What is a Prism Scope?
Unlike traditional scope that use lenses to focus and magnify an image, prism scopes (also known as prismatic scopes) use a special glass prism. The design allows them to magnify images with a shorter, more compact design. The prismatic sights design also limits them to fixed magnification, usually somewhere between 1x and 5x.
Why Use a Prism Scope?
These relative newcomers to the optics scene are lighter and more compact than the traditional riflescope. They also offer a wide field of view (FOV). However, unlike the standard red dot, most models offer at least some modest magnification.
The small size and lower magnification of prism scopes make them particularly well-suited for AR-15s and other tactical carbines.
The main advantages of using a prism scope are:
- The lightweight, compact design.
- Large FOV.
- Illuminated reticles for better visibility in all light conditions.
- The reticle is usually etched in glass so you can see it even when your batteries fail.
- Offers more sophisticated reticle designs than the standard red dot sight.
- Prism sights work best for astigmatism.
- A nice balance between rapid shooting for close-range targets and precision accuracy on targets at range.
What to Consider When Buying a Prism Scope
Prism scopes are great tools for hunting, three gun competition, and tactical applications. With a wide range of uses, it is impossible to list one perfect prism scope.
Because not everyone needs the same performance from their rifle optic, the best option is the one that best fits your needs. That optic will look different for different shooters.
Here are a few key features to consider when shopping for your own prism scope.
Some prism scopes do not magnify the image at all. These 1x optics still provide all the aiming advantages associated with an illuminated reticle. They are useful for competitions that restrict magnification but still require rapid target acquisition for quick shooting.
1x magnification is also useful for shotguns intended for home defense, especially since home invasions most commonly occur after dark.
The illuminated reticle and superb light transmission typically associated with a quality prism scope will help you see both the reticle and the target clearly, even in low light.
Other prism scopes offer image magnification between 1.5x and 5x. Although this level is lower than a standard rifle scope, it is still useful for accurate shooting at medium distances (usually out to 600 yards depending on the caliber you’re using).
One advantage of using a prism scope over a red dot optic is that they offer a variety of reticle designs. Rather than a simple red dot, you can choose from horseshoe and circle dot reticles, simple crosshairs, and BDC (bullet drop compensator) reticles that are calibrated for specific cartridges. Some reticles can even help you estimate the distance to your target.
For rapid, close range shooting, choose a reticle with a simple design. If you need to shoot unknown distances, a rapid ranging reticle could become your new best friend. If you expect to engage targets at distances beyond 100 yards, a BDC reticle (choose one designed for your specific load) can be particularly useful.
Most prism scopes are built to be extra durable. Because they are often used for hunting or tactical shooting, manufacturers know their products need to be tough.
Look for a prism scope made from high-quality materials like 6061-T6 or aircraft quality aluminum. Also, look for optics that are o-ring sealed and purged with nitrogen or argon. This not only helps make the image clearer, it also prevents internal fogging due to humidity or rapid changes in temperature.
You should also look at the coatings used on the prism and scope glass. Most contain layers of special coatings to help reduce glare, maximize light transmission, and produce crisp clear images with true-to-life colors. For the best image quality, look for the best scope that features fully multi-coated optics.
Many prism scopes rely on batteries to power the optic’s illumination. Battery life varies by model. Those with higher brightness settings typically burn through batteries more quickly.
Prism scopes with fiber optics don’t rely on battery power, so you never have to worry about changing batteries.
We’ve tried to include optics on our list to fit every price range. If you want the highest quality prism scope, be prepared to pay for it. Quality and performance don’t come cheap.
However, if you don’t have a ton of money to drop on an optic, some of the more affordable scopes on our list are surprisingly capable. Just don’t expect them to have the features or clarity of a more expensive optic.
Prism Scope Pros and Cons
- A specific caliber of magnification power
- It typically comes in a more compact box than other traditional scopes.
- No movable optical parts.
- Most reticles have lights themselves.
- Because the reticle is imprinted into the glass, it doesn’t need battery packs like a red dot.
- It’s convenient for users of astigmatism.
Depending on these pros, prisms are a great choice as a battlesight for carbines because they are flexible and can be used well at nearer, intermediate, and sometimes even larger calibers.
- The highest level of magnification is about 3X to 5X, which is better than the red dots.
- It’s not as accommodating in the field of view and eye relief as compared to red dots.
- Not all its reticles are as luminous as natural bright light.
- The price range for its top-quality models is between $200 and $300, which is almost the same as low-power variable optics (LPVOs).
|Sig Sauer BRAVO3 Battle Sight||
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|Monstrum S330P Prism Scope||
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|UTG Compact Prismatic Scope||
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|Vortex Optics Spitfire Prism Scope||
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|Trijicon ACOG Riflescope||
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|UUQ Prismatic Riflescope||
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|Athlon Optics Prism Scope||
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|Burris AR-536 Prism Sight||
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Top 8 Prism Scopes with Detailed Reviews
1. Monstrum S330P 3X Prism Scope
The Monstrum S330P is a great entry level prism scope with a price tag perfect for shooters on a tight budget.
This scope works well for rapid, close to mid-range target acquisition. It features an etched, black, circle dot reticle that is always visible with or without illumination. However, the scope also provides reticle illumination in red or green, It also has multiple brightness levels to help you achieve optimal reticle visibility in nearly any lighting environment.
At only 5 inches long, this prism scope is incredibly compact. However, you shouldn’t let its slight size fool you. This is a heavy-duty optic that is fully shockproof, waterproof, and fogproof.
2. Sig Sauer BRAVO3 Battle Sight
Featuring 3x magnification, a generous FOV (roughly 40 percent wider than the competition), and stunning image clarity, the Sig Sauer BRAVO3 is a hot optic for hunting, competition shooting, and tactical applications.
Made with low dispersion glass and a spherical lens design, the BRAVO3 delivers a flat, distortion-free image with razor-sharp edge-to-edge clarity.
The reticle is a horseshoe dot design with bullet drop markings. Shooters will really appreciate the 8 daytime brightness settings (the highest setting is one of the brightest we’ve seen) and 3 settings specifically for use with night vision devices .
3. UTG Compact Prismatic 4×32 T4x Glass T-Dot Scope
This high-quality compact prism scope from UTG is perfect for AR-15 , AR-10 , and other modern sporting rifles. It offers 4x magnification and has a pre-set 100-yard parallax.
The UTG compact prism won’t take up a ton of rail space on your rifle, yet it offers tons of performance. It even features high-end emerald coated lenses for maximum light transmission and crisp edge-to-edge image clarity.
This scope features an etched glass reticle, plus illumination options that include a red/green dual-color mode and a 36 color multi-color mode. The versatility of this design allows you to clearly see the T-shaped reticle against any backdrop and in almost any lighting condition.
4. Vortex Optics Spitfire 3x Prism Scope
This awesome optic from industry leader, Vortex spitfire Optics, sports an illuminated reticle with BDC marks to 500 yards. It also has five brightness settings.
The Vortex Spitfire ar easily has some of the best glass quality of any of the optics on our list. It features fully multi-coated lenses with anti-reflective coatings that offer bright, clear images even in low light, making this prism scope perfect for hunting.
Built for tough outdoor use, this rugged prism scope is o-ring sealed and nitrogen purged for true fogproof and waterproof performance, even in the wettest conditions.
5. Trijicon ACOG 3.5×35 Riflescope
Literally bomb-proof, the legendary Trijicon ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight) is the only battle-proven optic on our list. These rugged, high-performance rifle scopes have charged into battle with the United States Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
Built for superb optical clarity in any light, the Trijicon ACOG features a dual illuminated battery-free reticle. The reticle is powered by fiber optic technology during daylight hours and tritium by night.
Perfect for CQB, the ACOG has a “Both Eyes Open” design that utilizes the Binden Aiming Concept. Because the shooter can acquire targets and aim without closing one eye, the optic helps preserve peripheral vision and situational awareness, both valuable assets on the battlefield.
This optic is a true performer. However, it comes with a hefty price tag that could be well outside the budget of the average shooter.
6. UUQ Prismatic 4X32 Rifle Scope
Featuring a fully coated prism lens and multi-coated glass, this affordable riflescope delivers excellent transmission and surprising image clarity for an optic in this price range.
Perfect for close to mid-range target shooting, this optic features a BDC reticle designed for rapid ranging of targets at unknown distances. It ranges out to 600 yards, and with 4x magnification, this optic is highly effective at a variety of distances.
The reticle is glass etched and illuminated with fiber optic technology. You can also choose from red, green, or blue illumination, so you can optimize reticle visibility for any backdrop.
This robust optic is made with a durable all-metal housing. It is also o-ring sealed and nitrogen purged, for waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof performance.
7. Athlon Optics Prism Scope
This prism scope from Athlon Optics offers a ton of versatility. It features an etched glass, BDC etched reticle and adjustable illumination settings for the highest visibility in virtually any ambient light environment.
With fully multi-coated optics, the Athlon Prism Scope is designed to reduce glare, increase light transmission, and produce bright, crystal clear images.
Built for rugged conditions and hard use, the Athlon Prism Scope has a one-piece heat-treated chassis made from tough aircraft grade aluminum. Nitrogen purged to dramatically reduce internal moisture, this scope is completely fogproof and waterproof. Not only can this scope withstand harsh weather conditions, it also can survive being completely submerged under water.
Comparison of Red Dot to Prism Scope
Red dot sights are ubiquitous and not too expensive. They are the best for fighting and target shooting at close range. A red dot sight is really what a prism scope is. What’s the fundamental distinction between the two? For a precise analysis, examine these:
- The red dots are lit up and work with batteries. If your battery runs out, you can’t get back on track. With a prism scope, you can use the etched reticle even if the lighting powered using rechargeable batteries goes out.
- Red dots scope can help your eyes in a few ways (a better eye relief). You may not get this much with prism scope/ sights.
- When you have a red dot scope, you look at the mark on its screen and start firing. With a prism scope, you can use the reticle to compensate for bullet drop and wind hold.
- The red dots are about .5X to 1X, so there isn’t much resolution. Up to 5X magnification power is possible with a prism scope, which means you can see farther (long-range shooting is possible).
- Sight (Scope) users with astigmatism might not be able to use a red dot scope because of its fixed target indicator. But people who use prism scopes have an advantage because they can change the settings to make the footage bright and clear.
- The red dots on the screen of its scopes are not adjustable. In contrast, some parallax in prism scopes is simple to remedy.
- Prism scopes are gradually becoming more widely known as they’re a great alternative between red-dot sights and LPVOs (long-range variable objective scopes).
Frequently Asked Questions On Best Prism Scopes
1. Why Do Prism Scopes Help People With Astigmatism Effectively?
Users of astigmatism could use prism scopes instead of red dot scopes since they have a refractive power that can be changed to fit different people’s eyes. If a user with astigmatism has used a red dot scope, they won’t be able to see a better overview of the reticle. Because in most cases, the red dot scope footage appears brighter like it’s broken up into irregular shapes.
With the prism scopes, you can change the refractive power (diopter) set up so that the user’s eye can see a clear reticle since there is no deformation. Also, the reflection of the dot doesn’t disturb users wearing spectacles. This is an excellent fix with the prism scope. The only bad things about it are that the eye-box is narrower, and there isn’t as much eye relief.
2. Can the Magnification Range of a Prism Scope be Changed?
The magnification power of a regular prism scope is not very outstanding. Regardless, many companies produce prism scopes of various models for various purposes. Each model has its static magnification power, ranging from 0.5X to 5X. You can’t change the magnification caliber on a prism scope as you can on the long-range scope and DMR scope.
Summing It Up
A quality prism scope has a lot to offer. Their lightweight, compact construction, wide FOV, and mild magnification make them perfect for a wide range of shooting applications. They work well on rifles and shotguns , and a popular choice for topping tactical carbines like the AR-15.
All the optics on our list are high-quality scopes that will help improve your accuracy on targets from close range out to several hundred yards. Hopefully this article has provided enough information to help you find the best prism scopes to meet your individual needs.
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Alice Jones Webb is a writer, life-long hunter, experienced shooter, and mother of 4 up-and-coming shooting and outdoor enthusiasts. She grew up flinging arrows and bullets at Virginia whitetails, turkey, and game birds, but her favorite hunting experience is chasing bull elk in the Colorado backcountry.
Never one to sit still and look pretty, Alice is also a self-defense instructor and competitive archer. She currently resides in rural North Carolina with her children, non-hunting husband, and a well-stocked chest freezer.