Gear, Parts and Accessories

Awesome Optics for ARs

Burris AR-332

The AR or Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR) has become the most modular multipurpose shooting platform in history. Whether you prefer A1s, A2s or A3s—carry handle or flattop, .22 LR to .450 Bushmaster or iron sights versus a combination of optical aiming devices, the only must-have ingredient to create the ultimate build is your imagination (Okay, and money). However, this article is all about the glass.

Burris AR-332 Reticle
With 4 inches of eye relief, the VX-R Patrol offers fast target acquisition and is comfortable to shoot.

Don’t discount the reticle either. Good glass can make the difference when delivering rounds at distance and quickly acquiring a target in Close Quarters Battle (CQB), but the reticle design is an invaluable asset and must be carefully considered.

Burris – AR-332/AR-536

The Burris AR-332 should be on any AR enthusiast’s shortlist. The limited space of this article makes it hard to say everything, but here are a few highlights. The first is price. I do not know of another scope of this quality with as many options for around $350. The AR-332 is a fixed 3x scope designed specifically for tactical rifles. It can be mounted to a picatinny rail or AR-15 Carry Handle without additional hardware.

Burris AR-332
Burris’ AR-332 is a serious contender for sit atop any AR and come hits arount the $350 mark.

The AR-332 has a Circle Dot reticle with holdover points that can be used for a variety of .223 or .308 bullets out to 600 yards. The reticle illuminates in red or green and reverts to black when not illuminated. That way, when the battery dies, you can still see the reticle and remain operational. There are picatinny mounting platforms on the top and both sides to hang additional accessories.

Introduced in 2012, the Burris AR-536 is essentially the same as the AR-332, but in a 5x configuration with a 36mm objective lens. For those who are drawn toward the AR-332 design, but want more magnification, the AR-536 is for you.

Due to the lower magnification of the AR-332, the addition of the Fastfire III may be redundant, but on the AR-536 you’ll enjoy much better target acquisition in a CQB situation.

Leupold VX-R Patrol

Leupold VX-R Patrol riflescope
On the MARK 4 MR/T 2.5-8x, you have the choice between the M1 style (tall) and the M2 (low-profile) turrets. I could justify either one—depending on my intended use—but would likely tip the scales in favor of the M2 low profile turrets.

The Leupold VX-R Patrol rocks the mid-priced scope category for the AR-15. The illuminated reticle is battery powered but uses fiber optics to adjust brightness. The cool part though is how it acts like an automatic motion sensor. Once the rifle is picked up the reticle activates. After 5 minutes of inactivity, the reticle automatically shuts down so it won’t kill your battery.

With 4 inches of eye relief, the VX-R Patrol offers fast target acquisition and is comfortable to shoot. The VX-R Patrol measures 9.5 inches—ideal and compact for an M4. Although the MARK AR was Leupold’s first step into lower-priced AR15 scopes, the VX-R has raised the bar so high, it is in another class.

Leupold MARK 4 MR/T

Leupold Mark 4 MR T
Combining the ranging ability of Leupold’s Special Purpose Reticle (SPR) with the quick acquisition of the Leupold Circle Dot Reticle, the CM-R2 provides flexibility necessary on the modern battlefield or 3-gun course.

The MARK 4 MR/T from Leupold is available in 1.5-5×20 and 2.5-8×36 models. Both are available in multiple reticle and illumination configurations, so do your homework before you slapping down any greenbacks. On the 2.5-8x, you have the choice between the M1 (high) and M2 (low-profile) turrets. I could justify either one—depending on my intended use—but would likely tip the scales in favor of the M2 low-profile turrets. I like sleek and easy and do not plan on many in-the-field adjustments, plus it gives the option of mounting a secondary optic for CQB such as Leupold’s DeltaPoint or the Trijicon RMR.

Trijicon ACOG

Trijicon’s ACOG goes with an AR like chocolate syrup on a sundae. ACOG’s are internally-adjustable, compact telescopic sights with tritium illuminated reticle patterns for use in low light or night conditions. The ACOG combine’s traditional, precise distance marksmanship with close-in aiming speed. Every feature of its design was chosen for a single purpose—increased hit potential under all lighting conditions.

The ACOG was built around the Bindon Aiming Concept, which revolutionized aiming, shooting and CQB by keeping both eyes open for a wider field of vision and faster target acquisition.

Trijicon ACOG with RMR
The 4.5-14×32 Timberline offers 3.75 to 5 inches of eye relief and when combined with the PEPR mount, situates the scope in the ideal position for fast target acquisition and comfortable shooting.

When considering the ACOG, I’ll offer this piece of advice. If price is a primary consideration, the ACOG is not for you. However, if your life may come down to the quality of your AR glass, ask any returning soldier from the sandbox of his or her choice. I can remember a few years back when ACOGs were in such short supply, parents were trying to buy them from the commercial market and ship it to the Gulf. Trijicon offered to send me a test model at the time and as much as I wanted one, I could not bring myself past the fact that it would mean one less from one of our fighters overseas. However, that is not a problem today and I cherish mine; but yes, it is that good.

Trijicon offers a ton of reticle options for the ACOG. Too many to cover all of them here. The Chevron is a top choice and with a little work you can learn to use it for range estimation and windage similar to a mil dot system. However, while the Chevron offers a more precise aiming point at longer ranges and range estimation, the Horseshoe reticle was designed for CQB and faster target acquisition so pick by personal preference and intended use. Color is another option; ACOGs are available with either Red or Green illumination. When asked most leans toward for the red—especially when viewed under fluorescent lights, but in practical use, particularity outdoors in bright sunlight, the green wins in my opinion.

Leupold HAMR 4×24 Riflescope

Leupold HAMR tactical riflescope
The ACOG was built around the Bindon Aiming Concept and revolutionized aiming, shooting and CQB by keeping both eyes open for a wider field of vision and faster target acquisition.

The HAMR’s ballistically matched, illuminated CM-R2 reticle is designed for the most popular tactical rounds and weapon systems. Combining the ranging ability of Leupold’s Special Purpose Reticle (SPR) with the quick acquisition of the Leupold Circle Dot Reticle, the CM-R2 provides flexibility necessary, whether you are operating on the modern battlefield or the 3-gun course.

The HAMR features an etched glass reticle that’s visible with or without illumination or batteries. Adding Leupold’s DeltaPoint red dot sight will increase the versatility of the Mark 4 HAMR by decreasing target acquisition times. Quickly shift your view from the DeltaPoint to the HAMR for instant transition from close quarter to long-range shooting.

The included Flat-Top mount is compatible with any modern rail mount system. The Mark 4 HAMR 4×24 Scope with DeltaPoint Sight—battle-tested, waterproof, soldierproof and unflinching, but backed by Leupold’s Tactical Optical Products Warranty nonetheless.

Burris 4.5-14×32 Timberline w/Fastfire II & P.E.P.R. Mount

At times you need more out of your optic than the manufacturer’s design will allow. When that happens, it is time to go Lego and build your own. The versatile nature of the AR makes it a multi-mission platform. So why would you select a single-mission optic to top it with? To be ideal, your AR optics have to be as capable on a long-range target as it will be when things hit the fan and the threat is in the same room.

Burris Timberline riflescope

There are several combinations you can opt to choose for your build, but for this demonstration, I chose Burris’ Timberline scope 4.5-14×32, Quick Detach Burris P.E.P.R. mount (with picatinny tops)  and Burris Fastfire II. (Mainly because a shooting buddy of mine is running this combination and I really like it.) Combinations such as this makes your AR as capable of dropping four-legged varmints 500 yards as the two-legged varmint variety at 10 yards.

The 4.5-14×32 Timberline offers 3.75 to 5 inches of eye relief. When combined with the PEPR mount, it situates the scope in the ideal position for fast target acquisition and comfortable shooting. The Timberline comes standard with the Ballistic Plex Reticle so it is as effective for .223 as it is over a .308.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (14)

  1. I have the Burris Timberline mounted on my Arsenal AKM. I can ring a 18×18 inch steel gong at 400 yards. The hold over reticle makes it pretty simple.
    Vortex was not mentioned but I recently purchased the Spitfire (3x) for my Sig 516 and I’m pleased as punch.
    I used to have the school of thought that you needed high magnification and Leupold VX3’s 6-18×40 fit the bill for long shots, 400+ yards, but in working with the Vortex I’ve learned that if you can see it, you can hit it, and high magnification isn’t totally necessary.
    Didn’t snipers in Nam use 10x scopes?

  2. Don’t forget the lower price scopes like a 3x12x44 compact Leapers. I’m shooting sub 1″ groups at 100 yards.

  3. There are lots of good optics from which to choose. I have the Burris AR 332 on my 16″ Bushmaster XM-15 and love it, especially inside 100 yds. If you’re setting up a CQ rifle, you should take a look at the Burris. It focuses down to about 9 ft. and acquisition is very fast with both eyes open. It’s a very good sight for the money. One thing to note: Burris had a batch of the 332’s that got through their QC with reticles slightly canted off-center so make certain you check it out before you purchase it. Burris now has a lifetime warranty and they are replacing the problem sights.

  4. if you want a decent scope set up that will cover short and medium to long range (depending on your eyesight) go with a leupold 2-7×33 set in a leupold mark 2 mount, it’s a great combination and you can shoot with both eyes open for game that is up close and on the move. scope and mount less than 300 dollars. you can also go with the leupold vx-1 4-12×40 with long range reticle that has dots on the vertical that will get you out 600 or 800 depending on how you sight in the scope and how well you know your rifle and ammunition combination, this scope is also set in a mark 2 mount made by leupold and it’s a great combination. if set to the edge of eye relief this scope can also be used with both eyes open for up close targets. scope and mount less than 400 dollars. i know they are not the latest and greatest but it was all i was willing to spend on optics and that left a bunch for ammo = more range time!

  5. Hey! I’m just say’n! I was forced to use iron sights for 13 years in the cold war including Desert Storm; so you new guys have more to contribute; but I gotta say – I’ve been killing thousands of varmints with semi- auto and some not so semi-auto black rifles for years – and I can testify that any cheap variable scope with a 4 or 6 to 10x range is acceptable. I’ve been knocking the eyes out of critters at 300 meters plus every since I was a teenager; but there is such a thing as combat survivability; so I tip the hat at youngsters that been there and done that. All I’m say’n is you can kill a target from 25m to 600meters with the right bullet, even if you are using a 5.56mm Nato rifle. It is all in bullet placement.

    As far as caliber goes – my great uncle was a great white hunter in Kenya in the 20’s, and shot everything from hippo to elephant with a 7mm Mauser – so he been there, done that in spades. About every one of these animals was charging his client or he would not of even shot. He was just saving his customer’s life. And this was with iron sights and an old WW1 military rifle.

    Just say’n.

  6. Not enough choices here!!! ACOG, BURRIS, LEUPOLD, what about a standard mil-dot scope with variable power? Those are plenty effective! It’s the shooter, not the glass!!!!!! The glass just helps us see with finer detail at greater distance; why not put that sentence in there as well, just to inform the novice/ occasional shooters so they don’t go and spend their $$ and can’t figure out why they still have random placement and groupings?

  7. Gosh, so many left out. Vortex Viper PST 1-4x, Vortex Razor HD Gen II 1-6x, Weaver Tactical 1-5x, Bushnell Elite Tactical 1-6.5x, Burris MTAC 1-4x (makes the most sense compared to his other Burris offerings), Trijicon Accupoint 1-4x, Sightron SIII 1-7x, IOR 3×25 QRTS…plus numerous low cost red dots. Most shooters prefer a variable over a fixed power optic no matter what the weapon platform. Not a very good list of optics that people actually want, esp. the Burris Timberline, way down at the bottom of the list.

  8. The article starts out with a statement indicating content was going to cover a wide range of AR types….

    I own an A1 with a carry handle, and wish to mount a removable dual purpose scope (close & long)

    I’m impressed with the HAMR 4X24 – can this be used on an A1/carry handle ?

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