With such a large market for optics, you can find the right optic for every use, every weapon, and at any price. With all these options, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the different features of each tactical scope.
Our guide to the best tactical scope under $1,000 examines the features of modern tactical rifle scopes to help you pick the best scope that suits your needs.
In this guide, we review our pick for the top six, best tactical scopes for under $1,000.
Our Top 6 Picks for the Best Tactical Scope Under $1,000
When choosing the best tactical scope, short-range, medium-range, and long-range plays a role in the cost of the riflescope.
Short-range is a top-quality optic that typically costs around one thousand dollars or more. These optics have specific design elements for combat in close quarters making it necessary for clear sighting and easy use. Optics for close quarters usually live in a rough environment, so you need a scope that is durable and made to take abuse.
Medium-range is a top-quality optic that combines strength and clarity. When hunting in thick woods or brush, the medium-range optic is the best choice. You need an optic that’s durable enough to withstand hard use and harsh elements yet has the clarity and the precision of making long shots across open fields and up and along rivers and down hills.
Long-range is an optic that needs durability and precision. With a cost of one thousand dollars, it needs features like precision, fully multi-coated lenses, and zero reset turrets, all wrapped in one piece construction.
Here is what we recommend as the best tactical scope under $1,000:
1. Trijicon TR24 Accupoint Riflescope – Close-Range
If you want great versatility with good optics at close range, the Trijicon TR24 Accupoint makes a great choice. This versatile optic has the capability of smoothly changing from 1 to 4-power with ease. The 1-power, functioning as a red dot optic, handles combat in close quarters.
For illumination, the Trijicon TR24 has fiber optics with a Tritium self-luminous phosphor lamp built in and the lamp is battery-free. While the reticle illumination is very bright, you can reduce it with a simple adjustment of the absorption point cover.
With a sturdy aluminum build that’s aircraft grade, the Trijicon TR24 has all-weather protection with an optic that’s fog and shock proof. The Trijicon TR24 Accupoint Riflescope gives you versatility and excellent optics for combat at close range, all for under $1,000.
2. Alpen Apex XP AR Riflescope – Mid-Range
If you’re looking for a medium-range optic scope of premium grade, the Apex XP AR riflescope is the answer at under one thousand dollars. With the Apex XP’s varied magnification starting at 1-power and up to 6-power you get a perfect brush hunting optic. A durable optic scope, the Apex XP AR easily handles continuous magnum loads.
The user-friendly Alpen Apex XP AR focuses on smooth control and amazing clarity with an extremely bright, illuminated reticle. Multi-coated lenses deliver light transmission and optical clarity. Besides its amazing optics and durability, the Apex XP AR is shockproof, waterproof, and fog proof.
For under $1,000, you can get a top premium optic, medium range scope.
3. Bushnell Laser Mil-Dot Rangefinder Reticle Riflescope
With a 4-12-power scope and 42mm objective lens, the Bushnell Laser Mil-Dot Rangefinder covers ranges from six hundred and up to eight hundred yards. With its 42mm objective lens, you can use medium and low scope mounts for a natural height. Elevation and windage values come in at ¼ MOA with a 3.5-inch eye relief and provide superlative optics for precise shooting at most ranges but long.
The Bushnell Laser Mil-Dot has a square, wide body to house the scope’s digital rangefinder computer which shoots a laser toward the target. The digital rangefinder lets the shooter easily compensate by pushing the laser button.
The hunter gets an extreme advantage with the Bushnell Laser Mil-Dot rangefinder that’s accurate and precise with the clarity you find in high-quality scopes. The mil-dot reticle lets the shooter tandemly work with the rangefinder for compensation from bullet drop no matter the caliber bullet. This all-around tactical riflescope and its rangefinder is a top choice for the best tactical scope under $1,000.
4. Vortex Viper HS-T Riflescope
The Viper HS-T riflescope is a Vortex top top-quality optic that relentlessly delivers top performance whenever and wherever it’s needed. This fully capable scope has magnification of 6-24-power, making it an exceptionally long-range riflescope, with a top shooting range of one thousand meters. The illuminated reticle has different settings for intensity, allowing simple adjustment and easy off and on illumination.
A customizable rotation stop helps prevent over dialing below your zero, stopping total zero loss on large adjustments. The Vortex Viper HS-T Riflescope is a great bargain for anyone who likes long-range hunting.
5. Sightron SIII SS Riflescope
One of the top name in optics, Sightron offers the remarkably superior long-range scope, the Sightron SIII SS. Whether you’re a bench rest shooter or prefer hunting on the open plains, the Sightron SIII SS gives you some of the highest magnification starting at 10-power and up to 50-power.
The optics of the Sightron is an impressive 60mm objective lens. While it’s not lightweight, it does give good light transmission and exceedingly so at high magnification levels. A 7-layer coating gives the user additional light transmission with a sight picture with high definition and lets the shooter bring in the smallest and farthest targets. This top of the line scope also lets you quickly make precise adjustments during field use with the SIII’s fast focus eyeball.
We consider the Sightron SIII SS Riflescope a top choice in riflescopes for its precision and accuracy. Even those new to long range shooting can site the target at up to one thousand yards.
6. Bushnell Elite Mil-Dot Tactical Riflescope
The top in its class Bushnell Elite Mil-Dot Tactical Riflescope has a design made for shooters and snipers and is perfect for anyone needing a good long-range advantage. The Bushnell Elite delivers tactical advantage with its 24-power magnification accompanied by the 50mm objective lens. If you’re looking for a scope that helps you meet your target, then you’ve found it in the Bushnell Elite.
Providing superior long-range light transmission and outstanding optical clarity is the Bushnell Elite’s full multi-coating with ultra-wide band coating. This amazing coating gives the shooter the best clear picture at a high magnification level.
Add to all these great optical features, the rain guard HG anti-fog coating, and you have a scope that resists water for a sight picture that’s unobstructed. The Bushnell Elite and its argon purge are resistant to fog building up internally and the scope has a structure of high-quality aluminum, making the Elite’s complete design shockproof. This superior design and it’s top-of-the-line features answers all the long-range needs of any tactical shooter.
Quick Overview of the Best Long Range Rifle Scopes
What to Look For in a Tactical Scope
The tactical scope is the most important and widely used feature of any rifle. Shooting scopes let you see your target clearly for a more precise aim. Knowing what to look for when choosing the best tactical scope under $1,000 is difficult with all the jargon and features associated with riflescopes.
The top options to look for in the best tactical scope are:
- Optical Power
- Objective Lens Size
- Reticle Pattern – Duplex, Mildot, or BDC
- Reticle Power – MOA or MRAD
- Focal Plane
When looking for a tactical scope, the first consideration is the amount of optical power you need. The magnification power directly affects how you use the scope. When considering magnification strength, how you use the scope directly affects the power you need. If you plan on deep forest hunting, you don’t want an underpowered 32x scope. A 3-9x – 40mm scope magnification is a better choice because, for hunting, the field of view is more important than magnification.
A scope with lower magnification, like 4-6x, allows for better target tracking and delivers faster intuitive shooting. On the other end of the scale, a higher magnification, like a 16x and up, gives greater target resolution. The downside to these higher magnification scopes is they are larger, heavier, and more expensive.
When it comes to deciding on scope optical power for shooting distances of under 500 yards less than 10x magnification is best. When shooting from a support like sandbags or a bipod, you need a scope with over 10x optical power.
Variable power scopes give you the best of both worlds with adjustments for different magnification ranges, but they come with a downside. Most power scopes that are variable carry a higher price tag and are less rugged than fixed power scopes.
Objective Lens Size
Your second decision when picking the best tactical riflescope is what size objective lens you need. The size of objective lenses determines the amount of light transmitted and how clear and bright the image is. With larger objective lenses, you get higher magnification.
A riflescope with an oversized objective lens makes the images clearer and brighter, but with their size, you must mount them high on the barrel which causes difficulty maintaining the right cheek weld and impacts shooting ability. While you can compensate with a cheek riser, you can’t compensate for the bulk and weight of the scope. The larger optical lens with its heavier weight can affect the rifle balance, making use more difficult.
There is a wide variety of available reticle patterns, from center dots to complex grids. The top choices for pattern types are:
- Duplex Reticle – A commonly used reticle, the duplex reticle consists of a thin, centered crosshair that gets thicker toward the scope’s outer area. The design of the duplex reticle centers the focus at the scope’s center while the outer bars help in low lighting conditions. Duplex reticle scopes are best for target shooting and hunting.
- Mil-dot Reticle – Based on duplex reticle patterns, the mil-dot reticle has impressive enhancements. The mil-dot reticle gets its power from the capability of determining the target’s range and fast adjustments for elevation and the wind. Because of its ability to retain intuitive focus while letting the user do accurate range calculation and hold-offs, we recommend the mil-dot reticle for use of over 300 yards.
- BDC Reticle – Standing for “bullet drop compensator,” the BDC reticle delivers shooting that’s accurate over various ranges without any adjustments to elevation settings. The different aiming points of a BDC reticle incorporated into its pattern that correspond to the various target distances gives accurate shooting without setting adjustments. The lower magnification BDC scopes make the best optic for an AR-15 and other general-purpose rifles.
Once you decide on the reticle pattern, determining the scope adjustment comes next. Scope adjustments come in two measuring systems:
- MOA – The most common measurement, MOA means “minute of angle,” or the angular degree of 1/60th. Commonly considered linear inches, one MOA is 1-inch at one hundred yards. Because of the smaller adjustment increments, the MOA adjustment gives a better zeroing precision than the milliradian When you need an extremely fine adjustment or precise zero for long range, the MOA is an important feature. However, calculations for ranges not a hundred yards is complex. The MOA reticle measurement functions best with adjustment screws and a BDC or duplex reticle.
- MRAD – Abbreviated as mils or mil, MRAD stands for milliradian. The MRAD is the fractional section of the angle at 1/1000th of a radian, or one milliradian equals 3.6-inches for 100 yards. Even being more awkward than a MOA, the MRAD makes for simpler adjustments with its similarities to a ruler. You only find the MRAD adjustment on a mil reticle scope. Those shooting at long range prefer the MRAD, but hunters may consider the adjustment knobs a liability when shooting.
Within the tactical scope are two different reticle positions, known as the first and second focal plane, also known as FFP and SFP. Most scopes use the SFP reticles meaning when changing the scope’s magnification level; the reticle size is the same compared to the overall size of the image. The stationary reticle gives a sight picture that’s consistent and clear at all magnification levels.
To fully utilize SFP scopes with BDC or mildot reticles need the adjustment set for maximum magnification. FFP reticles with their scaling size with magnification changes don’t have this problem. The BDC marking or milliradian measurements are accurate regardless how you set the scope’s magnification.
However, with lower magnification levels the reticle gets hard to see, making FFP scopes better for shooting at long ranges and higher magnification.
A riflescope parallax refers to how the reticle changes position when slightly moving the head. The changing position happens if the scope can’t focus the reticle and target on the same optical plane which leads to bad groupings and missed shots.
Inexpensive and scopes with low magnification have parallax free settings at specific distances and no ability for correcting the parallax at long and short ranges. The parallax free setting works well for scopes with low magnification since the reticle shift is unnoticeably small, but scopes with higher magnifications of 12x and up need a knob, or side focus, for correcting parallax.
Once you determine the features you want in a tactical scope, it’s time to look for one to fit within your budget. Scopes aren’t cheap, and some of the premium scopes like Leupold, Schmidt, Bender, and Nightforce carry a premium cost of $3,000 and up.
But, even if you can afford several thousand dollars when buying a tactical riflescope, you don’t have to. With the competition in today’s riflescope market, you have more choices in varying price ranges. That tactical rifle scope costing an extra five or six hundred dollars may have a higher light transmission of only three percent with only five percent repeatable adjustments.
When looking for a riflescope within your budget, start by prioritizing the most important features, like reticle type and magnification and look at the reputation of the manufacturer. When it comes to the final decision, pay the extra for a warranty and a trustworthy name brand.
Our Final Review for Tactical Scopes Under $1000
With the large selection of scopes available on the market today you don’t have to spend several thousand dollars to get top quality. Even with a small budget of one thousand dollars, you get a lot of options like high quality, durable optics, and precise vision.
With the competition between scope manufacturers, the options are many and varied with a wide range of pricing points. You may think a thousand dollars is high for a riflescope but look at the price as an investment that more than pays for itself over time.