I have used a lot of scopes in the last decade. What I ended up favoring was all from the Vortex company. Here’s what I recommend for the $500 and $130 price ranges.
Vortex Viper HS
This is a fine scope, and the best you can get for the money. It sells for about $500, depending on the exact configuration. I bought one ten years ago. My brother bought one last month. We’re both happy with our scopes. I actually bought mine used at the time.
My Viper has won several competitions, sliced a ton of bullseyes, and taken it’s fair share of squirrels. I put it on my old DPMS sweet 16; a short, heavy AR in .223 Remington. I can’t say it’s taken a lot of recoil, but it’s been through several ammo cans worth of lead and plenty of times getting dropped and dinged.
I absolutely love it. This is a second focal plane scope. That means that as I zoom in, the reticle doesn’t stay to scale. That makes it tougher to use the reticle for measurements. I’m fine with that because this is a hunting rifle, not a long-distance shooter.
The configuration I like is the 4-16 zoom. 4x is great for general hunting, and the higher magnification makes for fun bullseye shooting. They have options for which reticle you get. I personally like the V-Plex reticle, which is simple and no-frill. My scope has an amazing focus adjustment and parallax adjustment, which increases the accuracy potential quite a bit.
I prefer the 44mm main tube because it’s not too tall and it gathers plenty of light for me. They do make a 50mm tube which helps in low-light conditions. It’s about a hundred dollars more. I like to keep it smaller and compact when possible.
This scope, in my opinion, great for 100-600 yards. The 4x zoom can make it tricky for a 75 yard or closer shot, but that’s how it goes. sometimes.
Vortex Crossfire II 2-7×32 Long Eye Relief
I bought one of these last year. This is my favorite budget scope. It sells for around $130, and it’s darn well worth it. I’ve bought other scopes in that price range and was very disappointed. This one did not disappoint. It’s a longer eye relief (distance between your eyes and scope) of about 4 inches. Most scopes are closer to 2. Longer eye relief makes for faster target aquisition and easier focusing.
This Crossfire II has been my go-to scope for testing new calibers the past two years. It’s handled the harsh recoil of 450 Bushmaster, and tons of loads from 350 Legend, 6.5 Grendel, 7.62×39, and a lot of .223 Remington.
Currently, it is on my 30-caliber AR upper. It was intended for deer hunting but I’ve kept it to the range for now. It’s hard to get out hunting much with 5 little tot kids in the house. I’ve shot many groups well under MOA using this scope, and it has very good glass for the money.
The 2-7 zoom makes it quite functional for hunting and for tactical use. At 2 power, it’s fine for shooting close distances or making very fast shots. At 7 power, it’s zoomed in enough to make hunting shots at 300 yards no problem. I am about to get another one of these scopes as a Christmas gift to myself. They’re great, focus well, and are pretty sturdy.
My buddy has one of these on his 350 Legend AR. He loves it but said it felt a bit different at first with the longer eye relief. He’s been taking deer with it for 4 or 5 years. It’s perfect for an unexpected 35-yard shot, and fine enough for 200-300 yards without question.
Vortex Crossfire II 2-7×32 Scout Scope
I bought this one in 2016, shortly before getting married. I put it on a Mosin Nagant, which recoils equal to a 30-06. It’s been on that gun for seven years and in that time, has withstood hundreds of heavy-recoil loads, taken several deer and hogs, and traveled the country. I gave that gun to my younger brother in Texas, and he loves it! The accuracy impresses folks at the shooting range constantly.
It is a scout scope, That means that instead of the normal 2 inches from your eye to the scope, you’re going to need closer to 9 inches. It’s mounted further up on the rifle. This used to be more for old military rifles that needed funky scope mounts. Now it’s quite popular among the AR crowd. I wouldn’t hesitate to put it on any solid forward rail AR. I know some don’t like that.
As far as the Mosin Nagant, it’s the best scope for the job. I used the Jordy Buck Mosin-Mount method to get it on there. it’s solid and secure, right over the original rear dovetail.
The Scout Scope allows for clearer vision, faster target acquisition, and a wider margin of eye relief. With 9 inches of eye relief, it’s twice as fast to get a target picture through than any other scope I own or have ever used. They Make it with a 2-7 variable power zoom, which really aids to the speed of function. For close-range hunting, 2x zoom is amazing. For a few hundred yards, 7x is enough to kill a deer or hog.
This is the scope I recommend most for an AR with an extended rail, as most are nowadays.