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Top 7 Best .223 Rifle Scopes [UPDATED FOR 2021]

best .223 rifle scope

The .223 cartridge is one of the most popular and most common rifle cartridges on the market today. It’s widespread use is at least in part thanks to its versatility, affordability, and accuracy. Capable of performing well in a variety of different platforms and in many different situations, the .223 cartridge isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The true ability of the .223 cartridge is unlocked even further when it is paired with the best .223 rifle scopes for each specific rifle. Many scope manufacturers even make rifle scopes that are specifically designed for the ballistics of the .223 rifle cartridge. While a scope specifically designed for the .223 isn’t absolutely necessary, they do help in the way of bullet drop compensation when in the field or on the range.

Pairing a nice scope with a .223 rifle, be it bolt action or semi-automatic, is a no brainer in the vast majority of situations. The benefits over iron sights are many and with so much variety available, shooters on almost any budget will be able to find something that will improve their shooting experience. 

What to consider when buying a scope for a .223 rifle

There are two major points of consideration when getting ready to buy a .223 rifle scope; the type of rifle and the task the rifle will be performing. 

The type of .223 rifle that you plan to mount a scope on is a huge factor to consider when making your selection. Different rifle styles require different types of scopes to excel. For example, a scope that works on a 223 varmint rifle might not be the best choice for an AR-15 223 rifle.

Scope features for bolt action rifles

If your .223 rifle is a bolt action, you will want to look for a scope that has enough clearance to easily work the action and chamber a new round, medium to high magnification for long shots off a rest, good light gathering ability, and durability to endure tough conditions.

Bolt action rifles chambered in .223 are most often used as hunting rifles or long range target shooting rifles. Most often shot from a steady rest and at longer ranges than their AR-15 rifle cousins, bolt action rifles benefit greatly from the features mentioned above.

Scope features for AR-15 style rifles

If you are in the market for a .223 scope to mount on an AR-15 style, semi-automatic, there are different features you will want to keep an eye out for. Those features include lower magnification, comfortable eye relief, clear and bright glass, and a reticle on the simpler side.

Although fully capable of accuracy at long ranges, the semi-automatic nature of AR-15 style .223 rifles lends itself to shorter range shots with quick follow ups and competition shooting. Rapid target acquisition, a crystal clear sight picture, and an easy to use reticle that won’t obscure the target are all important features to aim for.

Task-specific scopes for .223 rifles

The job you want your .223 rifle to do well will be a large factor in your scope buying decision. With so many great scope options on the market today, it is very easy to choose one with features that make it ideal for a specific task. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Coyote hunting

The .223 cartridge is an excellent choice for coyote hunting. Capable of dropping a coyote in its tracks from both short and long ranges, the .223 is the choice of many hunters. If your hunting location is on the plains or in wide open fields, a high magnification .223 rifle scope paired with a bolt action rifle is a great choice. If woodlots and scrub brush are your coyote hunting grounds, a .223 AR-15 with a lower magnification scope is ideal.

Varmint hunting

Targeting varmints such as raccoons, groundhogs, and prairie dogs is another common use for .223 rifles. Versatility is an important factor to keep in mind when choosing a varmint hunting scope as ranges, field conditions, and time of day can fluctuate a lot with varmints. A scope with adjustable magnification, superior light gathering ability, and a drop compensating reticle makes for a great choice.

Long range shooting

Shooting at long ranges, at either targets or game animals, can be a challenge especially without the right scope. A clear and bright sight image of the target, the ability to zoom in on the target, and a reticle that can help to compensate for wind drift and bullet drop are all very important features to make sure your .223 scope has.

Competition shooting

Competition shooting, such as participating in a 3-gun tournament, is commonly performed with an AR-15 chambered in .223. Rapid target acquisition is a very important factor in competition as every second talks. Low magnification, clear glass, a simple reticle, and a low weight all contribute to a better competition shooting experience.

Of course these are not the only tasks that a .223 rifle can perform, but they are some of the most common. The main thing to take away here is that it is important to give some thought into your specific needs before beginning the scope buying process.

Now let’s take a look at the top 7 best scopes for .223 rifles!

Top 7 best scope for .223 rifles reviews 2021

1. Leupold VX-3HD 4.5-14x40mm Rifle Scope

Leupold is one of the most well-known and most highly respected rifle scope manufacturers. Their venerable VX-3 series has long been one of the most reliable scopes on the market. The company recently improved upon their design and introduced the brand new Leupold VX-3HD. Featuring all of the specs that hunters and shooters have come to expect from a Leupold scope, the VX-3HD also adds several impressive new features.

These features include a CDS-ZL elevation dial which offers precise adjustments and eliminates the need for holdovers on long shots, a Guard-ion lens coating that is hydrophobic allowing it to shed dirt, water, and dust. The magnification range of this brand new scope is ideal for varmint hunting, coyote hunting, and long range shooting applications. The VX-3HD is the best overall scope for .223 bolt action rifles on the market today.

ReticleMagnification RangeWeight
Duplex4.5x – 14x16.9 oz

2. Primary Arms SLX 1-8x24FFP Rifle Scope

The Primary Arms SLX 1-8x24FFP rifle scope makes for an excellent hybrid scope for use on both AR-15 .223 rifles and .223 bolt action rifles. It offers just enough magnification on the high end for hunting at medium ranges while still going low enough to be effective in competition or for close range target shooting. The illuminated reticle features targeting leads that make target acquisition and holdover a breeze from close to medium ranges.

The durability of this scope from Primary Arms also cannot be ignored. With a full IP67 waterproof rating, this scope can stand up to even the most challenging of conditions. Both fog resistant and nitrogen purged, this scope is built from 6061 aluminum and features an anodized finish.

ReticleMagnification RangeWeight
ACSS Raptor1x – 8x17.9 oz

3. Nikon Prostaff P3 Predator Hunter BDC Predator Rifle Scope

All it takes is one look at the name of the Nikon Prostaff P3 rifle scope to know it makes for a great coyote hunting scope. Boasting all of the high end features hunters and shooters have come to expect from rifle scopes such as fully multi-coated optics, tough aluminum construction, and zero-reset turrets, the Nikon Prostaff P3 is the best scope for bolt action rifles.

The thing that sets this scope apart from its competitors is the reticle. Called the BDC Predator, the reticle on this scope makes target acquisition when hunting coyotes a little bit easier. Anyone who has hunted coyotes before will likely tell you that they can be a challenging target to line up an accurate shot on. The reticle in this scope features open circles that eliminate the problem of obscuring a small, and potentially moving target, like a coyote.

ReticleMagnification RangeWeight
BDC Predator4x – 12x15.5 oz

4. Vortex Viper 6.5-20×50 SFP PA Rifle Scope

Vortex Optics has built up a reputation for designing and building high-quality and dependable scopes and the Viper 6.5-20×50 SFP PA rifle scope fits right into that mold. Ideal for .223 long range shooting, this scope has an impressive magnification range that maxes out at 20x. The large 50mm objective lens diameter allows in plenty of light to make for a clear and bright sight picture in both low light and full sun conditions. Further adding to the light gathering capabilities of this scope are the extra-low dispersion lenses and XR lens coating.

With a well-designed magnification adjustment bar that is easy to reach even while looking down the scope, a fast focus eyepiece for fine adjustments to reticle clarity and focus, and an O-ring sealed and argon purged interior, the Vortex Viper offers an incredible value for the money.

ReticleMagnification RangeWeight
Dead-Hold BDC6.5x – 20x21.6 oz

5. Bushnell 1-4×24 AR Optics Rifle Scope

If you are looking for a scope specifically designed for .223 AR-15 rifles, look no further than the Bushnell 1-4×24 AR Optics Rifle Scope. The ultra-compact design of this scope won’t add a significant amount of weight to your rifle and will be less likely to interfere with other attachments you may currently have or may want to add to your weapon such as flashlights and backup sights.

The finger operated target turrets offer precise adjustments of 0.1 MIL per click. This allows shooters to fine tune the accuracy of their rifle to a very high degree. The Drop-Zone BDC reticle is ballistically calibrated for .223 cartridges from 55 to 62 grains and offers shooters aiming points all the way out to 500 yards. Any AR-15 .223 rifle would benefit from this scope.

ReticleMagnification RangeWeight
Drop-Zone BDC1x – 4x17.6 oz

6. Nikon P-Tactical .223 3-9×40 Rifle Scope

For another .223-specific scope option, consider the P-Tactical .223 rifle scope from Nikon. This affordable scope is ideal for mounting on AR-15 .223 rifles with durable construction, a tactical design, and a .223 calibrated reticle. When zeroed at 100 yards, the reticle offers holdover points all the way out to 600 yards. This is an excellent option when designing and building a coyote hunting AR-15 rifle platform.

The one piece aluminum construction makes this scope extremely durable. It also features fully multi-coated lenses that offer a consistently clear image of the target along the entire magnification range, zero reset turrets, and generous eye relief for comfortable shooting in a variety of different positions.

ReticleMagnification RangeWeight
BDC 6003x – 9x15 oz

7. Sig Sauer Bravo3 Battle Sight 3x24mm

Designed specifically for civilian AR-15 platforms with inspiration from military scopes, the Sig Sauer Bravo3 Battle Sight is a great option for competition shooters and recreational target shooters. Featuring extreme durability thanks to a rugged aluminum housing, the Bravo3 has an IP-X8 waterproof rating and is water resistant to depths of up to 400 meters.

The well thought out and cleverly designed illuminated reticle offers superior contrast in a broad range of lighting conditions while the aesthetics of the scope match perfectly with tactical AR-15 .223 rifles. Wrapping up this impressive scope are the edge to edge clarity, a field of view that is 40% wider than its competitors, and an integrated Picatinny rail on top of the scope for accessory mounting.

ReticleMagnification RangeWeight
Red Dot3x22 oz

The Wrap Up

Choosing a scope can feel like an overwhelming proposition considering the plethora of options that are on the market today. Starting the scope buying process by considering the type of rifle you have and the tasks you’d like to accomplish with it will give you a base of information for making an informed buying decision of the best scope for .223 rifles.

Whether you are a coyote hunter, a long range shooting enthusiast, a 3-gun competitor, or a varmint hunter looking for versatility, there is sure to be an excellent scope option for you that will fit your budget and perform well in the field. This list of the top 7 best scopes for .223 rifles is a great place to begin your scope buying journey.

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