Archive for the ‘Sniper Optics’ Category

Leatherwood ART 2.5-10x44mm M1000 Scope

August 19, 2012


One of the things that made the M21 a successful sniping system during the Vietnam War was the ultra-simplistic means of range estimation that would also automatically adjust the scope for ballistic drop at whatever range the scope estimated the target to be at. This was known as the Auto Ranging Telescope, or ART, and it was designed by James Leatherwood. These original ART setups on the M21 used a Redfield 3-9x scope and there were two distinct versions of the setup through the M21’s life time. The Leatherwood name now appears on a very similar setup to the original ART and it is the same concept and even carries the same ART title, but are they as effective as the original? There is only one way to find out.

The Specifications:

Manufacturer: Hi-Lux
Model Number: ART2510X44
Finish: Matte
Magnification: 2.5-10.0
Objective: 44mm
Tube Diameter: 1″
Weight: 25.2oz/714g
Length: 13.2″/335mm
Eye Relief: 3.0″/76mm
Exit Pupil: 17.6 – 4.4mm
Click Value: .25 MOA
FOV @100y: 47.2′-11.9′
Adjustment Range: ~65 MOA
Reticle: Mildot
List Price: $300 (2012)
Street Price: $300 (2012)
As mentioned, the Leatherwood name goes quite a ways back and is closely tied to the US Military sniper rifle history due to Jim Leatherwood’s history with the M21. A new crop of Leatherwood scopes came onto the scene several years ago with various different models such as the “Sporter” and others. Fortunately for price, and unfortunately for quality, the scopes are made in China and the initial quality of these early scopes was poor. According to Leatherwood, the quality was unacceptable as they were being pushed down the priority rung behind other larger scope brands, so Leatherwood purchased their own factory in China and the current Hi-Lux/Leatherwood scopes are being produced there. Reports indicate that quality has come up, but it takes time to get it to where they want it.

For those that are not familiar with the concept of the ART scopes, the idea is to zoom in the scope on the target until a specified sized target is bracketed within some indication marks in the scope. The scope is mounted in a specific mount that mechanically raises and lowers the scope while it is being zoomed in so that it will automatically compensate for the ballistic drop while the scope is being zoomed in. The theory is to zoom in until target is bracketed, and then pull the trigger. Of course, windage would need to be compensated for separately, but the range would automatically be taken care of. The original ART-I and ART-II systems were used to great effect by US Army snipers in the Vietnam conflict.

The entire setup comes in a standard scope box but since the mount is an integral part of the overall system, it comes with the scope mounted in the rings and the rings attached to the ART base. The base itself is designed to mount directly to a picatinny style rail, but due to the design of the system, there really is no need to go with a canted base. The package comes with some detailed instructions, scope caps and some small wrenches and wing nuts for the mount. The scope looks fairly standard in terms of modern scopes. The Hi-Lux scope has a single piece aluminum tube that is 1″ in diameter and tapers nicely up to the 44mm objective. The finish is a matte black anodizing with what appears to be laser etching for the markings. The finish is evenly applied and the lettering is clear and readable.

The eyepiece where the ocular lens is housed has a small rubber ring on the end that is intended to help protect the eye in the event that the shooter gets too close to the scope during recoil, but the rubber ring is fairly small and hard and we are not sure how well it will cushion the impact. The eyepiece itself has some mild serrations on it to help with gripping it for when focusing the eyepiece (diopter adjustment). This is not a fast focus eyepiece but rather it takes almost three and a half rotations to cover the full range. The adjustment is not the smoothest we have tested, but it does cover a wide range allowing it to focus for even fairly bad eyes without corrective lenses. There is no locking ring for the eyepiece, though there is probably enough friction to hold it in place for the most part. There are some indication marks in order to log where it should be for each shooter, but the markings are fine, light and difficult to reference. It is usually better to just lock it and forget.

In front of the fairly short eye piece is the zoom and cam setup that is the crux of the ART system. As we have mentioned, the ART system is linked to the zoom ring of the scope so that as the operator zooms the scope onto the target so that the brackets on the reticle cover a specific sized target, the cam system mechanically raises and lowers the rear of the scope to auto compensate for the range. This cam system has some indicator marks on the top that are used to adjust the cam to match it more closely with whatever cartridge you are using. From the rear of the scope, on the front face of this cam, there is clearly marked both the magnification power and what range the target is at. The cam has some knurls on it for a finger hold, and they are needed as the system is stiff as it adjusts both the magnification of the scope as well as mechanically opposes some friction in order to raise or lower the rear of the scope. The cam mechanism is fairly large and adds considerable heft and weight to the rear of the scope. On top of cam system are some screws that are used to loosen and move the cam and range ring to adjust them to your specific rifle. Right in front of the cam is a screw that angles in to lock the cam at a fixed range if so desired, this prevents moving the cam and zoom ring.

In front of the ART cam setup are the traditional elevation and windage knobs. These knobs are the size of a traditional target style knob and they do have dust covers. The elevation knob is tall, but there are only markings on the bottom because there are four additional “rings” with a slot in them that can be moved around, using the tip of a bullet, to be used as additional zero indicators. The idea is to be able to use the scope on several rifles and have their respective zeros marked by these little rings. For tactical use, this is really not a practical or even desirable feature as scopes are usually setup specifically for one rifle and it would be impractical to try and utilize a single scope among many rifles. Perhaps for a hunting rifle this may work and save money, but not in our line of work. With that being said, the elevation knob has 15 MOA of adjustment per revolution and a total of 80 MOA of adjustment, which is 20 more than the advertised 60 MOA. The clicks themselves are fairly positive with a fairly loud audible click. There is a bit of knob movement, or slop, between the clicks before it actually engages the internal mechanisms. The top of the knob has some aggressive serrations and it is easy to get a good grip and adjust the knob. The cam mechanism can be disengaged to allow the use of the scope knobs in a traditional manner if so desired.

The windage knob is the same size and shape of the elevation knob and has the same four rings used for setting zeros for additional rifles. The clicks are the same and there is 15 MOA of adjustment per revolution. The numbers do count up in both directions with the cross-over happening at 7.5 MOA which provides a good amount of windage compensation before issues may come up with knowing where you are at on the knob. One thing of note on both the elevation and windage knob is that they are marked as being .25″ at 100 yards but yet the manual indicates they are .25 moa. While .25 inches vs. .25 MOA is very close, they are not identical and at longer ranges the difference is significant and should be noted. Leatherwood should probably change the markings in either the book or on the knob to correctly identify the actual distance and to synch up the manual to scope.

There is no adjustable objective on this scope and with a conservative 2.5-10x magnification range you can get away without one and not be hurt if you use a good repeatable cheek weld. It does simplify the operation of the scope and does also help keep the price down. The bell of the scope that houses the objective lens is threaded for a sunshade though it would need to be purchased separately.

The optics on the scope are actually fairly good for the price of the scope. The image is bright and clear from edge to edge, though the reticle is not as crisply defined as in others and the reticle lines are fairly thick, especially at lower magnifications. The extra thickness does help with picking up the reticle in low light conditions, but it hurts when trying to place accurate shots. Everything is always a compromise. The reticle is a mildot reticle in the 2nd focal plane which means the scope needs to be set at 10x to use the mildot reticle in the traditional fashion. This of course would also set the elevation of the cam for 1000 meters so care needs to be taken. The reticle is a bit different than a traditional mildot reticle in that it only extends 4 mils from the center crosshair intersection, instead of the traditional 5 mils. The other difference is the addition of some hash marks near the center; these hash marks are at the half mil mark and are used for bracketing the target for use with the range finding ART system. Zoom in until the hashes cover 1 meter on the target, and then presto, the range is auto compensated for.

For our operational tests we mounted the scope onto our Remington 700P test mule which is chambered in .308 Win and has the standard 26″ barrel and HS precision stock. The rifle typically shoots a bit better than .75 MOA with good match ammo. Since a 20 MOA picatinny rail is always mounted to the rifle we left it on and mounted the Leatherwood scope directly to the rail. The manual indicates not to tighten the side cross nuts tighter than hand strength which is what we did. Right away you will notice that the scope is mounted very high up off of the rifle which we typically do not like; it is better to mount the scope as low as possible without it touching the barrel. In this case we did not have any other option. The mount mated up without any problems with our base and there are even some screws on the front ring of the setup to allow for large windage adjustments using the base and rings if it was needed. One word of caution, like most “hand tight” setups we have used in the past, they do not hold. The cross screws loosened within 20 rounds and we had to monitor them continually through the rest of the testing. Using the provided wing nuts does eliminate this problem according to several other Leatherwood users we were in contact with.

Before we tested the ART system, we wanted to run the scope through the traditional tests that we do for all our scope reviews. In these regards the scope performed only okay. The 6 MOA box test was fairly accurate but the last group was slightly off of the first group we shot and unfortunately, when we performed the 20 MOA measurement test the base had worked loose again and we did not catch it until later, so we are not sure on the accuracy of the clicks beyond what we saw in the box test. The optics performed well and there were no issues with clarity or contrast, the glass quality appears to be pretty good for a lower priced scope.

So now it was time to try out the ART system and see how it did. The concept of the system is actually pretty good and it was used effectively on the M21 back in the Vietnam conflict. It is quick, easy, and somewhat effective. The same concept applies here and it does an okay job of getting fairly close. The first step is to zero the rifle at 250 meters (everything is in meters with the Leatherwood), which is done with the scope set at 2.5x. This is enough magnification to get the zero dialed in, though do not expect any earth shattering group sizes. Once the zero is establish then you can use the charts in the back of the scope manual to get a cam value for your specific load, or find a value that is close to your ballistics. Since there was one specifically listed for the Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr load, we decided to try that ammo out. Once you have the cam value selected, you loosen some screws and slip the cam to that provided value, which was 420 in this case, and then tighten everything back up on the cam. Unfortunately, the values were considerably off; especially the further out you went, upward of 10 MOA at 1000 meters. Leatherwood does offer the suggestion of picking a mid-point and dialing in that range on the cam and then shooting a group, and adjusting the cam to match. This does help getting it closer through the some of the different ranges, but it is still off by a good amount. After fiddling around the best setting we were able to come up with was around 470, but your results will probably be different.

After the shooting evaluation we took some time on some ballistics software and started playing with numbers to see how the numbers might match up better and it seems that the cam on the ART system is geared more toward lower BC bullets than we use in the sniping field. When one dials the ballistic coefficient down to about .35, the numbers start to line up much better and this would make sense for hunting bullets. But with the high BC long range match bullets that snipers use, it seems to not fit well in the ballistic arcs that the ART cam is setup for.

This review was almost two separate reviews, one for the Hi-Lux scope, and the other for the Leatherwood ART system. While they come from the same company they are two distinct parts. The Hi-Lux scope was about normal when compared to other Chinese built scopes with the quality of the mechanicals coming into question, though the glass does appear to be good quality for the price. The ART mounting system itself is still a good concept for combat style long range shooting where quick target engagements may happen, but this ART implementation seems to be out of its element with sniping engagements and seems like it may work better for hunting bullets and rifles. We do not feel that in its current configuration that it would work well on a sniping rifle, though with a change to a higher quality scope and a different cam in the ART system it could work well. One distinct advantage the old original ART system from the M21 had was that it was only employed using M118 ammunition and it was tailored specifically for that round which allowed it to be setup more precise for the cartridge. If that were the case here, it could be made to work well enough for active deployment. The price would go up on both the scope and the mount as quality was increased, but you typically get what you pay for and ultimately it would be a better system for sniping than it is currently.

Zeiss Conquest 4.5-14x50mm Scope Review

May 7, 2012

Mention the name Zeiss and one of the first things people think of is “quality” or “excellent glass”. The Zeiss name has been around for a very long time in the optics industry and it has always been associated with high quality optics. Of course, they have always been expensive as well. The Zeiss Conquest line of sport optics was designed many years ago to be a more affordable line of optics tailored to the USA market and yet still utilized the same excellent optics that is associated with the Zeiss name. There have always been a few models in the lineup that have been suitable for tactical use and we finally got around to evaluating one of them here. We selected the Conquest 4.5-14x50mm version because it had the nice external knobs combined with an acceptable amount of vertical adjustments for long range shooting. The 6.5-20x50mm is another solid choice, but its limited amount of vertical adjustments, only 45 inches at 100 yards, ruled it out for serious long range shooting. The 3-12x56mm was also considered but it has even less vertical adjustments.

The Specifications:

Manufacturer: Zeiss
Model Number: 5214909943
Finish: Matte
Magnification: 4.5-14.0
Objective: 50mm
Tube Diameter: 1″
Weight: 19.75oz/560g
Length: 14.0″/356mm
Eye Relief: 3.5″/90mm
Exit Pupil: 11.11 – 3.57mm
Click Value: .25″ @ 100 yards
FOV @100y: 25.5′-8.8′
Adjustment Range: ~65 MOA
Reticle: Mildot
List Price: $1056 (2012)
Street Price: $850 (2012)
The Conquest scopes are actually assembled in the USA using parts and glass that are sourced from Zeiss in Germany. The scopes are wrapped in cardboard and packaged in a basic Zeiss box, but they do come with bikini style scope caps, a manual and documentation and everything that is needed. The packaging is not anything fancy, but the idea is to keep the overall price of the scope down while keeping the quality up and the packaging is a good way to help with this endeavor.

The scope body is a 1″ diameter tuber that is made of one piece aluminum and is long enough to provide an okay amount of space in which to mount the scope. The tube does have a step up to a wider diameter near the shoulder area and this does limit the mounting area in front, but the back of the scope has more room and it should be fine for most rifle arrangements. The finish is a matte black anodizing that is fairly non-reflective and appears to be durable. There is a decent amount of bright white wording and markings on the eye piece, but there is not any on the bell, though there is a blue Zeiss logo on the focus knob. The step on the tube leading to the shoulder area is a bit different than most other scopes, but beyond that it is a good looking scope.

The eyepiece is a fast focus style eyepiece that has a rubber protective ring on it to both help protect the shooters eye should there be an unfortunate encounter with the scope during recoil, and also to help with grabbing the eyepiece when adjusting it. The entire diopter range can be covered in about 1.3 rotations and the eye piece itself rotates smooth and with a moderate amount of required force. There is a dot on the interior eye piece mechanism that can be used as a reference point but it is not visible in the last third of the adjustment range as the eye piece is twisted “into” the tube. I was able to get a good crisp reticle image with both my glasses on and with them off (uncorrected) which indicated a good amount of adjustment range. The rubber ring around the adjustable eye piece does provide a good gripping surface as well, though it is a bit thicker than the eye piece itself. The fixed eye piece does look a bit large when on the 1″ tube, but it is not too bad, and works well.

At the front of the fixed eye piece housing is the power selector ring which is the same diameter as the eye piece housing itself. There are serrations on the power selector ring as well as one larger protrusion, both of which are to aide with getting a grip on the ring to adjust it. These work well and the selector ring is easy to grip and it is smooth through the entire adjustment range. The ring does require moderate amount of force to move but this does allow for it to stay right where the operator leaves it once adjusted. The power selector ring moves independent of the eyepiece housing which allows for the use of flip up style scope caps without a problem. There is a dot that is used for an indicator mark to show which power the scope is set on, though the number markings are flat and it does require the operator to lift their head slightly in order to see the power number while they are behind the scope.

The adjustment knobs on this Conquest model are their “target” knobs and they are an exposed turret design without any caps that fit over them. The elevation turret is fairly tall and does have a wider knurled top to it which is designed to help the operator get a good grip on the adjustment knob. The numbers are clearly marked with numbers on every other whole mark, such as 2, 4, 6, etc and there is a vertical hash for each ‘click’ and a taller hash for each whole value. One interesting thing about the adjustment knobs on the conquest scopes is that each click represents .25 inches at 100 yards, not .25 MOA (which equates to .26175″ at 100 yards). Yes, it is close, but no, an operator cannot interchange those values, especially if he or she is shooting at long range. This does not hinder the capability of the scope at all, but it does become important when the operator is computing ballistic charts or entering data into a PDA ballistics computing program.

The clicks on the elevation knob have a positive tactile, or felt, click with a muted audible click. It perhaps is just slightly mushier than we prefer here, but is still one of the better arrangements on the market. There is a full 18″ of adjustment at 100 yards (17.19 MOA) per revolution which will take a 308 Winchester 175gr rifle from 100 to 600 yards in just one revolution and out past 900 yards in just two revolutions. The factory lists the total elevation adjustment range of the scope at 68″ at 100 yards and our sample scope, purchased at random, had exactly 68″ (64.95 MOA) of adjustment, which when combined with a 20 MOA base will provide a enough adjustment range to get the 308 well past 1000 yards, or other calibers even further.

There is one horizontal ring line that shows up when the elevation knob is raised high enough to see it, and it can be used to help track what number of revolutions have been adjusted, but it would be better to have dedicated indicator marks for each revolution which is common on most modern scopes with target knobs. The other thing about the Zeiss scopes, as well as some other European manufacturers, is that UP is in the opposite direction than a majority of the scopes on the market here in the USA. While there is a direction indicator on top of the elevation knob to help point this out, it is not visible from behind the scope. The operator can tell based on the direction that the numbers count up, but it would still be nice to have a reminder indicator somewhere on the knob that is visible while behind the scope.

The windage knob is the same size and shape as the elevation knob and it does count up in both directions, with the overlap happening at 9″ at 100 yards. This provides enough adjustment to shoot out to 900+ yards with the 308 175gr in a 10 MPH direct crosswind before the overlapping of numbers happens. The clicks on the windage knob are the same nice click as the elevation knob. Again, the direction of right is opposite of most scopes and the direction marking is only on the top of the knob. Both the elevation and windage knobs are the type that sits down on top of a gear with just a single screw going down through the top and into a center post. These types of knobs require that the markings be accurately applied to the knob so that they line up with the indicator mark on the scope body, and in this case, they both lined up perfectly. One thing we would suggest to Zeiss is that they change the screw from a flat blade screw head to an Allen head, as we have already marred the existing screw head when we were setting the zero on the windage knob. An Allen head screw would prevent that.

This conquest 4.5-14 scope is a side focus scope and the focus knob is located opposite the windage knob on the left hand side of the scope. The knob itself is the same diameter and has the same knurled top to the knob, but it is not as tall as the windage and elevation knobs. The knob is marked from 30 yards to 800 and then with a final marking for infinity. The knob rotates nearly a complete 360 degrees which is not usually the case for a side focus knob and this allows for fine tune adjusting which is handy. The focus knob is a bit stiff, but still smooth, and this built in resistance helps hold the knob in place once it has been set. Beyond that, everything functioned as designed and without problem.

For our operational tests we mounted the scope onto a Steyr SSG69 PI using Steyr 1″ rings mounted directly to the grooved top of the receiver. For the shooting tests the weather was overcast with temps in the mid 40’s with a 5-7 mph wind. After the initial zero of the rifle we fired the scope through a 6″ box at 100 yards and it fired. The adjustments were precise and repeatability was right on the money. We then decided to check the accuracy of the adjustments by shooting a group, dialing in 20″ of left into the scope, firing another group and then bringing the adjustments back to where we started and then fire a final group. The first and third groups were right on top of each other, further confirming repeatability of adjustments. The second group was 19.9″ to the left of groups one and three. This is only 0.5% off of what it should be and falls within the accuracy of the rifle and groups. Anything under 1% is considered excellent.

Zeiss has always been known for their excellent optics and coatings and this does shine through on the Conquest scopes as well. Optically the scope picture looked excellent, was very bright and had great contrast and resolution from edge to edge. This held true for the mid to long range testing as well. The reticle is a traditional mildot reticle (#43 in the Zeiss catalog) and it is located in the second focal plane, meaning you need to insure the scope is set at 14x when performing your mil measurements for range estimation. There is no marking on the eyepiece to remind the operator what power the reticle is accurate for, but typically the highest power is where scopes are kept at, but it is something to be aware of. Performance wise the scope scored very high and we were pleased both optically and mechanically.

So how does the Zeiss Conquest stack up against modern competition? Well, it is obvious the scope was designed a few decades ago and has not been updated recently as there are some operational things that could easily be changed with minimal impact on production that would bring it more in line with other scopes today. Such as some horizontal hashes beneath the elevation knob to help indicate how many rotations the scope has been adjusted, or a simple mark on the power ring indicating what power the mildots are accurate for. Some other changes that could happen, but perhaps may not be worth it or necessary, would be changing the clicks from .25″ to .25 MOA, or reversing the direction of UP and RIGHT, and we are actually okay leaving those as is. But even with some of these minor issues, the scope itself performed very well and for the street price it still compares very well with modern scopes. Some may have issue with the 1″ tube instead of a 30mm tube, but functionally it is a non-issue as there are enough adjustments with over 65 MOA and the tube should be plenty durable. The 30mm tube does not offer any other advantage than these. The glass is good enough to hold its own against the competition and the mechanicals are solid. So while the scope is an older designed scope, it still holds its own with no problem against modern competition in a similar price range. If you or your team are in the market for a sub $1000 scope and are okay with the little issues the scope does have, it is certainly worth looking at.

Bushnell Elite Tactical DMR 3.5-21x50mm Scope Optic

March 14, 2012

Let us just say that Bushnell has come a long way over the past 20 years. In fact, just 15 years ago no one would consider using a Bushnell scope on a tactical rifle, but then they incorporated Bausch & Lomb into their business. They eventually removed the B&L name but kept their B&L 3000 and 4000 line of good quality scopes as the Bushnell Elite 3000 & 4000 line of scopes. Through the years Bushnell updated those scope lines and they became the 3200 and 4200 series. Recently they added an even higher quality line of scopes called the elite 6500 series. Through those iterations of scopes lines they have had various Tactical scopes in the mix, several of which we have reviewed on this site. Today (2012) they have a dedicated line of scopes, known as the Elite Tactical that is geared directly for the Tactical market. The Elite Tactical line of scopes spans the entire spectrum from $300 scopes to the new $2000+ DMR scope, which is what we are reviewing here. The DMR 3.5-21x50mm scope is the top of the line Bushnell Scope and has a suggested retail price of over $2000. The street prices are less than that, but still, a Bushnell scope that sells for over $1000 may raise a few eyebrows, it did for us. So we figured we might as well take a look at one while we could and see how it stacks up against the competitors.


The Specifications:

Manufacturer: Bushnell
Model Number: ET35215G
Finish: Matte
Magnification: 3.5-21.0
Objective: 50mm
Tube Diameter: 34mm
Weight: 35.2oz/998g
Length: 13.2″/335mm
Eye Relief: 3.5″/89mm
Exit Pupil: 14mm – 2.4mm
Click Value: .1 MIL
FOV @100y: 26′-5′
Adjustment Range: 34 MIL (117 MOA)
Reticle: G2DMR
List Price: $2120 (2012)
Street Price: $1300 (2012)
The scope comes packaged with all the normal items found with modern scopes including some manuals and a warranty card as well as a 4″ sunshade, which is always nice to have included. There are also some bikini style scope caps as well. When you pull the scope out you notice the weight of the scope, which is somewhat to be expected with the 34mm tube, though the scope is not too large. There is the standard anodized matte black finish that is typical on all tactical scopes these days, and it matches about the same as all the rest of the Bushnell Tactical scopes. The finish is even and nicely applied.

The tube, as mentioned, is the larger 34mm diameter which has become popular on some of the higher end tactical scopes as of late. The extra diameter does allow for extra strength and provides more adjustment room on the internals so that a greater number of vertical, and horizontal, adjustments can be incorporated into the scope. The down side is the physical size and weight of the scope. There are not as many 34mm rings either, but all of the high end ring makers are onboard now, so that is not too much of a concern. All of the normal branding markings on the DMR scope are all subdued black with the only easily visible markings being the knobs and the power ring and they are all marked in an off white color. The overall look it very tactical in nature.

The bell on the scope is a bit shorter than what is typically popular today, but it does cut down on some of the size of the scope which equates to less material which helps with the weight of the scope. Technically there is no reason why a large and long bell is required. The shorter bell can also allow for a good amount of mounting area on the tube for the rings while keeping the overall length reasonable. The overall shape of the scope looks good enough, if not just a bit short and compact.

The eyepiece is a fast focus eyepiece, which is also rapidly becoming the standard on most tactical scopes. The entire diopter range can be covered in about 1.6 rotations of the eyepiece. I had no problem getting a crisp reticle with my corrective glasses on and I was even able to focus the eyepiece without my glasses on. This is with my not so great eyesight, which is unfortunately getting worse with age. This allows for a good amount of diopter range and will work for most shooters with or without glasses being worn. The eyepiece has a rubber protective ring on it to help in case the scope has a violent run in with your head, affectionately known as a ‘scope kiss’. The eyepiece has a good amount of resistance when adjusting it and it is smooth through the entire range. As with all of the fast focus style eye pieces, there is no locking ring, though the resistance force should be enough to hold it in place once adjusted.

In front of the long ocular housing is the magnification selection ring which is marked from 3.5x through 21x which covers about 180 degrees of the circumference of the scope tube. The power ring itself has serrations as well as one large protrusion combined with other small protrusions around the ring, all in an effort to help with gripping the power ring when adjusting it. It all helps and getting a good grip seems to be no problem, even with gloves on. One thing I do not like is that the actual numbers for the power markings are in front of the serrations and protrusions and are slightly tilted down away from the shooter, there is no way to easily see what power the scope is set on while you are behind the scope. Also, the indicator mark is invisible until looking almost straight down on the scope, but it is positioned right on top so you can guess what power you are on without seeing the dot. The other saving grace is that the scope is Front Focal Plane (FFP) meaning it does not matter what zoom power you are set on since the reticle grows and shrinks with the power setting of the scope and it will always be accurate for your MIL readings when estimating range.

The larger 34mm tube allows for a wider shoulder area where the elevation and windage knobs are located and like the other 34mm tube scopes that are out on the market, Bushnell has taken full advantage of that extra real estate by creating very large knobs. The knobs are an external style knob that are a large diameter, but are really not too tall. The lower profile on these knobs is really not that low when compared to other external knobs on a traditional 1″ or 30mm tube scopes, but they just look lower profile because of the wide diameter. The top of the knob has deep groves about every half inch around the perimeter of the knob to help with grip and the top portion actually tapers outward. The function of the knob is nearly identical to the knobs on the Weaver Tactical scope we reviewed a few months back. This means that while the knob is pressed down, it is locked and will not move. To be able to dial in adjustments to the knob you have to pull the knob up to unlock it. The knob raises a bit more than a quarter inch, which is more than the weaver did and is actually feels like a long amount of travel, we do prefer less.

Once the knob is lifted up and is ready to adjust, the clicks themselves are firm and with very little slop. The clicks have a very positive tactile feel that is muted audibly but gives no doubt when a click is made and how many clicks you have gone. Beyond the long pull up to get the knob ready to adjust, the system works very well. Each click is .1 MIL, or for the metric users out there, it is 1 centimeter at 100 meters. There are 5 MILS of adjustment per revolution and the sample scope we have here had more than six revolutions of adjustment, 34 MILS total. This is a lot of vertical adjustment and allows for some extreme range shooting when the rifle is setup correctly. The 5 MILS of adjustment per revolution allows for a 308 Winchester to go from 100 to 600 yards in a single revolution and out past 900 yards in only two revolutions of the elevation knob.

The knobs connect to the internal post via the geared method which means that if the markings are off during production, when you mount the knob onto the post the indicator marks will not line up. On this sample they were perfectly aligned, a good sign of quality. The screw on top that holds the knob onto the post has a “coin notch”, curved to fit a quarter. Frankly, we hate this type of setup. The rest of the Elite Tactical series of scopes has an Allen wrench hole on top and a provided Allen wrench and this is a much preferred method than the coin notch. We hope Bushnell changes this down the road.

The windage knob is the same as the elevation knob in size, shape, and in the way it functions. The markings are well marked throughout the scope with an off white color and the numbers are a good size and easy to read. On both the elevation and windage knob there are horizontal marks on the post so that the operator can track how many revolutions have been traveled. The windage knob counts up only in the right hand direction. There are clear markings on both knobs as to which direction is up or down, left or right, and the operator does not need to move their head away from the scope to see those indicator markings.

On the left hand side of the scope is the focus knob which is the same diameter as the elevation and windage knob but is not nearly as tall. There are numbered marks for various ranges from 50 yd out to 700 yards and then the last setting is set to infinity. There is an aggressive serration on the top of the knob to help with gripping it and the knob operates reasonably smooth through the entire range and provided no problems with focusing the scope at all the ranges we tested it at.

There is no illuminated reticle so there are no other controls on the scope. At this point in time it was time to test the scope at the range and see how things played out operationally.

For our operational tests, we mounted the scope onto one of our entry level rifle packages which was a Remington model 700 chambered in 308 Winchester. The rifle had an EGW 20 MOA canted base and we used Leupold Mark 4 steel 34mm rings. The scope mounted without any problems and there was plenty of mounting area on the tube which allowed us to easily get the proper mounting location for eye relief. This particular rifle shoots sub .5 MOA with HSM 168gr Match grade ammo which is what we were using for all of the shooting tests with this scope. The sky was sunny and about 30 degrees during our shooting evaluation.

The DMR 3.5-21x scope is available from Bushnell with the traditional mildot and their 2nd generation DMR reticle, also known as the G2DRM. This scope is also available in more limited numbers with the Horus H58 reticle if that is a reticle you might be looking for. The scope we tested had the G2DMR reticle which is essentially a hash style reticle setup in MIL units. There are a number of features with the reticle that are worth pointing out such as the thick stadia that is essentially a series of hashes separated by .1 MIL, which allows for precise measuring. There are also longer hash marks on that thick part that mark each full 1 MIL. The inner stadia is broken down with hashes on the even mil marks as well as half MILs. The inner horizontal stadia have 8 MILS between the cross hair intersection and the thicker stadia. On the right hand side of the horizontal stadia, every even MIL hash actually has a number beneath it. On the vertical stadia above the crosshairs there are 6 MILS before the thick stadia begins, but below the horizontal there are 11 MILS and each even numbered hash has a number next to it. Also, on the bottom portion of that vertical stadia there are separate horizontal stadia that grow wider the further down you go. On those horizontal stadia there are smaller hashes that represent half MIL marks. These are used for aiding with moving target and wind hold offs.

It takes a lot of writing to describe the actual reticle and all of that translates into a busy scope picture. Yes, all of those marks are helpful for ranging, holding off and compensating for moving targets, but it can get busy and can cover some details in your scope picture. These are some of the same things that need to be overcome with the popular Horus reticles as well. Yes, they do work, but they have their draw backs as well. Luckily with the DMR you have a few options and can even opt for the clean and simple traditional mildot reticle, though you give up some of the other features that help you as a shooter. The reticles are FFP and the balance of reticle thickness through the large zoom range is well done and the reticle is useful at all zoom ranges, though when the scope is set all the way up to 21x, lots of the details in the lower portion of the reticle are no longer visible.

Optically the scope is high quality with good clarity and definition from edge to edge. Light gathering seems to be good and we do not have any complaints with the glass quality. I do not know that I would rate the glass in the same category as Zeiss or Schmidt & Bender, but it compares favorably with other $1000 scopes. The full 6x of zoom power going from 3.5-21x does provide an exceptionally broad range of flexibility and allows the scope to be used on a wide range of rifles.

For shooting, we zeroed the rifle at 100 yards and shot a smaller 2 MIL box which showed good repeatability of clicks when the scope ended with the fifth group right on top of the first and with nice groups as each corner of the square. To test the accuracy of the clicks we adjusted the scope 6 MILS left and fired a group and then came back to zero and fired another group to again test repeatability. The groups measured 22.0″ apart which is 6.11 MIL, or 1.8% of error. This is good, but not as good as some of the other scopes we have tested. There certainly is some measurement error due to group sizes, but we do like to see sub 1% of error, though anything less than about 3% should be okay.

So how does the Bushnell DMR scope stack up against other competitors in the $1200-$1500 range? Well, it compares okay but in our opinion not great. The quality appears to be good with a solid feel and appearance of quality. Good solid clicks go a long way to instilling confidence in construction quality and the glass itself is the best that Bushnell offers on any of their scopes. The 34mm tube is nice, but in reality it is not necessary as the same can be done with smaller tubes. The larger knobs are easy to operate and the functionality is good, but overall I just do not know that I could say I would recommend one over a Nightforce or Leupold for the same, or similar, price. The DMR does have the large 6x of zoom range and if that is a higher priority on your requirement list than the DMR would be worth looking at. The high amount of vertical adjustments is also a positive for the scope that will rate it higher for those shooting extreme ranges. Overall the scope is not bad, certainly the nicest scope Bushnell offers and it would work well on most any tactical rifle. With a few little tweaks it could be even better and if the price dropped to about $1000 it would be a very good buy, but for now, it is just a decent buy.