The Best AR-15 Scopes & Optics Of 2021: Red Dots, Magnifiers, LPVOs & More

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With so many new products on the market, it can be difficult finding the best scope your AR-15 needs. If you are unable to decide which optic or scope you want, you’re not alone. Fortunately for you, we’ve tested nearly every one you could think of, and have compiled our detailed results below.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at 1x magnification optics, red dots, variable optics, magnified scopes, recommended mounts, accessories, and much much more. Once you’ve finished reading, you’ll know, without a doubt, what the best AR attachment is for your own needs and budget.

Best AR-15 Scopes & Optics

Best AR-15 Red Dots

If you don’t already know about red dots, they’re a type of sight that uses a bright red dot for you to aim with. Of course, some of you might be hesitant to buy one if you’re concerned about running out of battery, but there are several advantages that red dot sights have over traditional non-electronic sights.

Traditional iron sights require that you close one eye and precisely line up both of the sights. But red dots give you much more freedom when it comes to their usage. Not only can you keep both of your eyes wide open, but you can position yourself much more comfortably than if you were using iron sights.

These advantages mean you can find your target quickly and with greater peripheral vision. Finally, their brightness will also help you aim accurately when in low-light or if it is extremely bright outside.

1. Bushnell TRS-25 AR

bushnell trs-25 ar

Unlike most scopes within this price range, the TRS-25 red dot is known for not only having a record of fantastic reviews and performance, but selling for a bargain price. Personally, I would advise against you buying any red dots that are cheaper than the TRS-25, that is, unless you’re planning on shooting something like a .22 LR.

When it comes to optics, typically, you will discover that you get what you are willing to pay for, but the TRS-25 is a welcome exception to that rule.

I’ve seen several TRS-25’s being used during competitions, and all of their owners say they hold up well for long-term use. I even used to use one on my own AR before I upgraded to a higher-end red dot. These days I use it on my AK-47 pistol. Despite the higher recoil of the AK, the TRS-25 has comfortably held zero for countless rounds and despite multiple splashes of water.

This optic has done surprisingly well for its noticeably low price point. If you’re planning on buying the TRS-25, I would recommend purchasing a riser for it to use with the AR. Not only will this make finding your target much easier, but especially so if you may want to use irons sights at the same time.

2. Sig Sauer Romeo5

sig sauer romeo5

There has been a sudden increase in the number of red dots being sold in the $200 price range. Not only that, they’ve also started to come with upgrades that were previously only available for much more expensive optics.

One of those fancier mid-range optics worth checking out is the Sig Romeo5. It comes with eight daylight settings that actually work very well in bright daylight, along with two night vision settings.

One major bonus of the Romeo5 is that the optic only activates when it detects motion, so you can use it without having to mess with any annoying buttons, all while saving battery at the same time. That’s not to say that battery life would ever be an issue, as it can last up to 40,000 hours running on the medium setting.

The Romeo5’s glass is crystal clear, along with a great field of view to boot. For only $140, it’s a very sturdy and reliable optic, so much so that I would go so far as to recommend using it with your home defense gun. We have done a lot of testing with this optic, and after putting a lot of rounds through several units of the Romeo5, we can guarantee you’ll be satisfied with this optic.

3. Trijicon MRO

trijicon mro

The Trijicon MRO is a more recent, but more than decent high-end red dot optic. It usually sells for around $400, but it’s small with a bigger field of vision, especially when compared to other sights in its price range. This sight has some fantastic reviews, and it can survive whatever abuse you put it through. I would consider the MRO an optic fit for everyday use.

The optic comes with a total of 6 settings for daylight, and one ultra-bright setting that you can see even in the most blinding of daylight conditions, plus two night vision settings that work just as well. There are a couple of different types of MRO depending on the riser. There’s no riser, 1/3 cowitness, and full cowitness.

We prefer the model that uses 1/3 cowitness. That’s because you can use iron sights as a backup (which we highly recommend doing), but they won’t be distracting to you during your normal usage.

4. Aimpoint Micro H-2

aimpoint micro h-2

The Aimpoint is widely known as the Rolls Royce of red dots. It’s a noticeably expensive optic, but with a high price tag comes remarkable quality. The Micro H-2 will last you for up to 50,000 hours on just one battery. It’s also completely waterproof and can handle extreme weather conditions as well. I’ve been using the Micro H-2 with my normal AK-47. The optic sits on top of the AK’s gas block, which can get very hot very fast.

Despite the high temperatures and general wear and tear, the Micro H-2 is still working great after countless rounds fired. I would have no issue going into a dangerous situation with my Aimpoint H-2. If you plan to use it at night, you can also get a T version that supports night vision. But for the vast majority of you reading this, the H-2 is everything you will ever need from an optic.

The Micro H-2 also comes with two options for reticle sizes, 2 MOA or 4 MOA. If you are planning on mounting it onto your AR-15, I recommend that you go with the 2 MOA since it works much better in close quarters, all while still being useful for long-range engagements at the same time. You can also use a magnifier with it as well.

For such a high-quality optic, save yourself the trouble and get a better mount that can reliably hold zero. I would suggest getting a LaRue, as it’s what I have with all of my higher-end optics.

5. Aimpoint PRO (Patrol Rifle Optic)

aimpoint pro (patrol rifle optic)

This is the optic that I would buy for my AR-15 if I didn’t already have an older Comp ML3 attached.

The Patrol Rifle Optic optic might be larger than most optics on the market, but it’s got a bigger enclosure, three entire years of battery life, night vision, submersible up to 150 ft, and great temperature resistance. That’s not all; it’s also cheaper than the Micro H-2 while coming with its own mount. It’s an optic that’s got many great features that I highly recommend checking out if you’ve been in the market for a new optic.

Best Holographic Sights

6. EOTech EXPS3

eotech exps3

For the last couple of years, it’s been a continuous battle between Aimpoint and EOTech over sight supremacy. Aimpoint was known for their reflex sights. Meanwhile, Eotech had its own special holographic sights. Despite their technologies being only a little different, both companies’ sights were used extensively by the US military and loving fans.

All was well for EOTech until they ran into legal trouble that ended in them receiving a lawsuit from the US Government in 2015 for their sights losing zero in cases of extreme weather conditions. This fatal flaw needed fixing before their optics could be relied upon again. But now they have finally returned.

If you like having a large circle-style reticle, I would encourage you to buy the more recent EXPS3-0 model, which lets you simultaneously have 1/3 co-witness and iron sights. The EXPS3 is currently the most up to date holographic red dot EOTech model available for sale, with clear glass, up to 600 hours of battery, an integrated QD mount, and a variety of other features that will keep you shooting without worry.

On top of all those other great features, the EXPS3’s holographic sights can survive its front lens being destroyed without issue, which is a bonus I’m sure any gun-owner would be happy to have.

Best Flip-Mounted 3x Magnifiers

Do you want the speed and ease of a red dot or holographic sight, but you still want to shoot long-range without having any issues?

Fortunately for you, we’ve tested tons of mid-range 3x magnifiers, and found the definitive best choice.

7. Vortex 3x Magnifier

vortex 3x magnifier

The Vortex 3x has crystal-clear glass, eye-relief, changeable if you are left-handed, an easy mount, compact design, all while being comfortably light for you to carry.

Best Prism (Fixed Magnification) Scopes

Now it’s time to look at some optics with magnification! We’ll start with prism scopes and then move onto classic variable magnification scopes. Read on, and you’ll see all our favorites.

8. Primary Arms 1x Prism (Cyclops)

primary arms 1x prism (cyclops)

Prism scopes have a lot of benefits when compared to magnifiers and red dots:

  • Etched reticle doesn’t require any batteries
  • Works more effectively for people with astigmatism
  • Typically built sturdier than other types of scopes

But they also have some issues that are worth mentioning:

  • It can be very expensive
  • Weigh more than red-dot optics
  • Bad eye-relief and eyebox

Our first recommendation for you is Primary Arms’ 1x Cyclops. If you have astigmatism or are just terrified of running out of battery, you’ll love using this scope. But if neither of those applies to you, we would recommend that you just stick to using a red dot optic instead. Other than that, the Cyclops is a well-constructed scope, with modest eye relief as well.

The Cyclops also comes with the ACSS reticle, which works great when using it at higher magnifications, but it’s unfortunately not nearly as useful at only 1x magnification. Despite that, the Cyclops is still a quick and reliable scope. If astigmatism is giving you issues, or if you hate dealing with batteries, make sure to give it a look.

9. Primary Arms SLx 3 Prism

primary arms slx 3 prism

This scope was the overall best choice for prism sights. The Primary Arms SLx 3 gives you the ideal amount of magnification when compared to other prism sights. However, It is noticeably slower at close quarters when comparing it to a 1x prism or red dot, especially with its ACSS CQB reticle.

Despite those issues, the SLx 3 will also make it so you can hit distant targets much easier than other sights, so it all depends on your needs.

10. Sig Sauer Bravo 5

sig sauer bravo 5

Do you need a bigger FOV with more magnification at the same time? Make sure to check out the Sig Sauer Bravo 5; it’s a scope that’s sure to impress you as much as it did us. With the Bravo 5’s patented Megaview, you’re able to see with a greater field of vision through its clean and clear glass, especially when compared to other scopes.

The only real issue with the Bravo 5 is its noticeably heavy 23 oz weight. However, the scope has three Picatinny rails that can be easily removed, so make sure to do that if you pick up this piece of hardware.

11. ACOG TA31F 4×32

acog ta31f 4x32

If you’re looking for a battle-ready, robust, and tough scope, the Trijicon Advanced Combat is what you’ve been waiting for. We recommend that you get the TA31F version. It has a fixed 4x magnification, with a reticle custom-built for you to shoot at a decent range with ease.

The reason for the scopes’ expensive price point is because of all of its nifty features. The scope’s fiber-optic system illuminates the reticle, so it doesn’t need any batteries at all. At the same time, the tritium lamps activate during the nighttime and are guaranteed to function for at least 15 years.

Personally, I would recommend trying the TA31F in person, as its fixed sight system may not be your cup of tea. You should consider the ACOG or the Spitfire if you’re planning on shooting at a longer range, as shorter distances will require some practice before you’ll feel comfortable using it. However, if you are in the market for a proven combat optic, you need to get an ACOG. If you’re looking for the scope that’s built to be tough and reliable, you’ve found it!

Best Variable Magnification Scopes

12. Primary Arms 1-6x ACSS

primary arms 1-6x acss

The Primary Arms 1-6x ACSS is one of our favorite variable magnification scopes. The scope comes with clear glass at 1x magnification, along with the ACSS reticle; which uses a smaller reticle for long-range shooting, and a larger circle that works great in close quarters.

1x magnification is noticeably clear, and there’s also less visual distortion at 6x when compared to the Strike Eagle 1-6x scope.

13. Vortex 1-6x Strike Eagle

vortex 1-6x strike eagle

The Strike Eagle was the previous optic that I used at 3-Gun competitions for several years. It helped me to hit the 300+ yard targets with ease, especially when compared to my earlier 1-4x TAC30. The Strike Eagle 1-6x has a surprisingly low price-tag, and extremely clear glass from 1-4x magnification.

There is a bit of visual distortion at 6x magnification, which may turn some of you off this scope. But since I rarely, if ever, use the max magnification, it doesn’t bother me that much. If you’re planning on shooting at a distance, you can crank it up to 3-4x magnification to minimize any visual distortion.

Also, the reticle works very well for both close-range and farther distances. I used to use mine with an Aero one-piece mount, for a secure hold and to save weight at the same time. Be sure also to take a look at the combo mount that comes from Palmetto State Armory.

14. Vortex Viper PST 1-4x

vortex viper pst 1-4x

With all of these fantastic midrange 1-6x scopes, most people would be satisfied. But if you really want a 1-3x scope, this would be my personal choice for a robust scope with a great build.

The PST 1-4x is a high-end 1-4x scope with high-quality glass and reticle that excels at both close quarters and distance shooting.

15. Vortex Viper PST II 1-6x

vortex viper pst ii 1-6x

Nowadays, this is what I have been using with my rifle in competitions. The Viper PST II has the best mix of glass quality, a comfortable eyebox, all while still being actually visible in bright daylight. All of those features mean I can even use it as a red dot for close-up shooting.

Not only that, you can easily use the 6x zoom of completely clear glass with barely any distortion on the side.

16. Vortex 1-6x Razor HD Gen 2

vortex 1-6x razor hd gen 2

If you are planning on competing in competitions with 300+ yard targets, 1-4x won’t be enough for you to win. The 1-6x Razor is the all-around best AR rifle scope for rifle competitions.

It’s got really great glass, and it is built to last you for years to come. When compared to other scopes, it’s much clearer, you’ll have a greater view of your surroundings and a more forgiving eye box to top it all off.

If you’re looking for a scope that’s fast and reliable, this is definitely the one you should buy.

Best Hunting Scopes

17. Leupold 3-9x VX Freedom

leupold 3-9x vx freedom

This is one of our recommended hunting scopes for when you need something that’s more magnified than just 1x. This scope can do crystal-clear 3-9x magnification and for a reasonable price.

Recently, I’ve been using it with my 30.06 rifle, and so far, it’s been able to tolerate the heavy recoil just fine. The glass is very clear at 3x, and it stays clear at 9x as well. The VX Freedom is our new favorite hunting scope, right after Leuopold’s very respectable VX-1 scope.

Best Long Range Scope

18. Steiner PX4i 4-16×56

steiner px4i 4-16x56

It was a challenge for us to choose our favorite long-range scope for the AR-15. Usually, I would go with a 5-25x scope, but in my honest opinion, that seems like a little too much magnification for 5.56 rounds.

So instead of going with my usual choice, I chose my favorite 4-16x scope, the Steiner P4xi. This scope has extremely clear glass and a nice reticle that works well at all magnifications. Also, it’s got fantastic turrets, a great feeling magnification ring, all while passing the tracking test with flying colors. I won’t lie to you, it’s an expensive scope, but the Steiner P4xi is well worth purchasing if you’ve got cash to burn for a long range scope.

Best AR-15 Back-Up Iron Sights (BUIS)

Once you’ve got your very own primary sight, you might be ready to go out and put it to good use. But if you want to be prepared for any worst-case scenario, you’re going to need a backup sight for your AR.

The vast majority of the time, you won’t use your backup sights at all. You might even think they’re a waste of time and money. But if your primary sight ever fails, you’ll be glad you chose to think ahead and buy a backup sight.

Here are our favorite Back-Up Iron Sights that we highly recommend buying;

Magpul Gen 2 BUIS

magpul gen 2 buis

These were the sights that helped back up sights become a mainstream item. The Magpul Gen 2 is affordable, accurate, and are definitely worth checking out if you’re in the market for backup sights.

Magpul MBUS Pro

magpul mbus pro

This is the latest backup sight from Magpul. The MBUS Pro uses a robust steel build to make sure it will survive anything you can throw at it.

Offset Iron Sights

offset iron sights

This sight style may not be your cup of tea, but if you don’t have time to switch your scope back to 1x, these offset sights will make sure you can shoot quickly and without delay.

All you have to do is tilt your gun, and you’ll be ready for close-range targets.

Final Thoughts

You’ve seen all our favorite products for the AR-15: red dots, ACOGs, variable optics, and more. Remember to choose whatever fits your needs best, whether that’s a long-range scope that doesn’t rely on batteries, or a tactical red dot sight that works in the brightest and hottest conditions.

Whether for collecting, recreation, or self-defense, the proper optic makes the perfect accessory for your rifle. Either way, we hope that this guide has helped you find whatever works best with your AR-15!

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