Rifle Scope Review: OL Ranks the Best New Scopes for 2012

There are a lot of quality scopes out there, but which one should you mount on your rifle? Let us help. We tested and ranked the best new rifle scopes on the market. These are our test results, straight from our testing grounds in Montana. Looking for the latest reviews? Check out our New Riflescopes for 2015 More from the Gun Test
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Leupold VX-2 3-9x40: Outdoor Life Editor's Choice The unfortunate thing about classics is that by the time you recognize their stature, they are either obsolete or out of circulation. Leupold avoids that fate with this remarkable reprise of an American classic, a totally redesigned VX riflescope. This was not only the lightest scope in the category--the 3-9x40 we tested weighed just 10.8 ounces, thanks to lead-free glass in its 1-inch tube--but also the brightest. It dominated the low-light test, a remarkable achievement for a 40mm optic in a field with bigger, more light-hungry scopes. In an age when amenities differentiate optics, it's refreshing to see a product that wows with flawless execution of the basics. As one team member noted, "This is a pure hunting scope--light, bright, and simple." The VX-2 is balanced, features a clean duplex reticle and finger-friendly turret controls, and is configured for most big-game hunting applications. It is one of the great bargains of this, or any other, age. See video on the Leupold VX-2. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ★ ★
Price: $300
Optics/Mechanics: A-
Perceived Image: A
Design: A
Price/Value: A
Contact: leupold.com
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 3-9x50: Outdoor Life Great Buy A riflescope without a fancy ballistic reticle and multi-colored illumination seems almost quaint these days. But both award winners in the category this year are delightfully retro. They do one thing very well: They place bullets with repeatable precision without a lot of extraneous distractions. In the case of the remarkably bright Bushnell Legend, that job is aided by a class of glass that has never before been featured in the company's rifle-scopes. It's Ultra HD glass, previously available only in Bushnell's higher-end binoculars. The Legend was a top finisher in our low-light test and turned in adequate resolution. But the feature that really turned our heads was its bargain-basement price tag. For $250, you get precise side focus, Bushnell's fog-resisting Rainguard HD coating, and glass that we're accustomed to seeing in optics four times this price. The configuration we tested, 3-9x50, would be at home on any big-game, varmint, or target rig. See video on the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ★ ½
Price: $250
Optics/Mechanics: B
Perceived Image: B+
Design: B+
Price/Value: A+
Contact: bushnell.com
Leica ER 3.5-14x42 With the top score on our resolution test and solid low-light performance, this scope is the best pure optic of the bunch. It also has appealing features for shooters: tons of mounting dimension on the 30mm tube, a precise ballistic reticle with clean aiming references, and a utilitarian 3.5-14x42 configuration. Its lines are classically elegant, but it badly needs a cap on its distressingly sloppy elevation turret. See video on the Leica ER 3.5-14x42 Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ★ ★
Price: $1,600
Optics/Mechanics: A
Perceived Image: A
Design: B+
Price/Value: B-
Contact: en.leica-camera.com/sport_optics
Swarovski Z6i 1-6x24 If you're in the market for a dangerous-game scope and money isn't a consideration, it's hard to beat this 1-6x24 marvel. The 30mm Z6i has been designed with purpose: long eye relief, nearly 6 inches of mounting dimension, and a sophisticated illumination system that remembers your preferred intensity. Optically, it's bright and crisp. We wish the illumination controls were a little bigger, though, and the price tag a little smaller. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ★ ½
Price: $2,400
Optics & Mechanics: B+
Perceived Image: A-
Design: A-
Price/Value: C+
Website: Swarovskioptik.us
Oculus 4-16x44 A newcomer to the crowded sporting optics field, Oculus brings a solid, utilitarian scope at a fair price. Our sample, in the versatile 4-16x44 configuration, featured a simple duplex reticle in a 1-inch tube and resettable turrets. Its side focus, a useful amenity for hunters who shoot at varying distances and magnifications, didn't work well at low powers, and we noted some color fringing in this otherwise capable hunting scope. See video on the Oculus riflescope. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ★ ½
Price: $280
Optics/Mechanics: B+
Perceived Image: A-
Design: B+
Price/Value: B+
Contact: basspro.com
Weaver Kaspa 3-12x50 This is a versatile hunting optic at a very appealing price. The 3-12x50 soared in our objective criteria--resolution, low-light clarity, and mechanical precision--but revealed some imperfections. We noted some distracting chromatic aberrations--colored glare and flaring--and felt that the big 40mm objective was out of balance with its slim 1-inch tube. We were unanimous on the Laspa's tremendous value. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ★ ½
Price $189
Optics & Mechanics: A
Perceived Image: B
Design: B
Price/Value: A-
Website: Weaveroptics.com
Steiner Predator Xtreme 2.5-10x42 To be optimized for varmint hunting, a riflescope should have external focus, a high magnification range, and maybe even an illuminated reticle. This 2.5-10x42 Steiner has none of those, but is nonetheless a capable optic for a wide range of shooting tasks. The test team liked the big (37mm), bright eyebox and oversize magnification ring, but dinged the scope on its stingy mounting geometry and slightly yellow image. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ★ ½
Price: $800
Optics & Mechanics: B
Perceived Image: B+
Design: B+
Price/Value: B-
Website: Steiner-binoculars.com
Zeiss Duralyt 2-8x42 A new premium entry in its popular Conquest line, Zeiss' Duralyt delivers rugged elegance in a gray anodized tube. Configured in the versatile 2-8x42 range, the scope wowed us with low-light performance and mechanical precision. We were disappointed with the Duralyt's resolution, and testers noticed edge distortion and some blue color fringing. We also disliked the cramped mounting area on the 30mm tube. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ★ ½
Price: $1,000
Optics & Mechanics: B
Perceived Image: B+
Design: B+
Price/Value: B-
Website: Zeiss.com/sports
BSA Majestic DX 4-16x44 After clawing its way back from irrelevance with a run of solid, fairly priced optics in the last few years, BSA disappointed us with this mediocre entry. We coaxed a good resolution score out of the Majestic, but it ranked near the bottom of the field in our low-light test, and testers heaped derision on its off-center windage and elevation knobs, its hard-turning, imprecise adjustments, and its stingy eye relief. High points include a hunter-friendly 4X magnification range and handy side focus. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ½
Price: $210
Optics/Mechanics: C+
Perceived Image: C
Design: C
Price/Value: C
Contact: bsaoptics.com
Hawke Panorama EV 3-9x40 This riflescope is a good example of an optic that's trying too hard to get noticed. The basics of the scope--its center-of-mass configuration, precise controls, and decent optics--are diminished by a reticle that's distracting even before its appallingly bright blue and red illumination is switched on. To be fair, the ½-mil reticle is tuned to Hawke's digital ballistic calculator and should appeal to tactical shooters. But there are so many reference points on the crosshair that hunters trying to make a hurried shot at an obscured target would likely have difficulty finding their aiming point. Test Results
Score: ★ ★
Price: $170
Optics/Mechanics: D-
Perceived Image: B+
Design: C+
Price/Value: B-
Contact: hawkeoptics.com
Konus Konuspro 550 IR 3-9x40 Optically, this sized-down scope performed well, given its price point. It settled in the middle of the pack in resolution and low-light tests, and despite feeling flimsy, held up well to subjective scrutiny and abuse. Its ballistic reticle is simple but clear, and its blue and red illumination is limited to a subtle center aiming point. The detail that most testers complained about is the Konuspro's almost punishing windage and elevation controls--sharp, flesh-cutting little horns that were harder to turn in one direction than the other. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ★
Price: $170
Optics/Mechanics: B-
Perceived Image: B-
Design: C+
Price/Value: B-
Contact: konususa.com
Meopta Meostar R1 1.5-6x42 This big, beautiful scope suffers from an identity crisis. On the one hand, its first-focal-plane reticle and pinpoint illumination make it well suited to dangerous-game hunting. But its barrel size and swollen objective bell are far too large for its 1.5-6x magnification range. That confused identity makes this a niche scope--think close-in Alaskan bear hunting, where the big objective lens gathers light and the extra-heavy duplex reticle aids snap shooting. The low-mag configuration punished the Meopta on the low-light and resolution ranges, but testers loved the generous eye relief, smooth windage and elevation controls, and subtle illumination. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ★
Price: $1,100
Optics/Mechanics: D
Perceived Image: A -
Design: B
Price/Value: B-
Contact: meoptasportsoptics.com
Vortex Crossfire 4-12x40
Optically underwhelming, this all-around hunting scope has a number of appealing features. Its objective-bell focus is tight and precise, and its "Dead-Hold" ballistic reticle is simple and clean and provides strategic aiming points. The Crossfire finished in the bottom third of the field on objective considerations, and some testers complained about stingy eye relief and limited mounting dimensions. But the panel's final verdict is hard to dispute: iIt's a decent scope at a decent price. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ½
Price: $189
Optics/Mechanics: D
Perceived Image: B
Design: B-
Price/Value: B
Contact: [vortexoptics.com ](http://www.vortexoptics.com/)More from the Gun Test
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Without the right scope, even the best rifle is little more than a metal tube. This winter we tested the newest rifle scopes on the market and these are the results. See which scope took home top honors.