This sexy optic from Hensoldt, which is the tactical division of Zeiss, is going to grace a new rifle I’m having built–a heavy-duty .308 that’s going to see some hard use in a sniper course at Rifles Only later this month. I just shipped the scope off to the rifle builder, but had these photos taken before it gets covered up in the camo paint job I have planned. This scope is a 4-16×56 FF. It’s built on a beefy 34mm tube and has a mil-dot reticle with the reticle image in the first focal plane, which means the perceived size of the reticle expands and contracts as you alter the scope’s magnification. This is an illusion, however. The reason for a first focal plane reticle is so that you can use the mil-dot reticle at any power setting as the reticle will subtend (i.e., cover) the same amount of image regardless of magnification.
Set at 16-power, the scope will allow for shots to 1,000 yards and beyond. The magnification adjustment ring is perfect and smooth, which is what you’d expect from a scope that costs $3,645. The rifle I’m having built is going to be optimized for 175-grain Sierra Match King bullets, using Federal’s Gold Metal Match load, which is the .308 round of choice among snipers for shooting at 800 yards and farther. The lighter 168-grain bullets have better exterior ballistics, but just run out gas when it comes to terminal performance at extended ranges.
This is a top view of the scope’s control knobs. The scope doesn’t come with a zero stop. Instead the yellow line beneath the elevation turret offers a quick visual reference so that you can dial right back to your zero without worrying about over correcting one way or the other. The yellow number “12” is significant because it means that one full rotation of the knob will give you 12 mils (120 clicks) of correction, enough elevation to shoot to 1,000 yards within a single turn of the turret, with some room to spare. According to my ballistics calculator, my .308, sighted in at 100 yards, will require 96 clicks of correction, or 9.6 mils, at 1,000 yards. Of course, I’ll need to verify that at the range before I head to Texas, as real world conditions and the calculator inevitably don’t match up.
On the left side of the scope are the adjustments for parallax and the reticle illumination. The numbered marks on the parallax focus wheel, which I assume are in meters, are nice but not necessary, as parallax adjustment needs to be done by the shooter while looking at the target through the scope. The raised ridges on the parallax wheel give a positive grip and the knob itself turns with the same stiff-yet-smooth motion that I like so much in the magnification adjustment ring. The end of the cap holds the battery for the illuminated reticle, which is controlled via the smaller knob positioned next to the parallax focus. It is infinitely adjustable, so that once the illumination is turned on you can dial up or down to your preferred setting.
This bird’s-eye view of the elevation knob shows the center screw, which is used to calibrate the elevation turret when the rifle is zeroed. Once you zero the rifle you can loosen the screw so the turret can be lifted out of engagement from the teeth below and moved to align the “0” with the index mark at the base of the turret. Should that zero setting obscure the yellow index line shown in the second photo of this series, the user can adjust a second screw located directly underneath the one pictured to elevate the whole turret so it becomes visible again. Those crazy Germans think of everything. As for the metric system corrections on the turret, just ignore them. Since each click (1 cm at 100 m) is equivalent to 0.1 mil, just get that in your head instead. There’s no need to do math.
See the purple and blue reflected in the ocular lens here? Those reflections indicate the presence of coatings on the lenses to improve light transmission through the scope. The Hensoldt is, of course, fully multi-coated, which means that every glass-to-air surface in the system has a coating (or coatings) applied to them. The coatings help prevent light from bouncing around in the scope, which can cause flaring and other image obscuring phenomena. To determine whether an optic is coated shine a flashlight down the objective lens. As you wiggle the light back and forth you’ll see a series of colored reflections when lenses are coated. If you get a bright white reflection shining back at you, it means that one or more of the lens surfaces in the system isn’t coated.
In case you hadn’t noticed before, the corrections for “up” and “right” are backwards on the Hensoldt. Most scopes in the U.S. have turrets that rotate counterclockwise to move the point of impact up or to the right. These controls are a bit awkward to master if you’re used to dialing the turrets while looking through the scope, but I have to admit this way seems more ergonomic. It makes more sense to me to “push” the point of impact up with my thumb and “pull” down. Unfortunately, the scopes on my other long-range rifles, including the second one I’m bringing to the sniper course, have traditional controls. I foresee some misdialed corrections in my future.
Another view of the scope’s eyebox, the portion of the optic that contains the ocular lens, the eyepiece focus ring and magnification adjustment ring. The lustrous finish on the scope and the graceful taper of the scope body are indicative of the second-to-none construction of the Hensoldt scope.
Yes, this scope is built like a tank but one thing that’s easy to overlook is that it actually has a very compact overall length for a scope with its magnification range and objective lens size. Take one good last look at this beauty, because the next time you see it, it’s going to be covered in paint and will be dusty and dinged from being dragged through the hardscrabble soil of South Texas.
I plan to put my new Hensoldt scope on a heavy-duty .308 I’m taking to sniper school later this month. But first, here’s a quick scope anatomy lesson.