AR-10, originally developed by Eugene Stoner from ArmaLite in 1955, has become one of the most iconic firearm in American History. The AR-10 suffered from defects and marketing problem in its early phase of life. Rejected by the U.S. Military and facing financial problems, ArmaLite decided to close its operations and sold the AR-10 and AR-15 to Colt Firearms in 1959. The original developer also moved along to Colt Firearms and began improving the AR-10. Since then, the AR-10 has seen the resurgence of popularity and has become the AR-10 we know today.
The AR-10 is widely used for tactical applications and hunting. It’s also cited for long range applications. That’s because even though the 7.62×51 NATO rounds was not the best rounds for long range, there are AR-10 variants with other chamberings available. Popular alternate calibers are 6.5 Creedmoore, .260 Remington, .243 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington and more.
As you can see, the AR-10 has become one of the more versatile rifle. So, picking a scope depends highly on what you intend to do with your AR-10, be it hunting, CQB or long range shooting.
To summarize, here’s my list of the Best AR10 Scope.
Best AR10 Scope
Before we proceed to recommended optics, let’s explore characteristics that make a good AR10 scope
What makes a good AR10 scope ?
AR10 is such a versatile rifle with many variations that it can be used effectively in both long range shooting, hunting and CQB. Let’s see what magnification should go with each of these tasks.
- Hunting : 2-7x, 3-9x
- CQB : 1-4x, 1-6x
- Long range shooting : 4-12x, 4-16x or more
Note that with higher magnification, you get lower clarity, less light transmission, less field of view and mirage effect on hot days for scopes of the same price. That also means that if you want similar quality scope with higher magnification, you got to pay more.
Optics with no magnification like red dots are also good on AR10.
Objective Lens Diameter
Objective lens diameter, coupled with magnification power leads to exit pupil size. This is define by : Exit Pupil Size = Obj. Lens Diameter / Magnification Power
Too small exit pupil size leads to small sight picture through the lens. For an extreme case, imagine looking through a straw. Too large exit pupil size, meaning larger than your eye pupil by a wide margin, wasted some light as it doesn’t enter your eye.
Pick larger objective lens if you use high magnification and smaller objective lens it you use low magnification.
The downside of too big objective lens are higher price and heavier weight. In some case, it’s also higher mounts.
Glass and Lens Coating
Every quality scope needs good glass and lens coating. This is especially true on high magnification scopes with wide range of zoom. Since these are the main factor contributing to image quality and light transmission. Durability is also enhanced due to waterproofing and scratch resistance coatings.
Look for things like ED glass (Extra Low Dispersion Glass), HD glass (High Density Glass) and Fully Multi Coated lens if you can afford it.
Here are some normally quoted jargons for lens coating.
- Coated: A single layer on at least one lens surface
- Fully Coated: A single layer on all air to glass surfaces
- Multicoated: Multiple layers on at least one lens surface
- Fully Multi Coated: Multiple layers on all air to glass surfaces
That said, these lens coating jargons don’t mean much for determining quality. As high quality “coated lens” can beat low quality “Fully Multi Coated lens”. Quantity doesn’t beat quality for lens coating.
Eye Relief and Eyebox
Eye relief = Space between your aiming eye and the scope for optimal sight image
Generally, bigger eye relief means that your eye is safe from recoil. However, too much eye relief might lead to uncomfortable head and eye position. Standard eye relief for a rifle scope is 3”-4”.
Eyebox = Amount of wiggle room for your aiming eye placement
A small eyebox scope can mean less than half an inch room for optimal eye placement. When people complain about “small sweet spot”, it’s the same thing as small eyebox. This results in much slower target acquisition and frustration during field use. This issue normally magnifies itself on higher magnification scopes.
Larger tube has the advantage of added durability and larger range of internal turrets adjustments. The downside is that it’s more expensive and heavier than smaller tubes.
For long range shooting, one might need to adjust the elevation and windage a lot. So, if you intend to also shoot long range, larger tube scope is favored. Larger tubes means 30mm, 34mm or even 35mm diameter tube.
Another added benefit for bigger tube is that it normally also comes with larger objective lens, thus improving light transmission.
There are 3 main groups of reticle pattern
- Simple – Duplex, NikoPlex, V-Plex, Dot, etc.
- Mil-Dot, MOA – Crosshairs
- BDC – Bullet Drop Compensation calibrated to particular rounds
This is a matter of preference. But if you intend to also shoot long range, Simple reticles are not good enough as they provide no holdover nor distance measurement tool.
Mil-Dot and MOA type are preferred for range beyond 800 yards as most BDC reticle don’t reach beyond that range.
First Focal Plane or Second Focal Plane
First focal plane makes the reticle holdovers accurate on all magnification but is often not available on cheaper scopes. Second focal plane on the other hand, doesn’t keep up with zoom level which means the holdovers are accurate only on one magnification, mostly the highest.
First focal plane reticle is the go to choice if you intend to also shoot long range. If not pick second focal plane to save costs.
The point of illuminating the reticle is to make target acquisition faster. Because the reticle becomes easier to spot. It’s nice to have but is not a necessity.
Turrets and reticle matching
If you choose Mil-dot or MOA reticle, you would want to check whether turrets markings match the reticle. For example, a Mil-Dot reticle should go along with Mil-dot turrets. Or MOA reticle and MOA turrets. That way you don’t have to do unit conversions in the field.
If you choose other reticle type or don’t care about long range shooting, this isn’t a thing to consider.
Desirable turrets are precise and repeatable. Each click must be tactile, audible and exact as shown on the markings. Turrets should be easy enough to adjust with your fingers as you will be doing that a lot if you’re into long range shooting. But must not be too loose to prevent unintentional adjustments. Furthermore, Zero resettable and zero stops features are a plus.
Hunting style turrets often are low profile and come with caps to prevent unintentional adjustment especially when out hunting. Target (shooting) style turrets are high profile without caps. This makes adjusting on the fly easier.
For your AR-10, it depends on what’s your main purpose for it.
Parallax adjustment is necessary for long range shots. It help reduce the need to perfectly align your eye to the scope and raise the odds for precision shots. Preferred position is the side knob for ease of use.
That said, if you don’t shoot beyond 250 yards, there’s no need for parallax adjustment.
The ability to hold zero, precise turrets adjustment over time, lens and body durability are essential for any scopes. Furthermore, the scope must be able to endure the harsh field environment, such as extreme temperature, water submersion and a healthy amount of force.
In addition, reliable manufacturer’s warranty goes a long way to ensure usability of a scope. This aspect also helps maintain reasonable price when selling the scope in second hand market.
For most people, a tactical looking scope would fit the AR-10 much better than non-tactical ones.
1. Steiner P4Xi Riflescope, 1x-4x24mm
The American made Steiner P4Xi glass and image quality is top notch. It’s crisp and clear on all magnification. Plus, it works very well with both eyes open on 1x much like a red dot. This means unlimited field of view and eye relief. It is a choice for CQB use.
The P3TR reticle functions well at drawing your eye. It’s thicker on the outside and becomes thinner once closer to the center. Furthermore this reticle can be illuminated with 11 power settings. It’s daylight bright and has 2 power level being night vision compatible. Between each power settings are off positions, making it very easy to turn on and off at the predetermined brightness level. And in the event that the battery dies, you can still see the black reticle.
There are Civilians and Law Enforcement version. The difference is just the built in throw lever on the magnification ring in Law Enforcement version. For me, the zoom ring is smooth enough to adjust with your fingers but a throw lever really makes it easy to adjust on the fly.
Turrets are accurate and repeatable. However, the clicks are mushy and could use some improvements. Furthermore, they are not zero resettable and have no zero stop features.
This optics is very well made and is durable for all field conditions. It also comes with reliable and transferable warranty from Steiner Optics
|✓ High quality glass||✗ Slightly mushy turrets|
|✓ True 1x, Can be used with both eyes open||✗ Not zero resettable|
|✓ Easy to use daylight bright illuminated reticle||✗ No zero stops|
|✓ Night vision compatible||✗ High price|
|✓ Precise and repeatable turrets|
|✓ Made in USA|
|✓ Reliable Transferable Lifetime Warranty|
Price : $$$$
2. Vortex Optics Diamondback 4-12×40 – Dead-Hold BDC Reticle
This Vortex Diamondback is a budget long range option for the AR-10. The glass is not as good as higher priced optics. Image on lower magnification from 4-9x is good but beyond that it gets a bit blurry especially on the edges. That said, it would suffice for range out to 600 yards. It is good in low light if you dial the magnification down to 4-6x.
Reticle featured is the Dead Hold BDC, which gives you 3 hashmarks for the elevation drop. It can be used for approximate holdovers of the AR-10 out to 650 yards, but if you want exact yardages, use Vortex Long Range Ballistic Calculator in Vortex website or try the Strelok App. Another thing is that this is a Second Focal Plane scope. This makes the BDC usable only on highest magnification.
The turrets are easy to adjust with ¼ MOA per click. It’s precise to a degree and come with turret caps to prevent unintentional adjustment. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have parallax knob which helps a lot in long range shooting.
Eye relief is 3” which is a bit small. Plus the eyebox is also rather small. Durability is good and will hold zero to recoils of 7.62×51 rounds. It’s also shockproof, fogproof and waterproof. Lastly, Vortex gives Lifetime Warranty for this scope which is considered very reliable and transferable.
|✓ Clear glass||✗ A bit blurry on high magnification|
|✓ BDC reticle||✗ No parallax adjustment|
|✓ Durable with reliable warranty||✗ Second Focal Plane|
Price : $$
3. Primary Arms 4-14 X 44 FFP Scope ACSS HUD .308 BDC Reticle
The Primary Arms 4-14×44 is designed for affordable tactical and long range shooting. The ACSS HUD BDC reticle is a combination of BDC and Mil-Dots. Plus it has an illuminated reticle which is still visible in black when battery runs out.
Magnification power of 4-14x is enough for long range shooting. And 44mm objective makes low light shooting on high magnification possible. Image quality is clear and crisp on all power.
At this price, it is very challenging to make a First Focal Plane scope. But Primary Arms does it. This optics is built on a 30mm tube, which makes it more durable. The turrets are precise and repeatable. Each click is just 0.1 Mil and have internal adjustments of 30 Mil which is quite generous. However, the clicks feel a bit mushy and could use some improvements. The turrets are also zero resettable with an Allen wrench but no zero stop function. The scope also features side parallax adjustment.
Eye relief is a bit small at 3.14″ – 3.22″. But it’s not a big deal as long as heavy recoil rounds are not used.
The downside are that the Primary Arms is heavy (24 ounce) and has only 3 year warranty. This Primary Arms hold zero up to .308 caliber and is waterproof, fogproof and shockproof.
|✓ Very nice reticle with illumination||✗ A bit small eye relief|
|✓ Good image quality on all magnification||✗ Heavy|
|✓ First Focal Plane||✗ Slightly mushy turrets|
|✓ Precise, repeatable and zero resettable turrets||✗ 3 years warranty|
|✓ Wide range of 0.1 Mil turrets adjustment|
|✓ Has parallax adjustment|
Price : $$$
4. Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6×24 – AR-BDC Reticle
The Vortex Strike Eagle is one of the more affordable choice for CQB. It certainly isn’t the cheapest, but may very well be the most value for the money 1-6x scope.
Its glass and lens coating is not on par with the Steiner P4Xi. But it works very well for its price and is satisfying for most users. The scope is not a true 1x, maybe 1.1x. That said it still works very well with both eyes open and has minimal fisheye effect. Furthermore, the optics has generous field of view. A downside is that eyebox is rather small at high magnification.
The scope features the AR-BDC reticle which is calibrated to match the 5.56mm cartridge. However for 1-6x scope, it isn’t meant to shoot at very long range and the BDC won’t matter much. Plus, this scope is a second focal plane scope, which means the reticle holdovers will only work on 6x.
Illuminated reticle has 11 brightness settings which works well in most situations. However, even on the highest settings the reticle washes out a bit on bright sunny days. Note that you can use the non-illuminated black reticle instead which is clear and visible even when battery runs out.
Turrets are accurate and repeatable. Each click stands for ½ MOA which is the norm for 1-6x scopes. One outstanding thing about the turrets is large internal adjustment range of 140 MOAs.
It weighs 17.6 ounce which is a bit heavy. Overall durability is good. The optics is rugged and well-made. It can withstand heavy recoil caliber and do well in field environments. Plus Vortex VIP warranty is one of the best out there in the market. It’s fully transferable, hassle free and covers electronics.
|✓ Nice glass for the price||✗ Illuminated reticle washes out in bright daylight|
|✓ Works nicely with both eyes open||✗ Rather heavy (17.6 oz)|
|✓ Wide FOV||✗ Slight fisheye effect|
|✓ Large internal turrets adjustment range||✗ Small eyebox at high magnification|
|✓ Able to see black reticle even if battery is out||✗ Second Focal Plane|
|✓ Durable, waterproof, fogproof and shockproof and handles recoil well|
|✓ Vortex lifetime unconditional warranty|
Price : $$$
5. ATN X-Sight II 3-14x/50mm Smart Day & Night Rifle Scope
We’re living in the digital age and I think digital rifle scopes are going to get better and cheaper by the day. Today I recommend ATN X-Sight, an affordable but still a bit expensive digital rifle scope.
The ATN X-Sight II is a feature rich scope with night vision feature. With an IR illuminator, you can shoot accurately out to 600 yards in the middle of the night. Image quality is very good. Plus it has easy-to-use built in ballistic calculator and rangefinder which calculates holdovers point for you automatically. Furthermore, you has various reticle sizes and colors to choose from.
The ability to take videos and video streaming during your shots are great to have. This makes sharing memory with your friends a simpler thing to do. The Recoil Activated Video could use some improvements as smaller rounds might not activate the recording video camera. Note that the video looks better on lower magnification.
Things to complain are that it consumes huge amount of batteries. With 4 AA batteries using every function, bluetooth, wifi, video, gps, geotagging, etc., you get only 10 minutes. You can fix this with a battery pack, but that will increase to its already bulging weight of 34.4 ounce.
Durability is good with this scope and it will hold zero on .308 rounds. There are some defect cases but ATN fix this by offering 2 years warranty for this digital optics. Not great warranty but acceptable for digital products.
|✓ Good image quality||✗ Heavy (34.4 oz)|
|✓ Digital rifle scope||✗ Battery intensive|
|✓ Night vision optics||✗ 2 years warranty|
|✓ Built-in ballistic calculator and rangefinder|
|✓ Built-in Video Recorder and streaming|
Price : $$$$$
Hopefully, one of the scopes recommended would fit your needs. In my opinion, if your AR10 intended use is CQB, the Steiner PX4i would do the perfect job as you can use both eyes shooting effectively. Plus it has very high quality glass that only the most picky will complain.
For people who wants to go long range, the Primary Arms 4-14×44 offers an affordable First focal plane scope with a very useful patented BDC with Mil-Dot reticle.
If you’re looking for something fun and interesting, the ATN X-Sight II 3-14x/50mm could do wonders as it is a digital rifle scope with no elevation nor windage turrets. Furthermore it has digital night vision technology with ballistic calculator and streaming videos.