The Best Optics for Your AR

From CQB to nighttime animal control to extreme long range shooting, having the right optic on your AR makes all the difference.

Brad Fitzpatrick


I’m often asked which optic is the best for an AR, and that’s a topic I love because it offers me a platform to explain just how versatile black guns can be. AR carbines and pistols are light and compact, and that makes them perfect for close-quarters defensive work. In addition, they’re great for mid-range shooting, everything from 20 to 200 yards. But the reach of the AR extends far beyond that distance, out to 800 or even 1,000 yards. They’re great for hunting, home defense, and competition shooting. In short, your AR can do just about anything.

That is, if you select the right optic. There are a bunch of choices for AR shooters, but here’s a quick guide to some of the best scopes, lasers, and reflex sights based on what you plan to do with your rifle.


Reflex sights are a great option when shooting CQB-style or when on the move.


Close Range: For everything out to 100 yards, I like a reflex sight. That’s because they’re compact, lightweight, and they offer a clear both-eyes-open aiming point. The red dot is the fastest and most flexible sight for shots out to 100 yards, and they perform well even beyond that range, but if the bulk of your shots in the field or in competition are closer than a hundred steps, a reflex or red dot is your best option because magnification can be a hindrance (ever tried to take a snapshot when your scope was on 9x?)  On a recent helicopter hog eradication shoot in Texas I used the Trijicon SRS (sealed reflex sight) with great results, but the company’s newest offering, the MRO, is another superb choice. Likewise, Burris’s AR-F3 combines a lightweight, durable FastFire III optic with their durable AR-F3 mount, which allows the sight to sit low and has metal “wings” that protect it. For budget reflex sights, it’s hard to beat the economical Bushnell First Strike, which offers an easy-to-see 5 MOA dot. One other option is a laser sight like the Crimson Trace MVF-515, which has a light and laser. It’s great for moderate-range shooting, and if you have night vision equipment you can opt for the IR module.


Moderate distance shooting made much easier with a variable-zoom scope.


Moderate Range: I consider moderate range anything from muzzle tip to a quarter mile. As previously stated, if my shots are under a hundred, I want a light, compact, reflex sight for fast shooting. If, however, I want to extend my rifle’s range I want the option of magnification. One of the best options is EOTech’s Holographic Hybrid Sight II, which combines an EXPS-2 holographic sight with a G33.STS magnifier. The EXPS-2 holographic sight offers all the benefits of a reflex sight, and you’ve got the option (the magnifier swings in and out of the line of view as needed) for instant 3X magnification. If you’re looking for a standard optic, pay attention to low-power variables like the Trijicon VCOG in 1-6×24. I like this sight a lot because it offers a first focal plane reticle (which maintains constant size relative to the target and aids in aiming) and it doesn’t require scope mounts. Leupold’s Mark AR MOD 1 1.5-4×20 is another great option, and it features a compact, durable design with Firedot illumination and stadia lines. Yet another great (and affordable) option is Nikon’s M 223 1-4×20 BDC 600 scope, which has holdover points out to 600 yards for 55 grain polymer-tipped loads. It also has zero reset turrets, another bonus when shooting at various ranges.


A large main tube body is important for light transmission, helping you hit that gong way downrange.


Long Range: The long-range AR is really a specialized platform, and if you are serious about banging steel way downrange you need to invest in top-shelf glass. For starters, a 30 or 34 mm main body tube makes sense; a good 30mm scope gives you more internal adjustment capabilities for making longer shots, and 34s are better still. You can select either MOA or Milrad reticles based on how you prefer to shoot, but be sure that you get good, clear glass. Other options like a zero-stop are nice when you’re trying to hit a target at a great distance.

Burris’s Veracity has performed well for me, and it’s available in magnification ranges from 2-10 to 5-25. The Veracity has Progressively Thick Crosshairs, which narrow toward the center for rapid target acquisition at higher magnification. The Leupold VX-6 offers extremely clear glass, 30mm tubes, a 6x zoom ratio and T-MOA reticle, which has 1 MOA stadia lines and can be used for range estimations. The VX-6 line is available in a variety of magnifications, from 3-18x all the way to 7-42x! Nightforce’s ATACR line is also excellent, with first focal plane reticles, .25 MOA/.1 Mil-Rad click values and magnifications ranging from 4-16x to 5-25x.

The Politics of Gun Control

What candidates—and statistics—say about gun violence in America.

With the 2016 presidential election on the horizon, candidates from both parties have developed stances on gun control and Second Amendment rights. As you might imagine, these stances vary greatly, and the recent Democratic debate sparked controversy over gun rights in America. Of particular interest to candidates on both sides of the debate were “assault” weapons bans, magazine restrictions, and universal background checks.

At the forefront of the debate was the notion of an “assault” weapons ban. Both Martin O’Malley and Hillary Clinton support legislation that bans or severely limits the sale of “assault” weapons, but the very term “assault weapon” is ambiguous and could open the door to the regulation of a wide variety of firearms. The sale of machine guns, short-barreled shotguns and a variety of other weapons has been regulated since the 1934 National Firearms Act, and today most candidates use the term to describe semiautomatic weapons like AR-15s. But the NRA-ILA contends that banning these firearms would have little effect on crime rates and would unfairly restrict American citizens from purchasing firearms designed for hunting, sport shooting and home defense.


photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque


“ ‘Assault weapon’ is the term that gun control supporters use to malign general-purpose rifles like the AR-15,” says the NRA-ILA website. “Americans now own five million AR-15s, the number is growing by several hundred thousand annually, and the nation’s murder rate is down by more than half since 1991. They’re commonly used for home defense, sports (such as the NRA’s National Defense Match, NRA High Power, and Three-Gun), and hunting.”

The increase in the number of state-issued concealed carry permits and a growing number of right-to-carry laws has coincided with a significant drop in U.S. homicides—a fact rarely addressed when stricter gun control laws are being pushed.

“Forty-two states have Right-to-Carry laws, and 48 states prohibit cities from imposing gun laws more restrictive than state law,” says the NRA-ILA. “From 1991 to 2012, the total violent crime rate declined  49% to a 42-year low, and the murder rate declined by 52% to a 49-year low.”

pew research gun crime reduction

Magazine restrictions, often erroneously referred to as “clip restrictions” by gun control advocates, are recommended by O’Malley, Clinton and others. Many self-defense handguns have magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, and these firearms would, under these proposed laws, be considered unlawful to own. But the NRA contests that magazine restrictions are not an effective means by which to control gun violence but rather another restriction that is aimed at gun owners and manufacturers.

“Most modern ammunition magazines designed for defensive purposes hold more than 10 rounds for handguns and 20 or more rounds for rifles,” says the NRA-ILA. “Not surprisingly, gun control supporters who claim that firearms aren’t useful for defensive purposes, claim that such magazines are also not useful for defense, but are instead only useful to criminals. The congressionally-mandated study of the federal ‘large’ magazine ban of 1994-2004 found that such magazines had only rarely been used in crime, a subsequent study found that revolvers were more associated with criminal gun injuries than semi-automatic pistols, and the official report on the Virginia Tech shooting concluded that a 10-round magazine limit would have not made much difference in the outcome of the crime. Americans own well over 100 million ‘large’ magazines and the nation’s murder rate is nearly at an all-time low.”

The issue of background checks has also taken center-stage in 2015, and several candidates are pushing for “more thorough” checks. But according to the NRA’s findings, background checks are not an effective means by which to control violence but rather a further restriction on gun owners. Current federal law requires anyone who purchases a firearm to be screened through the National Instant Criminal Background Check, or NICS, and felons are currently prohibited from owning firearms.

“Gun control supporters demand that sales and trades of firearms that don’t involve dealers be subject to NICS as well,” says the NRA-ILA. “They claim that such a law would prevent criminals from getting guns, but most criminals obtain guns from theft, the black market, or ‘straw purchasers’—people who can pass a background check and who buy guns for criminals. Furthermore, none of the high-profile crimes that they cite involved guns bought without a background check.”

The rights of America’s estimated 100 million gun owners are at stake, and legislation that, in effect, restricts or limits gun owners and does little to address the root causes of violence, serves little purpose in making American streets safer. The notion that purported “gun control” measures will help make the United States a more secure nation has not been backed by statistical evidence. It’s more important, then, that American gun owners understand that our rights as citizens must be preserved and that other significant issues in our culture like concerns over mental health are need to be addressed immediately. Taking firearms out of the hands of American citizens is not the answer to decreasing violence and preserving our rights.


-Brad Fitzpatrick


October 22, 2015