When I was given the assignment to scope out — pun intended — the best rifle scopes under $300, the editor knew this would not be a catalog of scopes I have never handled. I have mounted, sighted in, and tested, and personally test ‘fired’ each of these rifle scopes under firing-range conditions.
There is a lot of budget-grade glass out there, so don’t be afraid of beginning with an inexpensive optic. That being said, all budget-grade scopes were not created equal.
For shots across the cornfield at 100 yards with the .30-30, you may not need a great scope. However, you need something that won’t fog in the evening or when wet. You don’t want something that will lose its reticle. Watching the aiming point spin inside the scope, you may wish you had chosen wiser or paid a few dollars more.
Rifle scopes are a thing of wonder. The least expensive often work okay, and sometimes they don’t. However, at a certain price point — around $200 — we are getting a lot more scope than we used to for the money. As an example, a friend who knows optics better than I do, remarked that a $300 scope today does more than a $1,000 scope did a decade ago. He is correct.
At around the $500 mark, there are some fantastic optics. We are going to look over some of the best higher-end offerings in the near future. However, there are useful optics that cost far less.
I would say, the machine work required to make a scope isn’t that expensive. Rather, the shaping, coating, polishing, and grinding of the glass correctly is an expensive effort. After the parts are built and collected, putting them into a scope body that is waterproof is another feat.
Economy scopes for .22 rimfire rifles are better than ever. The thin, eye-strain-producing rimfire tubes I once used are thankfully gone — save for flea markets.
You may purchase a nice .22 rimfire scope on the cheap, due to the fact that rimfire scopes do not need a lot of shock proofing.
Let’s look at some of the scopes that are in common use, and see if we may isolate the better choice.
Dead Ringer rifle scopes are pretty darned inexpensive, at less than $100, sometimes as little as $55 plus shipping. What you get isn’t the clearest, sharpest glass, but it isn’t occluded. The reticle is pretty simple, and the adjustment is the old style. A coin may be used for adjustment, after the caps are removed.
Back in the day, which I remember like yesterday, a scope was adjusted and the rifle sighted in. Each click of the adjustment, required the scope be tapped to set in the adjustment. The Dead Ringer would have been a $100 scope back then. It is a minimalist scope that actually works.
2. TRUGLO 4x32mm Rimfire
This scope rides on several of my rimfire rifles. The price is usually below $60, sometimes as low as $45 including mounts.
Here is what TRUGLO says about the scope: “This scope features fully-coated lenses to provide a bright and crisp image. Each tube is constructed from a single piece of aircraft-grade aluminum, increasing the strength and durability of the scope. It’s water, fog and shockproof for use in all weather situations, features an integral sunshade and has a limited lifetime warranty.”
Nothing in my experience contradicts the factory claims. This is an easy rifle scope to mount and sight in.
Sure, it has the old-style reticle adjustment and turrets, but it works fine. This is a dandy rimfire scope.
Most of my .22 caliber work takes place inside of 50 yards, making this rifle scope a fine choice.
3. TRUGLO Nexus 4x12x44
The Nexus is available in a number of variations. This one runs about $150, while the 3x9x40 is about $30 less.
I think the 3x9x40 is great all-around hunting scope. I like to fire my rifles at longer range, however, and I enjoy using a higher magnification scope.
The 4x12x44 (power settings of four to 12 magnification and a 44mm objective bell) Nexus is an ideal optic for my use.
This glass is bright enough with good clarity. The scope is nitrogen gas filled. Adjustments are positive and easily made.
The MOA reticle is ideal for hunting chores. This is my favorite glass in this price range.
4. Burris Fullfield
My Ruger American .22 Magnum wears a Burris Fullfield E1.
The E1 4.5-14x22mm is overkill for the .22 Magnum, but I enjoy this scope and the rifle immensely.
At just less than $200 without rings and bases, the Fullfield is a scope with excellent glass and easy-to-adjust turrets.
This is the bread-and-butter scope of the hunting field and every maker must offer a variation. The glass is clear and the tube nicely finished.
The turret knobs are very precise. You can count on good results when this scope is properly mounted and adjusted.
Clarity is excellent — as good as it gets in this price range or a little higher.
I enjoyed running the scope from three-power to nine-power illumination without any problem.
The Burris Fullfield is one of the best buys and probably all the scope most of us need. They can be found around the $300 range.
5. TRUGLO Omnia 6
The Omnia 6 offers 1-6 power adjustment with a 24mm objective lens. On the lowest setting, the Omnia 6 may be used with both eyes open.
This is one of the best values in a rifle scope I have used.
The Omnia is easily sighted in and the turret knobs are large and do not require a cover to be removed to set elevation and windage.
The versatility of an optic with a setting of one to six power is appreciated by the all-around shooter that may own only a few rifles.
With the setting at the ‘no magnification’ or one-power notch, you may fire quickly with both eyes open using the scope basically as you would a red dot sight.
Quickly and easily adjust the power level to move up in magnification as needed.
Honorable Mention: Bushnell Nitro
At around $350, this is a scope well worth the money.
Here is my take: Find the Bushnell Nitro on sale, or squeeze out a few more bucks on the credit card, and you won’t be sorry.
At the ocular bell is excellent and offers fast adjustment. The adjustment turrets are easy to use well.
Each turret offers 50 MOA (minute of angle) adjustment. A feature I particularly like is the ability to quickly reset turrets back to zero.
There is also a parallax adjustment located in a side-mounted turret. The matte finish is evenly applied and attractive.
Ocular clarity is excellent. I appreciate the scopes clear lens and well-designed reticle.
Conclusion: Best Rifle Scopes
These are just of a few quality rifle scopes selling for less than $300 to just a bit above.
They offer real value, I think, especially toward the middle of the price range.