The AR or Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR) has become the most modular multipurpose shooting platform in history. Whether you prefer A1s, A2s or A3s—carry handle or flattop, .22 LR to .450 Bushmaster or iron sights versus a combination of optical aiming devices, the only must-have ingredient to create the ultimate build is your imagination (Okay, and money). However, this article is all about the glass.
Don’t discount the reticle either. Good glass can make the difference when delivering rounds at distance and quickly acquiring a target in Close Quarters Battle (CQB), but the reticle design is an invaluable asset and must be carefully considered.
Burris – AR-332/AR-536
The Burris AR-332 should be on any AR enthusiast’s shortlist. The limited space of this article makes it hard to say everything, but here are a few highlights. The first is price. I do not know of another scope of this quality with as many options for around $350. The AR-332 is a fixed 3x scope designed specifically for tactical rifles. It can be mounted to a picatinny rail or AR-15 Carry Handle without additional hardware.
The AR-332 has a Circle Dot reticle with holdover points that can be used for a variety of .223 or .308 bullets out to 600 yards. The reticle illuminates in red or green and reverts to black when not illuminated. That way, when the battery dies, you can still see the reticle and remain operational. There are picatinny mounting platforms on the top and both sides to hang additional accessories.
Introduced in 2012, the Burris AR-536 is essentially the same as the AR-332, but in a 5x configuration with a 36mm objective lens. For those who are drawn toward the AR-332 design, but want more magnification, the AR-536 is for you.
Due to the lower magnification of the AR-332, the addition of the Fastfire III may be redundant, but on the AR-536 you’ll enjoy much better target acquisition in a CQB situation.
Leupold VX-R Patrol
The Leupold VX-R Patrol rocks the mid-priced scope category for the AR-15. The illuminated reticle is battery powered but uses fiber optics to adjust brightness. The cool part though is how it acts like an automatic motion sensor. Once the rifle is picked up the reticle activates. After 5 minutes of inactivity, the reticle automatically shuts down so it won’t kill your battery.
With 4 inches of eye relief, the VX-R Patrol offers fast target acquisition and is comfortable to shoot. The VX-R Patrol measures 9.5 inches—ideal and compact for an M4. Although the MARK AR was Leupold’s first step into lower-priced AR15 scopes, the VX-R has raised the bar so high, it is in another class.
Leupold MARK 4 MR/T
The MARK 4 MR/T from Leupold is available in 1.5-5×20 and 2.5-8×36 models. Both are available in multiple reticle and illumination configurations, so do your homework before you slapping down any greenbacks. On the 2.5-8x, you have the choice between the M1 (high) and M2 (low-profile) turrets. I could justify either one—depending on my intended use—but would likely tip the scales in favor of the M2 low-profile turrets. I like sleek and easy and do not plan on many in-the-field adjustments, plus it gives the option of mounting a secondary optic for CQB such as Leupold’s DeltaPoint or the Trijicon RMR.
Trijicon’s ACOG goes with an AR like chocolate syrup on a sundae. ACOG’s are internally-adjustable, compact telescopic sights with tritium illuminated reticle patterns for use in low light or night conditions. The ACOG combine’s traditional, precise distance marksmanship with close-in aiming speed. Every feature of its design was chosen for a single purpose—increased hit potential under all lighting conditions.
The ACOG was built around the Bindon Aiming Concept, which revolutionized aiming, shooting and CQB by keeping both eyes open for a wider field of vision and faster target acquisition.
When considering the ACOG, I’ll offer this piece of advice. If price is a primary consideration, the ACOG is not for you. However, if your life may come down to the quality of your AR glass, ask any returning soldier from the sandbox of his or her choice. I can remember a few years back when ACOGs were in such short supply, parents were trying to buy them from the commercial market and ship it to the Gulf. Trijicon offered to send me a test model at the time and as much as I wanted one, I could not bring myself past the fact that it would mean one less from one of our fighters overseas. However, that is not a problem today and I cherish mine; but yes, it is that good.
Trijicon offers a ton of reticle options for the ACOG. Too many to cover all of them here. The Chevron is a top choice and with a little work you can learn to use it for range estimation and windage similar to a mil dot system. However, while the Chevron offers a more precise aiming point at longer ranges and range estimation, the Horseshoe reticle was designed for CQB and faster target acquisition so pick by personal preference and intended use. Color is another option; ACOGs are available with either Red or Green illumination. When asked most leans toward for the red—especially when viewed under fluorescent lights, but in practical use, particularity outdoors in bright sunlight, the green wins in my opinion.
Leupold HAMR 4×24 Riflescope
The HAMR’s ballistically matched, illuminated CM-R2 reticle is designed for the most popular tactical rounds and weapon systems. Combining the ranging ability of Leupold’s Special Purpose Reticle (SPR) with the quick acquisition of the Leupold Circle Dot Reticle, the CM-R2 provides flexibility necessary, whether you are operating on the modern battlefield or the 3-gun course.
The HAMR features an etched glass reticle that’s visible with or without illumination or batteries. Adding Leupold’s DeltaPoint red dot sight will increase the versatility of the Mark 4 HAMR by decreasing target acquisition times. Quickly shift your view from the DeltaPoint to the HAMR for instant transition from close quarter to long-range shooting.
The included Flat-Top mount is compatible with any modern rail mount system. The Mark 4 HAMR 4×24 Scope with DeltaPoint Sight—battle-tested, waterproof, soldierproof and unflinching, but backed by Leupold’s Tactical Optical Products Warranty nonetheless.
Burris 4.5-14×32 Timberline w/Fastfire II & P.E.P.R. Mount
At times you need more out of your optic than the manufacturer’s design will allow. When that happens, it is time to go Lego and build your own. The versatile nature of the AR makes it a multi-mission platform. So why would you select a single-mission optic to top it with? To be ideal, your AR optics have to be as capable on a long-range target as it will be when things hit the fan and the threat is in the same room.
There are several combinations you can opt to choose for your build, but for this demonstration, I chose Burris’ Timberline scope 4.5-14×32, Quick Detach Burris P.E.P.R. mount (with picatinny tops) and Burris Fastfire II. (Mainly because a shooting buddy of mine is running this combination and I really like it.) Combinations such as this makes your AR as capable of dropping four-legged varmints 500 yards as the two-legged varmint variety at 10 yards.
The 4.5-14×32 Timberline offers 3.75 to 5 inches of eye relief. When combined with the PEPR mount, it situates the scope in the ideal position for fast target acquisition and comfortable shooting. The Timberline comes standard with the Ballistic Plex Reticle so it is as effective for .223 as it is over a .308.