September 23, 2010
By J. Guthrie
From rock-bottom bargains to spendy stunners and Plain Jane to Fancy Nancy, this year has seen the introduction of a broad spectrum of new optics.
By J. Guthrie
Industry guests of the 2009 Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show saw the introduction of a wide range of new and interesting products for almost every imaginable shooting application at almost every imaginable price. If you have been searching for a high-quality, mid-priced riflescope, the time has never been better. Bargain-priced optics made a strong showing this year, and so did the high-end super scopes from Europe. A new company has entered the fray, and some old tried-and-true lines were reborn. Here are the highlights of the year's new optic introductions.
Joining forces with other companies across the nation in the fight against breast cancer, Alpen Optics introduced the new Pink 263P 8X25mm compact and the Pink 393P 10X42mm binocular. The National Breast Cancer Foundation receives a portion of the profits from each bino sold. The Pink 263P 8X25mm binocular is very affordable at $60, and its features include a compact-body design, a wide 430-foot field of view, and multi-coated BaK4 optics to provide crisp and bright images. The Alpen Pink 393P 10X42mm binocular costs $200.
Barska added a pair of open-bridge binoculars and two new electronic sights to its extensive optics line. The new Storm EX open-bridge binocular is very compact and completely waterproof. A pebbled, rubber coating makes the Storm EX comfortable to hold, and fully multi-coated optics and BAK-4 prisms deliver a crisp, clear image. There are two models in the Storm EX line--an 8X42mm and a 10X42mm--and they sell for around $225.
Two new Electro Sights were introduced this year: a 2X 30mm IR and a 4X 28mm IR. Both models have built-in mounts that will accept Weaver or Picatinny cross-slots, and they have 1/2-inch-per-click adjustments, ruby and multi-coated optics, and external rail sections for the attachment of additional accessories. The 2X 30mm IR's 5-MOA dot reticle has a seven-position rheostat, and the 2X magnifier is removable. The 4X 28mm IR features a dual-color--red or green--mil-dot reticle controlled by a five- position rheostat and is just $180. The 2X model is $140.
In my opinion, the best, most versatile new product from Burris is the new SixX line of riflescopes. As the name implies, the 2-12X SixX models--one with a 40mm objective and the other with 50mm--have a six-fold increase in magnification from the lowest setting, allowing one scope to be used for a lot of different things. The lower settings keep you on target when the game is close or moving fast, and 12X is adequate for just about any long-range shot imaginable. The pair of SixX scopes have different objective sizes, but they share the same 30mm tube, fully multi-coated and indexed lenses, and a coating that helps shed raindrops. Another feature that might interest magnum cartridge lovers is the 4 to 4.5 inches of eye relief. Pricing will fall between $700 and $800, and that's a real bargain for this level of optical performance.
AR rifles are great for shooting stuff at your feet or out at 200 or 300 yards, but rarely are you able to do both with the same optic. Burris has developed a new reticle that promises to do both, and the firm put it in a new 3X prismatic sight called the AR-332. The Ballistic/CQ reticle is illuminated and has a CQB aiming point as well as a ballistic compensator for reaching out and touching distant targets. Add integrated, flip-up lens covers and a Picatinny mounting bracket that can be removed to fit carry handles, and you've got a cool little sight for $350.
Bushnell added two new binoculars to the Legend line that feature some seriously upgraded glass. The Legend Ultra-HD binos are available in 8X42mm or 10X42mm with black or Realtree AP camo. Engineers put a new anti-reflective Ultra Wide Custom Coating on premium extra-low dispersion glass to deliver optimal color performance and edge-to-edge sharpness. All this optical quality comes wrapped in a magnesium frame with soft-touch finger and thumb pads and can be purchased for a bit less than $300.
Not one to fall behind in the reticle race, Bushnell also introduced its Dead On Accurate (DOA) reticle for whitetail and mule deer hunters. There are muzzleloader and centerfire-rifle versions that combine average trajectories to provide multiple aiming points out to 250 yards for the muzzleloader and 600 yards for the centerfire. Also included are hash marks to help with trophy estimation based on the average ear-to-ear width of each species. The new reticle is available in several scope models, including the new 2.5-16X 42mm 6500 Elite.
If you thought they could not get any better, you were wrong. Leica has reintroduced its extremely successful BRF Geovid rangefinding binocular with all new coatings and glass. The new HD Geovids are available in 8X42mm, 10X42mm, 8X56mm, and 15X56mm, and they have enhanced ranging capabilities out to 1,400 meters. Prisms and Fluorite lenses have new, advanced coatings to deliver an exceptionally bright image at unmatched resolutions. The catch is that this degree of performance and technology is not cheap; models range in price from $2,350 to $3,000.
It's not what you can see, but what you can't see that marks a dramatic change for Leupold's 2009 line. The company tossed all its old VX-3 scopes--no kidding. They were completely redesigned from the ground up. The 18 new VX-3 scopes feature an all-new lens system, the same used in the VX-7, which improves dawn and dusk performance. Diamondcoat 2 provides enhanced abrasion resistance, and a new Generation II waterproofing system utilizing argon and krypton gas seals the scopes against the elements. Borrowing the internals of Leupold's military/law enforcement-grade Mark 4s, two springs instead of one now keep the erector assembly in place. The scopes also come with the new Custom Dial System (CDS). Just call in your serial number after purchase, and Leupold will send you a half-height target turret with the correct drop adjustments for your particular cartridge. What did these improvements do to the price? The average VX-3 scope should only see a 10-percent increase.
Also greatly improved is the RX rangefinder line. The new RX-1000 and RX-1000BTR have aluminum bodies and fully m
ulti-coated lenses that transmit 80 percent of the available light compared to 25 percent in regular models. The new organic light emitting diode (OLED) display and red reticle offer much-improved resolution against dark backgrounds. The True Ballistic Range (TBR) system has been simplified as well.
Mil-spec toughness and match-winning repeatability are hallmarks of NightForce scopes, not to mention considerable weight. For years, many of us prayed for a magnification range and weight appropriate for hunting rifles. Those prayers have been answered with the introduction of the NXS 2.5-10X 32mm compact. At just 12 inches long and 19 ounces, the scope is perfect for most hunting applications. There is a slew of turret and reticle options, and models with ZeroStop technology are also available.
Nikon introduced a scope that should grab the attention of predator hunters. Designers took the ever-popular BDC reticle, fine-tuned it for predator calibers, and then dipped the 3-9X 40mm and 4.5-14X 40mm scopes in Mossy Oak Brush or Realtree Advantage Max 1--two perfect predator-hunting patterns. The Coyote Special riflescopes allow dedicated predator hunters to match quality, factory-dipped optics with camo rifles. The scopes also come with a honeycomb reflection eliminator that Nikon calls an ARD and which threads into the front objective.
The Nitrex line is expanding with the addition of five new TR-two scopes. Available in 2-10X 42mm, 2-10X 50mm, 3-15X 42mm, 3-15X 50mm, and 4-20X 50mm, each model features one-piece, argon-purged, 1-inch tubes; fully multi-coated lenses; three-position, pull-up turrets with 1/4-MOA adjustments; and a reset capability. Some but not all models have side parallax adjustment and the new etched Enhanced Ballistic X (EBX), Fine X, wire TrexPlex, and Illuminated TrexPlex reticles.
Like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes, Premier Reticles is back in business producing its own line of high-speed tactical scopes. At one time, Premier was the final assembly and inspection point for the Marine Corps' Schmidt & Bender daylight scout sniper scope, and it also was retrofitting custom reticles for Leupold. The Corps' contract expired, and Leupold recently brought the reticle work in-house. Chris Thomas, a third-generation scope builder, turned adversity into opportunity and started a European optics company to employ engineers he poached from a famous scope maker. Scopes are designed in Germany and built in the U.S.
The two Heritage models--a 3-15X 50mm and a 5-25X 56mm--went from concept to design to production in just nine months and are loaded with features that include lever-lock turrets that do not require Allen wrenches to reset and a side parallax adjustment with an integral rheostat for the illuminated reticle. Not surprisingly, the Gen II mil-dot reticle is a Premier design, and the optic quality is phenomenal.
Schmidt & Bender
The biggest news from Schmidt & Bender is the introduction of the Summit 2.5-10X 40mm hunting scope with a 1-inch tube. The Summit marks the first scope produced by the company with a tube smaller than 30mm; its weight is a paltry 16.8 ounces. In a further nod to hunters on this side of the pond, the reticle is in the second focal plane. The Summit scope has 4 inches of eye relief and all the exceptional light transmission, image brilliance, and quality craftsmanship we have come to expect from Schmidt & Bender. It should be quite the scope for American hunters.
Sightron's new SIIILR roof-prism series binoculars feature an open-hinge design, superior eye relief, and generous fields of view. They are Sightron's first series of premium-quality, low-dispersion glass binoculars. The two SIIILR models (8X42mm and 10X42mm) are waterproof, fog-proof, and nitrogen-filled. They feature fully multi-coated lenses with a special BaK-4 phase-coated prism, twist-up and twist-down eyecups with locking diopters, and black-rubber-armor finish. Each SIIILR binocular comes with a case, a strap, lens covers, and Sightron's lifetime warranty.
Besides absolute ruggedness, one of Steiner's most popular features over the years has been a focus-free system that worked from 20 or 30 yards to infinity. While great for most applications, it severely limited the binocular's use in some hunting and wildlife viewing situations. Steiner recently introduced the 8X30mm Wildlife Pro with a center-focus wheel. At just 21 ounces, the binocular is extremely lightweight, and it delivers an exceptional, brilliant image to the eye. Steiner also introduced an ultra-compact Safari Pro 10X26mm binocular that should be perfect for minimalists who spend their time in thick cover or turkey and archery hunters looking to reduce their gear load. The tiny dynamo still has the high-quality glass and coatings of its big brothers.
The Z6 series was the first family of scopes to stretch the magnification range by six times, and this year, Swarovski added three new scopes to the line. The new 3-18X 50mm scope should be able to cover almost any hunting or shooting situation imaginable. Just consider the 3X field of view at 100 yards is 39.9 feet and 6.6 feet at 18X. Also added were the Z6 2.5-15X 44mm--a nice addition for those who want a more compact, lightweight scope--as well as the Z6 2.5-15X 56mm. Illuminated reticles and ballistic turrets can be found on Z6i-labled scopes in all three of the above sizes.
Trijicon's AccuPoint scopes provide an illuminated reticle without a battery. Using a long, fiber-optic coil and tritium lamp, the system automatically adjusts itself to the lighting conditions. Trijicon added several new AccuPoint scopes, including the new 1-4X 24mm unit that is priced around $900 and would be at home on a carbine or dangerous-game rifle. On the other end of the spectrum, Trijicon also introduced a 5-20X 50mm monster for precision rifles. The scope, available with a multitude of reticles, will run $1,200.
Taking miniaturized reflex sights to the next level, Trijicon introduced a fantastic new optic called the Ruggedized Miniature Reflex (RMR). This class of sights has taken the shooting world by storm and can be found on everything from handguns to shotguns to belt-fed machine guns. With the aid of a dual mount, operators have been combining the medium- to long-range capabilities of a 3X or 4X optic with a miniature reflex sight for CQB work. The problem has been batteries and durability. The RMR has a forged-
aluminum housing and uses fiber optics and a tritium lamp. A more traditional version is powered by a 2032 lithium battery. Both units weigh just 1.22 ounces and are waterproof to 66 feet. The fiber-optic RMR is available with a 9- or 13-MOA dot, and the battery version can be had with either 4- or 8-MOA dots. Let the race begin to see who can come up with the most unique use for this cool sight. The dual-illumination version runs $475, and the battery-powered version is $650.
Truglo increased its scope offerings by a factor of three by introducing its Maxus XLE Scope Series, the Infinity Scope Series, and the Tru-Brite Xtreme Illuminated riflescopes this year. All Truglo scopes are waterproof, fog-proof, and shock-resistant. Lenses are multi-coated, providing bright and clear images even in poor light conditions. The rubber-coated speed-focus eyepiece makes for fast focus, and long eye relief makes for easy shooting with eyewear on Maxus and Tru-Brite Xtreme scopes. The Maxus XLE is available in 1.5-6X 44mm, 3-9X 44mm, 3.5-10X 50mm, and 3.5-10X 50mm with BDC. The Infinity can be had in 4-16X 44mm or 6-24X 44mm. The Tru-Brite Extreme is available in with either a standard or BDC reticle in 3-9X 44mm or with the BDC reticle in either the 3-12X 44mm or the 4-16X 50mm versions.
The new-for-2009 SN-3 1.8-10X 37mm T-PAL is an extremely versatile scope that has 100 MOA of adjustment and can be customized with numerous reticle and Bullet Drop Compensator knob options. The front-focal plane reticle is perfect for ranging, and the scope is rated for any caliber up to and including .50 BMG. The best possible glass, coating, materials, and dual elevation and windage rebound springs guarantee decades of service. The base price is $1,745.
Weaver Super Slam 2.5-10X 50mm.
The engineers at Weaver worked overtime last year and introduced a ton of new stuff in 2009, including new scopes in the Super Slam line, two new Super Slam Tactical scopes, and two new binoculars.
The 14 Super Slam scopes feature five-fold magnification; SHR fully multi-coated lenses; expanded reticle offerings, including Weaver's proprietary EBX ballistic reticle; three-position pull-up turrets that eliminate troublesome turret covers; and a three-point erector system with an improved spring design. There are three different variable/objective size combos available with 1-inch tubes and three different variable ranges available with 30mm tubes. Two different Super Slam Tactical scopes--a 4-20X 50mm and a 3-15X 50mm--have similar features, tall target turrets, and mil-dot reticles.
Super Slam binoculars have an open-bridge design, magnesium bodies, roof-prisms with SK and BaK-4 glass, and SHR lens coatings on ED glass. They are argon purged to provide a clear, fog-free view. Exterior lenses are hard coated to deliver improved scratch resistance. Two magnifications, 8.5X45mm and 10X45mm, are currently offered.
Zeiss Victory PRF.
Zeiss expanded its popular Victory Diavari line with the addition of a 3-12X 56mm and a 2.5-10X 50mm with new second focal-plane reticles for those who find expanding and contracting reticles a bit disconcerting. Two new Victory Varipoints are now available with the illuminated Reticle No. 60 and should be favorites of dangerous-game hunters or those shooting driven game.
The Victory 8X26mm T* PRF monocular finally gets Zeiss into the game of compact rangefinders. Zeiss' rangefinding binocular is exceptional in every way, and the monocular promises to deliver the same impressive field performance at a fraction of the weight and price. The PRF is able to ring up reflective targets out to 1,300 meters and also can provide holdover using the Ballistic Information System. The unit delivers a bright, clear picture and exceptional low-light performance; it has an MSRP of $795.