The AR-15 rifle has a reputation for being a mid-range shooting firearm for some gun owners, but that is definitely not true. An AR-15 rifle can be used to make moderately long-range shots as well.
For this reason, we have come up with some pertinent facts and a list of some of the best AR-15 long-range scopes that are available on the market. So let’s begin!
The Best Effective Range for an AR-15
To choose the right scope and claim that it is long-range, we have to base that on the gun’s effective shooting range. Effective range means that the range in which a weapon is effective – according to U.S. Military standards, that is. It wouldn’t make sense to commend a fantastic long-range scope if the bullet itself has little to no chance of reaching a target at the range of the scope.
The range of an AR-15 is quite a hotly debated topic among gun owners, with a lot of division among different gun users too. If we stand by the factory instruction manual, the AR-15 rifle has an effective range of about 550 meters (600 yards).
AR-15s are available in 3 different models, all of which differ in barrel length. They are the carbine (16 inches), standard (20 inches), and target (24 inches) varieties. The AR-15 rifle comes chambered for different calibres and ammo types, however, the most common AR-15 rifle uses the 5.56 NATO or .223 REM round.
The reason we are talking about the barrel length, chamber, and ammunition is that we are now going to talk about the range of an AR-15 rifle, where these and several other factors come into play. On a normal sunny day with 0 windage, the AR-15 rifle can shoot flawlessly up to 300 yards in the hands of an average shooter. However, in the hands of a pro shooter, the AR-15 rifle can shoot 2-inch groups precisely at 800-1000 yards.
Longer barrel lengths mean that the bullet can reach a higher velocity. It is really important to mention here that barrel length is not proportional to the accuracy of a shot at a short range. The velocity is because of the bigger volume provided by the powder for burning. Higher-velocity bullets have a flatter trajectory over a long range and a lower drop, which does produce better accuracy over a distance.
The effective range for a 16 inch barrel will be around 500 yards, whereas the effective range of a 20 inch barrel will be around 800 yards.
Another important factor respective to the range of an AR-15 rifle is the chambering. A 5.56/.223 round will provide you with an effective range of about 500 yards. Heavier rounds like .308 will obviously offer a longer range of 800-1000 yards.
The Criteria: What To Look For In a Long-Range Scope
If we accept the optimum range for an AR-15 rifle is around 1000 yards, we can better define the type of scope we need for those longer limits. At this range, we need a maximum optical scope for precise shooting. We will look at scopes that can handle 500-1000 yards.
There are a few factors that you will want to consider seriously while you are choosing a long-range scope for your AR-15 rifle.
Hitting anything consistently beyond 1000 yards reflects that you have either miraculous skills or astounding luck. So shooting at the range we are talking about doesn’t really need very high magnification optics. According to the old rule of the thumb, every 1x equals 100 yards. An optical scope with a maximum of 15x magnification will be the best fit you need for your AR-15. Anything above that will make it difficult to acquire your target quickly.
The size of the objective lens is quite an important feature in long-range shooting. A larger objective lens simply means more light will enter. In turn, this will yield a brighter image. Scopes up to 12x magnification usually feature objective lenses of a maximum 40 mm in diameter.
A large objective lens will, however, be larger and will have to be placed higher over your rifle.
The reticule (cross-hair) of your scope helps you in aiming accurately at your target. There are a multitude of reticules that are available on the market. Reticules such as BDC and mil-dot let you adjust your elevation and windage with a pre-defined set of dots – so you don’t have to adjust the turret every time.
The focal plane decides the size of the reticule when the scope is zoomed in. Scopes come in 2 kinds of focal configurations. These are the 1st focal plane (FFP) and 2nd focal plane (SFP).
The major difference in these 2 is that the size of the reticule changes with respect to the target when you magnify in a 2nd focal plane scope. SFP is usually better for long-range shooting.
Turret and MOA
MOA describes the adjustment created with the grouping in inches at every hundred yards. High-power scopes usually have a smaller MOA. The turret adjustment should be smooth, easily accessible, and audible to let you calibrate accurately for long-distance shots.
The Benefits of Using a Long-Range Scope
There are a few advantages that will work in your favour if you have a long-range scope for your rifle. If you choose not to get one, you will miss out on a lot of things. Here are what you might enjoy in a long-range scope:
The Ability to Reach Impressive Distances
There are a lot of rifle scopes that can easily reach distances like 100 yards to 200 yards. And some can reach distances you never thought are possible. If you want something that will be accurate to 800 yards to 1000 yards and beyond, you will probably find one of the few scopes that we have listed to have that ability.
Ability to Handle Heavy-Hitting Rifles
A lot of times the best long-range rifles are the ones that pack quite a punch in firing power. A normal riflescope will not be able to handle such shock from the huge amounts of recoil. These scopes are very hard-wearing and do a great job at protecting your zero settings. A large amount of shock can send your scope’s zero settings out of place even after a few shots.
Satisfaction With Hitting Your Target at Long Distance
It does not matter if you are using cans, bottles, paper targets, or big game targets, there is nothing more exciting than being able to accurately hit your targets from a long distance. It is a feat that not many shooters will really accomplish outside of a highly-trained military personnel. As long as you have the right kind of rifle and the scope to go with it, there is no limit to how far you can go.
The Review of The Best AR-15 Long-Range Scopes Today
Below is a list of some of the best AR-15 long-range scopes that are currently on the market. While going through each one, you should take note of any characteristics and features that matches what you are looking for in your perfect scope. Find one that is close enough to fit the bill and you will be happy with it for a long time.
1. Leupold Mark AR Mod1 6-18x40mm Adjustable Optic Scope with IMS Mount
A lot of recent gun owners are quite happy with the overall performance and durability of the scope itself. A lot of them are able to reach out and hit their targets accurately from 500 yards out and beyond. One gun owner said it takes him a few minutes to sight-in and his rifle was ridiculously accurate at 100 yards and beyond.
This scope is perhaps one of the best scopes, in terms of its sturdiness. It can endure a great deal of shock. Not only that, it has got the easiest adjustments of any scope that you can find on the market. So, those on-the-fly adjustments that you may need will be quick and done in a matter of a very short time.
With all its gears packed in an aircraft-grade aluminium, 1-inch main tube, the Mark AR Mod1 scope will let you take the most precise shots from long distances. The scope comes with a 6x-18x magnification with a large 40 mm objective lens diameter.
The scope is available in fine duplex and mil-dot reticule variants to let you make easy adjustments to your sight picture. It has an illuminated reticule to help you with long-distance shots, especially when you are under low lighting conditions. The scope comes with an IMS mount for easy and rapid installation.
This will most likely be a scope that will be used by Creedmoor 6.5 owners or those who own an AR-15 rifle that can go the distance. Application-wise, it may be best served as a hunting scope or even for target practices or competitive shooting.
The Leupold Mark AR Mod 6-18×40 Rifle Scope is probably going to be right up your alley if you want something tough and can handle the multiple amounts of shock that comes with every shot you fire. On top of that, it is easy to use and gets the work done from longer ranges.
2. Leupold VX-R Patrol Rifle Scope
Most new gun owners love this scope. They used this for hunting sprees, for the most part. It was easy to install and it is able to reach a good deal of distances without much issue, and its adjustments were smooth and fluid. As expected, it proved itself to be one of the most operative long-range hunting scopes on the market.
Leupold scopes are known for being sturdy and also really easy to adjust. Thus, it makes this one of the more sought-after long-range scopes. Other than that, it is one of the most lightweight scopes that can handle the heavy-duty shock that comes with recoil. Don’t assume this is one of those scopes that have 0 settings that will be easy to be dismissed.
The VX-R Patrol Riflescope features a 3-9x variable magnifying power with a huge 40 mm objective lens. It has a well-lit reticule powered by a single CR-2032 battery which is run with a single button.
The eye relief range of 3.7-4.2 inches makes it appropriate for taking long-range shots with an AR-15 rifle. Aiding this feature is the Firedot TMR reticule with drop benefit marking. The ¼ MOA adjustments help you score small groups over long distances with much ease. The scope is fairly shorter than its counterparts with a length of 12.6 inches.
This scope will be perused across numerous applications. However, hunting and competitive shooting will be the 2 that stands out the most. Because of its durability, it can handle the bumps and bangs of heavy gunfire. If you are looking for a scope that’s 2nd to none when it comes to holding the zero settings firmly, this scope will do the trick.
If you want a scope that will stand out in your view as a hard-hitting and easy to use scope for almost any application, you should consider this Leupold VX-R Patrol Rifle Scope for all your hunting or target shooting needs.
3. Vortex Strike Eagle 3-18×44 Riflescope (with EBR-4 MOA)
Most new gun owners are happy with the scope. The illumination settings were brilliant in low-light settings, especially when it was dawn or dusk outside. Gun owners are able to sight their targets quickly and get a shot off. One gun user said his bag limits came in the dawn or dusk hours since purchasing this scope.
Let’s set up a comparison here: Nikon is to clarity as Vortex is to sturdiness. Next to Leupold, Vortex Optics stands out as one of the best in the firearms business when it comes to durability. They are so self-assured in their scopes, every single one comes with a lifetime warranty. On top of that, the image quality is pretty solid and has the aptitude to reach out and touch something from impressive distances.
This will be used by gun owners who rely on heavy-powered AR-15 rifles to reach out and hit something from long ranges. So a Creedmoor 6.5 or a similar rifle will probably be the most compatible with this scope. Application-wise, hunters who want to nail big game targets will definitely benefit from this scope.
The Vortex Strike Eagle has the hardiness of a tank and the accuracy a long-range scope should have. If you are looking for something that will last you a lifetime and will be reliable for as long as possible, you will be insane to pass up the opportunity to give this scope a closer look and consideration.
4. Bushnell Optics Drop Zone 223
This scope was a major hit with most new gun users. While it was affordable in terms of its budget, they concluded they get quite the steal. The reticule was marked nicely and allowed for accurate and precise shooting. The image quality was pretty vibrant, almost at high-definition levels with Nikon, according to one gun user.
Bushnell remains one of the most reliable and trustable brand names when it comes to scopes. In our humble opinion, it may just be the total package when it comes to long-range scopes. It features a rich image picture, durability to absorb shock from recoil, and is surprisingly effective for a budget scope.
As the name suggests, this scope from Bushnell features a Bullet Drop Compensation (BDC) reticule calibrated for 55-62-grain, 5.56/.223 rounds. The fully multi-coated optics offer bright HD images. The target turrets (¼ MOA) provides easy and precise adjustments for windage, elevation, and parallax. Manufactured from a high-grade aluminium alloy with an anodized finish, the scope is sealed with nitrogen to keep the lenses from fogging over.
The extensive range of variable power from 4.5x-18x lets you take short, as well as long-range shots. With a long eye relief of 3.7 inches, this 2nd focal plane scope keeps pace with its more expensive competitors.
This scope is mostly compatible with .223 calibre AR-15 rifles that can go quite the distance. Especially those kinds of rifles that can be perused for hunting and casual target shooting. If you are the kind of shooter who wants to have fun hitting targets from 500 yards out or more, this can be your kind of scope.
The Bushnell AR Optics Dropzone Rifle Scope demonstrates itself to be a reliable long-range scope that can do some serious damage at a long ranges, no matter what the application. If you want sturdiness, clear image quality, and impressive accuracy, you may want to give this scope a closer look.
5. Vortex Optics Strikefire II Red Dot Sight
A lot of new gun owners are satisfied with the optic. They are able to attach this on their mounts or rail system. The same group of gun owners said the installation was easy and took only a few minutes. One gun owner said he uses this for the purpose of target shooting.
It comes with both a red and green dot that can allow gun owners for full functioning in low light and broad daylight settings. Regardless, you will be able to shoot accurate shots each and every time. If you want something that will give your rifle a big improvement in hit probability, this sight can get the job done.
The Strikefire II Scope features a floodlit red-dot sight which lets you shoot with both your eyes open because of its parallax-free nature. Secured with flip-lens protectors, the scope is filled with nitrogen to makes it shockproof and prevents any fogging over the lenses.
The Strikefire II is ⅓ co-witness, which means that the iron sights are visible on 1/3 part of the scope. This lets you aim through your scope even when your battery dies.
With sleek, rear-facing controls, the lowest two reticule illumination settings are night-vision friendly. You can also add a magnifier to this scope for enhanced visibility and range. This is a red dot scope and does not magnify. So if your eyes are sharp, this is a passable choice. But if not, it is best to pass it over.
This will be a great choice for target shooting and probably some other applications like varmint hunting. No matter what, you have an optic that can give you a nice boost in accuracy. Install this bad boy and you will have some serious sharpshooting ability in an instant.
The Vortex Optics Red Dot Sight will stand out to a lot of gun owners as a really good optic for your firearm. Whether you want to use it in a low light setting or at high noon, you will have an optic that you can definitely rely on.
6. Nikon Prostaff 12x40mm
As expected, a lot of the new gun owners are relatively happy with the image quality of the scope. Even better, the fast-focus eyepiece was a favourite among other gun users. One gun user said the target acquisition is ludicrously fast and locks onto targets fairly quickly.
Nikon is best-known for having excellent photography products. However, they seem to make a name for themselves in riflescopes, as well. Even better is that their image quality is as high-definition as you are going to get. On top of that, the dead-hold BDC reticule makes shooting more accurate and precise, which gives other scopes a run for their money.
The Nikon Prostaff is an affordable and durable solution for your long-range shooting needs. The scope has a variable 4x-12x magnification, which is optimal with respect to the maximum effective range of the AR-15 rifle. The huge 40 mm diameter is perfect for long-range shooting. It has fully multi-coated optics for up to 98% light transmission.
It is also nitrogen-filled and O-ring sealed to provide a compact and shockproof setup. The zero reset turrets and hand turn reticule adjustments makes it easy for you to aim and hit your targets from a long distance. The scope has a long eye relief of 3.70 inches to inhibit you from having to make consecutive adjustments after every shot. The second focal plane is a harmonising feature that is also useful for taking long-range shots.
Expect hunters (ranging from predator and varmint hunters to big game hunters) to use this long range scope the most. Especially those who wants to knock down an animal from a remarkable distance. If you are looking to land a target from as far as 800 yards out, you will be hard-pressed to find a scope like this.
The bottom line is that thus Nikon Prostaff Rifle Scope provides the best image quality of any scope on the market today. Top that with a durable body and the aptitude to make your shooting more precise and accurate, and you may have just found the best AR-15 scope currently.
The range of an AR-15 rifle depends on several influences like its barrel length, ammunition, and gun owners’ shooting skills. You don’t need very luxurious and high-power scopes for taking long-range shots. Long range for an AR tops out at 1000 yards and the scopes listed above can do this job pretty well.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) that some gun owners may find useful.
Q: What is the best long-range scope on the market?
There are a lot of really good long-range scopes on the market. You just need to find one that suits you best.