The AR-15 has a reputation for being a mid-range shooting firearm, but that’s definitely not true. AR-15 can be used to take moderately long-range shots as well. For the same 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 Take: Top 3 Long-range Scopes for the AR-15
Here are our top recommendations for scopes for long-range shooting for your AR-15:
- Leupold Mark AR Mod1 6-18x40mm Adjustable Optic Scope with IM Mount
- Nikon Prostaff 12x40mm
- Leupold Vx-r Patrol Rifle Scope
Read on to learn how we define “long range” and to get more details on these scopes!
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 the US 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 discretion 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.
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 2-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 to the powder for burning. Higher-velocity bullets will 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 respectively 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 Scope For This Range
If we take the maximum range for an AR-15 to be 1000 yards, we can define better 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.
Hitting anything consistently beyond 1000 yards show you have either miraculous skills or amazing luck. So shooting at that 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 want for your AR 15. Anything beyond that will make it difficult to acquire your target quickly.
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 40mm in diameter.
A large objective lens will, however, be bulkier and will have to be placed higher over your rifle.
The reticle (cross-hair) of your scope helps you in aiming precisely at your target. There is 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.
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” and “Second Focal Plane”.
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 (SFP) 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 Comparison Chart of Long-range AR-15 Scopes
Leupold - Mark Ar Mod 1 6-18x40mm Adjustable Objective Scope With Ims Mount
Nikon Prostaff 12x40mm
Leupold - Vx-r Patrol Rifles Scopes
Vortex Optics - Strikefire Ii Red Dot Sight
Bushnell Optics Drop Zone-223
Reviews Of The Best Scopes For Long Range Shooting With The AR-15
Now that we’ve defined what range is “long range” and what to look for in such a scope for your AR-15, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of some reviews.
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 40mm 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.
- 6x-18x adjustable optic scope
- Large Objective Lens
- Mil-dot reticle
- Illuminated Reticle
- Lacks parallax adjustment
- A bit longer than its counterparts
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 40mm diameter is perfect for long-range shooting. It has fully multicoated 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 consecutive adjustments after every shot. The second focal plane is a complementary feature that’s also useful for taking long-range shots.
- Sunshade adaptable, fully multicoated optics
- Long eye relief
- Zero reset turrets
- Second Focal Plane
- No reticle illumination
- Requires some fitting
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 to 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.
- Illuminated Firedot TMR Reticle
- Long eye relief
- Second Focal Plane
- Waterproof, fog-proof and shock-proof
- Eats battery pretty fast when using bright settings
- The magnification isn’t suited for very long range shots(700+ yards)
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 make the setup shockproof and prevent 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.
- Parallax Free. Aim with both eyes open
- ⅓ co-witness. Aim even if your battery dies
- You can add a magnifier
- Flip-lock caps for protecting lenses
- Long duration auto-shutoff feature (12 hours)
- Fixed 1x Magnification
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.
- Wide magnification range of 4.5x - 18x
- Calibrated BDC Ballistic Reticle
- Side Focus Parallax Adjustment
- Zeroes at 100 yards, with aiming points up to 500 yards
- The scope is a bit heavy
- Reticles are a bit thick
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.