Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 Review and Field Test

An innovative scope designed for American long-range shooters

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The first-focal plane Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 is a refreshing optic for a number of reasons. Though it joins a crowded (and ever-growing) field of scopes for long-range shooting, it distinguishes itself thanks to its innovation and a tack-sharp understanding of what American riflemen look for in a premium optic.

Shooters who participate in long-range field matches will drop piles of cash on their scopes—but only if they incorporate a very specific set of features. While scope makers have done a better job refining their products to meet these expectations, until fairly recently it wasn’t unusual for a new scope to check 8 or 9 out of 10 boxes, at which point the manufacturer called it good.  Few of these scopes sold well.   

Happily, for Zeiss, that isn’t the case with the LRP S5 5-25×56. It has everything a precision shooter could want and then some, which is why it topped our list of Best Long Range Rifles Scopes.

Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 Specs

See It

  • Magnification Range:  5-25x
  • Tube Diameter: 34 mm
  • Total Elevation Range: 40.7 mils
  • Total Windage Range: 24 mils
  • Turrets: Exposed, with zero stop on elevation and locking windage dial
  • Weight: 36.3 oz.
  • Length: 15.6 in.
  • Price: $3,800 (street)

Precision Rifle Scope Essentials

What is that rigid checklist of qualities that precision shooters need in a scope meant for practical field matches, like the various sniper competitions, NRL Hunter, and PRS-type matches that have soared in popularity?

  • First focal plane reticle
  • Reticle with holdover and windage marks
  • Exposed elevation turret, ideally with a zero stop
  • Turrets that give positive tactile feedback
  • Easy-to-read numbers and markings for low light and aging eyes
  • Sufficient magnification range (3-18X, 5-25X, 7-35X)
  • Main tube diameter large enough accommodate ample elevation and windage adjustments
  • Parallax focus
  • Optical quality sufficient to resolve small targets under adverse lighting conditions
  • Constructed to handle abuse and hard-recoiling cartridges

For me, these ten features are non-negotiable. In addition, there are some optional elements that are nice to have, depending on the shooter’s taste, preferences, and specific application. In many cases, for instance, a windage turret sealed under a cap is better than an exposed turret. But not always. Illuminated reticles aren’t a requirement 100 percent of the time, but they have their uses too.

We’re seeing more scopes where the shooter can zero the turrets and set the zero stop where the procedure isn’t very complicated, and in some cases can be done without special tools.

Reticle preference is highly individual, as is the choice to shoot in mils or MOA. Though when it comes to reticle design, I will say we’ve seen a convergence toward reticles that embody a specific set of qualities—and those qualities have been smartly incorporated in the reticles Zeiss designed for the LRP series.

Detail of Zeiss LRP S5 5-25x56 MRAD reticle
The reticle on the Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 incorporates many best-in-class features for practical long-range shooting. Zeiss

Precision Rifle Reticles

Since we’re on the topic, let’s start with the reticle. All reticles can be thought of as a heads-up display, providing the shooter with data and feedback, prior to and after the shot. A basic duplex crosshair is simple, intuitive, and minimalistic. The uncluttered layout requires little training to use and minimizes the chance of brain-freeze in the heat of the moment.

We’ve come to expect more from our reticles in the precision rifle world. In order to handle multiple targets and various distances, compensate for wind, and deal with targets that are moving, we need more capable and sophisticated systems.

The old-school mil-dot layout was shaken up by the advent of the Horus reticles, and many of us adopted the now-vintage H58/H59 designs. Since then, we’ve seen numerous refinements in the reticles we use.

One of the best expressions of this evolution is the Nightforce Mil-XT, which is one of the most balanced and useful reticles for practical long-range shooting. It’s Christmas tree layout, with clearly marked numbers, blend of .2-mil hashes and .5 mil reference dots, uncluttered central aiming point, and intuitive navigation make it one of the top choices for competitors and long-range shooters.

Zeiss’ new reticles, which were designed with input from some good friends of mine, are cut from a similar cloth.

Varmint rifle perched on a hill in Montana
The Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 on a Nosler overlooking a field of prairie dogs in Montana. John B. Snow

Zeiss LRP S5 Family

Zeiss is offering 3-18x50mm and 5-25x56mm configurations in the S5. Either can be had in milliradian (MRAD) or minute-of-angle (MOA) trim, for a total of four options.

Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 Reticle

The Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 has two flavors of reticle, depending on whether you’re shooting mils (ZF-MRi) or MOA (ZF-MOAi). My S5 is a mil/mil scope with the MRi layout.

It has a central dot placed in a relatively open layout so the shooter can maintain a good view of the target while aiming precisely. It includes similar sized aiming dots (.04 mils in the 5-25X reticle) at .5 mil and 1.5 mils on either side and above and below. Coupled with the .2-mil hash marks along the main windage and elevation stadia it makes orienting the eye on specific values relatively easy.

While it is always possible for a shooter to lose their place in reticles such as these—something that was common when shooters first experienced the H58/59 for example—these Zeiss reticles lessen the chances.

Shooting Movers

Few targets are more enjoyable to engage than movers and an increasing number of reticles have built in marks placed at common hold-offs for walking-speed targets at intermediate  distances. The small dots at 1.5 mils along the horizontal stadia on the Zeiss S5 are very useful for tackling movers, which often require holding off at or near that value.

Follow Up Shots and Holding Over

The Christmas tree portion of the reticle below the center aiming point consists of an expanding grid with fine dots and hash marks located at .5 mil intervals. Combined with the clearly marked (and appropriately sized) even numbers (2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12) designating the mil value of corresponding holdovers, the reticle makes it easy to place shots on targets that you haven’t dialed for and to make quick corrections for follow up shots.

I found this especially useful when targeting prairie dogs where precise ranging wasn’t possible and quick shooting was required.

The holdover grid is useful for ELR work as well where you might not have enough elevation in the turret for the correction needed.

Illumination

The central section of the reticle on the Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 illuminates. With the illumination off you’ll notice that the etched portion of the reticle that extends 1 mil in every direction is slightly lighter in color (gray vs. solid black). That’s the bit that lights up when you pull on the outer ring on the left side of the scope. It pops out about .05 inch with a moderate tug, activating the LED.

That ring spins in either direction. When turned clockwise toward you, it jacks up the illumination and when spun the other way it dims. It goes bright enough to be used in full daylight and can be turned down for use in pitch-black conditions.

When turned off and on again, the illumination remains at the same level. The dial is infinitely adjustable, so spinning it when the illumination is off doesn’t affect anything. It runs on a single CR 2032 3V battery that lives under a threaded cap on the dial.

Range Estimation

Once you get to the 6-mil mark on the horizontal (windage) crosshair, the reticle employs hashes placed at .1-mil intervals out to 8 mils, which are useful for precisely measuring the width of objects for range estimation. Unlike most other reticles with this functionality, Zeiss didn’t incorporate an equivalent .1-mil scale on the vertical (elevation) crosshair for measuring an object’s height.

Given the ubiquity of capable rangefinders, this feature isn’t as necessary as it once was. And it seems fewer matches are requiring milling stages anyway, since they tend to form chokepoints where shooters will get stacked up.

The elevation turret on the Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 has 12 mils of elevation per turn and a second row of numbers when dialing for longer shots. Also note the bullets on the locking windage turret pointing in the direction that the impact will shift when dialed. John B. Snow

Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 Turret Design

One of the cooler features on the scope is the feedback the turrets provide. With any quality precision riflescope you should be able to control the clicks you’re dialing without needing to refer to the numbers. Turrets that are too loose, too stiff, or generally mushy suck at this. Whether you need to add .3 mils or 3.3 mils you should be able to control and keep track of the clicks by feel.

On the Zeiss S5, the turrets give precise individual clicks that provide good control. Moreover, at every full mil the turret requires a little extra effort allowing you to keep track of those full mil values by feel.

Once you get used to the feedback you can dial any value you want quickly with your eyes closed (or in complete darkness). When doing this I find it easier to go to the next highest full mil and then dial backwards. If dialing 9.3 mils, for example, you’d quickly count off to 10 mil by feel and then dial back 7 clicks to 9.3. I absolutely love this feature.

Zero Stop

The zero stop on the scope is easy to set but operates in a slightly unusual manner. I won’t go into the full procedure here, but it uses a Torx T-8 driver. Here’s the the strange part: After establishing the zero, when you go to set the zero stop the turret continues to click, even though it isn’t moving the reticle. The first time I did it felt like making a leap of faith. But it works.

Once set, the zero stop backs against a hard firm wall with no mush in the slightest.

Numbering

The numbers and .1 hashes on the scope’s elevation and windage turrets are easy to read for shooters with aging eyes, which is much appreciated. Each full turn of the elevation turret amounts to 12 mils, and a second row of numbers going from 12 to 23 engraved above main numbers for reference on longer shots.

Elevation and Windage Travel

In terms of practical elevation, on my scope, which is currently mounted on a .223 Rem. comp gun, I have 24 mils of elevation on tap, though the scope can be set up to give more than 40 mils of come up (140 MOA in the MOA model). The scope has 24 mils/60 moa of windage available.

The windage knob has a locking ring design. The ring you rotate is actually a sleeve that when pushed toward the scope body locks in place. Pulling it out to dial wind requires a bit of effort, which is what you want to lessen the chance that the ring will pop out and rotate when you don’t want it to.  

Eye Piece Focus

The European-style (non-locking) focus ring on the eyepiece moves smoothly but stays in place once it is positioned. It’s easy to fine tune the focus. This is good, because when I zoom out to 5X I need to tweak it a bit. When the power is in the normal sweet-spot for long-range shooting—for me being from 12 to 18X typically—I’m able to focus the reticle and leave it be.

Detail of Zeiss LRP S5 showing the stacked controls for the illuminated reticle and parallax focus. John B. Snow

Parallax Focus

The focus ring for parallax is on the left side of the scope and is a larger diameter ring that’s placed between the illumination dial and the scope body. The ring is easy to grab and like all the other controls on the scope has raised ridges for better purchase for the fingers.

The parallax focus ring is pretty stiff to run, requiring a bit more effort to turn than I prefer. If Zeiss dialed this back to the level of tension on the magnification zoom ring, it would be perfect.

Optical Quality

The optical quality of the Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 is just what you’d expect: Excellent. The image and reticle are clear and sharp and distortion free. The only issue is that when the scope is backed to the lowest power setting the edges of the view are a bit blurry. But please note that there isn’t a scope made that doesn’t do the same thing.

What separates the good and okay glass from primo stuff like the Zeiss S5 is that the usable portion of the view that’s in focus is much larger on the higher quality scopes.

The eye-box on the scope is fantastic, especially at lower- and mid-power settings. Zoomed to the max, it gets a little more difficult to orient the eye behind the eyepiece but no more so than on other premium precision scopes.

The optical elements have Zeiss T* multi-layer coatings, the hydrophobic LotuTec coating, and fluoride (FL) lens elements. That’s top-shelf stuff.

General Ergonomics

Optical quality is important, of course, but a scope’s overall ergonomics is more critical. If I’m not able to naturally fit behind a scope and easily run it, I don’t care how sharp the image is. The Zeiss LRP S5 doesn’t skimp on either.

I’ve used the scope extensively on steel at long range and while culling the ground squirrel populations on some ranches in northern Montana. All the controls are easy to locate and manipulate. There’s no hesitancy or mush in any of them. The scope gets full marks in this respect.

I mentioned how good the numbering on the turrets is above. The numbering on the magnification zoom ring is also clearly and cleanly executed and the triangular index mark that serves as a zoom indicator is nicely done too.

One interesting little touch on the windage adjustment is the image of two cartridges that are placed just above and below “0.” The one above faces to the right and the one below to the left—both pointing in the direction the bullet impact will move when dialing in their direction.

Two Zeiss LRP S5 5-25x56 scopes on rifles in Montana
The Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 is ideally suited for varmint hunting and long-range competition. John B. Snow

What the Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 Does Well

This is a purpose-built optic designed for the high-end, long-range shooter.

  • Great for long-range shooting, competition, and some types of hunting
  • Excellent ergonomics and tactile feedback
  • Reticle incorporates best-in-class design elements
  • Beautiful fit and finish and craftsmanship

Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56’s Cons

There isn’t much on the negative side of the ledger—and some of these aren’t really cons, so much as endemic to the precision scope category.

  • Turrets are large, and scope profile is bulky
  • Fairly heavy at 36.3 ounces
  • Parallax ring is stiff
  • Expensive

Final Thoughts on the Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56

Like most hunters and shooters, I’ve always appreciated the quality of the best European glass. But in terms of tactical precision scopes, many of the European makers have lagged behind. Either they made incomplete efforts to convert traditional hunting scopes to long-range models, or their best military/LE scopes—at one point the cream of the crop—fell behind in terms of technology, feature set, and innovation.

The Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 puts this venerable German optics company with a select few others at the head of the pack in the precision riflescope world. It is an outstanding tool for long-range marksmanship.

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John B. Snow

Shooting Editor

John B. Snow is Shooting Editor of Outdoor Life, where he oversees the publication’s firearms and shooting coverage. This includes gear reviews, features on technical innovations, stories on shooting techniques and general hunting coverage with the occasional fishing story thrown into the mix.

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