scope. A good scope will give you a better boost in accuracy, especially at ranges when you can reach out and touch something at distances you never thought possible. Once attached to your rifle, you’ll notice the difference almost immediately.
Let’s face it, maligned scopes will throw off your shots. Scopes that can work with carry handles will always be straight, perfect, and will guarantee an exact landing spot for every shot. Simply put, you won’t have to worry about having to re-align the scope yourself. If properly installed, you’ll already have it perfectly aligned to begin with.
Puts The Carry Handle to Good Use
The thing about carry handles is that some people use them to make a rifle look good. What they don’t understand is that it can be useful in other ways. The same can be said about Picatinny or Weaver rails. Some use it for looks while others will use it as a way to customize their rifle with the right scope or optic.
We hope these guidelines help you choose the right carry handle scope. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the great opportunity to equip your AR-15 with an excellent, all-around optic.
There is no reason to switch to a flat-top upper receiver, especially if your budget allows you to invest in higher-end scopes or red dots that guarantee the tightest tolerances possible, a consistent cheek weld, and continuous zero holds.