As long as sporting rifles with scopes have been popular, low magnification scopes have been a popular choice. While higher magnification scopes are popular with target shooters and long range hunters, the reality is that most users of optics (whether law enforcement, hunters, or plinkers) shoot most frequently under 200 yards and commonly even inside of 100.
At most common shooting distances, high powered scopes are unnecessary and even unwieldy. The adaptation of the semi automatic carbine as an all purpose rifle has increased demand for these scopes, and manufacturers have started creating low power variable scopes to meet demand. With manufacturers innovating quickly in the field, there are now plenty of options to find the best 1-4x scope for you.
The designation 1-4x reads "1 to 4 power" and describes the magnification. 1 to 4 means the scope can vary between 1 and 4 magnifications, with most scopes using an infinite variable system to move in a range between the two rather than just at 1 and 4 power.
A true 1 power on the low end means you can look through the scope on the lowest power with no warping of the surrounding area. Some scopes advertised as having a 1x on the low end are not known as true 1 power scopes, because they might magnify a slight amount (for instance 1.2X) and cause some warping on objects focused at a close range.
Scopes will usually be designated by a third number as well, such as 1-4X24. Read 1 to 4 by 24, the third number describes the size of the objective lens in millimeters. The larger this number, the larger the objective end of the scope.
The reticle of the scope describes the line or other symbols used to aim the scope. On scopes, this is usually a "crosshair" or a circle of some kind, and may include other symbols such as lines for ranging or dots for holding for distance or wind. In general, 1-4X scopes are designed to be picked up easily by the eye and usually favor simpler reticles. Having a purpose and budget in mind when you begin shopping will help narrow choices down to fit your needs best.
Our Top Picks for the Best 1-4x Scope
With so many options on the market, we have tried to select some of our favorite scopes in all different price points, from the entry level to the high end user. Features will increase as price scale goes up, but that doesn't mean you can't find a great scope in an accessible budget for you!
Going up in price will usually result in better glass quality and focus, more reticle choices, lighter weight, and more robust construction
Primary Arms is a quickly growing optics company gaining ground with the shooting sports community. They gained popularity for their reasonably priced red dot sight and tactical rifle optics and have since expanded to a wide variety of scopes.
The Primary Arms Illuminated 1-4x scope is very good for the money. For under $150, you get a very solid 1-4X scope illuminated with a red dot in the middle of their duplex reticle for quick target acquisition. It is a perfect entry level 1-4x scope for AR15 rifles or other semi automatic carbines where quick shot placement is necessary.
The Primary Arms Illuminated 1-4X Scope offers a 24mm compact, low power magnification at an affordable price perfect for a budget build, a new shooter, or anybody who wants a quick-acquisition scope at a low cost. The scope is fog resistant and water proof and has a 30mm body, so you will need a 30mm mount to attach it to your rifle. If you are looking for the best 1-4x scope for the money, Primary Arms represents a great value and is a good place to start for all levels of experience.
The Burris 1-4X24 MTAC is designed to be a versatile, low-drag 1-4x scope for AR15 rifles. The reticle features a large illuminated circle for quick aiming up close, providing quick reflexive shots similar to a red dot reflex sight.
The center of the reticle contains small dots for fine, precise aiming and holding over to adjust for elevation out to 600 yards. The lenses are precision optical ground and multi-coated with Burris' "HiLume" process for maximum clarity and resolution. The versatile reticle and high quality lenses make the Burris MTAC suitable on a rifle for competition shooting, duty use, self defense, or brush hunting.
Burris also offers the MTAC-FF, paired with their Fastfire red dot sight and P.E.P.R. mount for mounting to a rifle with a picatinny rail. If you want the versatility of a variable power scope with the guarantee of fast reflexive shots, the scope and red dot combination may be what you're looking for.
A 30mm, low profile mount is required for mounting to most semi-automatic rifles, so for a little more money, the combo with all parts included represents a great value. A great, low-profile set up for a wide variety of rifle shooters.
Representing another well-known brand with a low cost option is Bushnell with their BTR-1 bushnell 1-4x 24mm throw down pcl. Bushnell has built a reputation on offering quality optics for an affordable cost for many years.
The BTR-1 is an illuminated 1-4X scope with a First Focal Plane Reticle. This means that as you change magnification, the reticle will become larger or smaller in proportion to the magnification change, keeping holdover reticles accurate no matter what magnification your scope is set on - something that can't be done with second focal plane scopes.
The BTR-1 is a caliber specific reticle that uses ballistic data for 5.56 ammunition to place holdover dots out to 500 yards. What this means is you can hold to a different point of aim on your reticle for different distances, compensating easily for drop without making a mechanical adjustment to your scope.
The BTR-1 is machined out of high-strength aluminum alloys and hard anodized for maximum finish protection. The lenses are fully multi-coated for a clear picture. The whole assembly is sealed with an O-ring and nitrogen purged to remove any moisture that may be trapped inside the scope. This prevents fogging in harsh weather environments and protects the scope from the intrusion of moisture and dust.
A unique touch to the Bushnell BTR is their Power Change Lever (PCL). Bushnell has recognized that most shooters of 1-4X scopes tend to use only the low and high ends of magnification and want to be able to flip quickly between the two, whether for use in competition, hunting, or self defense.
The Throwdown PCL allows a convenient handle for the user to be able to quickly and easily change from low to high magnification, great for making shots at varied distances or when the distance won't be known.
Trijicon is a well respected name in battle-ready rifle optics, famously being the manufacturer to supply the US Military with its 4X ACOG optics.
Trijicon's area of expertise is creating incredibly rugged scopes with high clarity lenses, illuminated without the need for batteries. They do this using a combination of fiber optic technologies and radioactive isotopes of tritium, which give off light for many years without the potential source of failure of having an electrical battery.
Trijicon's accupoint is a tough, compact rifle scope made for a variety of situations where response may be needed up close or at long distance. It features a simple reticle of only an etched post and an illuminated triangle.
The accupoint is a second focal plane scope, meaning that the reticle gets relatively smaller to the target image as magnification increases. This allows the versatility of having a reticle which is easily picked up at close ranges but allows very precise aiming at higher magnification.
The accupoint reticle is available illuminated in both green and amber colors. The scope uses fiber optic technology to automatically adjust the brightness of the reticle for the surrounding light (including tritium illumination for low-light or no-light situations) along with a manual brightness over ride to set the reticle to your liking.
If you want the best for your AR15 and are looking for a top-dollar, unerringly reliable and well performing scope, the Trijicon may very well be a great option.
As with every other part of the semi-automatic rifle market, variable power scopes are really a buyer's market right now. With so many manufacturers and styles, there are many great options to choose from and making a solid choice can be confusing or overwhelming.
Start by narrowing down your budget, needs, and desired features. Looking within your budget range and for the features most important to you will quickly narrow down your options to fewer choices. Look for reputable brands, good reviews, and strong customer service/warranty guarantees.
If you're in the market for a versatile, low-magnification scope for your AR15 or other rifle, hopefully this 1-4x scope comparison has helped you find the best 1-4x scope for your rifle needs.