Riflescopes are like dates: good ones don’t come cheap. Shaping, polishing, and coating clear, distortion-free lenses takes time and precise equipment. So does machining the gears, springs, tubes, and lens mounts that comprise the guts of a scope. Assembling the package in a slim, three-dimensional tube that is waterproof and shock-resistant takes patience, and expertise.
The point is: You can’t buy a new, useful riflescope for much less than $175. So when it comes to defining “budget” scopes, I’m going to establish the price ceiling as $300. Plus, since we’re talking practical reality here, I’m going to ignore manufacturer’s suggested retail; all the prices shown are as listed on Amazon.
Burris Fullfield II 3-9x40mm | $224
This fine little riflescope combines a classic 3-9x deer-scope configuration with cutting-edge design and manufacturing. For the price, the optical clarity, light transmission, and ergonomics of this scope are second to none. Burris’s Forever Warranty protects you against damage inflicted by wayward horses and the elements. Turret adjustments are steel on steel—no plastic parts to cave under extreme use. Naturally, it’s waterproof and nitrogen purged against internal fogging.
|Matte Black or Nickel||13 oz.||12.2 in.||1/4 MOA||33 to 13 ft. at 100 yds.|
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 4.5-14x44mm Mil Dot | $261
While it’s available in various magnification ranges, the 4.5-14x 44mm version of this exceptional optic offers tremendous versatility. I used one on an Oregon mule deer hunt, to take a mature buck and two coyotes. Ultra HD glass ensures outstanding light transmission and startlingly clear images, and RainGuard HD coating sheds rain, enabling you to see and shoot even when soaked. Available with a standard duplex or Mil Dot reticle, the Legend Ultra HD is waterproof, shock resistant, and purged against fogging.
|Matte Black||18.7 oz.||4.7 in.||.25 in. at 100 yds.||6 to 23 ft. at 100 yds.|
Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5-28mm | $262
The Scout rifle concept—a short, handy semi-lightweight rifle with a forward-mounted low-magnification optic—is currently enjoying a resurgence, and few scopes are more perfectly suited for it than Leupold’s VX-II Scout IER. Constructed in a one-piece tube with a minimal number of moving parts, this scope is stout. It’s got just enough magnification for precise shots to 250 yards and it adds minimal bulk to your favorite walking rifle. Plus, the lenses are clear as mountain air. Waterproof, shock-resistant, and fog-proof? Check, check, check. Finish available in matte black, silver, or gun metal gray, but only matte black comes in under $300.
|Matte Black||7.5 oz.||10.10 in.||N/A||22 ft. at 100 yds.|
Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm | $235
Yes, Leupold’s VX-I is less expensive—as low as $175—and is a decent scope. But for the money, this one is a great scope. If I had to choose just one optic from this list with which to deer hunt my days away, this would be it. Elegant, classic styling coupled with many decades of American engineering and manufacturing perfection makes for a clear, bright, distortion-free riflescope that you’ll hand down to your grandkids. Several reticles are available, ranging from standard duplex (the $235 version listed on Amazon) to the uber-useful Wind-Plex. Finger-adjustable, tactile turrets make for easy, precise sight-in and field adjustments, and you can order a CDS dial matched to your ballistics. Nitrogen-purged against fogging, aggressively waterproofed, and very good at shrugging off shock, this scope will hunt harder than you ever can.
|Matte Black, Gloss, Silver||11.2 oz.||12.6 in.||1/4 MOA||34.6 to 14.6 ft. at 100 yds.|
Redfield Revolution 4-12x40mm Accu-Range | $220
Reborn in Oregon under Leupold’s hand, Redfield is again building outstanding American-made riflescopes. Multi-layer vapor-deposited coatings on good lenses ensures plenty of light transmission, clarity, and color purity. With a magnification range of 4-12x, this particular scope is low enough on the bottom end for fast shots up close, and powerful enough zoomed in for work at extended ranges. Holdover points in the reticle add long-range precision. The Revolution is absolutely waterproof, fog proof, and shock resistant and covered by Redfield’s full lifetime warranty.
|Matte Black||13.1 oz.||12.3 in.||1/4 MOA||19.9 to 9.4 ft. at 100 yds.|
Vortex Crossfire II 4-16x50mm AO BDC | $279
Vortex has become a household name for discerning long-range shooting enthusiasts. Although the company’s most capable long-range optics typically cost $1,000 and up, this sub-$300 scope offers performance worthy of the Vortex name. The scope features resettable MOA turrets compatible with custom Kenton Industries turret dials and it offers parallax adjustment. Built in a one-piece, anodized aircraft-grade aluminum tube using fully multicoated lenses, it’s a clear, robust, and reliable optic. Like the pricier Vortex optics, it’s waterproof, shock resistant, and nitrogen purged against internal fogging.
|Matte Black||23.6 oz.||14.2 in.||1/4 MOA||25.3 to 7 ft. at 100 yds.|
Zeiss Terra 3X 3-9x 42mm | $284
Featuring Carl Zeiss engineering and QC, the shockingly good, shockingly inexpensive Terra line is built in Asia but performs way out of its price class. Properly ground, polished, and coated lenses give outstanding clarity, light transmission, color purity, and of course minimal distortion. Engineered to meet the all-American deer-scope standard, this model has a 1-inch tube, 3-9x magnification, and a balanced, efficient 42mm objective lens. It’s even got ¼ MOA turret clicks instead of those annoying metric clicks most European scopes torture us with. Of course it’s waterproof, fog-purged, and shock resistant.
|Matte Black||14.8 oz.||12.4 in.||1/4 MOA||35.9 to 12.3 ft. at 100 yds.|
Sig Sauer Whiskey 3 3-9x 50mm | $250
Although legendary gun company SIG is relatively new to building optics, you’d never know it by looking at its riflescopes. This is an exceptionally good-looking scope that shrugs off color and contour conventions. Glass, mechanics, and construction are all solid. It’s not quite as clear or distortion-free as the similarly priced Leupold, Burris, and Zeiss scopes, but it possess more modern styling than they do. Waterproof, fog-proof, and shock resistant, it’s a perfectly viable hunting scope for big game, predators, or varmints.
|Matte Black or Graphite||15.7 oz.||12.3 in.||1/4 MOA||33.9 to 11.3 ft. at 100 yds.|
Nikon Monarch 3 2-8x 32mm BDC | $297
As the little brother to Nikon’s much more expensive, high-performance Monarch 5 and Monarch 7 line, this riflescope edges into elite company and offers more features and more performance in some areas than the other scopes listed here. It’s also the most expensive scope on the list. Sleek, compact and light, it features interchangeable, Zero-Reset turrets and is built with Nikon’s Ultra ClearCoat lenses. The scope body is a rugged one-piece 1-inch tube, and every scope has Nikon’s full lifetime warranty.
|Matte Black||13.4 oz.||11.5 in.||.25 in. at 100 yds.||11.5 to 46.2 ft. at 100 yds.|
Weaver V16 4-16x42mm | $295
This elegant 4-16x scope is made for the varminter on a budget. It offers enough max magnification to pop prairie dogs at a quarter mile and enough field of view on low power for fast-moving rodents up close. A traditional adjustable objective on the front lens makes finessing parallax easy, and unlike many modern scopes with bulky ocular housings, the rear lens bell on this scope is slender enough to enable mounting the scope low and tight for optimum cheek weld. Several different reticles are available, including ultra-fine Varminter, Mil Dot, and ¼-MOA center dot crosshairs. Fully multi-coated lenses transfer light well and are crystal clear. Waterproof, shock resistant, and fog-proof, this is one of the great unsung scopes on the market.
|Matte Black||16.8 oz.||14 in.||.25 in. at 100 yds.||39 to 8.5 ft. at 100 yds.|