The 6 Best M4 Scopes – Carbine Optic Reviews 2023

best m4 scope, best scope for m4 carbine

Photo by Program Executive Office Soldier / CC BY

The M4 carbine is the natural evolution of the venerable M16 rifle. While a true M4 carbine has a barrel of 14.5”, which makes it illegal to own without all manner of stupid red tape, a great number of “M4orgery” carbines exist, which have the magic extra 1.5” of barrel length that turns them from evil scary rifle to just a popular and effective sporting and tactical rifle. Because of its popularity, many people seek to find the best M4 optics they can find. Personally, I favor a compact scope on a carbine like the M4, so here are my recommendations for the 6 best M4 scopes.

Acog 4 X 32 Scope Usmc Rifle Combat Optic For M4

You simply cannot think of the M-4 without also thinking of ACOG optics. One of the most advanced war fighting optics on the planet, it is also extremely popular among knowledgable shooters and those who demand only the absolute best for their carbine. Nearly identical to ACOG’s issued by the USMC, this 4 power scope features a 32mm objective lens, advanced fiber optic illuminated reticle, an an anti reflection cover. Built to the demanding, exacting tolerances for some of America’s most elite soldiers,this scope is as much at home on your favorite varmint or plinking carbine, or your home defense or law enforcement or security rifle. If money is no object, but quality and precision are all that matters, this is the first and last choice for an M4 scope.

USMC Afghan Rifle Range Zeroing weapons M4 M16A4 ACOG

Leupold Mark 4 MR/T

The Leupold M 4 MR/T is one of the best scopes for you M4 out there. Designed with the needs of carbine shooters in mind, this high quality tactical scope features and illuminated reticle, 1.5-5 power magnification, a 20mm objective lens, and a 30mm tube for superior light gathering performance. Built with crystal clear fully coated optics, backed by Leuopold’s magnificent lifetime warranty and ready for whatever you throw at it, this Leupold scope is as much at home on top of a modern tactical carbine as it is on your favorite hunting rifle.

Vortex Optics Spitfire

Recently I had the choice between buying a new revolver or a new scope. Well, this is the scope I’d buy if I hadn’t bought the wheelgun. Vortex optics makes a strong argument for having the best M4 scope with their Spitfire. This feature rich unit has basic three power magnification, illuminated reticle, is gas purged for fog-proofing, and has a specially cut lens for maximum optical clarity and light transmission. An included mounting base makes this a ready to roll package right out of the box, just sight it in and you are good to go.

Vortex Spitfire Scope Review

Nikon P223

Nikon makes NICE scopes, and if you have an equally nice gun to go with it, this is the best scope for M4 carbines that you can get. It’s 3×32 magnification, calibrated for popular 5.56 rounds with fixed range finding aim points built into the crosshairs, and compatible with Nikon’s proprietary ballistics software. You can dial this scope in for pretty much any 5.56/.223 round you plan to be shooting. If you like to wring maximum accuracy and distance out of your M4, and demand the best performance possible from you optics, take a good hard look at a scope built with M4 and AR style rifles in mind.

Nikon P-223 3x32 - $150 ACOG Alternative

Primary Arms Compact Scope

Because the M4 is often used in close quarters, sometimes the best scope for M4 is a compact, low- magnification unit that excels at distances normally used for iron sights. Primary Arms delivers a fantastic low-magnification, compact scope with their 2.5 power illuminated reticle scope. Designed with a built in bullet drop compensator for close quarters use and compatible with industry standard ACOG style mounts, this scope is perfect for home defense or law enforcement use and has the added benefit of being small and lightweight. Built to be water-, fog- and shock-proof, with full coated optics, this might be the best upgrade for your M4.

Primary Arms 2.5x and 4x ACSS Compact Scopes Review (HD)

NCStar Scope/Red Dot Combo

Or maybe the ultimate M4 scope has plenty of bells and whistles. I’ve previously pointed out the benefits of red dots over simple iron sights, and the usefulness of having transitional iron sights, and now it is possible to have the best of both worlds. Use the built in red dot for iron sight distances and quickly transition to the compact 3-9 power scope for long distance shooting. Featuring a big 42mm objective lens, illuminated reticle, and built in scope mounting base, this scope/red dot sight combo does everything for you except pull the trigger.

NC Star Mark III Tactical Scope Review

Scopes, the M4 and You

The M4 carbine, in either the expensive to acquire 14.5” version or the more readily available 16” version, is wildly popular with American shooters, as it closely mimics the military’s issue weapon. It is also a fantastic rifle in its own right, capable of accurate fire, and is ideal for sport shooting, law enforcement and self defense use.

Because of its carbine size, the best scopes for M4 carbines are usually compact units, both to preserve the clean lines of the rifle and to minimize weight. Many M4’s are scoped with the idea of personal defense or law enforcement work in mind, and to that end, you’ll be looking for a scope with an illuminated reticle, and low magnification. Essentially, it will be used in iron sight ranges but you want the advantages of some magnification. However, the M4 is equally useful on the range, or in the woods. While not all states permit the .223/5.56 round for hunting deer, it is a viable round for predator control like coyotes, and here again the illuminated reticle scopes “shine.”

Because M4 style rifles feature and adjustable stock, it will be important to figure out the optimal eye relief for your scope and how you plan to use the rifle. Fortunately, the flat top upper design of the M4 allows easy placement of optics via the built in Picatinny rail. Some scopes have more generous eye reliefs than others, but almost any scope should fit on an M4 once you place it right.

The best M4 scopes may also be specifically calibrated for the .223/5.56 round. These will feature reticles with built in bullet drop compensators at pre-selected ranges, which, when paired with the correct ammo, will allow you to quickly place your shots. This is most useful for hunting, home defense and tactical applications, where fast target acquisition and accurate shooting are most crucial. However, the use of these scopes require using particular types of ammo, usually the most common military style or hunting rounds, so some of their utility is lost if you like to use less common rounds, or handload. But if you are shooting common rounds, a calibrated scope may be a fantastic option for you.

There is little need to pair an M4 with more than a scope of modest magnification. A 3-9 magnification usually will do the trick. Scopes much more powerful than that start entering the range of long distance hunting and target shooting scopes, and as short as the law allows barrel on an M4 style rifle (or shorter still if you are lucky enough to have a 14.5” version), this just doesn’t cut it for much in the way of long range target shooting. To that end, if you have an M4, the best scope in my book is a compact, illuminated reticle of about no more than four power, but as there are no absolutes in the world, we checked out some stuff on either side of that as well. Optics make any rifle more fun and more useful, and the lightweight, easy handling M4 is no exception to that rule. And we hope you’ve found the best scope for M4 carbines here. Good luck!

  • Owner of, Boyd Smith is a major handgun enthusiast, and although he owns Glocks, he prefers the revolving wheel type. His go-to guns are a Smith & Wesson 642 Performance Center for carry and a Ruger GP100 in the nightstand biometric safe (he has kids). He loads both revolvers with old-school 148-grain Federal Gold Medal .38 wadcutters. It’s OK if you think he’s a wimp. Email him.

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4 responses

  1. Thank you for this information. It is concise, easy to understand, and expresses a love for the subject. I will probably buy one of these recommended devices.

  2. Why add ncstar to this list?
    Would you trust your life to one of their optics?

    • AMEN! An optic should, in my humble (and quite experienced) opinion, cost close to, if not as much as the rifle itself. Having deployed as an Infantry Team Leader / SDM to Iraq, and then as a Sniper Team Leader / Employment Officer to Afghanistan, I would never even consider the non-mil-spec optics.

      Trijicon, Leupold, Aimpoint, and EOTech are my first choices (due to cost), while Elcan, Nightforce, and other higher-end optics would be preferable, but perhaps too costly.

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