Best Illuminated Reticle Scope In 2021 Reviews

Why do shooters use scopes?

To aid in target acquisition? To help with accuracy? Or to see further downrange?

Well, the answer is a solid yes to all of these.

But, there is one scope feature that will further boost both accuracy and targeting!

And surprise, surprise, it’s an illuminated reticle!

The first time I picked up an illuminated reticle scope and mounted it onto my AR, I was truly blown away by how much of a difference it made. That was years ago, and the technology has only become more advanced with time.

It has been a few years since I had a good look at what is available in the illuminated reticle scope market, so I thought it was high time I shone a light on the subject and took a long hard look at the best Illuminated reticle optics that you can buy. I’ve decided to keep this list to just the best-illuminated rifle scopes as otherwise, we would be here all week.

I’ve even added a handy buyers guide at the end of the article if you need some more in-depth info on what makes up the best illuminated reticle scopes available right now.

So, without further ado, I present to you all my top picks for scopes with an illuminated reticle!

illuminated reticle scope

Close Range Illuminated Reticle Scopes

  1. Primary Arms 3×32 Gen III Compact Prism Scope – Best Tactical Illuminated Reticle Scope
  2. Vortex OPMOD Strike Eagle 1-6×24 Limited Edition Riflescope – Most Versatile Illuminated Reticle Scope
  3. Bushnell AR Optics Riflescope 1-4×24 mm – Best Value for Money Illuminated Reticle Scope

1 Primary Arms 3×32 Gen III Compact Prism Scope – Best Tactical Illuminated Reticle Scope

What better place to kick things off than the all-new, 3rd generation of Primary Arms 3 x 32 prism scope (if you are unsure of what a prism scope is, head down to the buyers guide for a full explanation)! This prism scope is perfect for engagements under 300 yards, although the illuminated ACSS CQB 5.56 reticle is able to range to 600 yards with supersonic rounds.

Specs:

  • Objective Lens: 32 mm
  • Magnification: 3x
  • Field of View: 31.5 ft at 100 ft
  • Eye Relief: 2.7 – 2.9 in
  • Reticle: ACSS CQB 5.56
  • Illumination Type: LED
  • Illumination Color: Red
  • Battery: CR2032
  • Battery Life: 3000 Hours
  • Brightness Settings: 11
  • Total Windage and Elevation Adjustment: 60 MOA
  • Click Value: 1/4 MOA
  • Weight: 18.4 oz (521 grams)
  • Length: 2.95 in (7.4 cms)
  • Attachment/Mount Type: Picatinny

Why should you choose this scope?

Well, first up, the reticle is one of my personal favorites that is currently available on any scope. It is essentially a combination of my two favorite styles of reticles. The center point features a chevron in place of the common dot, a small feature but one definitely worth noting.

There are also hash marks that help with range estimations out to 600 yards and edge holdover points, which increase accuracy when the target is moving.

This makes this particular reticle super popular with hunters, but it is also perfect for close-quarter tactical combat. One of my friends is a SWAT officer, and he swears by this scope. The reticle is etched directly onto the prism, adding to the durability and usefulness of the scope.

Plenty of power…

In terms of illumination, there are 11 brightness settings to choose from, which are powered by the almost everlasting CR2032 battery. Primary Arms say that you should be able to squeeze at least 3000 hours of illumination out of a single battery. It’s not that I don’t believe them; it is just that I have not had the time to actually test it!

The build quality is top-notch. It features IP67-rated waterproofing, nitrogen purging to eliminate any fog issues, full aluminum chassis with matte black hard coat finish, and high-quality O-rings to keep it all sealed up.

Both eyes open…

The 31.5-foot field-of-view is combined with a generous three inches of eye relief. This scope allows for “both eyes open” shooting. Therefore, you can literally have your non-dominant eye wide open and still see clearly down the scope with your dominant eye, opening up a world of possibilities.

This is my favorite prism scope that is currently on the market and one of the best illuminated reticle scopes that money can buy!


Pros

  • 3000 hour battery life.
  • Illuminated combo BDC reticle.
  • IP67-rated.
  • Designed to last a lifetime.
  • 11 different illumination settings.
  • Both eyes open targeting.

Cons

  • The Eye relief could be a little more generous, but overall it is very hard to fault.

2 Vortex OPMOD Strike Eagle 1-6×24 Limited Edition Riflescope – Most Versatile Illuminated Reticle Scope

Have you been looking for a versatile scope that can handle both close and medium range targets with ease? A scope that looks great and performs flawlessly? Well, the Vortex OPMOD Strike Eagle 1-6×24 might be the unit for you!

Specs:

  • Objective Lens: 24 mm
  • Magnification: 1 – 6x
  • Field of View: 19.2 – 116.5 ft at 100 yds
  • Eye Relief: 3.5 in
  • Reticle: Dead-Hold BDC
  • Illumination Type: LED
  • Illumination Color: Red
  • Battery: CR2032
  • Battery Life: 242 hours
  • Total Windage and Elevation Adjustment: 140 MOA
  • Click Value: ½ MOA
  • Weight: 18.4 oz (521 grams)
  • Length: 10.5 in (26.6 cms)
  • Attachment/Mount Type: Picatinny

What sets this scope apart?

A few things, actually. As I mentioned before, the variable 1 – 6 x zoom range makes it an extremely versatile scope. Not all variable scopes work well throughout the entire zoom range, though. But that’s not the case here, with crystal clear optical vision all the way up to 6x, with little to no edge distortion of visual aberrations, which is super impressive for such a well priced scope.

The reticle is almost as good as the previous unit we looked at. Featuring an inverted horseshoe and BDC hash marks, this reticle is perfect for fast-moving targets at close range, and also for hunting or target shooting out to 350 yards. Illuminated with 11 brightness settings on offer and a 240 hour battery life. What more could you ask for?

How about the build quality?

Aging, for the price – the build quality is impressive, to say the very least. Fully water, fog, and shockproof with a high-grade aluminum chassis. I purposefully knocked my test scope about a little to see if it stayed zeroed, and I’m happy to report it passed the test easily.

But the best feature?

Well, it’s not really a feature, but the warranty is next level. The “Vortex VIP warranty” offers full coverage for the lifetime of the unit, without the need to keep any proof of purchase, no warranty card to fill out, and it’s fully transferable. Literally, any issue with the scope Vortex will sort out. Crazy! In fact, it’s probably the best warranty illuminated reticle scope for sale by any company.

Overall this is an awesome entry-level, variable zoom, illuminated reticle low powered scope. The price is extremely hard to beat, and the warranty makes the deal all the sweeter!


Pros

  • Unlimited lifetime warranty.
  • Fully multi-coated glass elements.
  • The reticle is etched and works fantastically.
  • Super generous eye relief.
  • No edge distortion.
  • Priced to please.

Cons

  • Nothing to complain about here.

3 Bushnell AR Optics Riflescope 1-4×24 mm – Best Value for Money Illuminated Reticle Scope

The Bushnell AR Optics Riflescope 1-4×24 mm is a high-performance AR scope at a ridiculously fair price. Not only does it pack in most features I look for in a low-powered variable scope, but it also does away with all the unnecessary bells and whistles that other similarly priced units seem obsessed with.

Except for one handy inclusion, that is, but more on that later!

Specs:

  • Objective Lens: 24 mm
  • Magnification: 1 – 4x
  • Field of View: 112ft @ 1X to 27ft @ 4X at 100 Yards
  • Eye Relief: 3.5 in
  • Reticle: Illuminated BDC. FFP, Etched Glass
  • Illumination Type: LED
  • Illumination Color: Red
  • Battery: CR2032
  • Battery Life: Unknown
  • Total Windage and Elevation Adjustment: 120 MOA 34.9 MIL
  • Click Value: 6 MIL
  • Weight: 1804 oz (510 grams)
  • Length: 9.4 in (238.7mm)
  • Attachment/Mount Type: Picatinny

Ok, so let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. The illuminated BDC reticle is just awesome. It is calibrated to work best with a 5.56 NATO round, and the design greatly improves accuracy out to 500 yards or so. The almost complete circle helps with quick target acquisition for close-in targets, with the center dot marking the aiming spot for up to 200 yards.

Below this center aiming spot, there are a series of hash marks that help with range estimations and targeting out to the end of the effective range. During daytime shooting, the reticle is more than obvious enough to use totally un-illuminated.

But the feature that really caught my eye here is the “Throw Down PCL (power change lever).”

What exactly does a power change lever do?

It allows the shooter to quickly and accurately change from one magnification level to another. Simply throw the lever from its start to end position and watch the magnification of the scope fly from 1x to 4 x (if that is where you have decided to set the catch points).

This is great for law enforcement officers or military personnel in open engagements, 3 gun competitors, and hunters.

The “Bushnell Lifetime Ironclad Warranty” is, well….. Pretty ironclad. There is no requirement to register your weapon or to keep the proof of purchase. The warrant is also fully transferable. Great stuff!


Pros

  • Great value for money.
  • High-quality build.
  • Throw down PCL.
  • Illuminated BDC reticle.
  • Fully weather, water, fog, and grime proof.

Cons

  • The 1x setting is actually closer to 1.3x, not a huge deal but worth noting for sure.

Medium/Long Range Illuminated Reticle Scopes

  1. Primary Arms 4-16x44mm Riflescope – Illuminated Mil-Dot Reticle – Best Affordable Long Range Illuminated Reticle Scope
  2. Burris Xtreme Tactical 4-20x50mm Illuminated Riflescope – Best Premium Illuminated Reticle Scope

1 Primary Arms 4-16x44mm Riflescope – Illuminated Mil-Dot Reticle – Best Affordable Long Range Illuminated Reticle Scope

The Primary Arms 4-16x44mm is a great place to start our look at medium to long-range illuminated scopes. This variable zoom scope covers a huge magnification range without sacrificing optical quality and does so at an extremely reasonable price.

Specs:

  • Objective Lens: 44 mm
  • Magnification: 4 – 16x
  • Field of View: Low: 26.19 ft / High: 6.98 ft at 100 yards
  • Eye Relief: Low: 3.50 in / High: 3.30 in
  • Reticle: Illuminated MIL-DOT
  • Illumination Type: LED
  • Illumination Color: Red
  • Battery: CR2032 3V Lithium Coin
  • Battery Life: Unknown
  • Total Windage and Elevation Adjustment: 30 MOA
  • Click Value: 0.25 MOA
  • Weight: 23.5 Oz (666 grams)
  • Length: 14.3 in (363 mm)

It can be hard to find great value scopes that don’t skimp on optical quality, but that is exactly what we have here. The almost total lack of distortion, even when dialed all the way up to 16x, is a sight to behold.

The illuminated MIL-DOT reticle is another big plus. It provides all the information a competition shooter or hunter could possibly need, and does so in a quick and easy-to-understand fashion.

There are a total of 12 brightness settings for the illuminated reticle – maybe a little overkill, but better to have more options than fewer. At the highest settings, there is a little bit of light bleed, which can impede the sight vision slightly, so I would recommend sticking to level 10 or less.

Is this the perfect medium to long-range illuminated for all applications?

Well, no, not really. The overall build quality is great (with every scope being inspected and quality checked at the Primary Arms facility in Houston before sale), but there is one feature that is a slight downside depending on how you shoot.

And that is the exposed, uncapped turrets. Now hear me out, they are super high quality, but for hunters or tactical users, they can be a slight burden. Although they are lockable, the fact that they come uncapped means there is a slight chance of them being nudged out of zero during day-to-day use. I do not want to overstate this, as it is not the most common occurrence, but it is a possibility and something to be aware of.

On the plus side, the turrets allow for 0.25 MOA adjustments, though, which equate to very accurate and fine changes to the hit point.

Great for competitions…

If you are a competition shooter looking for an illuminated scope for mid/long-range shooting, then definitely check this scope out! It’s probably the best affordable illuminated reticle scope for competitions on the market.


Pros

  • Huge objective lens.
  • Great optical quality.
  • Designed to last.
  • 0.25 MOA click adjustments.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.
  • Every scope quality checked stateside.

Cons

  • Uncapped turrets – not a con for every shooter.
  • Slight light bleeds at high illumination settings.

2 Burris Xtreme Tactical 4-20x50mm Illuminated Riflescope – Best Premium Illuminated Reticle Scope

The Burris Xtreme Tactical 4-20x50mm Illuminated Riflescope is not a scope for the faint of heart. This is the most expensive scope on the list by far and the most versatile, in my opinion.

Is it worth the money?

To be totally frank, yes, but it is expensive. However, in the world of high-end rifle optics, it’s actually pretty reasonably priced and justifies its price tag with some absolute stand-out features.

Specs:

  • Objective Lens: 50 mm
  • Magnification: 4 – 20x
  • Eye Relief: 3.5 to 4.25 in
  • Field of View: 5.4 – 25.8 ft @ 100 yds
  • Reticle: Illuminated SCR MOA Reticle
  • Illumination Type: LED
  • Illumination Color: Red
  • Battery: CR2032
  • Battery Life: 400 hours
  • Total Windage and Elevation Adjustment: 90 MOA
  • Click Value: 0.25 MOA
  • Weight: 30.9 oz (666 grams)
  • Length: 14.3 in (363 mm)

Since it was introduced to the marketplace in 2014, very little has changed, and that is mainly thanks to its outstanding design!

The main tube has been milled from a single piece of high-grade aircraft-rated aluminum and is 25% thicker than standard scope tubes. This is in line with the absolute highest standards for the rest of the build, giving this scope great shockproofing along with full water and fog resistance.

Crystal clear…

The index-matched, Hi-Lume® multi-coated lenses strengthen light transmission and almost totally cut any and all glare issues. The pure, unadulterated clarity throughout the entire magnification range makes this scope a dream to shoot in any situation.

However, the SCR MOA reticle can take a little getting used to. It offers a bunch of info that can be slightly overwhelming, to begin with, but once you familiarise yourself with this reticle, it becomes the scopes biggest asset.

You won’t get better…

If you are looking to take your shooting to the next level, this is the scope for you.


Pros

  • 50mm objective lens.
  • Extremely durable.
  • Fully water, fog, and grime resistant.
  • Index-matched, Hi-Lume® multi-coated lenses.
  • Huge eye relief.
  • For the price, it’s very hard to beat.

Cons

  • Price restrictive.

Best Illuminated Reticle Scope Buyers Guide

What Exactly is an Illuminated Reticle Scope?

I mean, it doesn’t take a neurosurgeon or Ph.D. candidate to work this one out, right? It simply means that the reticle, and the reticle only, is illuminated. In traditional scopes, the reticle is usually just etched or sometimes printed directly onto the glass, and this works perfectly well for shooting during daylight hours.

But, during dawn, dusk, and nighttime hours these traditional reticle setups can be hard or impossible to see. For example, a black reticle against a dark background is usually almost impossible to see. This is where having an illuminated reticle can be an absolute game-changer.

best illuminated reticle scope

Remember, having an illuminated reticle won’t enhance the brightness of the sight picture (for that, you’ll need a night vision or thermal imaging scope), but it does make locating and focusing on your target much easier in low light conditions.

Traditional vs. Prism scope

The very first thing to consider is whether a traditional scope or prism scope will suit your needs better.

But what is the difference between the two scope types? Well, quite a bit, actually!

Traditional scopes are the ones we all know and love. They use an array of glass lenses to focus and sometimes magnify the sight picture. The advantages of a traditional scope are that they:

  • Can have variable magnification ranges.
  • Are usually cheaper than prism scopes.
  • Offer more eye relief than a prism scope.

But that does not mean that prism scopes should be dismissed. In the right circumstances, they can outperform traditional scopes with ease. The advantages of a prism scope are:

  • The reticle is usually etched.
  • There are fewer internal glass pieces, just one glass prism. This is why variable zoom is not available with prism scopes.
  • They produce brighter and sharper images than most traditional scopes.
  • They use a diameter that can be altered to help with individual differences in eyesight. This makes it a perfect option for people suffering from astigmatisms or other eyesight issues.

However, prism scopes are limited to a maximum magnification of 5x, so if you are looking for a long-range scope or one that offers variable zoom, then you will have to stick to a traditional scope setup.

If you are looking for a close to medium range scope and variable zoom is not high on your wishlist, then a prism scope might suit you perfectly. In fact, lots of shooters are switching out their red-dots for prism scopes.

Magnification Range

The next thing you need to work out is what magnification range will suit your shooting needs. Are you a competition target shooter who shoots up to the 300-yard mark? Then a 3-9x scope will suit you perfectly. But, if you are a long-range hunter, this scope may not have enough range for you.

I have gone to the effort of finding the best illuminated reticle scopes for a wide range of magnifications, from unmagnified all the way up to long-range scopes, to give you the best chance of finding the right scope for your shooting.

Lens Coating Material

Almost every scope on offer will have at least some form of coating applied to the focal, objective, and ocular lenses. Not all coatings are equal, though. You want to choose a scope that has full multi-coating on all the glass surfaces.

It may seem a little counterintuitive, but the more layers of coating, the better the overall light transmission. The coating acts as a “gate,” allowing light into the scope while also stopping it from escaping. It also should also incorporate some water and dust phobic elements to ensure the glass stays clean and pure.

illuminated reticle scope reviews

Eye Relief

This refers to the maximum distance that you can seat your eye away from the rear lens while still having a clear and true look down the scope. The higher the caliber of your rifle, the larger your eye relief will need to be. This is to stop any chance of the scope hitting you in the eyeball if the recoil is too much to handle.

The minimum eye relief I look for is 3 inches (90mm), but larger numbers are a good thing in this category; I personally always insist on 3.5 inches and above.

Objective Lens Size

The objective lens is the glass at the very front of your scope. As the saying goes, “Size does matter,” and that has never been more true than when discussing objective lenses.

The larger the lens, the more light that can be transfered, the better, clearer, brighter, and more precise the sight picture will ultimately be. 40mm or above is preferred here. However, there is always a downside, and the larger the objective lens, the heavier the scope will be. Therefore, if you trek a lot while hunting, take that into account and go for a compromise.

Reticle

This may be the most personal of all of the factors that make up a great scope. Some people are happy with a simple Duplex reticle, while others demand a more complex system that provides a bunch more info on the fly.

You should make the decision on which reticle is best for you after you have decided on what sort of shooting you will be doing most. The perfect reticle for short-range target shooting is entirely different to the one for a tactical situation or long-range hunting.

If you are still unsure of which reticle is best for you, I suggest taking some time to research the options, and if at all possible, head to your local range and try those options out before you buy.

Reticle Illumination

There are multiple illumination colors available (depending on the scope you are buying), but the most common color is red. Green also makes up a large portion of the market, along with orange and blue.

Again, think about the type of shooting you will be doing most and pick the most appropriate color. Some reticles offer multiple colors, and the best ones will offer variable illumination power.

A problem with cheap illuminated reticle scopes is that they are sometimes too bright for the situation, which can be more of a hindrance than helping you out. Therefore, always choose a scope with a brightness dial.

Build Quality

This goes without saying, but every single scope you ever buy should be checked for build quality. They are precision instruments that have super low tolerances, and as such, they should be built within the range of accepted standards.

Look for hard anodized finish (matte black preferably), aircraft-grade aluminum, O-ring sealed, nitrogen or argon purged, proper waterproofing, and shockproofing.

The turrets are also an important factor to consider. What fraction of MOA per click? Capped or uncapped?

All of this should be taken into consideration before you settle on the right illuminated scope for your rifle setup.

Looking for Some More Fantastic Scope Options?

Then it’s well with taking a look at my in-depth reviews of the Best 22LR Scopes for Target Shooting, the Best Scope for Hog Hunting, Best Mini 14 Ranch Rifle Scopes, the Best Simmons Rifle Scopes, the Best Scout Scopes, the Best 308 Rifles Scopes, the Best Vortex Scopes, or the Best Ruger AR 556 Scope on the market in 2021.

Or, check out our reviews of the Best Scope for AK-47, the Best Air Rifle Scopes, the Best Scope for 6.5 Creedmoor, the Best Rimfire Scopes, the Best Handgun Scopes & Optics, the Best Scopes for AR15 under 100 Dollars, as well as the Best 300 Win Mag Scopes that you can buy.

So, What is The Best Illuminated Reticle Scope?

Well, with such a great selection, picking the overall best is quite difficult, but for shorter ranges, I have to go for the…

Bushnell AR Optics Riflescope 1-4×24 mm

I went for the Bushell because of the overall value for money, and this basically offers it all without breaking the bank. You’ll get a high-quality build, excellent durability, a fantastic Illuminated BDC reticle, a great sight picture, one of the best warranties in the industry, and don’t forget the very useful Throw down PCL. What more could you ask for?

Or, for long-range shooting, you won’t beat the…

Burris Xtreme Tactical 4-20x50mm Illuminated Riflescope

It’s expensive, but as we all know, quality comes at a cost. But for the investment, you’ll get a high-quality, extremely durable scope with a huge eye relief, that will give you sight images that will make every minute you look through it a pleasure. Highly recommended.

Happy and safe shooting!

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About William Taylor

William is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. His duties included Security Advisor/Shift Sergeant, 0341/ Mortar Man- 0369 Infantry Unit Leader, Platoon Sergeant/ Personal Security Detachment, as well as being a Senior Mortar Advisor/Instructor.

He now spends most of his time at home in Michigan with his wife Nicola and their two bull terriers, Iggy and Joey. He fills up his time by writing as well as doing a lot of volunteering work for local charities.

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