The AR-15 is a standout firearm of its age, no question. It gets a lot of fans for its adaptability – you can build, rebuild, improve, and customize the AR-15 till it’s almost a bespoke creation.
But if you want to use it more as a precision shooting or hunting tool than aiming vaguely and letting the power and the firing rate do your job for you, you’re going to need a great scope.
The trouble with that is that the better the scope, the more bucks it’s likely to cost you. Sure, capitalism is the basis of everything we understand, and higher-priced scopes let manufacturers invest in the next generation of research and development.
But that means that generally, being able to invest, consequence-free, in a higher-priced scope is going to make your AR-15 sing with more precision than anything owned by hunters and shooters who can’t, and are unlikely ever to be able to justify dropping beaucoup bucks on a riflescope.
Time to not panic, though. There are manufacturers out there making great scopes for those of us on a budget. You just have to dig through product listings and testimonies to find them.
Or now, you don’t – because we have.
Stick with us, and we’ll show you a range of scopes that can put you back in control of your shooting, without breaking your bank. A scope is a personal thing, but here, we have enough of the good stuff to help you find the best scope for your AR-15 for under $100.
In a hurry? Here’s our top pick.
OUR TOP PICK
You want the best scope for an AR-15 under 100, we think you’re probably looking at the Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot from Bushnell.
Reputation’s not the best indicator of success, but it doesn’t hurt to have one, and Bushnell’s reputation among gun-owners is impressive.
So right away, there’s a trust between you and your scope-maker when you attach the TRS-25 to your AR-15.
Beyond that, the TRS-25 packs a lot of design and technology into a small, relatively lightweight scope.
The small size is an attractive point, especially when fitting it to an AR-15, and means you don’t feel like you're unnecessarily weighing your rifle down.
Where the TRS-25 gets a major bump though is in battery life. Small size equates to small battery-draw, meaning Bushnell claims you can get up to 3,000 hours of shooting from a single battery charge on the TRS-25.
Mm-hmm. Users nationwide report you’re actually looking at more like 1,000 hours, but y’know what?
If you used it constantly, 24 hours a day, that would still equate to almost 42 straight days of shooting. Nearly a month and a half. Just how long are you planning to be out there?
Bushnell has put this battery-sipping beauty in a durable, weatherproof case, which is always going to win them points, because you frequently can’t account for the weather, and having your scope be able to resist whatever comes is a big bonus.
In fact, it has all the protective elements that become standard as you go up the price scale – this scope is waterproof under complete immersion, shockproof and nitrogen purged to be fog-proof, all at under a hundred dollars.
We know what you’re thinking. Sure, that’s all great, but it doesn’t mean a thing if the scope doesn’t improve your hunting and shooting, right?
Here you get a 3MOA reticle with a usefully sharp red dot and 11 brightness settings, which means you can be shooting for more of those 24 hours for 42 days than lots of other scopes will let you.
You also get some surprisingly high-quality optic coatings here for your sub-100 buck scope budget. The lens is optimized for high-contrast sighting, so compared to many scopes in its price range, the TRS-25 can get you clear, easy targets in a big hurry.
You want more? No problem. Try unlimited eye relief, so you can get as close to this scope as you feel you need, which makes the whole shooting process a lot simpler, faster, and more accurate.
When it comes to windage and elevation, Bushnell has made things easy for you, with precisely-incremented, clickable knobs, which don’t get in the way but are intuitively placed for ease and accuracy. and easily adjustable adjusters are simple to click and change with very precise increments.
Overall, the combination of its strength, small size, high-quality optics than you expect at this end of the market, clarity, and ease of use make the Bushnell TRS-25 our top pick for the best scope for AR-15s under $100.
An additional 1-year warranty just sweetens the deal on a scope that has a lot of what you need at a price that’s right.
- Rapid target acquisition
- Low battery-drain
- Shockproof, waterproof and fog-proof
- Price point
- 11 illumination levels
- Easy-click windage knobs with precise increments
- Small, lightweight scope
- Infinite eye relief
- 1-year warranty
- The red dot can get blurry in ambient light
Who knew you could get aircraft-grade aluminum in your scope for under a hundred bucks?
CVLIFE, that’s who. The CVLIFE Red & Green does exactly what it says it does – gives you a reticle that can be illuminated in either red or green.
You also have five easy-toggle variations of illumination, so what you get from a sub-$100 scope here is an ability to shoot both night and day, in a lightweight, super-strong case.
Naturally, we’ve only just begun. You get a distancing and targeting laser in this scope, which is an enormous help when aiming at really distant targets. You can also adjust the magnification of the laser between 2X and 10X, using easy-access side-knobs.
While not as small as the Bushnell scope, the CVLIFE is pretty compact considering the magnification it brings to your shooting party.
You also get good, generous eye-relief with this scope, so you can use it comfortably at more or less any distance.
While the case of the scope is tough as old jets, the lens itself is on the delicate side, so while you can probably drop the scope safely, if you hit it hard against something sharp and strong, you’re more or less asking for damage and lost cash.
The CVLIFE scope delivers a hard-working, hard-wearing scope that feels instinctive and gets you good target acquisition quickly, all for a reasonable price.
It also brings its green and red illumination, and gradation for use in a range of light conditions, which adds a touch of extra value for your scope money.
- 5 illumination levels for use in various lighting conditions
- Up to 10X magnification
- Easy access dials to help acquire targets at speed
- Exterior casing made of aircraft-grade aluminum
- The construction is a little loose, meaning the lens is more vulnerable than in some scopes
They say good things come in small packages. Certainly, as far as the UTG BugBuster is concerned, they come in inexpensive packages.
There’s a heck of a lot of good technology and design crammed into a scope that won’t leave you wounded in the billfold here.
The BugBuster comes with a mildot reticle, and like the CVLIFE, you can use both red and green illumination. Despite these two scopes sharing this feature, it’s by no means common at this end of the pricing spectrum.
In fact, having this feature is part of what puts both these scopes on this list of the best available at the price point, because it’s a sign the makers have gone the extra mile for hunters and shooters.
The BugBuster also adds lockable turrets with a reset function – again, adding value to the scope for the price-point.
In a mid-price scope, you might expect these things to come as standard, but sub-$100, forget about it – usually, you wouldn’t dare to dream.
That’s one of the things about the BugBuster that elbows it onto our list – it lets you dream big without making you pay the big bucks.
You’re looking at a standard magnification range of 3-9x, with a 32-millimeter objective lens.
That’s enough to let most shooters get what they’re aiming at with good exactness and very little hassle.
Doing the job well has to be a prime concern of any scope. The BugBuster does the job very well, and repeatedly. Reliably. Whenever you take it out.
Like the list-leading TRS-25, the BugBuster is nitrogen-filled, shockproof, fog-proof, and rainproof.
That means it’s going to be with you for years of hardcore hunting or shooting, and it’s not going to fall to pieces if you happen to take it into difficult, soggy territory.
It’s a scope with “Punch me again” tattooed on its soul.
The reticle is decidedly simple, but gives you everything you need and arguably more. It includes a crosshair and a few holdover dots. See? A simple choice, but effective and hassle-free in the moment of need.
Don’t be fooled by its third place showing in this list. On another day, the BugBuster would be right up there at the top of the scoreboard.
It’s tough, it’s straightforward, it’s built to last and designed to give you much more than your money’s worth, bringing precision rifle-shooting well within your sights.
- 3-9x magnification lets you acquire targets quickly
- Hassle-free mildot reticle
- Lockable turrets
- Resettable turrets – rare at this price point
- Hardcore construction
- Fog-proof, shockproof, and rainproof for all-terrain shooting
- You could argue it’s trying to compete with higher-priced scopes, in markets where it would flounder
Tacticon is a company owned and run by veterans. Not to tug at the patriotic heartstrings at all, but that means they know what you need from a kickass rifle scope, because they’ve been there, done that, relied on their equipment to save their lives and the lives of others.
The company’s not about to steer you wrong on a scope for your AR-15.
Enter, the Predator. The Predator comes with an in-built disclaimer. This is a scope that will transform your close-range and tactical shooting.
If you want something with a longer-reach, look further up the list and you’ll find some better options.
As a scope for rapid, close-range action though, you’d be hard-pressed to out-perform the Predator at this price point.
Again marking itself out among a whole lot of scopes that don’t offer this function, the Predator gives you either a green or red dot on its reticle and lets you dial in the intensity of the dot on a simple, small, easy-access dial.
The scope comes with a mount that easily attaches it to your AR-15, and gives you the option of adding an iron-sight at the front.
In fact, the Predator was more or less designed to work with an iron-sight. What does that add to your shooting? It means you can switch back and forth between sights if you want or need to.
Anybody voting for fewer options around here?
Didn’t think so.
As you’d expect coming from a veteran-run business, the Predator is durable, versatile, withstands water and weather without an issue, and will also stand up to rough handling.
Never needing to reinvent the wheel – or the dial – you control windage and elevation by simple top and side dials. The Predator is designed to take everything you think you already know, and make it better and more effective.
Because it comes with a built-in mount, you’re not going to be screwing and ratcheting for hours to install it.
Yes, the weight of the mount is going to give your rifle a bulkier nose than it’s used to, and you will at first notice a slight weight increase, but given what the Predator brings to your shooting, it’s massively unlikely you’ll quibble at that.
A hardcore, hassle-free scope that makes your shooting life better without re-inventing the wheel?
You’d be a fool not to consider the Predator if you’re browsing for the best scope for an AR-15 under $100.
- Robust and durable construction
- Clear reticle with either red or green dot
- Controllable intensity for better shooting
- Easy-install scope mount
- Designed to be used with back-up iron-sights for extra options
- The mount can be heavy at first
- The scope is definitively for close-range and tactical shooting. Not useful at longer ranges
The Pinty Red Green shares a lot of DNA with a handful of the other scopes on our list.
Focused on short-range and tactical shooting, it gives you a green objective lens for better light transmission and more accuracy.
The magnification on the Red Green is between 2.5 and 10X, which will give you excellent magnification up to around 100 yards. That’s the ball game for the Pinty. Beyond that, as with the Predator, you’re going to want an additional long-range scope.
Pinty has kept things simple with the Red Green, more or less specifically because when you’re focusing on shooting at shorter distances, speed and instinct are essential. That means less time to plan the perfect, considered shot, and more “What’s that? That’s prey!” Bang!
As such, its reticle is clear, instinctive, and simple, and its dials to get your shot in focus are instinctive, responding to the need.
The fact that it has a mildot reticle is perhaps more interesting than practical at this range, but it’s what the Pinty brings to the party (Does that make it a Pinty party?)
In terms of features, the Pinty is stripped right back – partly to obey the real-time rules of close-range shooting, and party, also, so Pinty can make it available at the mass-market sub-$100 price-point.
If you’re going to have a stroke of genius, you might as well have two and combine them, which is what Pinty has done. It’s focused in a very particular scope range, stripped its scope back to basics, and let the good shootin’ roll.
That said, it comes with a set of laser sights, because you can take majestic, inexpensive purity too far. It also hasn’t shirked on making the Red Green vulnerable to the outside world.
Nitrogen filled for fog-proofing and sealed against water with an O-ring, it has that odd but entirely rational combination – a stripped-back feature-set, with money spent where it really counts.
As such, it’s good enough to be on your first handful of scopes to consider, and it will focus on the business at hand, without ever putting on a redundant feature-rich floorshow for you.
- Excellent short-range scope, up to around 125 yards
- Stripped-back feature-set lets you focus on the immediacy of short-range shooting
- Fog-proof and sealed with an O-ring
- Laser sights included
- Instinctive controls
- Not suited for longer ranges
- Not a night scope – the illuminated reticle is best used for day-shooting
Best Scope For AR-15 Under 100
Finding the best scope for an AR-15 under $100 is one thing.
Finding the best scope for your AR-15 under $100 is something else again. Remember a few important factors to narrow down your choices.
Choose Your Range
Some of the scopes on our list are explicitly for use at shorter ranges, up to 125 yards.
Others give you longer range options. Understand the shooting you want to do, and use the range you’re aiming at as a guide to the perfect scope for you this time around.
Chances are you don’t want to spend extra dollars on getting more than one scope, so choose the one that suits your needs best right now, and go with it.
See The Light
Likewise, some of our listed scopes are better used in daylight, like the Pinty, while others, like the TRS-25, are more broadly equipped for night shooting.
Understand the shooting you want to do, and get the scope that works to fulfill that need.
Buy For Longevity
While we’ve shown you some of the best scopes for under $100, the sub-$100 market is crammed with scopes it’s not worth even trying out.
Whatever you’re spending, you don’t want to be taken for a fool.
Buy for longevity and ruggedness, rather than getting stuck with a scope that dents the first time you take it out. It’s worth paying a little more for better materials and construction.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes the best rifle scope?
Doing what you need it to. There’s no single answer to this because all shooters aren’t the same.
Choose the factors you need in a scope, and pick the option that offers you most of what you need.
Should I save up and get a more expensive scope?
Yes and no. On the one hand, saving is great, and it will eventually let you upgrade to a new level of scope. But in the meantime, time’s a-wastin’ when you could be shooting.
While there are a lot of useless scopes in the sub-$100 market, we’ve shown you that there are diamonds in that rough too. Pick wisely, and you can get a scope that helps you right now, while you save for a better, more useful scope down the road.
How important is battery life in a rifle scope?
If your scope needs a battery to be effective, you want it to work without question when you need it. Going for a longer battery life means there’s less concern on that front.
The convenience and certainty you gain from it means battery life should definitely be a factor in your choice when looking at battery-powered scopes.