You might not use a scope so often, you might start learning how to hunt right now or teach your kid how to, you might want to buy a reserve or you might not want to blow the bank for a scope right now. Whatever your reason is, there are enough options for you if you are searching for a quality rifle scope for under $300. But what’s the best rifle scope under $300? Established and proven manufacturers like Nikon, Leupold or Vortex offer up choices in this price range.
What should I expect from the best riflescope for under $300?
First of all, let’s talk about what $300 gets you. Long story short, you can get a scope made of durable material, usually aluminum or some sort of aluminum alloy, with decent optics and long-life usage. You’ll be pretty well catered for when it comes to basic requirements, so it makes more sense to focus on them when choosing your scope. It’s better to have something that does the basic stuff right than to spend most of the $300 on a single feature while the rest of them are of poor quality.
You should always look for the perfect SFW durability trifecta when choosing the best $300 rifle scope: shockproof, fog proof, and waterproof. You won’t be hunting in a perfect weather conditions scenario every time, so these 3 characteristics must be present on your scope.
A waterproof scope will let you effectively shoot in rainy situations. Being outside, you are bound to encounter conditions such as these from time to time and it would be a shame to miss out on a shot because of not having a waterproof scope. A word of warning here, you won’t be able to get a fully submersible scope in this price range, but the quality of the glass should be acceptable. Not as in a $1000 scope, but it should serve you pretty well.
Shockproofing should be a no-brainer for this kind of purchase. You are outside, mostly surrounded by rocks and trees. And, from time to time, it’s bound that something slips out of your hands, especially when it’s wet outside. So having a scope that can cope with shocks is vital. You wouldn’t want to pick it up in pieces if it falls to the ground.
Finally, having a fog proof scope is a must as well. Imagine aiming at something, only to find that your lens has fogged up. You might as well not use a scope at all in this situation, fogging renders a scope useless. Thankfully, nitrogen purged scopes are kind of the norm now, so getting one without having to think about this problem isn’t that hard.
Another thing that you can expect to find in this price range is a good set of optics. $300 gets you a decent set of lenses made out of good quality glass that won’t make you miss a shot because of poor quality. You won’t get top-of-the-line $1500 scope glass, but you will be more than happy with what you can find.
Electronics won’t be something that you will encounter too often in these scopes. Illuminated reticles will be more common, but things as ballistic calculators and thermal optics won’t be available in this price range. Not to worry, though, you can have fun and hit your target without these features. If you’re looking for these types of features you might want to take a look at our best thermal scopes article.
Last but not least, you should find a scope with variable magnification. Most of them are in the 3 to 9x range, which should give an effective shooting distance of 500 yards. But surprises arise here too, and if you’ll look further down, you’ll see what we’re talking about.
Best rifle scope for under $300 – models and specs
Vortex Crossfire II 3-12x
We start off with the Vortex Crossfire II 3-12x. If you want a scope in this price range that performs well in low light conditions, then the Vortex Crossfire II 3-12x is the best rifle scope under $300 for you. It nudges right under the $300 mark, but you’ll struggle to find many scopes that give you the same quality feel as this one does.
The key for being such a good workhorse in low light conditions is, of course, the 56-millimeter objective lens diameter. Having a bigger objective lens diameter means that more light will get gathered. And this means that you can see your target easier. And it also means that you will be able to take advantage of heavier covered positions with less light. Advantage oversized objective here.
The adjustable objective provides image focus and parallax removal to the shooter. This is especially important for when you are aiming at longer distances. Parallax is something that you should always take into account as it can make you miss a shot quite easily.
The magnification on this scope is pretty good as well. You get a 12x max zoom, which will easily let you take a shot at 650 yards. Adding in a little more help, you have the V-Brite illuminated reticle to zero in your target.
Noteworthy of mentioning, the scope is equipped with a second focal plane system, which usually helps more if you’re shooting at bigger distances. This style of reticle does not visually change in size when you change the magnification. The advantage of an SFP reticle is that it always maintains the same appearance.
A single-piece tube constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum ensures strength and shockproof performance. O-ring sealed and nitrogen purged, the Vortex Crossfire II 3-12x delivers waterproof and fog proof performance. So you’re covered in harsh conditions as well.
Overall, the Vortex Crossfire II 3-12x delivers a pretty good package for the price that it commands. You’re getting a lot of good features for under $300 and there are a lot of satisfied users of this scope. It especially excels in low light conditions due to its oversized objective. So, if you want a scope that edges up in low light conditions, the Vortex Crossfire II 3-12x is the best rifle scope under $300 for you.
Vortex Optics Strike Eagle
If you’re a fan of second plane scopes and like how the reticle does not visually change in size when you change the magnification, then the Vortex Optics Strike Eagle is the best rifle scope under $300 for you. Having a second focal plane is great for shooting at distant targets, so this one is for people who do the majority of their shooting like that.
The lenses are fully multi-coated with Vortex’s proprietary coating. These coatings are formulated to increase light transmission and reduce light reflection off the lens. They help to reduce the glare you often experience at higher magnification settings.
The illuminated BDC3 reticle focuses the shooter’s eye to the target faster and holdovers allow for immediate use. With up to 6x magnification, you will be able to accurately use this scope at distances up to 650 yards. The illumination dial allows for 11 levels of illumination intensity.
From a mechanical point of view, you are able to adjust for windage (in 5 MPH increments) and elevation (in 1/2 MOA adjustments). You also have an adjustable fast focus piece that allows for quick and easy reticle focusing. And it takes very little time to set up.
Nitrogen purged and o-ring sealed gives you water and fogproof performance. The one piece, aircraft grade aluminum, 30mm tube is shockproof shrugging off recoil and other impacts. Being out in the open, with weather conditions changing all the time, it’s very important to be able to cope with all of them, and these traits allow you to do so.
Last, but not least, you get Vortex reliability and excellent customer’s reviews for this scope. There are thousands of people that are very happy with this purchase and it’s one of the company’s most successful models. So, if you want a reliable second focal plane rifle scope, the Vortex Optics Strike Eagle is the best rifle scope under $300 for you.
Vortex Optics Diamondback
The Vortex Optics Diamondback is an excellent alternative when it comes to a lightweight scope. With a curb weight of less than 1 pound, this is scope won’t burden you in any way and won’t compromise on maneuverability. So, if you want a lightweight but capable rifle scope in this price range, the Vortex Optics Diamondback is the best rifle scope under $300 for you.
The magnification adjusts from 3.5-10x. That gives you a lot of options, both in terms of distance and game. With 10x magnification, you can easily target distances of 650 yards with ease, while in terms of hunting game, you can deal with anything from rabbits to bears.
Lenses are fully multi-coated for crystal clear, bright images from dawn till dusk. Having something to help in low light conditions is always useful. The fast focus eyepiece allows for quick and easy reticle focusing.
The scope features the Vortex BDC reticle that compensates for bullet-drops. The BDC reticle is positioned on the second focal plane which is to be expected looking at a hunting scope under $300. A solid one-piece tube with a hard anodized finish creates a shockproof and durable scope while helping camouflage the shooter’s position. Argon purged and o-ring sealed the scope will deliver a lifetime of fogproof and waterproof performance.
In the end, the Vortex Optics Diamondback gives you plenty of useful features, and it does that in while weighing less than 1 pound. It is perfect for someone who wants to be able to carry the gun with ease or for someone who can’t carry heavier loads. It really doesn’t skip on quality either, so if what you’re looking for is a lightweight scope, then the Vortex Optics Diamondback is the best rifle scope under $300 for you.
If you are, let’s say an active lifestyle hunter, going out no matter the conditions outside for that perfect shot, then the Leupold VX-Freedom is the best rifle scope under $300 for you. It’s built specifically for this type of hunters and it’s equipped to handle days upon days of hard use, while still giving you great results.
The first reason for this toughness is that it’s made with 6061-T6 aircraft quality aluminum which gives the scope great durability and toughness. Leupold then test the scope on the Punisher, Leupold’s recoil simulation machine. The force of each impact is 3x the recoil of a .308 rifle and every Leupold scope is designed to withstand at least 5000 impacts of that kind.
Furthermore, Leupold use a special gas blend to cure the lenses with and make them waterproof and fogproof. They test this by submerging the scope under 33 feet of water and a multitude of pressure values. So, if by accident, your scope gets underwater, you’re safe from the risk of damaging it in this way.
Frigid or Death Valley like temperatures aren’t a problem for this scope, as it can operate between -40 ºF and 160 ºF. From Alaska to Arizona, you can use this scope in every state.
You get a zoom adjustment between 3-9x which pretty much guarantees that you’ll be able to hit targets at over 500 yards. That means that you can take it both on the range, to master your shooting, or use it on game that is very easily spooked and you need to be at a greater distance from it.
Leupold’s Twilight Light Management systems delivers brightness and clarity by balancing light transmission, glare reduction, and image contrast and resolution ensuring a crisp image in any lighting condition. The 40 millimeter objective lens diameter will help you negotiate those low light scenarios that you might find yourself in.
So, if for you the name of the game is toughness and durability no matter what conditions you use it in, then Leupold VX-Freedom is the best rifle scope under $300 for you. That extreme recoil resistance also allows for a lot of choice regarding the caliber of the rifle that you use, so you get a lot of versatility as well.
Buris Fullfield II 6.5-20x
If you’re looking to maximize the number of good features that your scope has, but still not hit the maximum on the $300 budget, then the Buris Fullfield II 6.5-20x is the best rifle scope under $300 for you. It comes up with a very good mix of features that guarantees a great hunting experience.
The scope features the Ballistic Mil-Dot reticle, which is ideal for very flat-shooting cartridges. Conceptually “flat shooting” implies that the bullet from any particular round follows its flight path in as flat as a trajectory as possible. This also implies that the bullet should fly further because the bullet is not wasting flying time going through an arch path on the way to the target.
You can use it for a lot of different purposes, as it’s equipped to handle them all. You can use it for long-range target shooters, either in the range or while hunting for unnerving prey. Due to the fact that you can easily adjust for wind conditions you can tackle smaller prey like varmint from a bigger distance. Lastly, you can always use the scope for home and property protection, turning yourself into a tactical marksman.
The 50 mm objective allows for maximum light collection, which comes in handy while you’re hunting in low light conditions. These lenses are multi-coated, with no-glare technology. Having this type of features on your scope can mean the difference between missing and hitting your target, and it’s something not so common to find in this price range. The simple, integrated eyepiece and power ring has no-slip grip for quick adjustment. Positive, steel-on-steel click adjustment ensures repeatable settings for accuracy, on the range and in the field. This will make things easier when it comes to the business of adjusting your scope, you will not need to remove it from your eye.
Waterproof, shockproof, fogproof and nitrogen filled tube ensures that you can use this scope in all environments and conditions. This is a must and we have mentioned it on every single example, and this scope follows that rule as well.
So, if you’re searching for something that can give you the most bang for your buck in this price range, then the Buris Fullfield II 6.5-20x is the best rifle scope under $300 for you. The combination that it comes up with is going to give you a satisfying experience, regardless of whichever way you choose to use it.
Conclusion – what’s the best rifle scope under $300?
Can we say that there is a clear winner here? No, we don’t think so. These are great scopes, but they best serve an individual purpose rather than something you can use for every conceivable situation.
Overall, the one that fits most of the boxes here is the Buris Fullfield II 6.5-20x, but if you aim at shorter distances, the 6.5x zoom won’t help you that much. It’s more of an alternative for longshots.
For low light conditions, the best one on the list is the Vortex Crossfire II 3-12x. It offers you an oversized lens objective and good quality light transmission.
But, realistically, every one of these options offers you great value for money. They all are sturdy and rugged and equipped to handle heat, moisture, fog and shocks. We opted not to include any options that aren’t like this, because the difference in price isn’t justifiable.
So, take a look at them all first. And then think about the way you would use it and your hunting and shooting habits. There will be one option in here that will satisfy your needs.