Best Illuminated Reticle Scopes: Top 4 Picks Reviewed for 2021

Illuminated reticle scopes are a relatively new phenomenon in the market. The advances in technology, the introduction of better batteries, and LED light sources have increased the number of scopes available with illuminated reticles. The challenge facing many shooters who want to move to an illuminated reticle scope is how to choose the best solution for their needs.

When someone asks what I look for in an illuminated reticle scope, my answer is always the same.  Look for the things you want in any great scope, and then worry about the illumination. Above all, you want a scope with the best possible optical glass, the greatest clarity, reliability, and ruggedness to perform. Illumination on the reticle should not be a primary concern.

In this article, I will look at the 4 best scopes that include an illuminated reticle. These scopes all meet the requirements that I use to judge any optic and have an illuminated reticle. Remember that the other criteria are the most important in choosing a scope. An illuminated reticle is a benefit, not a necessity.

My Favorite Illuminated Reticle Scopes

The Best Overall – Vortex Optics Crossfire II 6-18×44 V-Brite Illuminated MOA Review

I believe you can’t do better on a cost per feature basis across the board than Vortex Optics scopes. Vortex has forged a solid reputation for building quality scopes at a reasonable price for almost any shooting application. This reputation is true for Vortex Optics illuminated scopes as well.

Vortex Optics Crossfire II 6-18x44 AO, 1-inch Tube, Second Focal Plane...

Vortex Optics Crossfire II scopes are well known to both hunters and competitive target shooters. These Vortex Optics scopes are among the most popular scopes in the Vortex line. The Crossfire scopes have an illuminated reticle that adds to their attractiveness to shooters across the board.

You won’t get shorted in the features department by choosing a Vortex Optics Crossfire II scope. 

  • One inch diameter tube
  • Fully multi-coated lenses for increased light transmission and decreased glare
  • The second focal plane reticle keeps the same sized reticle despite the magnification chosen
  • Vortex Dead-hold BDC reticle (MOA)
  • Single-piece tube construction improves accuracy and the best in performance and strength
  • Constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum
  • O-ring seals for waterproof and fog proof construction and operation
  • Improved recoil resistance for long life and improved accuracy
  • Hard-coat anodized finish resists corrosion and wear
  • Adjustable objective lens ensures the best focus and parallax correction
  • Fast focus eyepiece for quick target acquisition
  • V-Bright illuminated center dot

Technical Specifications

  • Magnification – 6-19X
  • Objective lens diameter – 44mm
  • Eye relief – 3.7 inches
  • Field of view – 15.2 feet to 52 feet at 100 yards
  • Capped turrets
  • Adjustment per click – ¼ MOA
  • Maximum elevation and windage adjustment – 50 MOA
  • Overall length – 13.78 inches
  • Weight – 19.6 ounces

Pros

  • Some of the best turrets on the market
  • Adjustable objective lens is usually found only on much more expensive scopes
  • Long eye relief
  • Vortex Optics No Question Asked warranty

Cons

  • The red dot can be hard to see in bright daylight

Vortex Optics Crossfire II 6-18x44 AO, 1-inch Tube, Second Focal Plane...
  • The 6-18x44 Adjustable Objective Crossfire II riflescope is one of many configurations in the...
  • The adjustable objective provides image focus and parallax removal to the shooter while...

Last update on 2021-07-30 at 07:14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Vortex builds great scopes. Add an illuminated reticle, and great becomes even better. You won’t be disappointed in the quality or performance of the Vortex Optics Crossfire II rifle scope. 

The Ultimate – Nightforce ATACR 5-25x56mm Fi ZeroStop .250 MOA Scope Review

If the price is no barrier and you want the absolute best in construction and performance, you must consider the Nightforce ATACR 5-25x56mm illuminated reticle rifle scope. Nightforce brings to the table a reputation for impeccable quality and engineering. 

NightForce ATACR 5-25x56mm F1 ZeroStop .250 MOA DigIllum PTL Moar Reticle...

The attention to detail in design and engineering has earned Nightforce a place with many military and law enforcement long-range shooters. The same technology these professionals employ is available to civilian shooters. The Nightforce ATACR 5-25x56mm riflescope can meet the needs of the most demanding shooter.

As you would expect in a scope of this quality and price, the feature list is rich and long.

  • Extra-large 56mm objective lens for an exceptional field of view and light gathering capability
  • Nightforce proprietary Digllum reticle illumination system for maximum clarity and ease of acquisition
  • ¼ MOA adjustments
  • The first Focal plane reticle eliminates errors in estimating range and windage
  • ZeroStop adjustments for quick returns to zero after changes
  • Focus with the power throw lever is fast and accurate
  • The finest optical glass creates crisp clear images no matter the magnification
  • Capped windage and elevation adjustments
  • Parallax adjustments
  • Fast and accurate diopter adjustments
  • Choice of illuminated or Mil-Spec reticles
  • Fully coated ED glass for the highest light transmission and clarity possible

Technical Specifications

  • Weight – 38 ounces
  • Overall length – 15.37 inches
  • Magnification – 5-25X
  • Tube size – 34mm
  • Adjustment per click – 1/4 MOA
  • First focal plane reticle
  • Field of view – 18.7 feet to 4.6 feet at 100 yards
  • #.5 inches of eye relief
  • Objective lens diameter – 56mm
  • Maximum windage adjustments – 60 MOA/ 18 Mil
  • Maximum elevation adjustments – 89 MOA / 26 Mil

Pros

  • Some of the best glass on the market
  • ZeroStop feature allows quick return after adjustments
  • Exceptional clarity and light transmission makes low light performance among the best
  • Big turrets allow easy adjustments in the field

Cons

  • Cost
  • Size and Weight

NightForce ATACR 5-25x56mm F1 ZeroStop .250 MOA DigIllum PTL Moar Reticle...
  • ED GLASS - Fully multi-coated ED glass for excellent light transmission, bright images, and color...
  • ZEROSTOP TECHNOLOGY - It gives you an easy return to your zero point, no matter how many elevation...

Last update on 2021-07-30 at 05:52 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Nightforce ATACR riflescope with illuminated reticle is pricey and large. It does make a statement when mounted on a rifle. However, if you can get around the cost and the weight, this is a rifle scope with an illuminated reticle that will outperform almost every other scope on the market.

The Budget – Primary Arms Classic Series 4-16X44mm SFP Rifle Scope Illuminated Mil-DOT Review

Primary Arms is often overlooked by many shooters when choosing a rifle scope. Overlooking Primary Arms is a mistake in my book. The riflescopes’ quality and performance from Primary Arms offers some of the best features for the price available in the market today.

Primary Arms Classic Series 4-16x44mm SFP Rifle Scope - Illuminated MIL-DOT

The Primary Arms Classic Series 4-16x44mm SFP Rifle Scope with illuminated Mil-DOT reticle is one of the best examples.  This scope may look simple and may seem on the cheap side, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Primary Arms scopes’ functional performance is above par, and the quality of construction leaves nothing lacking.

As far as features go, you won’t be disappointed by what Primary Arms offers.

  • The second focal plane reticle maintains a consistent size and look despite the magnification level you choose.
  • Illuminated Mil-DOT reticle offers accurate range and windage estimation no matter the magnification.
  • Locking turrets for consistent operation no matter the conditions
  • Return to Zero feature allows quick adjustments 
  • Audible and tactile adjustments
  • ¼ MOA adjustments for accurate shot placement
  • Side-mounted Parallax adjustment knob for quick and easy manipulation
  • Manufactured to be shockproof, waterproof, and fog proof
  • Includes a lifetime warranty
  • Butler Creek flip-up caps included in the package

Technical Specifications

  • Adjustment per click – ¼ MOA
  • Eye Relief – 3.5 inches
  • Field of View – 26.19 to 6.98 feet at 100 yards
  • Second focal plane illuminated reticle
  • Overall length – 14.3 inches
  • Weight 23.5 ounces
  • Objective lens – 44mm
  • Mil-DOT reticle
  • Maximum elevation and windage adjustment – 30 MOA
  • 30mm Tube diameter

Pros

  • One of the best reticles on the market
  • 12 brightness levels of adjustment for the reticle
  • Well-built and dependable 
  • Lots of features for the price

Cons

Primary Arms Classic Series 4-16x44mm SFP Rifle Scope - Illuminated MIL-DOT
  • MIL-DOT RETICLE: The second focal plane design keeps the simple, unobtrusive mil-dot reticle the...
  • PARTIAL RETICLE ILLUMINATION: Powered by a common CR2032 battery, the center mil-dot section...

Last update on 2021-07-30 at 15:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

As an entry-level illuminated reticle scope, the Primary Arms Classic Series 4-16×44 SFP is my pick. This riflescope won’t break your bank but will provide great service and exceptional value. Don’t discount Primary Arms if you are looking for value and performance. 

AR-15 – Bushnell 1-4X24 AR Optics Illuminated Reticle Rifle Scope Review

Choosing a scope for an AR-15 platform has some special considerations. By and large, the AR-15 s not a rifle with which you will be taking 1000 yard plus shots. The AR-15 is also a lightweight rifle platform. You want to tailor the size of the scope to the rifle. 

Bushnell Optics, FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Riflescope with Target Turrets...

Bushnell steps into the arena with a scope that fits these criteria perfectly. The Bushnell 1-4X24 AR Optics Riflescope illuminated BTR-1 FFP scope is an ideal match for your AR-15. With this scope, you get all the reputation for quality and performance that comes with Bushnell products and a scope designed specifically for the AR-15 platform.

A look at the features of the Bushnell BTR-1 scope should answer all your questions.

  • The illuminated BTR-1 FFP reticle is available with two reticles that is drop compensated for the 5.56 NATO round or the SFP Drop Zone 223 reticle.
  • Exposed turrets for quick and easy adjustments to windage and elevation
  • A proprietary Throw-Down quick lever for easy and accurate magnification changes
  • IPX7 waterproof rating
  • Multi-coated optics deliver clarity and light
  • Compact size perfectly suited for an AR-15 mount
  • Bushnell’s lifetime Ironclad Warranty 
  • Glass etched reticle remains visible even if the illumination fails
  • Side-mounted parallax adjustment
  • 11 illumination settings
  • Side-mounted illumination adjustments
  • Uses a Cr2032 battery

Technical Specifications

  • Eye relief – 3.5 inches
  • Field of View – 112 feet to 27 feet at 100 yards
  • Overall length – 9.4 inches
  • Weight 18 ounces
  • Tube diameter – 30mm
  • First focal plane reticle
  • Glass etched reticle
  • Maximum elevation and windage adjustments – 100 MOA
  • Turrets – Mil0based exposed and non-locking

Pros

  • Clear glass delivers crisp images
  • User-friendly controls and operation
  • Sealed construction keeps this scope performing no matter the conditions
  • Easy to use turrets even if wearing gloves

Cons

  • Poor battery life

Bushnell Optics, FFP Illuminated BTR-1 BDC Riflescope with Target Turrets...
  • Fully multi coated optics with 1 4 x magnification
  • Illuminated first focal plane illuminated bar reticle with 11 settings

Last update on 2021-07-30 at 05:52 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

You can spend more on an optic for your AR-15, but I don’t think you will find a better balance of price and features. To be honest, this is not a combat-proven illuminated reticle scope. In truth, most of us aren’t headed for a combat situation. The Bushnell 1-4X24 scope will do the job most of us require.


What’s the Story on Reticles?

There are as many variations on reticle design as there are rifle scopes. It seems as if each scope manufacturer has its take on reticle design. These differences can cause a lot of confusion among shooters when choosing a scope for their favorite rifle. What do you need to know about choosing a riflescope reticle?

In general, the way you use your riflescope should determine the type or style of reticle you choose. If you are a hunter after North American big game, you should choose a reticle designed for that purpose. Competitive shooting brings different needs and requirements. Many manufacturers offer specialized reticles for different types of hunting or shooting. You can find reticles designed specifically for

  • Feral pig hunting
  • Varmint hunting
  • Long-range target shooting
  • Tactical shooting
  • Bullet drop compensation reticles
  • Night vision reticles

No one scope reticle style fits every need. You need to consider the rifle on which the scope is mounted, the style and type of shooting you do, and your personal preferences when choosing the reticle style. 


What’s the Difference between MOA and Mil-Dot Reticles?

It is important to understand that MOA and Mil-Dot are not measurements of linear distance. Both identify a measurement of angles. MOA stands for Minute of Angle. Mil stands for milliradian.  If you want to convert to a linear measurement such as feet or yards, the Mil or MOA must be paired with a distance.

For instance, one MOA at one hundred yards equals 1.047 inches. A good reference for this is a red dot scope in which the red dot measures 2 MOA. At 100 yards, the red dot in the scope will cover an area of 2.094 inches. A Mil will cover an area of 3.6 inches at one hundred yards.  

Overall, an MOA scope tends to be slightly more accurate for most shooters. It may also be the easier of the two to use. Remembering that I MOA at 100 yards equals approximately 1.5 inches makes adjusting windage and elevation easier.


In the End, We Can Advise But You Must Decide

At the end of the day, we can advise you and help you better understand what to look for in an illuminated rifle scope, but it is your decision to make. I hope that the information in this article helps you make that decision.

If you found this article helpful or have experiences or suggestions you would like to share, please use the comments section below. Anything you can add will surely add to the community and may help someone else as well. Shoot safe and have fun.




Written by Dennis Howard

A life long hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman, after surviving a devastating tornado in his home town, he saw the effects on people's lives as they struggled to cope. He built his first bugout bag a few weeks later and has been a dedicated prepper/survivalist since that time. After a career as a fireman, Dennis opened a retail store (FFL approved) catering to the military, law enforcement, and like-minded individuals. The store built their own AR platforms. Furthermore, Dennis was also an NRA instructor in both long gun and handgun as well as a certified range safety officer. Read his full interview here. Read more of Dennis's articles.