The UTG Accu Shot is a red dot 1-4 power scope. It is rugged and durable, but a little on the heavy side. Overall, you get a lot for what you pay. It is sealed, nitrogen filled, and shockproof/fogproof.
The Accu Shot reticle is a single MOA dot inside a circle. The dot can be as little as 2 MOA based upon magnification. This scope is parallax set for 100 yards and beyond.
The target-style turrets adjust in ½ MOA clicks, for the Accu Shot. Note the knurled portion at the base of the turret. That locks the turret at its zero.
Nikon Sport Optics
By Brian Jensen, Law Enforcement Editor
AR-15s are everywhere. With a couple mods, we even have them in the civilian market in California. There are all kinds of things I can do with this 50-year old platform, from different barrels, mounts, or stocks I can find with the click of a mouse. I can make it look like a Christmas tree with all the gizmos and gadgets I’ve found. But really, the trick is to pick the things you really need on your AR. For me the most import thing is an optic. I can make do with iron sights fine, but as I get older, an optic makes it much easier to actually see my sight picture and hit my target. My problem is that scopes are just plain pricey these days. If you want a name brand, many of which are battle tested by our military, you’re looking at the $600+ range new, which is almost like buying another rifle. Going into SHOT Show this year, I was curious about the optics that are under $200, and that seem to be reliable for the AR-15 platform.
Because you mostly need an AR for close quarters, most people prefer an optic with no or very low magnification. With no magnification you can keep both eyes open, and whether the scope has a red dot or a reticle, target acquisition is easy and natural. This is very a very different experience than iron sights, where you really have to train yourself to focus on the front sight and find your target the hard way. Some glass on the gun gives me a sense of comfort that target acquisition isn’t an effort and you can just focus on the shot.
With scopes made all over the world these days, even some of the reputable name brands, how do you know the scope you choose is worth the money? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are a few models that have made the rounds in my law enforcement community and developed a good reputation. Each fills a particular niche, so I hope to give you something to choose from. All can be found for under $200, new.
The UTG / Leapers Accushot 1-4 Power
(Item # LPR-SCP3-1424CDQ, retail $109-$125)
I mentioned this scope in my early look at Leapers’ products from SHOT. This 1-4 power scope uses an illuminated circle around an approximately 2MOA illuminated dot. It has various levels of illumination in either red or green, and uses a CR 2032 battery that I can find just about everywhere. The reticle is etched into the glass so even if you have no illumination, you can still get a point of aim on the plain black reticle.
I also liked the 30mm tube, which gave me more light in dim situations. The two target-style turrets were easy enough for me to adjust the zero, and I really liked the “zero return” feature that allows you to reset the zero of the turret once the scope is zeroed. But one feature it has that I wish other scope makers would use is the screw down lock for the adjustment turrets to keep them from moving once the scope is on target. That made it easy to keep the zero where I wanted it. Turrets adjust the reticle in ½ MOA increments.
When I opened the box, there were quick detach mounts included for standard rails. This saves us the additional money we normally have to spend on expensive mounts, especially for 30mm scopes.
I put this scope on a M-4 – style AR. I found it to be well made, and held zero over time. My police department authorized this for our officers to put on their duty rifles, and as of yet, they still continue to perform well, holding zero, and plugging on. That was with a bunch of officers who take these scopes in and out of cases, then throw them in car racks day after day. If you want to see how well a piece of equipment handles abuse, give it to a police officer; The UTG has done well.
This scope is simply great for the price. Let me rephrase it, I thought it was outstanding for the price. I have dealt with the people at UTG, and they have had great customer service. In all the scopes I played with, I had to call this one the best buy, and maybe my overall favorite based on the features.
The only negatives I saw was that the glass isn’t perfect, with some minor distortions along the perimeter of the glass. However, when I was aiming with the reticle, I was focused on the center of the glass, and I didn’t even notice. Using both eyes at single power, the scope was easy to use and plenty accurate for its role. Also, the scope is somewhat heavier than others, weighing in at 16.9 ounces. However, reliability is worth the weight.
Nikon P223 3×32
Item # P223 3×32 BDC Carbine
Nikon is a company known for excellence in optics and cameras. I took most of the pictures in this article with a Nikon camera. Many of my friends in the shooting world know the name and consider them a high value. So, when I saw the Nikon P223 BDC Carbine scope at the 2012 SHOT show I was curious. Could they keep up that reputation with glass that was just at the $200 mark with mounts? I asked for a test scope, and it has been sitting on my AR carbine for several months getting some considerable range use. So far so good.
The BDC Carbine 3 x 32 scope is a simple, fixed three-power optic with a non-illuminated reticle, and has large adjustment turrets. The glass however, was crystal clear into the periphery, and eye relief was generous. The mounts included are perfect for raising the scope high and forward enough to clear the charging handle with ease.
The adjustments on the BDC are in ½ MOA clicks, but after mounting it with the enclosed Nikon mounts, it was very close to dead on, and took very little effort to do an initial zero at 25 yards. Once the scope is sighted in, the turrets can be reset to zero so you can easily find your zero if they get turned. The scope is waterproof and fogproof (the scope uses O rings and is filled with nitrogen). This scope is also pretty light, at 11.2 ounces.
The intriguing part of this scope was its reticle. It’s a standard crosshair, that narrows as it gets close to the “X”, but it has two cross-hash marks on the lower, vertical axis. If the scope is zeroed at 200 yards, these hash marks are your zeros adjusted for elevation for 400 and 600 yards. It was a pretty unique setup for this type of scope.
I let my range staff take this scope out on my Bushmaster/LMT 16” carbine to put it through its paces. They universally praised it as a great value for the money, plenty durable, and it had good clarity for accurate shots.
It’s a perfect scope for someone who wants a simple, durable, crystal clear scope with the lower end magnification.
The only complaint I have for this scope is that it lacks some kind of illuminated reticle to “pop” out for rapid target acquisition, or for lower light conditions. That would, however, make this scope more expensive and it’s a very fair price as is.
The Vortex Strikefire looks suspiciously like one of the US Military red dots, and you can find them new for under $200 online.
I like these scopes, because they have some improvements in the controls over the earlier military ones, as well as having the option of switching between red and green dots. These scopes also come with mounts. Overall it was the lightest of the scopes I looked at, weighing 7.2 ounces
One other thing I found when I mounted one of these on my friend’s Colt M-4 was that it has a 2x magnifier included that screws onto the eyepiece. Flip-up magnifiers from competing name brand varieties can cost up to $400 alone, but the Strikefire comes with one built in, which is a nice feature.
My eye picked up the red-dot nicely on the Strikefire, with a very clear field of view. The glass was better than what I expected for a $150 scope, and would stand up to comparison with other similar designs. In fact, I like the Vortex controls better than other red-dot scopes I have used. They have rear facing rubberized buttons instead of the old style knob controls on the military version.
Three for the Road, or the Cruiser
These products are a few examples of what’s out there for the shooter who doesn’t have the coin to pay for a high-end optic, but want to add some glass to their rifle. I tried to pick a smattering of different types to offer a range of options, because we may not all want a red dot or a fixed 3 power.
Companies like UTG and Vortex offer scopes that bring features similar to those on more expensive scopes, but at a fraction of the price. Then there’s Nikon, who recognized we aren’t all ready to fork out several hundred dollars on a scope, and put out a simply great product at a price that anyone can afford. If you have the money and you prefer a premium, high end scope that will get “ooohs and aaaahs” at the range, then more power to you. But if you are on a budget like most of us in law enforcement, it’s nice to have some options.