2007 Outdoor Life Scopes Test

Cabela's 3""9x40 Pine Ridge Lever-Action

Cabela's 3""9x40 Pine Ridge Lever-Action

Image Quality: 2 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 2 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 2 out of 4
Retail: $90
Contact: 800-237-4444; cabelas.com Cabela's claims that this scope will "turn your 'brush gun' into a truly devastating long-range performer." That is true, assuming your brush gun is a lever-action rifle firing Hornady's Lever Evolution ammunition for one of three cartridges, the .30/30 Win., .444 Marlin or .45/70 Gov't. The trick is that these otherwise-identical Cabela's 3""9x40 Pine Ridge Scopes have special BDC reticles with auxiliary 200- and 300-yard aiming points calibrated for your specific cartridge. All you have to do is sight-in with the main crosshairs at 100 yards""very clever. Testers' Comments:
For $100, I think it's a great value
Has noticeable color fringing
This is a good idea that would be enhanced by better optics
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Center Point 3""9x40

Center Point 3""9x40

Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 2 out of 4
Design: 2 out of 4
Price/Value: 4 out of 4
Retail: $90
Contact: 866-762-1122; centerpointoptics.com This China-made Center Point scope gives you about what you'd expect for $90. The optical coating, where it exists, appears to be of low quality, and some interior optics appear to have no coating at all. The target-type windage and elevation dials lock solidly in place with an Allen wrench, which you'll also need to unlock the dials for sighting-in. The optional red or green illuminated reticle, which also lights up the shiny interior of the power-changing tube, is so bright that it blinds the shooter in low light. Testers' Comments:
Reticle illumination is too distracting; knobs are too bulky
Fair clarity
Locking knobs are a good idea until you try to make in-field adjustments without the wrench
Lots of features for a bargain-price scope
The illuminated reticle is too bright; it's blinding in low-light, the very opposite of its intent
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Kahles KX 4""12x50

Kahles KX 4""12x50

Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 4 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $932
Contact: 866-606-8779; kahlesoptik.com When in doubt, bet on the guy with the most experience. As one of the world's oldest riflescope manufacturers, Kahles knows how to do it right. Though made in Austria, this Kahles KX scope, with its 1-inch tube and non-magnifying second focal plane, is obviously intended for the American sportsman. It received an image-quality score of very good and a low-light score of excellent, no doubt helped by its 50mm objective lens. At roughly 4 inches, the eye relief is more than adequate for today's super magnums. Testers' Comments:
_ Large 50mm objective for light-gathering
A good elk or whitetail glass
Solid, no-nonsense big-game scope
Reticle can be used as bullet-drop compensator
I like this scope
Nice, big objective
Wish the W/E adjustment knobs were bigger and easier to turn
Excellent hunting scope
A good, solid hunting scope that does well in low light_
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Konus Pro 2""7x32

Konus Pro 2""7x32

Image Quality: 2 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 3 out of 4
Design: 2 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $100
Contact: 305-592-5500; konususa.com Though not what you'd call high-class glass, this cute little scope would be very much at home on a .22 rimfire rifle, especially since the clamp-on rings that come with it are obviously designed for such use. Though the optics appeared not to be fully coated, which is common among lower-priced instruments, this Konus Pro did reasonably well in low light. Its 2""7x32 optical specifications may be out of vogue these days, but the 2""7X range is excellent for most small- and big-game hunting, and the 32mm objective gathers sufficient light for most legal hunting hours. Testers' Comments:
_ Too many threads on cap
Nice crisp image and very crisp black reticles
Good feel for a scope on a rimfire .22
Integral rings are nice value_
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Leupold vx-7 2.5""10x45

Leupold vx-7 2.5""10x45

Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 4 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $1,750
Contact: 800-538-7653; leupold.com With its 30mm main tube, continental good looks and provocative advertisement ("It's okay, Germany. You still make the best beer"), this Leupold scope is aimed straight at those well-heeled sportsmen who would normally buy premium-quality European optics. High-class extras include Leupold's Gold Ring Care Package, which offers a special product-service phone number, loaner scopes sent anywhere in the world and more. Testers' Comments:
_ Ingenious W/E knob controls with caps that can't be lost
Magnetic lens covers could be inadvertently opened
Has the remarkable fit, finish and feel of a well-made instrument
Belongs on a high-end custom gun_
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Bushnell Elite 4200 6""24x40 & Sightron SII Big Sky 3.5""10x50

Bushnell Elite 4200 6""24x40 & Sightron SII Big Sky 3.5""10x50

Bushnell Elite 4200 6""24x40 (Left)
Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 4 out of 4
Price/Value: 4 out of 4
Retail: $839
Contact: 800-423-3537; bushnell.com Through an impressive act of reengineering, Bushnell has greatly reduced the length (by 3.9 inches) and weight (by 2.7 ounces) of its Elite 4200 6""24x40 riflescope to roughly the size and weight of a standard 2.5""10x40. Plus, the adjustable objective (AO) has been replaced with a side parallax/focus adjustment, and the eye relief has been increased from 3.3 to 4.6 inches with only a slight reduction in field of view. Amazingly, Bushnell accomplished all this without any apparent loss of either optical quality or mechanical efficiency. The tracking was perfect in that the 1⁄8 MOA took exactly 80 clicks each way to trace a 10 MOA square on our very precise riflescope collimator. And its resolution, measured with a USAF Resolution Test Target, was 3.3 seconds of angle, which is exceptionally good for a 40mm objective lens. Testers' Comments:
_Remarkably feature-filled
Highest magnification will appeal to varmint/target shooters
Resolution is remarkably crisp
Good peripheral clarity
I'd prefer a standard dual-X reticle instead of the mil-dot
Lots of eye relief
Good scope for shooting targets and varmints
Good W/E adjustment knobs
_ Sightron SII Big Sky 3.5""10x50 (Right)
Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 4 out of 4
Retail: $537
Contact: 800-867-7512; sightron.com There are many good buys in this year's riflescope lineup, but this Sightron 3.5""10x50 excelled in two very important categories""image quality and low-light performance. Resolution, the foremost component of image quality, measured 3.3 seconds of angle, which either equaled or surpassed those of scopes costing three times as much. It also tied for top place with the superb Leupold VX-7 2.5""10x45 in the low-light performance test. Other desirable features include long 3.7- to 4.1-inch eye relief (depending on the power used) and Sightron's water- and fog-repellent coating on the exterior lens surfaces. The windage and elevation tracking were good, and no point-of-aim shifts were detected when changing powers. Some might bemoan the absence of a fast-focus eyepiece, but I prefer this scope's old-fashioned lock-ring. Testers' Comments:
_Big, light-hungry objective
There is a little flaring and color aberration
W/E caps are okay but have slight play
Good tool for low-light shooting
I like the W/E adjustment knobs
Impressive image quality
Has great light-gathering ability; a top low-light performer _
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Meopta R1 Meostar 7x56 RD
Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $784
Contact: 631-436-5900; meopta.com A 56mm objective lens, which this Meopta R1 Meostar has, is the largest that is practical for use on telescopic sights. Anything larger would be too big, too heavy and too obtrusive, and would require ridiculously high mounts. Also, 56mm objectives gather all the light that the human eye can use at practical magnifications under reasonable hunting conditions. This fixed-power 7x56 riflescope, with its great resolution and light-gathering power, is ideal for shooting in any light, but it's especially effective on the murky edges of night. Testers' Comments:
Great for twilight whitetail or elk hunting
A little heavy
Bold, thick reticle is easy to see in low light
Fixed power simplifies operation
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Nikon Monarch 2.5""10x42 with BDC Reticle

Nikon Monarch 2.5""10x42 with BDC Reticle

Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $531 Contact: 800-645-6687; nikonsportoptics.com As we've come to expect from Nikon's Monarch scopes, the 2.5""10x42 model has a lot going for it. Take, for example, its 95 percent light transmission (which, regardless of what anyone says, is as good as riflescopes ever get) or its 4 inches of eye relief, which remains constant at all powers without significant loss in the field of view. We've never seen a BDC (bullet-drop-compensating) reticle that wasn't distracting. This is no exception, but you quickly get used to it. Testers' Comments:
Clear, sharp glass
Long eye relief is a nice feature for big-bore shooters
Really like W/E adjustment knobs
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Shepherd 6""18x40 Varmint/Target

Shepherd 6""18x40 Varmint/Target

Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 4 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $725
Contact: 402-779-2424; shepherdscopes.com When it comes to range-finding, bullet-drop-compensating and wind-doping reticles, you'll find optical entrepreneur Dan Shepherd standing at the top of the hill holding one of his unique Dual Reticle System (D.R.S.) riflescopes. His latest, the 6""18x40 Varmint/Target model, has 9-inch reticle circles that subtend the height of a standing prairie dog, a coyote's chest or, in our sadly uncivilized world, a terrorist's head. Shepherd has letters from U.S. troops in Iraq attesting to the latter. Arguably, Shepherd's D.R.S. reticles are easier to master than mil-dot reticles. Testers' Comments:
Excellent target features
This is a remarkable tactical scope
A little long and complicated for most big-game applications, but a useful tool for Western prairie dogs or long-range plinking of any kind
Excellent image quality. Reticles are easy to adjust
This is a serious riflescope for serious riflemen
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Simmons Master Series Aetec 4­""14x44

Simmons Master Series Aetec 4­""14x44

Image Quality: 2 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 2 out of 4
Price/Value: 2 out of 4
Retail: $300
Contact: 800-626-3233; simmonsoptics.com This scope has features usually found only on higher-priced models. Among these are one-piece tube construction, a large eye box with a minimum of 3.5 inches of eye relief at all powers, a hydrophobic coating to repel all forms of water (including dew, fog, rain, snow and mist) and a side-focus parallax adjustment. Most parallax adjustments are indexed with yardage numbers, but this one has progressively larger circles. This feature forces the shooter to focus visually, rather than depending on numbers that may be inaccurate. Testers' Comments:
Flaring evident
Fit and finish could be better
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Swarovski Z6 1.7""10x42

Swarovski Z6 1.7""10x42

Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 3 out of 4
Design: 4 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $1,776
Contact: 401-734-1800; swarovskioptik.com This groundbreaking Swarovski Z6, with its amazing six-to-one zoom ratio, is our pick for the most innovative optic of 2007. Why? Because incorporating a power-changing mechanism capable of varying the magnification by a factor of six while retaining all the other attributes of a high-quality riflescope is a major achievement, both optically and mechanically. Furthermore, if this innovation is well-received by the shooting public, it could change the character of riflescopes for decades to come. Testers' Comments:
Crisp W/E controls
Unbelievable field of view at 1.7X
Great for hunting the brush
Most innovative
Love the six-to-one power zoom
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Vortex Diamondback 2""7x35

Vortex Diamondback 2""7x35

Image Quality: 2 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 3 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $240
Contact: 800-426-0048; vortexoptics.com Unfortunately, Vortex optics haven't been around long enough for us to have any field experience with them. But based on our tests, which are conducted under field conditions, this is a good compact riflescope. Given its small size, light weight and 2""7x35 optical configuration, we believe that it would serve well on featherweight mountain rifles of the type used for sheep and goat hunting, lever-action deer rifles or .22 rimfire rifles. Testers' Comments:
A decent all-around scope, but there are better values in the medium-price category
Clear view
Easy-to-adjust W/E knobs
Noticeable color aberrations
Everything you'd expect from a scope in its price range
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Zeiss Conquest 4x32 MC
Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 2 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $522
Contact: 800-441-3005; zeiss.com/sports This fixed-power 4X scope looks very much like the one I began hunting with back in the 1950s. Looks are deceiving, however, because this Zeiss Conquest is in every way thoroughly modern, with its fully multicoated optics, second-focal-plane dual-thickness reticle, fast-focus eyepiece and extra-long 4-inch eye relief. This scope is also amazingly bright. Testers' Comments:
Very crisp W/E controls
This is a classy, traditional scope with good glass
Good choice for an Eastern or Midwestern deer rifle or a lightweight mountain rifle
Would make a smart choice for a youth rifle
Wonderful; great eye relief
I really like the fixed power
A heartwarming return to the simple riflescope styles of yesteryear, which did everything we ever asked of them
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Zeiss Victory Diascope 85 T* FL & Nikon Prostaff WP 82mm
Zeiss Victory Diascope 85 T* FL (Right)
Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 4 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $1,762
Contact: 800-441-3005; zeiss.com/sports This fixed-power 4X scope looks very much like the one I began hunting with back in the 1950s. Looks are deceiving, however, because this Zeiss Conquest is in every way thoroughly modern, with its fully multicoated optics, second-focal-plane dual-thickness reticle, fast-focus eyepiece and extra-long 4-inch eye relief. This scope is also amazingly bright. Testers' Comments:
Very crisp W/E controls
This is a classy, traditional scope with good glass
Good choice for an Eastern or Midwestern deer rifle or a lightweight mountain rifle
Would make a smart choice for a youth rifle
Wonderful; great eye relief
I really like the fixed power
A heartwarming return to the simple riflescope styles of yesteryear, which did everything we ever asked of them
Nikon Prostaff WP 82mm (Left)
Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 4 out of 4
Price/Value: 4 out of 4
Retail: $851
Contact: 800-645-6687; nikonsportoptics.com The most noticeable and least noteworthy thing about this spotting scope is that when it's mounted on a tripod, it appears to be lying on its side. One assumes this is to handily position the detachable peep sight where it's most accessible. Desirable features and options include multicoated optics of lead- and arsenic-free Eco-Glass, straight and angled body versions that are O-ring-sealed and nitrogen-purged for waterproof/fogproof dependability, four optional interchangeable eyepieces and a sliding sunshade. What impressed us most, however, was that this scope tied the much more expensive Zeiss scope in the low-light performance test and came quite close in image quality. Finally, and of no small matter, at 49.6 ounces it was the lightest of the 80mm-class scopes tested. Testers' Comments:
The removable peep sight is a nice feature
Remarkably lightweight
This is a wonderful low-light instrument
Definitely deserves the Great Buy designation
Could use a longer eye relief
Tied for first place in low-light performance
Wow!
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Bushnell Legend 20""60x80

Bushnell Legend 20""60x80

Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 3 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 4 out of 4
Retail: $521
Contact: 800-423-3537; bushnell.com Having received this Bushnell Legend a few months before the other test samples arrived in Montana, I thoroughly pretested it while sitting on my deck. I spent happy times spotting bullet holes in 100-yard targets, viewing dozens of whitetail deer, including two fine bucks, and glassing birds ranging from pheasants and ducks to a wide array of songbirds. Long before our more scientific tests gave it a very good rating, I already knew that I liked it. Testers' Comments:
Surprisingly lightweight
I expected it to weigh three times this much
Decent clarity but a little short on contrast
Great spotting scope
A good middle-class scope at a reasonable price
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Pentax PF-63 Zoom WP
Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 3 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 4 out of 4
Retail: $439
Contact: 800-877-0155; pentaxsportoptics.com Sitting next to its 80mm-class companions, this 63mm Pentax Zoom looks positively runty. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in toughness, with its fully rubber-armored housing and its submersible-to-one-meter waterproof housing. A departure from the 15""45X zoom range typical for scopes in its class, the 20""50X range on this scope makes more sense. Have you ever seen anyone use the 15X setting on a spotting scope? We haven't. Testers' Comments:
Light, compact and durable
Good backpacking scope
Nice value
With its 63mm objective lens and 20""50X zoom, an ideal field scope
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Vortex Skyline 20""60x80

Vortex Skyline 20""60x80

Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $480
Contact: 800-426-0048; vortexoptics.com This Vortex Skyline spotter has everything you could ask for in a spotting scope: a 20""60X eyepiece, fully multicoated optics, nitrogen-purged waterproofing and fogproofing, high-index BaK-4 prisms, broadband antireflection coating, a choice between an angled or a straight-body design and an unconditional "VIP" warranty. Not surprisingly, this scope scored very well in the image quality, design and price/value categories and was rated excellent in low-light performance. Testers' Comments:
Some nice features
It's big and bulky, but worth it for the twilight-factor performance
Some fit-and-finish shortcomings
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Vortex Skyline 20""60x80

Vortex Skyline 20""60x80

Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $480
Contact: 800-426-0048; vortexoptics.com This Vortex Skyline spotter has everything you could ask for in a spotting scope: a 20""60X eyepiece, fully multicoated optics, nitrogen-purged waterproofing and fogproofing, high-index BaK-4 prisms, broadband antireflection coating, a choice between an angled or a straight-body design and an unconditional "VIP" warranty. Not surprisingly, this scope scored very well in the image quality, design and price/value categories and was rated excellent in low-light performance. Testers' Comments:
Some nice features
It's big and bulky, but worth it for the twilight-factor performance
Some fit-and-finish shortcomings
Outdoor Life Online Editor

Our annual shakeout of the newest scopes, binoculars, and more reveals the best of this year's crop