Married To Making The Best Scope Possible

Married To Making The Best Scope Possible

Turning adversity into opportunity is the American way. Premier Reticles has done that and has evolved riflescope design at the same time.

Premier Heritage 5-25X 56mm.

I worked as a carpenter's helper all through college, and my old boss once told me after a whole day of lamenting the loss of my college sweetheart that a man must turn adversity into opportunity. It was probably the best advice I ever got. Life will throw you some nasty curves, and you just have to get up, dust yourself off, and move on. What does this life lesson have to do with optics? Plenty.


Premier Reticles in recent years made its living building the U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper Day Scope for Schmidt & Bender and retrofitting Leupold scopes with custom reticles. In 2006 Leupold brought the custom reticle business in house, and in 2007 Premier ended its partnership with Schmidt & Bender. So for the first time since opening in 1946, Premier was a company without anything to do.

Instead of giving up and rolling over, lifetime employee and company president Chris Thomas said to heck with it and set out to design and build a new line of precision riflescopes. He poached mechanical engineers from Schmidt & Bender and optical engineers from Leica Camera, forming an across-the-pond subsidiary, then had his new engineers design a tactical/target scope with extraordinary speed.


"We went from concept to design to prototype to production in just nine months," Thomas said. "Our designers have a lot of passion and experience and wanted the chance to build the best scope possible. There is no corporate bureaucracy since the decisions start and end with me."


As this is written, there are two models in the Heritage scope line: a 3-15X 50mm and a 5-25X 56mm. Both are vying for existing domestic and foreign military contracts and their share of the tactical and target markets. Thomas was quick to say that Premier did not reinvent the wheel, but engineers were able to make subtle improvements here and there using their combined 50 years of experience.

"The Heritage series is not revolutionary; frankly, it's evolutionary," Thomas said. "We all have access to the same technology, but we didn't bring any baggage. We were just married to making the best scope possible."

The lever-lock system replaces the typical three Allen-head screws arrangement found on most target-style knobs. Pry up the lever with a cartridge rim, turn the lever a half-turn, and then reset the knob to zero.

Scopes start life as a T6 6061 heat-treated aluminum billet. The one-piece tubes are then filled with parts machined from other aluminums, brass, and stainless steel. Many parts are hand lapped for a perfect fit and serialized. Two hardened steel leaf springs set at 45-degree angles hold the erector assembly in place and have no problem handling heavy recoil or delivering a lifetime's worth of service. Scopes are hand assembled here in the U.S. and tested throughout the manufacturing process.

Thomas said several different kinds of glass are used in every scope, sourced from around the world.

"Lenses are ground and coated to our specs, and then every lens is qualified once it arrives here at Premier," Thomas said. "That allows us to get the best possible custom glass at the best possible price."

Heritage scopes have a 34mm tube, which Thomas said allows for the perfect balance of adjustment range, robustness, and optical quality. The 3-15X 50mm has 34 mrad, or almost 117 MOA, of internal elevation adjustment.

"That tube size allows us to optimize our lenses and gives better color correction, field of view, and flatness of field of view," Thomas said. "We have 93 percent light transmission and less than 2 percent distortion."

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Premier Heritage 3-15X 50mm

Manufacturer:Premier Reticles | 540.868.2044
Purpose: Tactical, precision target
Magnification: 3-15X variable
Eye relief: 90mm/3.54 in.
FOV at 100mm 3X: 12.4m; 15X: 2.6m
Exit Pupil:3X: 11.2mm; 15X: 3.4mm
Construction: T6 6061 heat treated aluminum billet
Tube diameter: 34mm/ 1.34 in.
Lenses: Multi-coated throughout
Objective lens diameter: 50mm/ 2 in
Turrets:0.1 mrads per click
Turret adjustment range:34 mrads/117 MOA
Rated: Fog proof, waterproof, shockproof
Finish: Type II black anodized
Weight: 38 oz. /1.1kg
Length: 345.5mm/13.6 in.
Warrenty:Lifetime
Price:$2,899

Heritage scopes come with mil/mrad target knobs but can easily be converted to MOA with the purchase of different knobs since the adjustment values are determined by the knob's teeth.

Instead of the traditional Allen-head screws, the oversized target knobs use a lever lock system that is similar to the arrangement found on bicycle front tires. Simply pry up the lever with a cartridge rim and unscrew a half-turn to loosen the knob. The dial can then be set to zero, though the knob still clicks but is disengaged from the erector system. Thomas said snipers and precision shooters are constantly re-zeroing their rifles, and carrying a tiny wrench is a pain, which is why Premier engineers came up with this arrangement.

The 1/10 mrad clicks are fairly close together, but that has the advantage of quick gross adjustments. The first nine are just that, a light click, while the tenth, which represents a full mil, is much more tactile--click, click, click, clunk--allowing a shooter to quickly make adjustments without counting individual clicks. If you had 1.3 mrads worth of come-up, just spin the knob to the clunk and then count up three. Premier can make custom knobs that put the tactile click at any point desired, and since the adjustment values are determined by the knob's teeth contained in the dial itself, the user can easily convert the scope's adjustments from mils to minutes.

Another nice feature is the eyepiece, which combines the speed of European fast-focus designs with the durability of American-styled lock-ring eyepieces. A knobbed ring is first loosened so the eyepiece can be focused and then is tightened to hold the ocular in place. I have been the victim of accidental adjustments, and this clever design eliminates the problem.

In addition to windage and elevation knobs, the Heritage has a side-parallax focus knob with an integrated rheostat for controlling reticle illumination. To make adjustments, just grab the checkered inset and pull outwards to reveal the 11 intensity settings. There is a 6-hour automatic shut-off to prevent sucking your battery dry should you forget to turn off your scope. Standard 2032 3V lithium batteries will deliver hundreds of hours of run time.

Currently there are two different etched reticles offered, a Gen 2 mil-dot and a Gen 2 XR, both designed by Thomas and his late father. The Marine scout/snipers currently use the Gen 2 mil-dot, and with a little practice it can be used to quickly range targets and hold off for distance and wind. This is no place to get into the milliradian-versus-minute argument--it is a Ford-Chevy discussion that can last for days--but dividing by 10 is pretty easy. Thankfully, most rangefinders are easily converted from yards to meters, making the issue simple enough from an equipment standpoint. You just have to learn the math and to think in meters.

Since the reticles were designed as a ranging tool, they are located in the first focal plane. With an eye toward a future line expansion, Thomas had engineers design the erector system for both first- or second-plane reticles. Shooters will decide on future reticle placement--and on most other scope features for that matter.

"We started in the early '50s building custom reticles for benchrest and target shooters and have a heritage, pun intended, with those folks," Thomas said. "We can build scopes for the different competition niches and with all of the features the tactical market wants. That's the advantage of being a small, nimble company."

The locking eyepiece is a nice feature that is as durable as most American designs but as fast as most European designs. Just loosen the locking knob, focus the eyepiece, and tighten the locking knob to hold the focus setting.

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Premier Heritage 5-25X 56mm

Manufacturer:Premier Reticles | 540.868.2044
Purpose: Tactical, precision target
Magnification: 5-25X variable
Eye relief: 90mm/3.54 in.
FOV at 100mm 5X:7.6m; 25X: 1.6m
Exit Pupil:5X: 11.2mm; 25X: 2.3mm
Construction: T6 6061 heat treated aluminum billet
Tube diameter: 34mm/ 1.34 in.
Lenses: Multi-coated throughout
Objective lens diameter: 56mm/ 1.34 in
Turrets:0.1 mrads per click
Turret adjustment range:30 mrads/103 MOA
Rated: Fog proof, waterproof, shockproof
Finish: Type II black anodized
Weight: 39 oz. /1.1kg
Length: 415mm/ 16.34 in.
Warrenty:Lifetime
Price:$2,899

Illuminated reticles are standard and adjusted with a rheostat located inside the side parallax focus knob. Just pull on the checkered inset to reveal the rheostat values.

Precise & Problem-Free
I received both models for testing and evaluation and first took the two Heritage scopes and a handful of other high-end scopes, including NightForce, Leupold, and Swarovski, outside for a look. Keeping in mind that the human eye is a very subjective thing and different people can look through the same scope and see two different images, the Heritage scopes were on par with or slightly better than the other scopes I had on hand. Resolution, color, brightness, and edge-to-edge clarity were excellent--amazing even. Having previously used optics from Schmidt & Bender, Zeiss, and U.S. Optics, I believe the Heritage scopes are on a par with those as well. At that level of performance, it really takes scientific instruments to measure the differences between brands. For shooters, the bottom line comes down to features and price.

One of my more consistent rifles, a stock Remington Model 700 Police chambered in .308, also happened to have a 20-MOA tapered Picatinny rail installed over the action. The rail is nice since there is not a lot of leeway for ring placement on the 3-15X's scope tube, 1.89 inches ahead and 2.34 inches behind the turrets to be exact. Due to the non-standard tube size, Premier was kind enough to include a LaRue LT104 quick-detach mount. Even with a 50mm objective, the mount was a touch high for a comfortable cheekweld, so I attached a Blackhawk cheekpiece to raise the comb an inch or so.

The scope easily shot the "square from hell," a test I reserve for high-performance optics. Instead of shooting a three-shot group and making an adjustment, I shoot one round and make adjustments until I have three-shot groups on each corner. I also jumped out and up a full 2 mils and back to check gross adjustment repeatability. Both tests proved the controls moved the reticle exactly as directed and brought it back to zero without problems. I also heated the scope to 130 degrees for 30 minutes, froze it for two, and then submersed the unit for 15 minutes. There was no internal fogging or apparent leaking.

A Premier Heritage riflescope will set you back a pretty big chunk of change; fully loaded models retail for $2,900. There are good scopes that cost more and good scopes that cost less, so it really comes down to the level of performance you have to have and what is affordable. What does all this money guarantee a shooter? The answer is a scope that will last a lifetime and will take you to new plateaus of optical and mechanical performance. The scope is a serious tool for serious shooters and one that is backed 100 percent by the company that built it. The Heritage series is a welcomed addition to a pretty limited field of high-performance optics.

The scope's windage and elevation knobs moved the point of impact exactly 0.1 mrad per click. The scope shot the "square from hell" without any problems.

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