The AR-15 is a versatile weapon system with many philosophies of use (POUs), ranging from using it as a plinking rifle to using it to hunt for varmints and fur-bearers, all the way to using it for serious long range competition, or even staking your life on it overseas will fighting in the military! With such a wide range of uses, it is easy to imagine just how varied the optics available for these rifles are.
Hunting- For hunting, you are often looking at longer range shots, as well as up close shooting as well at times, often in low or no-light situations. As a result, a variable zoom scope, especially of the 3-9x, or similar, zoom variety are a great option, as they allow the versatility needed for hunting, as well as being able to amplify the light when your shot presents itself during dawn or dusk when there is very little light available.
Military- While most of the time military personnel are required to use the optic they are provided with, these optics are usually top of the line, as the military chooses the optic that best suits the uses that it will most likely be used in. For instance, the ACOG used by the US Marines is a great optic that allows both rapid engagement as well as good long range versatility.
Plinking- When it comes to plinking, any optic will work. However, to get the best enjoyment, a red dot sight of some sort will better allow you to keep a can rolling and bouncing around much easier than a magnified optic would allow. Also, there are many inexpensive red dots that, while the might not hold up to the torture tests that are so popular on youtube at the moment, are plenty accurate and durable for just going into the backyard or to the local range and shooting up a few cans. These cheap red dots can be found at any big box store, often for under $100 dollars!
Long range shooting- For long range shooting, a high magnification fixed power scope is your best bet. Despite the massive improvements made to scope technology that are allowing variable zoom scopes to be much more reliable than they were in the past, a fixed power scope’s simplicity allows it to be extremely reliable and rugged while costing less than a comparable variable zoom scope.
3-gun style run and gun competition- For 3-gun shooting, the most common optics setup is a variable zoom scope, for the long range shooting portion, with a red dot mounted either on a 45° angle mount, or a red dot mounted on top of the scope. This is to allow for easier and faster engagement of close range targets that are the majority of the targets seen in these competitions.
SHTF- A fiber optic powered red dot or a traditional etched reticle scope, either variable zoom or fixed power, are your best bets for a SHTF optic. This is because they don’t rely on batteries to work, and are often much simpler than other optics styles, making them more reliable, which is what is needed most in a SHTF situation.
Ben is a content strategist at http://www.riflescopecenter.net and has written various article on scopes, and has an interest in firearms.