RIFLESCOPES

Two days of field glassing from dawn to dusk and a battery of tests in the lab. Here's how we rated our biggest field ever of binoculars, riflescopes and spotting scopes.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

In riflescopes, the trend appears to be moving toward longer eye relief, presumably to accommodate the proliferation of hard-kicking magnum cartridges intended for use in lightweight hunting rifles. Turret-mounted parallax/focusing controls, which offer ergonomic advantages over traditional adjustable objectives, are also growing in popularity. In fact, all the scopes we tested except one (the Bushnell Elite 4200 4-16x40) had fast-focus eyepieces. That's good news, I guess, except that about 99 percent of shooters don't know that eyepiece focusing exists solely to make the reticle (not viewed objects) appear sharp to the user's eye.

BSA Big Cat 2-7x42
($189.95; 954-581-2144)
Magnification/objective: 2-7x42mm
Field of view (ft. @ 100 yards): 57 - 15
Exit pupil: 21- 6mm
Lens coatings: Our test model appeared to be partially multicoated
Weight: 16.8 oz.
Length: 10.5 in.
Best for: All-around big game
The test team's comments regarding this scope were overwhelmingly negative. Optically, it had the poorest resolution (8.2 SOA) of any model tested combined with bad chromatic aberrations. Its excellent tracking, which was off by just one click in 10 minutes of angle of windage adjustment, was offset by its excessive POA shift of 1.5 MOA during power changes. Perspectively, 1.5 MOA equals 1.5 inches at 100 yards and 7.5 inches at 500 yards.

Extra Comments

  • Power adjustment seems sloppy. It's short mounting length makes it extremely difficult to mount on long-action rifles. Loose W/E adjustment. Hard to turn--small knob. Nice grip & knurling on W/E covers. Workmanship-dinged up threads on objective lens end. Eyepiece focus is nice-smooth & easy to turn, good grip, of course. Doesn't seem to change the sharpness of reticle very much!
  • Scope too short for long-action gun.
  • I like the simple basic reticule. Scope has a clean look and the adjustment e easily turned.
  • Scope tube is way too short to mount easily on a long-action rifle. Power ring has some play in it-doesn't feel tight. Click adjustment for elevation & windage e very difficult to adjust with your fingers-edges of metal e sharp-would be impossible to do with gloves on.

Burris Signature Safari 1.75-5x32
($667; 888-228-7747)
Magnification/objective: 1.75-5x32mm
Field of view (ft. @ 100 yards): 49 - 10
Exit pupil: 18 - 6.4mm
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 12 oz.
Length: 11.6 in.
Best for: Fast, close-range shooting with heavy recoiling guns
As implied by its name and power range, this riflescope with its extra-long eye relief is intended for fast shooting (presumably at dangerous game) with hard-kicking rifles in thick cover. It will be equally at home on muzzleloaders or magnum slug guns. Though this Burris is not an especially attractive scope, when you're confronted by a charging lion or grizzly bear, pretty is as pretty does. Unlike scopes intended for precision long-range shooting, the Safari's W/E adjustments have 1/2-MOA clicks. We especially liked the Posi-Lock system, which locks the scope's W/E setting firmly in place.

Extra Comments

  • W/E adjustment seem slightly loose, but click cleanly and solidly. Covers are relatively smooth. Threads for W/E covers e rough-slightly dinged. Adjustment markings are nice & clear. Power ring-hard to turn-too tight. Whether this is due to being brand new or due to poor quality is unknown. Has two Allen/headed bolts showing. Posi-lock is a nice feature.
  • Like Posi-Lock.
  • I like the Posi-Lock option. Don't care for the "look". Seems "blocky"-not smooth appearing. I like the reticule.
  • Good, long tube for mounting on a long-action rifle. Excellent eye relief. I like the Posi-Lock to ensure that reticle stays zeroed--very important for a heavy-caliber (high-recoil) big-game rifle. Brusheblack aluminum isn't real pretty.

Bushnell Elite 4200 4-16x40
($646; 800-423-3537)
Magnification/objective: 4-16x40mm
Field of view (ft. @ 100 yards): 26 - 7
Exit pupil: 10 - 2.5mm
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated w/Rainguard
Weight: 18.6 oz.
Length: 14.4 in.
Best for: All-around big game and medium-range varmints
This isn't your father's Bushnell riflescope. It does, however, bear an uncanny resemblance to the Bausch & Lomb riflescopes that existed prior to 2000, when the company changed the brand name on its high-end Elite 4200 and 3200 riflescopes from Bausch & Lomb to Bushnell. At the time, many asked whether the Bushnell Elite riflescopes would continue to be of the same high quality as their B&L; predecessors. Based on the fine performance of this new Bushnell Elite 4200 4-16x40, the answer is a resounding "yes." It has a resolution of 3.3 SOA-extremely sharp for a scope with a 40mm objective lens. Moreover, it tied with the Zeiss Conquest 3.5-14x44 scope for first place in the low-light performance test. Interestingly, one tester wished for a fast-focus eyepiece, while two others praised its "old-fashioned, locking-ring" system.

Extra Comments

  • Eyepiece adjustment is perfect. Locks down with a ring. This is the way an eyepiece should be. Can't be bumped out of focus. Power ring-nice & smooth-easy to turn-good grip. Rubber coating & raised knob is excellent to use. W/E covers-decent. Knurling could be more. I like the adjustment. It is easy to see the direction to turn--turns easily. I love the RainGuard coating. A definite hunt-saver. Parallax adjustment is nice. A little stiff, but that is better than loose!
  • Don't like focus rings, should have quick focus rings. Like W/E covers & W/E adjustment.
  • Sleek, pretty, very nice reticule, easy to change adjustment. Power ring turns smoothly.
  • Excellent ergonomics. Handsome styling. Very easy to adjust. Adjustment for windage/elevation e very easy to read. Nice scope! Rainguard coating is a very nice feature. I like the good old-fashioned locking rings on the reticle focus.

Cabela's Outfitter 4-12x40 AO
($399.99; 800-237-4444)
Magnification/objective: 4-12x40mm
Field of view (ft. @ 100 yards): 25.2 - 8.4
Exit pupil: 10 - 3.3mm
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated w/Rainguard
Weight: 17 oz.
Length: 14.3 in.
Best for: All-around big game
Cabela's says, "Our Outfitter Series of riflescopes delivers the same unequaled low-light brightness, edge- to-edge sharpness and lasting reliability ...of scopes costing hundreds (of dollars) more." Given their high scores and generally kind comments, our test team, which gave the outfitter model a "Great Buy" rating, apparently agreed. The scope's touches of class include screw-on lens covers, click-stop adjustments on the fast- focus eyepiece and wonderfully smooth windage/elevation adjustments with easily reset zeroing indicators. One panel member commented that this scope "would be ideal on a pronghorn rifle like a .25/06."

Extra Comments

  • Eyepiece adjustment is the nicest of the scopes. Clicks solidly in place, yet focuses the reticle sharply. Power ring is easy to turn. Rubber grip & raised surface is nice. Parallax adjustment is beautiful...easy to turn, focuses nicely. W/E covers e nicely knurled. My favorite adjustment of all the scopes. Easy to turn...nice numbers & markings. The zeroing feature is beautiful. Turns smoothly...very easy. I like the screw-on lens covers-not for hunting, but for storage. Excellent little bonus to protect your investment.
  • Like the click in the focus ring. Like screw-on lens caps for travel & storage. Like visible numbers on power adjust ring.
  • Very easy to adjust windage/elevations settings. Power ring turns easy. Don't like the screw-on lens covers.
  • I don't like the metal edge on the objective lens-no rubber ring on the eyepiece. Nice ergonomics. Gold numbers on reticle adjustment e easy to read. Positive click-stop adjustment. Nice parallax adjustment. I like the click-stop adjustment on the reticle focus very much. Adequate eye relief. Good all-around scope with a wide range of applications-would ideal on a pronghorn rifle like a .25-06. Screw-on caps offer good lens protection for storing or travel, but e totally impractical to use in the field.

Kahles American Hunter 3.5-10x50
($665; 800-426-3089)
Magnification/objective: 3.5-10x50mm
Field of view (ft. @ 100 yards): 33.6 - 11.7
Exit pupil: 14 - 5mm
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 14.8 oz.
Length: 12.5 in.
Best for: All-around big game
An Austrian company founded in 1898, Kahles is now a subsidiary of Swarovski Optik, which means that its products, though excellent, are intended to be less expensive than similar optics from Swarovski. As its name implies, this scope was designed primarily for American hunters. Unlike European-style scopes, which have first focal plain reticles and 30mm main tubes, the American Hunter has a second focal plane reticle and a one-inch main tube. The testers' comments ranged from enthusiastically positive to mildly negative. Optically, considering that this riflescope has a 50mm objective lens, the resolution and low-light performance were mediocre, especially in view of the price.

Extra Comments

  • Eyepiece adjustment is very nice...adjusts smoothly-quietly. You can easily see the reticle focus. Beautiful W/E adjustment, clicks e crisp & solid, easy to turn. Easy to read lines/numbers. Covers e knurled beautifully...easy to grip & remove. Power ring is excellent and would be easy to adjust with gloves on. All the tolerances e tight. A little pricey...but is definitely quality!
  • W/E knobs e easy to turn. Easy to focus.
  • Very nice reticule. Easy to adjust settings. Power ring very smooth and easy to turn.
  • Not much leeway on the length of the scope tube to mount on a long-action rifle. Windage/elevation adjustment not easy to grasp and adjust with your fingers--poorly engineered. Power and eyepiece adjustment turn easily. Nice, quick focus eyepiece. Short tube bothers me, I'm concerned about having enough room to mount and adjust for max eye relief on long-action rifles.

**Leupold LPS 3.5-14x50 **
Side Focus ($1,605; 800-929-4949)
Magnification/objective: 3.5-14X50mm
Field of view (ft. @ 100 yards): 27.2 - 7.1
Exit pupil: 14 - 3.6mm
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 19.5 oz.
Length: 13.5 in.
Best for: All-around big game and medium-range varmints
There's a lot to like about this scope: its masculine good looks, side-mount don't like the metal edge on the objective lens-no rubber ring on the eyepiece. Nice ergonomics. Gold numbers on reticle adjustment e easy to read. Positive click-stop adjustment. Nice parallax adjustment. I like the click-stop adjustment on the reticle focus very much. Adequate eye relief. Good all-around scope with a wide range of applications-would ideal on a pronghorn rifle like a .25-06. Screw-on caps offer good lens protection for storing or travel, but e totally impractical to use in the field.

Kahles American Hunter 3.5-10x50
($665; 800-426-3089)
Magnification/objective: 3.5-10x50mm
Field of view (ft. @ 100 yards): 33.6 - 11.7
Exit pupil: 14 - 5mm
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 14.8 oz.
Length: 12.5 in.
Best for: All-around big game
An Austrian company founded in 1898, Kahles is now a subsidiary of Swarovski Optik, which means that its products, though excellent, are intended to be less expensive than similar optics from Swarovski. As its name implies, this scope was designed primarily for American hunters. Unlike European-style scopes, which have first focal plain reticles and 30mm main tubes, the American Hunter has a second focal plane reticle and a one-inch main tube. The testers' comments ranged from enthusiastically positive to mildly negative. Optically, considering that this riflescope has a 50mm objective lens, the resolution and low-light performance were mediocre, especially in view of the price.

Extra Comments

  • Eyepiece adjustment is very nice...adjusts smoothly-quietly. You can easily see the reticle focus. Beautiful W/E adjustment, clicks e crisp & solid, easy to turn. Easy to read lines/numbers. Covers e knurled beautifully...easy to grip & remove. Power ring is excellent and would be easy to adjust with gloves on. All the tolerances e tight. A little pricey...but is definitely quality!
  • W/E knobs e easy to turn. Easy to focus.
  • Very nice reticule. Easy to adjust settings. Power ring very smooth and easy to turn.
  • Not much leeway on the length of the scope tube to mount on a long-action rifle. Windage/elevation adjustment not easy to grasp and adjust with your fingers--poorly engineered. Power and eyepiece adjustment turn easily. Nice, quick focus eyepiece. Short tube bothers me, I'm concerned about having enough room to mount and adjust for max eye relief on long-action rifles.

**Leupold LPS 3.5-14x50 **
Side Focus ($1,605; 800-929-4949)
Magnification/objective: 3.5-14X50mm
Field of view (ft. @ 100 yards): 27.2 - 7.1
Exit pupil: 14 - 3.6mm
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 19.5 oz.
Length: 13.5 in.
Best for: All-around big game and medium-range varmints
There's a lot to like about this scope: its masculine good looks, side-mount