The Best Illuminated Reticle Scopes in 2020

One major reason why you would even put a scope on your rifle is that it is a big help in making the process of aiming at your target a lot easier. With that in mind, you should avoid using just a regular scope.

If you want target acquisition to be a breeze, use an illuminated reticle scope. With this in your arsenal, your prey will not stand a chance against you. However, remember that there are so many different scopes currently available and you can’t expect all of them to fit your needs the way you think they would.

best illuminated scope for the money

You need to find the best illuminated reticle scope that does not only fit your needs but also your budget. It helps to start your search with our top 7 illuminated riflescope options.

Quick Answer: The 7 Best Illuminated Reticle Scopes for 2020

  1. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-9×50 V-Brite Illuminated MOA Reticle Riflescope
  2. Athlon Optics Argos BTR 6-24×50 Illuminated ATMR MOA Reticle Riflescope
  3. Primary Arms 4-16×44 Illuminated MIL-DOT Reticle Riflescope
  4. Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24mm Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Riflescope
  5. Trijicon ACOG 3.5×35 Illuminated Reticle Riflescope
  6. Leupold VX-R 4-12x50mm Riflescope
  7. Nikon Black X1000

First, let’s take a look at the top-rated illuminated scopes, then we’ll talk about how to choose the right one for you in our buying guide below.

Best Illuminated Reticle Scope Reviews of 2020

#1 Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-9×50 V-Brite Illuminated MOA Reticle Riflescope

Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-9x50 V-Brite Illuminated MOA Reticle RiflescopeThe Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-9×50 V-Brite Illuminated MOA Reticle Riflescope is one of the best illuminated scopes available because it has a bright reticle that can help you aim even at extremely low light conditions. I think that this capability is also because of its forgiving eye box.

I like the fact that this scope uses a second focal point reticle. This means that the reticle will remain the same size even when you zoom in on your target. This allows for faster target acquisition and locking onto the target. This illuminated scope for crossbow or rifles is great in case you engage in deer hunting or coyote hunting.

It is because those scenarios require you to make quick decisions on the fly or else you will be in big trouble. Crossfire II also uses V-Brite illumination technology. This makes the reticle not only bright but also makes its contrast better from the dark background.

This makes it much easier to aim at your target. I think this is especially useful when you are night hunting or hunting for predators who might charge at you without a moment’s notice.

The one thing that I didn’t like about the Vortex Optics Crossfire II, and with all the Vortex scopes in general, is that their quality controls are hit-or-miss affairs. Some people complained of getting an inferior quality lighted reticle scope while others claimed that their scopes worked perfectly out of the box.
Pros
  • The bright reticle illumination helps with target acquisition at low light conditions.
  • Excellent weatherproofing and fog-proofing capabilities
  • Long eye relief ideal for scout rifles
  • Holds zero quite well
  • Very affordable price
Cons
  • Quality control is slightly lacking
Even though the quality of the Crossfire II illuminated rifle scope is not that reliable as there is a chance that you might get a defective product, it still is quite a good illuminated scope for the money. If you do not have that large of a budget but you want an illuminated scope, then the Crossfire II is the best choice.

#2 Athlon Optics Argos BTR 6-24×50 Illuminated ATMR MOA Reticle Riflescope

Athlon Optics Argos BTR 6-24x50 Illuminated ATMR MOA Reticle RiflescopeFinding a good scope with a great first focal point reticle is hard enough but note that searching for FFP rifle scopes with illuminated reticle that is under $500 is even harder. However, your search might just be over with the Athlon Optics Argos BTR, which is one of the best options for an illuminated reticle rifle scope currently available.

As mentioned, the Argos BTR has a reticle etched on the first focal plane of the scope. What this means for those who are beginners when it comes to optics is that the reticle will enlarge and shrink along with the magnification settings of the scope.

FFP scopes allow the shooter to quickly estimate elevation and windage because the markings on the reticle scale up or down depending on the magnification. This is best for high-stress shooting situations.

I only have a small gripe, though, and that is the image gets a bit cloudy at maximum magnification. On the other hand, the image is still quite clear and serviceable, making it the best illuminated reticle scope for the money. You can still use the foggy image to make an accurate shot on your target but it could have been better.

The good news is that on other magnification settings, the image is crystal clear, thanks to its special anti-reflective lens coating.
Pros
  • The reticle is etched onto the lens, making it more stable.
  • Turrets can revert to their original position without losing zero
  • Equipped with a specialized lens coating that increases light transmission and eliminates reflection
  • Argon-purged tube for optimal waterproofing and fog-proofing structure
  • Competitive pricing
Cons
  • The somewhat cloudy image at maximum magnification
Even though there is an issue with the slight blurring of the image, this is an almost perfect lighted scope. The illuminated FPP reticle helps in target acquisition. Furthermore, it is considered by many as the best budget illuminated reticle scope because it can compete with some scopes that cost over a thousand dollars.

#3 Primary Arms 4-16×44 Illuminated MIL-DOT Reticle Riflescope

Primary Arms 4-16x44 Illuminated MIL-DOT Reticle RiflescopeA lighted reticle rifle scope that is great for short-range and long-range shooting is hard to come by but there are times when you are lucky enough to stumble upon such a scope. Now is just one of those times. The Primary Arms 4-16×44 is probably the one scope that you will ever need or want.

I think it is a perfect scope whether you will be using it for 30-06 rifles, or for 30-30 rifles, or even for 270 rifles. First of all, this best value illuminated scope has a mil-dot reticle. This means that you can easily use it for both short and long-range shooting, regardless of the weather condition.

Moreover, the reticle is illuminated, which, I noticed, is the main reason why it can supply you with a high contrast reticle. With this, expect to have an easier time picking out your target even when it is trying to hide. The reticle is positioned at the second focal point.

In other words, the reticle will stay the same size regardless of the magnification of the scope. This is ideal for long-range shooting as it allows easier calculation of elevation and windage. The thing that I did not like about it, though, is that the mil-dot is too small.

You cannot see it unless it is illuminated. If you want to see the mil-dot when placed against a black background, like that of a range target, you need to crank up the illumination quite high.
Pros
  • The mil-dot reticle allows for most short and long-range needs.
  • Highly accurate up to 200 yards, maybe even more
  • Easy to use turrets that reset to zero
  • Affordable price
  • Top-notch customer service from Primary Arms
Cons
  • The lens is not that clear while the lens cap feels cheap and prone to breaking off.
The issue with the mil-dot being too small is just me being nit-picky. This is mostly subjective as some people might appreciate the smaller mil-dot. If you are looking for an affordable scope that you can use for long-range shooting as well as for mid-range, the Primary Arms 4-16×44 is suitable for you.

#4 Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24mm Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Riflescope

Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24mm Illuminated BTR-1 BDC RiflescopeThe Bushnell AR Optics BTR-1 is yet another quality product to ever come from Bushnell. This time it is a 1-4x illuminated scope that is compatible with most hunting rifles and certain assault rifles.

This illuminated AR scope has numerous valuable and fully functional features. However, most of them have their uses, unlike others where the extra features are all but meaningless.

This scope for AR 15 and other ARs has the exclusive Bushnell Throw Down PCL (Power Change Lever), which allows the user to quickly change the scopes magnification whenever needed. You do not have to fiddle with the settings to get the magnification you needed.

The reticles of the BTR-1 rimfire illuminated scope are brightly illuminated so you can make accurate shots up to 500 yards. There are also 11 levels of illumination so you can tone down the illumination if you want or crank it up to the brightest.

However, as great as Bushnell’s illuminated scope for hunting are, the BTR-1 has some flaws. The mil-dot at 1x magnification is pretty hard to see if you do not turn on the illumination and the scope as a whole feels quite heavy for its size.
Pros
  • The Throw Down PCL is easy and a joy to use.
  • Illuminated reticles for high-contrast target acquisition
  • Specifically designed with AR users in mind
  • Nice price point
  • Durable and highly accurate
Cons
  • The scope is a bit on the heavy side.
The weight is not that big of a problem. If you are looking for a low-powered scope under $1000, but with a lot of usable features and benefits then the BTR-01 is your best bet. The benefits that you can get from this far outweigh the cons that this scope happens to have, especially if you consider its low price point.

#5 Trijicon ACOG 3.5×35 Illuminated Reticle Riflescope

Trijicon ACOG 3.5x35 Illuminated Reticle RiflescopeThe problem with most illuminated reticle scopes is that they run out of batteries quite fast but this is not a problem when you use the Trijicon ACOG. I think it is mainly because it does not have any batteries to speak of. The reticle is illuminated using a fiber-optic cable that makes use of any available ambient light.

Even in low-light conditions, I noticed that the fiber optic cable is so efficient at gathering light that you can still see the reticle clearly. If you want the best illuminated rifle scope, you should get the one that has been used in many armed conflicts and this is exactly the case with ACOG.

No other variable magnification scope has seen as much combat like this one, mainly because you do not have the option of time to replace the batteries of your scope when you are in the middle of a warzone. I liked that the ACOG can be used for CQB with the Bindon Aiming Concept, otherwise known as aiming with both your eyes open.

This is what this scope is designed for, making it great for competitions, as well as for hunting big game. The only complaint that I have about the ACOG is that the reticles get too bright when the scope is used in broad daylight.

When used in pitch black, the reticles are barely visible. It needs a bit of light to become visible.
Pros
  • Does not need batteries
  • Can be used with both eyes open
  • Ideal for use in CQB
  • The reticle is quite useful for both short and long-range shooting.
  • Promotes clarity
Cons
  • The reticle gets too bright when it is sunny outdoors.
The issue with the reticle, when used during a sunny day, is easily remedied. There is a reason why this scope is the most widely used by the Armed Forces because it is utilitarian and it is not reliant on batteries to light up its reticle. If you want to find out what all the fuss about this scope is, you should give it a try for yourself.

#6 Leupold VX-R 4-12x50mm Riflescope

Leupold VX-R 4-12x50mm RiflescopeThe Leupold VX-R is one of the best rifle scopes currently available and quite evident. However, what sets it apart from other scopes is its unique illuminated reticle system. One such feature is that the illumination system will turn off automatically when there is no activity after five minutes.

It also has something called Twilight Light Management System that provides the scope with ten extra minutes of glassing light even after the batteries have run out. The main tube of the scope’s body is made out of a single piece of aircraft-grade aluminum. It is also purged with nitrogen to ensure that the scope is fully waterproof and fog-proof.

I also like how solidly built it is. It is so solid that it can take quite a lot of punishment and it still will not lose its zero. Another thing that I liked about the Leupold VX-R is that it is 100% American-made. Although some say and believe that the tag “made in America” no longer has as much weight as it used to, that is not the case with Leopold’s.

Yes, they are a bit on the expensive side but you can be sure that you are getting more than your money’s worth with it.
Pros
  • Bright illuminated reticle for all light conditions
  • Completely waterproof and fog-proof
  • A high degree of shock-proofing capability
  • Completely designed and made in the USA
  • Automatically turns off the illumination system
Cons
  • A bit on the expensive side
As mentioned earlier, Leupold scopes are a bit expensive but they are more than worth the money that you will be spending on them. When you buy a Leupold VX-R, you will be getting one of the best illuminated scopes that have ever come into the market and it will be a worthy addition to your arsenal.

#7 Nikon Black X1000  

Nikon Black X1000 The Black X1000 is one of the top-of-the-line scopes that are made by Nikon and by far, it is also the most sought after. Nikon has always been one of the top optics makers in the world and their bestseller, as of the moment, is the Nikon Black X1000 tactical scope.

The thing I liked about this particular scope is that there are many different reticles you can choose from and all of them are glass etched onto the lens for maximum accuracy. The reticles are also brightly illuminated so that the scope can still be used effectively even in low lighting conditions.

I like the consistent eye relief of this Nikon illuminated scope, too, because it plays a major role in keeping your brow safe. Furthermore, expect this scope’s exposed turrets to maximize readability as they are engraved. This also promotes smooth adjustments that you can easily and conveniently repeat.

The turrets are also beneficial because they allow crisp and precise adjustments. Moreover, they easily reset back to zero. The scope also has a side-mounted parallax adjustment for fine-tuning your shots.

One flaw, though, is the somewhat imperfect alignment on the turrets’ markings.
Pros
  • Choice of two different reticles
  • Consistent and safe eye relief
  • The turrets are easy to adjust
  • Has a parallax adjustment knob
  • Ideal for low lighting conditions
Cons
  • The markings on the turrets do not line up perfectly
The issue about the marks not lining up is a bit on the nit-picky side. You will only notice it when you look too closely and it does not affect the functionality by that much anyway unless you are a trained sniper. In any case, if you are looking for a top of the line scope that will not hurt your budget then this is the one that you need to check out.

Buying Guide

What is an Illuminated Reticle Scope?

When you say a scope is illuminated, that does not mean that the sight picture is automatically brightened and clear even when it is dark outside. The only thing that gets illuminated in these scopes are the reticles and for most rifle owners, that is more than enough.

Regular rifle scopes have reticles that are etched onto the lens of the scope, which is nice enough if you were only going to use the rifle for plinking or just shooting in an indoor range. However, hunting would require you to get out of your comfort zone and maybe even shoot with less than ideal lighting.

An illuminated scope might not make the surroundings bright (this is not the same as a night-vision scope) but it does the next best thing, it makes your reticle glow. If you have tried to aim at a dark background using a black reticle then you know just how hard it is.

Now, if you were to do the same, but with an illuminated scope, the backlit reticle will stand out against the dark, making it easy to aim.

Illuminated Reticle Scope vs Non-Illuminated Reticle Scope

illuminated reticle scope vs non-illuminated reticle scope

Which do you think is better between illuminated and non-illuminated scopes? Well, it is all a matter of preference. Both types of scopes have their advantages and disadvantages over each other, it will be up to you whether to choose one over the other. The advantages of illuminated scopes over non-illuminated scopes include:

  • Provide better visibility in low-light conditions
  • When illumination is turned off for well-lit conditions, the reticle is much thinner.
  • Draw your eye to the center of the reticle faster

The disadvantages of illuminated scopes, on the other hand, are the following:

  • The scope needs to use batteries
  • The scope is much heavier than regular scopes

If you can manage to overlook the minor inconveniences that they have, you should get an illuminated reticle. Yes, they are more expensive and are a bit heavier than conventional scopes but their benefits trump their disadvantages.

What Makes a Great Illuminated Reticle Scope?

best illuminated scope

There are many different illuminated scopes in the market these days but not all of them provide the kind of benefits that you might be expecting. You need to know what makes a great illuminated scope so that you will get an idea of what to look for when you are out shopping for one.

First, the best kind of scope is the one that is fit for your rifle. Before looking for a scope, you need to know what magnification power you need for your rifle. Although technically you can mount any scope on your rifle, even an overpowered one if you like, you can’t still fully utilize the full potential of the scope if it is not suitable for your rifle’s required magnification. In times, they might even handicap your shooting.

Now that you have the right magnification, you then need to choose your preferred reticle design. If you are a beginner at shooting rifles, you should choose the simple designs like the Duplex, or the German No.2 reticles. They are the generic crosshairs.

Factors to Consider when Buying an Illuminated Reticle Scope

best illuminated reticle scope

When you are out shopping for an illuminated scope, you need to take into consideration several things to ensure that you are getting the right one. Here are just some of them:

Objective lens

The objective lens is the one that you can find at the front of the scope. This is responsible for letting in as much light as possible. The bigger the objective lens, the more light gets into the scope and the clearer the sight image becomes.

Lens coating

This is the anti-reflective film that is applied to both the objective and focal lens. This film acts as a one-way mirror. Light can go in but it will not be reflected outwards.

The more layers of film are used, the better the light transmission will be. You should look for a scope that is labeled as fully multi-coated. This means that both the objective and focal lenses have multiple coatings of anti-reflective film.

Reticle

The reticle is the design of the crosshair or the design that you see when you peek into the scope. For beginner shooters and short-range shooting, the best choice is the simple Duplex reticle.

This is the typical crosshair that comes to mind when you think about crosshairs. This type of crosshair is the easiest to understand and use, as there are already markings for windage and bullet drop.

Reticle illumination

This is the bread and butter of the scope that you are building. The illumination makes the reticle even more visible. You can choose from different colors of illumination, including red, orange, green, and other bright colors.

You need to choose the reticle illumination that you are comfortable using. Also, if you can afford to get a scope that has adjustable illumination, go get one.

Eye relief

The eye relief is the maximum distance between your eye and the focal lens of the scope that can still provide you with a clear sight picture. You need a long eye relief, like 6-inches or so, if your rifle has a lot of recoil because if not, the scope might kick back and it might hit you in the eye.

It is also important to have a long eye relief, especially if you will be mounting the scope up in front of the rifle. This will prevent it from interfering with the action, like on a scout rifle.

Weatherproofing

If you will be using the scope for hunting, which is the reason why many people choose illuminated scopes, then you need to make sure that it can handle the great outdoors.

You can never tell when the weather can turn for the worse when you are out hunting. It might be clear one minute and then drenching rain the next. The scope that you need to buy should be one that is not just waterproof. It is also important for it to be dustproof and fog-proof as this shows its sturdiness.

With all the factors mentioned above taken into great consideration, finding the best illuminated reticle scope will not be that hard at all. Do keep in mind that your personal shooting preferences will trump any of the tips that are mentioned above. Find out what you specifically need as this can help you find one that is compatible with it.

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Conclusion

An illuminated reticle scope might be heavier and more expensive than regular, non-illuminated scopes but it is still worth more than the compromise. Illuminated reticles make it a whole lot easier for you to aim using the scope. It is mainly because it is much easier to see the crosshairs when they are lit up.

If this is your first time to buy an illuminated scope or any scope for that matter, you need to make sure that you are making the right choice because illuminated scopes are quite expensive. You need to make sure that you invest in the best illuminated scope that fits all of your needs.

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