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.

10 Best Budget Riflescopes

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

rifles scope optics burris fullfield
Burris Fullfield II 3-9x40mm | BUY IT NOWF&S

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.

Finish Weight Length Click Value FOV
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

rifles scope optics bushnell legend
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 4.5-14x44mm Mil Dot | BUY IT NOWF&S

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.

Finish Weight Length Click Value FOV
Matte Black 18.7 oz. 4.7 in. .25 in. at 100 yds. 6 to 23 ft. at 100 yds.
rifles scope optics bushnell legend buck
Bushnell Legend scope in action.F&S

Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5-28mm | $262

rifles scope optics leupold scout
Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5-28mm | BUY IT NOWF&S

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.

Finish Weight Length Click Value FOV
Matte Black 7.5 oz. 10.10 in. N/A 22 ft. at 100 yds.

Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm | $235

rifles scope optics leupold vx2
Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm | BUY IT NOWF&S

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.

Finish Weight Length Click Value FOV
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

rifles scope optics redfield revolution
Redfield Revolution 4-12x40mm Accu-Range | BUY IT NOWF&S

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.

Finish Weight Length Click Value FOV
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

rifles scope optics vortex crossfire
Vortex Crossfire II 4-16x50mm AO BDC | BUY IT NOWF&S

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.

Finish Weight Length Click Value FOV
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

rifles scope optics zeiss terra
Zeiss Terra 3X 3-9x 42mm | BUY IT NOWF&S

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.

Finish Weight Length Click Value FOV
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

rifles scope optics sig sauer whiskey
Sig Sauer Whiskey 3 3-9x 50mm | BUY IT NOWF&S

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.

Finish Weight Length Click Value FOV
Matte Black or Graphite 15.7 oz. 12.3 in. 1/4 MOA 33.9 to 11.3 ft. at 100 yds.
rifles scope optics sig sauer whiskey
Sig Sauer Whiskey scope in action.F&S

Nikon Monarch 3 2-8x 32mm BDC | $297

rifles scope optics nikon monarch
Nikon Monarch 3 2-8x 32mm BDC | BUY IT NOWF&S

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.

Finish Weight Length Click Value FOV
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

rifles scope optics weaver v16
Weaver V16 4-16x42mm | BUY IT NOWF&S

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.

Finish Weight Length Click Value FOV
Matte Black 16.8 oz. 14 in. .25 in. at 100 yds. 39 to 8.5 ft. at 100 yds.

How to Mount a Scope

Mounting a scope properly lays a foundation for straight shooting. A scope that isn't solidly affixed to your rifle can shift around, moving your bullet's point of impact. Fortunately, scope mounting isn't difficult to do yourself.

We're assuming, before you begin, that your rifle is drilled and tapped for a base or bases and you've bought the correct base(s) and rings for your model of rifle. Rings come in three heights -- low, medium, and high -- to fit scopes with varying sizes of objective lens. As a rule, the lower you can mount the scope over the bore, the better. Be sure you can work the rifle bolt freely at whatever height you choose.

It's easiest to mount a scope on a rifle that is held securely in a padded gun vise. If necessary, you can improvise a holder by cutting notches in either end of a stout cardboard box.

1. Prep the Scope and Gun

Clean any grease off the screws, screw holes, and bases with Outers Crud Cutter or lighter fluid. Wipe the metal dry; then lightly oil the top of the receiver where the base will sit. Set the base on the receiver. Put a drop of medium-strength Loc-Tite on each screw (don't use the strongest stuff, which can only be undone with heat). With a screwdriver that is the same blade width and thickness as the screw slots, turn the base screws down as tight as you can.

2. Install the Scope Rings

Install the bottom halves of your rings per the manufacturer's instructions. With Redfield, Leupold, and some other brands, the front ring attaches to the base through a socket arrangement that requires twisting the ring 90 degrees. Never use your scope as a lever to twist the ring; you can easily bend the tube. Instead, use a length of 1-inch wooden dowel or pipe.

3. Set the Scope Onto the Rings

Lay the scope onto the bottom halves of the rings. Attach the top halves of the rings, but don't tighten the screws yet; you'll want the scope to slide back and forth and rotate so you can adjust the eye relief and the cant. Don't make the mistake of setting the scope too close to your eye, or it will hit you when it comes back under recoil. Most scopes have 3 to 4 inches of eye relief; that is, they are designed to be set 3 to 4 inches in front of your eye when you are leaning into the rifle with your head forward on the stock. Position the scope accordingly.

4. Adjust to Perfection

Now, adjust the cant to make sure the scope's crosshairs are truly vertical. With the gun in a vise, use a small level to check that the rifle itself is not leaning to one side. Then, sight through the scope at a straight line you've checked with the level, such as a door jamb or window frame. Turn the scope to line the crosshairs up with the vertical line.

5. Tighten to Secure the Scope

Tighten the ring screws. They should be snug enough to hold the scope securely, but they needn't be cranked down as tightly as the screws that hold the base to the receiver. With split rings that have screws on both sides, tighten the screws alternately, so the gaps between the rings come out even.