The Best AR-10 Scopes

If a rifle’s good enough for the US Army, it’s good enough for you, right?

The Army’s M16 is more or less the civilian AR-10, except for two things. The civilian version is bigger, and shoots larger rounds – because soldiers are trained in accuracy, and civilians aren’t, unless they want to be.

When you’re filling up your gun cache, why would you settle for anything but the most powerful weapon on the civilian market? The AR-10 even beats its more famous cousin, the AR-15, for accuracy, precision and power.

When it was first designed, the gas-powered, magazine-fed AR-10 dropped jaws among gun-lovers, and it’s still wowing the public to this day.  

Why People Love The AR-10

  • At just 6.5 pounds empty, it’s a lightweight weapon

  • It’s also among the most economical rifles available – especially given its performance

  • It’s easy to customize and pimp

  • It’s powerful and reliable

  • It’s highly versatile in terms of ammo, usage and even build

It’s fair to say if you had to imagine your dream rifle, you’d probably envisage a custom AR-10 build – whether you know that’s what you’re dreaming of or not! There’s an endless range of customizable options to the AR-10 – stocks, grips, magazine options, you name it, you can build it on the basic body of an AR-10. And people do, meaning there are plenty of ideas already out there to give you inspiration. Parts to help you build your own creation are affordable, but it’s also pretty reasonable to get one fresh out of the box. That range of options is what makes the AR-10 the most cost-effective rifle available today.

It’s true that the AR-10 demands more of a learning curve than other famous rifles like the AK-47. But it pays you back in spades for the effort you put in. Let’s take a look at some of what this rifle can do.

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Best AR-10 Scopes - Comparison Table

Best AR-10 Scopes - Reviews

This Athlon riflescope gives you variable magnification from 6x to 24x, with a 50 mm objective lens to deliver a wide field of view and lots of light. That translates as lots of color contrast and a great sight picture. 

This is an FFP reticle scope, meaning it changes size between magnification levels to keep its holdover hash marks constant relative to the size of the target. That helps you get precise shots at longer magnification and make snappy shots with longer zooms. As is the way with many first focal plane reticles at longer distances, the reticle can look small at greater magnification settings, which is something to watch for.

Let There Be Light

The Athlon Optics scope comes with an illuminated reticle, which makes it a fantastic option for low light shooting, say at dusk or dawn. The reticle is etched right onto the glass to stop any judder, whatever the recoil of the rifle.

The scope’s lenses have been treated with a special coating which helps them transmit even more light. More light means better color contrast, which in turn helps you pick out your target even from a background against which it’s camouflaged. 

In terms of build quality, you’re looking at aircraft-grade aluminum in the Athlon scope, matched with a durable reticle and a waterproof construction, which means this is a scope you can expect to keep with you for years, even if you’re pretty mean to it. The waterproofing is good enough to let you take it out in the rain or across rivers without any worry or drama.

The Verdict

With magnification from 6x-24x, this is a multiple-use scope, particularly suited to longer range shooting. It’s a jack of all trades, good enough for hunting, tactical and target shooting, without alienating anyone by overspecializing in any of those fields.

The thing about having a market with a couple of leaders is that if you stick to them doggedly, you miss some of the interesting developments going on elsewhere. Vortex isn’t as popular a brand as the likes of Nikon or Bushnell, but it’s a manufacturer on the rise, and that rise is understandable when you look at the Diamondback 4-12x40mm Dead-Hold BDC.

This is a stripped-back scope, with no excessive bells and barely a working whistle, but damn, does it do its job well. Vortex sets out to impress not with an endless list of add-ons, but with solid performance and reliability. This is a scope that doesn’t overclutter novice shooters’ experiences with things to remember, but if you deserve to be holding an AR-10 in the first place, the Diamondback respects you and gives you what you need.

There’s more aircraft-grade aluminum here, giving the Diamondback durability while keeping it lightweight. Heavy recoils are shrugged off this scope, and it almost yells to the skies ‘Come on, rain more, see if you can beat me.’

They can’t. Foggy vision – nope. Wet disaster? Hell no – there’s argon gas inside this scope to ensure you always have clear vision in the lens, all the way from edge to edge. See what we mean? No bells, no whistles, just calm reliability, day in, day out. It even adds an extra, protective lens in to protect it from scratches.

On the principle that nothing’s perfect, though this is close, there’s an issue with the parallax here, which is not significant after 50 yards. What that means is you’ll sometimes need a little extra time to line up your shot.

A Unique Reticle

Let’s talk reticles. Vortex has put its unique Dead-hold BDC reticle in the Diamondback, The Dead-Hold BDC reticle is something with which you may already be familiar, but here it’s improved to take away some of the uncertainty of previous versions. With the Dead-hold, you’ll never have to deal with corrections or windage, which means you can focus on doing what you do best.

There are extra aids to getting on with the job here too, in the form of easy-to-use windage and elevation pop-up dials with audible clicks to eliminate any remaining uncertainty.

The Verdict

This is a simpler scope than many, but it’s useful for novices, budget-conscious shooters and those prone to the occasional accident. Rugged, forgiving and high-quality, it’s a scope that can add fun and solidity to your shooting, with a wide magnification range and a versatility that makes it useful in a broad range of circumstances.

If the Diamondback is a great solid scope with strong reliability but few innovative add-ons, the UTG 3-12x44 30mm more than makes up for it. There are bells and whistles here you didn’t know existed.

The UTG gives you zero locking target turrets and zero resetting, so you never lose any settings. That means you can fully focus on your target. And if that’s not enough, there’s a Side Wheel Adjustable Turret that will give you parallax range of 10 yards and more.

If you’re going to nitpick with the UTG scope, the side focus knob is tight, meaning you have to be firm with it sometimes. But aside from that, the UTG delivers a lot of high-spec tech at quite a low-tech price. Oh, and then there’s the Illumination Enhancing Reticle.

Let There Be Night

What’s an illumination enhancing reticle, right?

It’s a reticle that lights up in the dark for night or low-light use, that’s what. While it’s normally red, the UTG scope has 36 color modes – 36, count ’em – to let you use the IE reticle, and the scope, in any environment you can imagine and with any personal preference you can think of.

Naturally, the higher the tech level of the scope, the heavier it is, but here that extra weight feels like proof of the UTG scope’s robust reliability.

The Verdict

For the regular outdoor hunter, this scope’s a fantastic addition to your AR-10. The IE reticle allows you to hone in on your target with speed and efficiency. If you want to get serious about your AR-10 shooting, attach this scope and you’re unstoppable.

A what-now? A Leupold scope? For under $300? Has the world gone mad?

Pretty much, yeah – Leupold has had a reputation for creating excellent scopes in Oregon since 1947, but they’ve often, if not always, come with far heftier price-tags than this one. The 3-9x40mm is made of aircraft-grade aluminum, is 100% waterproof, fogproof and shock-resistant, so this Leupold is a worthwhile addition to the family, but at a relatively budget-friendly price.

With a range of reticles available, from a simple duplex to a Tri-MOA and a duplex CDS, the Leupold VX-Freedom has an option for everyone, depending on your preference.

The scope also comes with a Twilight light management system to give you a solid ten minutes extra shooting in lower-light environments. Meanwhile, the precision quarter-MOA adjustments for windage and elevation let you get repeatable results time after time.

Leupold tests its scopes for up to 5,000 impacts and ensures they work as advertised in a huge range of temperature, from -40F-160F. That means the VC-Freedom scope is going nowhere without you, but can go everywhere you go.

We’re always going to perk up when we get the chance to add a Leupold to our scope collection for a bargain price, and this one brings the trademark Leupold quality plus sumptuous performance in low-light environments to your hunting experience with the best rifle on the market. It’s the equivalent of buying the AR-10 a diamond ring, and between them, the two will help you get great results at a distance, reliably in any environment, year after year.

This fantastic second focal plane (SFP) rifle scope from Vortex Optics zooms from 4x to 16x magnification with a 40 mm objective lens, but because it’s SFP, the reticle will stay constant as you change the zoom levels. That means you can change rapidly between near and far targets. It’s tactical-oriented scope with an enjoyable agility.

The scope uses multicoated lenses for excellent resolution and color fidelity. It also has extremely durable lenses thanks to special Armortek coatings which protect against scratch damage over time.

Say it with us? There’s aircraft-grade aluminum in the build here, and the scope is argon-purged and sealed with o-rings for waterproofing and fogproofing. Weighing just 2 pounds, that’s a lot of great scope in a lightweight package..

Turret Precision

The target-style turrets on this scope mean you can make repeated finger adjustable clicks without any additional hardware or tools. But they also allow for adjustment with a zero-stop function that lets you re-zero them after dialling to temporary corrections of windage and elevation. That means you can easily account for long distance shots.

The Verdict

This is an excellent scope for tactical AR-10 users who want to get the most of the weapon’s versatility. It brings a great range of magnification settings to the party, so you can hit targets at all ranges. It’s pretty close to the one-scope-to-see-them-all ideal, which also makes it great value for money!

Best AR-10 Scopes - Buyer's Guide

Getting The Best Out Of Your Shooting Range

If you know what you’re doing with it, right out of the box, your AR-10 can hit targets up to 200 yards away with less than 1 MOA (minute of angle).

Add any of the best available scopes to that, and you’re accurate up to five times that distance. Yep, you read that right – you’re dealing with a rifle that, properly scoped and in practised hands, can shoot accurately up to 1000 yards. Sounds crazy, but it’s totally deliverable. In fact, with more practice and more understanding of your rifle and your scope, you can even go beyond that thousand-yard accuracy.

That’s the power of the perfect scope. Get one with a really good fit and you’ll be reaching professional distances before you know it. But let’s not get carried away too early – let’s see what typical hunting practice looks like with an AR-10.

Going The Distance: How Far Does Your Bullet Travel?

Out of the box, a 21-inch barrel AR-10 will deliver within this range:

  • Close Range: Up to 200 yards

  • Medium Range: Roughly 200-400 yards

  • Long Range: 400 yards and upwards

Naturally, given you can build and customize your AR-10, these numbers are subject to change. The longer the barrel you use, the further the bullets will travel.

If you’re aiming to get professional distances and accuracies out of your AR-10, the magnification of your chosen scope has to be within a sweet spot range – too weak, or too powerful and you won’t get the results you’re looking for.


Check Your Magnification

Shooting at long range gets more difficult because you have to take factors like wind into account. But the AR-10 is one of the best rifles available for that type of shooting, so you’re in with a better shot at long distance accuracy than most people from day one. Adding an effective scope though will transform your long distance capability.

Obviously in general terms, you need higher magnification for longer distance shots.

Let’s take a look at which magnification is best used for which distance range:

  • Long Range (400 yards +)

    • Long range is where your AR-10 can stretch itself. Smaller targets at longer ranger demand clarity at higher magnification, larger targets less so. Try a 9x or higher to get the best out of your unmodified AR-10 at long range. You’re also looking for a lens diameter of around 40mm or more, because higher magnifications like those you need at longer distances demand more light. Bigger lenses, more light, more accurate long distance shooting. The scopes we suggest for long range shooting all have lenses of a suitable size. 

  • Medium Range (200 – 400 yards)

    • This is the comfort zone for most AR-10 shooters. The power of the rifle means that at medium range, anything you hit won’t so much go bang as ker-blam. A word of caution though – as with the long range, you’re going to want effective magnification. Usually between 5-9x will give you what you need for a great medium range shooting experience.

  • Close Range (Up to 200 yards)

    • One of the thrills of an AR-10 is that long range for most rifles is close range for this beast. Naturally, as the target is closer (the clue is in the name), go for low magnification – 1-4x will work well.

As with other rifles, the best scope for your AR-10 will be the one that suits your usual shooting distance and your usual shooting style. For large, open areas, go with larger magnification. If that’s not where you hunt or practice, getting the bigger magnifications is not going to deliver what you need.

That said, if your hunting grounds or practice areas are versatile and various, choose a wide variable magnification – that will help you unlock the flexibility of your AR-10. Some days, you’ll be able to crank it way down to a 4x. Other days, let rip with the power of a 16x. With a wide variable, both you and the rifle can meet the challenges of any day’s hunting.

Note: When scopes are listed as “BDC” it means they include “bullet drop compensation.” That means you don’t have to adjust your elevation when using them at longer range. Just use the reticle that matches your intended distance.

Finding The Scope For You

There should be something on our list for everyone, including scopes with different magnifications in various price ranges. Which one will be your next scope of choice?

That’s A Wrap

Out of the box, the AR-10 beats most comers in the rifle market. And there’s every chance you think you’re already pretty hot with the best, most customizable rife around.

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Mount any of these scopes on your AR-10, and you take your shooting to a whole new level. We’ve chosen you a handful of the best on the market, each with particular specialities. Try them out, improve your distance shooting, and win with any of these awesome scopes, attached to your AR-10.

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