Best Rifle Scope Under $500 – The 5 Best Optics in 2024

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Looking for a rifle scope that balances budget and quality? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend thousands on a quality scope. 

Sometimes, all it takes is $500. Oh yes, the best rifle scopes under $500 are within your reach. And guess what? You don’t have to do any research to find them. Why? Because I’ve done all the research for you. 

In this review, I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 rifle scopes under $500. Also, I put together a quick buying guide to help you locate the best scope for your needs. 

Let’s get started.

My Top Pick – Vortex Optics Crossfire II 6-24×50

As a budget-conscious shooter who still wants quality optics, I’ve tested my fair share of scopes trying to find the best value. After extensive range time behind the Crossfire II 6-24×50, there’s no doubt in my mind this Vortex optic is the best scope under $500. The generous 6-24x magnification range lets me consistently hit small targets both up close and way out at long distance. Plus, the multi-coated lenses output a bright, highly detailed image regardless of dim light conditions.

For my needs as an all-around shooter on a limit, the precision, reliability and lifetime warranty this sub-$500 workhorse provides make the Crossfire II 6-24×50 an absolute winner and my optic of choice moving forward. No compromises, just value through Vortex.

See my detailed review below.

The Best 5 Rifle Scopes Under $500

1. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 6-24×50 SFP Rifle Scope Vortex Optics Crossfire II 6-24x50 AO, Second Focal Plane Riflescope - Dead-Hold BDC Reticle (MOA)

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Vortex Optics Crossfire II wins the title of my favorite rifle scope under $500. Who would’ve thought that you could get such quality for such a low price? And yet, this Vortex is armed with everything a hunter needs. This scope is a true gem.

My Feelings After Using the Vortex Crossfire

Vortex is well known for creating quality rifle scopes, and this scope is no exception. It’s designed with a magnification range between 6x and 24x, which allowed me plenty of versatility and effective shooting ranges during testing. One afternoon, I set up a series of small ceramic plates at varying distances along my 600-yard testing range. I wanted to see if the scope’s variable magnification would truly make a difference when switching between targets at different distances. Using the 24x magnification, I was able to clearly see even the furthest plates and shatter them with pinpoint accuracy. The clarity and detail of the targets through the scope were indeed impressive.

What I also love about this scope is an excellent eye box with a few inches of eye relief. It made using my rifle much more comfortable. You’ll much appreciate it if you use heavier rifles with significant recoil to each pull of the trigger.

Add to all of these benefits a durable aluminum casing that has been nitrogen purged and O-ring sealed, and it’s clear that this is a quality rifle scope under $500. And while I didn’t have to use it in extreme conditions, all it took was one look to notice how sturdy this scope is built.

Product Highlight

My favorite feature of Vortex Optics Crossfire II has to be the BDC reticle integrated into its design. This “bullet drop compensator” reticle will help you hit targets at a distance with holdover points that automatically compensate for a regular bullet drop.

It’s also set on the second focal plane, making it even more valuable since SFP reticles don’t change size with magnification settings. The reticle is further boosted by special coatings that improve light transmission and provide a clear sight picture throughout all times of the day.

Key Features

  • 100% waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof
  • Multi-coated optics
  • Made of aircraft-grade aluminum
  • Hard anodized finish
  • Dead-hold BDC reticle
Pros Cons
  • Nice magnification range
  • A BDC reticle
  • Made of durable aluminum
  • Adjustable objective and parallax remover
  • Comfortable eye relief
  • Clear and bright view due to multi-coated lenses
  • SFP reticle isn’t as effective at higher ranges

Basic Parameters

Manufacturer Vortex
Weight 23.6 oz
Eye Relief 4 in
Magnification 6 – 24x
Field of View 4.4 – 17.3 ft at 100 yds

The Final Verdict

Considering its features and quality, the fact that this scope is available for less than $500 is a bargain. It’s easily one of the top choices for a rifle scope under $500 and my personal favorite. The reticle is excellent, the lenses are perfect for use in any situation, and the magnification range is quite versatile. What more do you need from a scope?

My Rating: 5/5

2. Athlon Optics Argos 6-24×50 FFP Rifle Scope Athlon Optics , Argos BTR, Riflescope, 6-24 x 50 First Focal Plane (FFP) 30 mm Tube, Illuminated APMR MIL Reticle,

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If you read my reviews, you know how impressed I always am with Athlon Optics scopes. Well, this Athlon Optics Argos is not an exception. Coming with an affordable price and some very cool features, this rifle scope only proves what a great brand Athlon is. Its sleek and durable design makes it not just a practical piece of equipment, but also a great addition to any rifle. This is the kind of quality craftsmanship that keeps me coming back to Athlon.

My Feelings After Using the Athlon

The scope features a first focal plane reticle that can adjust between several levels of magnification ranging from 6x to 24x. The versatility of this range gave me the ability to hone in on targets at varying distances, a feature that I found to be exceptionally helpful.

The lenses are bolstered by a special coating that improves light transmission and also improves color contrast. This made it much easier for me to pick out the targets from dense underbrush. The ability to distinguish colors so vividly was a true advantage. However, I must say that the clarity isn’t as razor-sharp at higher ranges. The eye relief is also less comfortable than in the Vortex Crossfire.

As for the scope’s durability, I have nothing to pick on. It’s made from aircraft-grade aluminum and has been waterproofed. This sturdy construction not only ensures longevity but also provides a peace of mind, knowing that it can endure harsh conditions. Furthermore, this scope benefits from a special treatment that improves its thermal stability, which allows it to function properly in most weather or temperature conditions.

Product Highlight

Even better, the reticle has been etched on the glass, which improves its durability and prevents it from shaking or shuddering during high-impact rifle shots. This feature, which I found extremely useful when testing the scope, was confirmed when I managed a successful shot on the elk, despite the fog and recoil of my rifle. The precision it offers, even in adverse conditions, truly sets this scope apart from its competitors.

Key Features

  • 100% fogproof, waterproof, and shockproof
  • Illuminated reticle
  • Made of aircraft-grade aluminum
  • Fully coated lenses
  • Argon-purged
Pros Cons
  • Excellent durability
  • Reticle is quite stable
  • Reticle visibility is high
  • Light transmission is fantastic at the lower end of ranges
  • Illuminated reticle for better visibility
  • Eye relief is a bit low
  • Clarity isn’t as good at higher ranges

Basic Parameters

Manufacturer Athlon
Weight 29.6 oz
Eye Relief 3.3 in
Magnification 6 – 24x
Field of View 4.5 – 16.7 ft at 100 yds

The Final Verdict

All in all, this rifle scope is an excellent choice for hunting in a variety of conditions or light levels. Its affordability is paired nicely with its durability and effectiveness for hunting across all kinds of ranges, although I must say the vision isn’t as clear at higher ranges. The sturdiness of its reticle makes this scope a prime choice for mounting on high-impact weapons. 

You can also check my Athlon Optics review to learn more about the brand.

My Rating: 4.75/5

3. Bushnell Engage 4-16×44 30mm Tube Rifle Scope Bushnell Engage Riflescope, 4-16x44mm, Matte Black

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Bushnell Engage completes the podium of the best rifle scopes under $500. For a moment, I even considered moving it up one spot, but it comes with one annoying issue that threw me off. Still, it’s a very solid scope, especially considering its low price tag. 

My Feelings After Using the Bushnell

The scope features magnification settings between 4x and 16x and uses a 44 mm lens. Such settings offered me excellent visibility and a great field of view across most of those ranges. The clarity at different magnifications was impressive, allowing for precise target identification. The one thing that threw me off was the reticle, which tends to fall out of alignment. This inconsistency can be an inconvenience and it can really disrupt your hunting experience.

The scope features a protected lens bolstered by a special coating that repels water, oil, and other dirt and debris to protect it from getting scratched or smudged. Having tested it myself, I have to say that it withstood anything I threw at it. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by its resilience to environmental elements.

An anti-reflective coating adds to the lens’s effectiveness. The scope is both waterproof and fog proof, making it a great choice for hunting or target practice in any weather condition. Its versatile performance is a huge plus, and its ability to adapt to diverse conditions adds to its appeal. I tested it in several different weather conditions, and it worked brilliantly in rain, sun, and fog.

Product Highlight

My favorite features of this Bushnell scope are the easily adjustable windage and elevation knobs, plus a side-mounted parallax dial which you can use to eliminate parallax from your targeting if you need. The smooth operation of these knobs facilitates quick adjustments, enhancing your shooting experience. All of these turrets can easily lock into place, preventing them from budging either from high-recoil shots or from dropping the scope. This feature adds to the scope’s overall durability and functionality, making it a reliable choice for any shooting activity.

Key Features

  • Waterproof, shockproof, and fogproof
  • Multi-coated optics
  • Side-mounted parallax dial
  • Made of aircraft-grade aluminum
  • Second Focal Plane (SFP) reticle
Pros Cons
  • Features flip-up protective lens
  • Matte color limits flashiness while in cover
  • Turrets can be locked for stability
  • Lens has multiple coatings to improve performance
  • The reticle can fall out of alignment at times

Basic Parameters

Manufacturer Bushnell
Weight 20.1 oz
Eye Relief 3.6 in
Magnification 4 – 16x
Field of View 7 – 28 ft at 100 yds

The Final Verdict

This rifle scope is a great choice for hunters that get into the muck and mud frequently or those who hate dealing with adjustment turrets that shift this way and that. Set this scope up once, and it won’t change until you want it to. Check my full review of this scope to learn more about its features. 

My Rating: 4.5/5

4. Leupold VX-3i 3.5x10x40mm Rifle Scope Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40mm Rifle Scope

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Leupold’s rifle scopes have been competitive for decades, and that’s not about to change with this offering. Sure, it lands right outside the podium on my list, but it doesn’t mean it falls far behind the three previous scopes. It’s still one of the best scopes under $500 you can get. 

My Feelings After Using the Leupold

The scope features a duplex reticle and matte finish with a magnification range between 3.5x and 10x. As a result, it’s a fantastic choice for hunting between 200-800 yards. However, I was able to push it to 1000 yards. I don’t like to brag, but I think that’s a decent result. Interestingly, the scope held its zero remarkably well, even after some rough handling during the hunting trip. The sturdiness and reliability it showcased, I must say, were pleasantly surprising.

What I also love about this scope is its eye relief, which ranges between 3.6 inches and 4.4 inches depending on your magnification setting. There’s also a Diamond Coat 2 lens, which provides improved light transmission and exceptional abrasion resistance. It was particularly noticeable during the early morning hunts, allowing for more defined and detailed sight pictures. This helped me make accurate judgments even in less-than-ideal lighting conditions.

What did annoy me a bit was the fact that it’s impossible to reset the turrets. It’s also not suitable for higher ranges. That 1000 yards are the maximum of its capabilities. On the flip side, it did perform admirably within its specified range, making it a reliable tool for mid-range hunting activities.

Product Highlight

The most interesting feature from the scope is the Twilight Max Light Management System. It granted me up to around 20 extra minutes of shooting light during dusk, and I assume it does the same when shooting at dawn. It all happens thanks to the scope’s excellent lens design, which brings extra light and provides you with clear, quality sight pictures without glares or cloudiness. This feature turned out to be a game-changer for me, significantly extending my hunting hours and ensuring higher precision, even in the twilight hours.

Key Features

  • 100% shockproof, fogproof, and waterproof
  • Matte finish
  • Fast-focus eyepiece
  • Second Focal Plane (SFP) reticle
  • Fully coated lenses
Pros Cons
  • Excellent and adjustable eye relief
  • Twilight Max Light Management System for bright and quality sight pictures
  • Durable and weatherproof
  • Premium glass and coatings
  • Turrets can’t be reset to zero
  • Not suitable for higher ranges

Basic Features

Manufacturer Leupold
Weight 12.6 oz
Eye Relief 3.6 – 4.4 in
Magnification 3.5 – 10x
Field of View 11 – 29.9 ft at 100 yds

The Final Verdict

All in all, the VX-3i scope is a phenomenal choice for closer hunting or target practice and for hitting your shots in low light conditions. Not only is it durable and affordable, but it’s among the most effective rifle scopes you can find within any price range. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more versatile scope, this Leupold isn’t the best choice around. 

My Rating: 4.5/5

5. Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20×50 PA SFP Rifle Scope

Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20x50 PA SFP Riflescope Dead-Hold BDC MOA

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I want to close my list with another Vortex scope. This time, it’s the Vortex Viper. Designed specifically for long-range shooting, this rifle scope is another great option under $500, although, personally, not my favorite. 

My Feelings After Using the Vortex Viper

The scope features a magnification range of 6.5-20x, which, with the addition of a 50 mm objective lens, provided me with a more than accurate vision while shooting. Where scope comes alive are higher ranges. I was able to push my limits while testing.

The lenses are, of course, multicoated to afford even better light transmission and long-term durability. While the reticle isn’t illuminated, it is high-quality and set on the second focal plane, allowing for rapid switching between different magnification settings depending on your needs.

Furthermore, this riflescope is built with a durable 30 mm tube of aircraft-grade aluminum. It’s weatherproof and built to last for a long time to come.

What I disliked about this scope was its eye relief. 3.3 inches aren’t enough to ensure comfort while shooting. I also found this scope a bit heavy, although it’s not something that disrupted my experience much. 

Product Highlight

This scope is really worthwhile despite being under $500 due to the precision glide and erector systems. In a nutshell, these systems will ensure fast and smooth transitioning between magnification powers, as well as windage and elevation adjustment values. You’ll be able to use the magnification ring and windage and elevation turrets easily, thanks to their audible and tactile feedback.

Key Features

  • Fully fogproof, shockproof, and waterproof
  • Made of aircraft-grade aluminum
  • Fast-focus eyepiece
  • Hard anodized finish
  • Multi-coated lenses
Pros Cons
  • Top-tier turrets and magnification settings
  • Excellent for high-range shooting
  • Fast-focus eyepiece for improved target acquisition
  • Durable construction
  • A rather poorly designed eye relief
  • It’s a little heavy

Basic Parameters

Manufacturer Vortex
Weight 21.6 oz
Eye Relief 3.1 – 3.3 in
Magnification 6.5 – 20x
Field of View 6.2 – 17.4 ft at 100 yds

The Final Verdict

This Vortex Optics rifle scope is affordable and easy to use thanks to its precision machined systems. Consider picking it up if you want something relatively affordable without spending all of your free cash on a single optic. However, given its poor eye relief, it’s the least favorite scope on my list. 

My Rating: 4.25/5

What to Look for in Scopes Under $500

Rifle scopes that are beneath $500 can be very worth your time and money. They tend to be affordable for most people but aren’t so budget-conscious that their manufacturers make compromises based on durability or other aspects. 

Having provided you with the top scopes under $500 to consider, let’s go over the main things you should think about when selecting the best rifle scope under $500 for your weapon.

What Are They Made Of?

The best rifle scopes under $500 should be durable to some extent. This involves them being constructed with materials like aircraft-grade aluminum or durable steel. Such materials will protect the scopes from obtaining damage as you use them or from their internal components being broken if you accidentally drop the scope.

You’ll also want to find scopes that offer some protection against the weather, water, or fog. Certain scopes are built for different circumstances. For instance, several scopes under $500 might be called “weatherproof,” meaning they can be used in any season or time of day. These are excellent in terms of value for money.

Don’t forget to consider any coating on the lens, as well. The best scopes will have coatings that prevent the lenses from being scratched or damaged easily. Such protections might make the scope cost a little more in the end but are usually well worth the price. Naturally, all the scopes under $500 I discussed have some lens coatings to increase their value and effectiveness, and all are durable.

Check our similar guides:

How Easy Are They to Adjust?

Many excellent rifle scopes under $500 will include windage or elevation adjuster knobs on their sides or tops. These allow you to better accommodate distance and elevation differences between you and your target or compensate for heavy wind before you take a critical shot.

While virtually all rifle scopes of any quality will include one or all of these knobs, the best will be audible and include tactile clicks. These allow you to adjust the above aspects without having to take your eye off the scope. Many of my chosen scopes feature adjusters of this type.

Furthermore, some excellent rifle scopes under $500 will include parallax adjusters. These can let you limit or totally eliminate parallax relative to you and your target. It can be very useful for experienced hunters trying to take down game from a distance.

First or Second Focal Plane?

You’ll want to consider whether a given rifle scope has a reticle on the first or second focal plane. In a nutshell, a reticle on the first focal plane will slightly change its size to accommodate increased or decreased magnification levels, allowing its hash marks or holdover points to remain accurate relative to the crosshair. 

However, this can be difficult to get used to if you aren’t experienced in long-distance shooting. At extreme distances, FFP reticles will become quite small indeed, possibly making it harder to hit your target on higher magnification settings.

Second focal plane reticles feature reticles that do not change in size as you switch between magnification settings. This can be helpful for beginners or if most of your shooting takes place at closer distances.

You can still use rifle scopes with second focal plane reticles at variable magnification levels, but you’ll have to estimate what the hash marks really indicate when you zoom in or out from the reticle’s “standard” magnification setting. An SFP reticle’s standard setting is usually indicated in the instruction manual of the scope itself.

Neither reticle type is perfect for everyone. It all depends on your preferences and experience levels. I featured rifle scopes under $500 that incorporate both first and second focal plane reticles so that you can have your pick of the best from both categories.

Do They Come with a Warranty?

Even though scopes under $500 aren’t the most expensive you can find on the market, it’s still quite a substantial investment for many people. For that reason, it’s always a good idea to check if a given rifle scope has a warranty from the manufacturer.

Warranties are excellent ways to insure your product against regular wear and tear. They also protect you from any defects on behalf of the manufacturing process. For instance, let’s say that you receive a $400 rifle scope with a crack in the lens. If it’s under warranty, you can easily send it back and get a free replacement.

Alternatively, many of the best rifle scopes under $500 carry lifetime warranties that guard against regular damage. As an example, they’ll repair or replace your scope if it suffers damage from regular use, such as taking it into the rain when it’s been made to be waterproof.

All in all, warranties aren’t the most critical factor in any scope purchase, but they might influence your decision if you’re picking a pricier scope than you first imagined.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Why should you get a rifle scope?

Most gun owners employ an optical sighting system on their weapons. And not just rifles, but shotguns and handguns, too. Why? Because one-third of the intricacy of lining up iron sights is eliminated when aiming via a scope or a red dot sight. 

You must align the rear sight with the front sight and your target when using metallic sights. With a scope, all you have to do is align your crosshairs with your intended target. Learning to shoot with a scope is far easier than learning to shoot with iron sights, and because most rifle scopes magnify, your target appears closer, allowing you to place a more precise shot.

What do the numbers on a rifle scope mean?

The 3 in a 3-9×40 scope stands for three power, or 3x. The image you see through the scope seems three times closer (3x) than it does with the naked eye. The number 9 denotes that it is nine times (9x) closer than it appears to the human eye. 

The objective lens diameter in millimeters is forty (40). This is a variable scope since the magnification may be adjusted from three to nine, with stops in between. “three to nine by forty.” is how you’d define this scope. The higher the magnification range, the more you’ll pay, but you’ll get a more adaptable scope. In many circumstances, a versatile scope implies that you can use one optic for numerous purposes rather than purchasing a new one.

What is the best scope magnification for hunting?

For a whitetail deer gun, a sight in the 3-9 magnification range is very normal. A 4-12 or 4.4-14 in Western states for mule deer or antelope is not excessive, especially since your typical shot is many times longer than in eastern whitetail woods. 

You can even leave your scope at a greater power on the plains or in open terrain. You can often see everything around you, with little risk of being surprised by an animal, which they appear to do on occasion. You may have to shoot from hilltop to hilltop or mountain to mountain in some circumstances. Target shooting is also possible with hunting scopes in this magnification range.

A 6-20x or 8-25x variable scope is not overly powerful for prairie dogs or long-range target shooting. However, keep in mind that on hot days, mirages and heat waves can render a high-powered scope nearly useless.

Fixed power scopes are preferred by some users because of their simplicity and lack of moving parts. Some folks prefer a fixed 4x scope on their rifles. Squirrel weapons, among other things. This magnification is standard on 22s for plinking. Fixed-power scopes with high magnification, such as 24, 36, or 40 power, are used by some target shooters.

Wrapping Up My Best Rifle Scope Under $500 Review

And that’s a wrap on my review. As you can see, it’s possible to get a top-quality rifle scope for under $500. However, bear in mind that such scopes don’t offer the advanced features of more expensive models. They should be more than enough, though, especially if you don’t shoot too often. 

Based on my testing, I’d recommend the Vortex Optics Crossfire II scope if you’re looking for a more affordable yet quality rifle scope. Both Athlon Argos and Bushnell Engage are also excellent choices. 

So, having said that, the only thing left for me to say is happy hunting. And the next time you wonder which scope to choose, you know where to find me.

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