Best Tactical Scopes | Top Picks Revealed

March 18, 2018
best tactical scopes

There are literally thousands of options for best tactical scopes and as such, making a choice can be a little overwhelming.

What Is The Best Tactical Scope To Buy?

From the conditions in which rifle optics will be used to the purpose you will implement your scope for, there are many variables that go into choosing the right scope for you.

This post analyzes the best rifles scopes 2017 and tells you everything you need to know before embarking on your search.

What Does a Tactical Scope Do?

A scope, also known as a telescopic sight, is a rifle sighting device whose design is based on that of an optical refracting telescope.

The reason for aiming with a tactical scope in the field is that it eliminates up to one-third of the complexity of lining up with iron sights.

The main advantage is that with tactical scopes, you only have to line up the crosshairs with the target. This is more accurate and easier as compared to metallic sights, which require you to line up the rear sight with the target and front sight.

Advantages of Using a Rifle Scope

Investing in a rifle scope accrues several benefits in the field, some of which are highlighted below.

  • ​It allows for clear and accurate shots at a distance
  • ​Eliminates the need for a bright flashlight when shooting
  • ​Provides an increased range
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    ​Easier to use and line up shots as compared to metallic sights
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    ​Provides crystal clear images of targets
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    ​Gives you a tactical edge, which is quite useful in different situations
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    ​Allows for quick and precise target acquisition
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    ​Longer hunting time increases the likelihood of going home with multiple games
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    ​Helps reduce the number of bullets used

​​​​​​​​​Factors to Consider When Buying A Tactical Scope

There are varieties of factors to consider when shopping for a tactical scope. Contrary to what many rookies may think, going for the scope with the largest eye relief and highest power isn't the best approach to this task.

The priority is ensuring that whatever model you purchase meets your personal needs.

Scope body

scope body

This can affect the precision of your rifle. Any good tactical scope should be made from a highly durable material.

Most manufacturers tend to use aircraft grade aluminum. As for the design, you will want to choose a scope with a single piece design.

An actual scope tube that's made from one piece of aircraft grade aluminum helps boost overall precision and longevity. Single piece bodies are often found on high-end scopes.

Lenses

lenses

This is the most important feature of any tactical scope, especially the long range sniper scopes. The lenses should be able to present a crystal clear image, regardless of the light conditions. Such a high level of clarity is important if you want to be able to read the wind.

This is because the wind can be completely different at the target, especially at extreme ranges. Trees and flags may be great wind indicators but when it comes down to it, you will need good glass to see clearly in situations where you have to read how the grass or dust is blowing.

That said, how do you know if a scope has good lenses? A good way to get started is to compare the light transmission of different scopes. You can also shop from manufacturers with a track record of clear glass. Such include Leopold, Zeiss, Schmidt and Bender, Trijicon, Nightforce as well as Swarovski.

Objective lens size

objectove lens size

Many people make a mistake of assuming that the bigger the objective lens, the better.

The truth couldn't be further from that. An objective lens usually measures the level of light transmission and in many cases, more light is better.

The downside to this is once the objective lens hits a certain size, you hit a snag and the difference between light transmissions becomes barely recognizable.

You will need to mount a larger objective lens higher over the barrel if you want to get the most out of it.

While this may lead to issues when it comes to maintaining a proper cheek weld, you can compensate for this by investing in a cheek riser.

It is also important to remember that a large objective lens will weigh more than a smaller one. In turn, this will affect the balance of your rifle and make it easier to accidentally knock into things.

Parallax

parralax

The parallax occurs when the scope is unable to focus the reticle and target on the same optical plane. This can lead to bad groupings and missed shots.

Many low-magnification and cheap scopes are set to be parallax free at a specific distance and don't allow for parallax correction at shorter or longer ranges. This is good for the low magnification scopes because the reticle shift will be too small to matter.

However, any scopes with a higher magnification (more than 12x) will need a parallax correction knob. It is often located opposite the windage turret and is sometimes known as side focus.

To check for parallax, nod your head up and down while keeping the rifle steady and looking through the glass. If the scope has parallax, the crosshairs will appear to shift position on the target.

Optical magnification

optical magnification

An important decision you will have to make is how much power you need.

The magnification level of any scope goes a long way towards determining its limits of usefulness. For instance, a 4x scope will not suffice for a 1000 yard shooter.

The same applies to a deer hunter in the thick forests trying to make a shot with a 32x scope. While the optimal magnification for any task is a relative matter, it is important to note that lower magnification allows for faster yet more intuitive shooting.

If you will be shooting at distances of less than 500 yards, scopes with a magnification of less than 10x will suffice.

The same is true for offhand shooting. You will need higher magnification if you intend to fire from a sandbag, tripod or another kind of support. Some scopes offer variable magnification, thus offering increased flexibility and utility in the field.

The downside with these models is that they are less rugged and more expensive as compared to their fixed magnification counterparts.

Adjustment range

adjustment range

You will also need to know how your scope is adjusted before making any purchases. You will have two options to choose from i.e. MOA and MRAD.

The latter is an acronym for Minute of Angle and refers to a 1/16th of an angle. The fact that 1 MOA nearly corresponds to 1" at 100 yards is the main reason why MOA is often associated with linear inches.

The main benefit of MOA adjustment is that it allows for more precise zeroing as compared to mil-radian scopes. This is because MOA adjustments are only about 0.25 inches at 100 yards, sometimes half of that.

This is particularly useful for anyone in need of extremely fine adjustment at long distance ranges.

On the downside, calculating adjustments with MOA is quite complex at ranges other than 100 yards. It works best when you pair it with covered adjustment screws and a BDC reticle.

However, this approach doesn't allow for the most efficient of the mildot system.

MRAD is an acronym for mil-radian and represents a 1/1000th of a radian. A mil-radian is equivalent to 3.6" at 100 yards.

This measurement makes it easier to calculate adjustments as compared to MOA. It can, however, get real complex if working with some ranges like 328 yards.

Tips for Using a Rifle Scope

tips for using rifle scope

Aiming with a scope can be a little difficult at first. All you have to do is line up the crosshairs with the target then take the shot.

However, real-life situations require very precise measurements to ensure that the bullet lands in the spot marked by crosshairs.

This brings about the question of what you should do to maximize your scope in the field. Here are a few tips for using your rifle scope that will help.

Point of impact

Deciding on how far off the target a pellet will land helps you make appropriate modifications to your scope.

Most models come with elevation and windage dials that you can use to compensate for impreciseness.

The windage is usually located on the right side and allows you to move the POI straight while height on the upper side affects the bullet's POI upright.

Tune windage and elevation

Military snipers are good at fine tuning the windage and elevation to suit specific situations. Finding the precise measure of the wind speed or any other factors that may affect the shot is incredibly difficult for amateur and casual shooters.

An easier approach is to do the calculations manually and hold off the reticle. This won't require you to re-zero your rifle scope. That said, you should calculate the distance to target to account for the zeroing of your scope.

You should also take into account bullet rise and fall if it is not at zero distance. Crosswind affects how far the bullet will land while the bullet speed impacts on the full amount of bullet drop.

It is important to note that the bullet weight and crosswind play a critical role when it comes to shooting at long distances. The weight of the bullet determines the bullet's maximum range and how far it reaches depending on the aerodynamics coefficient.

The shot angle refers to targeting at a different elevation. This is another factor that directly affects the speed, fall, and impact of the bullet.

Using a laptop or a Personal Digital Assistant can help you calculate the bullet's impact. It is the most effective way for an accurate and precise target. You will avoid re-zeroing, especially if you are on target shooting.

Adjusting the parallax

Modifying the parallax according to the distance of your target is crucial. Most models allow you to position the reticle on the same distance plain as the target.

Scopes with parallaxes that have distances mentioned on them provide a good guideline. Unfortunately, they aren't the most accurate. This is because the parallax has a tendency to change depending on the target distance and eye relief.

An effective way of getting around this challenge is to keep your head in a relief position such that you can observe down the scope and still observe the black around the corner. With fixed parallax scopes, the parallax is usually set at 150 yards.

If the parallax isn't fixed, you should keep at a maximum of 1.5" off the ground for 500 yards and 8" for 1000 yards.

Placing crosshairs in the center of target

Adjusting the scope and positioning the crosshairs in the center of your target may require you to compensate for the position, distance or wind. The idea is to keep the midpoint on target.

Getting Familiar With Different Ranges

The term range is something you will hear often when you become a regular shooter. It refers to the distance of the target and ultimately, how far the bullet should go.

That said, you will need to understand the different ranges i.e. short range, mid range, and long range shooting.

A short-range scope is designed to provide enough precision to hit targets that are inside of 200 yards away.

It is best utilized for targets less than 50 yards away. Many short range scopes offer a 1-4x magnification, basically giving you a magnified target while eliminating the complexities associated with expensive and larger scopes.

Long range scopes are used to magnify targets at long distances, thus allowing a more precise and accurate shot.

They can be used for targets at up to 1000 yards or more. Most models offer high magnification power of more than 10 and an increased adjustment range. Mid-range scopes are optimized for targets at 300-600 yards.

Getting Familiar With Different Reticles

The reticle refers to the aiming point or crosshair in your field of view in a scope. It is one of the most important considerations to make when purchasing a rifle scope. This section discusses the different reticle options available on the market.

Mil-Dot Reticle

This is a must have reticle for every sniper or long-range shooter. It is a simple crosshair with dots that are in 1-Mil increments. This allows for easy calculation of distance.

Mil means mil-radian and refers to 1/1000 of a radian. Counting the mil dots allows you to estimate the distance to target, thus making it easy to compensate for bullet drop and wind drift.

While it allows for very fine long range shooting, it is important to note that mil dot reticle isn't for everyone. This is because using it is a complex process and requires a bit of a learning curve.

Duplex Reticle

Originally designed by Leupold more than three decades ago, the duplex reticle is a simple yet plain crosshair with a twist. It utilizes thick lines to catch the eye's attention.

The lines become finer towards the intersection point. Because these lines don't obscure any significant portion of the target, the duplex reticle gives a very precise aiming point.

Some design incorporates an additional dot at the center of the reticle to improve visibility in low light conditions. This makes the duplex reticle invaluable when it comes to shooting moving targets.

Illuminated Reticle

You will need a scope with an illuminated reticle if you love hunting at dawn or dusk. The illuminated reticle is specially designed to provide increased visibility in low light conditions.

it achieves this by illuminating the crosshair or dot in the center of the aim point. This reticle comes handy when shooting targets in the dark when the mil dots or crosshairs are nearly invisible.

BDC Reticle

When you fire a shot, the bullet follows a curved ballistic trajectory before eventually hitting the ground.

The raised distance between the scope and rifle as well as the force of gravity are the two main reasons why every bullet starts its flight below the line of aim. They are also the reasons why you need to aim higher for a more accurate shot.

This is where a BDC reticle comes in and helps you compensate for the bullet drop. BDC actually stands for bullet drop compensation. Many scopes that come with the BDC reticle are designed for shooting targets from more than 600 yards.

First Focal Plane Vs. Second Focal Plane

Other common acronyms you will see floating around when shopping for a scope include FFP and SFP. They refer to the focal plane in which a retina exists and only apply to variable power models.

First focal plane reticles are relatively new and specially designed for instances when the distance to the target is unknown.

The reticle is usually located in front of the erector and is magnified to match the target's magnification. The main downside to a first focal plane is that it tends to reduce clarity at high magnification ranges.

This is particularly true if a bush or scrub serves as the backdrop.

Second focal planes are the old standard and usually place the reticle behind the erector. They keep the reticle at exactly the same size even when you move through the magnification ranges.

These planes are specially designed for both short range and long range shooters, particularly those whose scopes don't have an MOA or MIL drop reticle. The downside of a second focal plane is that it doesn't provide as much versatility as a first focal plane.

Zeroing A Tactical Scope

This is a crucial step if you want to take the perfect long range shot. It needs to be carried out with extreme accuracy because the data you collect during the zeroing process will affect the results of your shooting.

The distance at which you zero your scope depends a lot on the caliber you use, intended type of shooting as well as scope of adjustment unit of measurement.

It is important that you set up the rifle scope before starting the zeroing process. You will need to adjust the eyepiece, which involves rotating the rear lens to focus your eye on the reticle.

The parallax needs to be adjusted as well. Keep in mind that even with a perfectly lined target or tuned parallax, the reticle can be out of focus. A crisp reticle plays a significant role in long-range shooting.

To focus the reticle, start by turning the eyepiece anticlockwise until it hits the stop mark then point the scope towards the sky. Now you can rotate the eyepiece clockwise, ¼ or ½ turn at a time, looking through the scope to check whether the reticle appears sharp.

What is the Best Long Range Scope on the Market?

​Vortex Optics VHS-4130 Viper HS-T 6-24x50

Vortex Optics VHS-4130 Viper HS-T 6-24x50
4.6
Rating

If this is something that has been bugging you, the Vortex Optics VHS-4130 Viper HS-T 6-24x50 is worth considering. It features an extra-low dispersion glass that allows for increased resolution.

This advanced optical system offers a 4x zoom range and has a forgiving eye box with increased eye relief. As for the reticle, its scale is designed to remain in proportion to the magnified target.

Other factors that make it a top pick for best long range rifle scope for the money include construction with aircraft grade aluminum, water protection with O-ring seals, hard anodized finish, and exposed tactical style turrets.

Pros

  • Rugged build to withstand abuse in the woods
  • Designed for both tactical use and hunting
  • Uses XD glass to deliver crisp images
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    Comes with second focal plane reticle

​Cons

  • Would be nice if it had an FFP reticle rather than SFP reticle

Best Tactical Scope for AR 15

​Bushnell Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle-223

Bushnell Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle-223
4.3
Rating

The ​Bushnell Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Reticle-223  is our top pick for best scope for AR 15 coyote hunting. It has a 24mm objective lens with a 1-4x power as well as a BDC reticle that comes handy in low light and bright light conditions.

The fact that this rifle scope accommodates 55gr and 62gr ammunition rounds means that you don't have to worry about zeroing in for different ammunition types.

Also included is a Throw Down PLC that allows you to make power adjustments without taking your eye off the target. A sealed O-ring helps prevent entry of liquids while the nitrogen filling keeps moisture out.

The first focal plane scales with power, thus opening up to reveal the BDC reticle.

Pros

  • Outstanding low light performance
  • Very precise and accurate as it holds out to 500 yards
  • Target turrets help with pinpoint-precise adjustments
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    Fully multi-coated optics
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    ​Durable construction with high-grade aluminum allow

​Cons

  • The glass isn't very clear

Best Long Range Scope for 308

​​Nikon M-308 SF 4-16x42mm Riflescope

Nikon M-308 SF 4-16x42mm Riflescope
4.6
Rating

If you are looking for the best rifle scope under 500 that also qualifies for long range shooting with a 308, the Nikon M-308 SF 4-16x42mm Riflescope is your best bet.

Nikon is an industry leader in the world of optics and this particular scope is designed for the 308 168 HPBT grain ammunition round. It comes with a 42mm objective lens that allows for plenty of light transmissions and a 3.7-4 inch eye relief.

This scope offers a variable magnification of 4x-16x. It uses the company's patented Nikoplex duplex reticle to adjust the elevation given your target's range.

The parallax can be adjusted from as little as 50 yards to get the most accurate shots when shooting from long distances.

Pros

  • Uses the Ultra ClearCoat Optical System with fully coated optics
  • Offers up to 95% light transmission through the objective lens
  • Elevation turrets are easy to adjust

​Cons

  • Doesn't offer a very generous field of view

​Best Tactical Scope for AR 10

​UTG 3-9x50 1" Hunter Scope

UTG 3-9x50 1 Hunter Scope
4.0
Rating

If you are in the market for a highly recommended AR 10 tactical scope, UTG 3-9x50 1" Hunter Scope is worth considering. The scope is built to survive rugged use with emerald lens coatings and complete sealing. It is filled with nitrogen to keep moisture out.

Also included are premium zero locking and zero resetting target turrets that provide consistent ¼ MOA per elevation or windage adjustment.

Perhaps the best thing about this scope is that it incorporates the innovative EZ-TAP Illumination Enhancing System.

This system offers 36 colors in Multi-Color Mode as well as RGB in Dual-Color Mode. The mil-dot reticle does a good job of ensuring precise aiming and you can adjust the parallax from 5 yards to infinity.

Overall, this is a worthy investment if you are looking for the best rifle scope under 1000.

Pros

  • Great field of view and comfortable eye relief
  • Has 50mm objective lens that's useful for capturing light
  • Parallax can be adjusted from 5 yards to infinity
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    Built with ruggedness in mind

​Cons

  • A little too heavy

​Best Tactical Scope for 300 Blackout

​Trijicon VCOG 1-6x24

Trijicon VCOG 1-6x24
4.9
Rating

The Trijicon VCOG 1-6x24 is probably the most expensive sniper scope you will find on the market but even at more than $2000, it is a worthy investment for 300 blackout.

It is also our top pick for best military sniper scope since it remains a favorite among US soldiers. This scope is made using 7075 aluminum and has a base that's specially designed for use with next-generation carbines like AR-pattern rifles.

The optic and mounting system have a robust design while the capped turrets are attached securely to the body with wires.

This scope offers 0.5" adjustments at 100 yards and has an illuminated reticle with an Off between every graduation setting.

It uses the same glass as Trijicon's flagship Tars 3-15x optic. It performs extremely well, especially in low light conditions. The 4" eye relief allows this scope to remain usable even when shooting from field positions.

Pros

  • Fully multi-coated optics
  • Fully multi-coated optics
  • Excellent accuracy and preciseness

​Cons

  • Expensive and only recommended for pros

​Best Tactical Scope Rings

​Vortex Precision Matched Riflescope Rings

Vortex Precision Matched Riflescope Rings
4.9
Rating

An important tool that will come handy in the field is a scope ring. This is a circular clamp used to attach the scope to your rifle with a preinstalled mounting base.

Its function is tp keep your scope securely mounted on the rifle so that you get an accurate aim.

Our top pick for best tactical scope ring is the Vortex Precision Matched Riflescope Rings.

They come in a set of two with a height of 1.26" and are designed for 30mm scopes. These rings boast a rugged yet lightweight design. They come with grade 8 fasteners and a hex wrench is included for ease of use.

Pros

  • ​Provided with hex wrench and grade 8 fasteners
  • Designed for 30mm scopes
  • ​Works with Picatinny spec mounts
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    ​Made in the USA and backed by VIP Vortex Warranty

​Cons

  • ​Doesn't work with Weaver mounts

​Best Tactical Scope for .223

​Weaver 849780 Optics Tactical Scope

Weaver 849780 Optics Tactical Scope
3.7
Rating

The Weaver 849780 Optics Tactical Scope will prove a valuable tool in the field and is certainly our top pick for best rifle scope under 500. Rated by some customers as the best rifle scope for deer hunting, this scope offers high-end features at an affordable price.

It boasts finger adjustable turrets that allow for ¼ MOA click adjustments. You can reset the turrets in no time and the rugged tube is filled with nitrogen to keep moisture out.

This scope is designed to withstand abuse in the field and at less than 20 ounces, you don't have to worry about excessive weight affecting the balance of your rifle. The tube has a 30mm diameter and allows for power variability (1.5x to 6x).

Pros

  • Variable magnification power
  • Turrets are exposed and finger adjustable
  • Incredibly fast focus eyepiece
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    Fully multi-coated optics
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    ​Features Ballistic-X reticle

​Cons

  • Doesn't allow for parallax adjustment

​Best Tactical Scope for AK-47

​Bushnell Banner Illum CF 500 Riflescope

Bushnell Banner Illum CF 500 Riflescope
3.3
Rating

If you fancy having an AK-47 in the field, the Bushnell Banner Illum CF 500 Riflescope will come handy. It is an all-round low-light scope that offers 3-9x magnification.

The scope is equipped with a 40mm objective lens and offers 100% waterproofing. The eyepiece focuses on the target quickly and gives a crisp image.

Another notable feature of this scope is the illuminated CF 500 reticle, which switches from red to green on your command.

You can easily reset or adjust the windage and elevation to suit specific circumstances in the field. The scope has a length of 12 inches. Overall, this is probably the best rifle scope under 1000 you will find.

Pros

  • Offers 3-9x magnification
  • Equipped with illuminated CF 500 reticle
  • Crisp and sharp images
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    Precise and accurate

​Cons

  • Visibility in low light conditions is a little wanting as cited by some customers

​Best Tactical Scope for M4

​Trijicon ACOG 4x32 BAC

Trijicon ACOG 4x32 BAC
4.6
Rating

While the Trijicon ACOG 4x32 BAC isn't the most expensive sniper scope on the market, it offers several features that will enhance any survival or hunting experience.

It is specially designed for the M4 and M4A1 weapon systems, hence why it's regarded as a best military sniper scope by many.

It boasts dual illumination technology that combines the self-luminous tritium with fiber optics. This makes it possible to automatically adjust brightness depending on the already available light conditions. It also allows you to maximize the scope for both daylight and nighttime use.

The housing is made from 7075-T6 aircraft grade aluminum alloy, hence continued longevity. It's also important to note that the scope utilizes the Bindon Aiming Concept, which allows the shooter to keep both eyes open when enhancing his position to engage the target.

The chevron ranging reticle allows for bullet drop compensation without manual adjustment. It also allows for aiming precision, particularly if the target is within an 800m range.

Pros

  • External adjusters allow this scope to remain waterproof at 11m below water surface
  • Making windage and elevation adjustments is easy
  • Dual illumination technology provides increased visibility
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    Quick target acquisition in close combat situations

​Cons

  • Only works with M4 and M4A1 weapon systems

​Best Tactical Scope for Remington 700

​Leupold Rifleman 3-9x 40mm

Leupold Rifleman 3-9x 40mm
4.0
Rating

The Leupold Rifleman 3-9x 40mm is one of the best long range sniper scopes on the market and is designed for use with the Remington 700.

It offers accuracy with a 3-9x power range and 50mm objective lens. The friction dials allow for easy windage and elevation adjustments in ½ MOA increments.

This scope utilizes a wide field of view and a wide duplex reticle to provide enhanced target acquisition.

As you would expect from a Leupold product, the optics are fully multi-coated to offer a clear sight picture in any situation.

Its generous and non-critical eye relief and rugged 3x erector system are two of the main reasons why many customers regard this as the best rifle scope for deer hunting.

Pros

  • Very accurate and precise
  • Very accurate and precise
  • Uses wide duplex reticle
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    Offers 3-9x power variability

​Cons

  • No information on parallax adjustability

Best Tactical Scopes With Best Glass

​Elcan Specterdr 1/4x 5.56 NATO Flat Dark Earth

Elcan Specterdr 1-4x 5.56 NATO Flat Dark Earth
4.8
Rating

At more than $2000, the Elcan Specterdr 1/4x 5.56 NATO Flat Dark Earth is worth every penny. Rated as the tactical scope with the best glass, it's safe to say that you will not have an easy time finding a more versatile scope.

It boasts an incredible amount of clarity with both 1x and 4x settings. The field of view is quite generous and in the 6MOA 1x setting, you get a nominal focus of 70 meters.

This scope has highly versatile illumination controls and you can turn the adjustment knob anticlockwise for brighter illumination.

Other notable features that will come handy in the field include construction with hard anodized aluminum, VSOR rangefinder, battery powered LED illumination as well as dual thickness ballistic crosshairs.

Pros

  • Glass provides an incredible amount of clarity
  • Generous field of view
  • Components housed in a hard anodized aluminum casing
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    Equipped with VSOR rangefinder

​Cons

  • Expensive

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