You are ready to protect your property with a rifle as soon as you obtain one. You can take it to the range and utilize the iron sight for target shooting. You can even go hunting with the rifle, but you’ll have to wait patiently for a deer to get close enough, or somehow creep up on a less alert creature (you’ll never creep up on a deer). This is because most people have difficulty hitting anything more than 50 yards away in open sight.
The best and easiest way to extend the range of your rifle is by equipping it with a scope. Technically, the best rifle scopes cost a few thousand bucks – it will literally take you more than a lifetime to shoot that many bucks. These megabuck scopes are for pushing limits, e.g. hunting in the dark, shooting further and further away, showboating, and so on. For all regular hunters, novice or expert,the focus should be the best rifle scope for the money, and that’s exactly what this write-up is about.
The maximum magnification that you need for hunting is 6x. You’d want the reticle or crosshair to be as bright as possible but within reason, so 40mm objective lens and 1” tube fit the bill. You’ll be able to see the reticle clearly in low-light conditions, though maybe not exactly at dusk or early dawn. Based on these criteria, we can wholeheartedly the following best rifle scopes.
You know you can trust a rifle scope that bears the Nikon name, one of the top in the world of optics. In addition, thanks to Nikon’s economy of scale, you also get excellent value with the very popular Nikon P-223.
The one in question is the Nikon P-223 3-9×40 BDC 600. It means the magnification range is 3-9, the size of the objective lens is 40mm, and it’s equipped with Nikon’s bullet drop compensation (BDC) 600 program. Since a bullet will drop with the distance traveled, the Nikon P-223’s BDC 600 reticle will show you where to aim over a distance of 100 to 600 yards.
The zero-reset turrets are forwindage adjustment on top and elevation adjustment on the right, both pretty standard. We can confirm that the BDC 600 reticle works well, especially for sighting larger game. The elevation adjustment is quite precise for a hunter on a tree stand looking over a flat hunting ground. However, the windage adjustment is iffy over a distance of ground. This is almost always the case with rifle scopes in this price range, so you should just wait for the game to get closer when it’s windy.
All lenses are multi-coated for 99% light transmission. The reticle is bright and clear, which is indicative of top quality lenses and construction. It becomes slightly blurry on the edges at 6x magnification, but you’ll still be able to sight readily enough. Higher magnification than that is not very useful in hunting due to overly small field of view, which is true for most scopes.
The P-223 is nitrogen-filled and O-ring sealed for water and fog-proofing. All Nikon rifle scopes come with limited lifetime warranty.
The Buckmasters II rifle scope is a value leader even by Nikon’s standards. For the longest time it was available for $99. Nikon must have come to their senses and raised the price but it is still a stone cold bargain at the slightly higher price on Amazon.
The Buckmasters II 3-9×40 BDC has similar specs as the P-233 discussed above. The reticle is just as clear and sharp as the P-233’s except in low light conditions. The Buckmasters II is too difficult to sight at dawn and dusk, but it’s game on any time between.
Nikon’s Spot On app is something that you’d want to install if you own a Nikon rifle scope. Based on your bullet caliber, magnification and distance, it will tell you which markers on the BDC reticle you should use for sighting.
Besides the 3-9×40, the Bushmasters II 4-12×40 BDC is also very popular with hunters. You can go with this one instead for really long-range hunting and target shooting, though the highest magnification settings are only useful in brighter conditions.
Leupold & Stevens is the top American brand for rifle scopes (or at least the most popular).
Although the VX-1 3-9×40 is the entry-level Leupold VX-series of high-end scopes, it is so good that by the end of this review you will be convinced that it is the best rifle scope for the money. The build quality is absolutely top-notched, which shouldn’t be a surprise since the VX-1 comes with Leupold’s famous hassle-free lifetime warranty.
The VX-1’s oversized eye bell, Multicoat 4 lens system, and Quantum Optical system result in full clarity of the reticle at any light condition at up to 6x magnification. Even at low light and the top magnification, only the outermost edges of the reticle become overly dark and blurry.
You’ll be thrilled with how fast you can get the sight to focus. It’s hard to lose sight of the game with the VX-1. The BDC works with all hunting calibers. In addition, the VX-1 is the most affordable rifle scope we know of that offers functional, instead of barely serviceable, windage and elevation adjustments.
What’s more, Leupold’s nitrogen sealing process is the best in the business. You can immerse the VX-1 in a frozen lake for an hour and it’ll live to tell about it. Just remember not to put your rifle in the lake with it (if you attempt this). By the time you reattached the freezing VX-1 to the rifle, it would be ready for action like nothing happened.
It should be evident by now that our best rifle scope is the Leupold VX-1 3-9×40. Not only does the VX-1 focus quickly, it is a pleasure to sight target on its duplex reticle, which is as sharp and bright as you’ll find in a non-illuminated scope.
On the other hand, the similarly priced Nikon P-233 3-9×40 BDC 600 is a worthy alternative if your only hunting caliber is .223 Remington with 55-grain tip. This scope’s BDC 600 ballistic compensation is calibrated specifically for this bullet. You’ll know which marker on the reticle to use for sighting and it’s remarkably accurate up to 500 yards or so, especially on a calm day.
Our value pick for the best rifle scope is the Nikon Bushmasters II 3-9×40 BDC. Most rifle scopes of this price sacrifice the quality of the optical system but not the Nikon optics used in the Bushmasters II. Furthermore, the Spot On app makes this an excellent scope for long-range target shooting.