You don’t have to break the bank to get an excellent rifle scope. Your scope is one of your most important pieces of equipment for hunting. Check out our buyer’s guide with all you need to know about scopes and our 10 Best Rifle Scopes Under $300.
Finding the best rifle scope for you
When you buy a scope, remember that no two guns are exactly alike. While most scopes work well on many different gun models, they may not all work on your gun. Check your specs, especially if buying a BDC scope.
There is also a great deal of personal preference involved in choosing a scope. Your vision and the types of game and ranges you will be hunting are important considerations. We’ll cover the ins-and-outs of scopes so you can make an informed decision that is right for you.
Finally, proper installation is key to scope accuracy. Check out this great article on scope installation.
Top 10 Rifle Scopes Under $300 Table
Understanding Rifle Scopes
What Rifle Scope Numbers Mean
If you’ve looked at rifle scopes at all, you’ve noticed that manufacturers use a series of numbers, such as 10×50, to classify their products. Knowing what these numbers mean will help you make accurate comparisons between different rifle scopes.
- Power. The first number in the series, located before the x, refers to magnification. The higher the number, the higher the power of magnification the scope provides. When using a scope with a first number of 10, you will see an image ten times what the naked eye sees. If you are using a variable scope, you will see a range of numbers before the x.
- Objective. The number that follows the x in the series refers to the diameter of the objective lens. The objective lens is the lens that is opposite the lens you look through. Larger objective lenses are bulkier, but they offer a larger field of view. A larger objective lens also allows more light to enter the scope which creates a clearer sight picture, especially under low light conditions.
Reticle Focal Point: What is FFP and SFP?
There are two types of rifle scopes. The acronyms FFP and SFP refer to the reticle size in relation to the magnification.
- First Focal Plane (FFP) – FFP scopes adjust reticle size based on magnification. By doing this, the reticle stays in at a constant scale in comparison to the target. This can allow for more precise long-range targeting. The trade-off is that sometimes the reticle is harder to pick up at lower magnifications. FFPs are exceptional for long-range shooting, but not as versatile as SFPs.
- Second Focal Plane (SFP) – The reticle in SFP sights do not change regardless of the magnification. This means that the reticle becomes larger compared to the target as magnification increases. At long distances this can cause the scope to be less precise. Nevertheless, SFP is the most common and most versatile type of scope.
There are almost as many variations of reticles as there are scopes, but there are a few terms you will commonly see in scope descriptions:
- Duplex Reticles are a basic crosshair with a thin center wire and heavier sections on the edges. Many manufacturers have their own terms for duplex reticles, but they are all the same concept.
- BDC stands for Bullet Drop Compensating reticle. BDCs help the shooter calculate the drop of the bullet based on range and projectile ballistics. BDCs are caliber-specific and require the shooter to have an accurate range on his target.
- Mill-Dot reticles use the dots on the reticle to help the shooter estimate range on a target of a known size. Mil-Dot refers to milliradians (a measure of angle), not military.
- MOA means minute of angle. Like the Mil-Dot reticle, MOA reticles help the shooter estimate range based on the size of the target.
Common Rifle Scope Features
- Many scopes will have illuminated reticles. Illumination makes reticles easier to see, especially in low light or when using a BDC at short range. Some scopes offer multi-color illumination so you can adjust to your eyes and visibility. They require batteries, so check the specs.
- Parallax Adjustment puts the reticle on the same focal plane as the target so that if the shooter’s eye moves around the reticle doesn’t move around the target.
- Reticles can be wire or etched glass. Wire reticles are common and can provide excellent visibility because they do not refract light. Etched reticles are often used in illuminated scopes.
Top 3 Best Rifle Scopes Under $300 Reviews
If you are looking for value and performance it is hard to beat this FSP scope from Bushnell, a leader in outdoor optics. It has crystal clear optics including Bushnell’s Dusk & Dawn Brightness (DDB) coating which enhances low light vision. It uses an easy-to-see Circle-X reticle and works well for a wide range of calibers.
The quarter inch MOA fingertip windage and elevation adjustments are easy to grip, but rounded to be snag free. It is has single-tube aluminum construction for durability and has shown to hold its zero well even with heavy use.
We like the low-light visibility and versatility of this scope. For the price, it is really hard to beat.
Nikon is one of the best optics manufacturers in the world and the Nikon P-Tactical offers excellent quality and features for the price. Don’t let the term ‘tactical’ fool you. This is a second focal point sight with a 600 yard BDC reticle that makes it excellent for long range shooting. At shorter ranges the reticle markings are a bit light, but this is common with SFP scopes.
Multi-coated lenses provide excellent clarity. During use, the eye relief is good and the easy-to-read instant reset turrets make adjusting a snap.
This is a rugged optic constructed of aluminum with O-ring seals to prevent fogging. It is weather proof and shock resistant, so it can handle any recoil and the occasional drop or knock.
Nikon’s tactical series comes in caliber-specific models, but all have similar features. We reviewed the .223.
The Diamondback line from Vortex offers outstanding performance and capabilities at an intermediate price range. The series comes in various configurations and two reticle types: BDC for precise long-range shooting or V-Plex (MOA-based duplex reticle) that is interchangeable and good for all ranges.
We reviewed the 3.5-10×50. We like the above average objective lens size for the price range. Optics are multi-coated and very clear and easy to focus. The metal on metal turrets can zero reset after sight-in.
One-piece aluminum construction with O-ring seals makes the scope hearty and weather-resistant and fog proof.