Contenders for Best Rifle Scope for the Money
Selecting a rifle scope can be a bit of a process. There are hundreds of options (thousands) if you factor in all the different finish and reticle options available within each individual model's configuration. When trying to pick out the a good scope there are a variety of factors to consider, such as intended use, average target range, magnification, price, etc. To further complicate the matter personal preference will also play a large part in what you ideal optic might be. With all that in mind we have decided to highlight a couple of hunting scopes (more price levels coming soon) that have a reputation for providing a lot scope for the money. For those of you looking for good value tactical scopes check out our new chart at the bottom of our long range scope page.
Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40 BDC - Under $200
3-9x40 - Obviously this classic configuration has remained the king the hunting scope category for so many years for very good reason. On the low end the 3x will provide enough field of view for everything except point blank range shots; while the high end 9x offers enough magnification to confidently shoot at big game targets out to 500+ yards. Of course the all the magnifications in between cover a wide variety of hunting situations in between these to extremes. Finally the 40mm objective of this timeless configuration strikes a good balance between light funneling capability and size and weight.
BDC- This popular holdover reticle provides a series of hold over circles (not dots) that can be customized to your favorite cartridge/bullet load by using the Nikon Spot On website. (Click here to see a short video of how it works). Also, often times scope manufactures will only make their premium reticles available on their higher end models; however, the BDC reticle system on the Prostaff is the same one used on the higher priced Nikon Monarch and Buckmasters scopes.
Updated Features - While the Prostaff riflescope line has been around for quite a while, it recently went through a pretty major update to keep it up to date with the latest optics technologies. During this upgrade the Prostaff series received zero reset turrets that allow the shooter to quickly reset the turrets to the zero mark after sighting in. These scopes also received a quick focus eyepiece and probably most importantly a new multi-coat lens coating for improved light transmission.
Affordability - Of course it doesn't matter how many options, features, gadgets a scope has if you can't afford it, and here is where the Prostaff really shines with a sub $200 dollar price tag ($179 being the average current price at the time of this writing). While there are definitely cheaper hunting scopes available, one of the biggest mistakes shooters make is buying a nice rifle only to skimp on the scope. The resulting headache, waste of ammo sighting in and re-sighting in, and lack of confidence in the optic is seldom worth the savings.
Conclusion - Again a number of factors will play into what is the best optic for you, but the Nikon Prostaff scopes bring a lot to the table in the under $200 dollar price range. For those that would prefer more magnification, a larger objective, or just a standard duplex reticle; the Prostaff series of scopes has sereval options all in this price range, see our Nikon Prostaff page. However, dollar for dollar the 3-9x40 BDC version probably offers the most bang for the buck.
Leupold VX-2 3-9x40 Under $300
3-9x40 – Besides all the benefits mentioned earlier about this configuration’s versatility and balance of performance and size; the 3-9x40 models of a scope series often sell at a significant discount when compared to other configurations within a scope series. This is the case with the Leupold VX-2 whose standard 3-9x40 version goes for $299, while the 3-9x50 and 4-12x40 models come in at $380 and $400 respectively.
Recent Upgrade – Like the Prostaff series mentioned above the Leupold VX-2 also benefited from a recent and major upgrade. While the Leupold VX-II had long been one of the most popular hunting scopes available it had become a bit dated. Leupold did a big time overhaul to its hunting scopes with the introduction of its Quantum Optical System and the result in this case was an updated model called the VX-2.
High End Technology – The VX-2 falls in the middle of the Leupold lineup, below the VX-3, and VX-R series, and above the VX-1 and Rifleman scope lines. However, it still receives most of the latest optics technologies generally only found on other manufactures premier scope lines. A couple examples include an Indexed Match Lens System which is a much more complete upgrade to improve light transmission than the standard lens coating found on many riflescopes. The VX-2 also uses the premium Argon/Krypton waterproofing method versus the older Nitrogen filled waterproofing method. These scopes also feature the Leupold’s Diamond coat lens coating which is for scratch resistance a feature left out on many scopes in this price range. These scopes also feature the fast focus eyepiece fast becoming standard on new scope models.
Conclusion – The VX-2 base 3-9x40 models benefit from the latest premium optics technologies while not carrying the heavy price tag of scopes with comparable features. Also, of note is that additions such as a long range holdover reticle or models available with a custom dial system can be had in this VX-2 version for $30 to $50 dollars more if you consider those options worth it. However, as mentioned before the price goes up dramatically even on other riflescopes within the VX-2 series outside of the 3-9x40 configuration.
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