October 18, 2022
Company founder David P. Bushnell is a classic example of the American entrepreneur. He was born on March 31, 1913, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and grew up in Los Angeles. He was an engineering student at the California Institute of Technology from 1930 to 1933, and he paid his way by selling newspapers. He left school and traveled around the world for eight months before returning to the United States and enrolling at the University of Southern California, from which he was graduated in 1936 with a degree in foreign trade.
Bushnell then started an import-export business and imported a diverse line of products from several companies. He also worked for Lockheed during World War II. In 1948, he went to Japan on his honeymoon. He returned to the States with 400 binoculars he had purchased and which he promptly sold by mail order. Bushnell was now in the optics business.
Other optics, such as riflescopes and telescopes, soon joined the line, and Bushnell was awarded several patents for inventions that improved his products. Bushnell sold his company to Bausch & Lomb in 1971 and ultimately retired as a vice president of B&L. Bushnell the company is now a subsidiary of Vista Outdoor and is also the parent company to 13 other brands of sporting products.
David P. Bushnell died on March 24, 2005, at the age of 91, of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His third wife, Nancy; two daughters; and two sons survived him. But Bushnell’s legacy of optical excellence still thrives today through an extensive and innovative line of optical products.
The Bushnell company’s offerings have grown to include a vast assortment of products that enhance the experiences of outdoor enthusiasts, and I got a chance for some hands-on experience with many of them at a recent new-product seminar at the Spur Ranch in Wyoming.
Here’s a rundown of the many new products that caught my eye (pun intended). The MSRPs listed vary somewhat, as the Bushnell website has discounted prices on some items, so it is a good idea to check out the Web if you’re in the market for a product.
At the top of my “wow!” list are the RXS-100, RXS-250, and TRS-125 reflex red-dot sights. I had the opportunity to work out all three on the Spur’s range. These little gems have glass lenses; are powered by the ubiquitous CR-2032 battery, which can be changed without removing the sight from the firearm; and have tough aluminum housings. They have unlimited fields of view and detented windage and elevation adjustments, and they are parallax free.
The RXS-100 is my pick of the litter. It has a 4-MOA red dot with eight brightness settings. It mounts on the DeltaPoint footprint and comes with a Weaver-type/Picatinny rail low-profile mount. It is waterproof and dustproof, weighs a mere 1.4 ounces, and comes with Bushnell’s five-year Ironclad Warranty. It will withstand serious recoil of handguns, rifles, and shotguns. (A Bushnell customer used an RXS-100 on a .454 Casull in Alaska and reported that it worked perfectly.)
The RXS-100 retails for only $99.99. I bought two of them and put one on my .22 LR Ruger SP101 revolver and the other on my .357 Magnum Taurus Model 627 revolver. I am delighted to report that fuzzy sight pictures are a thing of the past and that groups shrank considerably.
The RXS-250 is similar to the RXS-100 in size, mounting arrangements, and dot size, but it has 10 brightness settings and 50,000 hours of battery life. The housing meets the MIL-810 drop test spec while mounted on a fully loaded pistol, even if it lands optic down, so it’s tough. The hood geometry and reflector lens provide a large field of view, and the lenses are multi-coated. Retail is $249.99.
The TRS-125 is a larger tube dot sight that also uses the Weaver/Picatinny rail system. The mount has a high-rise spacer that is removable for low-profile applications. This sight can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes without damage. Retail is $119.99.
Binoculars and Rangefinders
Bushnell is deep into the binocular business and has a multitude of models. The H20 line has seven full-size models with porro and roof prisms. Magnifications in the porro and roof prism models range from 7X50 to 12X42. The two compact 8X25 and 12X25 models have FRP (folding roof prisms). The fully multi-coated lenses are paired with BAK-4 prisms for excellent light transmission and resolution. The non-slip rubber coating on the barrels provides a secure grip, and they’re very economical, with retail prices starting at $64.99.
A nifty combination product is the Fusion X ranging binocular. This modern-day 10X42 unit has the “ActivSync” feature that changes the numbers on the display from black in bright light to red in dim conditions. It has +/- 1-yard accuracy with all-day visibility and IPX7 construction that is waterproof and fogproof. It has near- and far-ranging modes, making it suitable for both archery and gun hunters. It has ranging modes that disregard objects in the foreground so the user is sure to get a correct reading to the real target. Push the “Ranging” button and you instantly get the reading with +/- 1-yard accuracy out to one mile. The Fusion X is heavier than a regular binocular, but it’s lighter than a binocular and a rangefinder, and it was handier than all get-out for ranging distant Wyoming prairie dogs. The retail price is $699.99.
While at the Spur Ranch, I also got to use the Prime 1800 rangefinder, a 6X24 unit that ranges to 1,800 yards with +/- 1-yard accuracy. I really like this gizmo. It is super-easy to use, and the extra-large objective lens, the laser aperture, and the ActivSync display provide a clear and accurate image in bright daylight or at dusk. The 1800 has Bullseye/Brush and bow and rifle ballistic modes. It retails for $249.99 (although, as of this writing, the price for it on the website is $162.49).
And then we have the Prohunter 750 rangefinder. As the name implies, this 6X20 unit ranges to 750 yards, which should be sufficient for most of us. It has a “Tilt Angle” feature that measures the actual distance on a slope, like when sitting up in a treestand or looking down into a canyon, and a scan function for quick ranging on multiple targets. For a lightweight pocket rangefinder, it’s just the ticket. The retail price is $149.99.
A really unique optic is the Equinox X650, a 5X50 night vision monocular that has zoom in and out features, mode selection, and a display focus. It captures high-quality video, day or night, on an SD card. The night vision exceeds 650 feet with the built-in IR illuminator. The runtime is up to 6 hours on 3 AA batteries (which are included). And the retail price is a modest $124.95.
Riflescopes and Spotting Scopes
Riflescopes get the full treatment with several lines. The Elite Tactical scope comes in two flavors: DMR 3.5-21X 50mm and XRS3 6-36X 56mm. Both have Bushnell’s most advanced optical system, with the ED Prime objective, FMC elements, EXO Barrier Protection, and a new element coating on the reticle that increases light transmission over previous models. The new G4 reticles are FFP (first focal plane) and feature a “floating dot” aiming point, a floating holdover dot, and more open space above the horizontal crosshair. The six-times magnification ratio makes the scope suitable for close-in shooting, including rimfire competition, as well as long-range precision shooting. The elevation dial has the Rev-Limiter Zero-Stop target turret. And the parallax on the left side of the turret is adjustable from 25 yards to infinity.
As shown in the introductory photo to this article, I used one of these excellent scopes on a GA Precision rifle in 6mm Creedmoor (with ammo I had handloaded at the ranch using brand-new RCBS tools) at various ranges. With the proper elevation dialed in, hits on steel targets out to 800 yards were a snap. What I called the “windage correction marks” on the horizontal crosshair made applying the windage correction, which was supplied by my spotter, precise and effective. These scopes are the real deal. As the saying goes, “they ain’t cheap,” but they are inexpensive. MSRP: $1,499.99 (3.5-21X), $1,699.99 (6-36X).
A delightful scope is the Tactical Match Pro, a 6-24X 50mm scope with a 30mm tube scope and a first focal plane reticle so reticle subtensions are the same at any power. It really has all the bells and whistles one needs to get into target competition without breaking the bank. The turret adjustments are in base 10, so revolution-counting and stage-prep are easy. The 30mm tube provides 18 MIL of windage and elevation for shots out to 1,000 yards. Plus, the minimum parallax is 10 yards for the close shots, making this scope especially suitable for rimfire competition. The precision-ground glass lenses are fully multi-coated and have the Ultra-Wide-Band coating to reduce flaring. The EXO Barrier coating is bonded to ward off rain and other precipitation. I used a Match Pro on a rimfire rifle on the ranch’s rifle range, and it was pure “death and destruction” on paper and clay targets at various ranges. It was impressive. All in all, it’s probably the best entry-level competition scope on the market. MSRP: $449.99 to $499.99.
Shooters who can’t afford a high-dollar riflescope but still need a quality sight are not forgotten by Bushnell. For these folks, there is the Banner 2, billed as a “simple, lightweight optic that delivers a fantastic image in low light.” I had a Banner in the past and would add that the adjustments worked as planned. It worked perfectly. Today’s Banner 2s are available in 3-9X 40mm and 6-18X 50mm configurations; have a fast-focus eyepiece; and feature lightweight, one-piece aluminum, 1-inch tubes. The appropriate Weaver-style rings (high or extra-high) are included. A prominent feature is an illuminated DOA Quick Ballistic Reticle with five drop points and five wind hold lines. The lenses are fully coated, and the scope is waterproof. It comes with Bushnell’s Lifetime Ironclad Warranty. At $109.99 for the 3-9X and $139.99 for the 6-18X, this is a lot of scope for a small price.
Big boomer cartridges are all the rage, but the fact remains that the .22 rimfire rules the roost—as it has for decades—in the number of rounds produced and fired. For the millions of plinkers and other .22 shooters, Bushnell has a 3-9X 40mm, with or without an illuminated reticle, that is specifically designed for rimfires. It has the DZ22 reticle that is designed with holdover dots for a 40-grain bullet out to 125 yards. The adjustments are capped, so your zero setting won’t get inadvertently changed in the field. The multi-coated lenses and the 40mm objective produce a larger exit pupil. All in all, it’s a neat specialty scope for .22 rimfire shooters. MSRP: $99.99; $119.99 (illuminated reticle).
In addition, Bushnell has reintroduced the Elite 4500 riflescope with new and improved features. It is designed for big-game and varmint hunting, as well as plinking and target shooting. The glass has the EXO Barrier coating bonded to the surfaces for superb protection against the elements, and the lenses are enhanced for improved clarity and contrast. The fully coated lenses have Ultra-Wide-Band coatings that produce optimal brightness and true color rendition across the entire light spectrum, all housed in a lightweight, one-piece 30mm tube. The reticle is the popular Multi-X, and the adjustment turrets are capped to prevent accidental adjustments. Three versions are available: 1-4X 24mm, 2.5-10X 40mm, and 4-16X 50mm. Prices are $229.99, $269.99, and $299.99 respectively.
Last, but certainly not least, is the LMSS2 spotting scope. This lightweight yet full-featured 8-40X 60mm spotter comes with either the HORUS Tremor 4 or the HORUS H322 reticle. It has ED glass and the Ultra-Wide-Band coatings for exceptional light transmission in low-light situations, and it weighs only 2.3 pounds, perfect for the mountain hunter. It has a generous 1.2-inch eye relief, a fast-focus diopter, and a “Hammer Throw” power-change lever. Lens caps are included.
Here’s a neat feature you don’t see on run-of-the mill spotters. Mounted on the top of the scope barrel is a chunk of Picatinny rail. On this a dot sight or low-powered scope can be mounted that can be “sighted-in” with the spotter’s field of view and used to “get in the ballpark” very quickly on distant objects, like the 6x6 bull elk you’ve been trailing for hours. It even has accessory rail connections on the sides and bottom. It’s definitely a full-featured spotting scope. MSRP: $1,749.99.
After three days of shooting on the range, we ventured to the prairie to hunt the whitetail prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni) indigenous to the area. Unlike blacktail prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus), which live in other parts of the West in vast “towns” of many mounds and hundreds of individuals, their whitetail cousins inhabit individual dens scattered over huge expanses of rolling areas of sage brush. They can be hunted by walking many miles, rifle in hand, in the choking dust and heat, or by driving around looking for them. After careful consideration, we chose the latter method.
The dens have mounds of the almost-white soil of their areas, and the prairie dogs themselves “shine” in the bright Wyoming sunlight, so they were relatively easy to spot—for the guide, that is. We “landlubbers” were forever saying, “Where? By what bush?”
We shot both rimfire and centerfire rifles with a good variety of Bushnell scopes on them, and we used binoculars and rangefinders to good advantage. The fellows shooting the .22 rimfires hit many more than I did with my AR, but we hit several and scared the dickens out of many more. We gave the Bushnell riflescopes, binoculars, and rangefinders a good “field test,” and they passed with flying colors.
All in all, it was a very educational experience and reinforced the importance of quality optics for success on the range and in the field.