So many scope options, a little help?


June 4, 2011, 02:25 PM
Hey guys,
I'm working on lining everything up for what I would want in my ar-15 project. I'm pretty set on the RRA A4 Varmint with the 24" barrel. This will be used exclusively for the time being to punch paper and hit gongs out to 300 yards, hopefully further if I ever get the opportunity. I had been looking at the Nikon M223 4-12x42SF w/ BDC 600 reticle and then M223 20moa mount. I had come upon this one because I can use the reticle for hold overs when the round I'm using is close to what it is calibrated to, or I can still DOPE it with 1/4 moa elevation adjustments, and I can get both for about $440 shipped. But, then I heard that the crosshairs are thicker than what is desirable for punching paper so i started looking into mildot scopes in about the same price range ($500 for scope and mount), and came to the Vortex Viper 6.5-20x44 PA with mildot reticle ($399), or the Nikon Buckmaster 4.5-14x40 Side Focus with matted mildot reticle($299), or the Millett 4-16x50 Tactical Rifle scope.
However, with the Nikon and Vortex mildot scopes the adjustments are still in moa, and I know the Viper and Millett have the reticle in the 2nd focal plane and I imagine the Nikon does as well so I would have to be in full magnification to utilize the mildots, just like the BDC 600 reticle.
Every scope I seem to find is either way out of my price range, has several disadvantages, or doesn't seem to have much or any information about the model or manufacturer. What kind of scope would you get for my application that is under $500 with a mount, has a way to easily and accurately hold over targets (mildots/BDC type reticle, preferably in 1st focal plane) and has reasonably good optics? Or do I have to bite the bullet and save a good bit longer for this project to come together?

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June 4, 2011, 02:41 PM
I run the M223 1-4 on my competition rifle. And while I am not making tiny groups on far away paper I can hit steel out to 400 on a repeatable basis. Great little scope for the money. The best you can hope for is a scope you can afford that will meet most of your needs in a reasonable fashion. A scope for hitting steel may not meet the needs of a bench shooter.

June 4, 2011, 07:12 PM
Best I can say is to look at the SWFA SS 3-9x. Thin mil-dot with 0.1 mRad turrets. I'd prefer a 4-12 or 16x for punching paper at 300, but the SWFA is a solid scope in your price range at up to 9x. (I think its GTG for 200y, and 300y is doable). I'm assuming you're talking about highpower competition or something, and not benchrest.

June 4, 2011, 07:20 PM
I have the 223 1-4x on one AR and it is a good little scope. I also have the Vortex viper on another AR and it is an awesome scope for the money. I use the Viper sometimes as a spotting scope.

June 5, 2011, 05:52 AM
I have a Vortex Diamondback 4-12x40 with an adjustable objective and BDC. I have found it to be every bit of good optically as my friends Viper 6.5-20x44 side focus model. I would say it is just a little worse mechanically, but it is still a great scope, at a hundred dollars less.

By mechanically I mean the adjustment knobs turn a little easy to turn for my taste, and the markings don't always line up perfectly, but it has survived a 3 foot fall to the concrete and still works great! (gun not attached thankfully)

This is my second Diamondback I should say, since the first one's magnification ring locked up inexplicably, but I will say Vortex's customer service is second to none so far in my experience... was expediently replaced. I figure if the second scope survives a fall to the concrete the first one must have just been a fluke in the manufacturing.

Maybe you can find a Nitrex TR2 in some dark corner of the internet, for a while Natchez had an amazing special selling some 5-20x50's with a very interesting BDC for like 280ish (this is basically a rebrand of Weavers Super Slam which was retailing for 600ish).

June 5, 2011, 06:17 AM
I also just found out about the Leopold Mark AR line. This seems to combine pretty much everything I've been looking for into one scope, except it is a little bit higher in price. Their 6-18x40 has higher magnification, comes with a mildot reticle, and the elevation turret is marked with both 1/4 moa adjustments and a bdc for 55gr NATO load. Has anyone had experience with the scope, and do you feel as if it is worth the $100 more than the Nikon M223 or $60 more than the Vortex Viper?

June 5, 2011, 08:11 AM
I bought a M223 w/mount last month when on sale. I'm happy with it and it was a very good price. Last week I looked through a Vortex 1-4 AR scope at the LGS, now I wish I had bought a vortex, really liked the reticle.

Chris Rhines
June 5, 2011, 09:22 AM
Shooting paper and steel out to 300 yards really doesn't require 12-20x magnification. I regularly shoot 12"x12" steel plates out to 400 yards with my AR and a Swarvoski 1-6x scope.

For around $500, the Nikon M223 is probably a pretty good choice. If you really have to have more magnification, the SWFA SS 3-9x is a nice scope for $600.


June 5, 2011, 09:58 AM
IMO, you're grossly over-thinking this.

You can quite easily use a second focal plane mil-dot reticule at other magnifications with very simple math. In fact the Bushnell Elite tactical SFP has the scope configured such that the reticule is "correct" at 12x making for simple math (multiply or divide by 2) at the extremes.

For what it sounds like you want to do, I would not be looking at a mil-dot reticule anyway. The standard mil-dot is a heavy reticule. It's only when you start getting into the improved versions that they are fine enough for very precise work. Those type rets. do not come in the price range you're looking at. The standard mil-dot looks nice and fine at min magnification on a FFP scope but ends up very heavy when you zoom in.

For paper at a known distance a fine crosshair or target dot or a fine duplex are much better choices.

As far as holdover reticules go, their being "correct" only at max magnification isn't really a problem either. If your target is far enough away that you need to hold over in the first place, you will likely be on max magnification to begin with.

Finally matching reticules to knobs is convenient but hardly necessary when punching paper on a range. You can build a simple conversion chart that will have you covered if you want to make corrections to elevation based on the reticule.

My choice for your stated objectives would be a mid-range variable scope in 4-6 range on the bottom and the 14-24 range on top with a simple plex reticule and target turrets. If a holdover reticule is a "must" then go that route within that range. If you "must" have a mil-dot and mil turrets the Bushnell fixed 10x tactical model on sale at Midway for $199 ( would be my choice.

Within your price range you're going to have to make some compromises. Figure out what you really want and prioritize accordingly. There are a few scopes on the market in your price range that have most everything that you think you want, but I wouldn't trust them to be reliable. Though they are getting some pretty good reviews, they are outside my "what the heck, I'll give it a try" price range.

Jim Watson
June 5, 2011, 10:03 AM
and then M223 20moa mount.

I don't see the need for a tapered mount at the ranges in question, especially if you are using a range compensating reticle of some sort.

June 5, 2011, 10:16 AM
Shooting paper and steel out to 300 yards really doesn't require 12-20x magnification.

Depends on what your goal is shooting paper. If all you want to do is hit the paper, I 100% agree, but to see what that rifle is actually capable of, the ability to aim a bit more precisely is in order.

I regularly shoot 12"x12" steel plates out to 400 yards with my AR and a Swarvoski 1-6x scope.

3 MOA? I hope so since that is regularly done with irons at that range. When I was shooting regularly, soda bottles at 400yds was my standard target. Didn't own any steel and holes in paper were too hard to see at that range. Rifle was a .243 sporter and optic was a 2.5-10x40 Bushnell. Had to hold less than MOA, horizontally, to hit them. The only challenge was doping the wind, and the Nevada desert had plenty of that to offer.

Chris Rhines
June 5, 2011, 06:21 PM
3 MOA? I hope so since that is regularly done with irons at that range. You must hang with a better class of shooter than I do...


June 5, 2011, 07:51 PM
It's been said already but I will say it as well, you don't need a 20x optic at 300 yards. It can be done with irons. The vortex viper pst at 1-4 can be found for 499.99 and it comes in either a MIL or MOA configuration, depending on your preference. On top of that it falls under Vortex's FANTASTIC warranty.

"We will repair or replace your Vortex product for any reason at NO CHARGE TO YOU. It doesn't matter how it happened, whose fault it was, or where you purchased it."

That's just beautiful.

June 6, 2011, 10:09 AM
I have a Simmons 3-9x50mm on my AR and it will do everything you are talking about.

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