The 4 Best Illuminated Reticle Scopes – Rifle Scope Reviews 2019

best illuminated reticle scope, best illuminated reticle rifle scope

Photo by Brian Bennett / CC BY

Illuminated reticle rifle scopes are one of the marvels of modern scope technology. To say that illuminated reticles are a game changer is something of an understatement; they’ve actually redefined how we use rifle scopes. From the earliest scopes to the present day, the reticle has been a series of black lines, which work reasonably well in daylight and against light colored targets, but not so much in dark weather, that awkwardly dark period just before sunrise and just after sunset.

However, through the simple effort of actually lighting up the reticle with red or green light, we now have the ability to overlay a brightly lit reticle over a target, and not have to look for our crosshairs. Illuminated reticles have increased the time a person can hunt, and given an added tactical edge to law enforcement, military or even private citizens engaged in home defense. No matter how you slice it, an illuminated reticle rifle scope is a must have.

Like any optic, prices run from “Well, how can I NOT buy it for that price?” to “Well, I only need one of my kidneys to survive…”—and we weeded through hundreds of models to find four of the best illuminated reticle scopes on the market. Just please don’t sell a kidney to buy the NightForce, as tempting as it may be.

CVLife Red/Green Illuminated Reticle Scope


Clocking at a low price, this rather well-rated illuminated reticle scope features red or green reticles, a built in range finder, water, fog and shockproof construction, 6-24 power magnification and a huge 50mm objective lens. Sure, it’s inexpensive but it’s a very useful inexpensive scope. If all you need is an entry level scope, it’s really hard to beat this well-made, feature-rich package that includes a scope cover and free set of high profile rings. Many of these scopes are made in the same factories that put out name brand scopes, so you can often save hundreds by not buying the name.

Bushnell AR Optics BTR-1

With this offering from Bushnell, we get a compact illuminated reticle scope that is designed for use on the AR-15 or other modern sporting rifles. Suitable for critical tactical duty, hunting or even target shooting, this high quality precision crafted scope is illuminated on the first focal plane for optimal clarity, features a unique quick focus lever, and has match quality precision windage and elevation adjustment. Designed for hard duty, the BTR-1 is a revolutionary scope that should be high on your list of choices when looking to scope a tactical carbine, or even just your favorite AR or AK. Hands down, it’s one of the best illuminated reticle scopes for the money.

Vortex Crossfire II

Another illuminated reticle scope with an enormous 50mm objective lens, the Vortex Crossfire II sports a modest and very popular 3-9 power magnification, is O-ring sealed for water and fogproof construction, features multicoated optics, and an aircraft grade 1” aluminum body. This would make an ideal scope for brush hunting or as an all around knockabout scope. The 3-9 magnification is a popular sweet spot for hunters all over North America, and the larger than normal objective lens will transmit more light in a low light situation. Call it a poor man’s NightForce, or simply a reasonably priced, feature rich illuminated reticle scope. Either way, I call it a pretty good bargain. Just check out the video below, even though it’s for the 1-4×24 model:

Vortex Crossfire II 1-4×24 Scope

NightForce NXS

One is morally obligated to list at least one NightForce scope when discussing illuminated reticle scopes, and for the very good reason that not only are pricey optics really exciting to look at, but also because NightForce all but defines what the best illuminated reticle rifle scope should be. With 5.5-22 magnification and a super-sized 56mm objective lens, this high grade scope is as much at home on top of a military rifle funded by a creepy black ops budget as it would be on your favorite hunting rifle. Built to precision standards rarely equaled in the world of high end rifle scopes, the NXS is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Nightforce NXS Scope – Full Review

Why an Illuminated Reticle Scope?

Do you like superior target acquisition? Do you like having an edge in low light hunting conditions? Do you prefer to have your crosshairs light up when in a home defense situation? Then you too can benefit from the wonders of an illuminated reticle scope. When it’s 6:30 am, and you are in the woods, a brightly illuminated red reticle against the brown hide of an elk beats the heck out of a black reticle against a brown hide.

And so it is with every other application you can think of for a rifle scope. To put it simply illuminated reticles are superior reticles, and picking the best illuminated reticle scope isn’t hard. Obviously budget is a priority, and thanks to modern automated manufacturing methods, it’s possible to buy quality scopes at unheard of low prices. But if you want to spend a bit more than basic entry level, the options increase along with quality.

The most common illuminated reticle scopes will either be compact tactical scopes for AR-15’s and the like, or hunting scopes with huge 50mm+ objective lenses and modest magnification. This is because you want as much light gathering ability as possible for hunting in low light, which means oversized reticles are the rule rather than the exception for hunting scopes.

Most illuminated reticle scopes use a red light, while some will let you switch from low light friendly red to daytime friendly green, which lets you enjoy the benefits of an illuminated reticle in any lighting condition. Most use a common CR2302 battery (which is both affordable and long-lasting, ensuring long hours of constant and regular use).

The modern illuminated reticle scope is a technological advancement that combines advances in scope design, with the utility of illumination. Hunters, sport shooters, law enforcement and military professionals have all come to appreciate the benefits and advantages an illuminated reticle scope give them. From saving lives to harvesting game, it’s time to take a good, hard look at these scopes and get the best illuminated reticle scope you can afford. Good luck!

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