How many times have you used your scope to aim, only for your shot to end up significantly off target?
Let me tell you; it’s happened to me more times than I can count.
Even if you have the highest quality rifle, your aim can be off if you do not have a superior scope.
In other words, a rifle scope can make or break your shooting game.
However, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a rifle scope to get an excellent aim. There are numerous scopes available for under $500 that have superior quality and features, and we have put together a list of the top 10 for you today. Below, you may be able to find the best rifle scope under $500 for you:
Our Top Choice
Of all the rifle scopes on the following list, our favorite is the Burris Fullfield E1. The Ballistic Plex E1 reticle with elevation and windage dots let you take an accurate shot. Plus, the company will customize the scope knob, so it works well with whatever cartridge you use.
The 10 Best Scopes under $500
While you might know what our top choice is, that doesn’t mean it’s the best rifle scope under $500 for you. Here are our favorite options currently on the market:
The Burris company has been making high-quality rifle scopes for nearly 50 years. This experience and dedication produce some of the more popular scopes on the market.
If you have previously researched great rifle scopes, the Burris name might sound familiar, but for more expensive models. While numerous Burris products range from $600 to $2,000, there are still plenty of affordable options like this Fullfield E1.
It comes with a Ballistic Plex E1 reticle that allows you to magnify in any shooting conditions.
While the 3-9 may seem like a low magnification scale, the most critical value is clarity. A regular 3-9 range can work exceptionally well if the optics are flawless, which is just what this Burris rifle scope provides.
The reticle also has elevation and cascading windage dots on the left and right to help you hit your target. Each mark shows 10mph crosswinds, which can improve your shots from a distance of up to 500 yards.
Another great feature is the separate eyepiece that does not move while adjusting the zoom, which allows you to use a lens cover if you wish.
Since every rifle is different, you want a scope that can accommodate your weapon. Burris will customize a knob for this scope, so it works well with the cartridge you’re using.
- Great value for an affordable price
- Clear optics
- The reticle has cascading windage dots
- 3-9 magnification
- The power ring may be stiff
This rifle scope is a fantastic option for avid hunters and shooters, as the lower price does not compromise the quality of the scope. Enjoy a clear shot with a detailed reticle and customizable clickers.
Despite being a newer company, Vortex has quickly gained popularity by producing multiple high-quality and affordable rifle scopes.
Even though its appearance speaks of a close-range scope, it is actually our best long range rifle scope under 500. The company took a more straightforward approach to the design and included only the most essential features.
While other rifle scopes may be chock-full of unique features that make the scope more challenging to use, the Diamondback has just the essentials.
With a 4-16 magnification level, you can take your mark clearly from over 1,000 yards away.
As an added plus, the riflescope is shockproof, waterproof, and fog proof so you can hunt and shoot in any weather condition without compromising your vision.
For a crystal-clear image, the scope has a lens with a glass-etched first focal plane reticle. Combine those features with the fast-focus eyepiece, and you have a great, precise image.
The Diamondback comes with the Vortex VIP (Very Important Promise) warranty, which promises an unlimited lifetime guarantee. No matter what happened to the rifle scope, you can count on Vortex to help you.
- Long-range scope for shooting over 1,000 yards away
- Simplified design with key features
- 4-16 magnification
- First focal plane reticle
- Possible color shift when aiming at closer targets
The Vortex Diamondback has all the necessary features for long-range shooting in an affordable model. From novice to advanced shooters, everyone can use and enjoy this simple, toned-down design with impressive optics.
While Nikon is famous for its beautiful cameras, they bring the same optical excellence and expertise to each of their rifle scopes.
The M-Tactical model is specifically for use with the .223 Reminton/5.56 NATO round bullets with 55-grain polymer tips. The scope helps track the trajectory so you can get that perfect shot.
The BDC 600 reticle also gives a unique aiming guide. There are open circle points on the vertical axis along with marks from 100 to 600 yards.
With exposed turrets for windage and elevation, you can easily adjust and read them. The knurling design works wonderfully with bare or gloved hands, so you won’t have to remove a glove while setting your aim.
Parallax error can affect your shot significantly. Nikon understands that and includes side turrets to adjust for the parallax without you needing to move.
When using the Nikon M-Tactical, expect clear images thanks to the proprietary glass and multi coating technology.
The quality of materials doesn’t only apply to the optics. The 30mm body tube, made from aircraft-grade aluminum alloy, has ultra-matte anodizing. This structure provides a durable scope that can you can use for years in any environment.
- Tracks .223 Reminton 5.56 NATO bullets
- Exposed turrets for windage and elevation
- Ergonomic knurling
- Side turrets for parallax adjustment
- The parallax adjustment may not work if you do not have a mounting level
The Nikon M-Tactical is a quality rifle scope with long-lasting materials. If you use 0.223 Remington 5.56 NATO bullets, this scope is a fantastic option with clear and steady optics.
Here we have another Vortex product, the Crossfire II. This model comes in various sizes, ideal for all types of hunting and shooting.
The Crossfire II ranges in size from a 2-7×32 to a 4-12×44.
Our particular choice is the 3-9×40, which only weighs 14.5 oz and measures 12 inches. At 100 yards, it allows you a reasonably ample field of view, coming in at 34.1 feet – 12.6 feet.
It has a long eye relief, measuring 3.8 inches, and a fast-focus eyepiece. Both of these features, combined with multi coated lenses, give you a clear and bright image.
The Dead-Hold BDC reticle has a series of dots in the center of the crosshair to improve your aim. It allows you to accommodate for windage and long-distance shots.
Another great feature is the second focal plane reticle, which maintains the image’s appearance despite magnification changes.
- Dead-Hold BDC reticle with guiding dots
- Fast-focus eyepiece and long eye relief
- Ideal for close and long-distance shots
- Second focal plane reticle
- The turrets are not calibrated to the external frame but to the crosshairs, which could cause your optics to be slightly off-level
This rifle scope allows precision for both short and long-distance shots. The Crossfire II is an excellent choice for both hunters and shooters looking for clear images and accuracy over any distance.
Similar to the previous Nikon scope, the PROSTAFF P5 includes first-rate materials and optics, but this one is not specifically for one type of bullet.
Since Nikon has been in the optics field for more than a century, they create intricate glass products with the ideal lens geometry for each product. The PROSTAFF P5 has multicoated lenses with a 4x zoom for optimal viewing with precise magnifications.
The PROSTAFF’s BDC reticle has the same open circle aiming guide as the M-Tactical model, just with fewer guides. These ballistic circles let you have an accurate aim for close and long-range hunting.
Like the M-Tactical, the PROSTAFF P5 has side adjustments for parallax, which are easy to move. All the controls on the PROSTAFF have ergonomic knurling that lets you get a good grip while adjusting them.
Even with the turrets and textured controls, the riflescope is considerably lightweight thanks to the aircraft-grade aluminum.
Another exciting feature is the ¼-MOA reticle adjustments that allow you to stay focused on your target despite the recoil. The spring-loaded instant zero-reset gets you refocused on the mark in minimal time.
- Multicoated lenses with open ballistic circles
- BDC reticle
- The material is nitrogen purged to prevent fogging
- Spring-loaded zero-reset turrets
- The customer service may not be as readily available to help as other brands
The PROSTAFF P5 is a quality scope for close and long-range hunting, with impressive optics, ergonomic controls, and spring-loaded turrets.
The Bushnell company has been making rifle scopes for over 70 years, which means they have had time to perfect the included features.
Measuring approximately 14 inches in length, this model has a wealth of useful features.
The Deploy MOA reticle has elevation and windage marks, which can improve your accuracy. Plus, the anti-reflection coating lets you clearly view your target without any interference.
For your mid-range targets, the Bushnell Engage scope has side dials to adjust for parallax error. The turrets on this model also have a locking mechanism, so you don’t have to change them continually.
Bushnell also uses the nitrogen purging process on all their rifle scopes to eliminate any possibility of the product becoming foggy.
- Side parallax dials
- The turrets have a locking system
- Deploy MOA reticle with elevation and windage marks
- Anti-reflection coating
- The crosshairs may be very slight and hard to see
The Bushnell Engage rifle scope is an excellent option for close and mid-range targets. The quality glass, anti-reflection coating, and the Deploy MOA reticle all lend to remarkable precision.
Our final Vortex model is the Viper HS 2.5-10×44. Like the Crossfire II, it is an ideal option for both hunters and shooters, thanks to the optics and magnification versatility.
With the extended eye relief and a comfortable eye box, you can focus on your target effortlessly. Plus, the scope includes the Vortex MagView Bar, a magnification indicator that lets you read the guides in conditions with limited light.
Thanks to these features, you can aim a fraction of a second to make sure you don’t miss that perfect shot.
The quality of materials is also superior. The XD glass with multi-coatings provides excellent image clarity, and the aerospace-grade aluminum is incredibly durable. Another notable feature is the locking rings around the lenses, so they don’t move slightly during recoil.
We can’t forget the Vortex warranty! This unlimited lifetime VIP guarantee promises to repair or replace your scope no matter the damage. If you received it damaged or something happened to the scope while in the field, Vortex will take care of the situation.
- Vortex MagView Bar
- XD glass with multi-coatings
- Locking lens rings
- Lifetime warranty
- The eye relief may change with magnification
Like the other Vortex models, the Viper HS is a superb option for shooters and hunters alike. The XD glass, MagView Bar, and locking lens rings all contribute to a fast and accurate focus on your target.
As a newer company, Athlon has quickly taken the field by storm with its impressive features.
The reticle is exceptionally detailed, giving you the most accurate mid and long-distance shots. This particular reticle is an APMR FFP IR MIL, which lets you lock onto your target and follow it as it moves.
The crosshair has guiding lines in three directions to give you incredible precision. There are 13 sub-tensions, ranging from A1 to D5. Plus, the illumination on the reticle gives you a clearer view in subpar conditions.
All the lenses are multicoated for an even better view, which lets in as much light as possible.
Another notable aspect of the Helos model is its locking turrets. Adjust both the elevation and windage turrets to where you want them, then push them down to lock the setting.
- First focal plane
- Detailed and illuminated reticle
- Locking turrets
- Purged with Argon for superior waterproofing
- It may be harder to focus at larger distances
If you are looking for a precise riflescope for the most accurate shot, the Athlon Helos is an excellent option. The detailed reticle lets you follow your target, and the locking turrets save your settings.
Another famous brand of rifle scopes is Leupold. While most of their models are over $500, some even reaching $2,000, the VX-3i is a fantastic affordable option with the same quality as the higher-end choices.
Despite the low price, advanced hunters and shooters can take advantage of this impressive scope.
Leupold designed it for precision in any situation with their new Twilight Max light management. Even if you are hunting in low-light environments, you will get a clear image in your scope.
This rifle scope also boasts of a twin bias erector spring, which limits backlash.
The 12.6-inch body, made with aluminum, is reasonably light, weighing only 13 ounces. Leupold also waterproofed it with Argon and Krypton for superior protection.
Finally, another essential feature of the Leupold VX-3i rifle is its warranty. Leupold offers a Gold Ring full lifetime guarantee so you can rest assured that your scope will be with you for years to come.
- Twilight Max light management
- Twin bias erector spring
- Superior waterproofing
- Lifetime guarantee
- Might not be ideal for novices
Just because a rifle scope is under $500 doesn’t mean it isn’t for advanced and competitive shooters! The Leupold VX-3i is a superior option for experienced hunters and shooters with its light management, erector spring, and impressive focus.
Our last rifle scope option comes from the brand Primary Arms and is perfect for competition shooting.
With its exposed turrets for adjusting windage and elevation, you can quickly and easily make the necessary changes. These turrets have a notable clicking sound, so you can move them intuitively without changing your position to look at them.
In addition to the quick process of locking in your zero, the riflescope has 12 brightness settings. Whether you are shooting at dawn or in the evening, you will have a clear view of your target.
Since this scope is ideal for close and mid-range shooting, it comes with a knob on the side to adjust for parallax error.
Other significant aspects of this riflescope are that it is fog resistant, shockproof, and water-resistant. Plus, the company offers a limited lifetime warranty.
- 12 brightness settings
- Lifetime warranty
- Audible clicks when adjusting the turrets
- Parallax adjustment knobs
- Not for long-distance shooting
If you are looking for a riflescope that lets you quickly and effortlessly focus on your zero, this Primary Arms option is a quality choice. With the brightness levels and adjustable turrets, you can make changes in a matter of seconds for the perfect shot.
How to Choose the Best Rifle Scope under $500
As you are reviewing the rifle scopes above, it is crucial to consider what you will be using the riflescope for (hunting, competitions, etc.). The following points are also just as important.
In the reviews above, we’ve talked a lot about turrets for windage and elevation. The windage turret adjusts the horizontal plane, while the elevation refers to the vertical adjustments.
While some turrets may look sleeker than others, make sure to consider their durability and ease of use over appearance. Consider whether you will be shooting with gloves or with bare hands, and look for turrets that can accommodate that.
If you prefer to use gloves, it may be best to find turrets with knurling for a comfortable grip. You don’t want to adjust too far or not at all because your gloves slip on the turrets.
Another thing to consider is the durability of the turrets. You want to make sure they will stay in place and not twist or fall off in the middle of your hunt.
Several of the above options have lifetime warranties, which is a vital feature when buying rifle scopes.
Since a rifle scope purchase is not a small investment, having the company’s guarantee backing the product ensures that you receive a quality model that the company will replace if anything happens to it.
Numerous things could potentially damage a scope when you’re in the field, so an unlimited warranty gives you that extra protection.
Companies like Vortex that offer unlimited lifetime warranties may be a good option if you are worried about possible damages in the field and having to buy a new product.
One of the essential features of a rifle scope is the reticle because it guides you in taking the correct shot.
We have seen very simple reticles with fine crosshairs to complex ones with detailed guides on our list above. As you decide which type would work best for you, consider your skill level and what kind of targets you will be shooting.
If you are an advanced shooter, a more detailed reticle to accurately track your prey may be a logical choice, while novice shooters may only need some simple guiding lines.
Another critical point to consider is the first or second focal plane. The first focal plane (FFP) is ideal for long-range shooters, while the SFP provides clear images for close and mid-range shooting.
When hunting and shooting, a fraction of a second can make the difference between hitting or missing your target. The instant-zero reset feature on rifle scopes helps eliminate any delays.
Once you have zeroed your elevation and windage turrets at a specific distance, you don’t have to move the turrets back to that setting continually. The instant-zero reset allows for quick shooting and only simple adjustments if you need to make a slight change.
With all the terminology and unique features, it can be confusing to find the perfect rifle scope for the first time.
We want to make the process easier for you, so here are some of the most common questions people ask when buying a rifle scope.
Q: What Is the Ideal Magnification?
Several rifle scopes boast of high magnification with a zoom of 16x or even 25x. While a higher magnification may be tempting, it is not necessary for accurate shooting.
If you can clearly see your target with an 8x magnification, there is no need to go any higher because it can be harder to handle.
The magnification also depends on what type of shooting you will be doing and how far away your target is. For example, if you aim at small prey or marks that are hundreds of yards away, you will need more zoom.
In general, a range of magnification is best so that you can aim at all types of targets over a varied distance. While the 3-9x is standard, a broader range of 3-15x could be ideal for various circumstances.
Q: Do Cheaper Rifle Scopes Have Decent Quality?
Many people think that the more expensive the product is, the higher the quality. While this is generally true, you don’t need to opt for a more expensive rifle scope.
The scopes listed above are all under $500, and they are excellent scopes for novice and intermediate shooters. A more advanced hunter may want the added features of an expensive model, but they can also benefit from the more straightforward and cheaper options.
While not all cheap rifle scopes have decent quality, the ones listed above do. As you search for the perfect scope, consider the material, magnification, optics, and other features. Make sure the model will fit your needs and last in all conditions.
Q: Does Parallax Affect Accuracy?
Yes, scope parallax affects your accuracy! When you have a higher magnification for objects far away, you can experience inconsistency in the crosshair positioning when you move your eyes.
Since the crosshair is “moving,” you will not be able to aim accurately.
If you plan on shooting long-range targets, make sure to get a rifle scope with parallax adjustments. They will readjust the focus (separate from the zoom) and provide you with a more accurate shot.
We have gone over some excellent rifle scope choices, each with their own incredible features. However, we believe the best rifle scope under 500 dollars is the Burris Fullfield E1.
Even with the lower magnification scale, the focus is quite clear. The simple cascading windage and elevation dots allow for accuracy without overwhelming your vision. Plus, Burris will customize the clickers for you.
Some close runner-ups include the Leupold VX-3i for competitive shooting and the Athlon Helos for detailed tracking on moving targets.
Whether you’re looking for a beginner rifle scope or a cheaper option for more advanced shooters, I’m sure you can find the ideal product on this list. Happy shooting!