Charles holds a Master’s degree in Physics Engineering (optics and photonics specialization), has been teaching physics at school for almost 15 years and recently has star read more
Last updated: November 18, 2022
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Whether you are looking to deter wild predators or you’re a serious hunter, a rifle scope should be considered an essential piece of kit.
However, not all rifle scopes under $200 are as excellent as they are described. Many people assume that there is not a lot to rifle scopes, so there cannot be much difference between them, but this could not be farther from the truth. Scopes are available in a variety of magnifications with different lenses.
In our quest to discover the best rifle scope under $200, our team assessed a variety of scopes. We looked at the magnification and objective lens diameters. We also assessed the field of view, eye relief, adjustment system and reticle. Finally, we looked at the construction, length and weight that will impact durability and portability.
Other features: ring mount, fully multi-coated lens, MOA adjustment, non-illuminated, hard anodized finish, 1-inch tube
The Vortex Diamondback DBK-04-BDC 4-12×40 Riflescope may be the best rifle scope under 200 for hunting. But if you’re using a muzzleloader or a shotgun don’t be deterred because this scope works well with many different firearms. This rifle scope provides a clarity of image that’s extremely hard to beat at this price point and it’s built to last. Vortex has made a rifle scope that’s affordable and pretty much perfect for a wide variety of shooting scenarios.
Why did it make our list? A standout feature is the quick focus eyepiece that is very useful when you’re trying to track a fast-moving target. As a small caveat it is fair to say the Diamondback rifle scope glass is not as clear as any of the Vortex Optics offerings at this time. The quality of the image is inevitably reduced at only 12x which may deter some buyers. However, the image clarity is more than acceptable and this will suit those looking for a good scope at a fair price.
What is not ideal about it? We made the Vortex Diamondback our editor’s choice because the glass is nice and bright for very precise aiming. This is particularly noticeable when varmint hunting but even wild predators will be tamed by a competent hunter using this rifle scope. Even if the weather turns back or the terrain is getting tough the Diamondback simply doesn’t know the meaning of quitting. The only major drawback that we found was the dials, they are precise but they are certainly on the small side.
Other features: ring mount, 1-inch tube, 0.25 MOA, fully multi-coated lens, aircraft grade aluminum
The Vortex Crossfire II 4-12×44 Rifle Scope is a great scope for hunters and tactical shooting enthusiasts and this is why we’ve made this our premium pick. This scope has the usual level of quality workmanship that we’ve become used to the Vortex Optics scopes. Yet the Crossfire II comes at an extremely fair price when compared to many other scopes on the market. If you want a good quality rifle scope for under $200 the Crossfire II is a great choice.
One attribute common to many Vortex Optics scopes is the glass quality that makes the target exceptionally clear. No matter the distance to the target you can hit any varmint at around 300 yards easily. It’s possible to place shots accurately and that has always been a problem with rifle scopes in this price range. The Crossfire II has sufficient eye relief to promote safety without making any compromises on accuracy. The scope brightness level is always optimal and glare never seems to be a problem when hunting.
What are its best features? The turrets have caps to make quick adjustments easier and the MOA windage adjustment dial provides plenty of accurate feedback.
What could be better: It’s not a good option when shooting at targets beyond 500 yards. But, at any shorter range you will have a reliable long range rifle scope for those with good eyesight.
Other features: ring mount, 1-inch tube, 6061-T6 aluminum, 7 brightness settings, 1/4 MOA finger click adjustments
The Leupold VX-Freedom 174180 3-9×40 Riflescope could be thought of as a replacement for the well regarded VX1 and VX2 scopes. This is a very dependable scope offering reliable target acquisition at an affordable price. This a great rifle scope fo.308 shooters. but it performs well with many other calibers of rifles too. This may be the best air rifle scope under 200 dollars for varmint hunting and backyard shooting.
The XV-Freedom is constructed with aircraft grade aluminum making it light and durable. This riflescope will be able to handle pretty much anything Mother Nature can throw at it and continue providing excellent performance. Newbie shooters will appreciate the ease at which they can center their desired target in the crosshairs. The duplex reticle has a classic feel, it’s clear, crisp and easy to use. After all, many of us know pros that make their shots without falling back on compensation markers.
What makes it stand out? In recent years Leupold has made significant improvements on their lens construction. The VX-Freedom will resist scratches and the optics quality is retained making this a great scope that should last decades. It’s also worth noting that this scope works very well under a number of different light conditions.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind? The VX-Freedom turrets do have some inconsistency in performance despite feeling precise and repeatable. VX-Freedom detractors state that this scope cannot retain correct adjustment settings and it’s hard to set in the first place.
The Primary Arms 610054 4-16x44mm Riflescope Illuminated MIL-dot scope feels comfortable to use out hunting and back on the shooting range. All the “Classic Series” elevation and MOA windage dials feel crisp and precise. They are perfect when you’re setting up your scope for a target 500 and even up to 800 yards away. The scope glass is clear at the front and rear which offers the shooter a clear view out to any target.
This Primary Arms scope is equipped with a handy Mil-dot reticle and the illumination can be adjusted with 12 brightness settings. This is a useful feature if you want to hunt when the sky is overcast or at dusk. But, it’s important to remember that this scope is powered with a CR2032 battery. This standard battery doesn’t have a great battery life and this is a drawback when comparing this scope with the competition. That being said, shooters can always take a spare battery but changing batteries when hunting can be problematic under certain conditions.
Why is it special? This riflescope is shockproof, waterproof and fog proof and it feels solid and durable. Each end of the scope is protected with a lens cap to offer extra protection for the glass. If you want to take this scope up into the mountains it will perform well and it should last.
What are the flaws? This may be a scope that’s slightly too complex for newbie shooters. But, if you take the time to learn how to use this scope it will pay off and it isn’t as complex as some of its competitors in this price range.
Other features: 1-inch tube, 0.25 MOA, parallax-free at 100 yards
The Simmons Whitetail WTC62450 6-24x50mm Rifle Scope may be the best rimfire rifle scope under 200 dollars but it can be used with many types of rifles. This a reliable scope for medium up to long range shooting and it offers an experience that you may not find in some more expensive alternatives. Simmons is a subsidiary of Bushnell and this gives the company access to optics technology that many competitors can only dream about. The clarity of the Whitetail scope is not in question, the images are crisp and bright across the entire range of the impressive magnification power.
This scope is easy to adjust, each adjustment is accompanied with a satisfying click that serious shooters love. The reticle design is simple and effective and the only area that could be improved is the eye box which doesn’t offer much in the way of relief. That being said, the distance between the eyes and the edge of the scope should be sufficient for most shooters.
What makes it stand out? The Simmon Whitetail has great weatherproofing, fog proofing to give you great all-round performance in a wide variety of shooting conditions.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind? Some users have noted that there is some slight distortion that is quite noticeable at the 24x magnification setting. But, even with this drawback this scope still offers more clarity at 24x than many other scopes in this price range. The tube diameter may not be the best but there is enough to offer those clearer and brighter target images that you need.
Other features: 30-mm tube, 0.5 MOA, fully multi-coated optics
The Bushnell Optics AR91424 1-4x24mm Riflescope is an ideal scope for medium range shooting with CQB applications. It has a brightness and clarity comparable with Vortex, Leupold and Sightron scopes as you would expect. The 1x power is set to be slightly more than 1x to allow the shooter to fire with both eyes open without promoting eye strain. Bushnell states that the turret adjustment is set at ½ MOA per click but in reality this is more like 0.1 mil for both windage and elevation. There are three opposing screws to hold the turrets and reset them back to zero after the shooter has sighted in. The turrets are light and easy to turn but they are not loose and they cannot be bumped off without a significant jolt.
Why is it special? In the apparent field of view the light convey is very forgiving and generous. The shooter doesn’t need to have their eye set a specific distance away from the eyepiece in order to see and aim. The BDC reticle is simple to use and the crosshair provides excellent horizontal reference. The aforementioned 1x scope is excellent at shorter ranges and it is a good alternative to a red dot sight for some users. All in all this is a great 1-4x scope at any price and it’s particularly impressive to find this quality at the sub $200 mark.
What could be better: The scope is heavy, despite it only being 4x.
The Nikon PROSTAFF P5 2.5-10×42 Rifle Scope like the entire ProStaff lineup is now in its 5th generation and improving all the time. Nikon is a well-regarded brand in the optics industry manufacturing high quality microscopes, binocular, cameras and other devices. This has encouraged Nikon to seek out ways to provide high quality glass at an affordable price and this is just one of the reasons why this is our budget pick.
Many shooters max out at around 500 yards at the range or when hunting due to the local conditions. Any clear shots are typically caused by cuts made in logging operations and the ProStaff P5 is a great scope up to 500 yards. Let’s be honest if you’re trying to compare the P5 with a Schmidt & Bender you’re going to be disappointed. But, when you’re looking at a scope in the sub $200 price range this is a fantastic scope. The glass is clear enough to target up to that range but beyond 500 yards shooters will experience a little distortion and blurriness.
What stands out? The Nikon P5 is an excellent bargain scope for shooters that are new to magnified optics. These scopes are simple, easy to use and durable enough to take hunting with no problems. The 10x model has three reticle options to choose from.
What cons did we manage to find? It isn’t the fanciest scope on the market, but it works well and it offers a lot for the modest investment.
Things to Consider
A rifle scope is essential for any serious hunter, but with so many scopes on the market, it can be tricky to choose the right one for your needs. So, we’ve compiled a buying guide with features to consider, and answers to some frequently asked questions to help you make your purchase decision.
Types of rifle scopes
Rifle scopes can be found in one of two main categories, they are: variable and fixed scopes. The primary classification of any rifle scope is clear and distinct. So, when you choose a scope it’s important to understand the category that it belongs to if you want to make your life easier. Each of the following two common scope categories will serve a specific purpose as will demonstrate below.
Variable scopes are typically found on long range shooting rifles and sniper rifles. These types of rifles are better suited for shooting at longer ranges than most types of hunting rifles. So, the stand out feature of a variable scope is that the shooter can adjust the magnification setting for their next target. This variable magnification feature is why these types of rifle scopes are known as variable scopes.
A fixed scope is easy to maneuver and handle and it’s based on a simple configuration. These types of scopes do not have a variable magnification system and the target magnification stays the same. This makes a fixed scope less useful on the range but they are good for hunting purposes. For this reason, it’s fair to say that a fixed scope is less flexible than a variable scope in many situations.
Features to consider when choosing the best rifle scope under $200
Each rifle scope is different, so here we’ll look at the features you should consider when shopping for your new scope.
The best hunting scopes will have a magnification of at least 3-9x such as the Vortex Crossfire II 4-12×44 Rifle Scope. This is more than adequate for deer hunting but if you’re hunting smaller and faster prey such as wild boar you need a magnification of 4.5-14x. It’s important to select a scope with sufficient magnification for your desired target and image quality can degrade at higher magnification.
Objective lens diameter
The lens diameter will determine the lighting conditions that you can shoot in effectively.
If you like to hunt at dusk you will need a larger diameter lens to compensate for the lack of natural light. If you typically hunt in daylight you can choose a scope with a smaller objective lens. This will prevent the scope chamber from becoming flooding with too much light.
Although a sub $200 scope may have a lens that looks similar to a $1,000 scope they will differ greatly in quality. When you shop for a scope lens quality should be the primary concern and this is equally true when choosing a budget scope. Performing a side by side comparison isn’t always possible especially when shopping for a scope online. So, look for good reviews from actual users that seem to understand rifle scopes and they will usually mention the lenses. Also, check if the scope has a lens coating that will help the shooter to perform better when hunting.
If the rifle scope is larger than 3” in size it should have some kind of eye relief system. This prevents the eye fatigue and “black eye” problems that can ruin any hunting trip. When you select the exit pupil, take care to ensure that the eye relief functions perform well.
Even in the sub $200 price range you should be looking for a scope that’s well built. Our budget pick, the Bushnell Optics AR91424 1-4x24mm Riflescope is a great example. The eyepiece should have ample distance from the eyes of the shooter to the outer edge. A good scope will also have great weather sealing features and adequate protection against fog and shocks,
Many shooters are perfectly happy with a simple reticle and others prefer a scope that has a Mil-dot or MOA reticle instead. Tactical shooters in particular seem to prefer a red dot sight because it improves target acquisition during CQB drills and it makes aiming more precise. There are even shooters that prefer to use a laser sighting system over a traditional alternative. If you’re interested in a Mil-dot reticle the Primary Arms 610054 4-16x44mm Riflescope is a great scope on our list.
Most long-range shooting enthusiasts want a scope that has a first focal plane. This feature allows the shooter to make an accurate adjustment because the reticle is kept in proportion with the sighting picture. Sadly, most first focal plane rifle scopes are far too expensive to make it onto the bargain scope list. But, if you are lucky enough to spot a FFP riflescope at a bargain price, get one and you won’t ever regret your purchase!
A skilled target shooter will want shot compensation dials that are precise and repeatable. The dials must provide adequate feedback to prevent the shooter from taking their sight off their desired target. Setting the scope to zero needs to be a simple process and it should be retained until the next time the shooter needs to make a change. Luckily, you can find responsive turrets in many budget scopes such as the Leupold VX-Freedom 174180 3-9×40 Riflescope.
Easy windage and elevation knobs
The horizontal or windage adjustment modifies the scope for better shot positioning. This will be a secondary concern for seasoned shooters but a desirable feature for newbies starting out.
Field of view
The field of view at approximately 100 yards is a key feature that you need in a good hunting rifle scope. This can be adjusted through a magnification of 3-9x or 4-12x to get the best field of view possible. If you want you aiming to be precise you will soon find that this is a key feature for an accurate rifle scope.
There are many different types of scope mounts that you can use with your rifle. They can vary a great deal in terms of size, weight and functionality and choosing the right one to suit your shooting style is essential. Here are the five most common mounts in use today.
Single piece is the most traditional type of rifle mount with a single base and a pair of mounted scope rings. A single piece mount is rigid and tough and they are a popular choice amongst hunters and target shooters alike. This type of rifle scope mount works well with high powered rifles and with semi-automatic firearms it can be mounted further forward to keep the scope away from your eye. This is not a popular action for bolt action rifles because the mount would be positioned directly above the lever action making reloading awkward.
Two-piece ring mount is ideal for a bolt action rifle because it can be easily moved and it’s a little lighter than other mounts. It’s easy to move this mount around any other guns that you own but they must be aligned properly each time which can be a time-consuming process.
Picatinny type of mount and scope system is tried and tested and it has its origins back in 1913 when it was adopted by the U.S. Army. The Picatinny mount has a wide and deep slot for your rifle and the base is spaced right down to the entire rail to accommodate any standard scope. This is an excellent mount if you like to try out different sighting options for your rifle. The rail also allows the shooter to move their scope through the various slots and the overall mount quality is usually high.
A Leupold base is best thought of as a nonstandard weaver mount with a pair of base styles, which are: single or two-piece. This is a good system, but it isn’t too easy to detach this mount and move it to another rifle. A Leupold mount works well but when you need to remove a scope you must separate the top half of the mounting system at the same time.
Weaver mount is in common use with many shooters because it is a tough and reliable system. The base usually has ⅞“ slots and 180 wide recoil lugs to keep the scope stable when shooting and moving. The only real drawback to a weaver mount is that not every base or system suits the same dimensions. This lack of compatibility can make it hard to attach some scopes to weaver mounts.
If you choose an illuminated scope there are internal lights that form a reticle that is lit. This can be helpful if shooting in adverse light conditions, such as: overcast, rain, twilight, pre-dawn, dusk and snow. The illuminated reticle will stand out against a darker target making precise shooting possible.
The reticle is usually lit with an LED that may be red, green or amber depending on the make and model. These particular colors are chosen to prevent the pupil of the eye contracting to protect any natural night vision that the shooter possesses.
Legal hunting hours are typically based on the local sunrise and sunset but hunters that want to hunt earlier or later may benefit from an illuminated reticle. If you’re using a scope with this feature during the day you can turn it on or off at will as dictated by the current lighting conditions.
Length and weight
The length and weight of the rifle scope are important, if the scope is too heavy it will affect the rifle equilibrium and this reduces accuracy. As you can see from our list there are many lightweight scopes available but if you want to shoot over longer distances a heavier scope may be a better choice.
However, the stand out pick as the best rifle scope under $200 has to be our editor’s choice, the Vortex Diamondback DBK-04-BDC 4-12×40 Riflescope. This impressive scope works well with different firearms, making this an affordable scope for a wide variety of shooting scenarios. The glass is bright and nice to deliver precise aiming. The entire scope feels durable and solid with simple and easy to repeat reset to zero functionality. These features combine to offer a superb scope with a very modest price tag that is sure to become an essential in your hunting kit.
A Brief History of Rifle Optics in the United States
Modern rifle sights represent the culmination of almost 300 years of development in optical technology. Though the telescope had been around for a long time before anyone thought to attach one to a rifle, once this was done it was quickly realized that a good scope could hugely improve shooting accuracy.