I was scope shopping last night and looking for a light weight scope for a dedicated hunting rig. The top of my list is the Swarovski x5 but it is about 2x what you want to spend. However, I don’t think you will ever beat the glass on Swarovski Optics. If brightness and clarity is what you are primarily looking for I think you should look at a Swarovski z5 or z6 they both can be had in 3-18 or 5-25 with an exposed elevation turret and useful moa reticle. The z5 is right under your budget @ $1399 and the z6 is about $2k.