Best Long Range Rifle Scopes for Hunting under $1000 and under $500

As a hunter, unless you are an absolute beginner (and there’s nothing wrong with that), you know that there is a multitude of long range scopes available for your rifle.

It is impossible for a single person to examine every long distance hunting scope on the market today. You simply must rely on the advice of others to narrow your choices so you can make your own decision from a handful of models.

Vortex Viper HS Long Range Rifle Scope
Vortex Viper HS Long Range Rifle Scope

Based on the research I have done looking for the best long range scope under $1000 and the best under $500, I have come to the conclusion that there are two models that hunters seem to prefer (one in each price range) above most of the other options.

Obviously you can disagree with these selections, especially if they do not fit your particular situation. However, the long range scope reviews below will at the very least give you some context for evaluating any other models you care to look at.

The two scopes we will examine in detail are the Vortex Optics Viper HS Long Range Rifle Scope, 4-16×50 and the Nikon PROSTAFF 5 BDC Riflescope.

If you’re in a hurry and/or you already know you want one of these, click the links in the previous paragraph to check the pricing and availability at Amazon.

If you’re not sure, you can click one of the links in the box below to skip directly to that section. Otherwise, just keep on reading to hopefully find which of these long range optics is for you.

Vortex Optics Viper HS Long Range Rifle Scope, 4-16×50 Review

Vortex Optics is a highly-respected name in the world of optics in general, not just in rifle scopes. Located just outside Madison, Wisconsin, in the city of Middleton, Vortex has been in the optics business since 2004.

The Vortex company makes a rather large array of rifle scopes. Many of them are suitable as long range hunting scopes and long range shooting scopes. Their Viper line is one of the best scopes for the money in the under $1000 range. We’ll look specifically at the Viper HS (hunting and shooting) model.

The tables below summarize the external and internal specifications of the Viper HS Long Range Rifle Scope. Most of these features will be covered in greater detail below.

Internal Specifications 
Zoom Magnification4x to 16x
ReticleDead-Hold BDC
Field of View2.74 to 7.4 ft. (at 100 yds.)
Adjustment Graduation¼ MOA
Travel per Rotation12 MOA
Maximum Windage Adjustment50 MOA
 Maximum Elevation Adjustment 50 MOA
Parallax Setting 50 yds. to infinity
External Specifications 
Objective Lens50mm
Main Tube Diameter30mm
Length13.7 in.
Weight20.4 oz.
Eye Relief4 in.
Turret StyleCapped
MaterialsAircraft-Grade Aluminum
Top Uses Varmint, Target

Inside the Viper HS Scope

Let’s start with what you see inside the rifle scope tube.

Most noticeable will be the reticle. Vortex calls it a Dead-Hold BDC, implying that once you have it properly set, it will hold its position without wavering. I have little doubt that this is true. So if you hunt or shoot where you have to be concerned about holdover, this scope should take care of those needs. This is not an illuminated reticle.

Adjusting for parallax is easy when you use the knob on the side of the scope. You can make these adjustments while viewing the range numbers in shooting position.

Turning the magnification dial near the eyepiece lets you zoom from 4x up to 16x actual size. As you zoom in on your target, your field of view (FOV) will change correspondingly from almost 7 ½ feet to 2 ¾ feet at a distance of 100 yards. Under the vast majority of conditions, this diminishing FOV should not be a problem.

Outside the Viper HS Scope

Looking at the Viper HS from the outside, you will see a 50 millimeter objective lens at the far end. Many rifle scope users consider this the optimal size for its light gathering capabilities. This is great for those low light conditions at dusk and dawn as well as when you find yourself under leafy trees.

The 4 inches of eye relief means you can rest your cheek on the stock almost wherever you like and still be able to sight your target through the 30 millimeter diameter tube.

The caps on the turrets prevent accidental movement, but because they are “tall”, you can easily find and adjust them for windage and elevation as needed.

The turrets have an “easy zero” feature that works like this. After you dial in your windage and elevation settings, pull out the turret, turn it to zero, and release. Unlike some other scopes, you don’t have to mess with scope-specific allen wrenches.

The scope as a whole is made of a single piece of aircraft-grade aluminum, giving you better elevation and windage adjustment possibilities and greater structural strength. Your tube won’t shake itself apart after just a few shots as some cheaper models have reportedly done.

Owners of the Vortex Viper HS tend to rave about one other feature of this scope (and others from Vortex) – the lifetime warranty! The company will give you a new scope if you damage your current one in any way. It doesn’t matter how it got damaged or who did it. There are no questions asked. How’s that for an ironclad guarantee?

Conclusions about the Vortex Viper HS Riflescope

The Viper HS is one of the best hunting scopes for sale in this under $1000 category. As mentioned in the video above, this long range hunting scope has some of the best glass available. If might not be quite as good as those that sell for over $1000, but you would be hard pressed to tell the difference unless you compared them side by side.

If you need a great scope that won’t break your bank, this is the one to get. Remember the old saw: You should get a scope that costs as much as your gun.

One final note before moving on to the Nikon scope: There is a sunshade accessory that you can purchase and attach to the Viper HS. Users have noted that the outermost rim of the shade is a few millimeters smaller that the scope’s objective lens. The difference is so small though that it shouldn’t affect your shooting. I seriously doubt that Vortex would have made the shade if they thought it would hurt rather than enhance your chances of hitting your target.

Vortex Viper HS Rifle Scope

Check the pricing and availability of the Vortex Viper Rifle Scope at Amazon.

Vortex Viper

Check the pricing and availability of the Vortex Viper at Ebay.

Nikon PROSTAFF 5 BDC Riflescope 3.5-14×50 Review

Nikon PROSTAFF riflescope
Nikon PROSTAFF 3.5-14×50 riflescope

If the Viper HS is a little more than you can currently handle price-wise, you definitely should consider the Nikon PROSTAFF 5 BDC as an alternative. Users claim that it is hands down the best long range scope under $500.

This affordable Nikon long range scope shares many of the same features found on the Viper HS, so it should be no surprise that shooters rate it so highly.

The PROSTAFF 5 comes in several varieties besides the 3.5-14×50. The 40 millimeter objective lens version is also quite popular.

A PROSTAFF 5 has a BDC reticle, parallax adjustment capability, and windage and elevation turrets. The turrets are spring-loaded and have the zero-reset feature just as the Vortex scope does. These turrets also have caps to prevent accidental movement in the field.

Hunters appreciate the ease with which you can make adjustments when needed in the field, even when wearing gloves.

As you would expect from anything produced by Nikon, the glass in this scope is fully multi-coated, which is the best you can get in any optics product.

I have found that owners say this scope is comparable to the much more highly priced Swarovski, Leupold, and Zeiss scopes. Why pay hundreds more for those when this Nikon will do the job for you? (Note that I didn’t find anyone comparing it to the Vortex above, though I’m sure some have done so.)

The PROSTAFF 5 holds zero well and can take recoil and (accidental) abuse without coming up lame. Even at maximum magnification (14x), there is no warping or fuzziness of the target you are viewing.

One owner mentioned that on his scope the crosshairs did not appear properly squared off. That is, if you level the vertical line, the horizontal is a little off and vice versa. This may have been a small defect just of his particular scope.

The PROSTAFF 5 comes with bikini lens covers as opposed to flip caps. If that is a concern for you, you can probably find some to purchase cheaply as an addon.

Nikon PROSTAFF 5 scope
Nikon PROSTAFF straight up

The Nikon Spot On™ Ballistic Program (App)

The PROSTAFF 5 is a first focal plane scope. This means that the reticle stays the same size in relation to your target. (The other option is a second focal plane scope where the reticle size changes as you change the zoom.)

In that first focal plane is the BDC Distance Lock function that works in combination with Nikon’s Spot On™ program, which is an app available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.

According to Nikon, “The Spot On program provides users with exact aiming points on the BDC reticle for any load or ammunition at a specified range.” Using their “Spot On Ballistic Match Technology” should take the guesswork out of your long-range shooting bullet drop problems.

Such accuracy at varying magnification levels was not possible on earlier models of Nikon scopes.

Conclusions about the Nikon PROSTAFF 5 BDC 3.5-14×50 Riflescope

It’s hard not to compare the Nikon and the Vortex long range scopes, especially since you’re reading about both of them in the same article. It’s also hard because, as I noted above, they have many of the same features.

So maybe we shouldn’t try to separate them. Both are very good scopes. So is the Nikon the best long range scope for the money? It just might be. (If that sounds like I’m waffling, you’re right. Again, they’re both good.)

That said, you would think there is something better about the Vortex that allows it to command the higher price. The one factor I can think of is the overall build quality. Vortex may have put more effort into using better materials (other than the glass) and implemented higher standards of construction than Nikon. It’s just really difficult to tell.

I’m certain you would be more than satisfied with the Nikon even at (or especially because of?) the lower price point.

Nikon PROSTAFF 5 Rifle Scope

Check the price and availability of the PROSTAFF 5 at Amazon.

Nikon Prostaff 5

Check the pricing and availability of the Nikon Prostaff 5 at Ebay.

If these long range rifle scopes don’t fit your budget, take a look at this offering from Sonicking.

Gary Sonnenberg

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