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2014 High-End Rifle Scope Field Test Underway

Update: The field test is now complete, and all the results are published. Click here to view the overall results and ratings for each scope!

The 2014 High-End Rifle Scope Field Test is officially underway, and I’ve already collected pages of data. Here is a photo from Day 1 of testing at the range. The quality of glass on that bench is striking. This could be the finest collection of rifle scopes ever assembled. The 18 scopes in the pic total up to about $60,000 worth of optics!

Long-Range Rifle Scope Reviews

Thanks so much to everyone for the feedback on the tests! I got a ton of great tips that will make these field tests even more reliable, objective, and useful. There were a few people I wanted to thank specifically (in no particular order):

  • Sean Murphy, Drew Vedenhaupt, and the Nightforce Engineering Team – Nightforce has hardcore in-house testing, so these guys gave me a lot of great tips and answered many of my more technical optics questions.
  • Andy Webber & the Tangent Theta Engineering Team – Although they weren’t able to include their new scope in this round of tests, the guys at Tangent Theta definitely saw value in an independent party conducting objective tests on rifle scopes. So they spent a considerable amount of time talking over my proposed tests, and giving me some great feedback.
  • ILya Koshkin – ILya seems to be an optics expert among experts. He has a ton of great content on his website OpticsThoughts.com, which really helped educate me. His Riflescopes Fundamentals article is the best I’ve read on the subject (out of probably 20+ that I’ve read), and he wrote a very thorough review on a few “Heavyweight” scopes, including some of the models in these field tests. I highly recommend that read also. ILya was kind enough to take the time to read through my tests and give me some very practical feedback that I was able to integrate.
  • Jeff Huber of Kahles – Jeff is a veteran in the optics industry, and is a wealth of information. He worked for Nightforce for quite a while, but more recently Jeff started a company that is the US Importer of Kahles scopes. Kahles is huge in European precision rifles, but has just re-entered the US market. Jeff helped me think through a lot of my tests while I was still in the “brainstorming phase.”
  • Jason at EuroOptic.com –  Jason has performed some similar tests in the past, and gave me some great tips. EuroOptic.com also helped me get a few scopes to test that I wasn’t able to wrangle from the manufacturer directly. It really helped me round out the lineup. Great guys over there.
  • George Syrengelas and the US Optics Engineers – These guys read through my proposed tests and gave me their vote of confidence, which means a lot. In fact, after reading through it they offered to send me other models to have them represented as well … that tells me they have confidence in their product.
  • BigJimFish from SnipersHide.com – I’ve read a bunch of Jim’s optics reviews, and we seem to have a similar, straight-forward, engineer’s approach. He gave me some good tips, and Jim has an amazing idea for an objective way to test scope durability that hopefully we’ll all benefit from at some point in the future. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.
  • Frank (aka Lowlight) from SnipersHide.com – Frank has a very practical view of things, which I can really appreciate. He gave me a few good tips. It was actually his suggestion that pushed me over the top on making all the optical quality tests blind (i.e. covering all the scopes so the testers can’t see what brand or model any of them are). I had considered that, but was having trouble coming up with a way for testers to still be able to adjust the side focus if it was blind. But after Frank’s suggestion, I thought more about it and came up with a way to make it work. I think that will end up being a critical piece to this.
  • TimK from SnipersHide.com – I read a post Tim wrote that had some good ideas for ways to objectively test scopes. He also had some good tips for things I needed to really watch during my tests for them to be truly objective, and one good refinement to make the vertical tracking test results even more useful.
  • The Vision Engineers at Edmund Optics – Wow, these guys know a lot about optics. Although I had questions that caused them to bump me up to more senior engineers a few times, they were always able to find the answer. Definitely the professionals in this industry.

There were many, many others on SnipersHide.com and OpticsTalk.com forums that gave me feedback, and other manufacturers as well … and I apologize if I forgot to mention you. I just had a hard time keeping track of everyone. I’ve also learned a lot from the stacks of articles I’ve read on how other people test scopes, like those written by FinnAccuracy. Most of those people I haven’t met … but I’m building on top of their hard work.

I sincerely appreciate how willing everyone was to help me refine this field test … and how patient everyone was with my insistent questions. You guys helped me take these tests to a whole different level.

I’ll leave you with pic I took of the full line-up. It’s a pretty cool side-by-side perspective. I’ll have a lot more high-res photos like this in the results, but this is a teaser I’ll leave you guys with. This should also help satisfy any remaining skeptics out there that were doubting I’d be able to gather all of these. There were some concerns about the availability of a few … but the stars must have aligned, because they all made it!

+View High-Res PhotoLong Range Rifle Scopes

  1. Bushnell Elite Tactical 3.5-21×50
  2. Bushnell Elite Tactical 4.5-30×50
  3. Hensoldt ZF 3.5-26×56
  4. Kahles K 6-24×56
  5. Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44
  6. Leupold Mark 8 3.5-25×56
  7. March 3-24×42 FFP
  8. Nightforce NXS 5.5-22×50
  9. Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56
  10. Nightforce BEAST 5-25×56
  11. Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25×56
  12. Schmidt and Bender PMII 3-27×56
  13. Steiner Military 5-25×56
  14. US Optics ER25 5-25×58
  15. Valdada IOR 3.5-18×50
  16. Valdada IOR RECON 4-28×50
  17. Vortex Razor HD 5-20×50
  18. Zeiss Victory FL Diavari 6–24×56

Read more about the actual tests

Cast your vote on which will end up on top

About Cal

Cal Zant is the shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com. Cal is a life-long learner, and loves to help others get into this sport he's so passionate about. His engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and ability to present technical and complex information in a unbiased and straight-forward fashion has quickly caught the attention of the industry. For more info on Cal, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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29 comments

  1. I’m curious to see the results. Even though these are the best available, there is still a large gap in the price range. It will be interesting to see if the very high end stuff is worth the extra $. It may also pick a sleeper out of the mid price range.

    • Yes sir! That is exactly what I’m anxious to see. I bet there is a sleeper in there. Not sure which one it will be honestly, but we’ll see soon enough!

  2. Appreciate all the hard work you put into this, this will be great information for me to choose between the Kahles or Nightforce, again thanks for the effort!

  3. Looking forward to seeing the results of your tests. I’ve been shooting behind a Bushnell ET35215GZA for several months now, and just received a Kahles K624i AMR last week. It’ll be interesting to read someone else’s objective impressions on these & the other scopes you’re testing.

    • The Kahles AMR reticle is one of my favorites of these scopes. Very usable and unobtrusive. I asked people to vote on what scope they think will be the lowest priced in the top 50% for these field test results, and of over 500 votes … 25% are betting on the Bushnell to take it. Another 25% are betting on Vortex, and the rest of the votes are spread out. I’m anxious to see how it ends up!

  4. Be keen to see how the BEAST stacks up vs the Vortex or PMII – I need to get some long range “aladeening” going so will be keen to see how they go… Like the idea of the “BLIND” evaluation on clarity etc – good idea, will avoid bias that way.

  5. Reblogged this on Longrangedesign's Update and commented:
    Efter att läst bakgrunden till detta test kan jag konstatera att det blir en väldigt intressant dag då testet släpps på nätet. Så gott som alla intressanta kikarsikten är med i denna omfattande test. Klart intressant!

  6. Anyone try meopta?

  7. You know the anticipation is causing ulcers, hemorrhoids, and seriously killing us….any estimated date of completion?

    • LOL! I know how you feel … I want to know as bad as anyone! I’ve put in well over 100 hours on this already and have completed over 50% of the tests. I just have a few of the mechanical tests left. I hope to wrap up the data collection phase of this project by the end of this month. It will probably take 2-3 weeks beyond that to analyze the data and turn it into information that speaks clearly and is easy to understand. I’m really pleased with what I’ve been able to collect so far, and think it has the potential to turn into a landmark article.

      So hang in there! We’re probably just 4-6 weeks out from published results.

  8. Ok, I’ll get a refill on my sedatives to last another 4-6 weeks then 😉

  9. These are the great scopes for price. Although they are quite expensive. I like Bushnell Elite Tactical 3.5-21×50 G2DMR

    • The quality of glass on that bench is striking. This could be the finest collection of rifle scopes ever assembled. Wonderful articles and long range rifle.

  10. Excellent post, so jealous you got the chance to review all of these scopes!

    Personally, my fave is the Leupold M8 and the Vortex Razor, both great scopes!

    • Yes, sir! It was fun. It was really awesome to be able to assemble this kind of line-up. Just seeing all these scopes on a table together was stunning. Like a kid at a candy store!!! 😉

      Thanks,
      Cal

  11. What an amazing collection of scopes and how much fun it must have been to review them all. Anyone try and guess how much they are all worth 😉

    • It was fun. The grand total by the end of it was $70,000! Exceptional equipment overall. It was fun to see how each one brought something to the table.

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • Wow, $70,000! There are a few in there that I can only dream about, but I might pick one for my Christmas list!

      • Yeah … it adds up pretty quick when most are in that $3-5k range! It was a fun batch of scopes to play with.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  12. Russell T. Nicholas

    You have all of this? This awesome collection. How much did you paid for this? @@

  13. All this are the finest in high end scopes, but i would say Leupold is the best in optics

    • Leupold makes great scopes, but the data would disagree with you. That’s why we test them and not just talk about it. We all have opinions, but we’re also all biased (including myself). We can’t help but be influenced from previous experiences, marketing and public perception. That’s why I prefer facts over opinions, and why I put in 400+ hours on this and did things like a double-blind tests. The truth falls out when you take that approach, and that doesn’t always align with public perception.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  14. Im curious to see the results as well, is this now published? Curious if a $1,500 scope is truly worth it or not.