September 23, 2010
Clear sailing: New offerings from Burris are light and bright
Burris's 2-7X 26mm Short Mag is both extremely lightweight and compact. It complemented the author's CZ 527 carbine nicely and performed well in the field.
Burris (Dept. ST, 331 E. 8th St., Greeley, CO 80631; 970-356-1670; www.burris.optics) made a huge splash at the 2005 S.H.O.T. Show in Las Vegas when the company announced that it would be introducing a line of Tactical scopes mid-year. I had a chance to handle a number of prototypes at the show and was impressed by what I saw. The scopes are good looking and well thought out, and I eagerly await the chance to use them afield. In the meantime, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the company itself and the sport optics it is best known for.
Burris bears the name of its founder, Don J. Burris, who formed the company in 1971 after leaving Redfield. During 12 years of product design and management there, Burris had achieved some notable successes. He developed Redfield's first constantly centered nonmagnifying reticle, a feature shooters pretty much take for granted today. Redfield's Accu-Range scope, which saw use with both civilian hunters and Marine snipers in Vietnam, was his design. He also developed an internally adjustable target scope to replace the older designs with external adjustments like the Unertl.
The American dream is to have your own company and to work for yourself. Burris succeeded in doing this, and his fledgling company got off the ground by producing rings, bases, and open sights for the first four years. It wasn't long, though, before he was back designing and producing optics. His company's first optic was a riflescope called the Fullfield, which he began to market in 1975. Success quickly grew the line to seven models. In 1979 four models of mini scopes (now referred to as Compact) were added along with two long eye relief handgun scopes (2X and 3X). One year later Burris became the first domestic optics manufacturer to offer riflescopes with multicoated lenses.
Things took off for Burris, and the firm continued to make noteworthy riflescopes and handgun optics introductions on a regular basis. After spending much of his life devoted to improving sports optics, Don Burris passed away in 1988. Despite the loss, his company continued to prosper and expand. In 1991 Burris entered the spotting scope market by introducing three fixed-power models: 20X 50mm, 24X 60mm, and 30X 60mm. That same year Burris also introduced a scope for hunter-class benchrest competition that went on to be used to win the 1992 Nationals. In 1992 Burris expanded out to offer a complete line of sports optics, and it introduced four models of binoculars. The firm followed this up by introducing the Posi-Lock in 1993. This simple design eliminates backlash and binding adjustments from affecting the scope's zero. One of my favorite reticles, the Ballistic Plex, was introduced in 2000. Simple in nature, it's designed to provide holdover marks for rapid engagement of targets at various distances without having to touch the elevation knob.
Burris has an interesting history, but the company also has a lot to offer to avid sportsmen today. To give readers a quick look at some of those products, I selected three very different models of riflescopes to test here in Maine. From Burris's new Short Mag line I picked the 2-7X 26mm, from the Signature Select line I chose the 4-16X 44mm, and from the Euro Diamond line I selected the 3-12X 50mm. These three very different models will give readers a good look at the type of riflescope Burris is building today.
In recent years there has been a noticeable move towards ever-lighter hunting rifles. And these in turn are often chambered for not only traditional hunting cartridges but also the new Short Magnums. The result is a very light yet hard-hitting big-game rifle. Burris noted this trend and responded with the Short Mag line of hunting scopes. These are designed to be very lightweight and also extremely short and compact. After all, it makes no sense to mount a hulking piece of glass on an ultralightweight rifle.
The 4-16X 44mm Signature Select riflescope from Burris is a good-looking scope intended for use at longer distances. Mounted atop this Savage varmint rifle it makes an excellent coyote rig.
The Short Mag line currently consists of two fixed-power models (1X 20mm XER and 4X 20mm) and three variables (2-7X 26mm, 3-9X 32mm, and 4-12X 32mm). I selected the 2-7X model because I wanted to find out how well it would work in the heavy cover here in New England.
Examining it I was impressed by how light it is, only 11 ounces. Not only is it light, but at just 9.5 inches it's also very compact. Field of view runs from 32 to 14 feet at 100 yards, and the 26mm objective generates an exit pupil running from 10.4 to 3.8mm. Capped finger-adjustable knobs provide 60 minutes of angle (MOA) of adjustment in 1/4-MOA clicks. Eye relief runs from 3.75 to 5 inches. Finish is matte black with white markings.
I mounted the 2-7X 26mm Short Mag on a CZ Model 527 in 7.62x39mm for testing. Due to the very short nature of this model's micro 98 action it can be difficult finding a scope that looks right on it. The Burris Short Mag was a perfect fit, adding little weight or bulk to the small carbine. Performance was quite good with fine resolution and a fairly bright image. It zeroed easily, and the Ballistic Plex reticle provided useful holdovers for the sluggish 7.62x39mm. I really like the size and weight of this scope, the reticle, the magnification range, and its general optical performance. My only complaint is the field of view is somewhat narrow. The suggested retail price is $463.
A significant change from the Short Mag is Burris's 4-16X 44mm from the Signature Select line. A full-size model built on a one-inch tube, it is 15.5 inches long and weighs a respectable 24 ounces. Field of view on this model runs from 26 to 8 feet at 100 yards. The mid-size 44mm objective generates an exit pupil running from 10 to 2.8mm.
A nice touch is the European-style adjustable diopter eyepiece with 3.5 to 4 inches of eye relief. Due to the one-inch tube, total adjustment is just 32 MOA in 1/4-MOA clicks. Ballistic adjustments are made via short capped knobs that are finger adjustable and resettable to zero. My review sample featured both an adjustable objective and an illuminated Ballistic Plex reticle. Finish is matte black with white markings.
I installed the 4-16X 44mm Signature Select on a heavy-barreled Savage .223 varmint rifle for testing. Befitting Savage's reputa
tion, this particular rifle is superbly accurate, and it allowed me to evaluate the scope's capabilities at a variety of distances. My initial impressions were that it was a nice looking scope but with a limited adjustment range. Once I zeroed it and started shooting, however, I didn't bother with cranking the knobs. Instead I just used the reticle's holdover marks. This proved to be very fast and gave precise hits under field conditions once I knew how the bullet path coincided with the holdover marks.
I like this model quite a bit. It performed well, and optical performance was quite good with only a slight degradation of resolution past 14X. Low-light performance was quite good, as long as I kept the exit pupil around 5mm or 6mm. Side focus knobs are currently in vogue, but it should be understood that an adjustable objective is not only more precise but also more robust. The illuminated reticle is a nice feature, but the rheostat lacks clicks or detents. Because of this I think this design would be easier to accidentally rotate to the "On" position. Despite any drawbacks, though, this model would work quite well on a varmint rifle. The Ballistic Plex reticle is very fast and is perfect for field use, such as coyote hunting. This is a rugged and good-looking scope well suited to its intended task. It has a suggested retail price of $976.
The Burris 3-12X 50mm Euro Diamond is a very handsome, high-quality optic featuring Continental good looks and excellent optical performance.
Burris's Euro Diamond line is intended to appeal to those sportsmen who like the features of European optics but prefer to buy American. This handsome line consists of four basic models: 1.5-6X 40mm, 3-10X 40mm, 2.5-10X 44mm, and 3-12X 50mm. The model I chose for review was the 3-12X 50mm. Unlike the previous two models reviewed, the heart of the Euro Diamond is a rugged 30mm tube.
This tube houses lenses that are index match multicoated using Burris's antireflective Hi-Lume process. Field of view of this model runs from 34 to 10 feet at 100 yards. The large 50mm objective generates an exit pupil ranging from 15mm to a respectable 4.2mm. Thanks to the large diameter 30mm tube, this model has 50 MOA of adjustment travel in 1/4-MOA clicks.
It shares the same finger-adjustable knobs as the Short Mag and Signature Select. One interesting feature of the Euro Diamond is the power ring, which is integrated with the eyepiece so that the whole eyepiece rotates as the magnification is changed. The eyepiece features a European-style adjustable diopter with 3.5 to 4 inches of eye relief. Overall length of this model is 13.7 inches, and it weighs 21 ounces. Finish is matte black with white markings.
To be honest, I like European scopes very much, so I found the lines of Burris's Euro Diamond quite appealing. It's a handsome scope. To check its performance I mounted it on an HS Precision FBI model tactical rifle in .308 Winchester. Viewing a Zeiss ZTP chart showed resolution to be very good throughout its magnification range with only a slight degradation of performance in its outer edges.
Low-light performance was also quite good, with the Euro Diamond displaying a bright image with accurate color rendition. Testing from the bench at 100 yards showed the adjustments to be both accurate and repeatable, and there was no noticeable point of impact change when shooting at different magnification settings. All in all, I like the looks and the performance of this model quite a bit. At $849 suggested retail it is priced to compete with its European counterparts.