If you are looking for the best scope for .223 rifles, first you need to decide how you are going to use the rifle. The .223 platform is roughly grouped into three categories: hunting, target shooting and self-defense and multi-gun shooting competitions. While many scopes will serve equally well for all three purposes, serious shooters want a dedicated scope for one need.
- HUNTING SCOPES
- NIGHT SCOPES
- RED DOT
- FINAL THOUGHTS
The .223 is long considered a top rifle for varmint hunting. The small, high-speed bullet can reach out to 500 yards and still packs enough energy for a humane kill on varmints like prairie dogs, groundhogs, coyotes, foxes and more. On the larger animals, the right bullet expends all its energy inside the animal, protecting the pelt. Traditional scopes are the choice here.
1. CVLIFE Hunting Rifle Scope
With more than 2,000 customer reviews, the CVLIfe Hunting Rifle still has a 4.5 -star rating on Amazon. What makes this scope so popular are several things: The reticle lights up green or red, which is an advantage when hunting under challenging conditions. The crosshairs have mil dots for on-the-ground adjustments for windage and elevation. The scope is a 6-24x and a 50mm bell for plenty of light-gathering capabilities.
2. Bushnell Optics, Drop Zone
Bushnell has a long-standing reputation for delivering quality optics. This version, specifically made for the AR .223 platform, continues to prove why so many hunters choose Bushnell. The Drop Zone-223 BDC Ballistic Reticle is calibrated for 55-62 grain pills with a range out to 500 yards. This takes the guesswork out of shooting at a distance. Just dial in the distance, set the crosshairs and pull the trigger. The scope offers 3-9 magnification and comes with a side-focus parallax adjustment to bring that long-range target into crystal-clear view.
3. Leupold VX-3i
Leupold’s reputation is legendary. With a lifetime warranty and a testing process like no other, it’s no wonder Leupold is on the rifles of the world’s best shooters. The VX-3i 3 comes with a Custom Dial System to let you set the crosshairs exactly where it needs to be at just about any shooting distance. The scope comes with a choice of reticles, including the Wind-Plex mil dot. While the bell is a 40mm, Leupold’s glass is so good you get the light-gathering capabilities of scopes with a much larger bell.
4. Leupold VX-5HD
This is one of Leupold’s top-of-the-line models. It has a 3-15x magnification and a choice of five different reticles. It has a ZeroLock Custom Dial System so you can set the crosshairs dead on and still put your bullet exactly where it should go. It has the side focus high-quality glass found on the model mentioned above.
The scopes mentioned above are thoroughly adequate for hunting wild hogs during the day. However, these beasts are quite intelligent and just a little hunting pressure turns them nocturnal. For that reason, many wild hog hunters are moving to night vision and thermal scopes.
1. ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night
ATN makes a lot of different scopes for nighttime hunting and shooting. The X-Sight 4K is a new version of the X-Sight II. The 4K is slimmer and more compact. ATN listened to customer requests for the upgrade. This version adds streaming features for recording your hunt to a mobile device while recording on the SD card in the scope. It has a ballistic calculator for making immediate adjustments for windage and elevation. The Recoil Activated Video starts the recording when you pull the trigger. It uses the scope’s internal memory to go back a few seconds before you pulled the trigger and then records through the shot. This scope can be used during the day and at night.
2. ATN Thor LT
The ATN Thor LT is a budget-minded thermal rifle scope. Rather than using and enhancing the available light, thermal scopes rely on the heat generated by the target. See your quarry in complete darkness, through smoke or fog. The Thor LT comes in a 30mm tube, so be sure to get 30mm scope rings. The internal battery is good for 10 hours of hunting time. It comes in a 3-6x or a 4-8x model.
Reflex sights, also called red dot sights, can come with red or green reticles. The original was red, hence the name. These are all battery-powered and most come with a series of internal reticle choices ranging from a plain illuminated dot to crosshairs. The light intensity is adjustable. They are compact and mount directly to pic rails without rings. They are fixed magnification, rarely getting over 1.5x. These are the choice for close work, home defense and multi-gun shooting competitions. Many AR platform shooters prefer these sights.
1. TRUGLO Dual-Color
The Truglo Dual-Color comes with two screws to secure the scope to a rail. It comes with the red and green dot only version and the multi-reticle version to let you switch between reticle choices. The very thin frame for the glass almost disappears from view, letting you keep your attention on the target and not the optics.
2. Sightmark Ultra Shot Pro
Sightmark is a leader in the red dot-reflex sight world. The Ultra Shot Pro comes with a night vision mode to allow shooting at night. It has four different reticle choices, available with a twist of the reticle knob, in red or green. It has three day time brightness levels and three night vision modes. A fresh battery should last 25 hours under optimal conditions.
3. EOTECH EXPS2
The EOTech EXPS2-0 – Holographic Weapon Sight has a long frame holding the glass, which means obtaining a sight picture may not be as fast as some other versions. However, this sight is also smaller than many others, important when going compact is required. The controls are buttons instead of dials with 20 brightness settings. It has a quick detach lever. Eotech offers a 10-year warranty. For those who want to dial in close, it is compatible with the G33 Magnifier.
4. Trijicon RMR/LED
The reticle in this model adjusts to lighting conditions. Spend your time watching the target instead of trying to make adjustments while keeping a target lock. The RMR/LED is made to military specs to take the punishment of bigger AR platforms like the .308 and the big-bore versions. This Trijicon comes with a choice of four different mounts or no mount at all. If you have the triangle front sight on an AR .223, go with the tall pic mount or the full-size ACOG mount. Choose the ACOG mount if you want to co-witness. Canted sights can be run with any of the mounts.
Red dot sights are similar to, but not exactly the same as, reflex sights. Red dots are usually a short tube and lighted dot or choice of reticle. Target acquisition is not as fast as with the reflex sight, but many shooters prefer these because it resembles and shoots like a tube scope but has some of the advantages of the reflex.
1. CVLIFE 1X22X33
The CVLife red dot is in the same general price range as inexpensive reflex sights, but has a more usual look for a red dot scope. The advantage here is a fast sight picture. Looking through the wide aperture is almost like looking down the gun barrel with no optics at all. It comes in black or sand colors. Adjustments are made with set screws and an Allen wrench, which is also typical of this kind of scope.
2. OTW Red Dot Sight
This is a starter scope for the red dot crowd. Like all true “red dot” scopes, it has a tube instead of the single-pane glass found in reflex sights. This model is waterproof so hunting in the rain is a go.
3. Tacticon Armament Predator V1
Tacticon is veteran-owned. Vets know what a tough scope is so you can buy this one with confidence that it will last. It also comes with a “100 percent lifetime warranty” for that “just in case” scenario. The scope and mount are built co-witness for those times when iron sights are better. It has more than 2,000 reviews on Amazon and maintains a 4.5-star rating.
4. Sig Sauer SOR50000 Romeo5
Sig Sauer is best known for making quality handguns. This entry into the optics market brings the same standards of excellence shooters expect. The Romeo5 mash motion-activated illumination. Draw your gun and the sight comes on. Leave it alone and it goes off after a while. The battery is good for an estimated 40,000 hours. It ships with a co-witness 1.41-inch riser. Be sure to download the instruction manual from Sig-authorized Osage County Guns.
When it is time to line up on the range and separate the professionals from the amateurs, precision is everything. Accuracy wins competitions. Put one of these on your .223 and you will send the losers home, wondering what happened.
1. Monstrum 2-7×32
The Monstrum 2-7×32 comes with so many dials and levers you might think it has a manual transmission inside. Tactical and competition shooters know these adjustment controls are necessary. This is a scope for shooters who can take their time to make minute adjustments before pulling the trigger. It comes with a glass rangefinder reticle to make mid-string shooting adjustments.
2. NightForce SHV
Shooting competitions are more than just 100 yards. When you are reaching out to 500 or more yards, you need a scope that will keep up. The NightForce SHV has a 5-20x zoom, but the precision manufacturing means your sight picture is better than other scopes with a high magnification. There’s a reason Nightforce routinely earns a 5-star rating. It’s just that good. This scope will stand up to anything, including shoulder-mangling dangerous game rifles. Put it on a .223, tune your ammo to the rifle and if you are not in the winner’s circle you have to blame the shooter. The 56mm bell brings in plenty of light.
Get tactical for precision work, close quarters, dark areas and more.
1. HIRAM 4-16×50 AO
The Hiram AO comes with a reflect sight, a laser and a flashlight. Get “tacticool” with everything you need right at your fingertips. The scope comes with a rangefinder and tactical turrets. Parallax adjustment goes from 15 yards to infinity; with a 16x max magnification, you’ll appreciate that. It comes with several in-scope choices of reticle in red or green.
2. Pinty 3-9×32 Rangefinder
Another “tacticool” scope, the Pinty 3-9 comes with a red dot reflex on the top and a green laser on the side. The main barrel of the scope has a pic rail on the left side, where the laser mounts. You get 4 reticle styles, in green or red, in the reflex and a green or red rangefinder reticle in the main scope. Fingertip turrets allow immediate in-field adjustments to correct for wind and elevation.
3. Vortex Viper HS-T
Don’t let the sleek nature of this Vortex fool you. The Viper HS-T has tactical turrets with a CRS Zero Stop to return to the original zero after making needed adjustments. Keep your eye on the target and listen for the clicks and feel each adjustment as you turn it. The one-piece tube is argon-purified for an even better view through the barrel than a nitrogen-purged model.
4. Sightmark Triple Duty
This Sightmark comes in three focal lengths, 10-40x, 3-9x and 8.5-25x. The reticle is etched instead of being a wire. The etching also means the lighting, in red or green, will stand out more than just a projection on the glass. Sight it in on a calm day and then make adjustments as needed with the fingertip turrets on competition day. Because it has a 30mm main tube, be sure you order 30mm rings.
At the end of the day, you are the person behind the trigger. Your choice of scope needs to match your shooting style and your shooting needs. Pick your rifle. Decide what it will be used for most often and match your scope to that shooting.
BR Baker is a gun journalist and lifelong hunter and fisherman. His favorite firearms are the Mosin-Nagant, .45-70 Government lever actions and anything with a falling block.
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