Scope Test 2009

BSA Catseye 3.5-10x50 Overall Rating:✪✪ 1⁄2 A tactical optic in a heavy, durable, 1-inch tube, this budget-priced 
riflescope features lockable push/pull turrets with resettable zeros, a slanted objective lens brow that acts as a 
sunshade and a duplex reticle that 
illuminates with varying intensities of red, green and blue. Despite its large objective lens, the scope turned in only a fair low-light performance, and testers were underwhelmed by its optical resolution. However, the team appreciated the Catseye's abundance of eye relief (4 inches), and the easy-turning power-changing dial. ($150; bsaoptics.com) Report Card: Low-light Performance: B Image: C Design: C Price/Value: C+
Bushnell Trophy 3-9x40 Overall Rating:✪✪✪ Bushnell's new DOA (Dead-On Accurate) reticle provides shooters with aiming points out to 600 yards, or 250 yards in the muzzleloader configuration. Small vertical hashes on the crosshairs--the "Rack Bracket"--are meant to aid in field-judging antlers. The reticle is well designed, but testers considered the Rack Bracket superfluous. The camo-clad scope is from Bushnell's lower-priced Trophy line, which may explain why it lost points on its low-light score. Testers liked the oversize power-changing knob and the bright image and crisp resolution, as well as its solid value. ($160; bushnell.com) Report Card: Low-light Performance: C Image: B- Design: B+ Price/Value: A
Cabela's Powderhorn 3-10x40 Overall Rating:✪✪✪ 1⁄2 With this appealing specialty scope, aimed at the blackpowder market, Cabela's has proven that it's possible to build a useful hunting optic for under $100. Its bullet-drop reticle is calibrated for muzzleloader ballistics and provides aiming points from 100 to 250 yards. Attractive features include long, 3.75-inch eye relief, crisp power and reticle adjustments and decent glass. The team raved about the Powderhorn's light weight (11.6 ounces) and trim package, but worried about the durability of this optic, though the limited lifetime warranty soothed concerns. At long distances, even in bright light, there was some blurring of the image. But this is a ton of scope for the money. ($99; cabelas.com) Report Card: Low-light Performance: B+ Image: B- Design: B+ Price/Value: A
Leupold VX-3 3.5-10x40 Overall Rating:✪✪✪ 1⁄2 Leupold's VX-3 features a lens system and coatings designed to boost light transmission in low-light conditions, beefed-up erector springs and resettable 1⁄4 MOA windage and elevation turrets. Not to be left out of the rush to ballistic reticles, our sample contained Leupold's new Boone and Crockett big-game reticle, which features long-distance aiming points and vertical hashes to subtend horns and antlers. Testers liked the generous space along the 1-inch tube for mounting, the crisp edge-to-edge clarity, the generally bright image and the elegant lines of this re-invented classic. ($500; leupold.com) Report Card: Low-light Performance: B Image: B- Design: A Price/Value: A
Nightforce NXS 2.5-10x32 Overall Rating:✪✪ 1⁄2 This nifty riflescope turned in better resolution and low-light scores than optics with much larger objective lenses. Descended from scopes used by U.S. Special Forces, the 30mm tube is so solid, it seems machined from surgical steel. The side focus is precise, and the bombproof elevation turret easily returns to a pre-established zero. Our sample featured a simple, intuitive, benchrest-style reticle. Deficiencies included an illuminated reticle that produced a lot of stray red light around the field of view. Testers noted some edge distortion at low magnifications, but praised the bright, high-contrast glass. ($1,291; nightforceoptics.com) Report Card: Low-light Performance: B+ Image: B- Design: C+ Price/Value: C
Nikon Coyote Special 4.5-14x40 Overall Rating:✪✪✪ 1⁄2 The Coyote Special features a predator-specific Bullet Drop Compensating reticle with open aiming circles, like its predecessor BDC, but with sizing and spacing unique to coyote-size targets. The Coyote Special also comes with a honeycombed screen, which screws into the objective lens bell. This Anti-Reflective Device is designed to reduce glare that might spook an incoming predator, but it also diminishes image resolution and brightness. We liked the camo finish on the 1-inch tube, the finger-clickable 1⁄4 MOA windage and elevation knobs and the generous eye relief. ($349; nikonsportoptics.com) Report Card: Low-light Performance: B+ Image: B+ Design: B Price/Value: B
Sightmark Triple Duty 3-9x42 Overall Rating:✪✪ 1⁄2 This scope has lots of bells and 
whistles--red and green illumination, mil-dot reticle, lockable turrets, complimentary 30mm mounting rings--but lost points on its low-light performance and overall optical quality. Testers noted some image distortion and significant blue color fringing. This scope is marketed for hunting, target and tactical shooting (hence, the "triple duty"). The locking turrets are a handy feature, but because they don't have caps, they're susceptible to dust and moisture. The turrets are also so tall, they are likely to catch on brush. ($150; sightmark.com) Report Card: Low-light Performance: C+ Image: C+ Design: C- Price/Value: C
Swarovski Z6i 3-18x50 Overall Rating:✪✪✪✪ One of the brightest, sharpest, most elegant scopes we've ever tested, Swarovski's new Z6i ruled the resolution range and was the runner-up in our low-light test. Thoughtful features include side focus, a generous 3.75 inches of eye relief, abundant room fore and aft of the turret for mounting the 30mm tube, and Swarovski's resettable-zero turrets. We tested the BR-1 reticle, which features an illuminated center aiming point and five horizontal elevation lines for long- distance shooting. Illumination is infinitely adjustable on high and low settings. Aside from the stratospheric price, our only real dig on this scope was the bulbous illumination housing, which seemed to compromise the otherwise shapely curves of this high-performance scope. ($2,849; swarovskioptik.com) Report Card: Low-light Performance: A Image: A Design: B+ Price/Value: B
Trijicon AccuPoint 3-9x40 Overall Rating:✪✪✪ 1⁄2 The AccuPoint has been the staple of Trijicon's full-size scope line for years, but this version marks a new high. The 40mm scope surprised us by winning the low-light test, and team members raved about the bright, high-contrast glass. The battery-free center aiming dot is illuminated by either a tritium lamp or a fiber-optic cable, and the amber illumination is subtle enough to focus the eye without diminishing night vision. We noted some purple fringing and short eye relief, but its low weight (13 ounces) and a magnification dial that can be turned with gloved hands won the AccuPoint praise. ($637; trijicon.com) Report Card: Low-light Performance: A+ Image: B- Design: A Price/Value: B+
Vortex Viper 6.5-20x50 Overall Rating:✪✪✪ 1⁄2 For under $250, you get a number of features found on scopes costing three or four times as much as this big optic from Vortex. The oversize power-changing lever is a great asset for shooters who wear gloves. The mil-dot reticle, combined with the tapered crosshair, will appeal to varmint shooters. The resettable, tactical-style turrets and side parallax knob will find favor with long-range precision shooters. Disappointments include short eye relief, some significant edge distortion and a dark image at higher power. The Viper turned in an impressive resolution score, and is a great bargain. ($230; vortexoptics.com) Report Card: Low-light Performance: B- Image: B+ Design: B Price/Value: B
Zeiss Victory Diavari T* 3-12x56 Overall Rating:✪✪✪ Zeiss's illumination on this world-class scope is subtle, with an adjustable aiming point in the center of its new No. 60 reticle. The reticle is on the second focal plane, a departure for Zeiss, which traditionally has offered first-plane reticles. Second-plane reticles don't increase in size as magnification increases, and are preferred for shooting at long distances or at small targets. Team members raved about the "stunning" clarity of the glass and the generous mounting latitude on the 30mm tube. The low-light performance was a bit disappointing, given the huge, light-hungry objective lens. ($2,556; zeiss.com) Report Card: Low-light Performance: C Image: B+ Design: A Price/Value: B

We've rounded up, tested and rated the best new 
riflescopes on the market for 2009. You're sure to find your new scope in this lineup.