Best Scope for a Tight Budget

Best Scope for a Tight Budget

Three rows of riflescopes, lined up on three shelves one above the other, seemed to go on forever. Or at least to end of the sporting good’s store counter.

Shiny round lenses at the end of gleaming black tubes seemed to stare at me, waiting for me to make my move. But how in the world am I supposed to pick a scope out of all this? Where do I even begin?

This was quite a few years—and riflescopes—ago.

Then, like now, I was looking for a good quality riflescope that I could afford. Since then, I’ve taken it on myself to learn about riflescopes and one thing I’ve learned is you can find decent quality in budget-priced riflescopes. There’s an old saying that tells you to spend more on your riflescope than you do on your rifle, essentially making the point that if you don’t have a good view of your target it won’t matter how good your rifle is because you’ve short-changed yourself on the scope.

That may have been the case in the past, but with advances in technology packed into riflescopes (and other optics) these days, you can’t necessarily judge them by price.

Of course, riflescopes on the expensive side of the spectrum are manufactured to strict standards with top-quality components (and quality does show), but some manufacturers have figured out to incorporate quality components in their riflescopes without cranking the price into the stratosphere.

Bushnell will tell you exactly where their scopes land on the scale with their three-tier approach to their Prime, Nitro, and Forge line of optics. With this series, Bushnell flat-out tells you their good, better, best models, with Prime being the good, Nitro the better, and Forge the best.

With that knowledge up front, you can go right to your preferred price range and be secure in knowing you’ll be getting your money’s worth.

Yes, there is a step up in features—such as better lenses and additional lens coatings—as you move up the scale, but many of the components and quality manufacturing aspects are carried throughout the series, meaning they didn’t take shortcuts for shortcut’s sake when it came to design or components.

Overall, you might be hard-pressed to pick out the differences in performance. Maybe if you’re good at it, perhaps you’d see a difference in contrast and resolution, but by no means should you think the Prime line of riflescopes will disappoint.

Plus, the Prime line of riflescopes comes in six popular magnification ranges and sizes, starting with the 1-4x32, meaning it features variable power ranging from one to four times magnification, with a 32mm objective lens. This scope costs just $139.99.

And the most popular configuration, the 3-9x40, which most hunters choose because of the versatile magnification range, costs only $189.99, or you can get the illuminated-reticle version for $199.99.

Let’s see. What else? The 3-12x40 will cost $244.99, the 4-12x40 will cost $229.99, and the largest scope in the Prime line, the 6-18x50, is still a hair under $300, at $299.99.

With this kind of optical quality at these kinds of prices, you can indeed spend more on your rifle than you do your scope and still go afield confident you’ll have a scope that will perform when the buck steps into view.

It’s also a nice feeling not to have drained your bank account.

Check out Bushnell’s Prime line of riflescopes at



A journalist by profession and hunter by inherent inclination, Joe Arterburn has more than 35 years of experience as a writer and in the outdoor industry. He is a freelance writer for major outdoor publications, including Petersen’s Hunting, Outdoor Life, Hunter’s Handbook, Gun Digest and Gun Dog, as well as online publications.  

This article was originally published for the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA). Bushnell is a proud sponsor of the IHEA and continuing the heritage of hunting worldwide by developing safe, responsible, knowledgeable and involved hunters.