Best AR-15 Long Range Scopes – Buyer’s Guide [2019]

The AR-15 has a reputation for being a mid-range shooting firearm, but that’s definitely not true.

An AR-15 can be used to take moderately long-range shots as well.

For this reason, we have come up with some relevant facts and a list of some of the best AR-15 long-range scopes available in the market. So let’s get started.

Quick Comparison Chart of Long Range AR-15 Scopes

PRODUCT DETAILS
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Leupold - Mark AR Mod 1 6-18x40mm Adjustable Objective Scope With Ims Mount

  • High Magnifying Power of 6x-18x
  • Maximum Structural Integrity With Aircraft-Grade Aluminum One-Inch Main Tube
  • Includes a Single Piece IMS Mount for Easy Mounting
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Leupold VX-R Patrol Rifles Scopes

  • Firedot TMR Reticle.
  • Objective measured at 40mm.
  • Magnification levels of 3 to 9 times.
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Vortex Strike Eagle 3-18x44 Riflescope w/ EBR-4 MOA

  • Objective measured at 44mm.
  • Magnification levels of 3 to 18 times.
  • Multi-coated lenses for scratch protection and light gathering for low-light settings.
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Bushnell Optics Drop Zone-223

  • Fully multi-coated optics for excellent brightness.
  • Side parallax adjustment for long-range shooting.
  • Made from durable aluminum-alloy for maximum protection.
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Vortex Optics Strikefire II Red Dot Sight

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What’s The Effective Range of an AR-15?

To choose the right scope and claim it’s long range, we have to base that on the gun’s effective shooting range. Effective range means the range in which a weapon is effective, according to U.S. Military standards. It wouldn’t make sense to recommend a fantastic long-range scope if the bullet itself has no chance of reaching a target at the range of the scope.

The range of an AR-15 is quite a debated topic among firearm owners, with a lot of division among different users. If we abide by the factory instruction manual, the AR-15 has an effective range of approximately 550 meters (600 yards).

AR-15s are available in three different models which differ in barrel length. They are the carbine (16 inches), standard (20 inches), and target (24 inches) versions. The AR-15 comes chambered for different calibers and ammo types, however, the most common AR-15 uses the 5.56 NATO or .223 REM round.

target shooting scopes

The reason we’re talking about the barrel length, chamber, and ammunition is that we are now going to talk about the range of an AR-15, where these and several other factors come into play. On a normal sunny day with zero windage, the AR-15 can shoot flawlessly up to 300 yards in the hands of an average shooter. However, in the hands of an ace, the AR-15 can shoot two-inch groups precisely at 800-1000 yards.

Longer barrel lengths mean that the bullet reaches a higher velocity. (It is important to mention here that barrel length is not proportional to the accuracy of a shot at a short range). The velocity is because of the larger volume provided by the powder for burning. Higher-velocity bullets have a flatter trajectory over a long range and a lower drop, which does produce better accuracy over a distance.

The effective range for a 16” barrel will be around 500 yards, whereas the effective range of a 20” barrel will be around 800 yards.

Another important factor respective to the range of an AR-15 is the chambering. A 5.56/.223 round will provide you with an effective range of approx 500 yards. Heavier rounds like .308 will obviously provide a longer range of 800-1000 yards.

What to Look for in a Long-Range Scope

If we accept the maximum range for an AR-15 is around 1000 yards, we can better define the type of scope we need for those longer limits. At this range, we need an optimum optical scope for precise shooting. We’ll look at scopes that can handle 500-1000 yards.

There are a few factors you’ll want to consider seriously while choosing a long-range scope for your AR-15 rifle.

Magnification

Hitting anything consistently beyond 1000 yards shows you have either miraculous skills or amazing luck. So shooting at the range we’re talking about doesn’t require very high magnification optics. According to the old rule of thumb, every 1x equals 100 yards. An optical scope with a maximum of 15x magnification will be the best you need for your AR-15. Anything beyond that will make it difficult to acquire your target quickly.

Objective Size

The size of the objective lens is quite an important aspect in long-range shooting. A larger objective lens means more light will enter. In turn, this will produce a brighter image. Scopes up to 12x magnification generally feature objective lenses of a maximum 40 mm in diameter.

A large objective lens will, however, be bulkier and will have to be placed higher over your rifle.

Reticle

The reticle (cross-hair) of your scope helps you in aiming precisely at your target. There are a multitude of reticles available on the market. Reticles such as BDC and mil-dot let you adjust your elevation and windage with a predefined set of dots so you don’t have to adjust the turret every time.

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Focal Plane

The focal plane decides the size of the reticle when the scope is zoomed in. Scopes come in two types of focal configurations. These are first focal plane (FFP) and second focal plane (SFP).

The major difference in these two is that the size of the reticle changes with respect to the target when you magnify in a second focal plane scope. SFP is undoubtedly better for long-range shooting.

Turret and MOA

MOA defines the adjustment created with the grouping in inches at every hundred yards. High-power scopes generally have a smaller MOA. The turret adjustment should be smooth, easily accessible, and audible to let you calibrate precisely for long-distance shots.

Quick Take - Best AR-15 Long-Range Scopes

Review of the Best AR-15 Long-Range Scopes

Below is a list of the five best AR-15 long-range scopes currently on the market. While going through each one, you should take note of any characteristics and features that match what you are looking for in your “perfect scope”. Find one that is close enough to fit the bill and you’ll be happy with it for a long time.

Now, let’s start by talking about the first scope on the list:

Pros

  • Very clear image quality
  • Easy to install on most rifles
  • Excellent for hunting applications
  • Scope adjustments are nice and smooth
  • Very durable, can handle multiple amounts of shock from recoil
  • Lightweight
  • Mil-dot reticle
  • Illuminated Reticle
  • Large objective lens
  • 6x-18x adjustable optic scope

Cons

  • Manual instructions might be vague or unclear
  • May take a little more time to sight in than other scopes
  • The highest magnification power may cause distortion and blurriness
  • Lacks parallax adjustment
  • A bit longer than its counterparts

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of recent buyers were quite satisfied with the overall performance and durability of the scope itself. A lot of them were able to reach out and hit their targets accurately from 500 yards out and beyond. One user said it took him a few minutes to sight-in and his rifle was ridiculously accurate at 100 yards and beyond.

Why it Stands Out to Us 

This scope is perhaps one of the best scopes, in terms of durability. It can withstand a great deal of shock. Not only that, it’s got the easiest adjustments of any scope on the market. So, those on-the-fly adjustments that you might need will be quick and done in a matter of seconds.

With all components packed in an aircraft-grade aluminum, one-inch main tube, the Mark AR Mod1 scope will let you take the most precise shots from long distances. The scope features a 6x-18x magnification with a large 40 mm objective lens diameter.

The scope is available in fine duplex and mil-dot reticle variants to let you make easy adjustments to your sight picture. It has an illuminated reticle to help you with long-distance shots, especially under low lighting conditions. The scope comes with an IMS mount for easy and quick installation.

Who Will Use This Most 

This will likely be a scope that will be used by Creedmoor 6.5 owners or those who own an AR-15 rifle that can go the distance. Application-wise, it might be best served as a hunting scope or even for target practice or competitive shooting.

Bottom Line

The Leupold Mark AR Mod 6-18x40 Rifle Scope is probably going to be right up your alley if you want something tough and can handle the multiple amounts of shock that comes with every shot you fire. On top of that, it’s easy to use and gets the work done from longer ranges.

Pros

  • Easy to install on most rifles
  • The image quality is pretty solid
  • Accurate from about 500 yards or more
  • Easy to adjust for parallax, windage, and elevation
  • Super lightweight. It doesn’t add any additional weight
  • Lightweight
  • Long eye relief
  • Second Focal Plane
  • Illuminated Firedot TMR Reticle
  • Waterproof, fog-proof and shock-proof

Cons

  • Eats battery pretty fast when using bright settings
  • The magnification isn’t suited for very long range shots (700+ yards)

What Recent Buyers Report

Most recent buyers loved this scope. They used this for hunting applications, for the most part. It was easy to install, able to reach a good deal of distances without any issue, and adjustments were smooth and fluid. As expected, it proved itself to be one of the most effective long-range hunting scopes on the market.

Why it Stands Out to Us 

Leupold scopes are known for being durable and also really easy to adjust. Thus, it makes this one of the more sought-after long-range scopes. Other than that, it’s one of the most lightweight scopes that can handle the heavy-duty shock that comes with recoil. Don’t assume this is one of those scopes that have zero settings that will be easy to throw off.

The VX-R Patrol Riflescope features a 3-9x variable magnifying power with a large 40 mm objective lens. It has an illuminated reticle powered by a single CR-2032 battery which is operated with a single button.

The eye relief range of 3.7-4.2 inches makes it apt for taking long-range shots with an AR-15 rifle. Aiding this feature is the Firedot TMR reticle with drop compensation marking. The ¼ MOA adjustments help you score small groups over long distances with ease. The scope is comparatively shorter than its counterparts with a length of 12.6 inches.

Who Will Use This Most 

This scope will be used across various applications. But hunting and competitive shooting will be the two that stand out the most. Because of its durability, it will handle the bumps and bangs of heavy gunfire. If you want a scope that’s second to none when it comes to holding the zero settings firmly, this scope will do the trick.

Bottom Line

If you want a scope that will stand out in your opinion as a tough and easy to use scope for almost any application, you should consider the Leupold VX-R Patrol Rifle Scope for all your hunting or target shooting needs.

Pros

  • Super durable construction
  • Adjustments are crisp and accurate
  • Can hit targets as far as 800 yards out
  • Illumination is excellent for low-light settings
  • Glass is really clear and brings out the image quality

Cons

  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

Most new buyers were happy with the scope. The illumination settings were excellent in low-light settings, especially when it was dawn or dusk outside. Users were able to sight their targets quickly and get a shot off. One user said his bag limits came in the dawn or dusk hours since purchasing this scope.

Why it Stands Out to Us 

Let’s set up an analogy here: Nikon is to clarity as Vortex is to durability. Next to Leupold, Vortex Optics stands out as one of the best in the business when it comes to durability. They are so confident in their scopes, every single one comes with a lifetime warranty. On top of that, the image quality is pretty solid and has the ability to reach out and touch something from impressive distances. 

Who Will Use This Most 

This will be used by shooters who rely on heavy-powered AR-15 rifles to reach out and hit something from long ranges. So a Creedmoor 6.5 or similar rifle will probably be most compatible with this scope. Application-wise, hunters who want to nail big game targets will certainly benefit from this scope.

Bottom Line

The Vortex Strike Eagle has the toughness of a tank and the accuracy a long-range scope should have. If you want something that will last you lifetime and will be reliable for as long as possible, you’d be insane to pass up the opportunity to give this scope a closer look.

Bushnell AR Optics, Drop Zone BDC Reticle Riflescope with Target Turrets and Side Parallax, Matte Black, 4.5-18x/40mm

Pros

  • The reticle is marked well
  • Easy to install on most rifles
  • Affordable for most budgets
  • Eye relief is great at low magnification
  • Clear image picture right out of the box
  • Calibrated BDC Ballistic Reticle
  • Side Focus Parallax Adjustment
  • Wide magnification range of 4.5x - 18x
  • Zeroes at 100 yards, with aiming points up to 500 yards

Cons

  • A sunshade should be included
  • Zoom ring might be stiff at first
  • Eye relief becomes less generous at higher magnification
  • Reticles are a bit thick
  • The scope is a bit heavy

What Recent Buyers Report

This scope was a hit with most new users. While it was affordable in terms of budget, they concluded they got quite the steal. The reticle was marked nicely and allowed for accurate and precise shooting. The image quality was pretty clear, almost at high-definition levels with Nikon, according to one user.

Why it Stands Out to Us 

Bushnell remains one of the most reliable names when it comes to scopes. In our opinion, it might just be the total package when it comes to long-range scopes. It features a clear image picture, durability to absorb shock from recoil, and is surprisingly effective for a budget scope.

As the name suggests, this scope from Bushnell features a Bullet Drop Compensation (BDC) reticle calibrated for 55-62-grain, 5.56/.223 rounds. The fully multi-coated optics provide bright HD images. The target turrets (¼ MOA) provide easy and precise adjustments for windage, elevation, and parallax. Manufactured from a high-grade aluminum alloy with an anodized finish, the scope is sealed with nitrogen to keep the lenses from fogging over.

The wide range of variable power from 4.5x-18x lets you take short, as well as long-range shots. With a long eye relief of 3.7 inches, this second focal plane scope keeps pace with its more expensive competitors.

Who Will Use This Most 

This scope is mostly compatible with .223 caliber AR-15 rifles that can go the distance. Especially those kinds of rifles that can be used for hunting and casual target shooting. If you’re the kind of shooter that wants to have fun hitting targets from 500 yards out or more, this could be your kind of scope.

Bottom Line

The Bushnell AR Optics Dropzone Rifle Scope proves itself to be a reliable long-range scope that could do some serious damage at a long ranges, no matter what the application. If you want durability, clear image quality, and impressive accuracy, you may want to give this scope a closer look. 

Pros

  • You can add a magnifier
  • Flip-lock caps for protecting lenses
  • Parallax-Free, you can aim with both eyes open
  • ⅓ co-witness, allows aiming even if your battery dies

Cons

  • Fixed 1x Magnification
  • Long duration auto-shutoff feature (12 hours)

The Strikefire II Scope features an illuminated red-dot sight which lets you shoot with both your eyes open because of its parallax-free nature. Protected with flip-lens protectors, the scope is filled with nitrogen to makes it shockproof and prevents any fogging over the lenses.

The Strikefire II is ⅓ co-witness which means that the iron sights are visible on 1/3rd part of the scope. This lets you aim through your scope even if your battery dies.

With sleek, rear-facing controls, the lowest two reticle illumination settings are night-vision compatible. You can also add a magnifier to this scope for improved visibility and range. This is a red dot scope and doesn’t magnify. So if your eyes are sharp, this is a decent choice. But if not, it’s best to pass it over.

Pros

  • Waterproof and fog-proof
  • Super durable construction
  • Easy to operate adjustments
  • Image quality is second to none
  • Excellent for hunting predators and varmint (among others)
  • Long eye relief
  • Zero reset turrets
  • Second Focal Plane
  • Sunshade adaptable, fully multi-coated optics

Cons

  • Eye relief may not be the best
  • Higher magnification levels might be a little fuzzy
  • Installation might be a little difficult for some users
  • Requires some fitting
  • No reticle illumination

What Recent Buyers Report

As expected, a lot of the new buyers were quite satisfied with the image quality of the scope. Even better, the fast-focus eyepiece was a favorite among other users. One user said the target acquisition is ridiculously fast and locks onto targets fairly quickly. 

Why it Stands Out to Us 

Nikon is best-known for having excellent photography products. However, they seem to make a name for themselves in riflescopes, as well. Even better, their image quality is as high-definition as you’re going to get. On top of that, the dead-hold BDC reticle makes shooting more accurate and precise, which gives other scopes a run for their money.

The Nikon Prostaff is an inexpensive and durable solution for your long-range shooting needs. The scope has a variable 4x-12x magnification, which is optimum with respect to the maximum effective range of the AR-15. The large 40 mm diameter is perfect for long-range shooting. It has fully multi-coated optics for up to 98% light transmission.

It’s also nitrogen-filled and O-ring sealed to provide a compact and shockproof setup. The zero reset turrets and hand turn reticle adjustments make it easy for you to aim and hit your targets from a long distance. The scope has a long eye relief of 3.70 inches to prevent you from having to make consecutive adjustments after every shot. The second focal plane is a complementary feature that’s also useful for taking long-range shots.

Who Will Use This Most 

Expect hunters ranging from predator and varmint hunters to big game hunters to use this most. Especially those who want to knock down an animal from an impressive distance. If you’re looking to land a target from as far as 800 yards out, you’d be hard-pressed to find a scope like this.

Bottom Line

The Nikon Prostaff Rifle Scope delivers the best image quality of any scope on the market today. Top that with a durable body and the ability to make your shooting more precise and accurate, and you might have just found the best AR-15 scope period.

Benefits of Investing in a Long Range Scope

There are a few benefits that will work in your favor if you have a long-range scope for your rifle. If you choose not to get one, you’ll miss out on a lot of things. Here’s what you might enjoy in a long-range scope:

Can Reach Impressive Distances

There are a lot of rifle scopes that can reach distances like 100 to 200 yards. And some can reach distances you never thought were possible. If you want something that will be accurate to 800 to 1000 yards and beyond, you’ll probably find one of the five scopes listed have that ability.

Can Handle Heavy-Hitting Rifles

Often, the best long-range rifles are the ones that pack quite a punch in firing power. A normal riflescope won’t be able to handle such shock from the huge amounts of recoil. These scopes are very durable and do a great job protecting your zero settings. A large amount of shock can send a scope’s zero settings out of place even after a few shots.

Hitting Your Target at Long Distances is Satisfying

It doesn’t matter if you’re using cans, bottles, paper targets, or big game targets, there is nothing more exhilarating than being able to accurately hit your targets from a long distance. It is a feat that not many shooters will ever accomplish outside of highly-trained military personnel. So long as you have the right kind of rifle and the scope to go with it, there is no limit to how far you can go.

Conclusion

The range of an AR-15 rifle depends on several factors like barrel length, ammunition, and shooting skills. You don’t need very expensive and high-power scopes for taking long-range shots. Long range for an AR tops out at 1000 yards and the scopes mentioned above can do this job pretty well.

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