Best Ruger AR 556 Scope – Top 5 Optics in 2024

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Finding the perfect scope for your Ruger AR556 can indeed be challenging, but as an experienced shooter, I can tell you it’s an exciting journey. The Ruger AR556, first introduced in 2009 as the SR556 by Sturm, Ruger & Co., has been a game-changer in the firearms landscape.

The AR556 was Ruger’s competitive response to entry-level AR-15s, and it didn’t disappoint. Since its inception in 2014, the 556 has continuously improved, proving its worth time and again.

When I set out to find the right optic for my AR556, I considered factors like shooting type, distance, weight, and more.

My Top Pick – Bushnell AR 1-4×24

In my view, the best scope for Ruger AR 556 is the Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24mm.  This choice is particularly appealing due to its balance of wide field of view at low magnification and detailed clarity at higher settings, making it versatile for both close-quarters and mid-range shooting. The Bushnell also boasts a robust design, ensuring it can withstand the rigors of active use while maintaining accuracy. Read my full review beneath.

My Top 5 Best Scopes For Ruger AR 556

Following is a list of scopes that I found mate best with the Ruger Ar 556.

1. Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x/24mm Drop Zone Reticle – Best Ruger AR 556 Scope

Bushnell AR Optics, Drop Zone Reticle Riflescope with Target Turrets, Matte Black, 1-4x/24mm

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As I searched for the best Ruger AR556 scopes, I found the Bushnell 1-4×24 scope to be a solid choice thanks to its major attributes and quality of design.

My Observations After Using the Bushnell AR Optics 1-4×24

The scope comes from one of the most well-known manufacturers in the industry, and this particular offering comes with weatherproof construction and nitrogen purging. As an experienced hunter, I appreciated the rugged construction which allowed me to use the scope in various weather conditions from rain to snow without any issues. The glass clarity remained crisp and clear even in heavy rain, allowing me to easily track moving targets.

But I also found the scope to be a solid pick for pairing with my Ruger AR556, as it magnifies up to 4x: perfect for short to mid-range target shooting and varmint hunting. Testing at various magnifications, I found the image quality and resolution to be excellent across the entire range with minimal chromatic aberration. At 4x magnification I could clearly see targets out to 300 yards. The matte black finish adds an element of stealth to the mix, and the lenses benefit from multiple coatings to optimize target acquisition, color contrast, and clarity.

The windage and elevation turrets are more than functional. In my testing over several range sessions, I found the turrets tracked accurately with audible clicks allowing for precise adjustments. The zero reset function worked flawlessly allowing me to quickly re-establish my zero.

The consistent eye relief of 3.5 inches prevented any issues with scope bite even during rapid firing. The eye box was forgiving, making it easy to acquire targets quickly.

After several months of use on multiple range trips and some coyote hunts, the scope has held up well despite some bumps and drops. The controls remain crisp and precise with no signs of wear.

Product Highlights

However, I really liked the drop zone reticle. In a nutshell, this simplistic yet effective reticle has several aiming points on the lower post. When sighted and calibrated properly, you can potentially shoot up to 500 yards away with your .223 rifle, ensuring a consistent hunting experience. After sighting in the scope, I tested the drop zone holds out to 400 yards and found them to be accurate, allowing me to consistently hit steel targets once I had the holds dialed in.  With quality match grade ammunition, this scope has the precision needed to make ethical shots at long range. I found the reticle to be a powerful addition to the optic overall.

Common Problems and How to Deal with Them

On the downside, the Bushnell scope’s price leaves something to be desired, as it can be a bit pricey for more budget-minded hunters.  That all said, I’d still recommend it for AR556 fans who want a quality optic that provides good results all the time, and who don’t mind paying a little extra to ensure that quality.

Key Features

  • 1-4x magnification
  • 24mm objective lens
  • SFP scope


  • Excellent reticle
  • Great sight picture
  • The construction
  • Fantastic windage and elevation turrets


  • A little pricey

The Bottom Line

Overall, the Bushnell Drop Zone Reticle Scope is a top-tier piece of equipment and the best scope for Ruger AR556. After rigorous testing, I was very impressed with the optical clarity, useful magnification range, and durable construction of this scope. The drop zone reticle takes some practice but provides increased capability for the AR platform. For shooters looking to extend their range with the AR556, the Bushnell AR Optics scope is easy to recommend.

My rating: 4.8/5

2. BARSKA 6.5-20×50 Mil-Dot Riflescope – Best for Varmints

Barska AC10048 Varmint 6.5-20x50 Rifle Scope Target Dot Reticle Adjustable Objective

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BARSKA’s scope has a lot to like, especially for shooters in the market for something budget-friendly yet effective.

My Observations After Using the Barska 6.5-20×50

As noted above, the riflescope is very affordable, making it a great entry scope or optic for a beginner taking their AR556 out for the first time. This is a lightweight and very easy-to-use scope, offering magnification ranges of between 6.5 and 20x. Admittedly, this is a bit further out than you really need for a .223 carbine like the AR556. After shooting at the range, I found the glass clarity to be excellent across the full magnification range with crisp target images and vivid color reproduction. The reticle stayed sharp and precise even at 20x magnification with no observable parallax shift. The zoom ring turns smoothly and the markings are clear and accurate.

I found the scope to be well-designed and durable to the max, featuring special coatings and weatherproof functionality. You can use the scope in any weather environment, which is a big plus, given the price. The exposed elevation and windage turrets provide clear audible clicks with accurate and repeatable adjustments. The generous 3.6 inch eye relief allows for comfortable shooting even with heavy recoiling rifles. The eye box is sufficiently forgiving to maintain a full field of view through recoil.

After subjecting it to recoil from several rifles, I did not observe any loss of zero or mechanical issues. The scope held up well to rough handling with no visible external damage. The control layout is intuitive and ergonomic for quickly making adjustments on the fly.

Product Highlights

The Barska riflescope’s lenses were the highlight of the scope for me, personally. They’re thoroughly coated with light transmission and durability-boosting materials, ensuring optimal color contrast and clarity at all times. In low light conditions, the lens coatings helped draw out extra brightness for a clear sight picture. The generous eye box eliminates vignetting even at high magnifications. The built-in target dot reticle makes for very easy target acquisition – I found it to be fantastic for hunting small, fast-moving targets.

These lens coatings also do a great job of limiting scratches, glares, smudges, and other negative developments that could compromise a shot against a target.

Common Problems and How to Deal with Them

Like I mentioned above, the scope’s upper magnification settings aren’t really needed for the AR556, given its effective range. In addition, it’s a little heavy, clocking in at about 22.3 ounces. That may make it a less-than-stellar partner for your AR556, which usually works better with lighter optics that don’t offset its balance too much. I didn’t notice the extra weight during rapid fire drills, but bench shooting for groups was slightly less comfortable compared to lighter scopes I’ve used. This can be mitigated by using a bipod or shooting bag for support.

Key Features

  • 6.5-20x magnification
  • 50mm objective lens
  • SFP scope


  • Excellent optics
  • Good windage and elevation turrets
  • Budget-friendly price
  • Durable construction and matte black coating


  • A little heavier than optimal
  • Magnification settings are a little too high

The Bottom Line

All in all, the BARSKA Varmint Riflescope is a solid, budget-minded scope ideal if you want to push out the effective range of your AR556 as much as possible. Considering the affordable price point, the scope exceeded my expectations in nearly every category. With quality glass, durable construction, and useful features like an adjustable parallax turret, the Barska riflescope delivers excellent value that punches above its weight class.

My rating: 4.5/5

You can also check my guide on the best prism scopes.

3. Bushnell 3-9×40 Riflescope with DZ 223 Reticle – Best for Medium RangesBushnell 3-9x40 Riflescope with DZ 223 Reticle , Black

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I found Bushnell to offer another of the best Ruger AR556 scopes in this model, and for a variety of compelling reasons.

My Observations After Using The Bushnell 3-9×40

This versatile, effective optic has a very reasonably sized 40 mm objective lens, plus a good set of magnification ranges for use with your Ruger AR556. The multicoated optics boost light transmission and guarantee very high color contrast, which is always a good thing. The addition of a BDC or ballistic drop compensation reticle makes things even better, as it enables you to compensate for bullet drop at long distances.

Through my testing, I found the glass clarity to be excellent across the entire magnification range with minimal chromatic aberration. The DZ 223 reticle performed very well for range estimation and holdovers out to 500 yards. There was minimal parallax shift when adjusting the side focus knob, allowing for consistent accuracy at various ranges. At 9x magnification, the fine details of the target were clearly visible with good eye relief and a forgiving eye box.

The side focus parallax turret combines with windage and elevation turrets, all of which are marked and finger adjustable. These offer tactile and audible feedback in equal measure, and they can be locked and reset to zero at a moment’s notice. Thus, they’re very useful and very easy to take full advantage of.

Naturally, the scope has a very durable construction in the body. It’s weatherproof and even shockproof (though that won’t be a major concern with your Ruger AR556). That does mean it’s a bit heavy at 19 ounces, but don’t let that dissuade you from trying out the Bushnell 3-9×40 Riflescope.

In various weather conditions from rain to bright sunlight, the scope maintained its zero and optical performance. Despite some bumps and drops during field use, the scope showed no signs of damage thanks to its rugged build quality. The added weight took some adjustment when mounting on my AR, but positively impacted stability and mitigated recoil for faster reacquisition between shots.

Product Highlights

During my usage, I especially liked the adjustable length throw lever. This is mounted on the magnification ring, and it lets you swap through different zoom values with a fast-moving lever instead of having to twist a ring around the scope’s body.

Since it’s adjustable length, it can also be modified so it doesn’t get in your way when you’re setting up or lying down.

The throw lever allowed quick magnification changes without losing my cheek weld. After some practice, I could reliably dial in to the magnification I needed for different range targets. The ergonomics of the scope were excellent with the throw lever and turret adjustments all easily accessible. In my opinion, it’s a fantastic feature that really maximizes the usability of the Bushnell 3-9×40 Riflescope.

Common Problems and How to Deal with Them

As noted earlier, the Bushnell 3-9×40 Riflescope is a little heavier than you would prefer for an AR556. However, you can practice regularly with the scope to get used to the new balance of your rifle. Note that you’ll probably need to do the same thing for the magnification throw lever. If you’ve never used a lever like this before, it could make the optic feel clunky and a little unfamiliar.

Key Features

  • 3-9x magnification
  • 40mm objective lens
  • SFP scope


  • Lets you swap magnification settings quickly
  • Great lenses and color contrast
  • Solid construction
  • Top-tier windage, elevation, and parallax turrets


  • A little heavier than most would like

The Bottom Line

In the end, the Bushnell 3-9×40 Riflescope is a top choice for Ruger AR556 fans thanks to its magnification settings, excellent lenses, and overall usability. After trials in various conditions, I was very impressed with the features and performance of this riflescope. For the price point, the Bushnell 3-9×40 delivers outstanding quality and would be my top recommendation for most AR platforms.

My rating: 4.8/5

You can also see which are the best scopes for shotguns and .450 Bushmaster.

4. BSA Optics Sweet 223 AO 4-12×40 Scope – Best Budget Pick

BSA Optics Sweet 223 AO 4-12X40, Black

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BSA Optics might not be one of the most well-known manufacturers in the optic business, but the Sweet 223 AO Scope impressed me in more ways than one.

My Observations After Using The BSA Optics Sweet .223 4-12×40

As its name suggests, the Sweet 223 AO Scope is specially tailored for .223 rifles, like the Ruger AR556. It features good magnification settings for this caliber as well, 4-12x. The lenses are fully multicoated, boosting light transmission and ensuring long-term durability and resilience against weather and general dirt and debris. After testing this scope during multiple range sessions, I was pleased with the glass clarity and optical quality, especially considering the affordable price point. The fully multi-coated lenses provided a bright, crisp sight picture even in low light conditions. I did not notice any major issues with glare or reflections off the objective lens.

I liked that the Sweet 223 AO Scope came with mounting rings, which makes it very easy to attach it to your rifle on the go and out of the box. The rifle scope is designed for waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof functionality for even more value for money and long-term durability: a major benefit given the extremely affordable asking price.

The 30/30 Duplex reticle is streamlined and simplistic. Depending on what you want from a reticle, this will be a good or less-than-ideal thing. I found it to be great for those times when you don’t want a lot of holdover points or hash marks cluttering up your sight picture. The simplicity of the duplex reticle aided in fast target acquisition. I did not notice any issues with parallax or magnification power consistency throughout the 4-12x range.

The eye relief and eye box were generous, allowing for a comfortable and consistent cheek weld behind the scope. I did not experience issues with scope bite, even during lengthy range sessions. The one-piece tube construction and nitrogen purging led to impressive durability and ability to hold zero.

Product Highlights

However, what impressed me the most with the BSA scope were the ballistic recalibrated turrets for windage and elevation. Depending on the exact cartridges you like to use, these turrets can be calibrated for 40gr, 55gr, and 62gr rounds. That’s amazing. The turrets tracked true to their increments with audible, tactile clicks. I was able to make accurate and repeatable adjustments to point of impact. The elevation knob provided sufficient vertical adjustment range for the typical .223 trajectories I tested out to 500 yards. The windage range was more than adequate for dialing out crosswinds.

In essence, it ensures that the scope comes partially calibrated for your AR556 right away. It also ensures your windage and elevation adjustments will be that much more accurate and effective. The turrets themselves are tactile, responsive, and easy to use.

Common Problems and How to Deal with Them

If there’s any downside here, it’s the longevity of the lenses. They can degrade after just a little while, which is perhaps unsurprising given the scope’s asking price. Still, you can’t beat the value here for such an affordable price tag. In my opinion, you can treat this scope as an affordable investment; even if it stops working properly, you won’t be out very much money. Consider using it as a practice or beginner scope.

Key Features

  • 4-12x magnification
  • 40mm objective lens
  • SFP scope


  • Turrets are designed and calibrated for common grain levels
  • Optimized for .223 cartridges
  • Comes with mounting rings
  • Works in any weather


  • Long-term lens quality is questionable

The Bottom Line

All in all, the Sweet 223 AO Scope is a stellar pick if you’re in the market for an affordable Ruger AR556 scope. Its turrets and built-in mounting rings are icing on the proverbial cake.

My rating: 4.2/5

5. Vortex Optics Strikefire II Red Dot Sight – Best Red Dot for AR 556

Vortex Optics Strikefire II Red Dot Sight - 4 MOA Red/Green Dot with Vortex Hat

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Last up isn’t a traditional scope at all, but a red dot sight from Vortex Optics: one of the best and most well-reviewed manufacturers in the industry. This amazing red dot optic is also budget-friendly, so let me show you what I liked.

My Observations After Using the Vortex Optics Strikefire II Red Dot

The Strikefire II Red Dot Sight is built to work with all AR-style rifles, and it offers a very large red dot target. As a result, it’s a little larger and heavier than you might expect, weighing in at 7.2 ounces. That’s partially because it is crafted from premium aircraft-grade aluminum and other metals, plus finished with a matte black coating to boost stealth.

This durable and rugged red dot optic doesn’t magnify your sight picture, but it does enable quick target acquisition and, more importantly, fun. I found the glass to be very clear when testing it across multiple lighting conditions. The 4 MOA dot stayed crisp and easy to acquire even in bright sunlight. At 100 yards, I was able to achieve 1 MOA accuracy fairly consistently. I found it to be engaging and effective for tactical practice and target shooting when I didn’t need to zoom in. Remember, since it’s a red dot sight, it doesn’t limit your field of view or eye relief. The generous eye box allowed me to get a full sight picture from multiple positions. You’ll never miss what’s happening in your peripheral vision.

When testing for parallax error, I found almost no shift in dot position when moving my head. The dot stayed centered on target from edge to edge of the lens.

To make things even better, the Strikefire II Red Dot Sight fits with practically any AR-style rifle since it fits on both Weaver and Picatinny rails. Its modifiable mount makes it easy to attach to your firearm for the first time and to adjust on the fly if you find that you need to change its exact position or elevation.

The elevation and windage turrets provided audible clicks and were easy to turn to zero in the optic. I was able to dial in adjustments down to 0.5 MOA.

Product Highlights

I was particularly impressed with the brightness and adjustability of the red dot optic. It’s a 4 MOA reticle that shines bright red even in broad daylight. The dot intensity was suitable for daylight use even on lower settings without blooming or starburst effects around the edges. More importantly, there are 10 different illumination settings, and the two lowest settings are compatible with night vision equipment.

After extensive use, I found no issues with durability or fogging up, even in rainy weather. The housing seems rugged enough for field use. I also liked that the battery life lasts for up to 400 hours, even on the highest setting. More often, you’ll get several thousand hours of use out of the optic before you need to replace the battery, which can easily be done via a side hatch containing the power cell.

The user interface was intuitive with easy to reach brightness controls. However, I found the buttons to be a little small for use with gloves.

Common Problems and How to Deal with Them

The only real downside here is the lack of zoom factor, which may or may not be a flaw at all, depending on what you need. In addition, remember that the Strikefire II Red Dot is a little heavier than you may expect from a red dot optic, but it’s certainly not so heavy that you can’t compensate for it.

Key Features

  • Red dot optic
  • Compatible with Weaver and Picatinny mounting systems


  • Very bright optic
  • 10 illumination settings
  • High battery life
  • Very durable construction


  • Somewhat heavier than you may expect from a red dot optic

The Bottom Line

The Vortex Optics Strikefire II Red Dot Sight is a stellar tactical sight with unlimited field of view and eye relief. Choose this if you want your Ruger AR556 to feel as tactical and fun as possible or when zooming in isn’t necessary.

My rating: 4/5

You may also be interested in what are the best scopes for Ruger 10/22 and 22-250.

If you are interested in a fixed scope, check 1-4x scopes.

For something more powerful, check my long-range optics article.

Ruger AR556 Scope Buying Guide


The Ruger 556, while fun and powerful, isn’t built for any scope. This AR-style rifle isn’t designed for long-range shooting. From my experience, you’ll want the lightest, most compact scope that meets your needs.

The 556 is a quick acquisition, powerful carbine. Adding a large, heavy scope would only imbalance it, defeating its designed comfort and ease of use. Remember, you’ll be shooting a .223 cartridge, and anything above 6x magnification becomes less effective beyond 300 yards.

Red-Dot vs Magnification

Your shooting style will dictate whether you prefer a red-dot scope or one with magnification. For quick acquisition shooting or hunting, red-dots are excellent. They offer ample light transmission and a wide field of view.

If you opt for a scope with magnification, keep in mind that anything over 6x probably isn’t worth the extra cost.


As a seasoned shooter, I’ve learned that robust, weather-resistant materials are essential for a scope. If you’re frequently out in the rain, you need a scope that won’t rust. For humid conditions, a nitrogen-purged scope to prevent fog build-up is advisable.

The Ruger AR556 is designed to withstand rigorous use and even a bit of abuse. Therefore, your scope should match its resilience. A premium metal casing offers the best protection against accidental drops or other transit damages.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Ruger 556 the same as an AR-15?

Ruger actually pitched the AR 556 as a pistol. A corporate product manager gushed in a promotional film for the Ruger AR-556, claiming that the weapon, which is legally classified as a pistol but looks more like an AR-15 rifle in design, offers far more than a regular handgun.

Where is the Ruger AR-556 made?

According to Ruger President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Killoy, the AR-556 is the first firearm designed and constructed in Ruger’s Mayodan, North Carolina factory.

Is Ruger AR 556 good for home defense?

The Ruger AR-556 is as dependable as the day is long when it comes to self-defense. For the first time, many Americans are considering acquiring a self-defense firearm. When compared to some of the greatest rifles on the market, the Ruger AR-556 is one of the most reliable rifles built in America today.

How far will a Ruger AR-556 shoot?

The Ruger AR-556’s typical best and truest maximum effective range is around 200 to 250 meters (218- 273 yards).

What ammo is recommended for Ruger AR-556?

The AR-556 is available for 5.56 x 45 mm NATO and.223 Remington calibers. Winchester 5.56 NATO 55-grain complete metal jacket rounds are recommended because they produced the best single grouping in most tests.

Does the Ruger 556 have a threaded barrel?

Yes. Standard muzzle accessories can be mounted thanks to the threaded barrel. The cold hammer-forged 4140 chrome-moly steel barrel with ultra-precise rifling offers remarkable accuracy, durability, and cleaning ease.

How many rounds does a Ruger AR-556 hold?

A Ruger AR-556 is known to hold a 30-round.

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