My tactical rifle is used to hit moving targets. I’m not worried about grouping a quarter-inch at 100 yards. I want a one-shot kill. And I want it almost reflexively.
That means I’m avoiding a traditional scope. But I don’t want the limitations of a red dot sight either. Thankfully, we now have the best of both worlds. The solution is using the best prism scope on your rifle. They’re lighter and have a much better field of view (FOV) than the traditional scope.
The drawback is the limitation of their range. Even at 5x magnification, they aren’t going to be much help beyond 500 yards, which is plenty for me. I don’t plan on using my AR-15 as a sniper rifle. It’s for close quarters.
I’ll show you what you need to know so you can make your own choice about what prism scope is right for you.
Best Prism Scope: My Top 5 Picks
Here are my top picks at a quick glance:
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1. Best Value – Vortex Spitfire 3X-30mm Survival Rifle Review
The Spitfire is versatile. It starts with fixed 3X magnification for medium to close target acquisition. To keep your scope working and looking good, the finish is hard-anodized matte-black and built with shockproof construction. Because Vortex uses Nitrogen gas purging with O-ring seals, you get also fog-proof and waterproof performance. When not in use, dust, dirt, and debris are kept out with a flip cap. The Multi-Height Mount System allows for 30mm and 40mm mounting heights. And dual rails mounted on the 3X allow the optic to be joined with an offset, auxiliary-reflex sight.
The DRT etched and illuminated reticle provides excellent image quality. To help you in lowlight situations, the 30mm lenses are fully multicoated with anti-reflective coatings. The eye relief is 2.8 inches and there are five intensity levels to choose from for the red reticle.
Flip caps keep lenses protected and free of dirt, dust, and debris. Uses one CR-2032 battery (included).
- The etched reticle has five intensity selections
- Adjustable mount
- Solid Construction
- Fully multi-coated lens
- Waterproof, shockproof and fog proof
- Highly durable low-glare matte finish
- Lens cap
- A little heavy
- Reticle is illuminated red only
- Customer Sentiment:
Altogether, this is one of the best prism scopes on the market thanks to its versatility and durability. Its mounting system is also exceptionally flexible. When combined with the excellent illuminated reticle, the scope truly impresses us in every category.
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2. Best Starter Prism Scope – Monstrum S330P 3x Prism Scope Review
The Monstrum S3330P 3X is a great choice for target acquisition up to 300 yards. Its durable and compact body is five inches long and weighs 15 ounces.
The 30mm provides a bright and clear image, free of chromatic aberrations, thanks to the Multi-Layer lens coating. It features a black etched reticle that can be illuminated with your choice of red or green during low light conditions. The eye relief is a comfortable 3.0 – 3.5 inches. All Monstrum Tactical Rifle Scope products are backed by a one year warranty.
- Has 3+ inches of eye relief
- Very durable construction
- Easy to mount to most rifles
- The reticle can be seen even in low light
- Warranty is only for one year
All in all, this prism scope is a great choice to combine with a high recoil weapon thanks to its durability and its high amount of eye relief.
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3. Largest Range Coverage – Burris AR 536 with Fastfire III Red Dot Sight Prism Scope Review
This rugged sight by Burris has you covered from six to 600 yards. The AR 536 comes with its popular FastFire III Reflex Red Dot Sight to ensure you’re quickly covered in close quarters. 5x magnification with a 36mm objective lens frees you to move from close quarters to open fields.
The AR 536 has a multi-coated lens, an adjustable diopter, an integrated lens cover, and three Picatinny rail mounting points. With an Eye Relief of 2.5-3.5 inches, the black reticle comes with a choice of red or green illumination and five brightness settings.
This 18.75 oz matte black beast is 5.8″long, completely waterproof, shockproof, and fog proof. They even include a sun shield to screw onto the end of the sight to reduce glare. The product is backed with the Burris 100% Forever Warranty. That means no receipt, no questions asked, and it’s transferable to each owner to cover damaged or defective scopes.
- 36mm Objective lens
- Good eye relief
- Sun shield
- Red Dot sight included
- Amazing Warranty
Not only do you get a great 5X prism scope so you can reach out, but you also get an awesome red dot sight when you need to get in close. If that’s not enough, it’s backed with one of the easiest warranties in the world.
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4. Best System Integration – Burris T.M.P.R. 5X32 Survival Rifle Prism Scope Review
Take advantage of the versatile T.M.P.R. (Tri-Modular Prism Riflescope) system for confidence at any range up to 600 yards.
When you put 5X magnification coupled with a 32 mm objective lens you get plenty of power and light-capturing capability. Add the FastFire M3 or the T.M.P.R. Laser Sight for a CQB (Close Quarter Battle) and you’re ready for action anywhere.
All T.M.P.R. components come with their own battery but can be powered by the prism sight’s high-capacity CR123 battery when part of a system.
The laser and the reflex dot sights mount to the base unit to keep things compact. In fact, the centerline of the sight is at 1.53″ above the rail. On top of that, they added a dual throw quick-release Picatinny/Weaver rail mount to make installation easy and repeatable.
There are seven illumination levels for the three colors – blue, red, or green, to provide you with targeting options. There are also three night vision compatible settings. The T.M.P.R. System ensures a quick response with a field of view greater than the AR-332 or AR-536.
The durable scope consists of a sealed, aluminum nitrogen-filled housing that is waterproof up to three feet. It’s dust- resistant and resistant to internal fogging. At six inches long, it weighs a hefty 19.1 ounces.
- 24′ field of view at 100 yards
- Night Vision compatible
- Center illuminated horseshoe with center dot enables easy acquisition of both large and small targets
- A bit longer and heavier than others
- Small eye relief
The amazing combination of illumination settings makes it easy to find the perfect setup for everyone.
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5. Best Prism Scope for Fast-Moving Targets – Primary Arms 3×32 SLX Gen II Scope Review
Perfect for hunting pigs or other fast-moving targets. The wide field of view (31.5feet) is much more generous than your average 3X scope. Combine the horseshoe reticle with leading points and BDC hash marks, you have everything you need to drop your moving target with one clean shot.
The SLX Gen II features etched Multicoated lenses and a mounting base that works with either Weaver or Picatinny-style bases. The fully illuminated reticle has 11 brightness settings. BDC (bullet drop compensation) marks are a nice addition. The body is anodized matte black, waterproof, and fog-resistant. Weighing in at only 16 ounces, the Gen II is a great compact and lightweight solution for your midrange targeting needs.
Lifetime warranty for manufacturer defects, materials and workmanship, and even normal wear and tear
- 32 mm Objective lens
- BDC marks
- Eye relief is low
This is a fantastic scope on its own merits. The prism design, reticle, mounting system, and durable construction materials all speak to a high-quality piece of equipment that many hunters will love. The lifetime manufacturer warranty just seals the deal and makes things even better.
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What You Need to Know About Prism Scopes
Prisms – Basically, a prism is a glass or other transparent object the shape of a triangle with surfaces at acute angles to each other. Light is bounced off of the surface so that white light is separated into a spectrum of colors.
What Is a Prism Scope and how does it work?
Actually, considered to be a type of red dot sight, prism scopes are more like a traditional scope that magnifies and focuses light. What makes a prism scope different is how the light is handled.
Chances are you have binoculars that use a prism system. They’re the compact, straight-line type. That advantage comes from how light is focused by a prism system. Basically, light is reflected off a prism instead of having to go through a series of glass lenses. Prisms are smaller size and the weight is dramatically reduced.
Prism scopes have an advantage because they usually have an etched and illuminated reticle. That makes the prism systems ideal for tactical rifles such as AR-15s.
Key advantages of a prism scope over a red dot sight:
- The effective range increases because of greater magnification and a larger sight picture.
- No fear of having your batteries drained causing you to lose your reticle (“crosshairs”). The black outline of the etched reticle remains. Although this becomes more difficult in low light situations like dawn and dusk.
- Quicker target acquisition times are possible thanks to a sharper, brighter image.
- Astigmatism and other eye conditions aren’t a problem when the prism scope has an adjustable ocular ring (also known as a diopter or fast-focus eyepiece).
- The etched reticle on some models will provide the user with vital data such as target range estimation and bullet drop compensation holdovers.
Disadvantages of a prism scope versus a red dot sight:
- The shorter eye relief (the distance you must hold your eye from the rear of the scope) is problematic if you’re wearing glasses.
Prism Scope Buying Guide: What To Look For
A bugout situation is not like a day at the range. Dirt, water, bumps, and drops are going to happen. Your equipment needs to withstand as much punishment as possible.
Scopes with multi-coated reticles will help ensure you have chosen a quality product. That extra coating also gives you a brighter image. Look for anodized aluminum bodies. Look that the scope is anodized aluminum. Anodizing will limit damage from scratches. Finally, check that nitrogen-purging is used so you have dust, shock, and fog protection.
You should easily find a scope with universal mounting. You likely already know if you have KeyMod, M-LOK, Picatinny, or another type of rail. Most rifles will have the Picatinny rails which almost all prism scopes will fit.
I suggest you choose a scope with reticles that are etched and illuminated. Make sure you have brightness settings. Most have five while others give you up to 11. I personally find that five are plenty.
Some scopes give you the option to switch your (red and green usually) illuminated reticle colors. That should be your smallest option. Others offer a choice between seeing a dot or a cross.
Always look for reticles that are etched and provide illumination. This will increase your accuracy and improve the value of the prism scope. The scopes below have both.
Look for BDC (Bullet Drop Compensation) markings, especially for 5X scopes. You’ll find them standard for any decent quality scope.
On Prism scopes, the magnification is fixed. Your choices are usually from 1X up to 5X with a few scopes that reach 6X. What level of magnification you choose here depends on how far out you have to shoot. Most people go with 3X so you can be confident out to about 300 yards.
People with astigmatism switch from traditional Red Dot sights to 1X prism scopes so they can have this feature.
Here’s where the cost of any scope, binocular, or telescope is greatly affected. It’s also the feature that has one of the greatest impacts on your satisfaction. Your choice starts with coated or non-coated lenses, with colors. Always choose multi-coated. You can’t afford to skip here unless the scope is for a play rifle.
The next part of the lenses to pay attention to is the diameter of the objective lens. Look for lenses no less than 30mm. As the power of your scope increases, so should the size of the objective because that is what determines how much light gets in. I suggest nothing less than a 36mm lens for a 5X scope.
Overall, any of the above prism scopes will be a great fit for a variety of users or situations. The compact size, great features, and lower price points make prism scopes an attractive option for a variety of survival rifles. And since they all come with mounts, they’ll also be easy to start using right away.